Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A Christmas miracle

I put up the Christmas tree this morning and I'm still alive and relatively sane.

Will wonders never cease?

Monday, November 28, 2005

The sounds of Christmas - LISTEN UP!!

Today I made more Christmas cookies for our little family Christmas tea on the 10th. I put on Christmas carols and forced myself to listen to them while I made the first batch of cookies (Pecan Sandies, which I've never made before. They're incredibly delicious and addictive, in case you're wondering).

Having to force myself to listen to carols made me incredibly sad. I used to love this time of year. I wonder if it will always be this way now or if, like all the firsts, this one will be the hardest and I will return to the Christmas loving nut I've always been when the holiday season rolls around again next year.

There are so many I wonders in my life these days.

Have I mentioned how much I hate this? I hate not having any idea how I'll react to situations I once never gave a second thought to. Now so many things that used to be joyful pleasures are incredibly hard work - and it almost always catches me off guard. It's exhausting - every single day is just so exhausting in it's own special way.

I didn't really want to listen to carols today, but I thought I should make myself - just do it and be done with it. Bah hum-bug.

I don't like wishing time away - not when I've been made so acutely aware of how precious it is - but I really can't wait until April. I need all the firsts to be done with and I need every single thing to stop reminding me of what I was doing last year at this time - of how big Thomas was getting and how big I was getting right along with him.

I feel like I'm looking back at a dream that didn't really happen, and that I'm lost in a nightmare right now.

I just remember how much hope I had last year at this time - how much I was looking forward to the future. And now not only can I not look to the future with the hope and optimism I once had, but the past is too painful to remember too.

So I'm stuck here in the present, forcing myself to listen to Christmas carols I don't want to hear.


Sunday, November 27, 2005

Angels among us

If you stop to look, you'll find angels all around you. Here are a few I've been blessed enough to have in my life these last few days.

Sherry: When she heard I was visiting Thomas' grave to see his marker for the first time on Friday, Sherry asked her own little angel Ryan, who joined Thomas in heaven just a little over three months ago, to be with me and bring me comfort because she knew how hard it was going to be for me.

R: Disillusioned by the commercialism and greed she witnessed on "Black Friday", R donated $100 to her local hospital's "Tree of Life" program in Thomas' name. This year the lights shining on the Christmas tree outside the hospital will represent donations made to the Special Care Level II Nursery which serves newborns needing special or critical care in a fully equipped neonatal nursery. Because of the size of her donation, Thomas' light will shine each and every year and his name will be inscribed on the Permanent Tree of Life Board.

L: Another "virtual" friend I've met and will hopefully know for the rest of my life, L told me that every single night she and her beautiful little boy pray for baby Thomas. It's been almost nine months since he came and went and she still prays for him every day.

I am indeed blessed. And with more than just these three angels. There are many more, and they are truly all around me. Their hugs, encouragement, comfort and humour help pull me through the dark days, and they are right there with their smiles and laughter to help me celebrate the good ones.

That old saying is so true - it is during hard times that you discover what kind of friends you really have.

I know mine are angels in disguise.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Written in stone

They laid Thomas' stone this week. I went to see it today.

I feel a little like I'm made of something as thin as an eggshell right now. I mean that quite literally. Delicate, fragile and hollow.

Today I knelt in the snow on a plastic bag and scraped the snow and ice off my baby's grave marker so I could see it. I chipped away at the ice with a window squeegee and, when that failed, tried to melt it with the heat of my hands. In the end I couldn't get it all off, no matter how hard I tried. And my knees were starting to freeze.

So I stood up to say goodbye, kissed my fingers, pressed them to the frozen granite and started to cry.

Before I left I whispered into the wind the words, this is so wrong. I don't know where the words went or who might have heard them, but I hope someone did. I hope there are no more mothers found kneeling in the snow scraping ice of the graves of their children.

This is what my life is now. Oh my God.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Another attempt at the Christmas cards

Thank you so much to everyone who wrote suggestions for how to deal with my Christmas cards. I decided I really do want to send them out. Even though I know I'm well within my rights to shut the curtains, turn off all the lights and hibernate from now until New Year, I want to celebrate as much of the season as I can in a way that brings me whatever joy I can find.

So after reading all your suggestions and an article a friend sent to me, I hit upon an idea. I have some angel Christmas stickers leftover from a few years ago. They're really small, which is part of the reason I didn't use too many of them, but they're just the perfect size to slip beneath our names on the inside of our cards in memory of Thomas.

So that's what I'm doing. In fact, I gave it a try this morning. I wrote six more cards and only cried one. I think that's pretty good! It felt wonderful to feel that Thomas wasn't being left out. That's what was bothering me so much and why I had to stop before.

I don't know how many people will figure out why there's a tiny angel underneath our names on their Christmas card, but it doesn't matter. I know why they're there. I know they represent the most beautiful little boy I've ever seen, who came and went far too fast, but who I'll never, ever stop loving or stop remembering.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Love, Grandma

Today I went out shopping with my Mom and Dad. Our intent was to go to the little country store we all love (they have really good cookies, jams and fudge!) but first we took a detour to a nursery to look at poinsettia and find a wreath for my Mom and Dad's front door.

They didn't find a wreath they wanted, but my Mom did find one for Thomas. It had little old fashion sleds and tiny dolls made out of buttons on it. It was the only one there and it was clearly a child's wreath. My Mom called me over and asked if I liked it. When I said yes, she said she was going to buy it for Thomas.

I didn't want to cry - I wanted to lay down and die. It was the oddest sensation. I figured my Mom would buy a lot of things for Thomas this Christmas - well, once upon a time - but a wreath for his grave wasn't one of them.

It was a very surreal moment, standing there in front of that wall of wreaths. We were all so pleasant about it - smiling, oooing and ahhing - when I know we all wanted to stand there and scream and then rip all the wreaths off the wall, topple the Christmas trees and break every single twinkling ornament and smiling Santa Claus in sight.

But of course we didn't. Instead I turned and walked away - back to the ornaments I had been looking at before my Mom called me over. That's where I spotted a rustic looking teddy bear angel blowing a trumpet that I decided it had to go on the wreath too. I showed it to my Mom and she agreed. I'll tie it into the bow so that it hangs down in the centre of the wreath. An angel for my angel.

I held the bear as I wandered through the nursery and out into the green house brimming full of poinsettias. The bear and I went up and down the aisles while I searched for just the right plant - and all the while I felt so utterly alone, lost in a sea of beauty. I always miss my Thomas, but some days it feels like I'm missing an arm or a leg. Or my heart.

If I live to be 100, I know I'll never be able to describe the pain of seeing my Mother - Thomas' Grandmother - hold up the wreath she wanted to buy for his grave. There was her smile, forced and yet still somehow sincere; the tears in her eyes that I tried hard not to see, and the naked desperation in her need to please me; to do something to somehow make it better for her child. It was agony.

This is one of those days that leaves me marveling at the human spirit. How do we keep going on in the face of such immense sorrow? How do we find the strength to get up each morning and live our ordinary lives anyway? How do we find the energy to keep trying to make sense of it all day in and day out?

How do we smile while buying a wreath for a baby's grave?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hold Mommy's hand

My Beloved and I just went for a very chilly walk. It's a beautiful night though - it was definitely worth the cold cheeks, chin and partly frozen thighs. There's a light snow falling and it looks so beautiful against the smattering of Christmas lights that are already up and lit for the season.

I can't believe It's November. It seems like yesterday that we were sweltering and suffering through smog day after smog day. I know I've said this before, but really and truly I have no idea where the time is going. It feels like at this rate I'll be 80 before we have dinner tomorrow night.

Anyway, as I always do when we're out walking at night, I looked at the empty space between my shadow and My Beloved's. It's Thomas' spot and I always imagine him there, snug between the two of us. I know it's nuts, but I keep thinking one day I might catch a glimpse of his little shadow too - just a whisper of it, maybe out of the corner of my eye.

It wasn't there today, but I held out my hand anyway. I saw the shadow of my mittened hand fill part of the space between us and I said in my head, "Hold mommy's hand". Then I closed mine.

And I kept on walking.

It's a stupid little ritual that only a crazy lady in mourning would do, but it keeps him close. And I don't think there's anything crazy about wanting that.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Through new eyes

I was sitting in what used to be Thomas' nursery (which is now a really cozy sitting room we love to hang out in) watching the 3D episode of Medium(not worth the hype - a good episode, but the 3D was an unnecessary gimmick) when I had a little epiphany.

It was during a commercial for an electronics store. The spot showed shiny happy people getting shiny, expensive gifts on Christmas morning - a whole family of them. They were just beaming, these lucky present-getters, at all the things they'd gotten. Each of them held up their special gift - a CD player here, a computer there - while all around them lay a frenzied mess of torn paper.

It was a typical Christmas morning scene, but it just seemed so wrong for some reason. After 35 years I think I finally get it. I mean, not that Christmas gift-giving is wrong, but the obnoxious gifting hype that pushes people into the kind of over buying that throws them into debt is wrong. It's so wrong. It has nothing whatsoever to do with Christmas.

I realize I'm not reinventing the wheel here - and I'm sure everyone who reads this will be puzzled by how slow on the uptake I am. The thing is, I knew all this, but only in theory. I've always happily gone along with the PC "it's the thought that counts" notion, but I didn't really understand it or perhaps appreciate it until now. I thought I understood it, but it took losing my son for it to truly sink in.

He was a gift. His life - all 9 months and 20 hours - was the most precious gift I could ever hope to get. Life and love - those are gifts that mean something. Life is what happened on that very first Christmas and love is the reason why.

I'm running the risk of getting extremely religious on myself. Me, of all people, the girl who still struggles almost daily with God and his strange way of giving and taking.

I'm not about to whip out my bible and start thumping away. I promise. It's just that I'm suddenly saddened by what Christmas has turned into - by the fact that so many people have forgotten what it means or why it's celebrated at all.

And I'm just as guilty as anyone else.

This year my sister-in-law suggested that instead of all the kids getting each other gifts, we do something for charity. My Beloved and I were very excited by this since we're almost pathological in our desire to find ways to do good in Thomas' honour. Today I fulfilled that promise to his family and did what she suggested. I can't talk about it just in case any of his family actually read this, but the point is it felt good. We're still buying presents for the children and for My Beloved's parents as well as for my family - it's not that I'm suggesting anyone outlaw gift giving. In fact, to be honest, I'm pretty damn excited by the fact that I suspect my Mom and Dad are getting me a KitchenAid Mixer for Christmas. It's just that shifting the focus and finding ways to do things for other people just feels really, really right now, especially at Christmas. More right than it ever has before.

I'm not asking for pats on the back. It took losing my son for me to open my eyes, but I'm so glad I am seeing things in such a different way. It's a whole new world.

As all these thoughts were rolling around in my head, I started thinking about how much I want to have another child. I mean, I've wanted that for a long time, but I really want to be able to share the gifts that Thomas has given to My Beloved and me with another child. I wonder how different his/her life might be than Thomas'. He/she will, after all, have very different parents than Thomas would have had he lived. We would have been loving parents - and good ones too - but everything is so different now and we have even more to offer another baby. I'm sure of it.

All because of Thomas.

My God, he was magic.

I hope this post doesn't sound completely obnoxious. I'm not saying giving or getting material gifts is wrong - it's right and good and special, and a tradition I will hopefully be able to pass along to our children one day. I guess I'm just saying that somehow the true meaning of Christmas snuck into my head and my heart in a way it never has before. And I'm glad.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

A name I'll never write

I thought I could start writing my Christmas cards, but I can't. I did two and had to quit. It's early, I know, but I like to get them all ready to go so I can drop them in the mail for the beginning of December. I've always liked to wish people a Merry Christmas while there's still time for them to actually enjoy the season before the mad rush of shopping, parties and preparation sets in.

So I got all my supplies out and ready to go - and only made it through two.

It just feels so sad. Lead weight crushing the air out of your chest, sad. Last year when I wrote our Christmas cards Thomas was just a few months away from being born and I had all the hope in the world. He was with me as I sat and wrote each card. Now he's just a memory.

Do I write about him in the cards? Do I include his picture? Do I use the cards as an opportunity to tell our dearest friends and family how much their unending support has meant to us since Thomas died?

I have no idea.

All I can think of is that his name should be on the cards. They should end with "Love K, S and Thomas". But, of course, they can't.

So I can't write them yet. Not today, anyway.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Legacy

When I die, give what is left of me to children.
If you need to cry, cry for your brothers walking beside you.
Put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give to me.
I want to leave you with something, something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I have known and loved.
And if you cannot live without me, then let me live on in your eyes, your mind and your acts of kindness.
You can love me most by letting hands touch hands
and letting go of children that need to be free.
Love does not die, people do.
So when all that is left of me is love...
Give me away...

~ John Wayne Schlatter

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Love, sorrow and goat cheese

I'm in love.

Yes, yes, I'm in love with my wonderful husband of three years, but I'm also in love with the restaurant we went to last night for our anniversary dinner. Really, I would marry it. You know, if it wasn't for my actual husband and the fact that you can't marry a place. At least not legally.

Maybe it's just because we were long overdue for a romantic night out together, or maybe it was the heady excitement of actually getting out of the house after being sick as a dog most of last week. I don't know, but whatever the case I swear I could have sat there all night being served plate after plate of rich food, each dish more fattening and decadent than the last. The wine didn't hurt either. Neither did being able to look across the table into the face of the man I love. God, it doesn't get any better than that.

I didn't want the night to end. It was blissful, and being in a state of utter bliss is now something I treasure more than gold.

Sorrow gives you that gift. It opens your eyes to the smallest pleasures that you once took for granted. Like being happy.

I'm not for a second saying that I wouldn't quite happily exchange that gift for my Thomas in a heartbeat, but since I know that's not possible, I'm glad that at least sorrow has left me something besides the scars that I know are never going to fully heal. It has given me new eyes and a softer heart. And I have no choice but to be grateful for that.

I'm also immensely grateful for Oliver's goat cheese fondue in rosemary phyllo cups with pan-seared smoked bacon bits.

OOooooooh yes, I'm VERY grateful for that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

What a difference a year makes

I know people say that all the time, but now it applies in a way I never could have imagined.

It's our third anniversary today. On our first anniversary I was recovering from my first miscarriage and subsequent D&C, last year I was happily pregnant, but sick as a dog with a terrible chest cold, and today - well, today I'm neither sick nor pregnant.

I'm not totally sure what I am or, for that matter, who I am. Some days I'm so sick of me I could scream. I want to run away from this brooding, sorrowful pessimist and find the girl who once believed that if she prayed hard enough God would always answer her prayers. I used to be the girl who believed that dreams would come true just because they should. I miss her. She was an idiot, but I miss her anyway.

And I can remember last year, with that idiot of a girl, like it was yesterday. I thought, way back then, that celebrations of the future would be happy. It was inconceivable to me that they should be any other way - not with Thomas there celebrating each and every milestone right along with us. I had no idea that all future celebrations would be mixed with such extraordinary pain. I had no way of knowing what was to come and how completely it would change both me and My Beloved.

It feels like we've been married for 50 years. Our experiences have somehow accelerated this life we're living together in a way I can barely understand, let alone explain. Days are like seconds and weeks fly by so fast I can hardly keep track. Most parents never bury a child, but if they do it's usually much later in life. We packed a lifetime with our son into the 20 hours before he died. So now we're like old people, wandering aimlessly around in our sorrow while life whips past us at an alarming rate. The only difference is that we're not old and we don't have the gentle salve of memories to help soothe away some of the pain.

Instead we have each other. And sometimes when I'm lying in bed trying to sleep I'll look at My Beloved and whisper tearful thanks to God for at least giving me that. There's not much I feel thankful for these days, but I know God heard my endless prayers for someone to love and I know My Beloved was the answer to those pleas. So I owe him thanks for that at least.

But mostly I owe My Beloved for loving me so completely. For taking care of me, for sharing my burden of sorrow, for always being there, and for opening up when he needs me. He made me a Mother - he gave me my Thomas. What greater gift could I ever ask for?

It takes a great love to lose what we did and yet to still find each other in the midst of the pain. There is no greater sorrow than losing a child, but there's great joy in knowing that beneath the sorrow - and over it, under it and all through it - is a love stronger than I ever thought possible.

I couldn't have known it just a year ago. And that's the difference a year makes.

Happy Anniversary, my love.

Monday, November 14, 2005

My own version of the rules

These last few days I've been thinking a lot about "the rules" of dealing with someone who is grieving a child. I keep reading about what to do and what not to do in bereavement materials and in the blogs of my sisters in sorrow, but then it occurs to me that, for the most part, the only people reading what I'm reading are people in my situation - people who already know what to do - or at least what they hope against hope other people will do.

I don't know if me writing my own version of the rules will help anyone or not, but if I had a penny for every person who said "I don't know what to say" or "I don't know what to do" I'd be a rich woman right now. So I'm going to give it a shot.

I hope this doesn't offend anyone. I would like to state for the record that I know my family and friends have done their best - I know they've tried hard to say and do everything right. I will never, ever fault anyone for doing the only thing they knew how to do, and for doing it with love.

But since I've been asked, it must not always be clear what I need. Or what anyone who has lost a child needs. So maybe this will help...

1. Don't ask me what you can do. Just do something. Some days it takes all the energy I have just to make it through the day, don't ask me to spell out what I need you to do for me. Try really hard to figure it out on your own. Even if you're wrong I'll know you tried and I'll love you for it.

2. Don't worry that Talking about my baby is going to make me sad. NOT talking about my baby is what makes me sad. Having to pretend that he didn't exist makes me sad. As a mother, knowing that his mere existence makes people sad just about kills me, so please acknowledge him when it makes sense to - and maybe even when it doesn't. He isn't here anymore - I don't have those day-to-day joys of seeing my son - so talking about him is what helps me make him part of my life. It makes him real.

3. Don't leave me alone in my sorrow. E-mail me. Call me. Send me a little note. Don't wait for me - I might not be able to reach out to you under the weight of my sorrow. Let me know you're there if I need you, but check in on me now and then too.

4. I will grieve for my son for the rest of my life. Don't tell me time will ease the pain. Maybe it will, but unless you've been in my shoes and you know for sure, your reassurances mean nothing to me. Tell me you hope time will heal, not that you know it will.

5. Don't think that you can't mention his name during the holidays. It's not like I'll forget he isn't here if no one whispers his name. I don't want to think that you've forgotten him, so please talk about him - tell me you miss him too.

6. Don't keep your children from me. Children have a way of healing a wounded heart and seeing them brings me hope and comfort. If I can't be around your children I'll let you know in my own way.

7. Don't tell me that you know someone who had the very same thing happen to them and that they ended up having more children. The same thing didn't happen to them - they didn't lose my son. Stories about happy endings don't necessarily make me happier - they just make me long for something else I don't have.

8. People worry about what to say (particularly immediately after) but trust me, all you need to say is "I'm sorry" and "I'm thinking of you."

10. Donations to a charity in our son's name mean the world to us. We will search for meaning in the loss of our child until we take our own last breaths, and knowing that other people will be helped in some way because of the impact our son had on your life helps more than you know.

11. Ask me about my son, about how I'm feeling, about how things are going - I want to talk. Being asked gives me permission to talk about things that I keep inside for fear of making other people sad.

12. Don't be afraid to cry in front of me. I know this isn't my sorrow alone. I know you're grieving too.

I'm sure more things will come to me, but I think this is a pretty thorough list.

I hope no one ever has to rely on it ever again. For anyone.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The open window

My Beloved and I were just out on our deck, surveying our childless kingdom in all its depressing fall glory, when I noticed something. The people behind us - the ones whom we almost never see and know nothing about, the ones who always have their blinds and curtains firmly closed to the outside world - have a crib. Today one window was radiant in its curtainless glory and just beyond that window is the unmistakable end rail of a crib.


A couple moved into the house two doors down from them a few months ago, and they're having a baby too. I confirmed my suspicion the other day when I saw the mommy and her unmistakable bump wandering around their backyard. It was most certainly not a little extra weight, as I'd been wondering for weeks.

I've had a few months' respite from pregnant bellies and newborn babies since the last of the previous round of pregnant women gave birth in September, but it's starting again. So now I can look forward to a winter of wondering when the next time I'll catch sight of a bulging belly will be.


I am genuinely happy for both of these women, I really am. A baby is the most precious thing in the whole world.

That's why seeing the crib just about killed me.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


This is my Thomas. My Beloved doesn't like to share him - doesn't feel the same need I do to have people see him or know him - but if I could, I'd show the whole world what a beautiful little boy we made. I know in a way he's right; Thomas was just for us. He only lived in me and only My Beloved and I really knew him, but as much as I "get" that, I hate it too. He should be part of this world, and just because he's not doesn't mean he should stay hidden from view. Not my boy.

So here he is. This is my son.

Catching up

A co-worker/friend I haven't heard from in 10 years called me yesterday. Well, she called my Mom and Dad's house (where I was living 10 years ago) to try to find me, and my Mom called me with her contact information.

My first reaction was excitement because I always really liked this girl. She was irreverent, sarcastic, funny and very nice, and we used to have a good time hanging out at lunch and on breaks. But then she got laid off and moved away and we lost touch. I tried to track her down once, but never did make contact.

I figured she was lost for good - one of those people you end up thinking about every now and then, hoping they're doing well but assuming you'll never know for sure.

But she's back. She actually lives in my town now, and she wants to get in touch with me.

My first reaction was excitement, but now I'm hesitant. She doesn't know anything about my life - she doesn't even know I'm married - and so she certainly doesn't know about Thomas. I don't know if it's fair to suck this perfectly happy person into my vortex of sorrow. I don't know if I can do that to her.

She'll be getting a lot more than I bet she bargained for if I pick up that phone. At the very least I'll ruin her day. She'll hang up the phone, look at her two beautiful kids (maybe more by now) and feel sick to her stomach. She'll try to put herself in my shoes even though she knows she can't, and she'll feel sorry for me and My Beloved. She'll want to do something but she won't know what and she'll agonize over every word she said after I dropped the bombshell, hoping that all the right things magically came out of her mouth. She'll tell her husband and the two of them will talk about how they don't know what they'd do if it ever happened to them, and they'll agree that they're incredibly lucky. They'll feel blessed, but sad at the same time. They'll have that "feeling" that they won't be able to shake - the one you have when you hear the worst news possible - and it will hang over them like a shroud.

I've done this before. I know.

So is it fair to do this to her? I don't know. I don't want to ignore her, but I don't know if I feel right about bursting back into her life and dragging my trunk full of sorrow with me. I'd love to talk to her again, and it's so great that she lives in my town - we could meet for coffee and really catch up - but I don't know.

I sure ain't the girl I used to be.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Christmas is coming...

I'm a little afraid of a meltdown under the mistletoe.

So far Christmas looming on the frosty horizon isn't freaking me out too much, but it's still early. The carols have only just started to play in the stores and there are but a handful of early birds with their outdoor light displays in full electric bloom. There's still lots of time to feel suffocated by the joy of the season.

So I'm trying to make the most of it while I can. Before the rum-laced egg nog induced sobbing I see in my not-so-distant future begins.

I'm trying to do things differently this year too. It started out quite unconsciously with my desire to have two trees and to unwrap presents in the family room instead of the living room where we've done it for three Christmases - ever since we got married and moved into the house. Once I got hold of the idea of doing things a little differently than we would have if Thomas was here, I've been running with it.

So two trees instead of one, different coloured lights outside and a casual little Christmas tea for our immediate families early in December. That's what I've got planned for this year so far.

I don't know if ultimately it's going to be enough to keep the sorrow at bay - and maybe it's not even a good idea to try - but for now it's keeping me humming along on a nice, even keel. And my God, that's a minor miracle at the best of times.

I'm sure that Christmas Eve will be hard. I know I'll ache to tuck Thomas in and read him The Grinch just like My Beloved did last Christmas Eve when Thomas was still safely in my belly, and I know the house will be unbearably quiet on Christmas morning with just the sounds of paper crinkling instead of our sweet baby babbling. I know we'll take far less pictures than we would have and I know the faces of our families will be strained as they deal with their own sorrow while trying to imagine the depth of ours.

I know I'll cry enough tears to keep the tree watered for a week. Maybe more. And I know I'll do it quietly when no one but My Beloved is around to hear.

When I finally lay my head down to sleep on Christmas night, I won't miss my Thomas more than I already do - or more than I have in the 9 months it'll have been since he left us - I'll miss him the same as I always do and hurt as much as I always have.

It'll just seem worse.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

A little visitor

I think I've made it to the other side of my cold. My fever broke in the night and the Robitussin has kicked in and is slowly but surely loosening the gunk in my chest. I'm still not feeling all that great, but I feel a lot better than yesterday.

It's funny, I have a vague sense that I had a visit from Thomas in the night. For some reason I feel so close to him - that closeness you have when someone who has gone visits you in a dream.

I had a really odd dream and I don't remember him being in it, but I'm sure he visited me just the same. I was chatting with him last night before bed, telling him to be near me and help me because I was feeling so horrific and, embarrassingly enough, feeling scared. That was the first fever I've had since the blood infection in the hospital, and that, coupled with the chest congestion that was making breathing difficult, was scaring me.

I guess he heard me. I feel such a sweetness and warmth around me right now, and I know it's him. It makes me so happy to feel him the way I do and to know that he's there when I need him.

I should be the one soothing his fears and caring for him when he's sick - but this, well, this is nice too.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sick and tired

I'm sick and sad today. I have a cold - a real one this time, not allergies posing as a cold like last time - and I think not feeling well has drained my mental energy reserves.

I'm sad. I miss my boy.

I can't help anyone else today. Don't ask me to. I can't do it. I'm tired and sick and sad and I just don't have anything left in the tank.

Today I'd like to put my fist through a wall. The tenuous peace I can usually find seems to have escaped my grasp and I don't even know where to look for it.

Thomas would have been eight months old tomorrow.

I have absolutely no idea what an 8 month old baby does. I assume he'd be crawling, maybe even standing. I know he'd be smiling and laughing and trying to make the first recognizable words come out of that precious little mouth. He'd have outgrown all the little newborn clothes we had for him and he'd be wearing the little blue baseball outfit I bought last winter. He'd be getting spoiled by his grandparents and particularly by his Auntie K. And he'd be the centre of our world.

This is one of those days when I have absolutely no idea how I keep going on. I get up, I live, I work, I laugh, I love and I do it all without Thomas. I will always do it all without Thomas.

I have no idea how.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Horror movies

I think about Thomas every day. He's always sitting there in the back of my mind, and thoughts of him float freely to my consciousness with comforting regularity. Most of the time the thoughts are quick and gentle - they're no longer always desperately sad. But sometimes the thoughts are intense, and not gentle at all.

For some reason my brain takes me back to a particular moment and plays out the memory like a movie - word for word, just as it happened. These movies start playing without any warning - I'll be in the shower and suddenly I'm transported back to the birthing suite, or I'll be washing dishes and the next thing I know I'm at Thomas' funeral. They're always jarring, these daymares of mine.

I usually end up with an ache in my stomach and that empty, gnawing feeling of desperation because I know what's going to happen next and I can't do a thing to change it. No matter how many times I play the movies in my head they always end the same way. And the worst part of these movies is that they're true. They're real. They happened to me, to My Beloved and to our precious little boy.

It's just so frustrating. I can finally think about Thomas without automatically remembering the complete horror of his birth and death, but for some reason I still can't let go of that horror completely. I take myself right back into that terrible darkness and confusion when I let those movies play out in my head.

But I can't stop them from coming.

My last OB appointment, the induction, laying on the couch timing contractions, waiting for the birthing suite, My Beloved plugging the toilet, having my water broken, getting the epidural, the fitful three hours of sleep, being told it was time to push, the increasing pain, three hours of pushing, begging the nurse to let me stop, the OB giving me the option of continuing or having a C-section, being prepped for surgery, falling in and out of sleep during the delivery, waiting for them to show me my son, hearing them bagging him but not knowing what the horrible squeaking sound was, seeing the backs of what felt like a hundred people as they tried desperately to revive him, asking anyone who would listen what was wrong with my baby, praying desperately for God not to take my son, waking up in the recovery room, being told he had a 1% chance of survival, telling a nurse I didn't want to pray with her, not being able to look into My Beloved's eyes, calling my Mother to ask her if she thought taking him off life support was the right thing to do, sobbing, asking My Beloved if he believed Thomas would go to heaven, seeing him for the first time before being taken to my room, marveling at his beauty, feeling the warmth and softness of his tiny head underneath my hand, holding him while we waited for him to die...

I don't think about these things all the time. I couldn't possibly or I'd go insane. I take the good parts - the sweetness of his little face, the weight of him in my arms - and I change them into memories that are somehow not connected to the horror of those two days in March. That's what I do most of the time. And that's how I survive.

I'm startled by the movies when they happen, but I'm just as afraid to have them stop altogether, to be honest. What would I do then? My memories are doctored up as it is, if I lose the real ones I'll have nothing. So right now this is working for me, I suppose. I'll just have to accept the jarring nature of the movies when they start playing and know that once they're over I can go back to the way I've become accustomed to living - with the sweet thoughts of my baby instead of terrifying ones.

I never in a million years would have dreamed I'd have the mental energy for all of this, but somehow you do what you have to do. I want to remember Thomas - I want to remember everything about him - but I don't want to be sad all the time.

So this works. It's a roller coaster, but it works. And since I can't get off this ride anyway there's nothing to be done but make the best of it.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Everything happens for a reason

So the hairdresser did a good job. Well, she cut my hair about two inches shorter than I asked her to, but she did a good job dealing with the news about Thomas.

She froze, of course, and then said how sorry she was. What followed was a horrible, awkward silence that rang in my ears like a 15 ton church bell. So I broke it by saying, "But he was very cute - we did a really good job."

Her reply was sweet. She said, "Well, at least you got a chance to meet him." Which sounds trite, but wasn't. Honest. She said it with such feeling, and I know what she meant - we are blessed to have met him and to have had him in our lives for as long as we did.

She did sort of blow it a little when she told me that everything happens for a reason though. I wanted so much to ask her what reason she thought there could possibly be for a baby dying after just 20 hours of machine-assisted life, but I didn't. I know what she meant - and I too believe everything that happens is meant to happen. I just don't know why it does. I told her that a lot of good has come from his death and that My Beloved and I have been changed so much by his presence in our lives - and it's all true, I'm just not at the point where I necessarily believe that his dying had a more positive impact on the world than his living would have.

I don't think I'll ever be there.

Anyway, I feel better. I've avoided telling people in person all this time because My Beloved or our families were always the ones who had to spread the news face to face. I always managed not to be there somehow. So I feel a big sense of relief knowing that I don't have to do it for the first time - it's already done, and I know I can do it again if I have to.

But I hope I don't have to. Seeing my sorrow reflected back in the faces of strangers is something I'll never, ever get used to.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

"Do you have any little ones at home?"

That was the question I was dreading.

I went to the dentist today - a new one I've only been to once before almost two years ago (yes, I was long overdue) - and I knew somehow the question would get asked.

I thought about it a lot beforehand and already knew that if anyone asked, I'd tell them about my Thomas. Today I just didn't have it in me to deny that he existed. Some days it's much easier to say "no" or "not yet" and leave it at that, but I couldn't do that to either of us today for some reason. Actually right now I'm not sure I'll ever be able to say no again. Talking about Thomas - telling someone that he existed - felt very, very good.

Anyway, typically, the hygienist asked while she had both hands and two tools in my mouth. I have no idea why dentists and hygienists do that. A friend of mine who has a hearing impaired sister-in-law taught me the alphabet in sign language, so if my hygienest happened to be fluent I could have spelled out my answers. But I sagely assumed she wasn't.

Once she removed all the foreign objects from my mouth I spluttered, "Well, we had a baby in March but he died after 20 hours", through a mouthful of bloody spit and tooth debris.

She gasped and whispered an apology while I tried vainly to articulate through body language and hand gestures that I wanted to spit before saying anything more, but before I knew it I had a suction and both her hands in my mouth again.

She filled the awkward silence with nervous blather about how long my eyelashes are. She complimented me on both their length and thickness, and she told me how much she envied me for having such nice eyelashes.

I have a dead son, but damn fine eyelashes. Enviable ones, even.

Yup. I'm a lucky girl.

I know she did her best. I know it's shockingly horrible news to hear and certainly not the answer you expect when you ask if someone has children. She was kind and she didn't ask any prying questions, even though I was prepared to answer them and was almost hoping I'd get a chance to say more - to talk about my Thomas to someone who doesn't know our story and has no idea what a beautiful little thing he was.

But she played it safe, as I'm sure I would have if I was in her shoes, and so all she knows is that he was born and died in less than a day. And, of course, that I have stunning lashes.

That's certainly one for the books. Now I'm kind of interested to hear what my hair dresser will have to say when I see her for the first time tomorrow.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A slice of life. With a glass of sour milk.

There are just some days better spent in bed, I think. I have yet to do that, but at the end of some of the more miserable days I really do wonder if it might have been happier and safer for all if I'd just pulled the covers up over my head and snoozed the day away.

Take today, for example. My Beloved and I had planned to go to the All Saints' Day Mass at my church tonight, but as the hour drew closer I started feeling claustrophobic about it. On the one hand I thought I might get some answers I've been searching for since Thomas died, and I was also really warmed by the idea of My Beloved and I going together - as Thomas' parents, united in our love and grief.

But on the other hand, I thought it might end up being a sad and depressing way to spend the evening and I wasn't sure I wanted to take that chance. Not tonight, especially not when I saw the sadness on My Beloved's face when he walked in the door.

Today was a hard day for him. I've had a million of those, it seems, so I knew how much he needed the comfort of home and our safe, evening routine. I knew he didn't need to sit in a church and be forced to feel what he doesn't want to feel today.

So we didn't go. I made a nice dinner and then afterwards I told him I thought we needed apple pie. It felt like a really nice, cozy thing to do. I imagined the house smelling all wonderful and cinnamon spiced, and I pictured us eating our steaming apple treat all curled up on the couch in front of the TV.

But it's me. And it's one of those days. So what did I do? I made a big, fat, juicy, rancid apple pie.

Just so you know, shortening does, in fact, go bad.

My Beloved was very kind about it all. He said, "It's okay - I don't need pie. Really, I didn't ask for pie so it's okay." But I knew he was disappointed. He scavenged a few meager treats to satisfy the sweet tooth that had been anticipating apple pie, but I know it wasn't all that satisfying.

Stupid rancid shortening.

Stupid daylight savings that's making the nights come faster.

Stupid life that dealt us this horrible blow.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Ugh, and on top of it all my hair smells like rancid pie. It's baked right in. What a perfect end to a perfectly rotten sort of day.