Saturday, December 31, 2005

Farewell 2005

Just a little over two hours left before we can officially flip the calendar and bid 2005 a hearty GOOD RIDDANCE! once and for all. I'm happy. I'm ready for a fresh start, new hope and the promise of better things. Or, at the very least, the promise of nothing as bad as what happened in 2005 happening in 2006.

In some ways I mourn the passing of the year that brought us our sweet boy because it feels like the turn of a new year means we're racing farther and farther away from him - from the first moments we saw him and the last moment we touched him - but I'm ready for this year to be over. Thomas will always be in my heart and I have to move on. I have no choice - time is taking me farther away from our time together whether I like it or not. I can choose to embrace the hope of a new year or stay mired in the sorrow of the old year.

It just feels like this is my chance for a clean break. Not from my sorrow - I'll carry that forever - but from the bad karma, pain, and sense of doom that 2005 holds for me. A million good things happened to me this year, but they have all been overshadowed by the death of our baby.

I can't have that continue. I need to focus on the good things that I hope 2006 will bring. And not just another baby, although of course that's on the top of my list. I need to find a balance between remembering my Thomas and celebrating the life I still have, even though he's no longer part of it.

I hope 2006 will bring joy to my family. I hope happiness will slowly replace some of the sorrow we're still all feeling so acutely. I hope 2006 will bring my family continued good health so that they can make the dreams they're dreaming, no matter how big or how small, come true. I hope those who are lonely find love. I hope those who are haunted find peace. I hope those who are angry find contentment. I hope those who are frustrated find release. I hope those who work hard are rewarded. I hope those who struggle find simplicity.

I hope our shitbox of a car holds out so we don't have to resort to having just one car. I hope I can finally completely clean out the spare room which has been turned into dumping ground for things we don't know what else to do with. I hope Freddie the vole and his friends will take up residence in someone else's garden. I hope we can get a new BBQ because I'm tired of eating everything blackened. I hope I can stay committed to Weight Watchers for longer than a week. I hope I can channel some of the energy I use to mourn into something positive and happy.

I am going to ask my Mom to re-teach me to knit. I am going to plant a kick-ass vegetable garden that will make this year's effort look pitiful. I am going to stuff my pudgy self into a bathing suit and take a water aerobics class with my best friend. I am going to tell my best friend that she and I are taking a water aerobics class. I am going to read more and write more. I am going to make a beautiful cake for my parent's 40th anniversary in April.

There are a thousand things I can do. I'm going to focus on those as much as possible because there are too many things in life that I have no control over.

All I can do, is what I can do.

And that will be my 2006.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

You got me good

We got Thomas' birth certificate in the mail today. Well, actually it was couriered to us (as an official document it got special treatment).

We were both quite excited since it's not everyday that I get letters couriered to me. We both figured, stupidly, that I'd won some fantabulous prize. I was thinking hundreds of thousands of dollars, of course, since the notice came the way it did.

My Beloved hovered over me while I excitedly ripped open the envelope - and found Thomas' birth certificate inside instead.

Kind of a cruel trick for a rainy Thursday four days after Christmas.

I think my favourite part was the large black type at the top that said DEATH CERTIFICATE ON FILE just so we wouldn't miss it.

See? What did I tell you about those sneaky little gods and their nasty little tricks.

Uncle! Uncle! I give up.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Wishing for innocence

It occurred to me today that I'll never again feel comfortable saying, "when the baby's born" or "when the baby comes home" - or any one of those optimistic, hopeful and completely normal phrases.

How can all that innocence be gone?

I can barely even remember a time when I was that innocent. I don't want to be that hard-edged, crusty old curmudgeon who people can't stand to be around. I don't want to grow into that woman. But sometimes I feel I'm on the fast-track to just that. I've bought a one-way, completely non-refundable ticket to Old Biddysville. Correction - I was handed the ticket.

I wish I was the girl I used to be. She wasn't perfect by any means, but she didn't have the sense that a black cloud was following her through life and that the gods were lurking in every dark corner just waiting for the right moment to jump out and yell "boo!".

I wish I had that glorious feeling that anything was possible if I just put my mind to it. I wish I still believed that good things happened all the time just because that's the way life should be.

I wish gangs didn't gun down innocent boxing day shoppers. I wish children weren't abused. I wish people didn't live on the streets because it was the only place they felt comfortable enough to exist. I wish babies didn't die when they were 20 hours old.

I wish I still believed that everything was going to be okay.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

At least they bought us dinner

We love our next door neighbours - they're the friendly, down to earth kind of people you always hope you'll somehow be lucky enough to live next door to. We've been to each others houses for dinner, we've played with their dog in the middle of a snowstorm while pretending to shovel the snow, we've stood for hours on the driveway talking - the wife and I even went to an open house next to theirs to scope the place out. No one we know is thinking of moving into the neighbourhood - she and I were just too nosy to let the opportunity of seeing the inside of a neighbour's house pass. We swap movies, gossip, cookies and butter tarts. And when Thomas died we found a tiny bouquet of flowers and a very sweet little note leaning up against our front door.

We're friends. Good friends.

Tonight we all went out for dinner. It was sort of an after-the-holidays get together in celebration of nothing. Or so we thought. Mid way through the dinner they nervously blurted out that they're 17 weeks pregnant.

And that's the moment I clicked onto autopilot, a stupid grin plastered on my much-too-happy looking face. I wanted to get up and leave - cry, scream, SOMETHING - but I smiled my stupid smile, congratulated them and asked all the right questions instead.

I truly love these people and, as My Beloved said, I can't think of nicer people for this to happen to. Except maybe us.

When we got home I told him how sad it made me that they were so nervous about telling us. I'm sure this has been preying on their minds - wondering how to tell the sad, childless couple next door that they'll be bringing home a tiny bundle in June. I'm sure they were afraid of our immediate reactions and, perhaps, even more afraid of the long-term implications of their joy living so close to our sorrow.

But everything will be fine. I'll watch her belly grow and feel the sting of my loss with each glance, but I will never let her know. Neither of us will. This is the way it is for us now, and it's the way it always will be. It can't be any other way.

We are happy for them - just as we're happy for all our friends who have conceived and, in some cases, given birth since Thomas died. But it doesn't change the fact that every announcement feels like a knife to the heart. It doesn't change the fact that our boy is dead while their dreams live and grow.

It doesn't change a thing for us.

But at least they bought us dinner.

Monday, December 26, 2005

This makes me smile...

This is a picture of My Beloved sitting behind Thomas' Christmas candle. I sent the arrangement to my Mom and Dad's because I knew that it would be important to all of us to remember Thomas in a special way on Christmas Day. We lit the candle just after we unwrapped our presents late in the afternoon, and it burned brightly all through dinner and into the night.

My Mom said she's going to use it every single year, for our Thomas.

I also lit a second candle that night, a small blue one in memory of all the little souls who didn't quite make it to earth - or who left it far to soon.

I hope our angels saw all the tiny flickering lights that I know were burning in their memory on Christmas night.

Breathing again

I feel such a huge sense of relief. I actually made it all the way through Christmas and I'm still relatively sane - or at least no crazier than I normally am. Usually Boxing Day finds me a little melancholy and reflective, but today I'm just letting out a huge sigh of relief. It's over.

I will never, ever have to have another first Christmas without Thomas again.

Dreading Christmas goes against every fibre of my being. I have alwaysloved Christmas and all it's sparkly, cinnamon-scented glory. But this year I looked at it through new eyes and all I could see was the Santa Suit my Mom knitted for Thomas and gave to me last Christmas. I saw what should have been - a 9 1/2 month old crawling amongst the boxes under the tree and giggling with delight at Santas, snowmen and a bunch of loving aunts, uncles and Grandparents all vying for his undivided attention.

I saw what I'll never have. My son.

So it was hard to get in the spirit. I hope it returns a little each year, but I know I'll always feel an emptiness where Thomas should have been. At Christmas and always.


I naturally tend to think of Thomas' death as the loss of my baby. I mean, he died at 20 hours old - I did lose a baby. But last week for some reason it dawned on me (in a way it hadn't before) that I lost a whole lot of people. I lost my baby, yes, but I also lost the boy I longed to see grow and man he would become.

I lost so much more than just that tiny child. I lost an entire lifetime of Thomas.

We all did.

But I'm learning to live with it. One massive hurdle at a time.

Christmas is over. Thank God.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

I made it.

After a completely wretched Christmas Eve day (during which I moped, grumped and held back the wall of tears that had been threatening to burst the dam until I couldn't stand it any longer and dissolved into a sobbing puddle while trying to distract myself by cleaning the bathroom) I made it all the way through dinner at the in-laws on Christmas Eve night, complete with children.

As always, the dread I felt was far worse than the event. I felt the emptiness in the space around me that I knew Thomas should have been occupying, but I also felt him there, filling up the living room while I watched my sweet 17-month old nephew play. He wasn't there with us, but he was there just the same.

I wish someone had spoken his name - let me know that they remembered and missed him too - but I have to respect the fact that everyone grieves differently and some are more private and quiet about it than others. Such is the case with my in-laws. My sister-in-law did comment on the bracelet I was wearing - the one Catherine, another sister in sorrow, so kindly made for me using tiny silver blocks that spell THOMAS. A--- said she liked it and smiled. That was recognition enough - it's all she could do, and I understand.

We ate, we laughed, we opened presents and then we came home and collapsed in our Christmas pajamas and promptly fell asleep in front of the TV watching A Christmas Story. It was a very comforting end to a sad and stressful day.

I'm endlessly glad it's over.

If I had to do it all over again (and oh my God I hope I never do) I would let the tears come before the first Christmas Eve. I would un-cork the bottle and just let myself grieve freely in the days and weeks before. I knew the meltdown would come, and I'm just lucky it did while I was here alone with My Beloved instead of at his parents' house last night.

I'm so much better today because of it. I miss Thomas today, so much, but I feel at peace too. I know he's near and I know he'll stay by my side.

I can't wait for Christmas dinner at my Mom and Dad's. There's nothing like going home, and I'm so happy that I feel my little angel is coming with me, just like he did yesterday - just like he always does.

Merry Christmas Thomas.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve

Today hurts so much.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Thank you, my friends, and Merry Christmas

An open letter to all my friends, both real and virtual, at Christmas

My friends,

First of all, I wish you peace and the comfort of having the kind of friends in your lives that you have been to me since my Thomas died. You stood back when I needed space and you came rushing in with hugs and prayers and the kindest words I've ever heard when I needed you near.

You tried to shield me from pain, even when that "pain" was the birth of your own children, or the day to day joys of the children you already had. You didn't hide your little ones from me, but you also didn't push them at me. You were tentative, but you were there, just waiting for me to be ready. You let me live vicariously through you as you cared for your babies and experienced all their magical firsts. Thank you for letting me hold your babies and feel the weight of a tiny new life in my arms again.

Somehow you just knew what the right balance was. You knew I needed you - and your little ones - and you knew exactly how much.

Thank you for writing sweet messages on your Christmas cards to us - thank you for knowing that I needed to hear that our Thomas has not been forgotten and never will be.

Thank you for sharing your pain, my sisters in sorrow. Thank you for opening up your hearts and your lives and helping me realize that the unending sorrow I feel is normal. Thank you for ranting when I'm too afraid to, for crying when I'm bottling it up and for expressing joy and peace when I can't seem to find it. Thank you for letting me get to know your tiny angels and for giving me the opportunity to let you know mine.

Thank you, my friends, for the phone calls, the distractions, the day trips and the offers to just be there for me. Thank you for caring so much that you're willing to interrupt the happiness of your own lives to deal with the sorrow of mine. I know it hasn't been easy. I'm sure it's been scary and I bet you're exhausted when your time with me is done, but thank you for giving it to me anyway. Your time and your love have been the greatest gifts I've received since the gift of my son.

Thank you for speaking his name. Thank you for knowing, somehow, that I want to hear it from lips other than my own. Thank you for making him a part of your lives and for telling me that his life has changed yours. Thank you for hugging your children a little tighter when you think of him.

When the sun sets on Christmas Day and you gather to spend precious time with the people you love most in the world, I want you to know I'll be smiling, because I can't think of anything you deserve more than that.

Happiness and love always,

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I think it's coming...

I'm so afraid of the Christmas meltdown. I've been keeping it together - pushing down all the worst, saddest thoughts - and doing a pretty good job, if I do say so myself. But I think I feel it coming.

I was cleaning up the wrapping paper, bows and tags this afternoon - sorting, tossing, re-rolling and packing away - while listening to Christmas carols on the radio. It was fine, because I was pretending. But then a very sweet carol came on and just about did me in. I was ignoring it - paying attention to the sound, not the words as I scurried around picking up bits of paper and putting the leftover bows in a box - but something made me stop. I heard the words, looked at the tree...

And started to cry.

Fortunately the song was ending and some stupid boxing day sale commercial came on - either that or Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree. Anyway, something inane snapped me out of my descent into Christmas hell.

It all came on so suddenly. Ugh, I just don't know how much longer I can be strong - I know it's only a few more days and it'll all be over, but I'm not sure I can make it.

And oh my God I don't want to face the meltdown.

I know it would be better (healthier, I mean) if I just let go - sobbed, screamed, yelled, swore - but it would be as painful as reopening the scar on my tummy and pouring salt in the wound. I know it would. And I can't do it - I don't want to do it.

But I think it's coming whether I like it or not...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Luck of the draw

I just read about Siamese twins who were successfully separated in France last week. They were boys born at just 26 weeks, their spines fused at the base. They were kept in hospital until they were old enough for the surgery to be safely attempted. All went well and they're expected to have healthy, normal childhoods.

And my perfectly healthy, full term baby died because there was only one OB on staff and he was in surgery when I needed him. He was too busy to assess me at the two-hour pushing mark. Too busy to determine that Thomas was face up and not likely to be born vaginally until three hours of pushing had passed. Just too busy to be able save my son's life.


I will be a force to be reckoned with if I ever get pregnant again. I will refuse to be ignored and heaven help the first person in white who tries.

I'm sorry Thomas. I didn't know then what I know now and I'm so sorry, my little one.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The tick

December 2001 and January 2002 were really huge months for us. We got engaged on the 22nd of December, bought a house within the first weeks of January and started planning our wedding (booking the church, the hall, etc.).

And then I got laid off.

All's well that ends well. I had a really productive year freelancing before finding a four day per week contract a few months before the wedding (which is where I stayed until Thomas was born).

But those few heady weeks - big decisions, big purchases, big shock - wore on both of us. My Beloved found the joy of the panic attack (something I remember all too well from my university days) and I developed a weird little tick. I used to wake up in the night and frantically feel for my engagement ring with my thumb to make sure it was there. I have no idea why. It was sized and fit like a glove (to this day it has never accidentally slipped off) but I just needed to make sure it was there. It was always during the night, my frantic ring-checking.

The first night it happened was the night we got engaged. I put it down to not actually believing that wonderful question had actually been asked - to thinking it was all a dream. Feeling the ring made it real.

But I continued to wake myself up feeling for the ring long after I stopped worrying that the proposal was a figment of my imagination. I suppose the stress of that year - seeing the money literally flying out of our wallets as we put downpayments on everything from our house to the twinkle lights they used at our reception, and knowing that I was leaving my old life behind - wore on me more than I realized. The little tick was just my way of releasing that nervous energy, I suppose.

Eventually it went away. We got married and happily settled into our lives and the peace I found made the tick a thing of the past.

Until recently.

My little tick is back with a vengeance. Every night I wake myself up feeling for my rings. It's such a strange feeling. I wake up in a panic fearing that I've lost my rings and then sigh with relief and immediately fall back to sleep when I realize that they're still there. I barely remember it in the morning.

I can't quite remember when it started up again, but I think it was a few months ago. If I had to hazard a guess I'd say it was around Thanksgiving - the first big celebration without our boy.

I've been trying not to get upset - not to let myself think too hard about what's missing from Christmas this year. I've done my baking, my entertaining, my shopping and my wrapping - and I've done it all without giving deep thought to the tiny boy who should have been with me during it all.

Don't get me wrong, I think about him every day. Sometimes it feels like it's every second of every day. But I haven't really let myself mourn for him, for the Christmas that should have been, I mean. I can't deal with it - I don't want that dam to burst because I don't know how on earth I'd ever repair it.

I know it's not healthy. I know because the tick is back. But I'd far rather wake myself up grasping for my rings every night than stand in front of the tree Thomas will never see sobbing every day.

You do what you have to do.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Last Christmas

It's funny the things you remember.

Like most young(ish) married couples split between two families who both live within an hour of us, our Christmases are always really frenetic. We go to My Beloved's Mom and Dad's house for presents and dinner on Christmas Eve, immediately head to my church for midnight Mass (I used to, but no longer, sing in the choir there), come home, sleep, open our presents in the morning, then go over to my Mom and Dad's in the afternoon to open more presents and have a second Christmas dinner.

Busy to say the least.

Last year, being 6 months pregnant, I was ordered by My Beloved to have a nap in the afternoon on Christmas Eve to ensure that I could make it through the long evening in good humour and good health.

I agreed (who, at 6 months pregnant DOESN'T agree to naps???) but told him he'd have to read me and Peanut a story first. I chose How the Grinch Stole Christmas and we all snuggled up in bed to enjoy a blissfully quiet few minutes all to ourselves. Just the three of us.

I can remember it like it was yesterday. I listened to the story as though I'd never heard it before, all the while dreaming of the time when My Beloved and I would be reading to our little Peanut "for real". It was the most magical moment of last Christmas for me, and it had nothing to do with presents or trees or turkey. It was the three of us - a family - being close, safe and loved. That was Christmas.

I told My Beloved that we would make that a tradition. Every year on Christmas Eve he would read The Grinch to Peanut and me. How wonderful, I remember thinking, that we'd started the tradition before he was even born.

I imagine the pages of the book will stay closed on Saturday. So much of the magic of my life died with Thomas, I'm afraid to say. At least for now. But thank God we had that sweetest of moments with him last year. I'll never forget what it was like to feel that everything was right with the world and that we, my son and I, were so safe.

It's funny the things you remember.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

My week-before-Christmas plan for the bereaved

As I was making dinner tonight I thought how nice it would be for us to have whatever we wanted for dinner this week - the week before Christmas. I thought it might be nice to treat ourselves to our favourite meals, no matter how rich, fattening or expensive.

I think we're owed that at least, given what we know is coming...

But then I thought, "Why stop at food?"

So my plan for this week is for My Beloved and I to do whatever we want, whenever possible. Obviously we both have responsibilities we can't shirk, but in our off hours we can spoil ourselves silly. And that's the plan.

I don't have anything lavish in mind, just indulging ourselves in simple pleasures like our favourite food and movies - and whatever else happens to tickle our fancies.

I'm thinking buttered popcorn and cozy movies, bubble baths and trashy magazines, spaghetti and meatballs, getting into our PJs at 6:00pm, not shoveling the snow, re-reading favourite books, giving each other back rubs - that kind of thing.

I kind of think of it as fortifying ourselves for the coming holiday celebrations, but I also think of it as our way of celebrating Christmas. It's different, but that was always my plan for this year anyway. So why not?

Let the games begin!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Because of Thomas

Today we received notice that two more donations had been made in Thomas' name. One was to the Phoenix Children's Hospital Foundation and the other to World Vision (the proceeds of which went towards care packs for needy children).

I can't quite explain how I feel when I open those notices. I guess with everything that's gone on in the world over the last few years I've slowly lost faith in mankind - in its ability to demonstrate selflessness and love. War, gang violence, dirty politics, terrorism - all that will really make you question the human capacity for goodness.

But there is so much goodness in my little world, and I'm truly blessed that Thomas has helped me see that in a way I never would have had he not come and gone. I'm in awe of the people - most of them people I've only met online - who have opened their hearts and taken me in without hesitation. They have befriended me, prayed for me, celebrated my small victories and mourned my greatest loss. And so many have donated to worthy causes in my beautiful son's name.

It takes my breath away. It makes me so proud of Thomas to think that in just 20 hours he has been able to inspire people the way he has - including me. Without question, I am a better person for having had my son. I didn't realize someone so small, who came and went so fast, could teach me so much.

It also humbles me to think that I've been lucky enough to somehow, with all the millions of people online, connect with people I genuinely hope I will stay friends with for the rest of my life.

All because of Thomas.

I would still give my left arm to be sitting here, on this snowy Friday night a week before Christmas, rocking my sweet baby boy to sleep. But even though he's not here, I still feel his presence and see the impact he is making on the world.

And for that I am truly blessed and eternally grateful.

I love you, little one.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Heavenly peace

It's snowing today. It's been snowing since about 11:00am and it's expected to keep going right through the night. I generally feel a little claustrophobic when we get school-closing kind of storms, but today it's oddly comforting. I baked bread and kind of lazed around the house, writing a few Christmas cards I forgot, e-mailing friends and watching the snow every now and then.

I went outside to shovel around 3:00pm and came back in to the smell of baking bread - it was wonderful.

My Beloved is home safe and sound, we had homemade soup for dinner, we chatted with the neighbours and played with their dog Jasper after My Beloved went out to shovel a second time, and then we came in to play ping pong (he beat me two games to one).

And now it's just about time for a hot shower and bed.

Today was a comforting day. I thought of Thomas, of course, but overall I was content.

It's a Christmas miracle.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I just stepped on a land mine.

I was wrapping Christmas presents and, in need of a bow, I opened up a box of used bows and ribbons from last year's presents (yes, I save ribbons and bows - I can't bear to throw out perfectly good ribbons and bows).

Mixed in with the glittery selections were a few tags from gifts we were given last year. I picked one up to untangle it from the clutches of a particularly stubborn piece of ribbon - it was from my sister to me. The next one I picked up was tangled in some beautiful blue and white star ribbon. It was tied to a sparkly little twig with shiny blue berries and frosted white leaves. On the tag was a little deer surrounded by birds.

I opened it and read To Peanut with love from Auntie Kathy.

I froze.

I stared at the tag.

I remembered the adorable little blue cowboy jacket, onesie and suede mittens that were in the box which that ribbon and tag were snuggly wrapped around last Christmas.

They were for Thomas, those gifts my sister picked out so lovingly at the One of a Kind Craft Show in Toronto last year. She could hardly wait for me to see them, and I loved them. I couldn't wait to see Thomas in the little blue jacket with the soft suede fringe. It would have fit him now - he would be wearing it now.

I finally forced my fingers to separate the tag from its ribbon and I wrapped up a present for Kathy using the ribbon that was on her gift to Thomas last year. It felt like the right thing to do. When I finished, I put the present under our tree, sat down, picked up the tag again and started to cry.

I miss him more than I'll ever be able to express. If I started writing now and didn't stop until the day I died I could never explain the pain of losing that sweet little boy we loved and wanted so much.

But what I can do is send a hearty FUCK YOU to the ghost of Christmas past. I didn't need that today. I didn't need it this week or this year. Don't you know everything about Christmas is agonizing? Was it absolutely necessary to dig the knife in just *that* much deeper?

My consolation is that using the ribbon on Kathy's gift made me feel really good. It's like a little hug from Thomas wrapped around her gift.

One day I'll tell her that.

But not today. Today I just need to get through the rest of my wrapping. That will be accomplishment enough.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I'll have a blue Christmas...

This year I decided I wanted to change the outside Christmas lights. You know, part of my "everything must be just slightly different this year" strategy. We've always done red and green outside and on our tree in the front window, so this year I chose white and blue instead. My Beloved calls it the Hanukkah house.

Whatever floats your boat.

Anyway, the tree inside is white and there are white snowflake lights hanging from the porch roof. The rest - the roofline and the little tree in our front yard - is done in blue. I bought those cool LED lights - the ones that use a fraction of the energy of regular lights and have a beautiful deep royal blue glow at night.

I was happy with the effort. It's understated but enough for this year, under the circumstances.

I've always loved the coziness and cheer of Christmas lights, so I've been leaving them on all night since, with the exception of the white snowflakes, the lights use so little energy.

But all that changed yesterday. My Beloved got a notice in the mail that the blue LED lights are faulty, and as such are also considered a fire hazard.

Well of course they are.

The gods are laughing at me again. If you listen closely you can hear the snickers.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The real me, whoever that is

I often wonder what people see when they look at me. Not strangers - I know that if they even bother looking they see a lumpy, 30-something woman with the ever-so-attractive beginnings of middle age starting to set in (wrinkles, dark circles, gray hair - all the lovely bits of old age). I'm like a million other women my age.

I mean the people who know me. What do they see.

I could be very wrong (maybe it's just paranoia - something I'm quite good at cultivating) but I have a feeling they just see the mother of a dead baby. I don't think they can see past that, at least not yet. I still catch people staring at me with looks of sadness, pity and curiosity on their faces. I see them watching me when I'm around children and their pity is so palpable I can almost grab it out of the air (and sometimes I wish I could so I could slam it in a drawer or lock it in a closet).

I'm tired of being looked at as though I'm not who I used to be, even though I fully realize I'm not that girl anymore. It's exhausting. I'm trying so hard to muddle my way through the unbearable grief I still feel and it's getting increasingly difficult to do that while swimming circles around the fishbowl I seem to be living in.

And don't even get me started on the eggshells that are apparently laying at my feet.

I understand. I do. I'm sure I'd have exactly the same reactions to a grieving parent had the gods decided to play Russian roulette with someone else's child instead of mine. But understanding it doesn't necessarily make it easier. It just makes me forgive the people who are doing it. It doesn't change how they perceive me at all.

I wonder how long it takes before they'll be able to see me instead of my sorrow. Is it a year? Is it two years? Will it be when we have another child? Will they ever look at me and just see me again?

Will I?

When Thomas died I knew we had a long, long road ahead of us. I just didn't realize it would be like this. I knew there would be the crushingly dreadful sorrow that would slowly become something we would figure out how to live with, but I guess I just never gave any thought to what the world around me would be doing - how they would be coping with the loss. I didn't realize, foolishly, that there would be so much focus on me. On how I'm doing, on what I'm thinking, on how I'm reacting to every single little thing.

I love that people care so much - I'd be devastated if they left us alone in our grief - I guess I just wish they could shelve the sad-eyed glances every once in a while and just treat me like they would anyone else.

I'm also afraid of getting too used to the sympathy, the kindness and the excusing me for everything just because I'm sad.

It's wonderful to have such a supportive cushion, I just don't want to be one of those people who ceases to need the cushion but keeps their bum planted firmly on it anyway. I'll have to be extremely careful of that. There's nothing worse than someone who is so absorbed with their own woes that they can't see anything but.

I'm sure it would appear that I am that person, given that this blog is probably 99.9% about my sorrow, but this is my safe haven - my place to dump all my sorrow, anger, fear, neurosis and paranoia. I am not this person all the time. Okay, maybe I am in some ways, but I don't show this side all the time. I can have an entire conversation without mentioning Thomas - I swear it, I can.

I can't wait for the day when I start to feel normal - more comfortable with who I am. I can't wait for the time when the two parts of me (pre Thomas and post Thomas) reconcile and cohabitate happily inside my brain instead of warring with each other the way they so often do now. I've felt hints of that normalcy, and if it weren't for Christmas I think I'd be feeling it even more.

So hopefully when the holidays are over and the new buds of spring begin to appear on Thomas' tree, I'll be feeling more like the person I'm still struggling to get to know.

And maybe once I figure her out, everyone else will start to see her too.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Re-thinking the Grinch

My Beloved wanted to put on How the Grinch Stole Christmas tonight when the TV refused to give us anything better to watch no matter how much we flipped. I agreed, partly because I was doing Christmas cards (which I finally finished, by the way!) and partly because I keep thinking that the more I immerse myself in Christmas (when I can), the easier it will be to deal with when the big day arrives. I'm not sure that's actually going to be the case, but I do feel that for me it's wise not to avoid the festivities altogether. The shock of Christmas day and all the trimmings would be too much for me to bear without warming up a little first. It's all a delicate little balancing act, this grieving during the holidays thing.

Anyway, the opening lines of The Grinch, as I'm sure everyone knows, discuss what a hateful soul he is and reveal that he despises Christmas. The narrator goes on to say that no one knows why.

I looked up from my Christmas cards, glanced at the snarling green face on the TV screen and said to My Beloved, "Maybe his son died too - did they ever thing of that? DID THEY??"

I've ruined The Grinch forever. I used to delight in his nastiness and marvel at his remarkable transformation. Now I just wonder what the hell happened to the poor guy to make him so miserable in the first place. Why doesn't anyone tell THAT story? It's marvelous that the show ends with his heart growing four sizes that day, but I'd really like to know what horrible blow crushed it in the first place.

Misery loves company. Even in the cartoons.

God help me, I just can't hate the Grinch anymore.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Nine months

Thomas has now been gone for one day shy of the same amount of time as he lived.

Nine months.

Nine months inside me. Twenty hours in the world. Nine long months without him.

March 9th. December 9th.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Just say NO!!!

NO to putting up two trees. What the hell was I thinking? It was bad enough putting up one knowing Thomas would never get to stare at the twinkly fairy lights in childlike awe. Putting up two would be utter torture.

NO to dragging out every single last one of my Christmas decorations. I can't bear it. I'm sorry - some of you will just have to sit in your boxes until next year when I'm a little more sane and not so damned sad.

NO to cleaning every nook and cranny of my house for company this Saturday. The doors that are shut are hiding catastrophes that I don't have the time or energy to deal with. Just don't open the doors.

NO to singing at midnight Mass with the choir this year. I'm sorry, I can't do it. It will take me screaming back to last year when Thomas was happily nesting beneath my Christmas-y maternity top while I secretly sang Silent Night to him, not the congregation.

NO to sending Christmas cards to people who haven't bothered to send them to us for the last few years. I've cried while writing the cards I HAVE managed to write and I can't put myself through additional pain for people whose only policy is to receive.


And NO again, just for good measure.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Get a move on

I went Christmas shopping today.

I didn't enjoy it.

I should probably just accept the fact that there's not much of this Christmas that I am going to enjoy and be done with it, but I'm too stubborn to give in.

I'm also too afraid to just be still. I know what's waiting for me there. If I sit down quietly to listen to Christmas carols in the soft glow of the tree with a glass of wine or a cup of hot chocolate in my hand, I'll think too much about what should have been.

Every single day I think of what should have been, but being still makes it worse. Especially now.

I'm so tired, but I can't stop moving. Not until January.

Tomorrow, I clean.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Cookies, Charlie Brown and the meaning of life

I dropped two batches of cookies on the floor today. This has not been a good week for baking.

However, the cookies survived since they were in a sealed Tupperware container. I gingerly opened up the lid and, although there were an awful lot of crumbs, there only seemed to be one cracked cookie.

Whew. No need for panic today.

On a completely different topic, I had an interesting experience watching A Charlie Brown Christmas. It's becoming clear to me that I'll look for messages and meaning virtually anywhere and everywhere, because I found myself looking hard to find them in a 40-year old cartoon tonight. I was excited about seeing it because I love Christmas cartoons (almost as much as I did when I was a kid), but it had a whole different feeling this year. I wasn't just watching it because it's what I do every year - I was watching it with new eyes; I was looking for something, anything that might help me make sense of this too often cruel world. It was almost like seeing it for the first time in some strange way.

Everything is so different this year. Even Charlie Brown. Sometimes I lament the fact that nothing is simple anymore - a Charlie Brown special can't just be a fun distraction - but that's what happens when your world is turned inside out and upside down. Nothing is simple anymore.

I know I'm making a lot out of a half hour cartoon, I just think it's really interesting that my mind is working so differently - it's desperate to find comfort and it takes me on the most interesting voyages in its quest to find meaning in life.

Other than echoing my own thoughts on the commercialisation of Christmas, I'm not sure what else Charlie Brown had to offer tonight, but the search still felt good and worthwhile.

But quite apart from that, sometimes a half hour of cartoons is just what the soul needs. And it did mine good tonight.

Monday, December 05, 2005

It was just a cake

I've been baking for the past two weeks trying to get ready for a little family gathering we're having on the weekend. Up until today I'd been making cookies - something I'm generally pretty good at - but today I ventured out of my realm of comfort and made a cake.

I can't tell you the number of cake disasters I've had. There was the lemon birthday cake I made for my beloved two times before giving up and buying a mix (which I baked and then accidentally frosted with icing made from rancid cream), there was the horrific lumpy mess of a birthday cake for my Mother-in-law (I hid its grotesqueness under a gallon of pink icing I piped over the mess) and then there was the Irish whisky cake for a St. Patrick's Day dinner party that can really only be described as an Irish Whiskey cake shaped disc. It was flat and crunchy. Cake should never, ever be crunchy.

Anyway, I wanted to include some cakes and loafs (I'm a good loaf maker) on my dessert table this weekend, so today I made an orange poppy seed cake. Sounds innocuous enough, I know, but I used my special bunt pan - the one shaped like a cathedral. The one shaped like a cathedral with a million little places in which orange poppy seed cake can get stuck.

And get stuck it did.

As I stood there looking and the steaming pile of delectable smelling cake I felt panic rising up into my throat from that horrible pit where all fears seem to lie in waiting for just the right moment to attack. It was just a cake, but for some reason seeing its complete destruction just devastated me. I'd wanted it to work so badly - I'd imagined it sitting so regally on my table as my guests gazed at it in complete awe. I wanted vindication - proof that I can actually bake a decent cake - but mostly I just wanted it to work.

And I was totally freaked out that it wouldn't work - that I couldn't make it work. That I tried so hard, did everything right and it was a disaster anyway.

I quelled the panic by telling myself that I'd just bake a second one using my plain bunt pan (which I did tonight - it's now glazed, wrapped and sitting quite peacefully on the bottom of my freezer), but it was really interesting to me how upsetting the failed cake was.

It was just a cake.

Welcome to my Christmas madness.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The real Santa Claus

My Beloved and I went out to do some Christmas shopping at our local mall yesterday and that's where we saw him - the real Santa Claus.

I've been successfully doing most of my shopping online and in the big box stores, so I haven't been in a mall since the Santas began to take up residence a few weeks ago. In fact, I forgot all about the possibility of running into the man in red yesterday until we were descending the escalator right beside the big guy's castle.

Admittedly, I caught my breath and had the incredible urge to flee when I caught site of the jingle bell-bearing elf with the camera and realized what we'd stumbled upon, but I didn't. I sucked it up and even had a peek at Santa on my way by.

I'm not kidding, I think it really WAS Santa Claus. Knowing that this is where we would have brought Thomas for his very first pictures with Santa, I was hoping for a crappy imitation - a young guy with fake fat and pathetic store-bought whiskers - but this guy was the real deal. His beard was home-grown and totally white, and he bowl full of jelly belly on him looked pretty real too. I commend this guy for being as authentic as he possibly could - I was mesmerized.

Yes, I'm a 35-year old, world-weary woman who was completely mesmerized by a mall Santa Claus.

I have no idea why, but the fact that he looked so real was kind of comforting. Maybe it restored some of the Christmas magic I've lost and have been looking so hard to find. I don't know. I do hope he plans to return next year just in case we have a new little someone to sit in his lap.

But even if we don't, I kind of hope I'll see him again next year anyway.

Friday, December 02, 2005

*This* close

Denise, your comment meant the world to me. I can't even begin to tell you how much. I was on a high all day because of it and I'm so glad you told me how special Thomas has been to you. As I said, I'll spend the rest of my life searching for reasons why, and I'm incredibly thankful to you for giving me a huge one to put on my list.

I'm particularly thankful right now because I'm having a very blue moment.

Do you know how close we were to having our dream come true? I don't think the agony of we were *this* close will ever leave me. I was so close I could taste it. I must have walked into Thomas nursery a million times, touching all the little things I couldn't wait for him to see and use. I opened up his closet just as many times, running my fingers across all the little outfits, sometimes taking them out and putting them on my belly or holding them as though he was in them. I diapered the teddy my sister bought for Thomas in London just for practice - and swaddled him for practice too.

I was ready. We were ready.

And our baby didn't come home.

We were *this* close.

I remember telling My Beloved that it felt like I'd fallen off Mount Everest and was now standing back at its base staring up, knowing I'd just climbed almostall the way to the top. Almost.

I'm losing hope that we'll ever make it up that mountain again.

It seems to come so easily to so many and it's getting so hard to bear it all - to keep smiling while the dreams we had come true for everyone around us.

It sounds selfish when I put it that way. Why shouldn't dreams come true for other people? Why should they have to know any of the pain we do? They shouldn't. So why is it that we have to know it?

Oh crap. I'm back to asking why. I thought I put that to bed last night, but evidently not.

My last few entries have been so scattered - but so are my thoughts these days. I think it's probably Christmas that has me so discombobulated. I generally have it all under control, but the holidays are throwing me off - forcing me to think about what we don't have in a way I don't really want to have to.

I just hate that for the rest of our lives we'll have live with the fact that we were *this* close.

I still sometimes catch myself shaking my head in utter disbelief.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Why me?

I've been wondering that a lot lately. Why me? Why exactly did my baby die? I just don't get it.

I'm not saying that in the "oh woe is me" sense either (well, not tonight, anyway). I'm just posing the question to the gods - to the cosmic powers that be; why? Is it one big reason? Is it a million small ones? Will I ever really know or will I spend the rest of my life speculating?

I tend to believe that things happen for a reason, mostly because randomness is too frightening a concept to me. I hate the idea that Thomas died for a reason (what reason could possibly be good enough?), but the thought of him dying for no reason at all is immensely more disturbing to me. So I have to assume that the reason was a good one, or maybe a zillion good ones, most of which I'll never know about.

But is that fair? Is it fair for me not to know why my baby died? Fine, he died for a really good reason (or millions of them) but it doesn't seem right that his mother shouldn't know why - shouldn't at least have the comfort of knowing the good that has come (or will come) from such a horrific loss.

I've seen wonderful things since Thomas died - I've seen people change, I've witnessed hearts open, I've watched walls fall down - but couldn't there have been a way for all those wonderful things to happen without him dying?

I keep hoping the one reason or the million and one small ones will somehow be big enough to make up for his loss, but I just don't see how they possibly can.

Then I think maybe that kind of thinking devalues his life. Just because it was only 20 hours long doesn't necessarily mean it wasn't a full life. It was his entire life, and maybe that's all it was supposed to be, just like some people live to be 94. His time was measured in hours, not years, but that doesn't mean his life wasn't important.

The thing is, I figured all that out a long time ago. I know his life was important - it was incredibly important to me, to My Beloved and to everyone who loved our Thomas.

It's not a matter of me convincing myself that his life was important. It's a matter of me trying to understand why it was important for his life to be just 20 hours long. Why him?

I think of all the hopes and dreams I had for him - all the things I thought I'd see him do and achieve - and he couldn't even take his own breaths, except for the tiny gasps right before he died (gasps I can still here - those are the only sounds I ever heard him make). Why was that his life? Why couldn't God have figured out a way for him to make an impact on this world and still be alive today?

I'm dangerously close to blasphemy here, I believe. I shouldn't question God. I shouldn't, but why not? He can't possibly expect me to understand any of this or accept it without question, can he? What human could possibly do that - accept the loss of one so loved without question? Even Jesus questioned his fate - or at the very least begged for a different one - if God would allow it.

But he didn't. If he couldn't or wouldn't spare his own son, I suppose it makes sense that he wouldn't spare mine either.

Look at me! I'm running on the world's most horrifying hamster wheel lugging my bag of sorrow and trunk of questions around with me! Around and around and around we go. No answers, just endless turning and more questions.

I'm grateful I've been able to see so many beautiful things come from Thomas' death. I will always be grateful for that, and for everyone who shows me (whether they know it or not) how they've been changed by my son.

But I also know I'll spend the rest of my life searching for more reasons to add to my list. I just don't see how I'll ever be able to stop. I couldn't do that to Thomas.

And so I'll keep asking why until I die.