Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In Living Colour

video

I had forgotten about these clips, mostly because I didn't really realize we had video images of the twins when they were born, I had always just skipped through them as pictures until the other night when I found Shane watching the videos of our babies. When I saw the clip of Calvin, living and breathing, my heart skipped a beat. Sometimes it's hard to believe it's real, that he existed somewhere other than in my heart. Seeing him again in motion, living, flooded me with feelings I can't describe. I'm so grateful for my time with him and I will never forget him. That day, the day my twins were born, was one of the best days of my life. I will always remember the love and hope and joy we experienced, how full of anticipation Shane and I were, to start our lives as a family of five. If we only knew Calvin would soon die, I'm sure we would have filmed hours of video of him, instead of one short clip. Hindsight they say is 20/20. I wish I had more of him, more video, more pictures, more of his hair, more clothes that he had worn. I wish I had more time. I wish I still had him. I also wish I could believe without a doubt in my mind that God exists and that I will see him again, because I want so badly to believe, but in light of everything that's happened, I'm struggling. Can you blame me?

video

Monday, March 30, 2009

Oliver


I just read my friend Jesse's blog. Jesse's son Oliver was also born with Truncus Arteriosus exactly one month to the day after my Calvin passed away. I have been following Jesse's family's story since stumbling across her blog one day while I was searching for information on Truncus. We've emailed, shared hopes and fears, offered encouragement to each other when we've been down and although we've never met, I love her and think of her and Oliver daily. I stole this picture from Jesse's blog, hope you don't mind Jesse, but it's a picture of Oliver in an outfit I had originally bought for Calvin. Doesn't he look handsome??? Thank you Jesse for honoring my baby and for giving me the gift of being able to share in your journey.


Unhealthy Diversions

I'm not very good at grief. I don't know how people get on with their lives after going through something like this. Just the very thought of the day Calvin died has me gasping for air, trying to swallow the huge lump in my throat before it threatens to choke me and make me cry out. It happens alot, in odd places where my thoughts should be elsewhere. Rather than feel the pain, in the beginning I sought diversions, things that would keep my mind occupied or dull the pain enough for me to get through the day. I admit, I take too much pain medication most days and have since Calvin died. I shop online. I read blogs obsessively or bury my face in a book or keep myself busy most days so that I don't have to think about it, don't have to cry.

In the month following Calvin's death, I logged on to ebay. How long I stayed logged on, I don't really know. After ten boxes of children's clothing had shown up, my husband gently asked me one day how many more boxes were coming. I had no idea. When I checked, I realized I had bought twenty-seven boxes of clothing for the girls, far more than they could ever wear. I was deeply ashamed, not only at the excess, but at the fact that I didn't recall doing it. The very fact that Shane didn't absolutely freak out on me for doing it is a complete miracle. I promised to stop and I did. For about a week, when I found myself online buying purses. Five purses later, I miserably shut off the computer and agreed to grief counseling.

So now, my diversion in a sense is blogging, but it's not really a diversion because I'm talking about Calvin, I'm feeling the pain of losing him. I'm crying everyday again, something I thought I was over long ago but apparently still need to do. I'm trying to channel my grief into more positive things, no more online shopping. As for the meds, I'm trying to cut down little by little. It's been complicated trying to get off them because of pelvic issues I'm having and have had since the births of the twins. Maybe it sounds excuse-ish but I don't deal very well with physical pain any more than emotional pain. I know I can't continue to numb myself out all the time, although the respite is nice. I suppose if I was a drinker I would have probably drank myself to death by now, thank God I can't handle more than a drink or two without feeling like complete shit for the next two days. I can't believe how much I still hurt over this, I guess it's only really been four months or so but it seems like forever....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Quiet Moments

My life feels extremely disordered some days. Just when I feel like things are settling down in my heart, in a quiet moment alone with my thoughts, my grief creeps to the surface and all of a sudden I'm back in the sorrow of it all. I try to keep busy, at what I'm not sure, I feel busy most days changing bums, feeding, playing, singing with the girls, doing laundry but upon crawling out of bed this morning I looked around and thought, man my house needs a good cleaning. My dishwasher broke a couple of weeks ago and I've been doing extremely well at staying on top of the dishes until the day before yesterday when I used the last of the dishsoap to wash baby bottles. Do you think I can remember to pick up dishsoap? My brain feels so foggy sometimes, like I have trouble focusing on even the basic things that need to be done.

I've never been like this before, usually I'm able to remember all the tiny details of my life, things that need attention right down to the insignificant. Now even the everyday things seem overwhelming most days, seemingly because I tend to lose myself in the quiet moments, the times where the girls are sleeping and Shane is out. These are the times I take for myself to restore order into my life, clean up after people, put stuff away, do the stuff that matters to me so that I can enjoy my personal space and not feel guilty about lounging on the couch. Now, in my quiet moments, thoughts of Calvin sneak in and I lose myself in remembering. I love the memories I have of him, well, most of them anyways, but the feeling of sadness that accompanies the memories is so hard to deal with. I hate the ever-present ache in my heart. I hate not being able to turn off my head, to put Calvin away for awhile so that I don't feel sad and that I can concentrate on things in my life that need doing. I told Shane that I hate feeling sad all the time, it seems that most of our conversations at night gravitate towards Calvin and I end up crying. Damnit, I miss him so fucking much. I hate the repetitive nature of the memories, the same moments over and over and over in my mind's eye, the same feelings of sorrow, of emptiness. I hate that my motherly duties to Lorelei and Georgia feel merely like an escape at times, something to occupy myself so that I don't feel swallowed whole by the grief of losing my beautiful baby. My Calvin. It horrifies me to even say the words, "My baby died...". Babies are NOT supposed to die, not when as a mother I did everything I could to give him the best chance. I stopped smoking, didn't drink, no drugs, took vitamins and ate healthier than I usually do, rested every day, went to every fucking doctor's appointment...Damnit, it's not fair. It's not fair that my life will never be the same again, that everything feels chaotic some days, that my children no longer have a mother who is "whole" because part of her died with Calvin. I don't know how to fix myself because it feels like everything I do is simply a diversion, that in my quiet moments it all comes flooding back. I can't stop crying. And I hate it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Shack

I had a visit today with Betty and Amanda, two people who go waaaaaaaay back in my life. Amanda was just a tiny girl when I started babysitting her, Ashley was even tinier. Now they're both beautiful women, something I find hard to reconcile with my emotional memories of them as cute little girls. Anyhow, not to wax on sentimental journies but today was amazing. I had the most uplifting and relaxing afternoon drinking lattes and eating sinfully delicious gourmet cupcakes (thank you for the deliciously decadent extra calories Amanda, LOL), and talking about life and my children. They continue to spoil my girls rotten with treats and love and it makes me feel so grateful to have such wonderful women in my life. As they had brought treats for the girls, I also got a gift from Betty. She gave me a book called "The Shack". I won't go into too much detail about it because it's an absolute must read but I literally couldn't put it down. I swear anyone who has lost a child should read this book, it truly spoke to my heart and I found myself sobbing during several parts that I could honestly identify with. It was a beautiful gift and one that I intend to pass on. I have already told Shane he needs to read it because I need to talk to him about the book and I can't do it until he reads it because I absolutely don't want to spoil it for him. I especially feel the need to send a copy to my son's surgeon, Dr. C, because so much of the story spoke to me, my heart and my feelings about Calvin's death and the people who were in his short life. After reading only a few short chapters, I felt that there was someone in this world who understood my struggle to maintain a relationship with God following the death of my son, someone who put my inner conflict into words and then shared them with honesty and emotion. I loved it. I may read it again tomorrow, and possibly the day after that. Thank you Betty for such a wonderful day and such a thoughtful and perfect gift, one that I know I can't keep to myself now that I've read it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Children's Hospital

I wanted to write about my feelings regarding our stay and treatment at Children's Hospital. It's been on my mind so much lately and I just have to share about our experience there. When Calvin's heart defect was discovered at my twenty week fetal anatomy scan, I was told, because of the complexity of his defect, that we would need to have our twins born at Women and Children's. I was scared but confident that the help we needed was at Children's, so Shane, Lorelei and I packed up and moved to Vancouver. It's something I'll always be grateful we did. When my water broke (Georgia's amniotic sac) on November 10, I remember an unusual calm feeling overcoming me. This was it. I had been frightened of the birth for basically my whole pregnancy, knowing that once Calvin was outside my body, his little heart would need mending right away. However, that day I was granted a sort of serenity, a feeling of inner peace and I was absolutely looking forward to meeting my babies at last. My c-section went smoothly, I had absolutely no pain and within a minute of each other my babies were born. Georgia was being assessed and because Calvin was being taken immediately to the NICU, I got to hold him first. He was beautiful, I couldn't stop looking at his little face and his tiny fingers. All too quickly he was gone, taken to be checked out and to have his heart defect diagnosed. I met Dr. S, the cardiologist in the recovery room while I was nursing Georgia for the first time and he explained to me what we were up against. Shane felt an immediate trust for him and we were confident we were in the best possible hands for our care.

Despite the fact that Calvin suffered complications and died, I can't say enough about the level of care we received while we were there. All the nurses were wonderful, and our two doctors, Dr. S and Dr. C were terrific about explaining in a compassionate, kind manner what was happening with our son and what we were facing. I have never received medical treatment of this kind before, their approach was personable, far from clinical, and we knew they truly cared what happened to our child and our family. Not only was Calvin's well-being important to our doctors, but so was ours. I can't even begin to explain how many of the doctors, nurses and other staff that had worked with our family stopped by to speak to us, hug us, and offer condolences when our son died. They made us feel that we were more than just a medical number or file, we were people who had faced a terrible heartbreaking loss and we were treated so compassionately and kindly, I will never forget them. I guess that's why I feel so strongly about needing to give back. My son's whole life was spent inside the walls of Children's Hospital and we would have likely been there a good while longer had Calvin not died. Right now, a big part of my healing is focusing on raising money to give to Children's Hospital in Calvin's honour. I'm so excited about being able to give them something to show how grateful we are for the way our child and our family was treated while we were there. Giving back for the sake of Calvin is what's keeping me together these days, it gives me something to focus on, making something beautiful come out of something that hurt so much. If I could just make people understand how important it is having Children's Hospital there for families like us who have had sick children, it wouldn't be an issue trying to fundraise. In a way, I think everyone should experience what a wonderful place it is for sick children, but I also would love to see the day where nobody needed to experience it as well. It's so hard to put my feelings of gratitude into words, there are none adequate enough to express how I truly feel, only that I'm glad they were there when we needed them and I can't wait to go back with a cheque.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Back to Life, Back to Reality

It's odd to me that life is starting to resemble "normal" again. In the days and weeks that followed Calvin's death, everything "normal" in my life ceased to be. My sleeping patterns were completely disrupted, I often slept for maybe an hour or two maximum yet continued to function somewhat coherently oddly enough. However, everyday stuff like cooking and cleaning became something that didn't matter to me anymore. I realized at Christmas dinner at my in-law's house that I hadn't cooked since Calvin had died, and I didn't care. In fact I think it was the end of January before I started cooking again and in those early days, it was sporadic at best. It was also towards the end of January that I realized the wrapping paper from Christmas morning was still on the floor and that I had been walking around it for over a month. It was an eye-opening revelation of sorts for me, because at that time I also realized that although we had been home from the coast for two months, we hadn't unpacked. So, I picked up the Christmas wrap, took down the tree and started the task of unpacking our other life. When I got to the suitcase of Calvin's things, I realized why I hadn't started as soon as we got home.

Unpacking Calvin's clothes and toys and blankets was so hard. So many things purchased with love and hope, now lay unused, unworn in my old suitcase. Each item held a memory, of a time where I was pregnant and shopping for my unborn son, or as a gift given from the heart of a friend or family member. He was to be such a vital part of our lives, the only son, so longed for and loved by his daddy and me. It broke my heart to see all of his things unused, unloved, so at that moment in time, I shut the suitcase and took it upstairs where his clothes and toys didn't call out to me to hold them and smell them and think of him. As I began to get back into the routine of cooking and cleaning and daily chores, the suitcase sat upstairs, patiently waiting. I had thought about going through Calvin's things and donating them to the swap meet we did to raise money for Children's, but part of me couldn't let go. They were his things, and he wouldn't be getting any more. In fact I had to fight to get some of the things that had been purchased for him by family who thought it best not to "upset" me by giving me his gifts once he had died. I wanted everything. I wanted all the symbols of love and reminders that Calvin existed. So, unable to bring myself to donate any of his stuff to the swap meet, the suitcase was again closed and put away.

Since then, although I still hurt, although I miss my son every day, my life is starting to resemble "normal" again. I am able to appreciate little things that bring me joy once more. One of those things has been following Oliver's progress with his battle with Truncus Arteriosus, the congenital heart defect that Calvin had. When Oliver was finally discharged from the hospital, I celebrated his success, a feeling of pride and love for this little baby boy I had never met. It felt fitting that something I bought for Calvin with love and hope be given to this little fighter who is winning his battle with congenital heart disease. I am so grateful Jesse said yes when I asked her if I could send her something of Calvin's for Oliver. The suitcase didn't seem so formidable anymore when I went upstairs to get an outfit to send, in fact it felt right and good and I think Calvin would have approved. I feel so connected to Jesse and Oliver, although we've never met, we understand each other, know what it's like to be facing fear and uncertainty and to cry with love and hope for our children. It's nice that my life is starting to get back to some sort of reality again, even though that reality means a life without my son. It hurts, but it will get better.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Time, Love, and Tenderness

Yesterday was a down day. I guess I'm having issues with my feelings of failure as a mother for not being able to protect Calvin and it's spilling over into my life with my other two kids. Lorelei is at a frustrating age. Frustrating because she's asserting her independence with a ferocious attitude and it seems like we are constantly butting heads. By four o'clock yesterday afternoon I was on the verge of a major freak-out. The non-stop arguing, defiance, and deliberate misbehaving had pushed all my buttons and I felt like running away from home. Seriously. I felt so unappreciated, I was practically sobbing as I cooked Shane's roast beef dinner. After supper I asked Shane if he minded if I took some time for myself and went and laid down for awhile. He was completely ok with it, so I went into our room, turned off all the lights, put on some classical music and crawled into bed. I was so comfortable just laying there drifting.....thinking about Calvin, Lorelei and Georgia and suddenly I realize I'm crying. Crying because I love my children so much yet feel like such a bad mother some days. Wondering if my oldest child is going to hate me in a few years because she is so willful and strong.

After an hour or so, Shane came and got me. He had put away the leftovers from supper, made Georgia's bottles and gotten Lorelei ready for bed. How wonderful, I'm thinking...then he tells me he's going to give me a little tenderness, that he knows how stressed and upset I was and proceeds to tell me what he's going to do for me. First, he wanted to brush my hair, I love having my hair brushed because it reminds me of when my mother used to do it for me as a child. Then, he intended to shave my legs and give me a backrub with some massage oil. It was heaven. Shane started shaving my legs years ago and likes to do it for me when I need some tlc. He's extremely gentle, and has never cut me. I trust him completely and although some might find it weird, it's one of the tender things he has taken to doing for me over the years. I have my own little things I do for him when he's in need of pampering, it helps keep our love soft and new feeling. After my massage, I went and jumped in a hot shower and by the time I came out was feeling good again. As we lay snuggling in bed together, I told him how much I appreciated him knowing me the way he does, knowing what to do to make me feel good again when I'm down. Sometimes all it takes is a little time, love, and tenderness.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wherever You Go, There You Are

Shane and I have been trying to get out lately. Little dates, parties, dinner invitations etc. On Friday, we had been invited to a sex party, not the kind where you drop your keys into a fishbowl and then select someone to go home with, but where someone comes and demonstrates new "adult" products and explains their benefits. I was a bit apprehensive not having been to one before, and certainly not sure how I felt about the whole co-ed thing but was determined to go and try to enjoy myself. I had decided not to drink, having had one too many the last time we were invited out and then suffered for it the whole next day. So, there I was, in a room full of men and women in varying stages of inebriation, laughing at the shenanigans going on around me when the conversation took a different turn. I was standing on the fringe of a group of women who were discussing breast reduction surgery when one of the women piped up and announced she had a third nipple. I felt my eyebrow rising as I turned to see her proudly displaying a nipple on her belly, where one might see a row of nipples if it were a dog or cat or something that bred in litters. I felt my eyebrow rising even more when one of the other women spoke up and said, "Me too, look", as she lifted her shirt up to show her extra nipple. "My doctor said it was a twin and that I must have absorbed him, you can tell it was a boy because the nipple is flat..." Suddenly, I'm feeling a twinge of panic rising in my throat and I start to edge away from the conversation. She continued speaking to the first extra-nippled woman, "Yours was a girl, because it puckers outward." I'm thinking, "Jesus Christ, I've never heard anything so udderly ridiculous...(get it, udderly???) when I hear a woman say, "When, recently?", and I know without a doubt they are talking about me. The next thing I know, this largish woman has launched herself into my arms, "I'm so sorry, hun....was it SIDS?" "No, I mumble, my son, he had a heart defect...." She's smiling this horrid grin, like I've just been initiated into some "dead baby sorority", and says, "Yes, my daughter's twin sister went to bed at three months old healthy and never woke up..." Still smiling that same awful smile, she adds "You know, it's been eleven years, and it never gets any better." "Um, I gotta go for a smoke," I tell her and make my escape for the door.

So there I was, amidst dildos and vibrators and lingerie and all kinds of "adult" stuff, having a good time laughing away at the exhibitionists trying on crotchless panties when suddenly, I'm "That Mom". It ruined my night. Not that thinking about Calvin ruins my night, but the timing with which he was brought up, and being made to feel like a side show curiosity, like the extra nippled women. I hate the way people assume we have a kinship, that because we've had children die, we'll automatically "get" each other. I know just by looking at this woman and the way she approached me, that she and I would never "click". Have some tact, people...I hate the nods and looks of pity and the feeling like I have to hold my head high, when I'd rather turn invisible and blend into the surroundings. My grief is something that I want to pick and choose who I share it with, not be put on the spot in the middle of a dildo party where the focus of the party is clearly to get silly and have some fun. As I exited out the back door, the only thing I could think of was..."she should wax those eyebrows, and maybe that hairy mole on her cheek..." not, omg, this poor woman, we're about to become soul sisters. Shane and I left shortly afterwards. Sure, we'll look forward to our next night out, I'll just make sure my escape route is more well thought out for next time.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Body Image


I miss my "before kids" body. Not that it was perfect in any way, shape or form, but I miss it nonetheless. It's hard to believe that there was a time in my life when I didn't have stretch marks that ran from my hips to my boobs, or that there was a time I didn't see my body as a failure for not being able to protect my pregnancies. Before trying to conceive, I had spent most of my late teens to adult life trying not to get pregnant. I never imagined in a million years that having children would become an issue for me. Not that I couldn't get pregnant, but that I couldn't stay pregnant, my own body attacking my babies as "foreign invaders." Before my diagnosis of antiphospholipid antibody syndrome, before my first five pregnancy losses, there were unjaded feelings of ambivilance towards my body. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it. Sure there were things I felt weren't good enough, like the fact that although I come from a family of large breasted women, I could barely fill a B-cup or that I have a chronically large behind, but I was generally ok with the way I looked. There were days I actually felt beautiful, like the day I married Shane, or times we would go out and strange men would tell me I was hot...
Post pregnancy loss, post having birthed three babies, I definitely don't feel hot anymore. My barely B-cups have sagged and my belly looks like someone has parked their angry shar-pei on it. I detest the wrinkles and sags and stretch marks and extra pounds, it's like my body is showing off how I feel on the inside, ugly. I am so torn between a small feeling of pride that I managed to keep the twins inside for 37 weeks, that my babies were both a good size, and the feeling of epic failure as a mother for not putting Calvin's little heart together properly when he was growing inside me. There are days when I am desperately unhappy with the end result of my struggle to have children, that my body is speaking loud and clear all the pain, loss and unhappiness I feel inside. I consider drastic measures like plastic surgery, liposuction, breast implants, botox...But somehow I don't think my feeling of ugliness will go away, even with all that. I need to find measure of acceptance, of peace, with what has happened on my road to becoming a mother. I need to desperately find a way to stop feeling like such a failure. I didn't mean to lose all those babies, I didn't mean for Calvin's heart to be so messed up, but I can't help but feel that I caused it. I hope he can forgive me, because I'm having trouble forgiving myself.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Written in Stone

Spring is almost here so it's time for us to think about buying a marker for Calvin's grave. When we buried him in November, the funeral home informed us that the city would not install any more markers until spring, and they urged us not to buy one until we had some time to think about what we wanted on it. I'm completely at a loss. When my friend John Metzler died in a car accident on his way to the Okanagan to visit me in 94, I remember going to his grave with his mother a couple of months after. What I remember most about that moment was the feeling of "that's it?". His name and date of birth, date of death was all there was and I was incredibly sad. I remember telling Cathie that there should have been more, a monument of some sort, to tell the world how important he was, how much he was loved.

How do I tell the world that Calvin was more than just a six day old infant that died? How do I express in just a few words that he was wanted more than anything by Shane and I, that I have loved him more in six days than many people love in a lifetime? How do I let them know he has two sisters, one his twin, who will miss him growing up? Or that I had dreamed of having a little boy for so long and was convinced it would never happen for me until he came along? How do I tell everyone how perfect he was, how beautiful his little face was, how soft his hair or long his fingers? How do I fit all my hopes and dreams for my son's life into just a few short words? It's not enough, there isn't enough room to express just how much I loved him, all the things I wanted to teach him, how many tears I've cried since losing him. How do I tell the world how important he was, that he was my last chance at giving my husband a son and now he's gone? It doesn't seem fair to sum up his life in less than a sentence when he meant the world to me. In the end, after Shane and I are gone, his marker will be what speaks of our love for him, and I want it to be perfect. And I know it won't be. And it sucks.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Wonder

There are times lately when I look at Georgia and I wonder what Calvin would look like by now. She is growing so fast I can't believe it some days, already seventeen pounds at four months old. All of my children had in common certain parts of me. All had the shape of my eyes. They all had my dad's hands, long slender fingers on tiny hands with tiny feet to match. They all had my ears and I have a feeling all would have had my curly hair. Lorelei's hair has become incredibly curly as she gets older and one of the first things I noticed about Georgia as I held her in the recovery room after her birth was that under her hat, her hair had tiny curls. Calvin had the most hair out of any of my children at birth, and it was a beautiful strawberry blonde like his dad's sideburns. He was also the prettiest of all my babies at birth, I remember looking at him thinking that he was exquisitely beautiful. Calvin was the only one of our children that had Shane's nose instead of mine and although his eyes were shaped like mine, they were an intense colour of blue that I'm sure would have stayed that way. When I picture him as a toddler, I imagine him with blonde curls, big blue eyes with long lashes like both of his sisters and a cute smile with the gap between his front teeth like Shane and Lorelei. I'm sure he would have been a rough and tumble little boy, rowdy like his dad, a natural athlete.

I wonder if Calvin watches over his sister, sometimes when I'm feeding Georgia, she is fixated on something over my shoulder up towards the ceiling that makes her smile and laugh. I wonder if he knows how much I miss him, how I dreamt of being a mother to a messy little boy who loved to play in the sun and get dirty. My dream of motherhood was never about princess pink or dolls or dresses, it was about frogs and tree forts and a basketball hoop in our driveway. I pictured rough-housing with overall clad boys, burying them in piles of leaves, teaching them to catch a baseball. My dream has changed now, I love my girls more than anything and take delight in the girly things I get to do with my daughters but I wish more than anything my boy was here. If I close my eyes and think back to holding him, I can almost feel the softness of his hair as I brushed my lips over his head, smell the sweetness of his new baby skin. I love the intoxicating smell of babies, that sweet pure smell of softness you don't find anywhere else. I wonder if I would have kissed and smelled him as much as I do with Georgia. Sometimes when I hold her, I can't get enough of her, and because she needs alot of close physical contact, she doesn't complain when I repeatedly kiss her or run my lips over the soft parts of her little head.

I wonder if there really is a heaven (oh God I hope so), and if Calvin is with all the people I've loved in my life that have died. I thought about that today, while I was driving to the grocery store, wondering if Calvin was with my dad, my two grandpas and one grandma, my good friend John. I wonder if he's a baby in heaven or whether he'll be grown up when I get there, whether he has found all his brothers and sisters that we've lost over the years, or if he's here hovering over us, watching us mourn him. I wonder if he would have had as many rolls on his thighs as Georgia does, as Lorelei did. I wonder if he knew how much I loved him before he died, how much I love him still. I miss you baby boy.

I wonder if God knows how pissed I am at Him...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Joy

I thought I would write about the little things in my life right now that bring me joy. First, my husband Shane. He is a man who knows me better than anyone, someone I can share my hopes and dreams with as well as provide a strong shoulder to cry on. After seven years together he knows how to make me a perfect cappucino with extra foam, will rub my back when it hurts and remembers to give me the pickles off all his burgers. Could a woman ask for more? Not only that but he is extraordinarily kind, never gets personal when we argue and still can't wait to get into my pants at the end of the day...LOL. He is a devoted father, spending time changing bums, giving baths, playing games and snuggling our girls. He can swaddle a baby like no one else and he makes our three year old feel like a princess when he picks her up and dances with her. He never gives up on our relationship, even when things get tough and I love him forever for that. I love his eyes, his hands and the way he makes me feel valued. He truly loves me and I am so lucky to have found him and to share my life with him.

Georgia and Lorelei. My girls. I never thought it would be possible to love another child the way I love Lorelei, our first, but I was so wrong. My girls have given me the gift of motherhood and the joy of seeing them come into themselves, their personalities. In turn, it gives me the chance to pass along all my mother did for me when I was a little girl, reading stories, fingerpainting, playing dress-up and tea parties and snuggling together before bed. I love my children more than anything in the world, and am priviledged to be "Mommy." I never thought I would find happiness in sticky kisses, chubby thighs and downy baby hair, never really realized how much having little arms wrapped around my neck would mean. It is forever joy to laugh with them, kiss their boo-boos better, see them grow and learn and change right before my very eyes. It makes me proud to see my oldest be compassionate to others, to use her manners and say please and thank you without prompting and to be so willing to help me with whatever I'm doing at the time. Motherhood is such a gift, thank you Shane for making me a mother.

I also need to mention the people in my life who bring me joy, my friends, extended family and the group of supportive women I've found through the internet who all share similar circumstances. Following Baby Oliver's story with Truncus Arteriosus has given me joy, watching his progress and growth from his birth to his repair and days on ECMO to his discharge. Connecting with Kate and Carly and other babylost parents at the Glow, and talking with my son's doctors. My friend Bill in Wisconsin who always has a kind word of support and Lisa who has stuck with me for twenty years now. Hearing I love you from Betty who stepped in and filled the role of mother for me when I had no one and watching her girls, the little girls I used to babysit grow into beautiful women and start families of their own.

So many bits of sunshine, so many rays of light. Even simple pleasures bring happiness, like feeling the warmth of the sun on my face, a long massage at Solus while listening to the jazzy Corrinne Bailey Rae, a moment of quiet when everyone is asleep. A hot bubble bath on a cold night, getting to sleep in, a visit with a friend from the past. All bring happiness and soothe my soul.

My six days with Calvin. Pure joy. I'd never trade them for the world.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Who Am I?

I am a mother. I am a bereaved mother, determined not to let my son's death be what defines me as a person. There is so much of me, of my true spirit waiting to be rediscovered. I was told once upon a time that we are the sum of our past experiences, that which we have done and felt shape us into who we are today. So I pause, and reflect, and think back to moments in my life that sum up who I am...

I am fourteen, eyes full of wonder, pretending to be more mature and sophisticated than I truly am as I gaze through the glass at the Mona Lisa. I am in Paris and I am enchanted with the idea of the City of Lights, the spring air and being far from my mother. I'm in the Louvre, soaking up the beauty of the great masters, Rembrandt, Renoir, Degas, Piccasso and for the first time in my life I feel tiny. I am humbled in the presence of such splendid works of art, so much so that at that moment in time my very existence seems insignificant. I am in awe of the history, the stories, the sacrifice and the feelings I get as the paintings speak to my soul. I am in love. A stroll down the Champs Elysees, a glass of beaujolais at a sidewalk cafe, Easter mass at the Cathedral at Orleans. The architecture whispers to me, as if to say, "We were here, this was our life, our dreams..."

I am sixteen, sitting on the back of a Harley Davidson as we whip through the streets of Vancouver. I'm hanging on with all my might to the burly biker named Drew who is taking me downtown to a dance. I'm terrified and exhiliarated. I realize that the only thing between me and the road is the skull cap I'm wearing and I push away thoughts of certain death by concentrating on the feeling of the wind on my face, the anticipation of seeing my friends and dancing the night away. I am forming relationships now, solid friendships, some of which will last for decades to come. I have a diverse group of people in my life, real people with beautiful hearts, people who are capable of forming deeper bonds, for whom truth lies in not what you look like, but in who you really are. I am accepted and it feels good.

I am eighteen, and I am at my mother's house getting ready to load up the furniture and appliances she is giving me. Having had her third car accident in about two years, my mother has decided that her MS is getting the best of her. She can no longer maintain her independence and she is going to live with my grandparents. I suddenly realize that I have no home to go to if things get rough, I'm now completely on my own and I'm scared. Fear turns to anger when my grandmother pulls me aside to say, "We'll probably end up putting her in a home, she won't last with us." I think to myself, "I wonder if my mother knows she's giving up her life here thinking she'll live out her days with you, only to have you put her in a home in a few months?" I feel the need to tell my mom what grandma had said and when I do she gets tears in her eyes and tells me they won't do that to her. She was wrong.

I'm twenty-nine and my marriage is in a shambles. Thinking a vacation is what we need I surprise my husband with plane tickets to New Orleans for Mardi Gras 2000. I'm catching beads and dancing in the street, flashing my boobs and stuffing myself with crawfish and beer. I'm having the time of my life ignoring what's really going on. I close my eyes and listen to the sweet sounds of a live jazz band playing in a club on Bourbon Street, wishing I was somebody else. By the time our plane lands in Seattle we are broke and barely speaking. " Your breath stinks" he says, so I turn my head towards the window and don't say anything else on the bus ride back to Canada. Welcome home, I think.

I'm thirty and my marriage has just fallen apart for good. For the first time in years I am alone and although I'm hurting, I'm free. I realize how much I have compromised for my husband and I start going out again and it feels like a rebirth. I can't believe how much I love the sun and I am tanned and freckled and windblown these days. I enjoy music, listening to what I want for a change, from rap and dance music to Metallica and classical. I love it all. I can sing in the car again while I drive, something my exhusband hated for me to do. I'm desperately broke, working two jobs six days a week and I've never been happier. I've met a younger guy and fallen instantly in love. Shane and I start planning to have a family, everything I've ever wanted is starting to fall into place. We marry, seventy-five days after my divorce is final, one year and twenty-two days after we first met.

I'm thirty-three and have been crying for what seems like months. Desperate to have a child and waiting to find out why I had just had three miscarriages in a row. A trip to Vancouver and a diagnosis at last. The next day I find out I'm pregnant again and I panic, is it too late for the drugs? Faithfully I begin the regiment of injecting blood thinners twice a day, hoping beyond hope that this time it will work. I wake up screaming in the recovery room, my God, this is pain like I have never known it. Congratulations, your daughter is doing fine...I lay there sobbing. Can this be real? I am a mother at last.

I'm thirty-seven and I peer into my mother's eyes as she lies motionless in her hospital bed. I'm holding my newborn daughter. "Mom, my son died..." The veil lifts for but a minute and she whispers, "I'm sorry." I'm crying. I am a mother without her child, and a child without her mother. If there was ever a moment in my life when I needed my mother's lap, it was this moment of heartbreak, having held my son while he died in my arms. I feel like a tree without roots, like a strong wind will blow me over at any moment. I look down at my baby and at my husband holding our three year old and think, "At least I have you." We have each other and someday I'll be ok.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Acknowledgement

Perhaps I've behaved badly this past week. I have been drowning in desperation for some sort of acknowledgement of Calvin's existence, for someone to say to me, " I remember him." Being so far away from everyone when our twins were born was difficult, thankfully Shane's family came the day they were born and got to see my beautiful boy. That said, within their own grief experience, his parents find it difficult at best to talk about what happened to Calvin. Shane is also having issues bringing him up. As of late, I've felt very much alone in my remembering. And it hurts. So much so that I think I may have made my son's surgeon feel uncomfortable. The good Dr. C. has been kind enough to keep us in his thoughts and responded to an email I sent him requesting information about Calvin's condition by adding this at the end:

I cannot imagine how hard these months have been for you and how the joy of seeing your daughter grow must be shadowed by the pain of not having Calvin there with her. If there is anything I can do to help you though this please tell me and know that you are being thought of and prayed for often.

He's a beautiful man. I can't describe how I feel about him, only to say that it's a mix of gratitude and admiration and love for what he did for my son. As long as I live, I will never forget the look on his face as he had to tell us that Calvin had suffered a serious bi-lateral brain bleed and that he would likely not survive another surgery. I told Shane that I loved the good doctor, not as a woman loves a man, but as the victim of some terrible tragedy loves the hero. Shane knew exactly what I meant and agreed. How do you define a love like that? If you're not there and don't know what it was like, there is no possible way to understand. In my earnestness to let Dr. C. know how much he has meant to my family and how eternally grateful I am to him for remembering my son, I think I may have crossed some boundaries and made him uncomfortable. And for that I am feeling a deep sense of regret. How do I open up the lines of communication again to tell him how profoundly sorry I am if I made him uncomfortable, that in my sorrow and grief that I was so desperate for someone to say my boy's name that I may have held on a little too tight...?

Evening Margaret,

I am so sorry for the terrible pain you have suffered. I cannot imagine how any parent survives after going through what your family has, all I know is that miraculously almost everyone does. Have you had contact with any other parents whose children have died one here at BC Children's - do you think that might help at all?

You loved Calvin in the hardest of places, at the most difficult of times, that I think is more tribute than any foundation can ever give, but I completely understand your desire to see a great good come out of something so sad. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.


The acknowledgement of my pain brought me comfort. He was there. He knows how much I loved my son, that I would have given Calvin my own heart if it meant my boy would live. These words brought me immeasurable feelings comfort, that someone had reached out and said, I know you are hurting and I remember him. I wish I could have simply said Thank you and been ok to leave it at that. After so long without speaking his name to anyone, to putting a voice to my sorrow, I was like the desert in a downpour, soaking it up as fast as I could, afraid that it would disappear. In the process I fear I took up too much time, made the good Dr. C. feel uncomfortable with my pain and because of that I'm afraid he won't contact me again when he remembers. The intensity of my feelings surprises even me sometimes, I can't imagine how I must have come off....

Thanks for the emails Dr. C. I will treasure them and my memories of you forever.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

One Effexor, Two Effexor, Three Effexor, Four...

Post-partum sucks. Post-partum with grief is a disaster waiting to happen. Usually the only people I tell that I suffer from post-partum are people who have offered up that information about themselves first. There is such a social stigma about issues relating to depression, misconceptions abound. I can't begin to tell you how many times a well meaning relative has told me it's all in my head, just "get over it, you don't need meds, you need to go out and have some fun." Well, thank-you very much for that sage advice...I think I'll go get a bunch of fun tickets and head out on the town. Like getting drunk or acting like a teenager for a few hours is going to cure what ails me. So yes, I'm on some meds. I see a therapist. I cry, alot some days. Right now it's hard to figure out just exactly what is making me so sad, is it the post-partum, or is it the fact that my beautiful baby boy died at six days old? Life seems so overwhelming at times and moving forward is so hard when I wish I could turn back the clock and stay in the moments I had with Calvin. Those beautiful minutes when his chest wasn't cut open and he was awake, lying quietly in my arms looking up at me as we snuggled in the ICU. Time is a thief, stealing away people and moments that matter most. I don't want to move forward, I want to go back. If it were only that simple. One effexor, two effexor, three effexor, four....

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Lately my feelings have been a mixture of all three, most days this past week have been ugly. I'm broken. I am a woman with a loving husband and two beautiful daughters, all three the centre of my universe. So why am I hurting so much right now? I miss Calvin and all the possibilities for his life. I miss the hopes and dreams I had for my only son and the dream of my life fulfilled. All have vanished as if some evil magician has waved his magic wand and zapped into my lifeforce, stealing my happiness. Some days I feel unbelievably lonely, drowning in thoughts and feelings I can't express, wishing for another ending to Calvin' chapter in the book of life. Grief is isolating, sorrowful, haunting. I have danced with the Grim Reaper, not by choice but by some cruel twist of fate that stole my only son from me at six days old. I hate what death has done to my soul, twisting it and crushing my spirit until some days I feel like I should just quit fighting to find the person I used to be. She is gone, Calvin's death has become my undoing. In all of this, I know there is no possibility of me coming through unscathed, it's too late. This changeling in the mirror is a stranger to me, dull eyes where light used to dance. All I can hope for is a chance to make something of what's been left behind. All I can hope for is the softening of the pain over time, into something that is always there but doesn't always leave me gasping for air. This week has been ugly, I'll settle for bad next week.