I've been miserable these last few days, a feeling of sorrow that I just can't seem to shake. Last night while sharing an intimate moment (*ahem) with Shane, I couldn't hold back the tears any longer. We started to talk and he asked me what's been going on with me and I told him I think I'm anxious about Mother's Day. When he asked why, all the doubts and fears and hurts I've been lugging around lately came pouring out. I feel like I'm a failure as a mother, I feel an enormous sense of guilt for not spending enough time in the ICU with Calvin before he died. I feel like even though I'm here for the girls, I'm not really with them alot of the time because I'm off in my head somewhere thinking about my son. I tried to explain it to my therapist today. I have two of the most beautiful little girls here in front of me who I love more than anything, yet some days it's all I can muster to turn on the tv, put it on treehouse and remember to feed them and change their bums. I can't escape the images of Calvin on ECMO, how still and motionless he lay after his surgery, how I never held him again until he was dying. What kind of mother leaves her critically ill child in the ICU? I should have been pushier with family, should have insisted that they come up to my room and care for Georgia so that I could spend more time with my son. I should have told the doctors that I wanted to do things my way and had Georgia down in the ICU with Calvin before he was dying, so that she could snuggle him and touch him while he was still aware of what was going on around him. I should be more of a mother to my girls and learn to push my thoughts of him away so that I can focus on them, on loving them and making the most of their days while we're still all together at home. I don't want Mother's Day to come this year, I don't want to celebrate motherhood without one of my children here with me. I don't want to celebrate the poor excuse of a mother I've been lately to my girls. I wish I could make them understand that I'm hurting, that I don't mean to be off in my thoughts or so distracted by my memories that I'm not giving them the attention they deserve. I feel like I've been blessed with these two beautiful girls and I should be overcome with gratitude for having them instead of wallowing in self-pity over the loss of my son.
It's been a down couple of days. Shane and I have been trying to get out more, trying to have some much needed fun. Last night we went for dinner and then to Cirque Sublime's Adamo. It was a let down. There were parts that dazzled for sure, but overall the experience didn't thrill me or leave me feeling satisfied. I guess maybe I was expecting too much having been to see Cirque du Soleil while I was pregnant with the twins. I don't know if I'm expecting too much out of my "getting out", maybe I'm just looking for something to momentarily distract me from my head. Today while I was out shopping, I stopped at the floral department of Safeway, looking for something to take to Calvin's grave. I took a small potted rose bush a week or so ago but it's been cold and I thoroughly expected them to have died. I did find a nice purple annual, the lady told me it was a spring bloomer and that you could mow it to the ground and it would come back next year. Perfect, I thought, so I purchased it and went on my way. When I got to the cemetery, I was a little upset to see no sign of the purple rosebush, and there were fresh grass seeds sprinkled on Calvin's grave. Obviously, the cemetery groundskeeper decided to dispose of the plant, it probably didn't conform to city by-laws which state that no bushes or flowers be planted on the cemetery grounds that could interfere with mowing. Still, it pissed me off. I want my son to have flowers, to have something beautiful adorn his plot until his marker is put in place. So, digging into the ground with my hands I planted the little plant at the foot of where he lies, hoping that it will be missed until the roots take hold and that even if they mow it down, it will come back to life next spring. I'm sad today. I feel like I'm searching for something to take the pain away, searching for the meaning in my life. I am trying random acts of kindness right now, hoping that the pleasure of doing nice things for other people will eventually make me feel good inside again but I don't know. I'm so tired of the weight of my grief, it feels like an anchor around my neck and somedays I barely feel like I'm keeping my head above water. I think I need to cry. I think I need to absolutely break down and freak out and fall on the floor kicking and screaming until it's out of my system for awhile. I don't know what I need. Maybe I just need a hug. It's so lonely this grief thing. I keep hoping for some great beam of enlightenment that will zap me into the realization of "why", and for some reason, I don't think it's going to happen. Hugs to me, hugs to you....
It's been almost six months since we lost Calvin. Six months already. I can't believe it. Of course I have spent much of the last six months numbing out, distracting myself, doing anything I can not to feel. I can't keep it up much longer. Tomorrow we are going to order Calvin's marker and for the life of me, we can't figure out what we want it to say. If I sit down long enough and think of how I want the world to know about my son I start to cry. Nothing seems adequate. Nothing seems good enough. I have been avoiding thinking about it as much as possible but the guilt has been eating me up bit by bit. I'm scared I think, scared to finish his memorial book, scared to put words to my pain, scared that once I'm done and it's over I have nothing drawing me back to him but my memories. I'm afraid of ordering the marker. What if I order it and then feel like I haven't said enough of my love for him? What if I can't stand to look at it because it makes it too real? There isn't enough food or pills or blogging or shopping that can take away the ache inside and it keeps growing the more I ignore it. I cried today. It was the first time in awhile, I have been avoiding my feelings so much, stuffing them down with anything that fills the void for the time being. The video below is of one of the two songs we had played at Calvin's funeral. The other was Puff the Magic Dragon. I listened to a New Day Has Come about four times in a row, and then I cried. I needed it. I think I still need to cry. I wish I had someone to sit and listen to me rant and moan and cry until I'm all cried out but I've become protective of my grief in a way that doesn't allow me to share very easily anymore. My good friend Lisa was here and I know she would have listened to me as long as I needed her to but something inside me wouldn't let go, couldn't let go enough to get it out, let the tears come. I'm down to six tabs of numb and don't know what I'll do when I'm out. I'm scared to find out just how much this really hurts, because if it hurts this much now, what'll it be like without the numb? I guess I'm about to find out.
Since the death of my son I've been suffering from the occasional bout of insomnia. I hate it. At night it seems that I can't turn off my head long enough to go to sleep. It's like a movie playing over and over again in my mind, looping thoughts of Calvin's life and death through my thoughts and making it hard to relax enough to let go and fall asleep. I have suffered insomnia on and off for the last five years, typically my sleep is disturbed when I am anxious over events past or yet to come. Things are getting to me right now. I am usually stressed when I feel like I'm not accomplishing the things I need to do in order for my life to feel on track and organized. The last week has been chaos. My dear friend Lisa, whom I've known since high school has been up from the coast visiting. It's the first time we've seen each other in about three years. Lisa and I have always been close, but at times I've had to distance myself from her when her lifestyle choices have clashed with my values and beliefs. It's hard to separate yourself from someone you love dearly because they are hell bent on self destruction. It's been a difficult separation for us and I've worried myself sick over some of her choices that were not only beneath her, but also dangerous. Thankfully her life is back on track and she is the wonderful girl I used to never get sick of spending time with years ago when we were giggling teenagers. It's been a wonderful visit. It's also been an extremely busy week for me, leaving me little time to do my usual routine of housework and blogging. I think that's why I'm not sleeping well. With little time to relax, I haven't had much chance to think about Calvin until I lay down to go to bed. I miss him horribly. I can't believe sometimes that life has carried on as per usual despite the fact that my beautiful son has died. It feels like an injustice to him almost, that no one else's life has been as disrupted as mine since losing my only son. It's hard to accept when you love someone so much that the world will continue on without them when they are gone. It's heartbreaking. Some days I just want to stop and scream out "This isn't fair". And it's not really. It isn't fair that we tried so hard to have our children only to face heartbreak after heartbreak with my recurrent miscarriages. Then to lose Calvin at six days old ripped my heart to shreds, made my whole world change, messed up my belief system and turned me into an emotional wreck who can't sleep most of the time unless I'm medicated. Fuck me it sucks. Oddly, life goes on despite the fact that I can't sleep which also seems unfair. Some days it feels like I have just closed my eyes when my girls are waking up and needing me to feed and change them, wanting my attention and expecting their routines not to be disrupted because I'm tired. I need a break. I need twenty straight hours of solid sleep without someone calling mommy, or wife, or the phone ringing...Do you think it will ever happen? Only in my dreams...how ironic.
Thanks for becoming part of my life. I truly believe you were meant to be where I could find you when I needed some hope, some reassurance that Calvin's death was merely a fluke, that not all babies with Truncus actually died. I look forward to hearing about Oliver, I check to see if you've updated your blog daily, and I sit here across the country from you cheering you both on, rejoicing in your successes, crying tears of understanding over the fears and guilt you have shared via your blog and our emails. I have hung Evelyn's picture in the gallery on our refridgerator and have received all of your letters now (which I truly am going to answer once my company leaves and all is quiet again on the homefront...), and I am amazed at how many similarities our lives hold. It's amazing to me that I can care so much for people I have never met in actual life and I find myself thinking of you several times during my day. I talk about Oliver with my family, with close friends, how following his challenges has kept me together at times, given me something to focus on when I'm falling apart at the seams. I just want you to know how very much you mean to me. Evelyn is a beautiful little girl...oddly enough she looks like me as a child, and I am touched at how sensitive she is, how intelligent and intuitive she comes across as you talk about her and her goings on in your family blog. I read it all...Once I started, I couldn't stop. Thanks for the honesty with which you have shared your life with me, it has been a true gift and an integral part of my healing. Love and Hugs....
I have been blown away by the YouTube video of Susan Boyle...so much so that I have to share. Watching Susan in her performance at Britain's Got Talent brought such a feeling of joy to my heart. It reminded me of some of the fundamentals in life that so many of us are taught at an early age but often lose sight of. Never judge a book by it's cover. Never, ever give up on your dreams. She has given me renewed inspiration and hope that my dream and vision of supporting BC Children's Hospital is possible and definitely within reach. In talking with Calvin's cardiologist Dr. S, he asked me what my dreams for our fundraising were. I replied half-jokingly that in a few years I would like to be as big as the Michael Cuccione Foundation. For those that don't know who they are, The Michael Cuccione Foundation was started by Michael Cuccione, a teenager who was suffering with cancer. Michael lost his battle but his parents continued his dream and got involved with his fundraising. The Italian community in Vancouver is a huge supporting factor and everyone came together and last year presented Children's Hospital with a cheque for two million dollars. I understand realistically that it's not going to happen for us in our first year, but it does go to prove that with the help of many, we can achieve our goal of providing money for research and for equipment at Children's Hospital. One of the hardest things in life to remember when you are chasing a dream is to reach for the sky. Many fail not because they've set the bar too high and fallen short, it's because they have set the bar too low and achieved their goal. Keep reaching and never, ever give up!!! I leave you with hugs and Susan's amazing YouTube video....
Two days ago, I was contacted on Facebook by a woman who had stumbled upon our memorial group. A newly bereaved mother, she wanted to know how to go about setting up a group like ours and how we started our fundraising. I answered a few questions and then decided to ask her what her story was. The woman, Shantel, answered that a month ago her mother and her decided to go do some shopping. They put Shantel's two year old son in the stroller, her three year old son was walking with her mother and she had put her three month old daughter in her sling. They finished their shopping and walked over to the town library where Shantel went to take her sleeping baby out of the sling while the boys went to story time. Tragically, her daughter was dead. The library staff tried frantically to help her revive the baby while they waited for the ambulance but it was too late. Unable to find a cause, the doctors told her it was SIDS. I was struck by how sad her situation was. I couldn't imagine the pain and shock she must have felt when she realized something had happened to her daughter. It put a new twist on our situation for me. Although I'm terribly sad my son died, I am ever so grateful that Shane and I were prepared (well, as prepared as one can be in that situation). Shane and I had the privledge of holding Calvin while he died, of loving him and kissing him good-bye. As we held our son, we told him how much he was wanted, how much we were going to miss him, how sad we were that he had endured so much in his short life. I'm so thankful we got the chance to tell him all those things. I'm so grateful I got to kiss him a million times and whisper my "I love you's" to him. I'm so glad I had that chance. I'm also thankful that we knew the cause of Calvin's death, we knew exactly what caused him to leave this earth, there was absolutely no question, no searching for answers or need for an autopsy (although the doctors requested one...). I can only imagine the horror and shock not only Shantel must have felt, but her mother and two other children. Talking to her has really opened my eyes and in a way I feel lucky, as weird as that sounds, to have had Calvin die the way he did, in our arms and surrounded with love. I hope Shantel finds peace. Talking with her has renewed my sense of purpose with the memorial group and opened my heart back up to the possibility that maybe there is a God. If there is, then maybe He gave us the chance to say good-bye because He knew how much I had been praying for Calvin to be alright. Maybe He knew how much I loved him.
It would appear that spring is finally upon us, the days are becoming longer and warmer and my grass is starting to turn green again. Spring to me is a time of renewed hope, a season of growth and rebirth and the earth's celebration of putting the dead cold of winter behind us. I feel better when the sun shines. I have noticed throughout the last twenty years or so that I am affected by the seasons. I tend to put on weight in the fall and winter, I lack energy and rarely venture out into the cold if I don't have to. I'm not sure if it's full blown Seasonal Affected Disorder that I suffer from, maybe just the good old winter blahs. I must say that the last few days have been beautiful here, the sun has been out and there has been a warmth to the air. I'm loving it. I feel more positive and energetic in the sunshine and I don't have to dig deep to find motivation to get things done.
I admit, I have been feeling a little down since the conclusion of our last fundraising effort for Children's Hospital. It's like I couldn't find the organization or time enough in my day to put my thoughts and plans into action and I had been feeling guilty over it. Thankfully some people in our Memorial Fund Group on Facebook took the initiative and planned a terrific and fun sounding fundraiser for the first weekend in May. By then I am hoping to have received the gift certificates I redeemed my air miles for and will have picked up my raffle license and will be able to not only hold a raffle for some terrific prizes, but also supply prizes for my husband's next golf tournament in Calvin's honour. This fundraising effort is something I feel I have to do, not only in Calvin's memory, but to give back to Children's for the wonderful work they do. They gave our son and our family so much while we were there. If our fundraising makes the difference for one family alone it will be worth the effort.
Part of me longs for the warmer weather too so that I can spend some more quiet time in the cemetery with Calvin. I feel a sense of peace when I'm there with him, talking to him about what life has been like without him. I look forward to being able to stretch out on the grass beside his grave and not worry about getting wet from the ground or feeling cold. I have suffered with worry about him being wet and cold so I think that I will feel better once it warms up a bit more. I also can't wait to bring him real flowers and have them last more than a day. The last time I went to see him I brought a mini rose bush in a pot with me and I'm sure it died that night with the frost. Spring is such a beautiful time of year here, everything is lush and green before being scorched with the summer heat and then dead from the bitter cold of winter. I just know that this spring is going to be a time of healing for me and I hope that the more I make of my days the better I will feel. I have alot to look forward to in the coming weeks with two fundraising events in the next three weeks, possibly three fundraisers depending on when my gift certificates come. I know I'll be spending alot of time visiting local businesses, pestering people to donate dinners, movie tickets, haircuts and what have you so I'll be spending alot more time out and alot less time inside my head. Thank goodness for the warm weather and sunshine, if they do nothing but give me a respite from my sadness I'll be happy.
I have been deeply saddened to hear that a friend, a girl Shane and I used to frequently spend time with in the early days of our relationship has died. Anne, (top picture) was a beautiful girl who loved animals more than anything, often taking our dog Jessie to swim at the beach, on doggie dates with her dogs and to pamper with grooming and baths. Anne was a pet groomer by profession, her true love in life was taking care of animals. However, Anne was a deeply troubled girl, by the time I met her in 2003, her wrists bore the scars of several suicide attempts. On the outside, she appeared to be a bubbly, happy girl for the most part but we knew from our conversations she was clinically depressed. Anne's life started to spiral out of control about a year after Shane and I married. She moved to another province with a boy who had more than his share of trouble with drugs, and she began drinking to get blackout drunk almost every night. Anne also began to dabble in drugs, not making her depression any better. After the relationship fell apart, she moved back home to try and sort out her life. She became isolated from friends and had trouble keeping her jobs grooming. In desperation, Anne's mother purchased her a house and Anne began her own grooming business out of the basement suite. Another suicide attempt requiring fifty-two stitches followed later, the psychiatric ward not feeling she was a danger to herself released her. During an arguement with her mother over her depression, Anne hurled out the accusation "You only bought me this house to keep me from killing myself...". Two hours of cat and mouse with her mother by phone ended with Anne hanging herself from the train trestle in my husband's hometown. We found out yesterday. I have been deeply disturbed ever since.
A little over a year ago, Bliss, a girl I had known since I was sixteen also commited suicide. She was the mother of three young children and was struggling with substance abuse issues. Her relationship with her husband was on the rocks, they had separated and Bliss was having a hard time coping. She had lost custody of her children to relatives because of her substance abuse problems and was trying desperately to win them back. Bliss had trouble maintaining her sobriety and her Facebook updates were always so sad. I sent her a message one day asking her if she was ok and because she answered yes, I left it at that. Never in a million years did I think this girl who loved her kids so much would take her own life. Her mother found her dead in her rented motel room after not being able to reach her all day.
I can't fathom what sort of pain these girls were in that would take them to the point of ending their own lives. I have felt pain to the extreme after losing Calvin, I have lived through a broken marriage and by being abandoned by my father at age sixteen. I too have felt at times that life was not worth living. When Calvin died, I felt that I would rather die than live with the pain of losing him for the rest of my life. Not once did I ever consider actually taking an overdose of narcotics like Bliss did, or tying a rope around my neck and jumping like Anne. I am so sad these lovely women chose to end their lives, they must have felt that there would be no end to their personal pain and feelings of hopelessness. I know both girls suffered from chronically low self esteem. Bliss at one time was a chubby girl who lost weight and became extremely thin. She never saw herself as thin, only seeing the chubby girl she once was. Anne too struggled with her weight and I believe that all she wanted in life was someone who would love her and accept her the way she was. I know that feeling all too well after spending most of my life struggling with weight issues. I am so sad for the families of these women, so sad for their mothers who now know the loss of a child. Today I honor them by remembering Bliss and Anne. Two beautiful women, two lives lost.
If you could build a time machine, what moments in your life would you revisit? There are a few for me, times from my teenage years, moments from my first marriage, my wedding day with Shane, and the births of our children. If I also had the power to change any of the things that happened during those times there are definitely things I would do over.
As a teenager I would have paid more attention in school, taken my education more seriously, realized that maybe I wasn't so bad after all, that one day someone would love me and make me his wife. I suffered horribly with low self esteem during high school, and could never imagine myself being married or happy. I spent many nights worried that no one would ever love me, that I'd never find a husband and have children, that I didn't deserve the same happiness other people took for granted that they would eventually one day have. I think my self esteem was also reason why I chose not to reach my full potential in my education. I hated being singled out, more often than not I often didn't do as well as I could have because I didn't want the attention, didn't want to be labeled a smart kid. I remember a conversation I had with my guidance counselor during my grade twelve year where she berated me for my poor attendance and low grades. She told me then that my IQ was higher than some of my teachers and that I should be applying myself accordingly. I wish I had listened. That is a definite do-over I wish I had.
In my later teenage years, I wish I hadn't settled for someone who I would spend the next eleven years with, accepting his poor treatment, emotional abuse, and infidelity. I compromised so much of myself and my values for a man who I loved dearly in the beginning and then grew to hate towards the end of our relationship. When I look back, I can't believe some of the hurt and unacceptable behaviour I put up with, believing I didn't deserve anything or anyone better. I think if I could go back and change that part of my life, I would start at the beginning and then simply walk away from it all. I don't know where I'd be today if that was the case, but I definitely wish I could turn back time and erase all those years of hurt and the feelings of degradation because I allowed myself to be treated that way.
As for my wedding day to Shane, I would go back just to feel it all again. It was one of the most amazing days of my life. I loved our wedding. We were poor, didn't have enough for a big fancy wedding but we made the most out of our situation and had a beautiful day. We were disorganized and just winging it for most of the day but it was so much fun. I enjoyed our wedding day so much, and I was so happy to be marrying someone who truly loved me and wanted to spend his life with me. As we danced the first dance together, I remember feeling "So this is how it's supposed to be..." so happy and incredibly in love.
With Lorelei's birth the only thing I would change would be to go back and get on antidepressant mediaction long before I actually did. The first ten months of her life I was so anxious and afraid that something would happen to her that I developed OCD, repeatedly checking her breathing ten to fifteen times a night. By the time I finally sought help, I was a wreck and my relationships with extended family were in chaos. I didn't trust anyone with my daughter except Shane, afraid that because no one could love her like we did that something would happen if I left her with family for a night out. I deeply regret not recognizing the signs and symptoms of post partum depression and the hurt it caused not only our family but myself.
As for Calvin and Georgia's birth, if I could go back with the knowledge that my son would die, I would have taken more time to spend in the ICU. I would have made the most of every moment I had with him and insisted that we do some of the things I never got the chance to do. I wish I would have breastfed Calvin, spent some time skin to skin with my beautiful baby, giving him the cuddle time that Georgia was getting back up in my room. I wish I had insisted that Georgia be allowed to come down to the ICU and get some pictures with her brother before his surgery, before he was actually dying. I deeply regret that the only pictures I have of my babies together was when Calvin was removed from life support and he was barely clinging to life. Although the pictures are beautiful in their own way, it's clear that he is near death and not concious of what is going on around him. I wish I had undressed him and looked at his little body naked, turned him over and run my hands over his bum and back. I wish I could have changed even one diaper. I also would have insisted that he be undressed and skin to skin with Shane and I as he left this world, snuggled naked with us like the day he was born. I would have told him a thousand more times how much I love him, would have kissed him a million times more. I would have spent more time holding him in the morgue until I was at peace with letting him go and accepting that it would be the last time I held him. I was left feeling that I didn't hold him enough by the time the funeral director drove down to pick him up and that feeling continued up to and after his funeral. I wish I could go back and do it over with the knowledge that I would only have six days and instead of worrying that he might die, made the most of my time with him while he was here...
It's a nice thought anyways, the dream of going back and fixing things you regret, the feeling of living over the best days of your life. Too bad life isn't really like that.
This our second major holiday now without Calvin. Although Georgia is still too little to appreciate the holidays yet, we mark them and celebrate them for her nonetheless. True, I didn't buy her a gazillion chocolate eggs like we did for Lorelei (well duh, she's only five months old), but we did mark the occassion for her by buying her a pretty spring coat in angel white. Lorelei had a blast ripping through the house with her Easter basket shouting "The Easter Bunny was here mom and dad!!!" and although it was at a horribly early hour, we hauled our butts out of bed to watch her hunt for eggs. I do however feel a stab in my heart every time a holiday rolls around and Calvin isn't here to celebrate it with us. Since his death, I have the emptiest feeling inside that our family is now incomplete. It hurts. It makes me wonder if the holidays will forever have a shadow over them, an ache inside that one of our children is no longer with us. I worry that in time the girls will notice my sadness and that it will spoil their joy. They are so beautiful in their innocence.
Although I know Lorelei is acutely aware that her brother died, I don't think she really knows what that means. I do know that she is aware of my tender spot for Calvin, lately when I give her heck for something or have to reprimand her for her behaviour, she will cry and start saying "Calvin died mommy, I'm sad Calvin died...". I feel like I'm being manipulated by my three year old and it angers me that she uses her brother to worm her way out of consequences but I know in my heart that she really doesn't understand what's happened or why it works the way it does when she hauls it out. Still, it tugs at my heartstrings and then in the aftermath pisses me off. I've had more than one rant at Shane at night about our darling daughter using Calvin's death to her advantage, thankfully he is more patient and understanding than I ever could be as far as that is concerned. Nevertheless I love her with a fierce mama-bear love, my first born and it's impossible for me to stay angry with her for long. I know this too shall pass in time, but for now is a painful reminder of what we've lost.
Last night, after our delicious family dinner of turkey and every vegetable known to man, we were relaxing out on the back porch and it started to rain. The next thing I knew it was pouring and there were strikes of lightning and clashes of thunder and I became worried that the girls would wake up afraid. Then, as my husband stood in the doorway admiring the downpour, I started to wonder if Calvin was getting wet in his casket and I started to shake. Every part of me wanted to go and bring him home, keep him dry. I started to tear up and then had a vision of myself in the cemetery madly digging in the rain and it made me kind of giggle..."I am going nuts", I thought. Imagine that. Now, the next day and out of the situation I can appreciate my desire to protect my son from the elements so maybe I'm not that nuts afterall, maybe it's just my built in mama bear sense of love and wanting my children to be safe that made me feel so horrible about the possibility that my son was getting wet as he lay in the ground. Learning to separate the feelings from the reality is such a bitch sometimes. How do you accept that this is the way things are and there's no changing it when every pore and cell in your body is programmed to protect your young at all costs....? I miss my son. I hope his Easter in Heaven was spent with all the other lost children playing joyfully and eating at a table fit for a king with Jesus Himself...One can only hope.
I have had so many responses to my post about Crime and Punishment in the last couple of days. Some have been in the form of comments on my blog, others via email. I feel compelled to let those of you who read my blog know just how much your emails and comments have meant to me. I'm grateful for this outlet for my feelings because there are many things in my life that are too painful for me to talk out loud about. When I discuss certain times in my life that have caused me pain on my blog, it's because those things are sometimes the things I am most afraid to put a voice to, afraid I will be judged or condemned for. I truly appreciate all the non-judgemental offerings of love that have been sent my way over the last few days. I know that sometimes what I post will be offensive to some, that there will be topics that I wish to discuss that make some uncomfortable or will clash with your morals and values. I want to assure you all that I'm not in this for shock value or to provoke a war of righteousness. I need this space and you to help facilitate healing in my life. I need and appreciate the feedback and the different perspectives being offered to me. I need the input. Please realize that if I post about a topic that makes anyone uncomfortable that I am open to hear about what you say as long as the message is delivered with love. I am struggling with God. I am struggling with the loss of my son. I am struggling with baggage from my first marriage which was very unhealthy. I am truly tired of carting around all the pain in my life and am looking for ways to help deal with it. It's a process and this is only one avenue in my life that I am using to help myself. I truly want to thank you all for your support and emails. Hugs to all. With love, Margaret
And this is why I need therapy. I have baggage and loads of it. I don't know if I would deal with Calvin's death any easier if I didn't have baggage but my grieving is definitely complicated because of it. I wish I didn't hoard every ounce of pain and injustice in my life like some sort of packrat, that I could dispose of things that have hurt me and move on. I don't know why things that happened years ago play a role in how I'm feeling today, what makes up my personality or makes me think and feel the way I do. Letting go is hard. Getting over past hurts is hard. Letting go of guilt seems like an impossible task for me. I wish I could be in some ways one of those Middle Eastern women who self-flaggelate with their whips and chains and then feel atonement. I don't want to play the role of the martyr and seek pity, I just want to learn to live with what life has dealt me and be ok. I want to be stronger. I want to be a glass half full girl instead of the glass half empty girl that I am.
While we were in the hospital and Calvin's health and outcome were uncertain, I felt very much that the doctors responded to Shane's positive, happy, everythings going to be alright attitude alot better than my wailing and hand wringing. They probably shook their heads wondering how someone as light-hearted as my husband could be stuck with such an emotional, pessimistic, crazy woman. I know that we are a good balance for each other. I'm the stewer, he's the deal with it and move on guy. It works for us, but sometimes I wish I could be more like him. Less worried, less bogged down with guilt and pain. More able to move on with things instead of replaying events over and over and over in my head as I lay down at night to go to sleep. How do you change your ingrained habits, ways of thinking, personality? Is it a choice to be more carefree? How do I cut the ties to all the hurt and pain and fear that I carry with me? How do I ditch the baggage once and for all?
Today in therapy, we mentioned to our therapist that we were thinking about our future, where we want to go with our lives and we mentioned that we were considering moving. Suddenly I was paralyzed with the thought that if we move, I'll be leaving our son behind. The thought started to physically choke me, the lump in my throat felt like it was going to cut off my oxygen. I started bawling. "I'm not ready", I said, "I'm not ready to cut the ties to my son..." The guilt was overwhelming. What kind of mother could consider leaving her son behind to move on with her life....? I guess that having Calvin just down the street makes me feel a sense of comfort. The fact that I can see his grave from our upstairs window makes me feel connected with him in a way, that he's close by and when I need to I can walk over and see him. I'm terrified. I don't know if I can leave him. I'm also terrified that I will stay because I can't.
I have asked a few friends who are pretty firm in their beliefs about God, whether they think God punishes us here on earth while we are living or whether He waits until we die and then hands down judgement. My friend Andy believes wholeheartedly that God punishes us here on earth for our sins, by either denying us our prayers, or handing out retribution for acts against Him. I have been struggling with this for years. I have been torn between believing in the all-knowing, forgiving, image of God I was raised to believe, and the fire and brimstone God preached by various religions. As it stands, I don't know what to believe. I struggle daily with my faith and often feel I am being punished, the ultimate punishment being Calvin's death.
It's 1994, February 24th to be exact and I have just walked out of the public health clinic in shock. I'm pregnant. My boyfriend and I have been on-again/off-again for the last four years. We are currently living together but our relationship is volatile, and I have become accustomed to being intimidated and afraid. I know he's not going to take the news well, and this of all days is his birthday. I wonder if he'll react positively, maybe see it as a birthday gift, but nonetheless, I'm scared shitless to tell him. I wait until we're at home and alone that night, after the celebration at his mother's is over. I ask him if he loves me, and when he says yes, I tell him I'm pregnant. Silence. "What are you going to do about it?", he asks me. "I don't know," I answer. He is displeased to say the least. I quietly think to myself that he needs some time to get used to the idea and then he'll soften his stance. The next day he starts asking me again what I plan to do about it and when I waffle he tells me that if I have the baby, he'll leave me and tell everyone that I was cheating on him and that it's not his. "Then you'll be a single mother on welfare and noone will want you, you'll be damaged goods". I'm stunned. "Ok, I'll have an abortion," I said. Of course I still hoped deep down inside that he would think about things and change his mind.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks I find myself becoming attached to the baby growing inside me. I find myself daydreaming about becoming a mother, about my boyfriend and I getting married. He notices. He starts taking every opportunity to make sure I go through with the appointment. He starts dragging me out to bars and insisting I drink, I don't want to, it goes against the built in feelings of protection I have for the baby. He makes me cry in the bar and he insists that I drink the drinks he's placed in front of me. After one drink, I get up and leave. When I get home, I start thinking that maybe I will have the baby, I obviously love it enough to defy my boyfriend's wishes to sit with him and get drunk, maybe I'll just put my foot down and say that this is the way it's going to be. When he gets home that night, he's rip-roaring drunk. I'm already in bed, sleeping. My pregnancy and the morning sickness is exhausting. He grabs me by the foot and pulls me violently out of bed and onto the floor. I'm crying. "Please," I beg, "don't..." We start to argue. He wants an answer, am I going through with it or not...Every time I say "I don't know", the arguement escalates. Pretty soon I'm sobbing as he jabs his finger into my chest, telling me I'm not going to ruin his life. Finally, I agree to go through with it, just so I can get some sleep. During the night, my boyfriend repeatedly woke me up, probably every fifteen minutes or so, deliberately depriving me of sleep, wearing me down. I'm beyond tired. I'm hurting all over, more than anything I'm devastated that this man who claims to love me doesn't want our child.
The clinic is a five hour drive away. We leave at three in the morning to make it to my nine am appointment. We're in the middle of a blizzard half way to the city where a doctor is waiting to give me an abortion. I'm crying, I reach out and touch his arm as he's driving and ask softly, "Please, let's just turn the car around and go home..., please." "No", he says. There's no changing his mind. Silently, I pray on the way to the clinic for him to feel bad and have a change of heart. He doesn't. I lay crying on the table, legs spread as the procedure is completed. I hate myself, and I hate my boyfriend in this moment. I wonder if I'll ever be able to forgive myself for what I have just done....
I haven't. And neither has God, according to the way some people believe. It took me eight pregnancies with nine babies to get my two daughters and my son. Then Calvin died and I wonder if I'm still being punished for not being stronger, for being afraid of my boyfriend and what he would do to me, for being afraid of going it alone. I'm so sorry for what I did, I've never been able to let it go and I don't know if I ever will. I hope that if God is looking down at me with His fire and brimstone and saying "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, blood for blood..." that He realizes that losing Calvin has been the worst thing to ever happen to me, and that I've had enough, I'm completely broken and on the verge of collapse...Please Forgive Me.
+++ 1 Give us a few words you would have used to describe your body, your health or your sense of physical vitality before the experience of babyloss—and a few that you’d use to describe it now.
Before: Definitely healthier than I am now. I slept better, ate better, exercised more and wasn't bogged down by the weight of sadness.
After: I have insomnia problems, I'm heavier, have less energy than before. I don't take as good care of myself as I have in the past. It's like the mental state I'm in has transitioned into a physical state I'm not happy with, but speaks volumes of the pain.
2 What do you do to take care of yourself? Has this changed?
To be honest, not too much right now. I'm kind of just floating through my days, getting by. Although I'm feeling that when warmer weather comes, I will start spending more time outside in the sun and that will definitely improve my mental state.
3 Give us one or two words to describe sex or physical intimacy before, and then after the loss of your baby.
Before: Carefree, fun, not as serious.
After: Deeper, more intimate. Definitely in the early days following Calvin's death, it was more loving and tender. Our relationship has become closer in alot of ways since his death, we've shared the most painful experience of our lives with only each other to understand the level of hurt. That intimacy has made sex richer, more fulfilling.
4 Has loss and/or grief left a physical mark on you (a scar, a chronic condition, insomnia, a tattoo)?
Well, yes. As mentioned, I have insomnia. I also have my c-section scar and still carry the linea negra on my tummy. I'm also in the process of having a memorial tatoo designed for my back, something that incorporates the twins and the loss of Calvin.
5 Do you medicate or control your emotions with food, wine, altered states, prescriptions? Without judgement, what have you gravitated towards in an effort to heal, and how do you feel about it?
Yes, I do medicate. I'm not proud of my medicating, but it's what I need to get through my days sometimes without screaming. I'm cutting down. I'm also in counseling, have read a couple of grief books, have tried the Compassionate Friends Society (although I don't think it's for me), and I blog. I also visit blogs of mothers in similar situations. I talk, I cry, I suffer in silence alot. I have hope for my healing, I know there is a light out there that shines for me and I'm willing my spirit to move towards healing, it's just taking time. I was also given a beautiful book called The Shack, a must read for any bereaved parent struggling with God.
6 Was physical healing important for you in the first year after your loss? What did/does physical healing entail and how did/do you work towards it? If physicality hasn't been a priority for you, what do you do that makes you feel stronger or more able to cope?
I haven't given physical healing much thought other than to lose some weight and quit medicating. Those are the things I'm moving towards.
7 If you could change anything about your body and/or health, what would it be? What would it feel like to be either at peace with your body, or at peace with this babylost state?
Both. Peace with how my body has failed my pregnancies, peace with myself for feeling that failure, peace with the fact that my son has died. I don't want to feel tortured by his death for the rest of my life, I long for that quiet acceptance where I can mention his name and smile...
So, that's it. Not very deep I'm afraid, but it's pretty much where I'm at with things.
A dream is a wish your heart makes, When you're fast asleep, In dreams you will lose your heartaches, Whatever you wish for, you keep, Have faith in your dreams and some day, Your rainbow will come shining through, No matter how your heart is grieving, If you keep on believing, A dream that you wish, Will come true.....From Walt Disney's Cinderella
I want to talk about dreams today, specifically my dreams and lack of them. I haven't dreamt about Calvin yet, something that has been bothering me alot. Sleep has been another "unhealthy diversion" for me, in my sleep, I don't hurt. However, I have yet to dream about my baby boy and I want to more than anything. The other day I was writing about struggling with my faith, about needing to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God and heaven exist. I'm wondering if I've gotten a sign to let me know that they are in fact real, and that my Calvin is safe and being looked after by loved ones passed. Let me explain...
When I was a teenager, I met a boy named John Metzler. John lived at the coast and we met through a mutual circumstance. No matter. John and I became very close, in fact, I loved him. We connected like very few people connect with others in their lifetime, never getting bored of seeing each other or spending time together. I was pretty open with him about my feelings but never actively pursued a relationship with him, preferring instead to preserve the friendship by loving him without complications. I was too afraid that if something were to go wrong between us, that I would lose one of the best connections I had made with anyone. John was part of me, part of my soul, someone I could imagine living next door to for the rest of my life, sharing our families with each other, staying close forever. Oddly enough, John and I had a falling out over sex. One summer while he was up visiting, he showed up at my door at three oclock in the morning, I had been sleeping, so I buzzed him up, opened my apartment door and crawled back into bed. He had come into my room, sat down on the edge of my bed and we had begun talking. He was drunk and tired so I moved over and let him lay down beside me while we talked. Well, as you can imagine, one thing led to another and in no time we were kissing and holding each other but when it came time for the big decision, I backed out, too afraid that he wouldn't love me anymore, that things would forever change between us. He got dressed and left my apartment in a fury and we didn't speak for two years. I missed him more than anything, a huge void where he once had such an active part of my life. When I decided I could stand the rift not a minute longer, I called him crying, I told him how much I loved him and how my life hadn't been the same since he had left, that I thought about him all the time, wondering how things were going for him, what he was doing. He told me he loved me too, that he had missed me so much but had been embarassed by his anger at the fact that I wouldn't sleep with him, afraid I hated him for being an asshole....We talked for hours that day, little did I know it would be the last time we spoke.
John was killed in a car accident driving to the Okanagan to see me. He had always just "shown up", knowing that I would offer him a place to stay any time of day without hesitation. I read about his death in the newspaper and when I called his mother, his little brother Eric confirmed it for me and added that John had been on his way to see me when he died. I was devastated. Nothing in my life up to that point had shaken me, had hurt me so much. I thought I would die from the pain of it all. About two weeks after John died, I had an unusual experience...call it a dream, or a visit, or an out of body experience, it's too complicated or hard to define. Let me explain,
I was lying on my bed in my room, the same bed I had lain beside John only a few months before and I was crying, missing him so much my heart actually hurt. I must have drifted off to sleep because the next thing I know, I'm on the ceiling and I see myself lying on my bed crying. The next thing I know, I see a warm, yellow light shining in through the doorway and I raise up my head and see John. I'm excited and freaked out all at once and I start bawling harder...."You can't be here, this can't be real...", John looks at me and says "Why not?" and crying, I tell him, "because you're dead, you died, this can't be happening..." Sitting down on the edge of my bed, he takes me in his arms and says "I just wanted you to know I love you, and I'm alright." I can feel the warmth of the glow surrounding him as he gently leans over and kisses me twice, very lightly on the mouth..."You'll see me again, don't ever forget I love you, I have to go now..." The next thing I know, I'm no longer watching from the ceiling but I'm sitting up in bed, crying, gasping, and I could still feel the warmth of his hands on me, the lingering feeling of his kiss. My heart was pounding, and I'm thinking to myself, "Was this a dream?" To this day, I don't know. But something happened to me last night that makes me question it all over again...
I dreamed of John last night. I was with Shane, we were out somewhere and I ran into John and in my dream I realized I hadn't seen him for fifteen years. I'm excited and crying and hugging him like you wouldn't believe and we're talking and trying to catch up. Shane doesn't understand and although he's not saying much, I can tell he's insecure. John pulls me aside and kisses me quickly, and I tell him, "I'm married now, I don't want to upset my husband..." " I know," he tells me and pulls me into a hug. "Everything is ok, just know that, and we'll all be together again someday," he says. I'm looking at him, tears in my eyes, about to tell him about Calvin and all of a sudden, he's gone. When I woke up this morning, I thought about John, how he died at age 23 and never got a chance to see his son Jason grow up, and thought that maybe, just maybe, he's in heaven taking care of Calvin until I get there. I would love that, if there is anyone I would want him to be with up there it would be John. If it's a sign, I don't know, if it's just my troubled mind trying to make sense out of my emotions while I sleep, I don't know. What I do know is that if it were true, if I knew for sure, that I could spend the rest of my life knowing that Calvin is waiting for me with one of the people I have loved most in my life and I think I could find some peace in all of that....
Calvin's twin sister Georgia is growing too fast for my liking. She's filled out into a beautiful baby, I can't get enough of nibbling on her rolls of sweet babyfat, kissing her soft downy head. Tonight as I laid her down on our bed to change her before her bottle, as she looked up at me with her beautiful blue/grey eyes, smiling away, I felt a stab of pain in my heart, picturing what Calvin would look like now if he were there lying beside her. I know he'd be smaller than her, but I'm sure he'd be just as wonderfully filled out and chubby like she is. If there's something that can be said about my mothering, it's that I am very good at bottling my babies. I wish I could have nursed Georgia longer, or that I had the chance to nurse Calvin before he died, but it wasn't possible with my next-to-nothing milk supply and needing to get onto some anti-depressants before plunging into the hell of post-partum.
I wish I could keep Georgia in this moment of her babyhood. It's the time I loved most about Lorelei too, when the babies are becoming more and more interactive, sleep through the nights, but still rely on mom and dad for everything. Georgia has my heart in a different way than Lorelei did. Being my first, I never thought I could love another child the way I loved Lorelei, my love was deep and ferociously protective of my first born. With Georgia, it's softer, quieter, and richer in a lot of ways. Richer because of the experience of carrying her with Calvin, she is forever connected with him. Calvin was conceived a day or two before Georgia so he was there from the moment of her creation. She is much more demanding of my physical affection than Lorelei ever was. I'm sure it's because she came into being sharing my womb, her personal space with her brother, pressed up against him, touching and kicking inside me. Maybe it's because I know what she has also lost, that she too must feel his absence. Whatever the reason my love for her shines from a different place, it shines nonetheless and warms the parts of me that died with Calvin. Her eyes hold secrets from deep within her, my friend Ginger says Georgia is an old soul. I feel it too. It's like in a way she is wizened, this beautiful baby of mine, like she came from another place to live in her body and to carry with her sprinklings of the past. Maybe it's in the way she stares intently over my shoulder or up at the ceiling, suddenly laughing or smiling that makes me feel she has a gift, a special secret inside, that maybe she can see him. I often wonder if Calvin's spirit is with us, if his connection with Georgia is too strong for even death. I tell her all the time to tell Calvin we love him...maybe one day she'll tell me he loves me too.
A post by my friend Jesse has got me thinking about what it truly means to be a mother. There are days of sacrifice, frustration, heartbreak, joy, love and learning to be selfless, putting someone else's needs before your own. It's hard. Motherhood is not the Betty Crocker/Carole Brady/Caroline Ingalls image I had imagined it would be. There are days I hate it, wonder if I made the right decision in my life to become a mother. I'm not very good at being selfless sometimes, there are days I have absolutely no patience, but most days I'm extremely grateful for the beautiful girls I have. It's hard to think back sometimes and remember where you came from, but I remember vividly, like it was yesterday, the nights I cried myself to sleep because I didn't know why I couldn't stay pregnant. I was so despondent at one point, I considered divorcing Shane so that he could have children with someone who wasn't broken. I wanted my children more than anything and I had to fight every step of the way to get them. Eight pregnancies with nine babies and only two left on this earth. It's been heartbreaking. It's also been the best thing I've ever done. I am so thankful Shane never gave up on us, on me. I love my husband more than anything, and I ache at times that our son is no longer here. Shane loves his girls, but Calvin was his dream of parenthood, his boy. I feel sometimes that if I were a stronger woman, I would have held off getting my tubal ligation, held off until we knew Calvin would be alright or not. I couldn't. I couldn't stand the thought of one more failure, of one more heartbreak.
I found this song awhile back on YouTube, I think it sums up perfectly how I feel.
I have decided to write about my feelings following the death of my only son in November 2008. I'm learning that grief is a process with good days and bad, a lonely road with new beginnings and unavoidable endings. It is my hope that through writing I can come to peace with what has happened to us and our beautiful boy.