Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Our admit time was pushed back to midnight. So here we are heading back to the very same hospital to bring Sunflower into this world, 16 months to the day that we lost our firstborn. Oh I miss my Ezra! And oh I can't wait to meet my Sunflower! What a very long and winding journey this has been.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
There's no way to articulate all the emotions I'm feeling right now. Relieved that there is an end in sight. Anxious about the labor and delivery. And now that we have a definite plan, yes quite excited.
Yet I still can't think past Tuesday. Still can't wrap my mind around the idea that all this may just result in a live baby that I get to take home with me. A son for us to raise. It's like Tuesday is where the sidewalk ends, the end of the yellow brick road...what happens after that nobody knows. Or at least I don't.
I'll let you know when I find out...
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
My heart aches for Angie, her sweet husband Sam and gorgeous living daughter Bea today and always. Via her mama's written words and friendship, sweet Lucia Paz has brought so much light and peace to my own life this past year.
Monday, December 21, 2009
Our news however, is that there is a strong possibility that I will be induced next week, once I am safely 37 weeks. We will decide for sure when we see my OB again on Wednesday and if so, schedule a date. I feel very good about this plan, although I am finding myself having a hard time wrapping my mind around the possibility that I could go through labor and delivery again and have it result in a happy outcome.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
Ezra died at 33 weeks, 5 days. I woke up yesterday with Sunflower at the exact same gestational age, and wondered if I should spend the rest of the day staring at the sky waiting to be hit by lightening. The morning was spent wallowing in a funk on the couch while still in my pjs and pink fuzzy robe. But then a friend called, with an offer of a visit with her and her 3 month old, and a promise she'd bring lunch. And so somehow the afternoon flew by, a large part of it spent with a sweet little boy sleeping on my shoulder, Sunflower kicking him from inside my belly. It was exactly what I needed - a very obvious and physical reminder that most babies live. At least so I'm told.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
This rollercoaster ride is no fun. It feels like I'm riding blindfolded, and have no clue when the double loop or death defying plunge is about to come. I don't mind being at home reading and watching movies - that part is fine with me. But I hate the uncertainty that each day brings - things are fine at the moment, but what about 2 hours from now...2 days?...2 weeks? I never liked rollercoasters anyway.
While at triage this morning, I shared a room with a young girl I never saw, but of course heard (as if those privacy curtains actually provide privacy!). She sounded to be a teenager, at most a young twenty-something. She was all alone and had been there overnight - being monitored because at something like 24 weeks she was having frequent contractions that she herself couldn't feel. She was pissed off, she wanted to go home to her other baby and wanted to get back to her job. But from the doctors' perspective, she wasn't going anywhere fast.
As part of my professional life, I work with teenage parents. I am a great believer that young parents can and do parent well -- although they often need different kinds of support than adult parents might. The conversation this young woman was having with her doctor broke my heart. The doctors wanted to do an internal exam because they believed this young woman might have an infection that was causing the contractions -- if the infection was identified and treated, the doctors explained, the contractions might stop. The young woman was balking at the idea of an exam involving a speculum. The doctor tried to probe why - was the pregnancy voluntary, did she have a history of sexual assault? But at no time did the doctor say 'look, if you have an infection and we don't treat it, not only may your baby come early, but your baby could die!' There was vague mention of a possible nicu stay. But mostly there was a lot of condescending talk about how she made the choice to get pregnant and now she has to have an exam like an adult would. It was an exercise in unbelievable self-restraint that I didn't pull back the curtain and talk to her myself. Luckily in the end she reluctantly consented to the exam. But yet again I am infuriated at how the medical profession so often conspires to keep the veil of silence around stillbirth and infant death.
Down off my soapbox now. And back to bed.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Below is a link to a piece I wrote about Ezra, my father, and my personal experiences with grief over the past year or so. It was published for Thanksgiving in the NBC News website, theGrio.com.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Lying here I am reminded of just how very fragile this business of bring a new life into the world really is. An understatement in this babylost community of course, but something I didn't understand on any meaningful level before losing Ezra. Things escalated so quickly with Ezra -- one minute I was in the hospital on a fetal monitor, granted with elevated blood pressure and protein levels, but everything was ok, we were just going to keep an eye on things....and a half hour later he was gone. Even if I had still been on that fetal monitor, it is highly unlikely there was anything that could have been done - even an emergency c-section wouldn't have been quick enough for the lightening speed with which my body cut him off.
I remind myself that this time is different - we know my history now, what my body is likely to do, so there will be no deliberation about early delivery if my levels begin to creep up any higher than they are now. Sometimes it feels like my firstborn was sacrificed so that we'd know 'my history.' But given that "history," I know all too well there are no 100% guarantees -- all the medical monitoring and bedrest in the world does not 100% guarantee that Sunflower will arrive safely. Most days and moments I trust that he will, that sometime in the coming weeks I will be holding him in my arms. But it all feels so. damn. fragile.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
So we're home - happy to be here but exhausted beyond belief. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
Today I will make a decision jointly with my ob and mfm (high risk doc) about whether I will be doing hospital or home bedrest. A lot of people have commented or emailed to say they feel I should not leave the hospital. Of course I will stay if it is warranted and best for me and Sunflower. But from what the doctors are saying, a lot of this comes down to what will manage my anxiety best - I personally am beginning to think I'd be much more relaxed at home. I can do much of the monitoring they are doing at the hospital on my own, and I will have 3 times a week doctors appointments for additional monitoring.
Of course I'll let you know what we decide. I am oh so grateful for all the love that's been coming my way.
Monday, November 23, 2009
I have to say I'm surprisingly ok with this turn of events...I guess on some level I've expected it all along. I couldn't quite imagine making it through this end bit of pregnancy without some version of this happening. I'm glad that the self-monitoring worked to catch things early, and that my 'history' means there's a different protocol this time round. Let's just hope and pray I have a happy ending to report sooner or later.
Monday, November 16, 2009
Ezra died when I was 33 weeks, 5 days pregnant. The first indication we had that anything was wrong was a slightly elevated protein test at my 32 week OB appointment. This was followed by another test, which several days later resulted in my being directed to the hospital for more tests. Which all came back within the high range of normal. And so we were sent home. And Ezra likely died on the way home.
I don't question the doctors' decision to send me home. Nothing about the test results suggested I needed to stay in the hospital. Nothing suggested that Ezra wasn't safe. The light was yellow...proceed with caution. I was scheduled for an appointment to return 5 days later so they could keep an eye on things. Who knew that would end up being a post-partum appointment.
I know all too well how quickly all can go drastically wrong. So the fact that everything is healthy and good as I type, only gets me so far. What might tomorrow bring? What might the story be by next week?
Yet the other thing that feels palpable is meeting Sunflower in person. I feel like he's so close I can taste it. Less than 6-9 weeks to go. Unbelievable. Despite swearing that I would do nothing to prepare for Sunflower, I found myself spending a day off last week doing load after load of baby wash, and folding tiny onesies and footsie pajamas. The nursery is organized, all our baby things sorted. I've chosen a pediatrician, picked a mohel. What can I say? The nesting instinct has taken over.
Half the time I find myself wishing that I could just be put in a coma and woken when its all over - when there's a healthy happy son in my arms. But since that's unlikely to happen, I guess I'll be getting through this the same way I've made it this far - one day at a time.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
But that same day brought an unstoppable flood for another family just 100 miles away in New York City, as Danielle and Alan unexpectedly welcomed their son Kai to the world. Kai, meaning water, or 'of the sea', arrived way too soon, and thus another set of babylost parents joined our ranks. Kai's Japanese name is nod to the mizuko jizo, which in Japanese culture guards the spirits of miscarried and stillborn babies as they travel into the next life, because they are believed not to have built up enough karma to make the passage safely. Kai only ever knew the water of his mama's belly as his home.
Danielle and I met here in babylost blogland in the weeks that followed, but when we met in person a few months later, it was as if we had known each other forever. I treasure my friendship with Danielle deeply and adore her sweet husband Alan. I hate that the devastating loss of our firstborn sons is what ties us together, and yet I can't imagine traveling this journey without Kai's beautiful parents.
At Ezra's unveiling, I asked Danielle to read a beautiful poem by Zelda titled 'Everyone has a Name'. The last lines seem written for Kai:
Each of us have a name
Given by the Sea
and given by
Today as always I am remembering sweet baby Kai, and holding his parents Danielle and Alan close in love.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Sunday, October 18, 2009
Of course over the last 6 months, a new being, Ezra's baby brother, has begun to inhabit Ezra's space. Sunflower is by no means a replacement for Ezra. And yet he does inhabit a space that was originally intended for Ezra. Ezra was my firstborn, and so the first to ever live in my womb. Ezra taught my body how to carry a baby, and let Sunflower know when the time was right to join us.
So too, Sunflower inhabits a space in my heart that Ezra cultivated. Long before ever conceiving Sunflower, I worried that I would never be able to allow myself to love his younger sibling as much as I love Ezra. I worried that I wouldn't connect with this baby, somehow protecting myself from getting hurt as deeply should he not make it either. A wise friend pointed out that Ezra's little brother or sister did not yet know of Ezra, and that a new baby would need as much love and hope as I put into growing Ezra. Of course she was right. Almost despite myself, I have been deeply in love with Sunflower since the day I learned of his existence. And that love grows and grows with each additional day of kicks, squirms and an ever-swelling belly.
Ezra taught me how to love. The love I feel for both my sons is deeper than anything I have ever known. The love I now share with Ezra and Sunflower's daddy is deeper than anything we could have imagined prior to losing Ezra. This deep love is part of Ezra's legacy.
I sometimes step back in wonder as we make plans for Sunflower, talking about the things we'll do with him and the places we'll go. We made these kinds of plans for Ezra too, and of course none of them were ever realized. I am so filled with hope for Sunflower's future, even as I am filled with regret daily for all that Ezra will never do. Ezra taught us to dream these kinds of dreams.
And so even though many of my recent posts are about Sunflower, this remains Ezra's space. It's a space about love, hope, despair, regret and everything else in between.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Unlike last year at this time, when the pain of Ezra's death was too raw and new, I approached the Days of Awe this year with a certain peace, a renewed sense of possibility. Yet leading up to Yom Kippur, I have struggled with the notion of asking forgiveness. I am able to accept that I am imperfect, yet not quite able to muster the humility necessary to ask forgiveness of others. Shouldn't the Universe be asking forgiveness of me? Afterall, it was my son she wrenched away.
Sitting in the Yizkor (memorial) service in the waning hours of the day, we are asked to close our eyes and envision our loved one sitting with us. What does he say to us? What do we say to him?
I summon the vision of my perfect son, my Ezra Malik, his tiny hands and feet, his serene yet wry smile, his slight weight in my arms the only occasion I held him, the peaceful look on his face as we spent time with him before returning him to the earth. And these words flash through my mind:
And the tears begin to fall.
I'm sorry, my sweet son, that I did not realize what was happening as you slipped away.
I'm sorry that my womb, the one place that should have been safe, became your deathbed.
I'm sorry that your birthday, so very anticipated, was somber, and so very very silent.
But mostly, my sweet Ezra, I am sorry for the walks we never took, and the songs we never sang;
For the first steps you never stepped, and the first teeth you never grew;
For the subjects you never studied, and the books you never read;
For the passions that never stirred your heart, and the adventures you never had;
For the loves you never loved, and even the hurt you never felt.
For all this and so much more,
But Mama, Ezra replies, It's ok. All I ever knew was love.
Yes my sweet Ezra, and it will never feel like enough.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
In the past several weeks, I have found myself doing things that never would have been possible anytime this past year. I held my third and fourth babies since Ezra. I sought out these babies, made sure that I would get a chance to hold them, play with them, feel their snugly warmth and marvel at their adorable smiles. It felt GREAT and incredibly healing. I also attended a bris (a Jewish circumcision ceremony that is held when the baby boy is 8 days old). I had planned to have a bris for Ezra, which of course never got to happen. This bris was a beautiful ceremony, and I openly cried...but they were tears of joy, and I felt so blessed to be part of this simcha, this celebration.
The fear and anxiety are a constant presence in this pregnancy, I doubt there any way to completely avoid these emotions (other than heavy heavy denial). But the growing joy is ever-present too, as Sunflower grows. Almost despite myself I have regained some of that pregnant glow I had with Ezra. I love when Sunflower squirms and kicks. Despite feeling like a hippo, I love my ever-blossoming belly. I love that Sunflower has shared with us his real name (and no, I will not share it until he is born). And although it shocked me at first, I love that I am mama to another son.
The Jewish New Year begins tonight. I had no clue how I would feel as this time of year came. And yet riding the wave of this seismic change, I feel just present enough in hope and joy to believe that this new year might just bring some light. I am positive it will also bring heartbreak...this past year has taught me so much about the co-mingling of the light and the dark, of devastation and joy. But somehow I feel ready for the journey.
L'shanah tovah...wishing everyone a sweet and beautiful New Year.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Just wanted to let you know that Frank Bennett (a babylost daddy from the M.I.S.S. forum), has started Daddy's Breath, a brand new Facebook group for grieving fathers. Click here to link to the group and join. Also, people can email Frank with any comments or suggestions. Thanks to Frank for doing this! A Facebook group for grieving fathers is way way overdue, and this is a great chance for fathers to get involved and express their feelings for their lost children. Please spread the word, and I hope to see you there!
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Please remember our son, our Ezra Malik
He lived 8 months in his mama's belly
He lives forever in our hearts
Please remember our son, our Ezra Malik
Speak his name always, as nothing brings us
More joy than to hear his name out loud
Please remember our son, our Ezra Malik
He is and will always be our firstborn
Your grandson, nephew, cousin, friend
Please remember our son, our Ezra Malik
We are his mama and his papa
Honor that we are parents too
Please remember our son, our Ezra Malik
Born sleeping August, 30, 2008
Precious and loved always
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Last year Ezra died just weeks before the High Holy days. Shell-shocked in grief, David and I went to services, weeping throughout at the beautiful melodies and prayers. A young member of our congregation, a young man just 16 years old, gave a meaningful speech about the work he’s done organizing his fellow public school students for equitable school funding…and David and I just sobbed and sobbed, knowing without speaking that Ezra would have done something like this and now would never have the chance. In retrospect, I don’t even know how or why we made it to services – I was barely leaving the house at all at that point – but somehow we were drawn to, needing to be held by community, setting our intent on finding our spiritual center, even if at the time it felt completely elusive.
On Yom Kippur, I remember feeling utterly embittered, unable to muster any of the humility necessary to identify mistakes I’d made over the past year in the spirit of teshuvah or repentance. The Universe had just taken a giant crap on our heads – 8 months of excitement, hope, expectation, dreams…only to have it all wrenched away in a split second. Try as I might, I couldn’t conceive of the notion that I owed anyone anything – as far as I could tell the Universe owed ME – one son, healthy and alive, as it was supposed to be.
This week marked the anniversary of Ezra’s death, known as a yartzeit, on the Hebrew calendar. This year has been such an unbelievable journey. On Rosh Hashanah last year, I remember brashly saying ‘It can’t get any worse, it can only go up from here.’ And then a couple months later my dad needed quadruple bypass surgery. And a couple months after that David lost his job. About 5 months later David’s dad got sick, and a month after that he died. And slowly it has dawned on me that just because the worst has happened (and I definitely maintain that losing Ezra has and will always be the worst thing that could ever happen), the Universe doesn’t give us a pass, not in the least.
Early in this year’s journey of grief, two amazing mamas, Gal and Aliza, each recommended that I read Miriam Greenspan’s Healing Through the Dark Emotions. The book was a turning point for me, not because I was suddenly “healed,” but because it helped me see, at least vaguely, that there was a path through. That somehow I might one day emerge from the raw grief and despair a stronger person, a more spiritually connected person, a more compassionate person. I am most definitively still on that journey. It will take me a lifetime to grieve for Ezra, just as it will take me a lifetime to evolve into that better person. I am not there yet.
One of the most compelling chapters in Greenspan’s book is titled, From Grief to Gratitude. I remember reading it with great skepticism – what do I have to be grateful for? My precious son is dead. The only thing that would make me truly grateful is to have him alive in my arms. I have struggled immensely with the entire notion of gratitude throughout this year.
Today we went to synagogue to say Kaddish (the prayer for the dead) for Ezra, as is traditional on the Shabbat (Sabbath) closest to the anniversary of a loved one’s death. In keeping with the themes of Elul, we were asked to reflect silently on for what we were grateful. For these things I am grateful: the deep love I share with David; the Sunflower growing in my belly; the community that has held us in love throughout this year; all the many lessons about life and love that our sweet son Ezra has taught us. I was surprised to notice that the gratitude is there.
There is some letting go that is surrounding the approach of Ezra’s death and birth days. Saying the Kaddish, which since the beginning, was so difficult for me, brought no tears. And yet at another point in the service, we were asked to say out loud for what we were praying in the coming year – I said I was praying for the baby I am carrying to arrive safe and healthy…and the tears came. There is an emotional shift that is happening….an acceptance that Ezra is gone, and yet such intense swirl of fear and hope surrounding our Sunflower.
This entire year has been about slowly letting go. I guess the process began from the moment I heard the words ‘your baby has passed away’, through birthing his adorable yet lifeless body, and all the many emotions – shock, grief, despair, rage, sorrow--that have followed. I still miss my son with my whole self, not a day goes by that I don’t think of Ezra. I guess I’m just learning to live with that pain.
Next weekend we have planned an unveiling ceremony for Ezra, where we will see his gravestone for the first time. We will be surrounded by family and friends, and in an odd way, I am looking forward to it. I am grateful that for once we can do something for our son.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
The world keeps spinning by. Of course Ezra is still dead. And I've lost count of how many live healthy babies have been born to people in our social circle within the past year...pregnancies of which I was never told...babies which I learned of after the fact. Like the 3 month old I only learned of this week...I never knew she was pregnant. I've talked to these people...spoken on the phone, emailed...this information was carefully left out.
I'll fully admit that other people's pregnancies and babies haven't been the easiest thing for me to deal with this year (ok understatement of the century). It has also gotten easier over time. But as I've explained to each of the friends, acquaintances and colleagues who have shared their pregnancies with me this year, 'I'm happy for them, just sad for me'. Even though I'm now pregnant again myself, other women's pregnancies still make me sad and anxious...but that doesn't mean that I haven't been able to share in the joy with them.
I can't find words to describe how awful it feels to be treating like a pariah, a freak of nature who is considered too fragile to share in what should be one of life's greatest joys. Do people really think they can make me sadder than I already am? That if I don't know about their pregnancy I won't remember that my baby died? It's true I might go home and cry. I might be jealous. But these darker emotions are normal, and are intermingled with the lighter ones.
Who is being protected by not sharing this information? Certainly not me...it hurts way more to find out after the fact than to be told directly, no matter what my reaction. Is it the pregnant women themselves? As if deadbabymama is a contagious plague. Often it feels this way, when even friends who have shared their pregnancies fall away, particularly in the later months.
The reality is that a few friends and colleagues have shared their pregnancies and new babies with me this year...and its been just fine. Its true I can only hear so much...I have wonderful friends who have respected the boundaries I need and not shared information for which I didn't ask. In fact, the more respectful my friends have been, the more able I am to hear more, to meet their babies, to share in the joy.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
I wish so deeply that Monique and I never had to meet. That we didn't lose our firstborn sons to stillbirth within weeks of each other. That there wasn't something so eerily familiar about her post on an online babyloss board that made me feel compelled to reach out and meet her. That we didn't pour out our despair and anger in reams of emails and calls in the weeks and months that followed. I wish we didn't share this bond of having had sons who got away.
And yet I cannot for one minute imagine surviving this journey if it weren't for Monique. She is a true friend, a sister in this disorienting world of babyloss. I love her dearly and I will remember sweet baby Sam forever and always.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Gal has given me the gift of so much wisdom, love and strength on this grief journey through her writing and her friendship. I am holding Gal, Dave, Dahlia and Tikva so very close today.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I have this image in my mind of something that did not take place. I imagine that someone visited me a year ago. He had special powers and insights, as if he could see into the future, if not visit the future. He sat down with me and said to me: “I have some bad news to tell you. Lots of terrible things are going to happen to you over the next twelve months. You will lose your son. You will never get to see him grow up. You will lose the father you’ve known for your entire life. And there will be other things that throw your life into a tailspin, change you fundamentally as a person, and make you question yourself and your path in life.“
“Can I wake up from this nightmare now?” I asked him. “I’m sorry, it’s not a dream,” he responded. “Why are you telling me these things?” I asked him, in a scene eerily similar to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol or something like that. Anyway he didn’t answer, and he just moved along and left me in my state of shock and disbelief.
We are blessed—or cursed, depending on your point of view— because most of us mere mortals cannot see into the future. What would I have done in that situation, how would I have reacted, with the knowledge of the tempestuous journey to come? I keep asking myself this, and I have no answers. Indeed, it has been quite a year for the family, with Dad and Peanut Boy leaving us, not to mention that my sister-in-law’s mother passed away just a few months before Dad. And Peanut Boy’s other grandfather had open-heart surgery, which was a big scare, and thankfully he recovered. Throw in the personal impact of a severe recession, and you have, well, quite a year.
To be sure, there is still ample time to cry, and cry we will—and often. And yet, there is also happiness. There is still time to laugh and to joke, to look forward to what the future brings, to savor those small morsels of joy, and to enjoy the sunflowers as they grow. I’m still here, I say!
What I take from the experiences of the past year is that it is important to enjoy the ones you have while you have them. Appreciate the good things and the good people in your life. Help those you know, and help those you don’t know. Maybe you can give them a leg up, or fill in some of the potholes in the road of their life’s journey. That’s all I have for now.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
My cousin gave birth to a healthy baby girl in October, right around when Ezra should have been born. She (and her brother) never called or sent a card after Ezra died. She never called or sent a card after her baby girl safely arrived. There has been radio silence ever since.
Until this past week. In anticipation of our families getting together at the beach next week, and unable to take the conflict anymore, my dad finally said something to his cousin. This shouldn't have needed to happen - we're all adults now. And honestly, the damage is done...nothing my cousins could say would rewind this past year of silence.
But of course it prompted my cousins to call me immediately, leaving overly-hysterical messages congratulating me on my new pregnancy. I took my time calling back...waited until I was in the right mental space. I didn't want to hear their explanations - it doesn't matter why anymore, it just is.
I called each of them back and tempered the hyper excitement about my new pregnancy with a dose of realism - its awfully scary this time round and there are no guarantees. My cousin who was due the same week as me immediately blurted out an apology. She told me she felt so guilty having a healthy live baby that she couldn't call. I didn't tell her that was the stupidest thing I'd ever heard. I never expected the explanation to make sense. I don't expect her to understand that I'm happy her baby is healthy and alive. I just wish mine was too.
Her brother was a bit more tongue-tied. There was no apology. He just said, 'I haven't talked to you since...since...well I don't even know how to talk about what happened to you. How do you say what happened?'
My son died, I said. His name is Ezra and he died when I was 8 months pregnant.
To his credit, he plunged ahead: How did he die? What happened? And so I explained.
I know he was just being a boy, a very uncomfortable boy whose parents had caught him in a breach of etiquette so brash that they forced him to make this call. Having two beautiful daughters of his own, he probably knew 'miscarriage' wasn't the right term, but didn't quite know what was. But does my son's death make him so uncomfortable that he can't even say the word 'death'?
Mulling this over this afternoon, I realized he had spoken the truth. What happened to Ezra and so many of our babies is unspeakable. An unspeakable truth that makes people so uncomfortable that their only response is silence. It isn't what we grieving mamas and papas need...its not an excuse at all. I'll never fully forgive those who were silent and disappeared when tragedy struck our family...but at this point it just is what it is, a part of this journey...and all we can do is limp forward.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
The anxiety seems to have settled into my being, a constant presence that doesn't even surprise me anymore. It's settled into my GI system, and also keeps me from sleeping through the night. I'm trying to address this with accupuncture and prenatal massage, and hopefully will start doing prenatal pilates soon (if I can ever wake up in time!)
But I also feel a little more assured in this pregnancy. At least some days I'm more able to tell people about the Sunflower, more able to talk in vague terms about my plans for maternity leave in January. I just can't wrap my mind around too many of the specifics, like birth plans (anything that results in a live baby is fine!), length of leave or what we'll do for child care. I wouldn't be surprised if I don't buy a single item in advance for this baby.
It does feel like many people are way more excited or way more sure all will work out than I possibly can be right now. I think people's discomfort with the death and loss that have defined my year causes them to be more hyper excited than necessary. I'm constantly reminding people, 'yes it's exciting, but it's also scary.' I feel like a broken record.
My relationship to my grief for Ezra has changed drastically during this pregnancy. I can't fully be present in the depths of sadness that were there before. But being pregnant has also brought out new layers of the sadness - I'm grieving the pregnancy, all the hope and expectation and excitement.
In one week we leave for a week at the beach with my family, the very same beach where we stayed for a week just weeks before Ezra died. Some of my last distinct happy memories of having Ezra with me are from that trip...waddling down the beach enormously pregnant, feeling him kick and move as I stretched out in the sun. It's also the same beach where we went on our own for a weekend in October to get through his due date...some of the few moments of peace we found in those early months. I know this trip will be emotional...but I also know that I can't help but find peace at the beach.
Ezra's first birthday is less than a month away. I can't really fathom that it's almost been a full year without my baby boy.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
My wise therapist pointed out last week that I seem to be doing a lot of self-censoring. And the end result is that it's only making me more anxious all of the time. I don't want to talk too much about this pregnancy to other babylost mamas unless they are also pregnant or already had their "rainbow baby" after a loss. I don't want to talk to non-babylost pregnant ladies about all the fears about this pregnancy that chatter away in my mind. In general it just seems like everyone in the non-babylost world is so much more excited and so much more sure that all will turn out ok, than I could ever possibly be--and I don't want to tell them that either. This leaves me with way too much time on my own in my own head.
My intent in this pregnancy has always been to be as present as possible in the renewed hope, joy and love that the Sunflower has brought. I gave Ezra so much love as he grew inside my belly, the Sunflower deserves the same. Indeed, the hope, joy and love is there every day. But these beautiful emotions sit alongside something else that was never present when I was pregnant with Ezra:
There's not a day that goes by that I don't wonder if this baby isn't already dead. Even though I'm starting to feel little flutters of movement. Each twinge or unexplained pain makes me imagine I'm miscarrying or going into labor. Even though I had all those same random twinges and pains while pregnant with Ezra. Although I'm beginning to show, I worry the baby isn't growing enough. My mind wanders to every possible thing that could already be wrong...congenital deformities, genetic disorders...
I wish there was an off switch for my mind. The constant negative chatter is really getting to me.
I really don't want to be THIS pregnant lady. The one filled with constant worry and fear. I miss the OLD pregnant me.
The one who positively glowed through every day of the 33 weeks and 5 days I got to carry Ezra. Nobody could wipe the grin off my face.
The one who practically skipped around town with her ever-growing belly. Even the morning of the day he died, I joyfully walked on my own to the hospital.
The one who gleefully announced she was pregnant to large audiences before sitting down in a chair to teach or train in those final months. I don't even want to tell people I'm pregnant this time round.
The one who never even realized there were so many many things to be scared about while pregnant. And now I'm scared of them all. Every single thing that could go wrong. Not just what happened to Ezra.
I wish I could have just a little of the old pregnant me back. I miss her.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Over the past 12 weeks, joy and hope have had a more steady presence in our lives. We can't help ourselves. I try to stay as present in the joy and hope as possible. We already talk to the Sunflower and let her know how loved and desired she is. But the Sunflower has unearthed a full palette of other emotions...sadness, anxiety, fear. I have been so emotional throughout this pregnancy....terrified of losing the Sunflower, grieving my blissful pregnancy with Ezra. Physically and emotionally this pregnancy has been so very different than my pregnancy with Ezra.
I haven't told that many people about the Sunflower. In some ways I have an overwhelming desire to hide in a cave for the 9 months, and emerge only if/when I have a live baby to show for my efforts. For the people I have told, mostly close friends, babylost mamas and my coworkers, I have felt compelled to share the news but within the same breath make clear I'm both excited and terrified. I need those around me to understand that although I am happy, I also have no illusions about the risks involved.
But the joy is there, ever present, always growing. Afterall, sunflowers always make me smile.
Here's some shots of the Sunflower:
And finally, here's some gratuitous shots of my garden. Its really come together this year:
Friday, July 3, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
My father, Albert C. Love, Jr., passed away on Sunday, June 28, 2009. This is a poem I wrote in his honor.
Welcome to my father’s homegoing!
He was a simple man with an extraordinary life,
A Georgia boy, born and raised in a wooden shack in Augusta,
In the heart of Jim Crow,
With segregation all around,
And with lynchings always waiting just around the corner,
Born to a Black Mama,
And his old man was Irish, as he always told us.
Was sent to the Korean War and came back with medals,
Then chose the printing trade, where Black men were mostly kept out,
He married my mother, the love of his life, and found a home in paradise, in Laurelton, Queens.
He was a simple man who had a lot to say,
About anything and everything you can imagine,
You might not have agreed with all he said,
But what he said often made you laugh.
And he liked to tell jokes, even when the punchline was not apparent,
Except maybe in his own mind…
He had many loves, my father—
He loved his God and he loved his country,
He loved helping others, serving others,
With his church and with his fellow veterans.
He loved Monday night football,
And I dare you to find a bigger Knicks fan,
Actually, I dare you to find any other Knicks fan, anywhere.
And of course, he loved his family,
And his two grandchildren Kris and Zora,
He bragged about them so much.
We grew up in completely different times,
And I know he didn’t always understand our world, my brother’s and mine,
Of Ivy League opportunities and overseas excursions.
But it didn’t mean he wasn’t proud,
Or that he wasn’t responsible for us being what we had become,
But in any case, he left us with a lot,
With memories of sitting on the back porch in the summertime,
And of the one-dollar matinee, and our shopping trips,
And that ice cream shop,
And most importantly his work ethic.
I know my father would have preferred a different way to leave,
Maybe in his leather chair at home with a pipe in his hand,
Watching wrestling or listening to B.B. King and Bobby Blue Bland,
Maybe with a big plate of lima beans and rice.
But my biggest regret was that he never got to meet my son Ezra,
That baby boy who died last season, on the day before he was born.
But now I know that things have come full circle,
And the two of them have found each other in that spirit world,
That land where the ancestors dwell and conduct their business.
And now my son is sitting on my father’s knee,
Listening to my father’s colorful stories, his life experiences,
And all sorts of jokes of course.
And all along, that was the way it was supposed to be,
With my son sitting on his grandfather’s knee,
And you can’t ask for a better homegoing than that.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
I didn’t handle the news well. Although I managed to have the conversation, I hung up the phone and sobbed for hours. My grief was too raw to manage this information. I was too sad for myself. Even though I was happy for A and knew this was a much desired pregnancy.
I kept my distance for most of those early weeks. I missed A deeply. But when we did talk, the contrast in our emotions was almost too much for me to bear – A needed to be a happy glowing mama-to-be –it’s of course what I wanted for her. I needed to be in the deep dark hole of despair of a grieving mama. I didn’t want to bring her down. But I couldn’t bring myself up to meet her joy.
I should explain that I love A like a sister. We’ve gotten each other through many a rough patch since we met in law school. She zipped down from Boston to be with me after Ezra was gone. She was one of the first people to say to me she wished she had got to meet him. And I knew she meant it.
Even in those early weeks I couldn’t help but think Ezra had something to do with this. That it was no accident that A was as many weeks pregnant as Ezra was gone. And so it came as no surprise when A called to say she was having a boy. Somehow I already knew.
What did come as a surprise is that at that same 20 week ultrasound, A and her husband learned there was a problem. Her baby boy had a heart deformity. Many tests followed. They found there were no other congenital problems. Many babies with this particular heart condition have open heart surgery just days after birth, and live long healthy lives.
I’m almost embarrassed to admit that at this point somehow it began to feel easier to talk to A again. Doctors, tests, ruling out congenital disorders…somehow that was a world I could understand. Anxiety, fear, sadness…it was what I was living every day.
But as A got closer to her due date, talking became harder for me again. When A talked about the immediate medical intervention her baby boy would need the moment he took his first breath outside her womb, my own anxiety level would rise to extreme levels. My stomach would knot; I’d wake in the middle of the night thinking about her baby boy. I knew Ezra was watching over him, and in my heart I believed that he would live and be healthy. And yet I was terrified that A would become another babylost mama. And the thought was more than I could handle. I wouldn’t wish this pain on my worst enemy, let alone one of my dearest friends.
A gave birth to her beautiful baby boy, Sam, on June 1st. From the photos, he is unbelievably cute, with an adorable full head of hair. Sam had several procedures immediately when he was born, and a few days later had successful open heart surgery. He’s been in the hospital for most of his nearly 4 weeks of life, having gone home only to return 2 ½ days later with an infection in his incision. He’s responding well to antibiotics and hopefully will be able to come home with his mommy and daddy soon. I can only imagine that these past 4 weeks have been unbelievably emotional and draining for each of them. I pray for Sam, A and her husband every day.
Thankfully A has kept a private blog to keep friends and family updated on Sam’s progress. My heart leaps with joy as she posts each positive update, and of course I worry at each bump in the road. I have never seen A look so astoundingly happy (or tired) as she does in the photos with baby Sam. And I can’t stop looking at Sam’s adorable face.
I still know in my heart that Sam is going to be just fine. After all he has Ezra looking out for him.
And I just cannot wait to meet this amazing little boy.
Saturday, June 20, 2009
I was hoping they would cancel Father’s Day this year, mostly because my son Ezra Malik died.
Losing my child was the most traumatic experience of my life. Nothing else comes close. It was like crashing into a brick wall, or having my heart yanked out of my chest. To those who have not had the experience, I pray you will never know the feeling. What makes it particularly difficult is that parents are supposed to protect their children and keep them away from harm, and now we feel as if we’ve failed.
This membership organization is a secret society of sorts, whose members often suffer in silence because society doesn’t care to listen. To be sure, there are many parents in this secret society, many fathers such as myself, those who have that strong fatherhood feeling, who love their child without question. But we are not viewed as fathers in the regular sense because our child died. Maybe there should be a special Father’s Day just for us.
Think of the countless children in this world that die every year from one of any number of causes, whether disease or famine, or homicide or suicide or war, or causes unknown. For example, every year in the U.S., 5,000 children die from gun violence, and African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately affected. Homicide is the leading cause of death for African-American males between ages 15-34, the second leading cause of death for Blacks ages 10-14, and the third leading cause of death for the 5-9 age range, with guns accounting for 90%, 70% and 34% of these deaths, respectively. That’s a lot of children. That’s a lot of mourning parents, and an army of grieving fathers, often at war with their emotions, and shunned by a society that doesn’t support them through their painful journey.
This is a society where value is placed on looking good rather than feeling good. People ask “how are you feeling?” without really caring about your response. In a society that does not deal well with death, particularly the death of children - and wants people to just “get over it” and feel better, mistakenly believing that simply forgetting the loss will make the pain go away - parents of lost children have a rough time of it.
Mothers who grieve over a lost child tend to have a more supportive network than fathers to help them through their pain, not that they always receive the support that they need. Men are told to buck up, walk it off and “be a man”. After all, we are told, it is hardest on the mothers.
As a result, fathers of lost children are lost in the wilderness. We must grapple with the fact that our child has died, yet often we are ill-equipped to do so. Many men have been conditioned to hide and deny their emotions, their pain and their sorrow, with unhealthy consequences. Think of all of the people - especially men - who are behind bars because they could not deal with what was on their mind. Unable to manage their emotions, they cracked up, and perhaps even hurt those around them. Maybe they were unaware of the counseling and support services available to them (two online support groups for babylost parents are MISS Foundation and Glow In The Woods). Or they were reluctant to seek those services because of the social stigma of being labeled weak, unstable or crazy.
As for those of us who are coping with the loss of a child, the pain will never go away. It might get easier to live with, but that is not the point. The stages of grief don’t always progress in a straight line. Years after our child’s death, the bad days may still sneak up on us and assault us out of the blue. Hopefully, healing will come, and we can find ways to incorporate the loss into our daily lives. But the bar has been lowered on the highest level of joy that we are able to experience.
So, finally, to those fathers who can physically hold your child on Father’s Day, I tell you to hold them tight and don’t let go. Do not take your child for granted. To those fathers whose children remain with you in spirit, I say hold them tight in your heart, in your memories, and in your daily life, and don’t let go.
But if you are someone who knows a daddy of a lost child, don’t hesitate to go up to him and feel free to acknowledge his loss. Bringing up the tragedy won’t make him feel worse, because he is already living the hell that is the most traumatic experience of his life. But when others pretend that he is not a suffering father, that will almost certainly make him feel worse. We grieving fathers need to know we are not alone this Father’s Day.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
And how is it possible this question no longer melts me into a pool of tears? Calmly and precisely I clarify. I've grown such thick skin.
When did the rough sharp edges of my grief settle into the core of my being? My what a journey this has been.