Saturday, January 31, 2009

More Dreams

I've always made fun of myself that when I do remember my dreams,
they are always so concrete.
No obscure symbolism, no deep hidden meaning.

This week I've had a recurrent dream about bridges and paths...
that don't quite make it where they are supposed to go.
Driving across a bridge that suddenly ends,
even though I can see the other side.
Walking comfortably along a path,
when suddenly I'm on the verge of falling off a cliff,
and everywhere I turn is another dangerous ravine.

In the dream I always am about to drown,
or fall off,
But I wake up before I do.
Always with the unsettled feeling that I didn't make it.

It doesn't require great insight to know what this dream is about.

I could be dreaming that I'm Ezra, almost, but not quite making it,
out of mommy's belly and into his mommy & daddy's arms.
But I'm pretty sure that's not it.

I'm almost certain this dream is about my quest
To be a mama to a live baby,
It's the only path or bridge I want to be on right now.
And in the dream I am always so content as I journey along
Until it all falls apart.
I can see the destination,
But don't realize the perils that await,
Until it is much too late.

I guess this is my deepest fear.
That motherhood will remain an intangible dream,
a destination that can not be reached
except in my mind
where I am alway a mama,
to my dear sweet Ezra.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Guest Post by Ezra’s Daddy: Lotsa Jokes

Well, it’s the 5 month anniversary of Ezra’s birth, which happens to be the day after the 5 month anniversary of his death. So you’re probably thinking that the title of this blog post seems rather strange, a little misplaced under the circumstances. Please bear with me, give me a little time to explain, and I think it’ll make sense to you.

Little Peanut Boy’s parents are known for their sense of humor, the silly songs they make up with nonsensical lyrics, the silly names they give their two cats on a daily basis (one day, Red and Zora are called the guppies, the next day they’re called the parrots, or the monkeys, etc.). There’s no laughter these days, but sometimes the sun manages to come out for a brief spell, as it does in the winter.

It was clear to me that Ezra had that same sense of humor. It all started when I used to tell him all of those jokes while he was still in his Mommy’s belly. I tried to impart knowledge to him, like any father would, but mostly I told jokes. And he responded by kicking his Mommy. And what a kicker he was! He kicked me in the head once when I got really close to him! Of course, once we saw how long his legs were, the glorious gift of an unidentified ancestor, it all started to make sense.

And when I first saw him, peaceful as he was, in his deep slumber, he had this look on this face. It was a smile, a grin, a silly look on his face, with his little lips puckered. It was clear to me that this little man would’ve filled our house with a great deal of joy, lots of comedy, lotsa jokes indeed. And judging from his expression, he probably had been in the middle of a big laugh. Sadly, tragically, he died from a placental abruption, when the placenta becomes separated from the uterus before delivery. A placental abruption happens to 1 in 150 babies. And in about 1 in every 500-750 deliveries, there is a placental abruption that causes death to the baby, just like Ezra. But judging from the look on his face, he just wanted to be a funny little boy.

When we last saw him on the day of his funeral, his homegoing day, his face looked a little more serious. I think he tried to keep a straight face that day, out of respect for his Mommy and Daddy. The three of us sat together and read Goodnight Moon. We laughed a bit, and we cried a bit. Finally, we put him in the ground in his little wooden box, with his blanket to keep him warm, a picture of his Mommy and Daddy by his side, and his sidekick mouse to keep him company—and listen to his jokes.

I am sure that each day, when the old ancestors in the spirit world have finished telling their stories— stories about their lives in bondage in Charleston, South Carolina and in Egypt, or about their days in the shtetls of Old Europe or the villages of West Africa— they allow Little Peanut Boy to tell some jokes. You know, to lighten things up a bit. What do they make of this funny, bubbly little child, and his curious mixture of African American and Jewish humor? I’m sure they appreciate him, and they embrace him just as we do, and they all sit around and laugh together.  

Thursday, January 29, 2009

death day

Today is 5 months since Ezra died.

I wish I had something profound to say,
About how much I've grown,
Or how close he feels,
Even though he's not physically here.

But today I just miss him to my core
He doesn't feel close,
He feels far far away.
Out of reach.

At this time of day 5 months ago,
I was still the happiest woman in the world.
At least I felt that way.
I woke up feeling glorious,
As I did every day back then.
Full of hope, and excitement and expectation
That I would soon meet my son.

Even when the doctor's office called,
To say the tests were irregular
and I should come to the hospital for more tests,
I wasn't worried...if anything a little annoyed,
because I felt so good,
and I had other things to do that day.
But it was a lovely day,
and I enjoyed the walk down to the hospital.
Everything was enjoyable when Ezra was still here.

The testing was very uncomfortable,
But I was still smiling,
Because I could hear Ezra on the fetal monitor for hours,
swooshing as he moved all around.
He helped me through.

For awhile now I have been stuck,
wishing I could rewind to that moment,
when Ezra was still alive and well.
When my biggest worry was the nasty midwife,
who told me that morning that I was being tested for preeclampsia
and would be induced that day.
Which scared me since I wasn't quite 34 weeks,
and the test results weren't back yet.

Oh how I wish that's what had happened.

But my body played a trick on everyone,
and all the tests came back negative for preeclampsia,
and so I was sent home.
Where I quickly became preeclamptic,
in a flash,
the word comes from the Latin/Greek word for sudden flash of light
And like lightening,
Ezra was gone.
And all that was left was a physical pain like none I've ever felt,
Until I learned he was dead,
and the emotional pain took over,
Which hurts even more.

On days like today,
its just too hard to reconcile
the contrast between the happiness that was my pregnancy with Ezra,
and the deep sorrow that has followed.

I've never cried like I've cried for Ezra,
As Aliza wrote a couple weeks ago,
"it’s a wailing of my soul"
And today is a crying day
Too sad
Too hard
Too lonely

Missing Ezra so much.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Magical Walk

We've just returned from walking in the woods of Wissahickon Park
One of my favorite places in Philadelphia
Because it feels as un-citylike as you can imagine
So far removed from the cars and the people and the buildings
A wooded wonderland.

We planned today's hike earlier this week
When I was feeling so stifled
by hard work, cold weather
Cramped and disappointed in my new sad life
That holds so little of what I expected it would.
Despite the cold, I knew I needed to be freed
To breath the crisp air and exert myself
And so we bundled up
And headed to the woods.

Just a little ways into the walk
I realized our lost babies had joined us!
I saw Lev in the flow of the river
Kai in the snow banks along its sides
Sam in the tall branches of the trees
and George in the early buds of the bushes
Tikva in the birds floating through the sky
and Hope in the gentle breeze.
And so many others...Silas, Hannah, Baby Boy Bereston and many more...
in the glint of the sun through the trees
...all of Ezra's spirit baby friends.

And Ezra
Ezra was everywhere...
In the squish of the mud beneath our boots
And the icicles coming off the rocks
In the blue green color of the creek
And the leaves still clinging to the trees

As our babies entered my awareness
And I took in the beauty around us
My heart filled with love
For Ezra
For all our babies
And for my community of babylost parents
Who has helped me see beauty
When it seemed like there was none.

Monday, January 19, 2009

On Martin Luther King Jr.’s 80th Birthday

Today the U.S. observes the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassinated when he was 39 years old. He would have been 80 years old on January 15th. The moral conscience of our nation.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if MLK had lived to be 80 years old?

Would it have taken until 2009 for the U.S. to elect its first black president?

Would the gap between rich and poor continue to be ever dividing?

Would our public schools still be crumbling?

Would the world still be at war with itself?

As Ezra’s Daddy wrote in his weekly op-ed column this week, there is so much we can learn from MLK to apply to our modern world…because he didn’t just speak out for civil rights for black people, he spoke out for a more just world for all of us. MLK’s vision of civil rights meant speaking out wherever there was injustice, be it injustice for workers, for poor people in general. It meant taking on unjust laws and unjust wars. But most important it meant not ever remaining silent:

“I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal.”

At Shabbat services on Friday night, instead of a full service, our Rabbi played one of MLK’s sermons, "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam," during which MLK spoke the words above. The sermon is as relevant today as it was in 1967 when it was delivered.

And it made me miss my little Ezra Malik all the more.

Ezra chose his middle name, Malik, for several people. First it was for my grandmother Marion, who died young, from multiple sclerosis, just after I was born. But it was also for Martin Luther King, Jr., and also Malcolm X (who took the name Malik when he converted to Islam), the two book ends of black consciousness for the previous generation. Martin, because he reminds us to put aside our differences to repair the world together. Malcolm because he reminds us that to be a black man in the United States is to carry the legacy of 300 years of slavery on one’s shoulders.

Ezra didn’t want to forget where he came from, or where he was going. And since it was a deep commitment to social justice that brought his mommy and daddy together, we (he) envisioned he would pick up that torch.

It was only after Ezra died that we realized that Marion, Martin and Malcolm have in common one thing, they all died young, before their time. Like Ezra.

Because Malcolm X too was assassinated at age 39. Neither Martin nor Malcolm reached their 40th birthdays, the age that Ezra’s daddy is now. And yet they left such a mark on the world.

And Ezra will never reach his 1st birthday, let alone his 40th.

And I can’t help but wonder how not just our lives, but the world would be different, not just if Martin and Malcolm had lived, but if Ezra had lived. Who would Ezra have loved? And what would he have cared about? How would he have left his mark?

Back in September, on Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar, a teenager who is a member of our congregation gave a passionate speech to hundreds of us, about his work with the Philadelphia Student Union, a student-led education reform group. Both Ezra’s daddy and I began sobbing, and for the same reason…we both imagined that Ezra would have done something like that one day.

I am practicing accepting the idea that Ezra left the mark he was meant to leave, that his life played out as it was meant to be, that he made an impact without having taken a breath.

But it is so very hard to accept. To find meaning when it feels like there is none.

And yet Ezra did make a mark. I know that losing him has made both of us more open, compassionate people. In our life without Ezra, priorities are clear, we are changed forever. And where that change will take us remains unclear, although I can imagine it will allow us to live deeper, more meaningful lives, to have a more significant role in making the world just a bit more whole.

It is all about remaining open to the change, and awake to the journey.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in one of my favorite of his speeches, titled “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution”:

We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.

John Donne caught it years ago and placed it in graphic terms: "No man is an island entire of itself. Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main." And he goes on toward the end to say, "Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind; therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." We must see this, believe this, and live by it if we are to remain awake through a great revolution.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Guest Post by Ezra’s Daddy: Hold Them Tight, and Don’t Let Go

Observing people out and about with their children, downtown or at the supermarket or wherever, I can’t help but think that some parents view their kids as fashion accessories, or exotic toys, or even worse, marginally bearable nuisances. Not that they don’t love their children. I think some of them have forgotten what it is really all about, what is really important. In the end, it’s really all about that unconditional love you give to your child, isn’t it?

I think that everyone who has a child should take time out to embrace him or her, just give them a big hug, and don’t let go. Some of us, of course, don’t have our child here with us physically, but that shouldn’t stop us now, should it?

But what do you mean, Ezra’s Daddy?

I remember when I held, hugged and kissed Little Peanut Boy in the hospital. At first, I had the feeling of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness. There was my boy, right there, eyes closed and lifeless, and there was nothing I could do for him. He looked as if he needed me to do something, wanted me to do something, and although there were many things I wanted to do to help him, what could I do at that point? Here was my son, and my parental instincts that were kicking in were of little use to me.

And yet, I had the feeling that he understood, and he was happy just that I could hold him and talk to him, the way I did when he was in his mother’s belly. And we had him wrapped in a traditional shroud when we sent him off to meet with his ancestors. Over that shroud he was wearing his little green alligator outfit. His little mouse toy was right next to him in the coffin so he wouldn’t get bored, and so he’d have something to play with when the old Jewish folks talked his ear off with stories about the old country. And he had his blanket so he wouldn’t get cold, and a framed picture of his Mommy and Daddy.

I laughed and I cried as I read Goodnight Moon to him right before we buried him. And I took great care to bury him, taking that shovel and making sure it was done right. It was the only chance I would have. The feelings that were racing through my system were pure, uncluttered, unconditional love. And even though I would no longer be able to hold him physically, I could embrace his spirit. I embrace him every day, without fail.

So, when Ezra’s spirit is in my presence, as it was last night, I embrace that spirit. My cat Red didn’t know any better, he was scared and ran under the couch, where he stayed for a half hour or so. I’ve never seen him act like that before. For me, being in the presence of my boy will make me sad one day, and happy the next. I know his spirit is there during tough times, when I need encouragement, a helping hand, or someone to cheer me on. He has helped me a lot and taught me a great deal, about love, about life, about the things that really matter. So I hold him tight, and I’ll never let go.

Dreaming of Babies

Last night I dreamed of many babies.
None of them were Ezra.
A baby nursing at my breast.
Not Ezra.
I think it was a girl,
I always seem to assume our next child will be a daughter.
In my dream I carried a baby, played with a baby, sat with a friend holding my baby.
Not Ezra.
In fact, it was not even the same baby throughout the dream,
The babies' features kept changing,
And none of them were Ezra.

It's like my mind is trying to tell to my body,
What is to come.
That the story of Ezra is not the end of the story.
That my body had better prepare itself,
For the new life that my mind so desparately wishes would enter my womb.
My body may find this information confusing,
My body, so forever changed by Ezra's presence...
Although in my grief I have lost more weight than I ever gained while pregnant,
Nothing is the same...
Breasts now permanently their pregnancy size
Hips spread wider
Ezra marks like a map of rivers and streams across them.

I've tried to communicate with the soul of my daughter,
That it's safe now to enter my womb.
I've asked Ezra to help her find the way.
And yet I worry that Ezra is skeptical...
Sure that womb is a lovely warm place to hang out...
Until it's not.
It doesn't all turn out ok.
And with my own faith so shattered that I can birth a live healthy baby into this world,
I'm hardly one to persuade otherwise.

Before losing Ezra I never remembered my dreams,
And even when I did,
Not in the full details I now can recall.
My dreams are sometimes good, envisioning better times than now.
But sometimes they are frightening, almost prophetic,
And I wish I could banish them from my mind.
My spirit baby Ezra has opened a window into my soul,
that I could not have known before.

One of the strange things about losing Ezra,
Is this disconnect I now feel between mind and body.
Like two very separate (yet still interconnected) entities.
My mind who so completely loves Ezra and wants him physically here,
And my body that killed him.
My mind doesn't trust my body anymore,
Can't believe that it would take away something so precious.
It doesn't seem to matter what my mind wanted,
Since my body had other ideas.

And yet I can't help but think that this disconnect is part of the problem,
Why our next baby hasn't yet joined us.

Because if I don't have faith that I can bring her screaming into this world,

How can she?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Happiness Still Lives

I don't remember what it was about her post on an online outpost for deadbabymamas, that caught my attention. It was back in the days when I was still drowning in grief, unable to envision how I might ever function again. Back when I was barely getting out of bed, not leaving the house, didn't even want the shades up since the sunlight seemed threatening.

Something about her words, her story, just grabbed me, allowed me to see a reflection of myself at a time when I wasn't quite sure that anyone else really did understand. Wise babylost mamas of never forgotten children of 20 or 30 years ago had sat with me, called me, sent me letters. And while I found some comfort in knowing they had survived the crushing pain of losing their precious babies...I couldn't yet see the path from here to there, I didn't yet have faith that I too would survive. I had only recently discovered Glow, and the rest of the babylost blogosphere, but it hadn't yet become MY community.

Our sons left us within weeks of each other. Our friendship blossomed quickly and intensely. Long email essays to each other multiple times a day. Hours on the phone. I can't imagine having survived the last four and a half months without her.

And then to my delight, this weekend she was HERE. The fabulous and lovely Monique, mama to sweet Sam, came from Winnepeg Canada to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania U.S.A.! If you don't believe me, here's proof...Monique standing by the quintessential symbol of the City of Brotherly Love, the Liberty Bell:

The weekend was so beautiful, so wonderful and it just flew by. There was something so precious about seeing that reflection of myself in real life, to be able to give and receive real hugs. Somewhere in the middle I realized this was the very first time since Ezra left, that I have felt happy without feeling guilty.

People seem to arrive in your life just when you need them. And while I always find it hard to admit anything positive came from Ezra's death, I can't imagine we would have ever met if our sons were born alive and wriggling into our arms.

She is as loving and compassionate in real life as she is online. I feel so blessed to count her as a friend.

Monday, January 5, 2009

7 x 7 january 2009: The Medusas on Seasons, Holidays, -versaries

Click over to Glow in the Woods and join in....

1 Welcome to 2009. What have you left behind in the year just past? What do you hope to find in the year to come?

Left behind: my innocence. Hope to find: purpose.

2 We've just come through the season in which our culture touts cheer and peace and family togetherness rather relentlessly. How did your child's death impact your experience of the "holiday" season, personally or culturally?

The cheer was gone. I remain convinced that when Ezra left, my capacity to feel joy left too.

3 If you celebrate in any way through December, are there ways you include or acknowledge your lost baby/babies?

We lit a candle for Ezra for each night of Chanukah, on Christmas, and each night of Kwanzaa (yes we’re an equal opportunity household). The meaning of the holidays felt elusive, but holding Ezra close helped get me through.

4 Through the year are there any holidays, seasons, or parts of what were once cherished rituals that have changed for you because of your child's death?

Not sure yet. Its only been 4 months and 1 week (but I’m not counting…really)

5 Do you do anything to remember your baby/babies' birth and/or death day? Or will you?

I’m not sure…so far each month the 29th (his death) brings great numbness and the 30th (his birth) brings even deeper despair. I can’t think far enough ahead to imagine where we’ll be at the 1 year mark.

6 Is there anything about the winter season (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere right now) that lifts your spirits? Is there anything that especially brings them down?

This winter the cold and grey of winter just fits my mood. Doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it usually would.

7 During your hardest times, how have you found your way forward?

During my hardest times, I hold Ezra’s daddy tight and try to open myself up to feeling Ezra’s spirit with me. Ezra means “helper” in Hebrew, and he’s helped me more than I ever could have imagined.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Guest Post by Ezra's Daddy: I Wanted To Cut My Son's Hair

Ezra's Mommy asked me if I'd like to guest blog, and I am honored and very grateful for her offer. Four months have passed since Little Peanut Boy's death and birth. His spirit is right next to me as I write this entry, his photo on my desk, and he was actually the one who asked me, in his own way, to write about this at this time. The funny thing about grief to me (funny in an odd way, not a humorous way) is that at any given moment, without warning, the weight of the sadness hits me like a ton of bricks. The sadness is always there, just below the surface, and won't go away. But sometimes a song, or a memory, or a thought or vision will trigger this flood of tears and heaviness of heart, even if only for a moment.Sometimes the vivid memories of my time with Ezra will trigger my sadness, such as the long conversations I had with him when he was inside his Mommy, which caused him to kick excitedly. Then there was the time I held him, with that little half-smile on his face. That was the first time I stared into the face of God. Sometimes the vivid thoughts of things that did not happen will make me sad, like carrying him in a baby sling to the store, or taking him to the movies and for ice cream, or going to Disney World.

Or giving him a haircut.

The hospital gave us a memory box that included a lock of his hair. His hair is black, thick and curly, kinda like his Daddy's, or at least when his Daddy had hair! In his photo, his little white cap is covering it, but we saw his hair up close and in person. I've had these vivid thoughts, almost like memories, of sitting a 4 or 5 year old Peanut Boy at the table, and trimming his impressively large, wavy, beautiful fro. With electric barbershop clippers, like the one my mother used when she cut my hair years ago in a previous century, long before PCs, the internet, email and blogs. These haircut sessions were functional and practical (I needed it), but they also served another purpose—they helped to solidify the bonds between parent and child. Of course, you can't forget the barber's bib, don't want to get the hair clippings all over the boy's shirt, do you? And have the mirror handy. I dunno, maybe you had to be there.