Thursday, February 26, 2009
Over the past six months, I frequently return to disbelief...for most of this time, it's been: I can't believe Ezra died. I can't believe that my perfectly healthy son, who we had hoped and prayed for, who lived safely in my belly for exactly 33 weeks and 5 days, who brought us more joy than we knew was possible...is gone. Snuffed out suddenly, despite a perfectly healthy pregnancy, as the placenta tore away from the wall of my uterus...the place he was supposed to be most safe. How could Ezra die?
But these thoughts are changing. I notice in recent weeks that somehow my mind has accepted the idea that Ezra is dead...he's gone, and no amount of longing or sorrow or despair will bring him back. Not accepted in the sense of agreeing with, or thinking its fair or just or even ok. But my mind accepts that it happened, that the fact of Ezra's death is reality, not some waking nightmare we're living.
The disbelief is still there, it just takes me to a different place: I cannot believe this is my life. I can't believe that we are a childless couple, who had a child. I can't believe that for six months, I have been sad every day, that the sadness is always there, sometimes lighter, sometimes heavier, but always present. I can't believe that life feels so static, in limbo, lacking in hope and expectation. I can't believe how hard it is for me to find happiness, that the world seems so dark.
Last night I became an aunt again, with the safe arrival of my brother and his wife's second child, Dalia. As I spoke with my elated brother on the phone, the sound of Dalia's cries brought tears of joy and pain simultaneously to my eyes. I am thrilled Dalia has arrived screaming into this world, and yet through no fault of her own, her arrival just underscores what I don't have. Although I am getting used to my reality of feeling contrasting emotions together, the jealousy is so real, so palpable. And again I return to my place of disbelief...how did I become this jealous woman? Jealousy is not an emotion I recognize in myself. All of my life I have always loved children, particularly babies. And over the last decade or so, as friends and relatives have had their children, I have been so drawn to the energy and joy that infants bring, everyone has commented on how relaxed and at ease I am with a baby, how easily quieted babies are in my arms. Now just passing a baby on the street, it feels like barbed wire is tightening around my heart. I haven't allowed myself to meet an infant since I met Ezra. Dalia will be the first. As emotional as that may be, I definitely want to meet her, after all, she's family. Again the disbelief - what happened to the old me?
I have been struck lately by how easy it is for me to assume I'm cursed, that the world is conspiring against me and David. If I really stop to think about it, it's not really what I believe...I don't believe Ezra died because G-d or the Universe is out to get us. But a lot of other bad things have happened in our lives since Ezra died...some big, some small...and it's so hard to have perspective when it feels like we keep being dealt crap. I wasn't always this way, it used to be easier for me to keep things in perspective, to take life's challenges for what they are, and to still assume things would turn out ok. Now it's so easy to go immediately to the worst case scenario in every situation. I know this is because we're living out the worst case scenario - our son died. But again disbelief: how did I get here?
As Barbara has written about, I guess I'm looking for the escape hatch. I don't feel at peace with where I am at in life's journey right now. The question is how. David reminded me this week of the words of our beloved Rabbi Linda who held us so close the week that Ezra died: We make plans, and G-d laughs. If Ezra has taught me anything, it's that.
So how to move forward? As wise Gal reminds me frequently, it's about setting intent, pointing my nose in the direction I want to go, and being open to the journey. Yet the emotions leave me feeling stuck, powerless, without a rudder. I never imagined life's journey would be so hard.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
I’ve been thinking a lot about attachments. To dates, to plans, to things. It was a dear friend who pointed out that Ezra doesn’t get a 6 month anniversary this month – there‘s no 29th (death day) or 30th (birth day) in February. I can’t decide if I am sad or relieved. Those days are so hard, marking the time since Ezra was still safe within my belly. Half a year, and Ezra feels so far away now. Sure there are days or moments when he feels so close, so connected. And yet time marches on. I said to David the other day that I am dreading reaching the moment at which he’s been gone for longer than he lived.
Ezra is teaching me about letting go of attachments. And I’m not a very good student. I kick and scream, cry and remonstrate. And yet gently he points me in this direction. Ezra and I had some long talks (in my head) about making way for the spirit of a new baby to join us. And I thought we had reached an understanding. I thought I would be pregnant again by now, with what I’m still convinced will be his little sister. But I need to let go of that attachment. I’m practicing being at peace with the intent, while not beating myself up about not reaching the end goal. I have to keep reminding myself that if Ezra has taught me anything, its that plans are just that….they are what you plan to do, nothing is guaranteed. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to make plans and see them to fruition. And I’ve said before, never has a plan I made fallen so flat on its face. Sometimes the Universe has other ideas.
Which brings me to the topic of anticipation, which Monique and I were discussing recently. All of life seems on hold right now…nothing interests me as much as being a mom right now, and its making me downright cynical. Some unsuspecting soul who hadn’t heard the news of Ezra’s passing came up to me a couple weeks ago and asked ‘how’s motherhood treating you?’ ‘Not as well as I had hoped’ I deadpanned, not skipping a beat, and then I explained. Of course she fled as quickly as possible. Everything just feels stagnant. I’m trying to find little things in which I can take pleasure that aren’t work, grief or baby-making related…and sometimes I am successful. But I’m just having a hard time with the idea that this is my life right now.
And then there’s the issue of all the many pregnant women around me. To my pregnant friends, I do not hate you - I am happy for you, just sad for me…but I’d be lying if I didn’t also admit I’m jealous of you and terrified for you. Of course I hope and pray that all of these babies are born healthy and alive. But so many people seem to take this outcome for granted. They do what I did when I was pregnant, which is block out the possibility that things could go terribly awry, distancing themselves from my horror. It was only a couple months after Ezra was gone that I realized that I knew babylost mamas and papas…and had conveniently “forgot” this information while I carried Ezra. (Of course I didn’t realize quite how many babylost parents I knew…as the cards, emails and calls poured in after he was gone.) When I hear people talk about their unborn babies as if their arrival is a foregone conclusion, I cringe…alarm bells go off in my head. How can you know ME and assume that everything will be ok? I had the perfectly healthy pregnancy until the moment it was not, and Ezra was suddenly gone. And somehow that distance and denial feels like criticism…even though I know it’s not intended that way.
I guess there’s no real point to this post, no moral to the story, other than a little window into the whirl-a-gig that is my mind these days.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Thanks CLC for tagging me for the Honest Scrap Award.
The rules of the award:1) Choose a minimum of 7 blogs that you find brilliant in content or design.2) Show the 7 winners names and links on your blog, and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with "Honest Scrap." Well, there's no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon.3) List at least 10 honest things about yourself.
10 honest things about me:
1. When I was a baby, my mom was convinced I would never learn to talk and yelled at my dad for speaking “baby talk” to me. The family joke is that once I learned to talk, I never stopped talking…Still haven’t.
2. As a kid I was painfully shy. I outgrew that toward the end of high school and ever since have been extremely outgoing. Now I’d like to go back to hiding in my shell.
3. Despite having grown up in the suburbs, I am inherently a city person. My brother is not – he prefers to be in the middle of no where. We call each other city mouse and country mouse.
4. I met my husband two years before we actually started dating – I thought he didn’t like me. He was friends with lots of people I was friends with, but not with me. I don’t doubt he likes me anymore – we love each other to pieces.
5. My commitment to social justice, or the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) has always been part of who I am. I can’t even begin to tell you where or how it began.
6. I’m extremely stubborn. A wonderful trait in some contexts, terrible in others.
7. Despite the fact that everyone close to me always assumed I would be a lawyer, I never wanted to be a lawyer….until I met lawyers who use their degrees to change the world. And so I joined their ranks. Some days, I still question how I ended up here.
8. Our cats (Red and Zora) run our house. We call it the cat ranch. They provide endless entertainment.
9. I am an endless klutz. I trip, drop things, spill things. Particularly if I’m tired. You don’t want to be around me in the kitchen if I’m tired.
10. I love making plans and then seeing them to completion. I planned to be on maternity leave this year. Too bad for me the universe had other ideas.
Monday, February 9, 2009
As time goes on, I have less patience for people in my life who for whatever reason can't be emotionally present with me on this journey. People who don't know about Ezra are hard for me too, and I find despite my better judgment, I end up telling them. Because for me, every day is an Ezra day...I think of him constantly and various emotions take hold. It's as if I have been ripped wide open and have no choice but to share what's inside...its all oozing out anyway. Since Ezra I feel every emotion so much more deeply, the deep sorrow that he is gone, the rage at the chaos of the universe, the fear that perhaps Ezra was my only chance at mamahood, the anger at those who have neglected us in our time of need. I also feel the positive emotions more deeply...my intense love for David has only magnified (if that is possible!), the gratitude for the family and (old and new) friends who have held us up on this journey, the joy when others remember our precious son, and the beauty I recognize in the world around me.
I recently received a letter from a wise babylost mama, written to me on the anniversary of the birth and death of her baby many years ago, which sums it up beautifully:
This reminded me of my many losses and grieving times. If I have any wisdom to impart, it is not from my years of graduate school, the books I poured over, or even the lessons from teachers in my formative years. It is the way I have somehow coped with death, suffering and adversity that has taught me how to live.
You and I appreciate birth and life differently than others. Once you give yourself time to be able to smile at a pregnant woman or baby carriage, it is possible to celebrate little moments of joy and grace with much greater enthusiasm. You are a very passionate woman, and I promise you that the grief will at some moment turn to love, and you will be able to feel a fuller sense of living than others who have not known loss can ever feel.
You and I, who have lost, know the importance of spending every living moment with greater intensity than others could ever imagine. We seize the day, and we know why.
I am not yet able to smile at a pregnant woman or a baby carriage...they are like land mines sprinkled throughout my life. But I know exactly what she means...since Ezra, I live life so much more intensely.
On Saturday I had the opportunity to meet in real life one of my online babylost mama friends. It didn't feel like meeting someone new, after reams of emails back and forth, it feels like we've known each other forever, even though apparently it has only been 6 weeks. Of course she is as lovely and compassionate in real life as I have already come to know. Our sad eyes reflected in each other as we sat and shared our sorrows, disappointments, hopes and expectations. Like everything else, the intensity of my friendships has grown since Ezra.
On Sunday, in an effort to both honor and not think about the birthday I never wanted, David took me to the musical Rent, which happens to currently be showing in Philadelphia. I loved Rent when it came out in the 90s, when I was still living in New York City, the only show I ever saw twice on Broadway. But over the last 5 months, the music has resonated in a new way, filled as it is with love and loss. Since yesterday was a weepy day, of course I cried at various points throughout the performance, which was truly fabulous. My favorite song from the musical is Seasons of Love. Yesterday I was also struck by Without You which seems to sum up loss and grief in such a meaningful way.
Today is not a weepy day, but its a low day...just feeling the intensity of the emotions, and taking it all in.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
There is nothing happy about a birthday when your baby died.
I wish I did not have to turn 34 without Ezra in my arms.
He brought so much joy to my 33rd, its cruel.
I wish I were not 34 and still trying to bring a living baby into the world,
When I long for Ezra in my arms.
I wish I never learned how to feel this much sadness and pain.
The world is just too lonely without Ezra.
I wish I could know the immediate joy of becoming a mom,
Without ever having had it snatched away.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
There'll Be Peace When You Are Done
Lay Your Weary Head To Rest
Don't You Cry No More
This morning I awoke with this song in my head,
I'm not sure why,
Humming just the melody,
I didn't quite know the lyrics
Other than the first line
Which really says it all.
Carry on my wayward son,
I sang in the shower,
on my way to work,
and at my desk.
Both letting my son go,
and calling him home.
I'm learning to understand that contrasts,
even polar opposites,
can exist in the same place.
Like the joy I held being pregnant with Ezra,
And the despair I hold with him not here.
There'll Be Peace When You Are Done
And then at lunchtime,
I was called to the conference room,
and presented with a gift.
Not a gift for me, not really.
A gift for my wayward son, my Ezra.
It was Ezra's blanket.
And I promptly burst into tears.
As my heart filled with joy.
The contrasts ever present.
As I took in the beauty of the blanket's hand-knit coziness,
That Ezra will never know.
Lay Your Weary Head To Rest
There is a tradition in my office,
Each person knits a square in a different pattern,
And they are all sewn together,
Enveloping the new baby with the love of our office family.
I have knit squares for others' babies,
Hoping that one day squares would be knit for mine.
When Ezra died,
I knew that there were likely two blankets being made for him.
I asked if I could have one with which to bury him,
And since this collective one wasn't yet done,
I was told I would get it to keep with me.
I've wondered about it these past 5 months,
But didn't feel I could ask.
I can't imagine how it must have felt,
To finish a blanket for a dead baby.
I am practicing the idea,
That grief can turn to gratitude.
That in my despair,
I can come to appreciate that which is important so much more.
To appreciate special moments
Of course I'd much rather have my son,
In my arms,
Where he belongs.
But in his absence,
I am learning to appreciate what I have.
It is a blessing that I have such special people in my life,
Who held Ezra with love when he was alive,
And hold Ezra in love now that he is gone.
Oh my wayward son...
Don't You Cry No More
Monday, February 2, 2009
I don’t attach much significance to this date.
But it’s the day we found out I was pregnant with Ezra.
Today marks the beginning of an entire year of anniversaries…
Days of great joy, and days of great sorrow.
What a joyous day today was one year ago!
It was a little early to test, but something told me it was time.
I walked a couple blocks down to the main street,
To pick up a birthday gift for my niece,
And stopped at the drug store to pick up a pregnancy test on the way back.
“This is where we keep them, honey” the store clerk explained in response to my query.
I came home and David was on the phone, being interviewed for a radio show.
And so I took the test, and then sat on the couch,
Holding the biggest secret, I’d ever known.
Grinning like the Cheshire Cat.
Until David finally came downstairs,
And I told him he was going to be a Daddy.
And that was only the beginning.
Our joy grew and grew,
As Ezra grew.
First time we heard his heartbeat, first time I felt him move,
First time we saw him on the ultrasound.
What an amazing time.
I had told David that the only thing I wanted for my 33rd birthday,
Was a baby.
We learned I was pregnant just 6 days before I turned 33.
We told our parents on my birthday,
A great celebration,
Not only of my birth,
But of a life that was to be.
I’m dreading my birthday this year,
So cruel and unfair to turn 34,
Without Ezra in my arms.
I wish I could skip my birthday this year
So please don’t wish me a happy day.
Happy Birthday rings so empty this year.
But today, February 2nd
I am remembering joy.
Remembering what it felt to learn of new life inside me.
And I am setting an intent for the coming year.
As difficult as it is in the face of such great sadness and sorrow,
To look for joy,
Joy may have exited the scene for now,
And joy may not be back for quite awhile.
But having tasted joy,
Known pure joy,
I am not prepared to let joy go forever.