Sunday, March 29, 2009

7 months...

These days I've been doing ok...that is until I'm very not ok. I walk along minding my own business, even feeling vaguely content...and then grief snatches me into a side alley and knocks me around a bit...leaving me bruised, battered, lacking in self-confidence. I move along, limping a little, looking over my shoulder, never quite sure when the grief monster will be back.

Today, 7 months since Ezra died, is definitely one of those days. Up until last night I was feeling ok about this anniversary, taking it in stride, realizing that its just a day, just like all the other days for the past 7 months, a day I miss my son. And then I tried to do our taxes (I don't know, TurboTax, DID I have a child in the past year?) and either screwed them up royally or we owe more money than we have (at which point I concluded this is clearly a job for an accountant this year and gave up). And then like a boulder gathering speed as it roles down the mountain, the downward spiral had begun...

It's been 7 months since our lives turned to shit, since it began to feel like everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. Most days I do a pretty good job at reminding myself that all the other crap that life has thrown us in the past 7 months is not in any way connected to Ezra dying. The bad crap would have probably happened anyway, but we would have had more energy to tackle it if Ezra were in our arms, instead of buried in the ground. On the bad days it feels like one big universal conspiracy (even if this isn't really what I believe), and today is one of those days. By tomorrow I'll have it back in perspective again, be ready to take on the world, I'll chip away at the minor annoyances and face the bigger hurdles with optimism...afterall, I now know we can survive anything. But for today I'll wallow.

And yet we still laugh. Today on the way to brunch David and I were talking and one of us used the word "unhappiness"...which for some reason simultaneously and spontaneously launched a musical rendering of our own original song "Unhappiness", sung to the tune of the well known Charlie Brown melody 'Happiness'. Unhappiness is, your baby dying, doing your taxes, losing your job... We erupted into giggles. We have an unbelievable ability to keep each other laughing, even in the worst of times.

It's days like this where my mind wanders to the path not taken, what it would be like if we had a 7 month old in our home instead of in our hearts. We certainly wouldn't have gone out to brunch this morning, at least not to the hipster place we went, there just didn't seem to be babies there. What foods would Ezra be trying? Would I be scraping peas off the floor? Would I be back at work? How would I manage being away from Ezra during the day? A littany of painful questions...for which there are no answers. I don't let myself go down this path too frequently, the gate is closed tight, as tightly as the nursery door in our house, yet I can see vaguely what it might have looked like. I really don't want to know the details.

Yesterday I had the joy of meeting Lucy's mama Angie in real life, helping fulfill my fantasy of a social life involving only babylost parents. Oh how I wish we had met another way, that the tie that binds us was not two very loved and very missed lost babies. Angie carries with her the same energy and creativity that you might expect if you read her blog. I just wish our conversations were consumed with nap schedules and eating habits, not deep sorrow and traumatic memories.

In 4 more weeks Ezra will have been dead for longer than he was alive, I will have known the deepest sorrow imaginable for longer than I knew the deepest joy possible. I keep trying to take myself back to that time, to remember what it felt like, to know only joy, only possibility, only hope. And I gently remind myself that I wouldn't trade having felt that joy for anything, despite the despair that's followed. Trite but true...Alfred Lord Tennyson said it best:
I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;'
Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Guest Post by Ezra's Daddy: Ezra's footprints

Well, yesterday my new dog tag pendant came.  As you can see in the picture on the left, it features an engraving of Ezra's footprints, and his name on the bottom.  I ordered this necklace from a company called My Forever Child.  They specialize in remembrance jewelry for baby lost parents.  

I haven't worn pendants in a long time, and I thought this was the best reason to start doing it again.  Now I have a tangible symbol of my love for my son that I can carry around wherever I go.  Nice!

When I ordered the pendant, I emailed the company a jpeg scan of Ezra's footprints from the hospital.  As you can see, my little boy has flat feet.  No arch support whatsoever.  Ultimately, I'm not sure whether he inherited them from his daddy, given that the men on both sides of his family have flat feet.  So he couldn't win.  But in the end, I'll take credit, or responsibility, for it!

When times are bad, and I find myself in a rough spot, or in the depths of whatever is bothering me, I think of my little peanut boy and those little feet.  He had lots of character and personality, I am sure, lots of laughs and happy days in store for us.   


Monday, March 23, 2009

Kai's Mommy & Daddy

There was another part of our journey to visit my niece that I wanted to save for a separate post. On the way back, we had lunch with Kai's mommy and daddy, the lovely and fabulous Danielle (who still very much needs a blog) and her equally fabulous husband Alan. Over the past several months, Danielle and I have poured our hearts out over email, in the way only babylost mamas can, and in February we finally met in person. I love her dearly, so it is no surprise that the four of us had much to talk about. Kai has such amazing parents! I wish so deeply that Kai were still safe in his mommy's belly where he belongs.

I still can't imagine surviving this journey without the love and support of Danielle and all the other amazing online babylost mamas!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Baby Magic

We've just returned home from our journey to visit my brother, sister-in-law, nephew (23 mos) and my brand new niece (3 weeks old!). As many of you know, I approached this visit with trepidation. I have managed not to meet a single infant since I met Ezra. I have systematically avoided meeting infants, let alone brand new newborns. And ever since I received the call that my niece was born screaming into the world, I have had this sinking feeling...knowing that I wanted desparately to meet her, but doubting sincerely I could handle it. In the weeks since her birth I have studied her photo, tried to imagine myself holding her, and always, the lump in my throat grew and the tears welled in my eyes. Each time I tried to envision myself holding this little girl, all I could think of was holding Ezra, and how he's no longer here. I expected to melt into a puddle on the floor.

And then we went to visit. She's the pinkest, sweetest, roundest little girl I've ever seen. She nestled in my arms, peaceful, serene. It's no wonder her name is Dalia, which means 'gentle' in Hebrew. She is such a gentle presence and she did my heart and soul a world of good. I didn't cry once while holding her, just felt her snuggle against me and felt the deepest loving peace imaginable. Not only did I hold her, I couldn't put her down! Except for when she was feeding or when it was night time and I was sleeping, I pretty much held her every second I could of the three days we were there.

It wasn't obvious that this was how the visit would go. As recently as the day before we left, I was coming out of the coffee shop near my work, and ran into a law school classmate with a tiny newborn strapped to her chest -- her third child since we graduated 6 years ago. It was a particularly bad morning for me anyway - sleep deprived from insomnia, PMS, and running completely late - but the conversation went like this: Hi Sarah, how ARE you? Sarah: Hi SuzyQ. And I kept walking out that door. Took one look at that baby and ran away. Out on the street, tears in my eyes, I began to wonder how in the world I expected myself to handle sleeping under the same roof as a newborn when I can't even see one on the street!

But Dalia is different. Yes she's family, and I knew about her and looked forward to her arrival long before I lost Ezra. But that doesn't explain it all. I haven't met any of the new babies born to friends or family since Ezra died, I still don't want to. Dalia might just be a little bit magic. Little does she know that her tiny soul restored some of my faith in myself, my confidence. She brought me such peace.

David was certainly relieved that I didn't melt into a pool of tears, and he was pleasantly surprised that he too was at peace around Dalia. The first night we were there, as we were going to bed, David said to me that perhaps I needed to meet Dalia to open myself up enough to allow the spirit of our next little one to join us. I think he's absolutely right.

My nephew Evan also brought a lot of joy and fun to our visit. He is talking lots now and was thrilled to see that we arrived in a "blue car"...his "blue car" being one of his favorite toys these days.

Here's some photos from our visit.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Remembering Bianca

Ezra's daddy's friend Bill is remembering his sweet daughter Bianca this week, her 23rd birthday. He wrote a beautiful remembrance of her here.
Thank you Bill, for sharing your sweet Bianca with us. We know she is very loved and very missed.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Guest Post by Ezra’s Daddy: It’s hard to walk in a straight line when you’re blindfolded

Ezra’s Mommy asked me if I wanted to write another guest post. I haven’t written here in awhile, so I thought it was a good idea.

There’s lots to sort out when you’re dealing with the death of a child, I’ve found. Since we lost Ezra, I’ve learned that my tolerance level is not nearly as high as it used to be— tolerance for everyday life’s nuisances and inconveniences, for the things that you’re forced to deal with, but would rather not because the grief just takes up too much emotional and psychic space. Really, it can be anything, such as social niceties and small talk, a particular annoying person, or dealing with unwelcome news, or filling out long forms, you name it.

This week, I’ve had this stream of consciousness about things that really annoy me. I’m annoyed that with so much human suffering in this country right now, some companies such as AIG (= “Ain’t I Greedy?”) are awarded multibillion dollar bailout packages, only to spend it on multimillion dollar bonuses for failed executives. I’m anxious about the recession and what the future will bring. I’m annoyed over conspicuous insults to my intelligence, and invitations to provide my labor and my expertise at bargain basement prices, as if I were twenty years younger with no life experiences, as if I had never earned my two costly, fancy pants Ivy League degrees, or that certificate from that old university across the pond that comes straight out of a Harry Potter movie. I’m annoyed over conservative blowhards and liberal racists. I’m annoyed by “do gooder” organizations that pride themselves on helping underprivileged people, yet cannot manage to hire a single staff member who looks like their client base (or who looks like the President or the First Lady, for that matter).  

Yesterday evening, I was ruminating over this random assortment of issues when the doorbell rang. A middle-aged Black woman stood there with a small box and a picture of a beautiful baby girl. The woman told me that she saw my light was on, so she thought she would ring my bell. She explained that the photo was of her granddaughter, who had just died from crib death. The box was for donations, because the family was trying to collect money to cover the cost of the burial. My heart melted, and I told her that I was very sorry for her loss, and that we had lost my son last year as well. I gave her a contribution, and told her a number of times again how sorry I was that she lost her granddaughter.

The woman left, and as I felt her grief, then it hit me—I just miss my boy, that’s all. I really miss that little peanut boy. The pain is much different from a few months ago, when it was all-encompassing, debilitating, a large gaping hole that sucked all of the joy and all of the life out of me. Now, the gaping hole is still there, but now I am faced with trying to live with the hole, perhaps attempting to partially fill it up when I can, and incorporating the hole into my daily life. The past six months have thrown me off of my bearings, and now I am trying to play catch up, trying to figure out my purpose, and what my life means to me and to others now that the ground has shifted under my feet. It’s hard to walk in a straight line when you’re blindfolded, but I have no other choice.  

And later this year, we’ll set Ezra’s grave stone, just as the ancestors in the Jewish branch of his family tree had planned it. But what does the future hold? I don’t know. Who really knows? But I will try my best to live it just as vigorously as I buried my son with that shovel back in September.  

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Practicing Compassion, Forgiveness and Patience

This weekend I attended a meditation shabbaton (or retreat) with Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg from the Institute for Jewish Spirituality. She teaches mindfulness meditation through Jewish practice and prayer. I have to admit that this is not the sort of thing I would likely have spent a whole weekend doing in my life before Ezra. But I have found that through loss we also find growth, and I find myself doing and trying all sorts of new things, like my new found love of accupuncture (this from a woman who is terrified of needles) or practicing meditation (this from a woman who usually needs to be busy or on the go at all times). The theme for the weekend was Compassion and Healing, and it just seemed like where I needed to be.

The weekend was structured as a series of services that were really groupings of guided meditation exercises. The themes were drawn from this week's Torah portion where God's attributes are named...Compassion, Forgiveness, Patience among others.

Friday Rabbi Sheila acknowledged how hard mindfulness meditation can be. People imagine that you meditate and your mind takes you to a beach with palm trees and warm sun. But sometimes, she said, meditation is like being in a phone booth with someone talking on a bull horn. Sometimes being alone with your thoughts is hard.

Rabbi Sheila taught that the attributes of God are really attributes we should practice in ourselves. In this week's Torah portion, after Moses receives the Ten Commandments, he asks to see the face of God -- God says no, that Moses will die if he sees God's face, though he allows Moses to see his back. Rabbi Sheila shared a reading (by someone I cannot remember) which says trying to see the face of God is like trying to bite your own teeth, like sniffing your own nose. It cannot be done. God is us. And we are God.

And so Friday and Saturday I spent hours creating space in mind for what these attributes mean for me right now. Compassion. Why is it easier for me to be compassionate with others than with myself? Forgiveness. Can I really forgive myself for losing Ezra? Can I forgive the many friends and family who have been unwilling or unable to be fully present in the face of such devasation? Patience. How can I learn to be patient with myself when the despair overwhelms? Creating the space for these thoughts became overwhelming at times, and the lump in my throat grew and the tears fell.

The week that Ezra died, I wrote a poem which ends:

So now as we recite the Kaddish in your memory each night;
The words of the prayer stick in my throat so tight.
How many times have I said this prayer for the dead?
But I just cannot stand the prayer being read.

Ezra, I never expected to say Kaddish for you;
I just want you here to hold and rock and coo.
Daddy and I just want you know;
That we miss you terribly and love you so.

These last 6 1/2 months, saying Kaddish hasn't gotten any easier. The words still stick in my throat, and it is rare that I can finish the prayer before the tears well over. Our congregation has a tradition where those that are saying Kaddish stand and say the person's name they are remembering out loud before the prayer is said. Just saying Ezra's name in this context brings a lump to my throat. I have been saying this prayer my whole life, for my grandparents and other ancestors...but how is it possible I now say Kaddish for my son?

The other hard part about saying the Kaddish is that it isn't a prayer about death at all, it is an affirmation of God: Let God's name be made great and holy in the world that was created as God willed, it begins. It is also a prayer about peace: May the one who creates harmony above, make peace for us and for all Israel, and for all who dwell on earth, it ends. It has been a struggle to find affirmation or peace in the wake of a loss so devastating and traumatic.

During Saturday's meditations, the emotions became overwhelming and the tears began to fall long before we reached the Kaddish toward the end of the service. By the time we were saying the prayer, the tears had turned to sobs, the wailing of my soul that I've only experienced since Ezra. A kind woman offered a tissue, another rubbed my back. But the flood gates had opened.

And then something amazing happened. As the service ended, we were all asked to gather standing in the center. Still teary eyed, I lingered on the outer part of the circle, but was quickly pulled to the center by one of the women who had led the prayer service one of the nights we sat shivah. There in the center, still crying, I was literally held by community, arms of strangers wrapped around me, beautiful prayers being said. This is what it means to practice compassion I realized, to be held by strangers and friends, to be in a space where the tears can fall, to be allowed to speak my son's name. This is what it means to practice the attributes of God.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Do You Know the Way to New Hope?

It wasn’t until the night before we left for our weekend getaway that I realized the obvious irony of the plan we had made. We were going to a town called New Hope. We weren’t aiming for irony…scheduling this past weekend’s escape was an act of rebellious self-preservation…since we can’t afford a real vacation right now, we figured a weekend away, even if we could barely afford that, would bring some much needed peace, allow us to feel like the young vibrant couple we supposedly are, despite the crushing weight of the sorrow we now carry. But yes, we could use some new hope too.

We arrived late morning, dropping our bags at the B&B that was to be our home for the evening, and set off in search of the path, the tow path that runs along what was once the
Delaware canal. Finding the access point, we set off in the direction we thought (hoped) was town, looking forward to a walk, and possibly lunch.

Twenty minutes into our walk we realized we hadn’t even bothered to ask how far we were from town, how long it would take or even definitively whether we were heading the right direction. What had started as a well-maintained gravel path quickly gave way to mud and muck, and we began to wonder if we were doing this right. I have always had innate sense of direction, but since Ezra, I fight back demons of failure daily, which threaten all of my competencies, not just my baby-making skills. The couple times we saw other people on the path, we asked for reassurance,
Is this the way to New Hope?

And yet, as with every other moment of this journey since Ezra, we held each other’s hand tight and slogged through the mud…and after what we later learned was 4.5 miles, we reached the town, enjoyed a quiet lunch and headed back, more assured on the muddy path before us.

No epiphany happened this weekend, no sudden moment of healing. But away from home, breathing different air and taking in new things, we did feel a little lighter, a bit more playful.

There’s a change I’ve noticed in myself for at least the past week, very subtle but its there. I am noticing a new energy in myself, I feel physically better, healthier, lighter. This month I’m more hopeful and at peace with our efforts to bring a younger sibling for Ezra into this world. Ezra feels farther away than ever now, I feel like I have been the mother of a dead baby for a lifetime, not 6 months and a week. Emotionally I am still (and will likely always be) completely shattered…I am not the same person I was before. The pain of losing Ezra is deep within my core and that hole in my heart will always be there. I am awakened to new layers of that pain daily. I still pry myself from the bed each morning, lie there wondering how life became such a heavy burden. And the same dark emotions of despair, rage, anxiety, jealousy bubble up each day with the same intensity as before. Yet this new energy is there, expectation, I can’t explain how or why.
Is this what people mean when they say time heals?

When we reached the town of New Hope, there was no signal of our arrival, no arrow to point the way. In fact, we missed the turn over a small bridge that would take us into the center of town; we were hailed back in the right direction by an elderly couple walking behind us. Sitting at lunch we reveled in our accomplishment, we had made it this far, even though we knew we still had a long walk back. This journey of grief has taken us places we never expected to go, places we didn’t know existed, places for which there is no clear path or map. So far we’ve survived just by holding each other tight. As we set out to return, we noticed large white signs with bold red lettering, which hadn’t been there in the other direction: ‘Tow Path Closed for Dredging.’ Laughing, we grabbed each other’s hand and just kept walking...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

To honor our babies?

No less than 5 healthy live babies have been born to family and friends in the past week. I'm convinced I've experienced every possible emotion in response...happiness, relief, sadness, jealousy, anger. Certainly I don't wish membership in this dead baby mama club on anyone...I am happy for these lucky parents, I'll just never understand why we didn't get our happy ending too.

And then a thought occurred to me: could I buy a gift for these babies that honors my baby, or rather all of our lost babies? I thought about
C's post about the amazing and beautiful sling which honors her son Callum and raises money for stillbirth research. I would love to be able to buy a gift for a live healthy baby that helps give voice to our babies, and raises money to prevent stillbirth or infant death. Like a wood toy or a rattle - does it exist?

My own furious google searching along with input from several of my amazing babylost mama friends didn't reveal much. Both
Angel Names and First Candle have relationships with various vendors where a portion of the proceeds will be donated to these organizations; but nothing about the gift you purchase informs the person who receives it that this contribution was made. March of Dimes has a store which features various products. There are also companies that make items for grieving families, but these wouldn't be appropriate for a live baby.

I guess the lack of options out there begs the question - is this idea insane? Is it completely morbid to think of buying deadbaby gifts for live babies? And what is my motivation anyway - is my desire to give such gifts an act of generosity and compassion, or is it an act of bitterness and jealousy?

What do you think? And do you know of any products out there? And to my 'lurkers' who I know read but never comment (both babylost mama & non), feel free to weigh in on this one.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Comfort of Children

With very few exceptions, somehow I have managed to avoid spending time with babies and young children for the past 6 months. It's just been too painful a reminder that my Ezra isn't here. The special exceptions have been my nephews and niece (not the new one, haven't met her yet) and the children of my dearest friends. I've placed an absolute ban on infants, which will of course be broken in a few weeks when I go meet my new niece. This actually makes me very sad - I have always loved babies and children, and have always said that nothing makes me feel more whole than holding a small child.

And then today I made a new friend. At a gathering at a colleague's house, her 21 month old son, who had never met me before, walked into the crowded room, pointing at me, and motioned to the stairs - he wanted to go up and needed a hand to hold. And so I took his hand and up we went - until half way when he looked up at me and said 'up!' raising his arms above his head. When we got to the top and I went to put him down in the room where his brothers were playing, he said 'no' and pointed back to the stairs - so down we went. We made our way into the kitchen and spent a pleasant 20 minutes or so - him perched on my hip and nuzzled into my shoulder, eating dried cranberries which he requested one by one from atop a salad that was laid out on the counter. Until his dad came and took him so he could eat a more proper lunch.

I can't quite explain the warm cozy feeling I had holding this child, the energy he radiated. Certainly he was not my Ezra, and lately I have a hard time imagining Ezra at any age but slightly preemie newborn anyways. He was himself, testing his independence yet still needing the comfort of an adult nearby. And though it didn't last long, his snuggly goodness made me feel whole. In fact, I dare say it gave me hope.