Thursday, April 30, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
To all those friends whose calls I haven't returned, or whose emails have taken days to get a response, I'm sorry. I just need some space to myself right now. Dealing with the outside world, even loving friends and family, takes a lot of emotional energy when you're grieving. I know a lot of people assume I'm "better" because I'm taking on so much at work, able to be social and smile throughout my work day. I am able to laugh again, and mean it. But just functioning in this way takes every ounce of my energy, leaving me so very depleted for what is most healing, which is time to myself (for writing, reading, reflection, yoga) and time with David.
I can feel the grief changing, but in reality, I am changing, on almost a molecular level. I will never be the same person I was before losing Ezra. I carry with me a layer of sadness even when I am happy. The things that used to bring me the most joy, like pregnant friends and tiny babies, bring me terror, anxiety, jealousy, pain. Whereas before I was self-confident and outgoing, I am fragile now, needing the people around me to be so much more attentive to my cues as to whether I can handle a topic of conversation or not, want to talk or don't want to talk....and when people fail to follow those cues I crumble afterwards in disappointment and tears. And though I don't talk about it much, my feelings of failure and shame around losing Ezra follow me everywhere I go. I miss my son every moment of every day - even when to the outside observer it might seem he's the last thing on my mind. I know deeply in my heart that all of this will never change - I am changed forever.
I feel a disconnect with so many of my friends and family, even those who have tried their hardest to prop me up and show me love on this journey - sometimes it is clumsy love but I do know its love. I have felt anger and disappointment at friends and family who haven't been able to be there in the ways I need...and yet I understand that this loss and its aftermath are so horrific, so devastating, that I may be asking too much. My intent is forgiveness...and I know my heart will follow.
I know I am also changing in positive ways. It used to be so hard for me to admit that anything positive could come from Ezra's death. I am a more compassionate person. I am more attentive to all the sadness and pain around me, and more attentive than ever to bringing healing to all I can. I am redefining community in such meaningful ways, particularly my amazing babylost community. I am more spritual, more connected to the universe. I love deeper.
For now there may be silence. I need to figure out for myself what it means to move forward in the world now that Ezra is dead...my hopes and dreams as I imagined them are dead. I need space to hope new hopes and dream new dreams.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
the one where I have a beautiful 8 month old son,
and sweet baby Kai was arriving safely into his beautiful parents' arms today.
Oh Danielle and Alan I wish we never had to meet.
and yet I can't imagine surviving this journey without you.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I am so functional these days, I step back and I’m amazed.
Working hard, producing a lot.
Everyone says how good I look, how well I seem.
I don’t feel well. But I act well.
My grief has compartmentalized, it doesn’t spill into everything anymore.
It took nearly 8 months, but I finally cleaned out my favorite work bag
The one I had with me the day Ezra died
It’s been sitting in a corner
Untouched. I couldn’t bring myself to look inside.
Here’s what I found:
One set of hospital discharge papers.
The book I was reading, The Happiest Baby on the Block
2 rolls of tums
1 bottle of Tylenol
1 protein bar
Everything a very pregnant lady might need,
Before she became the saddest mama on the block.
I have a new client, she’s 5 months pregnant.
Her due date is August 30th, Ezra’s birthday.
She’s delivering at the same hospital he was born.
I had a healing massage.
I told the massage therapist about Ezra.
He told me good things come from the bad, he is living proof.
His mama had a 1 year old son who drowned in a pool.
She was pregnant with twins at the time and she miscarried.
He wouldn’t be here if his older brother hadn’t died.
Another client was so grateful her newborn son was returned to her care,
She told me she was hysterical when they took him away,
You just can’t imagine what it was like...
Oh sweetheart, you don’t know what I can imagine.
Ezra has a spot at our favorite day care.
Where I live, day care wait lists are a competitive sport.
I knew I should have called and told them my son was dead.
Somehow I just hoped I could make that call with good news too,
news of a younger sibling on the way.
But the spirit of that little one isn’t ready to join us yet.
I know she will when the time is right.
I listen to the news, the ‘Noooo!’ building in my head but not in my throat.
And so I am caught off guard, sobbing and wailing in my office.
The door not closed quickly enough to stop the world from hearing my cry.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
I carry him wherever I go…
What else can I do?
Hello again, my little man, it has been eight months since you left us,
Physically that is,
When we planted you in the cold, cold ground,
Just as many months as when you called your Mommy home,
Time sure flies when you’re grieving, it appears,
Except when it feels like an eternity of pain.
I remember that day just as if it were the worst day of all time,
Probably because it was.
Seeing you there, helpless and peaceful, tragic and comical,
How confusing to reconcile, it is—
The profound joy over seeing you for the first time,
With an abysmal sadness because it would be the last.
I never could hold a baby correctly, your Mommy can attest to that,
Seemed awkward for me, strained and a bit unnatural.
Yet the moment I saw you, something snapped into place,
And I knew what to do for my son,
And I held your head up, like the delicate and fragile treasure you are.
I carry you wherever I go…
Because I have no other choice.
The day we buried you,
And sent you back to your ancestors for safe keeping,
I had never thought I would have such an experience in life,
Placing you in that tiny casket,
But you were not alone—
You had your toy mouse to keep you company,
And your wool blanket to keep you warm in that cold, cold ground,
And your alligator suit for comfy sleeping,
Which fit nicely over your white shroud, in deference to your ancestors—
Because you have to meet them properly, with respect—
And a picture of your Mommy and Daddy,
So you won’t forget where you come from.
We got to read you “Goodnight Moon” before you left,
It was the least we could do, it was the best we could do,
It was all we could do, and it was all we needed to do,
And when I buried you in the ground, I shoveled that dirt
With all of the force I had in me,
As if I were shoveling for my life,
When I was really shoveling in honor of yours,
A memory of hiccups in your Mommy’s belly,
Of kicks when your Daddy talked to you,
Those long conversations we had, part knowledge and wisdom
Imparted to you,
Part silliness and games I shared with you,
Because you inherited your Daddy’s sense of humor,
Not to mention his lack of arch support—
Oh, those flat feet!—
And his curly black hair when he had curly black hair,
On his head and not just his beard, that is.
Never knew you’d have such character so early on.
I carry him wherever I go…
This I must do for him.
I had dreams of carrying you wherever I go,
Like that very first time I saw you,
I had dreams of carrying you to the store and to the park.
Now I must settle with carrying your picture in my pocket,
And your footprints engraved on the necklace around my neck,
So that when times are tough and unbearable—
And believe me they are,
And they will be again sometime soon—
You will give me comfort.
Some think I should forget about you, tho’ they’d never say it,
These things are for the best, it’s God’s way,
You couldn’t have been too attached to him, they’d say.
Plus, it’s always harder on the mother, you know.
But never underestimate a father’s pain
Over the loss of his child,
Whether by earthquake, famine, fire or flood,
Or unknown causes, or war, or through the barrel of a gun,
When I see you walking down the street, Babylost Daddy,
I’ll nod my head in acknowledgement,
No need for words,
And our pain goes beyond words, there’s nothing left to say,
And yet I have to write about it, must have a written account of this,
Of what happened those several months ago,
And what continues to happen in my mind, and in my heart.
So, we carry them wherever we go…
This we must do, in our mind, in our heart, in our pocket,
And even around our neck,
When we can no longer carry them in our arms.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
I've talked before about the narcissism of grief, the way I seem to have no choice but to see everything through the lens of our loss these days. But I never before have focused on how much birth connected to death there is in the Passover story -- and so it caught me by surprise last night. First Pharoah enslaves the Jews and then orders that the Hebrew midwives kill all the boys who are born; fearing God they don't do it (and when Pharoah asks them why they say Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women: they are vigorous. Before the midwife can come to them, they have given birth). So Pharoah orders all the Egyptian people to help, and throw every first born Hebrew boy into the Nile. The Pharoah is evil personified -- imagine the Hebrews' grief at arbitrarily and cruelly losing every first born boy.
I don't have to imagine, I know.
Then there's Moses' mother, who after birthing her son saw how beautiful he was and hid him for three months (don't blame her!). So she creates a little boat for him out of a wicker basket and places him amongst the reeds of the Nile. Her sister waits and watches while the Pharoah's daughter comes down to the river and finds Moses; her sister offers to find a "Hebrew nurse" to be the child's wetnurse and thus Moses' mother is still able to be with her son.
When Moses grows up, God charges him and his brother Aaron with challenging Pharoah and persuading him to let the Hebrews go free. God tells Moses: Then you shall say to the Pharoah, 'Thus says the Lord: Israel is My first-born son. I have said to you, "let My son go, that he may worship Me," yet you refuse to let him go. Now I will slay your first-born son. The entire people of Israel are God's first-born son, so if Pharoah will not release them, God will kill Pharoah's first born.
A first born son is precious.
Pharoah does not listen to Moses and Aaron's pleas and so God begins to bring plagues upon the Egyptians to show his power: blood, frogs, lice, insects, pestilence, inflammation, hail, locusts, darkness...none of these convince Pharoah to release the Hebrew people from slavery. And so God deals a final blow:
In the middle of the night the Lord struck down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharoah who sat on the throne to the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of the cattle. And Pharoah arose in the night, with all his courtiers and all the Egyptians -- because there was a loud cry in Egypt; for there was no house where there was not someone dead. He summoned Moses and Aaron in the night and said "Up, depart from among my people, you and the Israelites with you! Go, worship the Lord as you said! Take also your flocks and your herds, as you said, and begone! And may you bring a blessing upon me also! (Ex. 12:29-32)
This passage sends chills down my spine and a lump to my throat...for there was no house where there was not someone dead. I can imagine that loud cry in Egypt...it is my wailing for Ezra magnified by the thousands.
Monday, April 6, 2009
What is the opposite of the Midas touch? Of course, I’m talking about King Midas, the man of folklore who turned everything he touched into gold. These days, I feel as if I have the opposite of that. I’ll call it the Anti-Midas touch. Everything that I touch turns to crap, to junk, to garbage— use your favorite word.
Everything seems to occur in groups. Good things seem to happen in groups of two, three or four. So too do bad things, tragic events, incidents, bad news, you name it. I have also found that every number of years, perhaps every few years, sometimes five to ten, there is a flashpoint, a turning point in my life that helps to define my life or career, and charts the course for everything that follows. In 1984 it was living with a Japanese family in Tokyo, and being accepted to college. In 1987 it was being verbally and physically harassed by an inebriated alumnus at the college football game. In 1989, it was my first job after college. In 1996, it was my first job with a nonprofit organization. In 1997, it was my guest appearance on MSNBC—for two hours. The next year, it was traveling to the UK and speaking at Oxford, Cambridge and a dozen other universities on behalf of Amnesty International. In 2000, it was starting law school and meeting Ezra’s Mommy.
Anyway, on a serious note, one day I was in the office when this woman came through the door in tears. She told me that she was picking up her daughter from school, and was sitting in her parked car, waiting for her daughter, when she was approached by some police officers. There was a verbal exchange, and suddenly she found herself handcuffed, called filthy names by the officers, physically accosted, and taken to the local police precinct. At the station house, she was forced to strip search down to her underwear in front of the cops (male and female), and was locked up behind bars. She was released after several humiliating hours. This was this woman’s defining moment. She did not fold or flounder, but rather was able to find her destiny and prevail.
Back to the Midas analogy. I can’t help but think that losing Ezra is one of those defining moments in my life that has made me, and will continue to make me, a fundamentally different person. It has been the single most traumatic experience in my life. It seems that since Ezra’s death, a number of bad things, and a full array of both major and minor annoyances, have happened to me, to us, in bunches. They seem to pile on each day. To be honest, some good things have happened, but it seems that far more bad has happened than good. And the bad things are that much harder to stand because Ezra is not here.
It is bad to have to be annoyed by trivialities when you have just buried your son. It is hard to grieve properly while going through a job search, and it is hard to be excited about career development while you are in mourning—and in a recession. It is tough to be told you’re overqualified—and feel as if you have to apologize for it— after you’ve been taught your whole life to do all that you can do— to go for everything, be the most that you can be, and the best at whatever you choose to do. It is frustrating to feel as if you are getting a lot done yet still spinning your wheels, and that everything you do at the moment in life appears to be for naught. It is rough to feel as though you are shouting in a room full of people and no one is listening, and everyone is ignoring you and whatever it is you have to say. It is that much harder when your boy is lost and you can’t find him, except for that picture on your desk, that pendant around your neck, that lump in your throat, and that feeling in your heart. And it is harder when you’re constantly told that the loss of a baby is especially hard for the mother.
This past weekend was the citywide Philly Spring Clean-up Day. Ezra’s Mommy and I were volunteering in our neighborhood, helping the local community development group with the work on a new garden. I was pounding away at old bricks with a hammer, breaking them down for use in the garden’s pathway. Ezra’s Mommy was helping to lay the bricks. As I was breaking the bricks with the brick breaking team and channeling my inner chain gang member (or stonemason, not sure which), Mayor Michael Nutter, the mayor of our fine city of Philadelphia, visited our group. He came there to plant a tree in the new community garden. He approached me as I was pounding away, shook my hand and asked me: ”What are you doing?” I thought to myself, “I haven’t the faintest idea!” After I explained, the Mayor planted the tree and posed for some photos with the group. As he was leaving with his entourage, I said good-bye to him, and we gave each other the Obama-style fist bump. It was a surreal experience, even more surreal because it was about the fourth time I’ve shaken hands with the Mayor, but the first time while breaking bricks.
The experience that day, helping with the community garden, reminded me that sometimes, everything I touch doesn’t necessarily turn to crap. For one day, at least, I was able to forget about all that was before me, all the pain, hardship, uncertainty, fear and sorrow, and just help out and have fun. Just like the old days. And as I look forward to the day when I get my mojo back, I know that Little Peanut Boy will help get me back to that place.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
This change became apparent at an appointment with a new doctor this week...the nurse had taken a full medical history (preeclampsia, placental abruption, stillbirth now etched forever into THAT story) and the doctor was reviewing it with me. "So you had a delivery in August, and that was uncomplicated?" his voice said, singsong. "No, it was very complicated. My baby died. He was born still" I said solidly, as I could see him reading the next lines on the page and realizing his mistake. "Oh that's tough" came the reply and he moved onto a new topic. There were no tears. There wasn't even rage. I expect this kind of insensitivity. I expect that people will say something stupid, or stupidly not say something.
There's something to my recurrent fantasy lately, the one where I live in a village of only babylost parents. I'm tired of explaining myself, don't feel like I should have to anymore. Actually I'm just tired. I feel like I've been sad forever.
We've been watching a lot of movies lately and I've been reading a lot more than before. It's the escape into a different narrative that's comforting, of forgetting about this grief journey, even if just for an hour or two.
This retreat is not necessarily apparent - I'm taking on more than ever at work, volunteering in the community. I smile, I chat, even go out for a beer once in awhile. But I don't want to talk about how I'm feeling, not most of the time.
And still, nothing brings more joy to my heart than when someone mentions my son's name, my Ezra. I miss him more than ever, I just don't want to talk about it right now.