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.