Thursday, October 30, 2008

Another Breath

And with another breath
I continue
with thoughts of
how I wish it were
and thoughts of
how it is

And with another breath
I am
filled with sorrow that
I am a mother without a
living child
I am a mother whose love
for her child is expressed
on the wind
with another breath

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wishes for Fat with Live Baby

Here's the thing, I've lost 25 pounds. It feels amazing, but I'm struggling. How I wish to be fat and unhappy with a silly thing like weight and have the hard-won joy of raising my live baby--Caitlin. When my daughter died I lost a good deal of weight because I couldn't remember to eat, then I couldn't stop trying to fill myself up. I knew it was happening and helpless to stop it. I just wanted my baby back and I couldn't think about food, I could just eat it. Well, as I grew stronger, I decided that I was ready to pay attention. My goal was only to be mindful of what I ate and try to continue to give attention to my grief. That was 14 weeks ago, and with paying attention and being mindful I've lost 25 pounds.

But I have this voice, "This success cannot make you happy." And you know, that's true. Though, weight has always been a struggle, it's not been a source of happiness. I want to feel happy about this though, I'm having trouble allowing myself to enjoy it. Just doesn't feel right. It's another example of bargaining too. If only, I could trade this success for the life of my child. I conclude: Feeding myself did not fill the hole and losing weight provides barely a bridge over that hole. And I continue to struggle to make myself whole again.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Grandma's Quilt

The MISS Foundation published "Grandma's Quilt: A Healing Metaphor" in the Sept/Oct newsletter. I read somewhere that you have to tell your own story for hundreds of times before your own heart and mind understand and believe. So, thanks MISS for providing a place for our story and helping us to heal. I printed a copy of it and placed it lovingly in Caitlin's memory book. "I miss you baby girl. I love you."

[Click HERE to read the full story on p. 4 of the newsletter.]

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How Odd

We delivered Caitlin's Gifts to the hospital NICU a couple days ago.


It felt wonderful to give her gifts, to see nurses, staff, doctors, and others who knew her and us, and meet those who hadn't met her. I would have loved to have seen and hugged every nurse who cared for Caitlin, but I must admit, it would have done me in emotionally.There is healing in giving and we were happy to do this, and were so grateful that friends and family contributed and helped make it a truly special day for our family.

DH and I reflected on Caitlin's Gifts and our visit the rest of the day and next. The drive back from the hospital was bittersweet. i couldn't help but think, that once again I was leaving the hospital without my baby. I watched some families with newborns in their car seats, with balloons in hand and out the door to home. And I couldn't help but stare at them in wonder. "How does that happen?--to take a live baby home, so odd." I kept watching and wondering, "what is that like?" The families were so happy, but they looked like it was all quite normal. And I felt like an outsider, an alien, and a stranger to life with this distracted thought, "how odd."


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Disappointed with Paul Olsen

So, I'm thinking about love and a mother's love and a children's book, I created a tune to ("Mama, Mama" by Jean Marzollo) that I sang to Caitlin in the hospital and the illustrations in this book are simply beautiful and tender and, well, wonderful. So, I'm messing with the blog tonight and I see Paul Olsen's "Loving Animal Mother POD," and I think, "That's lovely, I'd like to see pics of animal mamas and babies."

So, I click and try to add, and well,---this sucks for a bereaved mother---the link is broken.

So, I frowned, I mean really frowned, the brow is still furrowed, and I felt a bit of disappointment with Paul Olsen. I hope he fixes the broken link soon. If only other broken links could be fixed as well . . . . if only. . . . .

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Echo In My Soul

As Caitlin's death date approaches, I find I am swept away with grief. "It sounds an echo in my soul" is a lyric from the recessional hymn at Caitlin's funeral. It isn't death that echos there, but love and the music that is all that has the power to connect us here in this life.

Music was very important to us during Caitlin's short life. I sang to her constantly in the hospital. I made a recording of songs for the nurses to play for her when I couldn't be there. And as we walked out the door to go to the funeral, I grabbed the digital recorder that laid by her head so she could hear her mama's voice. I recorded her eulogy and many of the songs. I remember thinking, that I needed to be as present as possible. "I must pay attention," I thought, "and I must remember."

After the last post about "How Can I Keep From Singing," I trudged through the files on my computer and listened to those recordings again. The tears flowed, but that's love. I've drawn together some pictures, all from my camera on this grief journey and added the first verse of the recessional hymn at her funeral. I don't know how I sang, and in some places, I didn't--I just knew that I had to sing her out of the church as I sang her into heaven just days earlier.

To view click the butterfly.

View this montage created at One True Media
Echo in My Soul 10/18/08

Friday, October 17, 2008

How Can I Keep From Singing?

The pain of this bereft heart of mine has reached a terrible place. I've been trying to sing again. I promised Caitlin I would. Singing would heal us and keep our connection tangible by connecting my earthly world to her heavenly one. But, I find the experience of singing again to be like swallowing rocks.

In choir tonight we sang beautiful arrangements of lullabies for Christmas. I choked. Then a baby cried and I became frozen. The rest of the rehearsal was for me to remember the night my baby cried, horribly. The night I knew that she was in pain. The fear that engulfed me wasn't even recognizable, because, well, I always thought in the end it would be OK. She would live. She didn't and the last I saw her conscious she was crying and in pain. Then I sang to her until she passed in my arms. That night and into the next day, I would sing her to heaven and I begged her to be there to sing to me when it was my time. But, tonight, I think, I can't continue. And I didn't, I left rehearsal at the break.

I sang myself home with one of the hymns I used to sing to her in the hospital--the one our friends and family sang at her funeral. Sorry I can only include the lyrics, it's not really a song without the melody to carry the meaning so your heart can understand, but here are the words, lifeless, all the same.

My life goes on in endless song
Above earth's lamentation
I hear the real, the far off hymn
That hails a new creation
Through all life's tumult, pain, and strife
I hear my music ringing
It sounds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing

What though the tempest around me roars
I know the truth it liveth
What though the darkness round me close
Songs in the night it bringeth
No one can shake my in most calm
When to this rock I'm clinging
For Love is lord 'or heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing

Monday, October 13, 2008

Thoughts on "Exact Replica" by McCracken

I finished Elizabeth McCracken's book, "An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination" last night. I took a long break after reading the first two chapters, but last night, I decided that I should finish it. Not because it was a page-turner for me, at least not in the sense of that "just can't put it down to find out how it ends" way, because I know how it ends. It doesn't. Once again, life goes on, but so does death. But, I wanted to finish reading the book, and I think Ms. McCracken would completely understand why, after all she ends a chapter with this stark statement, "Closure is bullshit."

I've come to understand myself better in reading the stories and reflections of others. It's an interesting phenomenon that when your child dies, you take that cup of pain and sorrow and death, and search for more death, pain, and sorrow. And the cup doesn't overflow, it grows and makes room and the bereaved seem to mingle and melt together and somehow with this expansion of ourselves by adding others we approach some healing. I think it's that "you need not walk alone" statement The Compassionate Friends use. It's why the MISS Forum is as busy as it is. McCracken states, "I want to hear about every dead baby, everywhere in the world. I want to know their names, Christopher, Strick, Joanathan. I want their mothers to know about Pudding" (p. 138). And earlier, "When a baby dies, other dead children become suddenly visible" (p. 136).

For me reading about her subsequent pregnancy and birth of her second child was painful, not hopeful. I'm old. My eggs are old. I'm not interested in false hope. I'm trying to live my best life. (Please, don't send me a comment that all things are possible. Just send love. I deserve to figure this out within my own family.) At the same time I was overflowing with joy that a living child now rests in her arms, and, not surprising, she makes it clear that a living child does not heal the hurt of the death of her first child, Pudding.

As for the "humor" some reviewers discuss, well, I read some funny. For me it was the kind of humor you had to go to when things are as bad as they can be. The dark humor that I read did not make me laugh, but I understood it. Except, the "Dwarfs of Grief" did make me laugh, and without the laugh I would have melted into despair. Make no mistake, she doesn't make grief funny, but I get the sense that she had the courage to write about her experiences and responses in a raw and honest way. I thought that was glorious. And as a bereaved parent, who also cleans up my language and my stories to reflect what the other person can handle, I was grateful for the sincerity.

I remember writing about being surrounded by babies in church and hearing Buffet's lyric "fins to the left" in my head. Comparing babies to sharks was the humor I needed to not begin wailing in a public place and have strangers remove me so others could worship. I remember "joking" with a friend that seeing people shortly after Caitlin died was excruciating, so much so that I fantasized about having a "Grief Party" and everyone could gather and say "I'm sorry" and KNOW that they were supposed to say "I'm sorry." Then I could swim in the sickening thickness of death and emerge . . . .well I didn't get any farther as my friend look as though she would explode. Too much. The point, McCracken's bits of dark humor were not too much for me. They were true, and she didn't have to refrain from continuing because I already had exploded when Caitlin died.

Would I recommend the book? I don't know. Maybe. Bereaved mothers might want to think about if they need to pour more in, or if they need more avenues for expression of their grief. Friends and family of the bereaved would likely gain some insight into the experiences of bereaved parents. If you're looking for answers, you won't find them, but you will find an honest and raw memoir. And perhaps that will aid you in fashioning your own answers.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

For Liam's Mom

For my dear friend and fellow mother
Our children introduced us
"Mom meet another mom
whose heart is broken and misses her's
as deeply as you miss me."

We may never meet, but understand better
than friends who talk and share a weekly cup of coffee
We may never shout in that high so-glad-to-see-you voice
"How have you been?"
With the quick and kindly hug, but we will
know how the other is

We walk together and sit in silence
holding the memory of our children as comfort
knowing that another mom is holding us in her heart

I'm so sorry Liam's mom. I read your post about this fall season. I began to hurt with you to know that you saw and felt what should be, your child in the colors holding Mama's hand. And when I read it, I remembered a picture I took of a farm in New England after visiting Caitlin in the hospital. The beautiful colors of fall, the trees and the pumpkins and gourds lined up to celebrate fall, were striking no doubt, but the picture that I took that resonated with me that day is this one.

Me looking out into the field of fall beauty through bars that prevented me from being part of it. And it is this picture that conjured emotions for me as I read your post. I had this sense that your vision of your son was your memory of what the future holds, only there is something that bars that future from being so.

And so, I share these pictures with you and, though the words aren't as pretty, I share those too.

In Liam and Caitlin's memory.

Monday, October 6, 2008

No Sleep

[I wrote this about 5 months after Caitlin's death. I'm finding myself, not back in this place, but experiencing this phenomenon again. I have healed much since those first breaths, hours, days, weeks, months, since her death. And now it will soon be a year since my heart was torn out of me. But, tonight, I am without sleep again, and I wonder, when will I feel again? And when comes sleep?]

No sleep

I feel this dead calm, but I have no rest
My thoughts drag through my mind
Pulling the sludge of the day with them
I can do nothing but hurl the glop to its pile
Where it settles

No sleep
If only my thoughts would wrest
Loving images of Caitlin from its mass
If only my thoughts would summon
Musical sounds of our lullabies from its silence
I beg my thoughts to wrest
Soft cheeks and baby hair for me to stroke
And conjure Caitlin’s grasping fingers
For Mama’s thumb to become captive
I draw a breath and hold
No joy
My thoughts awaken nothing
Continuing their drudgery

No sleep
If only my thoughts would wrestle
Meaning from her absence
If only my thoughts would propel
Weeping for our loss
In disbelief I plead for my thoughts to
Strike me with the pain of her death
So I may mourn
I breathe and wait
No grief
My thoughts persist in numbing my mind
And there is
No sleep

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hanging the Moon

I went to visit Caitlin's grave tonight. I was relieved to see that her things were all there. The caretakers mow carefully and replace her things as best as can be expected. I was so grateful to squeeze her toy and listen to the sounds with her. I don't understand. I still don't understand how this happened. I know it happened. I mean, my mind knows how it happened, but my heart, my mother's heart, doesn't understand.

I wept. I left a kiss on her stone. The wetness of my tears and lips stayed as long as they could, but then, the evidence of my love evaporated into the air. The ground has grown up around her grave. It's settled in and grass has covered the scars from where they replaced the sod. I put my hands on that ground, wishing I could draw her from it. My mother's heart, the part that doesn't understand, sent a hope that I would feel her heart beat beneath the ground. That heart that saved mine.

I stayed for some time and watched the sky, but I saw no stars and no moon. The night sky--open, no clouds, barely a breeze, and as bleak as my soul. I placed a star at her stone to let her know that I was there. I stared at that star and came to understand it as a metaphor for my daughter. Unreachable and beautiful. I looked up and at last found a single star in the sky. And as is typical for a bereaved mother, I knew to keep staring, to watch carefully, to study the sky for more, and then I saw a shooting star in the early evening sky. It's light was still bright enough to shine through a not-yet-black night. I smiled. It's hard to refute a sign, even when I don't yet know if I believe in them.

The darkness finally surrounded us, me kneeling on sacred ground and my daughter shining from above hanging a sliver of a moon.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hating work and the time sucker that it is

I'm just hating work and the time sucker that it is. I need time to grieve. I need time to reflect. I need time to pause. Time to breathe. Time to think. Time. No, I need NOT-time, not a shift, but an end to the "space-time continum." I'm getting my work done, succeeding with a variety of tasks, but instead of feeling good and glowing in a sense of accomplishment, I feel crappy. Crap, crap, crappy.

Hating work and the time sucker that it is. There I said it and I'm glad. (now back to work)