In Honor of a Father

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This past weekend was Father’s Day.  Celebration, reflection, and sometimes hard.  I cannot make it through Mother’s Day without thinking about the two babies that we lost.  How can I not, when their birthdays are tattooed on my back, an ever-present reminder that I have five children?  I need a day of distractions.

But I don’t want to project my own feelings onto Ger.  After breakfast at our favorite local place, he wanted to spend the day napping.  I don’t know if he thought about Nelle or Iris at all, and I didn’t ask – because it is his day.  People grieve and remember differently.  In the card I picked out, I put two tiny hearts next to the names of the living children, but I don’t know if he picked up on the significance.  For me – it was a way for them to be included on Father’s Day.

On Saturday, I took the big kids to see “The Incredibles 2” movie.  On the basic premise, Mom goes back to work, and Dad is responsible for all three kids: a teenage daughter with boy troubles, a grade-school son stuck on learning “new math” and a baby with newly discovered superpowers.  As I watched the Dad struggle, I anticipated that it was going to fall into a very stereotypical role, where Dad can’t handle the demands of home and falls flat on his face.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  Dad tried to help teenage daughter, stayed up late learning “new math” so he could help his son, and wrangled the baby.

I reflected this weekend on my own family, built up over 12 years of marriage and 17 years together with Ger.  From starting our marriage living in separate states, to multiple moves, to bringing the first baby home, to buying a home, to job changes, and financial decisions, and picking up the ashes of our daughters at a funeral home.  All of those life events as partners.

When I wrote recently about the challenges we are currently facing, with Ger having anxiety, which led to alcohol abuse, I felt an invisible judgment on our marriage.  I do not regret writing it, as it led to many people saying “Thank you for sharing – we have had struggles too” or “thank you for your honesty” I still wondered about what wasn’t being said aloud.  People who may have thought that we just “didn’t work hard enough” on our marriage, or thought “I would never let that happen to me.”

I saw all of the smiling faces as I scrolled through Facebook on Father’s Day, in praise of “the best dad ever!” or “the perfect husband and father.”  I admit envy of families and partnerships that have seen smooth sailing.  And also wondered what might lie beneath the surface, that I couldn’t see.

I saw a new individual therapist last week, since if we ever hope to return to the marriage therapist she cannot see us as a couple and also me individually.  The first session is always so much history and “how did you get here?”  As I started with losing Nelle in 2015 and narrated through where I am today with Ger, she pointed out so many positive things happening.  She also said “It sounds like you are committed to the marriage and working through the marriage.”  I nodded my affirmation, saying that I cannot imagine my days without him.  We are a partnership – a bond of love and respect, a foundation for our family, and companions on a journey.

For Better or Worse

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Before I was discharged from the hospital after delivering Iris, I asked the doctor to write me a prescription for an anti-depressant. I knew that losing two babies inside of six months could send me into a dark place. When placed on a six-month holding pattern before trying for a baby again, I became rigorous in my self-care. The medication, weekly therapy, yoga multiple times per week, baths, and natural beauty products became a ritual to stay afloat. I hear the words loud and clear from the grief community: take care of yourself, take care of yourself.

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Beautiful and Terrible

Somewhere out in the darkness, a phoenix was singing in a way Harry had never heard before: a stricken lament of terrible beauty. And Harry felt, as he had felt about phoenix song before, that the music was inside him, not without: It was his own grief turned magically to song…” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

It seems to be an infinite juxtaposition, this pregnancy: beautiful and terrible.  Writing has been my transcription of the clash between the two.  The experience has been something like the Russian sage that grows around my mailbox: lovely and sweet smelling, while also wild and uncontrollable.  The beautiful enmeshed with the terrible somehow makes it bearable? Continue reading

Time is a River

Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. -Jorge Luis Borges

I remember so distinctly those first few hours in my hospital room after Quentin was born. One minute, I was feeling constant movement of a baby inside of me, and then he was born and that feeling gone. I have been feeling this baby move for months. Much as I tried to keep myself detached, thinking that distance would help if something were to happen, it became unavoidable as a steady stream of movement captured my attention throughout the day. In those early days of movement, I had to place my hand on my abdomen to feel it, since the anterior placenta made it tricky. It became easier. I could see the movement from the outside. A constant reminder. It doesn’t mean that I loved Nelle or Iris any less, but the time I had with them was shorter. The bond here has had more time to develop into something tangible.  Continue reading

The Right to Grow

We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.
Anaïs Nin

As the days diminish, now down to thirteen, it is a constant back-and-forth between “everything will be fine” and “something terrible will happen.” I spent Friday and part of Saturday in good spirits, mentally thinking ahead to the checklist of things that we need to do once the baby is born, things that I refuse to do in advance. By Saturday afternoon, I was hit with “Something will go wrong. Something has been missed. Or what if there is an unrelated complication?” I was back to a place of not being able to picture bringing this baby home. That it will continue to be just four of us. That all of the expanded space I have allowed in my heart will remain empty. Continue reading