Opening a Window

When life closes a door, it opens a window.  But if the door isn’t locked, there’s no reason you can’t just open it for yourself, right?  -unknown

It is Memorial Day.  I am sitting in the backyard, with the sound of the waterfall in front of me, and a more distant sound of my children behind me, playing with bubbles.  Just enough shade and the sun low in the sky that I can avoid the risk of burning my skin and can enjoy the outdoors.  I have my iPad and its external keyboard and sat to contemplate the question “Why do I write?”  It does not escape me that on Memorial Day weekend last year, we were carrying Iris’s ashes to the coulee to scatter beneath the sheltering oak where my grandfather, Ted, and her sister, Nelle, were scattered before her.  Memorial Day.  A Day of Remembering.  

I wrote only a few days ago inspired by the quote that “writing is a revenge against circumstance.”  Today, I am reflecting on this again.  For several months now, I have wanted to move my voice into a more public sphere: wanting to share my words with a larger audience.  However, I have been uncertain of what this looks like, or how to navigate such a shift.  What started as a deeply personal experience has expanded and now it has reached a point of uncharted territory for me.  Moving into a more public space likely means no turning back; such is the nature of the internet.  I joined an online community, a six-week group, under some guidance, that will help explore this new arena.  The first topic is around “Why do I write?”

Semi-public writing (blogging) began for me in October of 2009, when Theo was three weeks old, a result of being bored on maternity leave and wanting to capture my experiences as a new parent.  For years and years, it was merely a regurgitation of our lives and activities, sometimes interspersed with opinions and perceptions.  I didn’t view it as obligatory, but there was a sense of fulfilling some type of motherhood goal I had set for myself: posterity, in digital format, for my kids to read and appreciate someday.

That changed on September 7th, 2015, with the first post that I wrote after Nelle was born on September 4th.

I wrote because I was helpless.  Because I could find no other satisfying way to deal with my grief.  Because screaming and crying, while providing a temporary release, ultimately felt futile.  There were so many words to accompany my emotions of profound sadness, despair, anger, guilt, hopelessness, pain, isolation… it goes on, and on, and on.  As I just began to feel like maybe I was coming up for air after months under the crushing weight of water, I lost Iris.

I kept writing.  I wrote about the ongoing, exhausting experiences of unexpected triggers.  The profoundly insensitive or stupid things that people would say to me.  My journey through therapy, in attempts to recover from self-hatred and guilt.  All of the self-care I pursued through yoga, baths, or expensive beauty products.  From the limited audience of people who would read, I received the smallest of consolations for my losses in their feedback: “thank you for helping me to understand what you are going through.”

All grieving is unique: spouse, sibling, friend, child.  Babyloss has a special cruelty in robbing parents of a lifetime of memories.  I read personal essays from other parents who have experienced babyloss.  Some resonate, some don’t.  Most are a single point in time, rather than an accumulation of the days, months, and years following the loss of their child.  In here, I hope to give my voice, my story.  It has been 1 year, 8 months, and 25 days since Nelle was born still.  It has been 1 year, 3 months, and 15 days since Iris was born still.  Still.  And still I write.  The words spill out of me in essay, prose, poetry, or angry pseudo-journal entry.  Because the loss of my daughters is still something that I feel every day.  There is no “end date” to loss, or something that I will “get over.”  It is an interwoven part of my life, forever.  As permanent as the birth dates tattooed on my back.

Love Letter

(Note: I tried to write this on Mother’s Day, but I couldn’t. Finished it up today instead, the first day of my third trimester.)

Of all the deserving mothers, this is written especially for those who are not able to hold all of their children in their arms on Mother’s Day:

Motherhood is a mirror. A mother looks into the glass and expects to see a reflection of herself. The best parts glow under the light. The image stares back at her, expectantly. There is always the layer of sweet glass between her and the image. She can try to improve upon herself, try to make things perfect but if she turns away from the glass, she has no idea if the image will follow.  She just trusts that it is there: a reflection, yet an existence of its own.

Add more mirrors and the light will dance and expand and reflect in exponentially larger grace. So it happens when more children are born. More mirrors are added, shining the reflection in new ways, to new dimensions.  The mother envelopes them all as an extension of the original image. 

If crack appears, the mirror is broken. Sometimes shattered. The mother can still see her reflection but it is distorted, fractured. A permanent jarring.  Cannot be fixed.  Never whole again.

It is an existential, quiet love that once created, even in the most minuscule form, can never be erased.  Can never be replaced.  Will always be a reflection outward.

Revenge Against Circumstance

Writing is a kind of revenge against circumstance too: bad luck, loss, pain. If you make something out of it, then you’ve no longer been bested by these events. -Louise Gluck

Back in April of 2016, after completing my grief writing course, I came up with a series of prompts to help me continue.  I have been writing from those prompts ever since; mostly publicly, but privately as well. I started with over 200 prompts from various sources: a book of random writing prompts that I made “fit” into my context, quotes I liked, passages from books. I added when I found something new to inspire words. The result has been over 120 blog posts that I have published, and even more that I have kept to myself.

I’m now down to about 40. With under 90 days to go in this pregnancy, I’m determined to complete the remaining prompts.  It feels like closing a chapter, a definitive plan and effort.  One more item to check off the list. I looked at the prompts and certain events between now and August and already have some of the prompts lined up.  That tells me what I have left to work with.

After that, I have another series of a hundred new prompts, with a decidedly more hopeful undertone. I hope to be writing from an entirely new experience of handling a baby after loss. I know women who have had their rainbow babies and there is a different type of struggle that comes from holding the baby in your arms while remembering the baby that was lost. I am pre-emptively preparing myself to work through that process.

I fully acknowledge that re-reading what I’ve written will be bitterly painful if we lose this baby too.

I see the world differently than Before, through a lens of understanding loss, through living loss. The deeper compassion, gentleness, concern, and even beauty have been born from the pain. Through the ages, artists have been able to harness their pain and drive it into something beautiful. And so I write, to give voice to the experience rather than scream in silence. If suffering must exist, then from it I am determined to emerge.

Writer’s Block

2017-02-25 Writer's Block

Earlier this week, a friend told me that I appear to be doing well, based on reading what I had written lately.  The next day, another friend said the exact same thing, almost word for word.  My response?  “Huh.  Well then I must be doing a good job of pretending that everything is ok, because I’m actually terrified.” Continue reading

Therapy

2016-09-30 Therapy

Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Journal Entry:
It has been 12 days and 19 minutes since I gave birth to Nelle.  She was born at 6:22 p.m. on September 4th and she had already left this world.

I started seeing a therapist the week immediately following.  The first session, Ger and I went together.  Today, she wanted to see me alone.  She gave me a small journal and told me to write down three things I am grateful for each day.  The journal’s pages were too small.  This one is bigger wand was in the box of mementos from the hospital in honor of my baby girl, so it is significant.  Here goes…

1. I am grateful for the small ring I ordered.  It has a heart stamped on one side and NELLE stamped on the inside.
2. I am grateful for my boss at work.  She has been incredibly supportive.
3. I am grateful for the people who continue to reach out to me.  I get a message or something almost every day and they are comforting.  Today, it was a private Facebook message and a card in the mail.  Continue reading