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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Inked

I did it.

I've been thinking about getting a tattoo for what seems like forever. I'm not really one to take these things lightly, though. I REALLY felt like I needed to be POSITIVE about putting something so permanent onto my body forever--It had to be something that meant the world to me. I used to want to get something Ryan Adams related...maybe the rose he uses all the time? It'd be something any fan would get.

That all seems so trivial now?

But when all this happened, I knew exactly that my first tattoo would be for you, Luke. I just had to figure out what to do. But that came to me pretty easily too. The quilt that I had made for you--with chibi Star Wars characters--seemed obvious to me. A baby Luke Skywalker.

Last weekend, I met with a local tattoo artist, and I got good vibes from him. He said he'd draw it up for me, and if I wanted, we could get it done that Wednesday. I left him my ideas, and spent the next 4 days anticipating what it would look like when he gave me that drawing. I got there on Wednesday night, and he handed it to me--It was EXACTLY what I pictured. To a T. So it was time. I sat down in the chair, and got ready for what I figured would be a LOT of pain? Turns out, no. Not at all. I don't know if that's because I've probably lived through the worst pain possible, but honestly, getting a tattoo is no big deal. I was borderline shocked at how simple it was. Mostly, I was nervous about how it would come out to look ON me. I decided to have it done on my right chest, above my heart. When Josh finished it up, and I went to look at it in the mirror, my eyes welled up.

It was perfect.

Now you'll be with me--forever, as much as possible. Just looking down at it there makes me happy. It's every bit adorable as I know you'd be.

For some bizarre reason, it's almost a relief that I have this done. Like somehow I wasn't complete without it? I don't even know how that makes sense, but it does to me right now.

Healing. I think that's kind of what this is.

Monday, January 21, 2013

But I'm still a Mom (?)

So much of life is based on definitions.

It tends to make it easier for us. Categorizing and giving names. If you have lady parts, you're a woman. If you fix cars for a living, you're a mechanic. If you have a child, you're a mother.

Right?

I struggle. In therapy, I feel like this is one of my biggest struggles that's come up. How am I still a Mom? I never got the chance. I had Luke. I carried him for 9 whole months. He was ready to join us. And then he died. I was his mom? Our time was cut so short. I was the only living person he got to know in his short life. And I know deep down, I am still his Mom. But I find it so hard to be able to call myself that. So hard. How can I be labeled something when I've only been able to experience a tiny percentage of experiences that typically qualify someone to be a Mom?

I am a Mother to a son that I will never know. A son that never got to see my face or how happy he made me.

It was so abrupt. One minute, there I was, being his Mom. Then the next, I was no longer going to need to feed him or bathe him or dress him. I was going to have to figure out how to be a Mom to an angel. To be his Mom in this world, while he occupies another.

I have figured out how to be a big sister. A daughter. A captain. A good employee. A wife. But this one? Being a Mom without my son? I do everything I can to remember Luke and give his short existence meaning. But by far, this has been the hardest role I've had to embrace in my life.

I am continually told that I'm still a Mom. But it's something I have to convince myself of everyday. What exactly does it mean when you're robbed of your child's existence at birth? In some ways, I wish we had other children before this happened. At least I'd understand then, what it means, to be a Mother. But Luke is our first child. I don't even know what it's like to hear your own baby cry and feel that in your heart. To deal with feeding your baby every 2 hours for those first weeks of life. I don't know the ins and outs of folding a stroller or buckling him into a carseat. He simultaneously filled my heart with love, and broke it, at the same time.

It's so hard for me not to discount myself. If anything, I feel like I should be called a half-Mom or something. I'm not weary from staying up all night with a colicky baby. I work full-time. I get to go to happy hour with my friends. But I'm still a Mom.

Saturday I had one of my first awkward moments...talking to someone that's not a total stranger, but not a close friend. She'd mentioned how I didn't have any kids yet (she wasn't aware of everything that had happened to us this past year)...and I'm so proud of myself, because I corrected her, and told her actually, we did. Luckily, she was the type that could identify with me from her own experiences, and didn't waive me off. But it felt good to be able to say that. Just to get it out. And be proud to be Luke's Mom.

The physical world plays tricks on me...and tries to fool me into believing that I'm not a real Mom because Luke isn't living. Because he has no physical presence. Sometimes he seems like a complete figment of my imagination.

I started writing this entry last week, and oddly, today, Still Standing posted this article...Which is exactly what I'm feeling.

Coming to grips with the fact that this is something I will be trying to figure out for the rest of my life is a mindfuck.

I'm doing everything I can to be your Mom, Luke. I just wish there was a way I knew you knew that. And I'm gonna spend the rest of my life trying to figure this out, as best I can.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

365 Days

January 13, 2012.

365 days ago, we learned of your existence, Luke.

I had a shopping list that went something like this: Cereal. Toothpaste. Toothbrush refills. Pregnancy tests. We'd just bought tickets to Coachella, and I was seriously freaking out about being pregnant and going to Coachella. The things I worried about then...

Oddly, it was Friday January 13. I'm not really one to be superstitious in any way, ever, but looking back on it now, that part sort of makes me wistful. What if I'd taken that test on January 14?

The rational part of me says that's absurd. I know it's absurd. It's just another what-if question that we'll never know the answer to, but probably wouldn't have made one bit of difference in how things played out.

We couldn't believe it happened so fast--getting pregnant. We knew we were ready, but didn't expect it to be that easy or quick. We called your grandparents and aunties and uncles and told them the good news. Everyone was so excited (and probably scared for us, let's be honest).

One year ago, we had all the hopes and dreams in the world that parents have for their children. You were so small then, and we were so naive and optimistic. Oblivious to the possibility of what could happen to you.

I'm so glad I got to spend all 9 months with you, though. I miss you so much, but I'm so glad I at least got that.

And now I'll probably spend the next 9 months referencing my other blog to find memories of our short time together...when I wish we could just be making new ones.

I miss you, Luke. I wish things didn't have to be this way.

We're trying to get through. And I feel like we're doing alright. But that doesn't change my yearning to have you here. That's never going to change.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Four Months

How has it already been four months since we lost you, Luke?

Sometimes I wonder how the 10th of each month will feel in a year. Or 10 years from now. I know the hole that you left will always be in my heart. But today, things feel easier. I don't know why. And I almost feel guilty that they feel that way.

Lately, I've felt a peace with you. I feel like you're embedded in everything I do, somehow. I think about you constantly, and it doesn't mean I miss you any less, or obsess about you, but there's just more peace now. I want to live life the way I'd want to for us. I will never be over you. You're engrained into my consciousness, and you'll be there forever.

My sweet boy--I wish this never had to happen to us--Being separated. But I can feel your spirit, and I know it's been carrying me and your Daddy every day since we lost you, and will for the rest of our lives.

For all the hours here that move too slow
There's all this letting go
that won't pass...


We'll always miss you, Luke.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tiny Gifts

Monday night, two pretty awesome things came my way.

I got home from the gym, and Jeff had left out a Christmas card on the table. He handed it to me, and it was a card from his his brother's family. Inside, was a check. No small check. And they told us to do with it whatever we wanted.

First, it made me cry. Everytime I've received a card this holiday for Luke...I've cried. And not out of sadness, I don't think? I think it's more about being thankful. Thankful that everyone remembers him along with us. That people write his name down and acknowledge that he's our son. That he really happened. I hate that it scares people to talk to me about him. I can't guarantee that talking about him won't make me cry, but it makes my heart full. And sometimes that just triggers tears in my eyes.

So we decided that that check would be going into a college fund for Luke's potential brother or sister. We can't even thank them enough.

Then I opened an email from my sister...and well, it pretty much made me bawl. She told me about how she'd been to a book club meetup Sunday. She was casually invited by a friend, and that she actually hadn't even read the book, but decided to go anway, in a spell of spontaneity that she rarely exhibits. They discussed a book by a woman named Cheryl Strayed, who is also sometimes an advice columist on The Rumpus as Dear Sugar. Anyway...Ali mentioned that the girl next to her mentioned a passage. One that strongly resonated with her personally, as someone who'd been through many miscarriages.

Someone had addressed a letter to Sugar about the stillbirth of her daughter at 6 months. Any baby-loss parent should read this here. Because it's...everything. EVERYTHING.

Here's just some of it...
"Though we live in a time and place and culture that tries to tell us otherwise, suffering is what happens when truly horrible things happen to us.

Don’t listen to those people who suggest you should be “over” your daughter’s death by now. The people who squawk the loudest about such things have almost never had to get over any thing. Or at least not any thing that was genuinely, mind-fuckingly, soul-crushingly life altering. Some of those people believe they’re being helpful by minimizing your pain. Others are scared of the intensity of your loss and so they use their words to push your grief away. Many of those people love you and are worthy of your love, but they are not the people who will be helpful to you when it comes to healing the pain of your daughter’s death.

They live on Planet Earth. You live on Planet My Baby Died.

It seems to me that you feel like you’re all alone there. You aren’t. There are women reading this right now who have tears in their eyes. There are women who have spent their days chanting daughter, daughter or son, son silently to themselves. Women who have been privately tormented about the things they did or didn’t do that they fear caused the deaths of their babies. You need to find those women, darling. They’re your tribe.

I know because I’ve lived on a few planets that aren’t Planet Earth myself.

The healing power of even the most microscopic exchange with someone who knows in a flash precisely what you’re talking about because she experienced that thing too cannot be over-estimated. Call your local hospitals and birth centers and inquire about support groups for people who’ve lost babies at or before or shortly after birth. Read Elizabeth McCracken’s memoir An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination. Find online communities where you can have conversations with people during which you don’t have to pretend a thing.

...

This is how you get unstuck, Stuck. You reach. Not so you can walk away from the daughter you loved, but so you can live the life that is yours—the one that includes the sad loss of your daughter, but is not arrested by it. The one that eventually leads you to a place in which you not only grieve her, but also feel lucky to have had the privilege of loving her. That place of true healing is a fierce place. It’s a giant place. It’s a place of monstrous beauty and endless dark and glimmering light. And you have to work really, really, really fucking hard to get there, but you can do it, honey. You’re a woman who can travel that far. I know it.

...

You will never stop loving your daughter. You will never forget her. You will always know her name. But she will always be dead. Nobody can intervene and make that right and nobody will. Nobody can take it back with silence or push it away with words. Nobody will protect you from your suffering. You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live though it and love it and move on and be better for it and run as far as you can in the direction of your best and happiest dreams across the bridge that was built by your own desire to heal. Therapists and friends and other people who live on Planet My Baby Died can help you along the way, but the healing—the genuine healing, the actual real deal down-on-your-knees-in-the-mud change—is entirely and absolutely up to you..."
Dear Sugar: July 15, 2010--How You Get Unstuck
I read this with tears. I've read tons about the process of healing, but I don't feel like anything has hit me as hard as reading this has. In a bit of serendipity, I'd mentioned to my sister yesterday that I'd started reading that book Sugar recommended above, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination and that I'm really connecting to it...Not knowing that they'd discussed this the day before at the book club meeting.

It helped us both feel that we're still somehow connected to Luke. Maybe he's doing something from wherever he is that pushed my sister to go to that book club meeting so she could find this guidance and share it with me--from him. That's how I like to think of it, anyway.