seven

I didn’t even write about the six year anniversary of his death. I must have thought I had said it all at five.

Seven years this weekend.

The anticipation used to be far worse than the anniversary itself. A sense of dread would build as I’d count yet another year without him. As the day drew near, I’d replay those bleak winter days in my mind until I’d feel it in my gut, when I knew my body was failing him, that all hope was lost. I’d re-live it until my stomach twisted and my heart sank and I’d need a reminder to breathe. You’re still here, you still need to breathe, I’d think. He’s gone, but you’re not.

Then the day would come and maybe I’d write something or light a candle, or maybe I’d speak only to my heart. Always, I’d think what he’d be like now. The day would be sad yet peaceful.

Now, while the thought of him is never too far away, it does seem to get a little farther each year. Never forgotten, of course. Just a little more distant with time and space. Inevitable distance.

Seven years gone.

I used to hold on to that pain, thinking that if I could no longer feel it that he would no longer be with me. As time passed and the space between grew, eventually I became detached from that raw anguish. I know now that is a survival tactic, for self-preservation, yet once the pain of loss was all I had. That lingering grief — as soul sucking and life-changing as it was — was oddly comforting, like the remnants of an old warm blanket. I held it close as it was all I had. To let go would be to lose all connection to my son.

I still grieve for our lost boy, the child we never met. For years, I pictured him running with his cousins, playing on the floor, learning to ride a bike, chasing the dog. I tracked milestones and birthdays that would never be. Yet unlike those early years, I no longer weep. I still shed some tears now and again when I think of him, of what we lost. But no longer do I fall to the floor gasping between sobs, clutching my belly as it ached with emptiness and loss.

Just over four years ago, I wrote about how my inability to become a mother added another layer of complexity to my grief. Along with our son, I grieved everything infertility stole from me — e.g., the children we would not create, the babies I could never carry and nurture, the family we envisioned. This concept of convergence — i.e., that the sum of my losses merged to form another dimension to my personal grief — made a lot of sense to me. When our son died — as became evident after trying and failing to conceive again — I also lost my chance to become a mother, or so I thought.

Seven years since he left us, I have the unbelievable good fortune to be graced by the smiles and laughter of two marvelous daughters. They fill my days with love and light where once there was only darkness. Three years after our son’s due date, we welcomed Jaye into our hearts and I was humbled when she was entrusted to our care. Two years later, I was mystified when my body defied all odds and grew Baby Z for 33 weeks (that’s 12 more than before, a whole trimester). Loving these amazing girls is what made me a mama, or Mama.

I know that losing our son enabled both of these wondrous children in my life. Somehow after so long, we found each other, these girls and I. Seems so strange to say it, but somehow our family became complete even without him here. Without him, there would be no them. I accept this as basic truth. The very paradox of loss is that while you may suffer tremendous sorrow, you are also forced open to new beginning. While one door slams shut — leaving behind all possibilities for a particular reality — another very different life begins anew. There is truth in the Joseph Campbell quote on my sidebar for years: “We must let go of the life we have planned so as to have the one that is waiting for us.”

These words would have brought no comfort then, of course. Nothing could. Only now, with distance and perspective, can I clearly see the impact he left. His existence fundamentally changed me. To start, what I felt for that baby boy helped me to see myself as a mother, even when I didn’t feel like one.

The fact that he was here has been neglected by so many simply because they didn’t have to acknowledge his life or tragic death. Perhaps to them he was just an idea, an abstraction long since forgotten. Yet to me? He was my first. He never made it to this world. No photos of him grace our walls. We never gazed into his eyes or heard him cry. But he was real, our baby boy. He was loved.

Now, the pain of loss has subsided and the distance is no longer unwelcome. My grief remains tucked away for safe keeping, and I’m OK with that. Still certain triggers can set me back, such as when a family member notes the distinct age gap among cousins or that the boys are outnumbered, or when someone faces pre-term labor. Or when I realize that I’m the oldest mom at preschool and most every kid has an older sibling, when many moms are a decade younger than I am.

But mostly I just wish I knew him. Especially now that I’ve met his biological little sister, I can’t help but wonder about this boy. Would he share her mischievous grin? Would their cries and laughter sound similar? In some way knowing Baby Z makes me feel like I might have known him just a little bit better. This makes me sad yet at the same time offers some strange comfort.

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~ by luna on January 31, 2013.

14 Responses to “seven”

  1. Wow. You are so wise. Though I’ve never experienced the loss that you have, the loss that I do experience every day gives me new insight into the loss I know you feel. Even if you didn’t have Jaye or Z….even if you’d never ever had another child, he would’ve STILL made you a mother. The love you feel for him and for his loss will be safely tucked away, like you said, but never completely gone. And it’s okay to not keen with the pain whenever you think of him. Pain isn’t the only thing that can bind us to the ones we’ve lost. When you look at Baby Z and wonder if he would’ve been anything like her, you’re allowed to smile. Baby Z is your connection to him as well as being her own person.

    Happy Birthday to your angel baby. Your remembering him honors who he was.

    *hugs*

  2. Luna, every time I read one of your posts I’m struck by your beautiful and thoughtful writing. Your words sound so true. My mother, whose firstborn was a stillborn boy she was never allowed to see, also once told me she would have loved to know him – especially because, she said, my sister and I are so different. I’m struck by the ‘without him, there would be no them’, especially together with the Joseph Campbell quote, it is so much more meaningful than the ‘everything happens for a reason’ that people tend to throw around. Your children are very lucky to have such a wise woman as their mama.

  3. No words other than this is a beautiful post.

  4. A lovely post, Momma.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. It really touched my heart. “Without him, there would be no them.” The complexity of grief is always so surprising to me and so rarely discussed out loud. It makes my heart ache to think of all the wonderful mums that never ended up parenting. All that love tucked away….Anyways, I know that grief is always there. But the memory is worth it.

  6. Abiding with you as you remember your very real boy-child.

    “Without him, there would be no them.” This thought, and the perspective you mention, shifts all the little things that are bothering me today. You’ve made me zoom out, and I’m grateful.

    XOXO

  7. It never goes away…
    I had to smile at being the oldest mom in preschool. I have never suffered any loss but it took forever to have a baby and I think I’m going to be the oldest mom in preschool too.

  8. Thank you so much for your thoughtful words. My heart goes out to you for your loss. The particulars of our situations are different, but it is so helpful to have “permission” to grieve the family that I wanted but won’t get (and the kid who I won’t get to meet) while simultaneously making space for the wonderful family that I will/do have.

  9. I often think about all that we went thru, the pain, the sorrow and luckily only an early loss. Not knowing if I would ever be a mother, would i ever be back to life like the rest of the world seemed to be. With how it has all worked out I would change nothing because now I have my two wonderful children. I do go back and think about the son we would have had, and wonder what would he be like? we have no biological children to compare to. I am so sorry for the loss of your son, you actually carried him and gave birth to him, I did not have to go thru any of that. I watch now as my cousin lucky enough to have a child, will be coming up on year 2 of her daughter dying.
    Take care of yourself!

  10. Such a beautiful, heartfelt post. It made me cry. (((Hugs))) You honor your son so beautifully with your writing.

  11. Beautiful.
    This is exactly how I have tried to accept my losses, but it’s far easier doing it from a distance, just as you said. Whenever I think of your family and read your blog, your little boy always has a place in that picture for me. I never forget that you were a mother long before Jaye came along. I’m remembering your little guy and all that his existance helped bring to fruition.

  12. I’m late in commenting, but no less taken by the poignancy of your post. You words evoke such tenderness…

  13. This is beautiful. How little we know of them has been one of the hardest things for me. This whole person, so much potential, so many things he could’ve been. So few he actually was. So much I want to know, still. Nothing new that I will ever learn. Or almost nothing. My youngest looked remarkably like her brother for a very short spell. So we got a hint of what his face might’ve looked like alive, moving. That was a lot.

    And yes, complete even without him. But a different kind of complete. That did a number on my head for a while this summer… Took some time to wrap my mind around that one.

    Remembering your beautiful son with you and your whole family.

    (Sorry to be so late– I was off the internets for a bit, cocooned in our anniversary, and then the snow.)

  14. Thank you for sharing so eloquently. Just thank you.

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