Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Right Where I Am: Year Two: 20 months, 11 days, 4.5 hours

As I commented to Angie on FB when she posted about doing this project again, writing this "Right Where I Am" post feels incredibly daunting tonight.  I fear that it may rip me wide open.  (As I added in my comment, "maybe that's what needs to happen.")

20 months, 11 days, 4 and 1/2 hours since my boy left this world.

Most days, I still can't believe it.

I was recently thinking of getting a tattoo across my inner arm:  "He was here.  And then, he wasn't."

That is the refrain that echos through my mind on my dark days, in my dark moments.  It's this paradox. This riddle of sorts that my brains tries to puzzle out and solve.  How is it so, he was here, and then, he wasn't?

Now granted, there are far fewer of those exceptionally dark moments, or at least there is more space between them these days.  For a few reasons, I suppose.

The first reason, joy of joys, is my second born son, Owen.  The most beautiful 8 month old that I have ever known.  He fills my days with laughter, with smiles, with tears of joy, of gratitude, of fulfillment.  And he keeps me busy.  And the only bad part about that (well, other than the constant state of disarray of my personal hygiene and home) is that it often keeps me from Otis.

My cousin (not technically my cousin, but close enough for lack of a better term, a family friend that I've known since I was a child and cousin to my cousins) came over yesterday.  Her son Henry died and was born just before Owen came into the world in September 2011.  We were talking, and I mentioned how it's hard that I can't tend to my grief in quite the same way that I used to.  I used to keep fresh flowers on Otis's table, next to his photograph, and also on the dresser by his ashes.  I kept them constantly refreshed.  I planted so much last year, rosebushes, daffodils, tulips, trees - and tended to them constantly.  It was my way of mothering my firstborn son.  And now, the rosebushes need to be trimmed.  The daffodils and tulips came up again this year, but amidst many weeds they were hard to see.  Our favorite Otis tree needs to be repotted or put in the ground, but we haven't been able to find time to get to it.

I miss having the time to light candles, to cry uncontrollably for as long as I need to, to scream in the shower, to cut flowers, to stare at his photographs.  I miss the tenderness that E and I shared in our grief.

Some days it feels like I'm running from my grief again.  That if I stopped to actually touch it, think about it, feel it - I would collapse under the enormity of it.

Having Owen here has brought an entirely new dimension to my understanding of what we lost when Otis died.  It makes it so incredibly much harder.  Every smile, every giggle, every milestone that Owen meets is one that we missed from Otis.  Every "first" is a first that we should have done with Otis.  The way my heart continues to stretch and grow in the enormity of love I feel for Owen - it kills me that I don't get to have that same stretch for Otis.  I wrote it a while back - Owen grows and surprises and is ever changing.  As is my love for him.  Otis is frozen in time.  Forever a newborn.  Forever in that striped jammie set the hospital put him in.  Forever with his head full of hair combed just so.  With his arm draped across his body just so.  The photographs have now almost become more real than he ever was.  My love for him is still fierce, still all encompassing, and, sure, it grows and changes and evolves - but HE doesn't.  And this kills me.

I had a nightmare last night.  I lost Owen.  He didn't die - I actually LOST him.  Like, misplaced him.  I could hear him crying, I knew he needed me, I knew someone was taking him, but I couldn't find where or who.  I was screaming for him.  It was terrifying.  I don't overtly fear his death anymore, but clearly my subconscious does.

Reading babyloss blogs and Glow the last few nights has really put a hole in my heart in a way that it didn't used to do.  All these new names, all these stories that seem to keep repeating themselves, with a new cast of characters - it's devastating.  Too much for me to stomach right now.

So it's interesting.  In many ways I would say OF COURSE I am "better" here at 20 months than I was last year at 8 months.  My day to day operations do not shout out "MY SON DIED!" (Though I do find ways to weave it into almost every conversation I have with the moms I have met since Owen's birth, and I usually do it rather early in our meetings, as well.  I must share him, you must know him.)  I work part time, I raise Owen, I do not cry daily, probably not even weekly, I laugh, I dance, I giggle, I function.

But, this idea that "of course" I'm better, I can't say it with much conviction.  Last year at this time I was pregnant, full of hope and dreams (and a healthy shot of fear, too, sure) for this new little boy that was going to grace our world just a week after his big brother's first birthday.  I think I deluded myself into thinking (even though I logically knew otherwise and had also heard from enough blms on "the other side of the rainbow" that it wasn't going to magically make it all better) that somehow having a living baby to bring home would change it significantly.

And it has, yes.  And it hasn't.

It's like my life has split yet again.  There is now the me that operates as Owen's mama - full of love, fierce protective instincts, joy, even, dare I say it, a sense of peace.  And then there is the me that is hidden away in a drawer, along with a lock of the finest, most lush, beautiful brown baby hair that I will ever touch.  In a box, tied with a bow, along with prints of handprints and footprints that are so big you wouldn't believe they came from a newborn.  (I was unable to take Owen's hand and footprints when he was born because doing so reminded me too much of Otis.  It felt like a betrayal to take them of my living, breathing baby - when that is all Otis could give me, and Owen will be giving me mementos for (hopefully) many many many years to come.)  I have yet to be able to reconcile these two mamas into one.  Then again, Owen has just started sleeping at night and allowing me some time to myself before I go to bed, so perhaps as I settle into that time I may begin to reconnect with the parts of me that have been hidden for the eight months that Owen has been here.

I miss him.  I wish he were here.

Nothing has changed.  Everything has changed.

Lather, rinse, repeat.




42 comments:

Molly King said...

"Having Owen here has brought an entirely new dimension to my understanding of what we lost when Otis died. It makes it so incredibly much harder. Every smile, every giggle, every milestone that Owen meets is one that we missed from Otis. Every "first" is a first that we should have done with Otis. The way my heart continues to stretch and grow in the enormity of love I feel for Owen - it kills me that I don't get to have that same stretch for Otis. I wrote it a while back - Owen grows and surprises and is ever changing. As is my love for him. Otis is frozen in time. Forever a newborn. Forever in that striped jammie set the hospital put him in. Forever with his head full of hair combed just so. With his arm draped across his body just so. The photographs have now almost become more real than he ever was. My love for him is still fierce, still all encompassing, and, sure, it grows and changes and evolves - but HE doesn't. And this kills me."

These words hit me so hard! These are the words I stumble upon and get so frustrated with that all I can muster up to say is, "SCREW IT!I CAN"T DO THIS!" But again, you've said it all perfectly.

Merry said...

I think Annie must not appear in my stream because I didn't know about doing this again. But I will. To be honest though, I could just copy and paste this.

Beautifully put. Exactly how it is.

Merry said...

Oooooh. Gah. Angie. Flipping iPad.

Maddie said...

They came into our hospital room and offered to do Max's hand and footprints - I couldn't do it either and find it hard to cope when I see them hanging up for living children.

I went into Max's daycare the other day and his handprints were on the wall and they were so big and Matilda's never will be.

Just tonight I was thinking about how it still seems hard to believe it happened. I had a difficult complicated pregnancy, she was here, and four days later we held her and she died. Did that really happen to us?

xx

Anonymous said...

As C becomes a toddler I mourn Otis--his bigger best friend like a cousin he never got to know--in all new ways. I want to see Otis toddling around and exploring the world, and I'm missing him in a whole new way. Really, mourning his life now, not just his death.

You are a beautiful mama to your boys, Sarah.

ae

still life angie said...

This is so honest and beautiful, Sarah. This line got me, "Some days it feels like I'm running from my grief again. That if I stopped to actually touch it, think about it, feel it - I would collapse under the enormity of it." I feel that way too, except that when I think back on the early days, I did collapse. It was the only kind of progress I felt that I used to collapse, and somehow now, I function.

I related to this so much. Thank you for sharing it. Love you. xo

Hope's Mama said...

The same line that got Angie got me.

I loved this as well.

Glad Owen is healing your broken heart.

xo

Nikki said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. It is so beautiful and captures a lot of my emotions as well. <3

Brooke said...

I think it's so fascinating that you feel like you let yourself believe Owen would "fix" things, because I remember you insisting when we talked that being pregnant didn't make Otis's loss any easier to bear, that bringing home this baby wouldn't fix the grief, although it would bring much joy. Questions I asked you because I'm sure I wanted the other answer, or at least a promise that the heaviness would lift. I know you're a good mother to Otis because you make us all love and miss him, too.

erica said...

I love what you write about how tending your grief has changed, and what you write about how Owen made your realize more of what was lost when Otis died - oh, my heart just thumped along in agreement.

So much love to you.

Jeanette said...

Such and honest piece, thank you for sharing.
I hate that I'm so busy these days that I can't mother Florence the way I used to, but at the same time, I'm so grateful to be busy. It's a strange place to be. x

Jordan said...

Beautifully written. I am so sorry Otis isn't here.

Catherine W said...

A beautiful post. I'm so sorry for the loss of your Otis, your dear boy with his fine brown hair and his big hands and feet. Because I lost my little girl to prematurity there is something particularly painful and wrong about the loss of baby so very prepared to live.

That tattoo, that is the puzzle isn't it? A riddle that my brain also can't quite seem to leave alone.

And a love that grows and changes and a child who doesn't. Such an aching pain to bear.

Trying to fit those two mamas into one, I'm still trying to do that myself. You express the difficulties, the joys and the pains so perfectly. Thank you for this post.

Curls O Fred said...

These rainbows have a way of bringing some light, and keeping us on our toes. Some days it's so lovely all that Simon does, and others it's those same things that make me miss Lyra more. Thank you for sharing <3

Angela said...

Beautiful, honest post. I feel like we are so close in our grief journeys, perhaps because of the closeness of our rainbow babies? The bit about not having time - yes, I just want some time to fall apart, but it's simply not possible. And the paragraph about knowing how much you are missing now that you have Owen in your arms - oh, goodness, yes. My counselor and I were just speaking about how hard that is for me, to always wonder about what Charlotte's firsts would have been like. Thank you for your words.

Sara said...

Oh, that bit about the handprints and foot prints. I wanted to do handprints and footprints of my girls for a card, but could not do it because all I could remember was making Henry's after he died.
I've struggled with the lack of time, too, and settled on (for?) working in my boy's garden on his birthday.
Thank you for sharing.

Jessica said...

Beautiful post. My Logan changed my grief but not in the way I would have expected. Sometimes now I cry more for my babies I lost... because like you said I can see everything I didn't get to experience with them! </3 Much love to you through this grief journey... xoxo

cullensblessings said...

Beautiful post Sarah.. I understand so much of what you are feeling here- esp. in parenting after loss. Sending so much love and light your way my friend.. always.

Jen said...

this is a beautiful post. i am not yet pregnant with a rainbow, but i have built a spring garden for my baby girl that died, and it's true, i care for it as a way to mother her.

Hannah Rose said...

Hi Sarah,

This is my first time at your blog. What a beautiful, honest post. You are a lovely writer. Your love for both your boys is precious.

Sometimes I too think, "Lily was here. Now she's not." At times, I feel like I dreamed her up. But, then I see her hand and footprints and lock of her hair and remember she WAS truly here. The only reason it hurts so much is because we love SO much. Because they were real, they were here. And they will live forever in our hearts.

Much love and hugs,
Hannah Rose

Merry said...

Tending to the grief. Yes, it is hard to do that now. I want to and I don't want to but there just isnt really time, like it or not.

Xxx

Julie said...

I've already cut and pasted some of your words into my own blog (attributed to you, of course), because they so perfectly capture what I anticipate my own feelings will be - actually, what they are even though we don't yet have our living child in our arms.
In week 33 of our rainbow pregnancy, I feel like I too am already trying to reconcile the mother I'll be to this
(please god) living baby with the one who will be forever heartbroken over the baby we lost.
We went to my niece's dance recital and within 3 minutes I was in tears because we'll never see our firstborn daughter dance, will never know all the beauty and surprises she'd bring...and I already know that for every joyful experience we have with this baby it will be met with simultaneous pain for having missed it with Anna.
How does one find the balance in living life that way? Will there ever joy that isn't bittersweet?

So much of what you wrote hit home. Thank you. It's comforting to know that the people in my real life may not completely understand or know my experience, but there ARE others who do, and I -we - are not alone.

I agree with Brooke - you make us miss and love Otis too. What better mother could you possibly be?

J. said...

What a beautiful, heartfelt post. I was nodding and tearing up while reading it.

I used to feel remorse after my second child came along and I couldn't make it out to the cemetery as often as I used to. I couldn't grieve as actively as I felt I needed to...I felt like C. placed so few demands on me compared to my other children, it was like I was letting her down somehow. I reconciled it that she'd understand...she just would. Now I've moved to the other side of the world and I feel a level of sadness that I never had before, thinking of how my in-laws only tend her grave once a year (twice perhaps if I beg them to go out there).

"I was unable to take Owen's hand and footprints when he was born because doing so reminded me too much of Otis. It felt like a betrayal to take them of my living, breathing baby - when that is all Otis could give me, and Owen will be giving me mementos for (hopefully) many many many years to come."

This is also me. I have empty baby books for my living children, just because the idea of filling the pages is tinged with so much regret and sorrow instead of plain old happiness.

Remembering Otis always. ♥

Fireflyforever said...

These are beautiful and haunting words. And the paragraph about running from grief really caught me too because I don't think that's what I'm doing but then I know that sometimes I deliberately avoid triggering situations because I don't want to feel that weight of grief at that moment, so yeah, I get that.

I didn't lose my firstborn but it has always seemed unfair that for you who did, it makes your first experience of living parenting so complicated - joyous and yet such a revelation too.

Wishing Otis was here with you and his brother.

lady pumpkin said...

I came to thank you for your comment on my PPD post after finding me through LFCA. This is a beautiful post and I am so, so sorry for your loss. Thank you tremendously for helping me to know I am not alone. Sending you love and heartwarmth.

Josh Jackson said...

"Nothing has changed. Everything has changed."

Amen to that. If there were any succinct phrase that could describe what losing a child is like, those six might do the trick.

Thank-you for sharing in this project and describing where you are at after twenty months.

Josh

Molly said...

Ah, your depictions of mothering both Otis and Owen in such different ways strikes me. I'm not pregnant yet after our loss, but I long to be. And yet I don't. Thank you for sharing.

Anonymous said...

love you sarah. h.x

Arcadia said...

"Otis is frozen in time. Forever a newborn. Forever in that striped jammie set the hospital put him in. Forever with his head full of hair combed just so. With his arm draped across his body just so. The photographs have now almost become more real than he ever was"

That's so exactly, precisely how I feel. I can remember so little of my son's birth and life, that photographs are more real than the reality. I'm so sorry about your Otis. I desperately want another baby, but I long for it to be the thing it will never be - normal, and complete, without one missing.

Renel said...

"Having Owen here has brought an entirely new dimension to my understanding of what we lost when Otis died. It makes it so incredibly much harder. Every smile, every giggle, every milestone that Owen meets is one that we missed from Otis. Every "first" is a first that we should have done with Otis. The way my heart continues to stretch and grow in the enormity of love I feel for Owen - it kills me that I don't get to have that same stretch for Otis."

I think this is how it feels for me too only from an older sibling perspective. Everything you experience with your child makes you long for what you are missing with the one who is not here. I think having another little person to love helps your heart but the missing of the other little person is not dampened.

I am so glad Owen fills you with joy and I wish you had Otis too. Hugs.

CourtneyT said...

Beautiful post! So much of it resonates with me. I miss my daughter so much by having my rainbow baby girl takes the edge off the pain. Everything has changed, but nothing has. Somedays I feel like Im still that scared, horrified woman sitting in the hospital bed waiting to give birth to my dead child. Its so strange to move on and leave this part of you stuck in the past.

Tiffany said...

i understand. my brain and heart still can't grasp the fact that he was here and then he wasn't. i'm not sure i will ever "get it."

brianna said...

"Reading babyloss blogs and Glow the last few nights has really put a hole in my heart in a way that it didn't used to do. All these new names, all these stories that seem to keep repeating themselves, with a new cast of characters - it's devastating."

I've all but stopped reading new blogs for this very reason.

xoxo

Amelia said...

"I must share him, you must know him." I love that you do that, I wish I could, I want to so bad.

TracyOC said...

This might be the most accurate description of the confused state of parenting a live baby and a dead baby that I've read. My girls were born together so the timing's a little different but I've had exactly the same thoughts and feelings about. The living baby heals your heart but reminds you just how broken it is. Tough stuff. But perfectly articulated.

Best to you and your family.

March is for daffodils said...

"How is it so, he was here, and then, he wasn't?" Oh, I wonder this all the time. All the time. And then I wonder, was she here? Did I dream her? Was she ever really real? But she was. And so was Otis. And so is all the mother love we have for them. Thank you for sharing this post - it is honest and aching and beautiful.

Hanen said...

Beautiful post Sarah! So much of this resonates with me - especially this line:

"It's like my life has split yet again."

Absolutely.

Maria said...

thank you for sharing.

hugs
Maria

Mary Beth said...

This is such a beautiful, perfect post. You've really captured how it feels, that split, having a baby after the pain of losing one.

I am so sorry your Otis is not there with you. I so wish he was. Sending love.
xo

Elena's Echoes said...

Your nightmare of losing Owen reminded me of the nightmares I had in the very early days after losing my daughter. The nightmares are so awful.
Thinking of your precious Otis tonight.

Helene said...

I can relate to so much of this. I'm So sorry about your sweet Otis. Wishing you peace and healing.

Jenn said...

So much of this I am nodding my head to and saying yes, yes, yes. Also, those dreams of losing the baby? They plague me. SO awful.