Sunday, August 21, 2016

The number nine

Today was incredibly hard for me. Much harder than the last couple have been. And, I fear-not nearly as difficult as next year will be. I can't fathom marking a decade without my babies. It just doesn't seem .....real/fair/natural/normal. How can it be? How can it be nine years now? How can it be that nine years have passed since I touched them? Since I got to kiss those tiny, beautiful and oh so perfect faces? Has it really been nine years since I tenderly wiped the blood dripping from Zoe's nose with hands that would not stop shaking? Was it really nine years ago that I clung to their tiny bodies as the chaplain baptised them and formally "gave them to God"? Gave them to God.....ironic, don't you think? Because He already had them. They were already gone.

Today was dark although no one else noticed. It was 90 degrees. The sky was a brilliant blue. The sun was wickedly and brutally intense. And I didn't notice any of it. Not really.
I didn't fall asleep until well after 3am. And I slept until almost 10am. I had purposefully finished all the laundry and other household chores on Thursday and Friday because I knew......I didn't want to feel obligated to do anything if I wasn't able to. And I wasn't. I wasn't able. I couldn't.
I woke at a couple minutes before ten....and my face was already wet from tears. I had apparently begun silently crying at some point in my sleep. It's funny how the body, the spirit, the mind, the soul all KNOW without you even needing to be conscious. No reminders necessary. That's because the loss is there. Always. It never leaves. It doesn't fade. It is there. Every moment. Of every day. Of every year. Forever.
I tried several times to stop the tears. I of course failed. They came off and on and without real provocation for hours. At some point I left the house and decided to drive around to try and pull myself together so I could at least appear somewhat normal. Another failure. Not only did I fail to get it together, I have very few clear memories of even leaving the house, driving, where I went or returning home. I was absent.
But I did come back home. I sat and had lunch with Cidney and Georgie. Lily had spent the night at a friend's and Ceara was already at work. I ate and then sat on the couch. In a fog. Oblivious to - everything. The tears were still coming and going. I was just so unaware of ...... life.....and so unable to function that I didn't even recognize my own child when he walked into the room and leaned down to hug me. I heard the front door open. I watched him walk up the entry stairs. I heard his voice calling me mom and saying he had come to surprise me. Telling me that he and his brother wanted to be with me and since they couldn't both be here they had decided together that he would come. That they both wanted me to know they love me. That they both wanted me to have flowers.......bright, sunny, beautiful flowers which he held out for me. But I didn't recognize him for several moments. It didn't register. My mind was so incredibly...I don't know....empty of rational thought or filled with painful memories or both? And once the recognition clicked-the tears came. Again.
Ricky and I released the two pink balloons he brought with him. We stood there, holding on to each other, watching them float up in that brilliant blue sky until we could no longer see them. And they made the entire trip together. Never parting by more than a foot. As it should be- since Chloe and Zoe took every single step of their journey on this Earth, in this life and in their departure from it together. Never separating for more than a moment when Chloe took her very last breath, followed by Zoe just seconds later. Hand in hand. Heart to heart. Every step. Together.
Time elapsed today. But I didn't feel it or notice it passing. Not really. Time, for me- stood still today. Again. Just like it did nine years ago. Time for me-today-was nothing more than a cruel reminder that there are two little girls missing. Two voices that don't call out to me. Two sets of feet that aren't climbing trees. Two sets of arms that aren't reaching for me or squeezing me until breathing becomes a problem. Two faces that aren't being washed after ice cream. Two lives that....aren't.
For most of the year, each year....I function. I carry on. I live. I love. I laugh. I experience great joy. I watch six of my children and now two precious grandbabies grow and thrive and love life. I celebrate every single blessing that is each one of them....their successes, their failures, their hopes, their dreams and am thankful for all of it. Good. Bad. Ugly. For most of the year I am "normal". Or at normal as any woman who has ever had to sit in a funeral home for her child or children can be. I miss them. I think of them. I carry them with me. I have my moments. But all in all, I am ok.
And then.....there is the month of August. The pain. The sadness. The sorrow.....they are all there. In August. August 7th....the last time I saw my daughters alive, bouncing and kicking on the ultrasound. Pushing each other and competing for what little space was left. August 15th.....the day my daughters took their last breaths. The day my daughters died. The day I had to pretend everything was ok-nothing was wrong so my oldest daughters would be able to focus and do well on their placement tests for their new school. They had only been home, in Maryland for 15 days. They had had just two weeks to be told I was pregnant, to get used to the news and to become incredibly excited that they would soon be big sisters, again......and this time to twins. And now...they were never going to meet them. August 20th. The day my daughters, silent and still, perfect and beautiful entered this world and every single thing I had ever known, felt, thought, believed was forever altered. August 21st. The day my daughters were baptised in my arms. The day I kissed them for the very last time and sent them away with a funeral director while every fiber of my being was screaming to please just let me keep them a little while longer. Knowing that a little while longer was never going to be long enough. Nothing would be. August 22nd. The day I left the hospital- empty. Empty handed. Arms empty. Heart shattered. Soul broken. Empty. August 31st. The day I walked into a funeral home and walked out with two tiny porcelain urns that now held my daughters inside. Two jars. Small containers that sit on a shelf as a reminder that nine years ago there were two little girls who.....were. I hate August. And I love it. IT is a battle. It will always be a battle.
This August was no different. But it was at the same time. I made it through almost every one of those dates without the anxiety and tears that typically ensue. And then...I didn't. Then I fell apart. The control was no more. Then- August 20th happened. Again. Nine years. And I wondered the same thing I wonder every August 20th. Will this ever get any easier? Will the pain ever lessen? Will there ever be an August 20th that doesn't send me right back to that hospital room? To the all encompassing and excruciating rawness? I know the answer. My heart knows. My head knows. My soul has always known. No. Simply. There will never be a time without the pain. There will never be a birthday celebrated without the tears and longing. The ache will never dull.
And so- I will continue to function as normally as a mother who has said goodbye to her children can. On most days. For most of the year. And I won't for the rest.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Back to School #67

That's right. I said number 67. That's because that's what this was for me. Today. This afternoon as I led my son into his elementary school to meet his fifth grade teacher I walked in to my 67th back to school meet and greet. My son, my little boy-who is now all grown up (or so he thinks) and will spend his final year in elementary school will be the last time I walk into an elementary school to meet a teacher for one of my babies. Not because he's the last baby I have.....because he's the last baby I have that's alive. 
When your child/children die "they" tell you lots of things. They tell you it will be hard (it's impossible). They tell  you there will be sadness and tears (try full blown depression and soul shattering sobs) at first (for years). They tell you the pain will get better with time and that your wounds will heal (the pain does NOT get better....ever.....the wounds are reopened with EVERY SINGLE missed milestone. We simply get better at carrying our scars with us.) But there are many more things they don't tell you. 
They don't tell you that one day you will wake up and it will be what SHOULD have been their first day of kindergarten. And you will cry. You will be reduced to a heap of tears. You will lost your ability to form full sentences and to function in any real capacity as a human being. And you will-as you have so many MANY times before pick yourself up, dust yourself off and force yourself to care for the children you have with you,relying on you for their care. Because you have to. 
They also don't tell you that one day, you will walk into fifth grade with your child feeling all sorts of sentimental because this is your "last" baby. Your "youngest". Your "last" fifth grader meeting his last elementary teacher. Ever.'s not. He is not your last baby. He is not your youngest. He shouldn't be your last fifth grader. There were two little girls born after him. They were your last babies. They are your youngest. They should be your silly, smart and rambunctious third graders. They should be your last fifth graders. But they died. 
They don't tell you that this knowledge will cause your brain to count. How many first days? How many back to school nights? How many open houses, award ceremonies, concerts, science fairs, Christmas plays, winter festivals, school carnivals, book fairs, field trips and graduations have you attended? How many have you missed because your babies never got to be in them? How many years have you sent your children off to school and how many more years will you miss out on because your babies will never go?
67 . Sixty-seven back to school nights and first days of school since 1993 when I sent my very first baby off to his very first elementary school teacher. Lily will give me five more. Georgie will give me seven. And there should be two more little girls with nine more first days of school. But they aren't here. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


When you have a baby there are endless amounts of advice, tips, suggestions and "how to's" given freely by anyone and everyone. Even strangers. You're instructed on all things parental from how to diaper your baby to when to potty train to how to love but not spoil your child. Most of this will be useless information but is well intended so you smile, nod accordingly and thank them for the guidance all the while knowing you'll never need that homemade remedy for all that ails your baby.
When you become a parent you already know that this will be the hardest thing you ever embark on. This will be your toughest job, longest journey and most difficult experience you will ever willingly take part in. But it will also be the most precious, most rewarding and joy-filled time of your entire existence.
But they forget the disclaimers. There is no fine print alerting you to what lies ahead. There are no quiet whispers of warning. No one tells you......the hardest part....the REAL work.....will come when your babies are grown ups.
You see-we all operate under the delusion that we have a baby and for the next 18 years we are parents. We are expected to love, nurture, teach, guide, discipline and rear this little person into a big person we can then kiss on the cheek, pat on the back and send out into the world to continue the cycle. Our job is then complete. We have accomplished our task. Life is good, calm and serene.
No. It isn't.. You see, when you have little children who become big children--and let's face it, they ARE our children regardless of age......there is not calm. Life is still tenuous. It is still chaotic. And real. And SCARY. The only thing that has changed is that you now will feel a total and complete sense of helplessness most if not all of the time.
Sure it's hard watching your little boy fall and require stitches. Or seeing your little girl get her feelings hurt by the mean girls at school. But nothing can prepare you for the real hurts.....the cuts that stitches won't heal and hugs won't take away. The pain that grows behind your child's eyes when the girl he loves suddenly drops him for another guy. The fear you live with when he stops living for three months and you wonder each morning if this will be the day you find the unthinkable. Those skinned knees are nothing next to the pit in your stomach when the phone rings at 5am and it's your adult child telling you that "I'm ok, so try not to freak out but some guy just tried to kill me. He pointed a gun at my face and pulled the trigger but missed". Or the 3am phone call to rescue your adult child from jail where some power hungry police officer has thrown him, refusing him medical care after he was assaulted and has blood coming from both ears, his nose and mouth.
You will almost long for those mean girl days when several years later you watch your little girl, now a mother herself.....make the hard decision to end her relationship with the man she loves for the good of her child. When you would rather go back to wiping away the tears of your child after being bullied for her looks because it's graduated to the so called grown up girl who was your daughter's best friend,  jealous of your daughter's grown up looks accusing her of any number of infractions and sending her nasty messages and instructing her to die, kill herself and hoping her anxiety gets the best of her.
It's watching your adult child struggle to reclaim his life after not one but two strokes have stolen his independence, his confidence, his stability and his calm all the while recalling your little invincible Superman falling off the monkey bars and breaking a bone-----thinking that would be the hardest thing you'd ever have to go through.
No. No one tells you that the broken bones, the stitches, the close calls, the skinned knees, broken hearts and the bloody noses will be the easiest part of parenting your child. No one warns you the the hurts, the scrapes, the injuries of childhood become moments of fear, uncertainty and heartbreak of adulthood. No one warns you that this, the parenting of the grown people you once snuggled to your chest will by far be the hardest, most emotionally exhausting and sometimes physically painful thing you will ever do.
Because there's no need to. The disclaimer would be useless. Because what we already know is....that this job....this thing we call beyond a doubt- WORTH EVERY SINGLE SECOND. And even if they did warn us.......even if there WAS a disclaimer-
We'd do it anyway. Because those moments are nothing, they are minute, they pale when compared to the moments when you watch your adult children experience the pride of making it on their own. The exhuberance of landing their dream job and feeling they can make a difference. The sheer joy the moment they become a parent. Those moments. They are--------well, they are everything.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy New Year

Another New Year. This means two things. First it means the end of another year. Twelve months of activities, ups, downs, milestones and memories made. Another year tucked away into the scrapbook of my mind where it's pages will eventually bend and yellow, where many of the snapshots will become unrecognizable and fade into the distance. Second it means the start of another year. Another clean slate waiting to be written on. A free pass to forget yesterday's mistakes and look forward to tomorrow's accomplishments. The anticipation of resolutions kept, goals achieved, milestones reached and new memories to be made. But that's not all the New Year brings........
The New Year means that we've (myself and other loss parents) made it through another twelve months of loss. Another year of that ever present void where our children used to be, should still be.......but aren't. Another year of holidays meant for family gatherings that we attend with a smile plastered across our faces and laugh loudly as if that will somehow mask our constant awareness that this family gathering as well as is missing someone. Another birthday survived without the birthday boy or girl. Yet another prom/homecoming/graduation season wondering what that might have been like for.......... The New Year means we will again have to endure those moments in the twelve months to come. It means more missed milestones. More unmade memories. More empty frames and blank scrapbooks.
But it's a new year. And this year we will make resolutions. Like other parents do. Like we do every year since......
We will once again resolve to be stronger this year. To handle our pain better. To fall apart less. We will resolve to smile on their birthday, remain calm when asked if we're "still" sad and maintain composure in the face of each and every reminder - of them. And, much like most other parents who make resolutions we will fall short on many (if not all) of them. We will be weak. We will buckle under the burden of this pain. We will fall apart almost always when we least expect it. We will smile on their birthday- through a bevy of tears wishing another birthday wasn't here WITHOUT them. We will lose our cool when asked stupid questions or subjected to ridiculous (and often thoughtless) comments and our self control will absolutely falter when we don't need a reminder because we never forget, not for a moment that they aren't here. We will break our resolutions. And we will do as we have done and will continue to do until our dying breath...we will survive yet another new year. And another. And another. Without them.