7/7/09 We got through the day, Lyle's birth and death day. I have a headache today from some emotional purging, and am quite numb and disinterested in what is going on around me, but otherwise alright.
Thank you to everyone to has send thoughts, feelings and encouragement! This is my first blog and it is heartening to see people reading it.
I wanted to post something I wrote to be a part of my friend Jeanne Bain's radio show on baby loss. She had just happened to have this show planned at the end of August last summer. So I wrote the piece below and read it for air time. It is very raw and in places, repetitious. I want to post this because this is how grief went for me, those initial days, weeks and months.
End of June 2008
It has been three weeks since I delivered my son too early. The grief is still very raw. Not as raw as the first two weeks when the devastation would rack my body with sobs in the middle of the night or whenever it chose. But still raw. I can feel my body and mind attempt to move forward and it disconcertedly feels like forgetting. The urge to bring myself back to the night of the delivery just to see if it can still make me cry is very strong. I feel numb. Nothing is important; nothing exciting. I don’t look forward to anything, in fact dread getting together with friends, or dropping by the co-op, or going to work. Work seems banal. So meaningless. After going through something like this nothing seems as significant.
I find that the only thing that I am doing with any amount of enthusiasm is researching Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) diagnosis of kidney deficiency, as well as TCM in general. My acupuncturist has given me a six month road to recovery. I will strive to nourish my body and prepare it in turn to nurture life. That feels good. It feels right. The only thing that feels right, with the exception of the base existence of my family. I am so thankful for my husband and daughter. I feel as though I am unable to be the mother Iris wants and needs me to be, but she herself and my relationship to her is right. Likewise, I am short and irritable with Robert. But he is right as is my relationship to him. He is grieving too. As is Iris. He starts projects. Some of them absurd. He tries to construct an artistic or mechanical theory in his mind and then manifest it physically. Sometimes it works to great success, like the sand paintings he did with Iris, other times it fails, like his dabbling in juggling or harmonography.
As I try to accept the events of three weeks ago some ideas give me peace. At my most esoteric, I imagine a place where all souls congregate. One is asked to volunteer for a very short life for a woman who thinks she is ready but in reality her body is not. Lyle volunteers for this life. He is an old soul. He is loved and perhaps sticks around a little longer because of it. He likes it when the cat lays on his mother’s belly and he can hear and feel the vibration and comfort of the cat’s purring and weight. He likes the voices of the woman and man and child that constantly surround him. But it doesn’t feel right and he gets antsy; restless.
Of course the other theory is that if I had gone into the midwives at the first sign of bleeding and had they seen that perhaps my cervix was dilated, I may have had a cerclage. Had I had a cerclage on Wednesday and then gone into labor on Saturday as it happened, maybe they could have controlled the contractions with medications and I would have been hospitalized for several weeks as we all waited anxiously for the baby to develop to a point where he would have had a fraction of a chance to survive outside the womb.
But that didn’t happen because they did not call me in. I will never know if my cervix was dilated on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. I called them each day. Each day they told me I need not come in. My anger can rage up if I think of this. But then I remember the words of my acupuncturist telling me I got pregnant too soon, and I realize that if this is true, the midwives could have done very little. Then I go back to my esoteric idea of Lyle volunteering for this job knowing he would not live very long.
Week 1 - (What follows is my attempt to record where my head, thoughts and mental state were at. All that surfaced during that time were words, single words, and thoughts behind those words.)
Utter devastation. Wake me up in the middle of the night wracking my body with sobs. I can’t believe it happened. Oh my God. Oh my god. It really happened. Oh God. That was me. That was my baby. Oh my God. I killed my baby. Oh God I am so sorry. I am so sorry. I love you. I am so sorry. I failed. My body rejected you. I killed you. How can I go on. Oh shit. Holy Shit. This happened. That was me. That was my baby. Any time of day that gives me five minutes of unoccupied time. I killed my baby. My baby is dead. It’s my fault. I can’t go on. Let me sleep.
Mom and Dad in my house. Cooking me dinner. Letting me sleep. Watching me cry. Pouring me drinks. Doing my laundry. Crying with me. Their grandchild. Letting me talk. Letting me remember. Holding me. Rubbing my shoulders. They are sad. I love them.
Robert back to work. Listening to me cry. Holding me in the middle of the night. Crying. Our son died. Never sitting still. Trying to work. Crying. Trembling. It’s not your fault. I’m not angry at you. It’s not your fault. They told us not to come in. I don’t blame you. I love you. You didn’t kill him. I love you. Come here.
Iris making her sad face. A tear drop on her cheek made with her thumb and forefinger. Then pulls the corners of her mouth down with the same fingers. She is sad. Everything is boring. Why did the baby die? I never thought that baby would die. I am sorry. I don’t like to see you and Daddy sad. It makes me sad.
Friends who know. Who have felt it. Who understand. Friends who don’t know but love. Give support. More love and support than I ever would have thought I needed. Cards and flowers light up the room with love. Friends who don’t know what to say. Perhaps fear. Friends who call and provide conversations, thoughts, strength that lead to memories that make me smile. Distract me. I can laugh. I can smile as tears come. Just to check in. Each day is different.
So vivid. So raw. So recent. I still feel it. Feel him in my arms. Feel him inside me. Engorged breasts. Milk for whom? I have no body. Blood. Pain. Exhaustion.
I have learned how greatly memories affect the grieving process and one’s emotional state in general. The first week after we lost Lyle, that night figured so prominently in all its devastation and agony, rendering me to bits and pieces as I walked from couch to kitchen to couch. I would close my eyes and I would be back in the tent, or the emergency room, or in the car on the way to the emergency room, or on the walk from the tent to the car, or in the delivery room, or waking up in the delivery room not realizing at first where I was and why I was there.
There were distractions, however, that first week which hauled me out of the despair. Telephone calls with friends. Two friends that had also lost sons too early. With friends that gave me support, kindness and love. My parents came to be with us. My Dad made lovely food and we had drinks and laughed and conversed. These events, these memories tried their best to push the memories of losing Lyle away from the forefront of my mind and surprisingly, they succeeded to a point. I was able to smile and laugh and accept love and sympathy, advice on how to go on (just go on). Able to listen to other women’s stories. Learn from them. With these memories, I was able to sleep through the night without waking up and sobbing.
I want Lyle here with us. That thought came three days after we lost him. I need him to be here. After I delivered him and we held him in his towel and watched him die, I had no concept of what to do with him. I had never thought of what I would do. No being a religious person, a ceremony was not attractive. Nor was bringing his body home with us in a box. I sent him to the Mayo Clinic for tests. The nurses and OB said I had time to decide. I didn’t think I would. Then three days later, I needed him with us. The next two days were dedicated to calling Lake City, finding out where Lyle was and what I needed to do to get him cremated and sent back to us. I spoke to at least three funeral homes, all quoting me different prices for the cremation of Lyle and delivery, the highest quote being over three hundred dollars. I finally managed to have a kind man pick him up at the Lake City Medical Center and have him cremated in Lake City. This service was free. Nor did he charge me for delivery. “We won’t charge you for that,” he said. These phone calls also provided me with a life line during that first week. I was accomplishing something that I felt to be very important. I had to tell the story over and over to each person on the other end of the telephone. Everyone was so kind and understanding when I had to stop talking and take a deep breath to keep my voice steady.
My daughter was glad to have Lyle in the house. He will always be a part of our family. “Ly-all,” she says and makes a teardrop out of her thumb and pointer finger and places it on her cheek, then turns down the corners of her mouth with her other thumb and pointer. “I never thought that baby would die,” “I never even got to see him,” she would say. We explain to her that Lyle was born too early and wasn’t able to survive. That I will try to have another baby, but that if I can’t we will adopt. “You will be an older sister one day, one way or another.” She likes that idea. She tells her friends.
But memories are not helping me anymore. I have a month and a half now between Lyle’s death and today. Many new memories to think of. Going to Mexico was so peaceful. Our whole family went to Mexico about 5 weeks after we lost Lyle. For a week after arrangements were made for the travel, I felt nothing. Two days before we left I started getting a little excited and it felt good to look forward to something. The five days were relaxing and beautiful. Iris played in the sea and swam like a fish. We laughed and ate good food, saw Mayan ruins and macaws and iguanas. Then we came home. A few days later numbness set in once again.
The Monday drive into work is hard. I think, “Why am I doing this?” Work doesn’t seem meaningful. Nothing seems meaningful. I fight the urge to quit. Once I am at my desk it is better. I can work and I can actually like what I am doing. But the next morning I dread the trip in.
Women have come out of the woodwork to tell me their stories of loss. So many women. So much grieving and surviving. They are an inspiration.
Research. Traditional Chinese Medicine. Acupuncture. Kidney deficiency. Have only scratched the surface. So much to learn.
My body. First week: cramping, exhaustion, pain, blood. Breasts engorged. Headaches. Hemorrhoids. Pain. Milk spraying out of my breasts. No baby. Sage and comfrey compresses. Peppermint candy. Cabbage leaves. Please make it stop. Exhaustion. Must sleep.
If I was one hundred percent honest with myself I would freely say my belief is as strong for God as it is that I have a right arm. God is the sky. God is the air I breathe. God surrounds me. That is not to say that God is nature (although I believe that too); the symbolism is that I feel God so wholly, so completely inside, yet nothing is as big as God and the sky comes the closest. If I were honest, I would say that I talk to God nearly daily at small intervals here and there. This is not the first time I have felt a strength that could not have come from myself in a time of trauma or devastation. But this is the worst. Some days (in retrospect, perhaps the last several) I have not sought solace in God. Sometimes, if I were honest, I would say that I sometimes forget. Maybe I will try that tonight.
I want with all my heart and soul for Lyle to appear to me in dream or wake to tell me he forgives me. Please forgive me. Please forgive me. I am so sorry. Let me know you are alright, that you are not angry with me for failing to carry you. Please let me know you are at peace. Some of course would say that the person I need forgiveness from is myself. I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive you. Maybe if I say it enough times I will believe it. I failed him. It isn’t fair. I need to forgive myself. When does that happen?
Who am I? Where will this take me? A journey is beginning. Evolution. I need to be open to the signs that will take me…somewhere. Every day I drive to my office, I feel empty and numb at best, filled with despair and sadness at worst. What else do I want to be doing? Until I have an answer for that, I will remain at my job and resist the urge to quit.