Happy 4th Birthday, Malou Amelia!

There is no
full circle for me.

But it has been four years.

Malou Amelia
has been buried in the ground
7 times longer
than  she was alive in my womb.

She has been dead for all of her birthdays.
Every single one.

Now that doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Of course not,
because it isn’t.

My poor baby.
I wish she was here
for me to love and cuddle and kiss.

I wish she was here
so I could bake her a cake
and watch her face light up
at all the candles.

But she’s not.

But her little brothers are.

As I write this now,
her little brother Liam is napping
and her other little brother,
due to arrive right before her birthday,
is gently kicking me.

Thank you, thank you, thank you,
I constantly breathe to the universe…
in my thoughts, my tears, my laughter…

I am so grateful.

I know how lucky I am.

But it doesn’t mean I have come
full circle.

My family is still incomplete.
It always will be.
It doesn’t matter how many children we have,
none can replace
Malou Amelia.

I am so grateful to have had her
for the short time we did,
but I am also still so sad
that she is always missing
and there is nothing I can do about it.

***

I wrote the above just a few weeks before
Malou’s
birthday.

I wanted to schedule it
to automatically post on her actual birthday
as I knew (well, hoped)
I’d be busy tending to her
little brother.

But I never scheduled it
because I was scared.

And superstitious.

As if,
by scheduling it,
I may jinx my
good luck
and something would happen
to baby brother as well.

Thank goodness that wasn’t the case.

I spent the anniversary
of the day
Malou
died,
the 26th of May,
laboring her precious
little brother.

I spent the night alone
with my thoughts
in the hospital…
remembering how four years before
I was in the hospital as well,
unknowingly spending my last moments
with my beloved daughter.

I prayed my son
would make it through that night
and he did.

Just before 10 in the morning,
with four easy pushes (or so)
little Nohi
arrived safe and sound.

We were able to leave
the hospital the same day.

As I announced on Facebook,

“4 years ago today
Malou Amelia
died.
4 hours ago today,
her little brother was born.
From now on,
this is going to be a
Good Day!”

And I mean it.

I want to reclaim that date…
May 26th
represents life and happiness and goodness
for me again.

I want to leave
the sad power of that day
in the past.

From now on
it is a day of celebration.

Not that we will forget…
but every time
Nohi has a birthday,
I can look at him
and
be grateful…

that we survived,
kept going,
and the universe
gave us something
beyond wonderful
to replace the something
beyond sad
that it once was.

We still have the 28th of May
to celebrate
Malou Amelia…
that’s her day,
her birthday.

This year, we took
both of her brothers,
along with grandma, auntie and uncle,
to visit her at her grave.

Then we had some ice cream
on the nearby lake.

Later on in the evening,
I made her a cake.

I couldn’t bring myself
to ask anyone to sing
Happy Birthday.

I do that
in my head
for her.

For me,
it’s just too sad
to sing to her in heaven.

So I think it instead.

It was a pretty emotional day
for me,
cuddling my brand new boy,
dark-haired like his sister,
and remembering that
four years before
I was cuddling my firstborn,
dark-haired beauty.

My head filled with all the
could-have
and
should-have-beens.

And I cried.

But no matter how much
I wish my complete family
was here in the flesh,
I know there is nothing
I can do about it.

So I try to count my blessings
and
always,
always,
include
my girl
in those.

Here is 2-day old Nohi visiting Malou on her birthday

Grateful

Malou’s family

20 months and 1 day

Liam is 20 months
and 1 day old today.

Exactly the age
Malou Amelia
would have been
on the day Liam was born.

I remember thinking,
it would have been tough,
but we could do it.

Oh, how I wanted two babies
under two in my arms.

I missed
Malou
then
but I didn’t know what I was missing
on that day.

I didn’t know what
a 20-month-old (plus one day)
could do.

I didn’t know
she would have had
such strong opinions,
likes and dislikes…

and would know exactly
how to convey that to us.

I didn’t know
she would have been able
to say
“ta da!” while holding up her arms and grinning proudly.

I didn’t know
she would have been able
to make me laugh like no one else
just by giving me a certain “look.”

I didn’t know
she would be able to say
“mama”
and would always say it
with a smile.

I didn’t know
her whole body
would shake with delight
when her daddy came in the door.

I didn’t know
she would have been able
to recognize babies
in real life, tv, books and pictures
and always say in the sweetest voice,
“A baby!”

I didn’t know she would
be obsessed with playing ball,
and be a better soccer player than me
already.

And I guess I still don’t know any of that.

All I can compare her to is
Liam.

Daily
his dad and I look at each other
and smile,
and say how amazed we are
that he came from us.
How it is so hard to imagine
the world without him in it.

And yet,
that is how we live
without
Malou Amelia
every day.

 We live in a world
without her in it
and it is still so hard to fathom.

As I see
Liam grow up
I realize more and more
how much we are missing
Malou.

It’s not so much that the pain
is still as intense,
but the knowledge
of what could have been
makes it even harder
to accept.

My world broke apart
on the day she died,
and I didn’t even know
what I was missing.

It was enough to know
I would miss her.

But now I see that I am also
missing
getting to know her
and
who she would have been.

And that makes me sad.
Still.

There’s a difference…

…between a parent
who has lost a child,
and one who has not.

So many parents tell me
I am not alone
in my worries and fears…

They they, too,
for example, have compulsively checked
if their child is breathing
while napping.

 These confessions
are meant to make me feel better,
more normal, I guess,
but I have always suspected
it is not the same.

Yes, we both may
check on our babies while
they are sleeping,
but that brief moment
until
you see the tiny chest rising and falling
isn’t for most people,
filled with thoughts of
how to do cpr,
what to say to the 911 operators,
what the look on the doctors’ faces
at the hospital will tell you,
how you will tell your husband, parents, siblings, friends,
how this time you will hold your baby’s body
as long as you want,
where you will bury your baby,
what life will feel like afterwards.

Yes, all of these thoughts,
fleeting as they may be,
can run through my head,
and the relief that runs straight
through my heart
when I see Liam’s chest
rising and falling
is so strong,
it feels like someone has shot
adrenalin through it.

(And I want to drop to my knees
in gratefulness.)

But I never bother explaining this,
the Difference.
It’s too hard to put into words,
and it doesn’t really matter.
I don’t want any other parent
to know how I feel.
There are enough who do already.

But it was only recently,
when I was watching a tv show
that showed a rape scene,
that it occurred to me,

There’s a difference.

While I was watching the horrible scene,
I really felt for the woman.
As I thought to myself how awful it was
for her, for people, to experience
the horror of rape…
and I could, briefly, place myself in her position.

Just the thought was terrifying.

So immediately my mind
shook it off,
and I could tell myself that

It won’t happen to me.

Statistically, I am probably right.
And that gives me comfort
and lets me shrug off the awful thought
and move on with my life,
blissfully unaware of how,
for some people,
it does happen
and their lives are never, ever the same.

And that’s the difference,
isn’t it?

I can shrug it off,
convince myself that
it won’t happen to me,
and therefore never
really understand
how it must be
for rape victims.

Before
Malou
died
I knew babies could die.

But I didn’t really feel it,
understand it, appreciate its magnitude,
until it happened to me.

And now
my mind can go there in a second.

I know exactly what it feels like
to have a baby daughter die before she was born.

I know exactly what it feels like
to never have enough time.

I know exactly what it feels like
to have to say the words
that break my closest family’s hearts.

I know exactly what it feels like
to lay my daughter in her casket.

I know exactly what it feels like
to watch my husband shut the lid on our future.

I know exactly what it feels like
to listen to a priest
talk about my daughter in the past tense.

I know exactly what it feels like
to watch a hearse carry my daughter
to the crematory and wonder if that is the right thing to do.

I know exactly what it feels like
to sob every night for months,
wishing my life was the one that was over.

I know exactly what it feels like
to wake up every morning and
try, unsuccessfully, to convince myself
life after
Malou
is worth living.

I know this and so much more,
and yet
I don’t know what it is like for
other parents
who have lost a child.

Because we share a lot of the same thoughts,
but it is not the same.

Just as each life is unique,
so is each person in their grief.

There’s a difference.

Published in: on June 15, 2011 at 22:41  Comments (5)  
Tags:

Just a day

3 years ago
today
was the worst day of my life,
as it is the day that
I found out
Malou’s
heart had stopped beating.

2 years ago
today
I was one day
pregnant
with Liam,
so even though I didn’t know it
at the time,
it was one of the best days
of my life.

1 year ago today
I had Liam in my arms
and there isn’t much
that is better than that.

And today
I found out some of the best news
I could hope to hear
(but it’s not my news to share,
so I will wait to share it)
AND
Tom and I won a week-long trip
to southern Europe
from a magazine
running a competition
about love stories.

So today, too,
is one of the better/best days
of my life.

I like to think
Malou
has a little something
to do with it all.

That she doesn’t want me
to be defined
by the worst day of my life,
but instead celebrate
that life goes on…

no matter what.

Sometimes that thought is comforting
and other times it is terrifying.

But three years later
I am starting to realize
that days and dates don’t have power.

I think of
Malou,
I love
Malou,
I miss
Malou
every single day.

So all the other dates
that I associate with her
don’t make me “more” sad.

They are just another day.

On her 3rd birthday
this Saturday
we will celebrate her dad’s birthday…
he will blow out her candles,
again.

It’s not how we want it,
but it’s how it is.

***

Last night
at midnight
Liam woke up screaming
and writhing in pain.

We couldn’t comfort him
and so we called urgent care
who told us to come right in.

By the time we arrived
only 10 minutes later
he was fine.

But my brain couldn’t let go of the date,
worried that something
was really truly wrong
(instead of just gas and teething pain).

My fear started to overwhelm me,
Oh, God, no,
I can’t lose two babies,
please don’t let
May 26th be the day
my world falls apart again.

 And thankfully it wasn’t.

Instead
later today
we received two bits of
wonderful news.

And I have to remember,
it’s just a day.

It’s just a day.

Even though it’s the day
my baby girl
died,
it’s just a day.

My dear girl, Malou Amelia. I remember you every single day. I think about what you might have been like and looked like, I imagine what it would be like to hug you and have you hug me back, to tell you I love you and hear you say you love me too. I say your name aloud when I am alone, just to hear it. To imagine that I am talking to you. There are no words for how much I miss you and want you in my arms. There are no words to describe how devastated I was 3 years ago today. But I am so very thankful that you are my daughter, and that gives me happiness. Not joy, because the grief won’t allow it, but I am truly happy and grateful that you are my little girl. You were a newborn baby in my mind for a long time, but now you are starting to grow up. I can see you as a three-year-old and I miss that part of you too. You are loved and missed, my sweet girl, and your family is thinking of you and sending so many prayers up to you today and always, so you can feel our love. Love from your mama

More on normal

More of a question…

Is this normal?

I can imagine the worst
with
Liam.

I don’t even want to write
what that means.

But it petrifies me,
and makes me want to
crumble to the floor
at just the briefest
thought – which is always
pushed away
as fast as possible.

Why does my mind
torture me?

Why doesn’t it protect me,
and bathe me in a cocoon
of denial?

Why can’t life
really be safe and predictable
and why
can’t we be assured
that bad things
can’t happen to
good people?

I wish I had the answers.

So tell me,
dear readers,
my dear fellow mamas
both in loss and not…

Am I crazy?
Or is this (sometimes) paralyzing fear
just a part of loving
your child more than
life itself?

One year ago today…

my salvation came to me.

Liam’s birthday isn’t until tomorrow,
but it was a year ago in my mind,
in the wee early hours of a cold, snowy Friday.

After three years of actively trying to make a baby,
we finally looked into the open eyes
of our child.

My hope and prayer
is that there is never
another baby who is stillborn or dies…
that there is never
another healthy baby who is aborted
because he or she isn’t wanted…
that there is never
another baby who isn’t created
due to infertility.

I am so lucky.
I can’t say I am blessed…
but I can say I am lucky.

Lucky to have my
Malou
and Liam,
lucky to have my amazing
friends and family,
lucky to have met so many wonderful
women in this world,
who are walking the same sad path I am.

And showing me that it can be done.

You are all so brave and wonderful.

I love each and every one of you,
and I will always remember your beautiful babies.

I wish those of you who need it right now:
strength
peace
love
hope.

Especially hope.

The hardest of all.

Happy (early) birthday to my sweet boy, Liam. My firstborn son, but not my firstborn.

My happiness is great, but always tinged with sadness.

But you know what?
I think I have made my peace with that now.

Prayer and vomit

Odd post title, I know…
but this is where my mind has been lately.

You see,
Liam got sick.
And for the first time in his life,
we had a *real* throw-up experience with him.

We’re talking a surprise spew
over himself, Tom, a down comforter
and the couch.

Fortunately, it didn’t seem to bother him
and it didn’t bother me either.

We immediately cleaned him up
and Tom cuddled him
while I cleaned up the mess
and started the laundry.

And it occurred to me
that this is (part of)
what parenthood is.

It’s the nitty gritty part
that either people
forget about
or
exaggerate
when you are pregnant
and they are telling you
what to expect. 😉

But I really felt like
a *mom*
and it felt nice.

That night, I felt the same way
when Liam woke many, many times
since he wasn’t feeling well.

I thought to myself,
this is what it is about.

Giving comfort and love…

I remember so clearly
after
Malou
died…
wishing for everything…

including all the
dirty diapers and sleepless nights.

Because it’s not like
we just want
Malou
for the good times.

We want her all the time,
the good days and the bad.

In the months after she died,
I remember crying myself to sleep,
thinking that I should
be awake with a hungry baby,
not awake with a living nightmare.

And now that I have that,
I appreciate it
so very very much.

I love and appreciate it all.

Good times and bad…

So how does this relate to prayer?

Well, as I was comforting Liam,
rocking him in my arms
in the middle of the night,
I prayed
that he would soon feel better.

But then I had to qualify it
and add,
“And please keep him alive.”

As if God might misinterpret my prayer
and think “feeling better”
could be done in heaven…

I’ve said this before,
that I don’t really believe
God answers prayers…
because otherwise
a LOT of things in this world
would be very different.

But still,
I couldn’t take the chance.

I feel I have to be *very* careful
in my word choice nowadays…

even though I hope
God
understands the words of my heart
and my spoken words are just superfluous.

Sigh.
I wonder if I will ever
be able to just relax?

Tom and I love and cherish
and just plain enjoy Liam every day,
relaxed or not.

In fact, Tom said the other day
that he gets tears in his eyes
just watching him,
because he is so darn cute and amazing.

I feel the same way.

(Maybe you can see why…)

I cherish every second,
not just because it is all so precious,
but because who knows when the last second will come?
And it’s that scary thought
that I could do without
on a daily basis.

But grief runs deep
and causes
a lifetime of changes inside a person.

I mean,
I didn’t know
that this picture

taken at 11.32 am on May 25th, 2008,
would be the very last picture of me
pregnant with
Malou
alive.

And I never could have imagined
that this

 

would be the very last time
I would ever touch my
beautiful daughter.

Looking back,
of course that one week
changed me more than any other week
in my life.

But I really want to learn
to let go of the fear
that it brought to my daily life.

In some ways,
the fear is “good”…

it helps me live in the presence
and appreciate what I have.

But in other ways,
it’s bad…

it makes me feaful and anxious.
And nauseous.

And then I pray.

See?
Prayer and vomit.

Beating hearts

Liam got a cold
and has been having
a hard time getting over it.

He was coughing more than usual today,
and breathing hard,
so we took him to the doctor.

She listened to his lungs
and decided to admit
him to the hospital.

The same hospital
where
Malou
died and was born.

Tom and I weren’t too worried about
Liam
but we both had a yucky feeling
driving to the hospital.

Such a familiar route…
so many memories from
Malou
and also from my pregnancy
with Liam…
all those heartbeat checks
to calm my panic.

The nice thing about
government-provided healthcare
is that you never have to fill out
any forms upon admission or discharge.

However,
since this was Liam’s first trip
to the children’s unit
we did have to fill out a little
questionnaire about him,
which included a line that said:

Siblings? Yes: ___ How many?

I left it blank.
At least I didn’t have to check
No.

But then the doctor came in
and asked us if Liam had any siblings.
(I’m not sure what this had to do
with his breathing troubles…)

I answered,
None living.

Tom explained
and for once a doctor
gave us sympathy.

That was a pleasant surprise.

Then Liam was hooked up
to a little machine to check
his oxygen levels and pulse rate.

I was a little nervous,
staring at a monitor again,
but both were fine.

He then received a breathing treatment
and his oxygen levels and pulse
were measured again.

His oxygen levels had fallen a bit
and his pulse had risen
(both normal reactions).

But the thing that got me
was watching his pulse…
rise and fall and rise and fall.

It varied from upper 90’s to 178 bpm
(Liam was also moving the monitor a lot).

I think my own pulse was even above that,
as I felt my panic rise.

I told the nurse
that I was feeling really worried
because watching this screen reminded me
of all the times I had watched a screen
with a baby inside me,
hoping that that baby was alive.

Well, I didn’t tell her all that…
but I did tell her I was feeling really worried
so could she quickly explain what
we were seeing and what it meant.

She did and I calmed down.

We are home now.

Liam is sleeping peacefully.

He will need breathing treatments
here at home
every 3 hours for the next few days.

Poor little guy.
Although he seemed to enjoy himself
for the most part
(he didn’t like the breathing treatments,
but he loved the crib, the nurse,
the machines, and the sleeping pram).

On our way home
Tom and I talked about
how quickly our thoughts can turn
to the worst.

I do it way more often than Tom.

Other parents tell us
it’s normal,
every parent fears the worst,
but I don’t think
they understand exactly
what our worry feels like.

Every single time
I wake up in the middle of the night,
my first thought is,

“Is Liam alive?”

Every.single.time.

Every time he naps,
I have to check that he is breathing.

And in that slight interim
where I wonder if he’s breathing
until I go confirm it,
my mind goes there.

Even though I try not to let it.

My mind imagines the worst.

It is the most nauseating feeling,
yet it is also a familiar feeling.

And whenever I feel it,
not only do I have to fight my worry
for Liam,
but I have to fight my sorrow
for Malou.

I don’t think
I will ever be able to let go of the two.

Worry + Sorrow = Fear
to me.

I think I have done a good job
trying to release Fear’s grip on me,
but I don’t think I will ever completely
be able to let it go.

***

Tomorrow
marks 3 years since
I found out
I was pregnant for the first time,
with our daughter,
Malou Amelia.

Tomorrow is the anniversary
of the happiest day of my life.

I actually think this is true.

It was the start of the best 7.5 months of my life,
the time where I was
unconditionally happy
and where the future
held only the promise
of all my dreams
coming true.

Now the future
is filled with Fear.

If I let it.

So I try my best to let go of the Fear,
live in the moment,
and appreciate each and every beat
of my heart,
Liam’s heart,
Tom’s heart,
my family’s hearts,
my friends’ hearts…
all the hearts beating around the world.

I want to go back there…

I want to go back
to being
unreservedly happy.

I want to go back
to the world where
Malou
is still alive.

I want
Malou
to be in my world
right now,
in the room
right next to her
brother’s.

I want to go back
to the moment
I held her,
as painful as it was.

It was also beautiful.

I visited
Malou’s
grave yesterday
and talked to her.

I was alone,
a rarity these days.

It felt nice
for just the two of us
to be together
alone.

I told her we moved,
I told her we loved her
and missed her,
I told her
I hoped she didn’t understand
why I was crying,
that she could only feel
love and happiness,
warmth and comfort,
peace and contentment.

I told her
we’d never forget her,
I told her that
I bet she’d be a better
big sister
than I ever was
(I believe I hit Hank
when mom brought him home
from the hospital,
and I asked mom if we could switch
Zach with a baby girl
when he was born…),
and I called her
my sweet pea.

Sometimes
I just want to go back.

I don’t want to start over
the whole process of
Grieving…

because I feel like
I have come a long way
and that I have more good days
than bad.

I enjoy
being able to talk about
Malou
without it always being sad.

But, oh my God,
how I would love to hold her again.

One more time.

Stroke her hair,
hold her cheek against mine,
feel her fingers grip around my own.

I’m not even asking
to feel her warm breath
on my cheek,
or her heart pounding those
quick baby-beats…
things I never, ever, ever
take for granted with
Liam
(in fact, I am always
compelled to give a silent
prayer of thanks
every single time).

I just want to see her again.
To hold her again.

I want to go back to that time…

I want to go back to this
type of happiness…

Don’t get me wrong…
this

is happiness.

No question.
Liam makes life wonderful
in a way I didn’t know was possible.

But
Malou
is still missing
in our daily family life…

here she is represented
in her daddy’s cross necklace
(and I also like to think
in the sun streaming
over us)
but we want her HERE.

We want her with us.

I guess that will never change.

But as my elderly neighbor,
who lost her 9 year old daughter
in a tragic car accident
many years ago,
said,
Life can still be good.

Remembering

How do you begin
to memorize your child?

Time went way too quickly with
Malou.

We didn’t have enough time
to memorize
every single little perfect thing
about her.

But now that we have
Liam
I realize that it is impossible
to memorize everything.

And I try.

When he is sleeping,
I put my face right up to his
and breathe in his breath.

I put my hand on his chest
to feel his heart pumping
and his tummy rising
with every precious breath
he takes.

I nuzzle my nose into his neck
when he curls into me…

I  could go on and on

but that is not the point of this blog
and in fact, I hope I am not
unknowingly hurting someone
out there who is missing
what should have been
with their own baby.

My point is that
even when I try to
memorize everything about
Liam,
each day is a new day,
one where I experience
something different
and appreciate something new
in my son.

And I am sad
I never had that chance
with my daughter.

I miss all the “should-have-beens”
with
Malou.

I miss everything
I now am lucky enough to experience
and I miss everything
I had imagined I would have.

I miss everything
about her
and yet, there is so much
I don’t know about her.

My own daughter.

And that is probably
what I miss the most.

But I will always remember her.
And I guess that counts for something.

It’s not the amount of days
or the number of memories,
but the strength of love
that makes it count.