Archive for June, 2009


Turn and face the strain

June 9, 2009

I feel like I’m playing a giant, non-stop game of “This Time Last Year.”  It’s a really crappy game, too.  There are no fabulous prizes for the contestant, the questions aren’t entertaining, and the game show host (this season of summer) is unrelenting.

This time last year we’d been told that, in all likelihood, nothing was wrong.  This time last year I was planning the same summer social event at work and worrying about how, just in case I had gestational diab.etes, I should maybe avoid the ice cream.

This time last year, I was placid and sure and content.  In hindsight, this is one of the hardest things to bear, that I was so cocksure, so certain all would be well, so clueless.  Not that anything would have changed if I had been scared to death.  I wonder sometimes if I’m not more than a little jealous of my past self.

I am trying to carve out little bits of this late spring and summer that don’t belong to or echo last year.  I am growing new things in my small garden of pots, we go for walks in the arboretum, I’ve taken on new projects, and I try to notice how I’ve changed.  Much as I’d like more time (any more time – an hour, a minute, a second) with Teddy, much as it’s hard to let go of the time I had with him, I’m different now.  Like it or not (and sometimes I hate it and sometimes it’s the relief that allows me to carry on) I’m not the same person I was last year, no matter how much I relive the events of Teddy’s life.

He is gone, and I hate it.  He is gone, and I’ve held him in my arms for the last time, and sometimes knowing that still makes it hard for me to breathe.

At the same time, he is gone and I’m no longer the raw wreck I was  in the months that followed his death.  No matter what lies before me, the actual moments of his loss are behind me, no matter how often I relive those moments, their particular, piercing pain has for the most part been replaced by a duller ache.  It’s a constant and throbbing ache, but I’m getting used to it and I can function around it.  I can (usually) sleep, carry on a conversation, start and finish projects, look at babies without turning pale and running away, and reliably walk through the grocery store without bursting into sobs, for example.  And if I do burst into sobs, at least I now know enough to be carrying tissues with me.

I read stories of newly babylost parents and my heart pounds with the memories of what it was like to be that new to grief, and I cry for the ones who don’t have any calluses yet, and I shake my fist at the universe because no baby should die, ever. Lately, though, I also think, “I’m glad I don’t have to go through that again.”

And then I knock on wood, rustle up salt to throw over my shoulder, and hope like hell that I’m right.


Oh, Donna

June 4, 2009

Some stories and memories both hurt and heal.  Have you noticed this?

All of our nurses were wonderful, and after my few days in the hospital I was convinced that at least three of them were angels in human form.  This is a story about one of them, a beautiful nurse in the NICU who helped us move Teddy, with his ventilator tubes and equipment, into a little room where we could hold him and have some time with him before letting go.  She had dark hair and dark eyes, and calm, sure hands, and her name was Donna.

She moved tubes aside for us, sometimes taping them up and out of the way so that we could hold him and see as much of his face as possible.  She would shift things around for us when I passed Teddy to Nathan, when he passed him back to me.  She stood outside the room, within reach of our voices in case we needed any help or in case we noticed any signs of distress from our little boy.  Without compassion and quiet competence she helped to make the grim practicalities of our time together as easy as possible so that we could focus on what was important, on Teddy and how much we loved him.

She helped move him to the manual ventilator when we took him outside to say goodbye and she waited with us in the garden until we could say, yes, we are as ready as we can be.  Until we could say, yes, please take the tube out.  And after he died, she took his small body away to be cleaned and dressed in the clothes we had chosen for him.  N and I sat in the garden, with some of his family, waiting for her to bring him back, to bring his body back.

And this, this is the part that breaks my heart and makes me more grateful than I can write in words – when Mom went to say we were ready, ready to see and hold our son’s body, she found Donna, having given our little boy his first and only bath, having dressed him and wrapped him in a blanket, was rocking him and singing to him, holding him as though he were the most precious thing in the world, pouring love onto him.

How do you say thank you for something like that?



June 1, 2009

I used to love novels about secret identities.  The Scarlet Pimpernel, for example, or Cynthia Voigt’s Jackaroo.  And yes, I used to fantasize about Zoro  (throw on a mask, sweetheart, and watch me purr).  But secret identities in real life seem to lack the swashbuckling and fun aspects of my fictional favorites.  I don’t know of any real people who actually enjoy keeping huge secrets or hiding important bits of themselves from the world.  I’m sure a few are out there, but I suspect it’s just a few.

I don’t really have a secret identity (unless you count Grief Girl, who often isn’t secret at all).  I write here as myself.  However, I do keep this place secret.  Not that it’s that secret.  Any decent PI, or extremely interested and nosy party, for example, could figure out who I am in real life.

But, for now, no one in my family knows I write here.  My best IRL friends don’t know either.  Not even N knows.  Sometimes this makes me feel a little sad, as though I’m closeting part of myself from, well, just about everyone I know.  N has a bound journal that he writes in frequently, and I would never attempt to read it or ask to do so, but his journal doesn’t present itself in a format that facilitates and encourages readership, either.  Things written online have a very different, and more public, life than the things I wrote in my diary with the little brass lock and key when I was thirteen.

I am eternally grateful that blogging didn’t exist when I was thirteen, by the way.  All of that awkward adolescent angst (like so many of us, I was emo before emo was cool) served up in awkward adolescent fashion for the world to consume? The crushes, the petty arguments, the foolish and absolute certainty that I was wise and virtuous and right – I would have been embarrassed by it for the rest of my life.

I’m not very good at the double life thing.  I can just about manage this blog, but twitter keeps catching me up.  I slip every week or so and say things in the wrong places.  Probably a good thing I’m not a spy or an undercover agent, then.

More often than I really want to admit to myself, however, I’m very glad that I haven’t told people about this place where I come to write.  Sometimes I need to vent and ponder and work things out in words in ways that I want to keep hidden from the people I live and work with.  Sometimes I don’t want to mix business (well, work, anyway) with grieving.  Sometimes I have to write about how work and grieving have merged, but writing about my workplace is something I’ve never been comfortable with.  Not to mention, if you aren’t very careful of how you go about it, you can find yourself in trouble, and I’ve had enough trouble, thank you.

Sometimes I just need a safe space where I can repeat, over and over, I want Teddy back, or I miss you, Teddy, or Damn it, damn it, damn it, this is hard. And I don’t want to be inhibited by what people will think, or whether I’ll make someone feel bad, or whether people who don’t get it will look at me and wonder if I haven’t gone slightly mad.

Sometimes I want to share things here, with you, that I don’t share with anyone else.

And, of course, sometimes I worry about what this says about me, that I feel the need to cordon off my grieving self this way.  Not that grief isn’t part of my daily life, but talking about grief is seldom part of daily life, and is it unfair, or cowardly to hide these words away?  It hardly ever feels unfair or cowardly.  Most of the time, it feels like what I need to do.

What about you? If you keep your online writing secret, why do you do it?  Does the “double life” bother you?  If you write publicly, are there times when you wish you had an secret identity or non-public space?