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Right where I am, 2012

May 24, 2012

I am writing this as part of Angie’s Right Where I Am project, and it’s already striking to me that where I am is different than where I was last year. Not that last year feels all that far away, but even so, I feel different.

There is still a complicated happiness – my family that adds up to some impossible mathematical equation – three, but four, really. Or is that four, but three, really? I don’t know. I never know. I just know that the fourth, the one most people don’t see, is important, is loved, is powerfully here with me and also powerfully gone. There is still delight in my family and in my daughter, who grows more amazing every day. I would love to believe that grief brings with it the magical gift of true and constant appreciation, but to privilege honesty over modesty, appreciation has always been my gift and recognizing the beauty of the moment is something I was able to do before Teddy’s death. There’s an added poignancy to small everyday beauties now, is the main difference. Which is a long and tangled way of saying that I find things to revel in, things that nurture my soul, every day.

But I think part of what I’ve done this year, and it’s probably part of the healing process (though, frankly, it’s one of those parts that I wish I could have skipped), is to recognize my broken places (and my still-broken places) and the ways that those broken places are affecting my family and my work and the way I move (or don’t) through the world.

Because I am broken. This is more apparent to me than it was last year, or even the year before. I am broken, and the family that I love so much has other breaks in it, too. And some of those breaks – our missing fourth, for instance – are just there and are part of who we are. But some of the breaks are things that need to be fixed. Maybe, now that I’m almost four years out, I’m finally beginning to see that.

Because on the one hand, I live in a hyper-aware state of beauty and blessing, with a family who dances together to songs about butterflies.

And, on the other, I am struggling with my work (even though I love it) and I am married to a partner who is struggling with an addiction that touches almost every area of our lives. What bravery I used to have has retreated to the depths of me, and I only seem to be able to summon it up for crises and emergencies. I’ve closed myself off from friends and family and am only now starting to reach out with the knowledge that I can’t hide my broken places from them even though I want to. N and I are only beginning to tackle the problems that have surfaced in recent years with our struggles to talk with each other, with the strange silences that fall uneasily between us in the car, on walks, late at night in the kitchen. I write like mad at work, trying to save my job and knowing it may be too late, that my colleagues may look at my two most broken years and decide that not writing published articles during those times was unforgivable, that even if I manage to submit a solid piece before the end of June I may still be asked to leave at the end of my tenure process.

I am so full of fear, over all of these things. I want a safe place, a stable home, a family who can hold me up when I fall. I crave safe with each particle of my being, knowing full well that nothing is truly safe, not in this life. That’s the sort of thing that people say all the time without thinking much about it because while we recognize the kernel of truth in that commonplace, bearing the knowledge of the absolute vulnerability of yourself and everyone you love is exhausting. And I’m exhausted. But I’m also the mommy. I’m Dot’s mommy and I’m Teddy’s mommy, and my childhood days, the days when I could rest in the safety of being taken care of, are behind me. I do the taking care now.

And I’m finally working my way through the fears to see how I can do a better job of that. I finally see that I need to grow myself into a better colleague, a better partner, a better parent, and I finally feel that I can start to do this. That I can recognize some breaks that need fixing and how they are different from the broken places that make me who I am. It’s a fucking terrifying place to be, this place where you look back and take responsibility for your big failures. It’s a place I never imagined standing, even as I held my little Huckleberry in my arms as he gasped his last few breaths and realized that everything was precarious, and possible, and impossible all at once.

I am trying to let go of the shame of failing my son, and of all the smaller shames that followed it. I know, somehow, that it wasn’t my fault that I was broken, and I’m not going to hate myself for the past three years, eight months, and nine days. I’m not going to hate myself for my partner’s demons, or for my withdrawals from the people who probably would have supported me better if I would have let them.

I’ll carry the fears with me, I think, always. Once death has taken the baby from your arms, you can’t ever not see him, and he is everywhere. But I’m here in this terrifying place and I’m not pretending to be fine, and I’m still standing. I need to fix what I need to fix – to take responsibility for my role in my relationships, for all those times fear has paralyzed me into inaction. And I need to honor what needs to be honored – Teddy, and my love for him, and all the ways that he is missed.

I don’t know if I’m strong enough to do all of this yet, but I am strong enough to see it clearly now, and surely that’s a place to start.

 

 

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34 comments

  1. Hello Erica, thank you for commenting on my blog, and thank you for your kind words. Yes, it is hard. I have read your birth story about Teddy and it is both beautiful and sad and I am so sorry he had to leave you so soon.
    Hugs and kindest wishes
    Valerie


  2. i think “complicated happiness” is a perfect way to describe it. …and yes, it’s a start, an amazing start considering just how overwhelming grief can be.


    • Crystal is def right about that. And each year does seem a little different than the one before.


  3. Thankyou for leaving a comment on my blog–for reading it really. I’m glad I came over to “your place”. You sound like an amazing woman. I know if I had written this piece it would have been incredibly cathartic for me–a huge release. But you probably write like this all the time–so very articulate and smart. I am sorry for your broken places. I think you are getting started by acknowledging each one and identifying with them. You sound like you have a long road ahead and you know it….I think you will get there. You will mend what you need to mend and you will make the best out of life you possibly can. I hope your partner has come as far as you in realizing this and recognizing it as well. My heart goes out to you. I wish we never would have met–I, like you, felt I appreciated things like I should before losing my son. But in the end, we can all use a little more appreciation, on the giving and receiving, right?
    Standing in your corner….xoxo


  4. I still feel broken, too. I think in some ways, I always will.
    Abiding today, dear friend.
    xo


  5. It takes so long to regain strength and the energy to even start to change, and yes, seeing what you need to do is most certainly a good start. I’ll be here, waiting to see where the next year takes you.


  6. Oh, Erica, this is so incredibly beautiful, because it is so honest. I related to it up and down, even though you read my post and know it is different. I could have written this though too. The brokenness, yes. It suddenly becomes so clear. So, my God, unavoidable. Like right in the middle of the path, a felled tree, and you have to climb it if you want to move forward, even though you just try to live on that one side for a long time. I’m killing this analogy, but you know what I mean. Thank you so incredibly much for writing this. I needed to read this, to know I’m not alone in this place. Thank you again. Love to you, as always.


  7. Your honesty is moving and beautiful. Thank you for laying bare your soul, this piece really spoke to me.


  8. I see and appreciate how honest this post is – and so right on.

    the “broken places … and the ways that those broken places are affecting my family and my work and the way I move (or don’t) through the world.” Yes, I think this is what I am seeing in my own life, I just can’t find the words!

    I see your strength, and you will get there.


  9. “But I’m here in this terrifying place and I’m not pretending to be fine, and I’m still standing.”

    What a place to be – a really brave and honest place. You are not alone. These days I am not poking at the broken, but I know it is there and maybe when I feel a little stronger (when we feel a little stronger) we might look at how to repair it.

    It is a hard place you are in, but it feels like the only place you really can be in order to move.

    Thank you for your honesty and for reminding me of how thin the veil is between ‘fine’ and ‘real’. xx


  10. Having read your beautiful post, I’m wondering if I should write one myself as I have so little left to add.

    I still have the complicated happiness of last year but yes, I’m still broken with very, very little idea of how to fix the damaged parts. They just flail about, either (at worst) inflicting further damage and compounding the problem, or (at best) failing to engage with, bits of my life that I need to work. My marriage, my mothering, my paid employment.

    I also crave safety, I often say to my husband when I’m upset and trying to articulate what it is that I want from him, that I want to go home. Back to my childhood I suppose. But there comes a time for putting away childish things and that time came for me a long time ago now. There is no point sitting and weeping and hoping that someone is going to come and help me. I have to put on my big girls pants and take responsibility, for things where I have failed. But sometimes that seems utterly overwhelming.

    And the shame. It’s so horrible and I still feel it acutely. I still wake up in the right and feel in the marrow of my bones that I failed them. And then all my other failures seem to spread out like a web from that one central, devastating failure. I need to let go of that but it’s hard to. Sigh.

    So much here that I can could ramble on and on but I’ll stop here. Remembering your Huckleberry, your dear Teddy.


  11. I can relate to much of what you write. And I’m so glad you shared. I know that L and I still struggle with fallout from 2 years ago. Things undealt with, but we’re trying to make a safe spot for ourselves and for Simon. It’s just not easy always, but you know that. Again, I’m glad you shared. ❤


  12. wow, erica, so honest and real and heartbreaking. thank you for your always kind words on my blog. i am fearful too, its something we in this babylost world probably will never shake. how could we?

    sending lots of love and strength as you navigate through the complications and fears and struggles and be proud of where you stand today.

    xo


  13. i feel broken and fearful too. the vulnerability you describe after losing a baby is so very real and frightening. in a way it opens your eyes to appreciate life, but it also is a burden to have this new lens.


  14. Safe places. That’s it, isn’t it? What was taken from us was the knowledge that there are any safe harbours. We realize that what we thought was safe, probably wasn’t, probably was just an illusion.

    I’m sorry Erica. This is heartbreaking and in every way unfair.


  15. Such a beautifully honest post… my heart goes out to you and all that you’ve been through and are going through. Your words brought tears to my eyes and I can feel your pain in your writing… hope the year to come brings you some peace. Thank you for stopping by my blog… your words warmed my heart. Thinking of you xoxo


  16. I was thinking that the numbers, the sizes of family, was a huge thing and I understood that and then I read the rest and, good grief, all those things to cope with. Still standing, still with the energy to process, that is some achievement indeed.


  17. Your words resonated with me in many parts of your post…. I am so sorry for your loss. Still standing and seeing your path is a huge step I would say. Living in fear as you said will likely never go away for me either but I coexist with it no matter how hard I try to ignore it, it is a part of everyday life. I pray you find peace on your journey and hope through the pain…thank you for sharing your story. ❤


    • Beautiful post, as always, Erica. I’m not sure what to write beyond that. Thank you for your words and your insights. : )


  18. Wow, I got such a feeling of strength in your post, almost like you yourself are the safe place that you seek. Your last paragraph was just beautiful.

    I’m so sorry that you are dealing with so much, along with the grief. It seems in every way so unfair.

    Sending you love. Remembering Teddy always. ♥


  19. Such depth to this post Erica. Thanks for taking part in Angie’s project.

    I get that part about bravery retreating. I feel like that sometimes too, like all of the bravery I had was all but used up by the past year.

    Peace to you.

    Josh


  20. Your writing is beautiful, your honesty heartwrenching. I read the story of Teddy’s arrival, and I’m so, so sorry he left so soon. Your decision to let him go seems so courageous to me. Sending peace and strength to you…


  21. Such a beautiful post.. Thank you for sharing. I read Teddy’s birth story, and our stories are so similar. It’s so very hard to make that decision, to let them go.

    “I crave safe with each particle of my being, knowing full well that nothing is truly safe, not in this life.” – Oh, I hear you..

    I’m so glad this linkup led me to your blog…
    Keeping you and Teddy in my thoughts.


  22. Oh Erica, this is so powerful and amazingly written. I am sorry that you are dealing with so much alongside/in the midst of the grief.

    And what you say about craving “safe” and the effort of carrying vulnerability was so spot on. One of those things I have sensed but you have managed to articulate it perfectly.

    I know that faith is something you and I both muse on but I hope it’s okay to say that I though of the serenity prayer when I read this. Wishing you the serenity to accept the broken parts that need to stay and the courage and strength to change the bits you recognise need to be fixed. I think you already have so much wisdom.


  23. Erica, this is so beautifully written and has really moved me. I’ve read it twice and I still can’t think of anything to say other than I think it is our brokenness and imperfections that make us whole people. You are amazing and yes, recognizing all of that is a place to start.

    Wishing you all the best.
    xoxo


  24. Erica, I tried to leave a comment the other day, but I couldn’t find the right words, I still can’t so I will just say thank you for your honesty. This is a powerful piece and there’s much here I can relate to. I don’t think I’m brave enough to see or even begin to admit how broken I am, not yet anyway.
    Sending love. x


  25. I wonder why there is so much shame around losing our babies? I understand that there is the feeling that our bodies failed them, or that we failed them, but then so many of us seem to feel so many new shames or relive old ones. Like Catherine, I lie in bed at night, shame radiating around me, all my past and future failures, the only things I can think of.

    Thank you for the honesty of this post. You sound strong, though I understand how you might not feel that way inside. Wishing you as much strength as you need to start…

    (I also work in an academic field; I’m pretty sure having a dead baby is going to kill any chance at tenure I might have had!)


  26. I have had so many of the same feelings. I’m so sorry. Light and love to you.


  27. There is so much here that really speaks to me. That figuring out how to put it back together and to have faith that there’s some point to putting it back together. It’s just so damn complicated.

    But, really, the part where you called Teddy your little Huckleberry. Tears here. You’ve reminded me of the whole point of all of this. They were all just little babies. How could this have happened to them?

    Best to you, mama.


  28. Your post touched me on so many levels. I have lost a child. I was married to a man dealing with addiction. I am the breadwinner and fearful for my job at times. I read strength in your words and yet an underlying pain that cuts me to the bone and has me in tears. Hang in there.


  29. I’ve been trying to comment with something worthy of your amazing writing, and I’m really coming up short.

    The honesty with which you share your life is no small feat, and it is so appreciated–and it made me feel less alone.

    Sending you lots of love as you navigate these new waters. Thinking of you and your family, and missing Teddy with you.
    xo


  30. Beatiful post. Thank you for being so honest and for sharing you story. Broken here too. Life is excruciatingly bittersweet after the death of your child/children. Thinking of you and Teddy. Take care.


  31. Your post is so beautifully written. I wonder how a parent who has endured the loss of her child can ever NOT be broken, for as you point out, our families are forever broken, always missing someone, always adding “to some impossible mathematical equation.”
    Remembering your precious Teddy.


  32. Yes, it is definitely a place to start and, it takes much strength to see the “broken places” and, the difference between what you can fix and what is just apart of having a soul that has been glued back together. It’s very hard not to take the blame for your partners demons while dealing with addiction. That takes a lot of strength and honesty as well. I realize that you may not feel strong at all, we very rarely do after all. Especially not while trying to process so much that really is impossible to process. Like being “powerfully here, and powerfully gone.” at the same time. I’m remembering Teddy with you and, wishing you light and healing.



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