Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Clean Sheets

Counting the panels of faux wood at The Grenadier is the only thing I can do to relieve the weight of what I just heard.

"Do you believe in God?"

"I think, if I had to measure, I would say I am about 60% atheist, and maybe 40% agnostic.  I would like to believe we are here for some sort of purpose."

"That's funny that we're friends, if you're an atheist and I'm Catholic, which is a very disciplined faith.  I hope that even if you don't believe what I believe you at least respect my commitment."

"I respect that you have faith.  I wish I could have faith.  I don't know if there is a God but if there is I wish I would meet Him.  I would like to fight Him for taking -- " and he paused.  "The person who really believed in Him."

"Your mom?"


What am I supposed to say after THAT?

"You know, if she was right, she's doing just fine now."

"If she was right.  She still had things to do though.  I was 18 but my sisters were still like, 14 and 10.  If I could have traded places with her, I would have."

"Speaking as a mother who has lost her child, I can tell you she would rather it be her than you any day."

"I know.  But she was good.  She just had this faith, and none of us had it.  My family is weird now.  They like to pretend --"

"Do you want another beer honey?"

"Yeah, I'll have one more -- They pretend nothing is different but it is different."  I look at him, realizing his mother has been gone nearly half of his life but somehow when he talks about her, he is an 18 year old kid again who just lost his mother.

"She would probably be angry at some of the things you do."


"My son would be disappointed in me lately."  I reflect on Mass the day before, when the congregation filed past me to receive Communion.  I've been sitting out of Communion for over two months now, since the day Ben announced he was moving and I skipped Mass out of -- I don't know -- anger?

If I were to say I am angry at God, I think most people would assume I am angry because my son died.  I'm not.  Unlike the man sitting next to me, I was an adult when Gabriel died and my adult brain can reason that sometimes things like cancer and anencephaly just happen.  That's not why I'm angry.  I'm angry because it is one in the morning on May 29, 2012, and Gabriel's first birthday is fast approaching, and life is nothing like I thought it would be a year ago.  I don't want to fight with God, I just want to demand of Him why, if I did what He asked, why I can't have a break now.  I am angry because I am hurt and I just don't want to hurt anymore and I find that very few things can soothe the hurt and that's when I decide there's no point to finishing the shot of tequila in front of me.

"It's funny," I say, "how death effects us."

"Yeah.  I wanna live.  Because she can't, you know?  So I live life to enjoy it.  I'm not worried about what happens after we die.  I'm just going to live now."

"Do you guys want jello shots?"

"What flavor are they?  Ooooo!  Red? Red is my favorite!"

"Red is your favorite?  Red's not a flavor."

"It's still my favorite.  I always like red."

"Okay, we'll have two," and he offers Karen a couple of bucks for our jello shots.

"I know what you mean, though.  Life is short.  My kid only lived ten days.  I know, life is short."  I am worried about what happens to us after we die though.  Even if I never believed in Heaven before January 31, 2011, I would have to after that day.  I couldn't get out of bed every morning if there weren't some sort of hope that I would see my son again.

"Last call.  Do you guys want anything else?"

"No, we're good. Are you ready to go?"

"You haven't finished your tequila."

"I don't want it."

"You paid for it.  You should finish it."

So I do, and we walk outside.

"You should do something about your car.  You're not gonna pick up guys in this car.  The paint's all oxidized."

My mind flashes vaguely to the Sunday afternoon that I held Gabriel in the backseat to take him home from the hospital. "Yeah, I know, I should.  I will soon."  He's drunk, and I'm a little worried about him driving home but I follow him most of the way and he's fine.  Our vehicles part ways at University.  I get home and see my roommate's car is not there.  I suspect he has a girlfriend and that's why a few nights a week I don't see him.  It means I can wear my nightgown into the kitchen to make coffee in the morning.

I dutifully brush my teeth and wash my face before climbing into bed.  The dogs run about, swapping beds and chew treats for a while, before settling down to sleep when the lamp goes off.  I feel a slight sense of guilt that I am not one of those moms who hears her dead child's crying in her sleep.  I wonder which kind of grieving mom is the most normal.  I wonder if I should have done more bargaining with God, "Please God, take me instead," but I know that if I could have given Gabriel my own skull cap to save his life, I would have cut it off of my own head myself.

This isn't the way life was supposed to be.  I think of my friend at the bar tonight and wonder if we would be friends today if either his mom or Gabriel were still alive.  I move closer to the middle of the bed and stretch my legs out so that I am occupying most of the space.  I breathe in the scent of the sheets -- I just washed them two days ago but the smell of fabric softener lingers longer when only one person is pulling them back and crawling between them.  I'll pick out a new comforter soon, as soon as I break Noelle of her front-paws-on-the-bed habit, and I won't have to ask anyone what they think of it. If life wasn't supposed to be this way according to my plan, at least I can plan for clean sheets.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Private Practice, Perfect Peace

Someone could be reading this now who has recently learned of their child's diagnosis and is considering how they should proceed.  And if you are, I make this promise to you:  Your pregnancy will be filled with moments of grief that can start to overwhelm you.  You will suffer when people see your growing belly and congratulate you on your expected arrival.  People will unassumingly bring you gifts.  Babies R' Us will ask you if you want to register to receive continued offers.  You'll stand in the shower and cry.  You'll see other pregnant women and you'll resent them.  You'll think about what you will miss.  But the day your child is born, none of that will matter.  You will experience a love that is deeper than you have ever known.  You will feel a sense of peace that transcends your understanding, a supernatural peace.  By all accounts, this is true.  You will know that you gave your child every chance to live.  In cases of organ donors you will know that you spared other mothers your grief.  And you will never, NEVER regret your decision to let your child live and die in his own time.

Spoiler warning:  This entry contains specific information about the season finale of "Private Practice" aired on May 15, 2012.

For the past three weeks, viewers of the ABC television series "Private Practice" have been following Dr. Amelia Shepherd's pregnancy, which will result in the inevitable death of her anencephalic son, whom she has, even in the season finale where she gives birth, has yet to name.

Let's dispel this myth first:  Maternity panties.  Amelia references them while she is in labor, but I don't think very many women wear them anymore.  When I was pregnant I did see that they are still sold, however like everyday panties they come in various forms, many of which are no longer the over the belly type.  Personally I never bought or wore a pair, and I'm not nearly as fashion conscious as Amelia, so I found that particular element a little hard to swallow.

Now to move on to one of the more glaring issues in this episode, the concern over harvesting the organs of an anencephalic baby for transplant.  While I appreciate more than I criticize "Private Practice"'s efforts to take on this storyline, I am afraid they did a tremendous disservice in carrying the story out as they did.  The show talked as though the organs must be transplanted from a still-technically living baby, and in fact in this episode, they were.  However a number of moms from anencephaly support groups have been able to donate their baby's organs, and in each case their precious baby had already breathed their last breath in their arms.  At that point, the clock does in fact start ticking, and the organs must be harvested within a certain timeline in order to be eligible for harvesting and transplantation.  In most cases, whole organs will not be suitable for transplantation.  It seems most commonly, heart valves are harvested.

I won't delve into the medical specifics of transplantation.  I'm not familiar with them, as I was too cowardly to pursue this course for my own son.  When Gabriel's diagnosis was confirmed, I asked the specialist if our child would be a candidate for organ donation.  She said that he would not be, for reasons quite the opposite of the controversy on "Private Practice."  She told me that because Gabriel didn't have a "complete" brain, his organs were not useful.  I guess he sure showed her, when his organs sustained him for ten days against all odds.

I quickly learned that the doctor's information is incorrect.  I also learned quickly that there is a surprising amount of inaccurate information out there regarding anencephaly, and the life and death of an anencephalic infant.  Between the rare occurrence of the defect, and the even more rare decision to carry to term, the medical community doesn't know much.  It's fair to say that at least in terms of basic information, the online support groups have more knowledge than our doctors.  Doctors know what a book tells them; we know what we have lived.  At any rate, I reached out to a friend, who met his wife when they were both in the hospital to have transplants themselves, and he and his wife looked for information to help me.  Unfortunately, because of the delicacy of infant organ transplantation (literally, it is a delicate procedure because their organs are so small and fragile, and a delicate subject -- who wants to cut up a baby for parts?) I never did find out how, in California, I could have Gabriel's organs donated.  I will admit to not pressing the issue -- as I previously mentioned, I was a coward, and couldn't bear the thought of Gabriel's body being taken apart, even when I considered what it would mean to another mother.  Ultimately, it probably wouldn't have mattered.  Gabriel passed in his home, not in a hospital, and it is unlikely his organs could have been preserved for harvesting and transplanting.

Amelia shares during this episode what she has learned in her research about children across the country waiting for organs.  My friend and due date buddy Jenny Lees didn't have to know about the needs of each child personally to know that she wanted to donate her son Palmer's organs.  Jenny and I were one day apart in due date, but because Jenny suffered from a common ailment during pregnancies of anencephalic infants, polyhydramnios, Jenny induced labor with Palmer about a week before her due date.  Palmer was born on June 1, 2011 and lived for 55 beautiful minutes.  He was baptised, held by his family including his big brother Spencer, and then passed from this world.  Jenny has shared with me that given the severity of Palmer's defect, it is amazing that he was born alive and held on as long as he did -- We both believe that part of Palmer's strength was derived from his fate, to live on in the hearts of two other children who received Palmer's organs in donation.

Interestingly, as Amelia was in labor with her anencephalic son, the hospital was dealing with another controversial legal/medical issue that struck a chord with me.  Pete was jailed after having taken his terminal patient off of his respirator, against his next of kin's will.  In the previous episode, Troy was placed on life support by his father's orders, though Troy's partner informed both father and hospital staff that Troy never wanted to be on a machine.  Because Gabriel came home with us, these were issues that Ben and I had to tackle.  The Catholic Church's position on extraordinary means of life support is that there is no requirement that they be started -- no requirement to begin a feeding tube or respirator for example -- but once they are began they cannot be taken away when their removal will lead to certain death.  This might seem like a silly distinction, but actually a parallel can be made between our common law regarding rescue.  The law doesn't require us to act.  For example, if we see someone drowning in a lake, the law does not compel us to stop and try to rescue them.  However, once steps have been taken to rescue we must see that rescue through.  To stop halfway through opens a rescuer to civil and criminal liability.

Though Ben and I had agreed that Gabriel would not be put on a feeding tube or respirator, the morning that he passed I knew that if Gabriel lived much longer we would have to consider the feeding tube.  I wouldn't have my child starving to death.  The decision was taken from our hands when Gabriel began to seize that morning.  We tried the oxygen mask once, but when that didn't work we agreed we would spend these last hours with our child making him as comfortable as we possibly could.  We didn't try to keep him alive, his human will did.  He fought to live because it is our nature to live -- we spoke to him to give him the freedom to go because it is our nature to love.  I can't agree with what Pete did, because there are rules in place for a reason and he violated those rules.  But I can relate with all my heart to Troy's partner, who fought for Troy to never be placed on a respirator.  He argued that Troy was in a state of limbo, caught between here and eternity, and that when you love someone you let them go. When Pete turned off the respirator, Troy's partner climbed into bed beside him, held him and promised him that he would see him again someday.  I can't remember Troy's partner's name.  I can't remember because in large part it doesn't matter.  Who mattered then was Troy.  Who mattered to me was Gabriel.  For those who think I was wrong to bring my child into this world knowing he would die, for those who think Troy's partner was wrong for letting him go like he did I can only say this:  We should all be so blessed as to die surrounded by love the way Troy and Gabriel did.  There is no better way.

We hear it said that to bury one's child is unnatural.  To have our child die before us seems so wrong.  Indeed, it feels wrong.  But in those final moments when we held our son, in those moments where we prepared his tiny body to be turned over to the funeral home, something felt so very natural.  We were doing what every parent does.  We were caring for our child. And it breaks my heart to remember the pain but I am still always warmed when I remember the peace.

Which brings me to what I believe is the most important thing "Private Practice" did.  In complete opposition to my own experience, Amelia felt no peace before her labor.  She was tortured by her decisions and her circumstances, she was alone and guarded herself to remain alone.  She referred over and over again to her baby as "brainless," much to the anger and dismay of much of the anencephaly community.  But I was never offended by her use of the term.  I wasn't offended, because I knew if the show played their cards right, in the end the continued use of the term would just add to the power of the episode when Amelia gave birth.

You see, I am no hero for carrying Gabriel to term.  I am Catholic, and in addition to my firm belief in every person's right to live, I am terrified of Hell and terrified of how I might have jeopardized my husband's soul and my own if I had "terminated" Gabriel early.  We can say that "Private Practice" dodged controversy by not fully discussing Amelia's rights under the law to end her pregnancy early, but all they really did was set the show on track to show the supernatural effect of the birth of a terminally ill child.

Amelia thought when her brainless baby was born she didn't want to see him.  She, a neurosurgeon, didn't want to see what had formed of his brain.  She wanted him shuttled away before he "squeaked" so she wouldn't have to think about him again.  For years doctors and medical staff thought just taking a woman's baby was even the right thing to do, and many women have revealed to me in the last year just how detrimental the effects of never holding or seeing their child have been.  But even a dog must see their child.  Even animals must hold their babies, stillborn, deformed, whatever.  Our need is animal and inexplicable, and even Amelia couldn't fight that instinct.  She had to hold her son.  The creators of the show bravely revealed a model of a baby that was a striking representation of an anencephalic baby.  Even the sounds he made brought a flood of tears as I remembered Gabriel's own squeaks. And when she looked at him the impossible happened.  She didn't see a defect.  She didn't see an anomolous freak.  She saw her son, and he was the most beautiful baby she ever saw.  Everything about him was so perfect it was almost impossible to believe that something was missing under that cap, but even when she removed the cap he was beautiful to her still.

She called her baby a unicorn baby, because he was going to do magical things.  I think of the many mommies I have met in infant loss, whose babies have done magical things from beyond the grave.  I think of my son Gabriel, my sweet little boy with the alien appearance, and of the magical ways that he continues to move people eleven months later.  I know that the world "Private Practice" depicted was dramatized and exaggerated for effect, but I know one thing that is not the product of dramatic license is the peace we feel in those moments when we give our child over to death and whisper to them, "Someone is waiting for you; and I will be along soon enough."

One of Blogspot's features allows me to view some of the various sources of traffic to Gabriel's blog.  I know that people can Google search "anencephaly," "life expectancy of anencephalic baby," "Private practice, show," thanks to an entry about Gideon they can search "hip dysplasia," and "terminal infant" and Gabriel's blog will come up.  Someone could be reading this now who has recently learned of their child's diagnosis and is considering how they should proceed.  And if you are, I make this promise to you:  Your pregnancy will be filled with moments of grief that can start to overwhelm you.  You will suffer when people see your growing belly and congratulate you on your expected arrival.  People will unassumingly bring you gifts.  Babies R' Us will ask you if you want to register to receive continued offers.  You'll stand in the shower and cry.  You'll see other pregnant women and you'll resent them.  You'll think about what you will miss.  But the day your child is born, none of that will matter.  You will experience a love that is deeper than you have ever known.  You will feel a sense of peace that transcends your understanding, a supernatural peace.  By all accounts, this is true.  You will know that you gave your child every chance to live.  In cases of organ donors you will know that you spared other mothers your grief.  And you will never, NEVER regret your decision to let your child live and die in his own time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rings and Things

Mother's Day hit me like a truck. 

I considered this my third Mother's Day.  Two years ago I was blissfully pregnant with Baby Cude, unaware that later that week I would begin to miscarry.  I remember the pride I took in being able to stand during Mass when the parish acknowledged all of the mothers.  One week after that I remember my desparate prayers during Mass, that what the doctor had said was a miscarraige was just a bump in the road.  Right up until the next day, when the doctor confirmed that there was no fetal heartbeat and no embryonic sac, I hoped for my child's life.  In many ways the miscarriage was harder on me than losing Gabriel.  I never got to hold Baby Cude, never got to know if he was a boy or a girl, what he would look like, or what caused his death.  I guess that's why this year I chose for Mother's Day to give myself a gift, a memorial charm bracelet designed to honor a child lost in miscarriage.  I miss Baby Cude every day, but in particular on the days that are represented by the three charms:  The time of conception, the time of miscarriage, and the due date. 

When Baby Cude's life ended, my hopes and dreams for him did too, as did my expectation that I would get married and easily start cranking out children.  In addition to my grief, I was ashamed that my body had failed my child.  I took a blow to my feminine ego with every time someone would say to me, "Isn't it terrible how the people who want children can't have them, but the people that shouldn't have children pop them out all the time?"  Who ever said I couldn't have children?  I can have children, and in fact I showed I could when four months after the miscarriage I was pregnant again.  This time we waited to go public with our pregnancy until we had passed the point when we had previously miscarried.  As I eased into the second trimester without a single bout of morning sickness, feeling better than I had ever felt in my life and looking better too, I thought about how I was showing all of those people who whispered "Poor girl, she wants a baby sooooooo bad" that I would have my baby and I wouldn't skip a beat in getting there.  Of course, the rest of the story is well-known. Gabriel was diagnosed with anencephaly.  As luck would have it, we were not only one of the 40% of first pregnancies that result in miscarriage, we were also the one in 1,000 pregnancies in the United States that results in an anencephalic baby. 

My second Mother's Day was spent in a strange, sad peace, knowing that I had just a few more weeks to enjoy carrying my special baby boy.  I stood again at Mass to be acknowledged, this time with tears rolling down my face as I thought about the anniversary of Baby Cude's passing, and anticipated Gabriel's birth and short life.  But I am a mother, no matter that my children couldn't stay, and I stood again this year, my third Mother's Day, tears streaming to be acknowledged. I had no little hands to hold, no little 11 month old boy to dress for the Mass, only empty arms.  From the bottom of my broken heart I believe that I was chosen to be Gabriel's mother because I would not only carry him and love him as long as I could, but I would share his life and make it continue to matter even after he was gone. I know a mother's love, I know a mother's grief and that can't be stripped from me.

I was devastated, however, by Ben's lack of concern for me on Mother's Day.  Although we are separated and expect to divorce, I thought he would at least call me or text message me with a wish for a happy Mother's Day.  He is the only person who also lost a son when Gabriel passed and I guess I wanted some acknowledgement from him of that time in our lives.  I hear often that I should cut him a break, that he's grieving and doesn't know how to show it, that women are so much stronger than men in these things and I should just understand.  If it makes me selfish that I didn't care about Ben's grief on Mother's Day, then I guess I am.  When he called me shortly after midnight and finally uttered those three words, "Happy Mother's Day," I think it was just too late. 

I am going through a phase right now, the typical "I'm never getting married again" phase that people going through a divorce experience.  At the very least, I tell people, if I ever marry again I am not changing my name and I am not wearing a ring.  I recall thinking it was unfair that during our engagement, I was expected to wear an engagement ring to show the world I was spoken for, while Ben didn't have to do the same.  I was especially upset when someone told me, "I know what that cuff on your finger means, I know better than to be too friendly to you." The engagement ring that I had been so excited to receive because of the promise it represented soon became for me a sign of someone's "ownership" over me rather than a symbol of love and commitment.

When I told Ben before our wedding that I didn't want to change my name, he looked crushed.  I know that Ben wasn't trying to possess me, that he just wanted us to be unified as a family, and so I grudgingly agreed to give up my name, and in my view give up my heritage and the accomplishments under my maiden name, to show my commitment to our new family. 

I've come to see that those things, the ring and the name, are just things.  The real sign of a commitment is actually committing.  The test isn't how swiftly one can get to the DMV to change her name, but how willing she is to hold on in adversity.  And the commitment comes from both sides.  I love Ben, and I have thought often about the number of times and the number of ways that I have failed.  How much did my need to be married and have a family, complete with a handful of children and two dogs, put pressure on Ben that he just couldn't stand?  I committed to sticking this out until I could say I had really given my marriage everything.  I wouldn't have regrets.  I would stand by my husband as I stood by my children, forever hopeful in their potential.  I wonder if I gave up too soon, but I also wonder what will become of me if I keep holding on to a relationship that seems to only harm us both.  God's will for Gabriel and the choices I was supposed to make during that pregnancy were clear, but I spend a lot of time asking God what his will is for me now, wishing He would just tell me what to do.  I wonder if two pregnancies, with no children here with us now, was meant to be the sign that we don't belong together after all.  We had a moment, and that moment is over. 

I don't wear a ring anymore.  It feels strange, because I've been wearing a ring on my wedding ring finger since I started bartending to deter unwelcome advances.  The tanline has faded and no one would know I ever wore one.  We never did order prints from our wedding, and even if we had the photographer forgot to take that classic shot of the newly wedded couples hands wearing their new wedding bands.  We have instead pictures of Gabriel's hands holding both of our rings, and pictures of our banded hands laid on Gabriel's chest.  The rings are tucked away in a drawer and Gabriel's ashes are tucked away in a niche, and we've got a few photos to remind us of that very brief time when we were heroes together before we did each other in.

Monday, May 7, 2012

I Am A Mom

Recently it occurred to me that I made a reference in my last entry that might have come as a surprise to some.  When I started this blog, most of its followers were friends who knew this fact about me, and even as Gabriel's following grew it didn't occur to me to announce the fact because it is simply a part of me, like my hair color. 

May 7th marks the eleven year anniversary of the day that I was raped.  When I was 19 I was assaulted by two men, acquaintances, while a third watched but rather than "take his turn," released me.  I suppose this is shocking news to some, and maybe some readers wonder why I would celebrate such an event. 

More than any other event in my life, this one changed me in moments. I am literally a different Andrea than I was on May 6, 2001 and I have never had another experience like that.  Even childbirth doesn't compare.  Though I've heard it said that everything changes the moment your child is born, I had loved and longed for children, for a son, for so long that the moment he was born wasn't earth shattering because a part of me always knew he was on his way and would arrive someday. 

While a person was lost the day I was raped, a new woman was created.  I have written about the rape in graphic detail, and found it theraputic, but I don't see a reason to reccount that today.  I'm not ashamed of what happened, I just don't think about it as much as I used to.  And THAT has taken years to achieve. 

I celebrate, though, because it is an event that has molded me into a woman that I believe is strong and capable and self-sufficient.  Some people say it could have broken me but I just don't think that's true.  The fact is, 1 in 4 women in the United States will be raped or sexually assaulted in her lifetime, and if we venture outside of the first world I suspect the number jumps exponentially.  It doesn't really break us, it is incredibly common and something we should all be aware of. Men, if you have a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a mother chances are one of them will experience sexual assault.  And considering the number of unreported rapes, you may never know if someone close to you has been effected. 

Because of the shame associated with rape, I have made it a point to never be ashamed of mine.   Though my perpetrators walk the streets, at the very least I can say that they have not convinced me that what happened was my fault, that it wasn't real, and that it wasn't a terrible wrong.  They haven't broken me.

We hear it said that we have a choice, whether we will be victims or survivors.  I think that notion robs a woman of her pain.  Sure, we'd like to lift the pain of rape victims, but we can't. The pain is real and it must be experienced.  I did that, for a long time.  I never really drank heavily or with regularity until May 7, 2001.  I had never gone to counseling. I never had the dream that I have a handful of times a year, the one that occurs in a variety of settings, but always involves me running with heavy feet, knowing my aggressors are behind me and what will happen if they catch me. 

But something else happened that night.  That night the little voice inside of me, my instinct, woke up.  That night a resilient woman was born, one dedicated to never, NEVER experiencing such a thing again.  Two years after the rape when I turned 21 I became a bartender, and I am asked often if I am ever afraid in my job.  I would bet if a survey of women bartenders were performed, one would find a number of them have been raped or assaulted, and their instincts have become more astute as a result.  No, I am not afraid when I am at work.  I know I am always listening to my gut, picking apart the scene in my mind, and anticipating what could happen next.  I am no longer a 19 year old girl pinned to a couch.  I am a fighter.

I am a better lawyer because of what happened.  Though my decision to focus on criminal defense may seem strange or even a betrayal of what happened, my ability to look at a rape case file with objectivity, to not see my own rapist in every man accused of rape, is a source of pride for me.  If we are going to convinct a person of, arguably, the most heinous of crimes, we'd better be sure we prove it. I also find my ability to read clients and my ability to empathize with their situation stems largely from the understanding that sometimes our circumstances lead us to do really, really stupid things.

I experienced the gamut of emotions and poor decision making that rape victims/surivors typically experience, and eventually learned to put the event on a shelf as just another thing that happened.  I think it may have been about that time that I decided I wanted my first born child to be a boy.  I wanted to raise a boy who would become a man who would love and respect women, who would never harm them, who would stand up for them, and remember that every woman could be somebody;s mother, and every woman is somebody's daugher.  My son, my child, would only know love.

It wasn't until I became pregnant with Gabriel that I could say I really put the rape behind me.  Of course, Gabriel changed everything so it is only natural he should change this too. 

When I was carrying Gabriel, I finally felt that my body was something to embrace.  I no longer felt that I had to guard it, hide it, privately loathe it.  I finally felt like my body had a purpose, one that was good and natural.  I finally felt fortunte to live inside of it.  I was carrying my child, a baby boy who, as it turned out, would only know love and would only bring love.  I never felt healthier, more beautiful, or more full of purpose.

Today the nightmares are fewer and farther between.  I have faced both of my perpetrators, served them drinks even when they have happened into the bar and stared at me either as they don't even know me, or as if they never did anything wrong.  As much as their depravity infuriates me, it also makes me sad - How did they become so cold?

More importantly though, I consider that although I commemorate May 7 as a day when I was forever changed, I am no longer just a rape victim or even a rape survivor.  I am a mom now.  My children are my beginning.  They are my end.  They are my world.  And I am grateful to every event, however painful, that made me the mother that I am.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Full House

I have a new housemate. 

I'm 30 years old and in the last two weeks I have had to run an ad on Craigslist in an effort to rent the two spare bedrooms in my rented home, so I can afford a familiar place for me, Gideon and Noelle to live while everything else is changing all around us. 

Enter Marcus, my housemate of three days.  He's an easy going guy, a former CSUB basketball player, a sports fanatic, and a gentleman.  When we first met he informed me that he has a 3-year old son, and asked me if that would be a problem.  Considering Gideon barked at Marcus until he ran outside and stood with the security door between them at their first meeting, I figured Marcus' son couldn't possibly be more of a problem than my furry baby.

And he wasn't.  Until tonight.

I ran home from my parents' house, just three doors down, to feed the dogs dinner and grab my laptop.  I opened the door surprised to see Jordan, Marcus' son, laying on my sofa. 

"WHOA!  You scared me!  Are you friends with my dad?"

"Yes.  I live here too." 

"Oh.  Come here!"  Jordan grabbed me by the hand and led me to the kitchen where he pointed at the window in the back door.  He was showing my own dogs to me!  I asked him if he would like to meet Noelle and he said yes.  I let Noelle in and she ran excited circles around him, licked his hands, and rolled on the floor for him to rub her belly.  Marcus showed Jordan how Noelle shakes paws and Jordan just loved Noelle.  I told Jordan that I would have to take Noelle outside to feed her and Gideon, and he said he wanted to help.  I explained that it wasn't a good time for him to help me and that next time he came over he could meet the big dog and feed them both. 

After I fed the dogs and had washed my hands, Jordan walked up to me and asked if he I had fed them and if he could see them again.  I held him at the window and he marveled at the way they mowed down their bowls of food.  I put Jordan down and told him I had to go, and he told me it was nice to meet me. 

When I walked out of the door and to the curb, I broke into tears. I know that I will get used to having Jordan around a few days a week and that he is so friendly that I will even enjoy having him, but I couldn't help but think that these were moments I should be sharing with my Gabriel.  I couldn't help but wonder what a 3-year old Gabriel would feel like sitting on my hip and clinging to my arm. I couldn't help but think about what a good mommy I will never get to be to my own baby boy and when I thought about that I just couldn't help but cry.