Last year in honor of Gabriel's 2nd birthday, I came up with 10 days of activities to commemorate his brief but special life. The celebration was bigger than I anticipated, and I was able to find so much healing in the participation of friends and family through Facebook. This year I look forward to another year of celebrating Gabriel, and life.
Happy Birthday, Gabriel - Tuesday June 10, 2014 - Wear your Gabriel t-shirt, and be sure to sign up for Gabriel's Magic Mullet Run, or volunteer to work on race day; the registration fees will increase after Gabriel's birthday.
Day 1 - Wednesday June 11, 2014 - Cupcake day! Just like last year, we'll commemorate this day by enjoying cupcakes. When Gabriel was 24 hours old, joining only 25% of anencephalic babies which live to be one day old, our family celebrated by having cupcakes. Enjoy a cupcake on this day.
Day 2 - Thursday June 12, 2014 - "It was my pleasure." As I handed Gabriel's tiny body over to the mortuary, the last words I said to him were "It was my pleasure." I truly believe the opportunity to care for the sick, wounded, terminally ill, orphaned or abandoned, is our privilege. From grandparents, to the handicapped, to stray dogs, on this day find a way to honor someone or some critter who you've been privileged to care for in their time of need and share with us on Facebook.
Day 3 - Friday June 13, 2014 - "Footprints." Gabriel was known for leaving his mark on this world, not just with his resilient spirit, but with his big feet. I was never a big fan of feet, until I recognized my own in my baby boy's. On this day, find a way to leave your footprint.
Day 4 - Saturday June 14, 2014 - Gabe's Magic Mullet Run - Join us as a runner or as a volunteer at Gabe's Magic Mullet Run, so named to encourage people to be unafraid of the unknown or unusual. If you can't be with us in person, try to find another local charity run to participate in on that day. And sport your mullet!
Day 5 - Sunday June 15, 2014 - Father's Day - Although this day is to honor fathers, I ask that fathers our there take time on this day to give special thanks to their children. They are, after all, our greatest gift. I look forward to honoring both of my babies, and their fathers, on this day. We were privileged to have Gabriel with us, contrary to our expectations, on Father's Day 2011, forever changing the meaning of this holiday for me.
Day 6 - Monday June 16, 2014 - Paradise - Those who have been following Gabriel's story know that he became a big brother this year, to a little sister named Eden. Eden's name means paradise, and I have written of the kind of paradise that she brings, perfect in its imperfections just like her brother Gabe. On this day, look for paradise in your everyday life, and share it on Facebook.
Day 7 - Tuesday June 17, 2014 - Blueberries!!! - Gabriel's blueberry bush, thought to have died but continuing to thrive, has become almost as "famous" as Gabriel. It's come to symbolize his defiance of the odds. Enjoy some blueberries on this day in celebration of life, and share with us on Facebook.
Day 8 - Wednesday June 18, 2014 - A Perfect Storm - When I think of the tumultuous, tragic loss of my son, and the struggles of caring for him during his brief life, I think of that time as a perfect storm. Although this time was difficult and full of grief, Gabriel also brought me so much joy, and my love for him continues to grow, nourished by the storm. On this day reflect on a difficult time in your life that made you stronger, your own perfect storm. If you feel up to sharing, please do share with us on Facebook.
Day 9 - Thursday June 19, 2014 - Rainbow Day - The rainbow is a special symbol in the infant loss community, representing our hope and the promise that our storm will pass and give way to a new kind of beauty. Look for the rainbows in your own life on this day, and share them on Facebook.
Day 10 - Friday June 20, 2014 - ANGELVERSARY - This is the day Gabriel's soul left his earthly body and moved on to be with our Lord. We will do a balloon release on the Panorama bluffs in East Bakersfield at 6 p.m. Please feel free to join us, or to release a balloon on your own, in a symbol of our Gabriel's journey to Heaven where he continues to change the world.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
I woke to Eden's hungry squirming. Although we've been working on getting her to sleep in her bassinet, I recalled that at about 4:30 in the morning I caved in and let her sleep on my chest. Since we've been home I've let her sleep with me every night.
It was a rough night. When I saw Marcos I had vague memories of him rescuing her sometime during the night. Once again I had fallen asleep while nursing her, and set her in the bassinet when I nearly dropped her. Marcos had to get her when her cries couldn't wake me from sleep. Most moms would tell me not to feel guilty, that it happens, but I do feel guilty because I shouldn't have let it happen.
After feeding Eden I was able to get her to stay quietly in her bouncer seat. I seized the opportunity to take a quick shower, at once relieved and frightened by her silence.
I am feeling blue but reluctant to admit it because the inevitable response will be that baby blues are normal, as if simply saying so makes the feelings go away, or makes them not real. I can't help feeling that my life is over, to which the common response is that life is just beginning. Still, I mourn the changes in the life I worked hard to build over the last few years. As the shower water poured over me tears escaped my eyes. But my new life permits little time for crying so I turned off the water.
Eden quibbled a bit when I emerged from the bathroom and I thought I missed my chance to have breakfast, but she soothed herself and I had a few more minutes. I fastened the charm bracelet that I have in memory of Baby Cude around my wrist. I wear it just a few times a year, generally in memory of the day I learned I was pregnant, Baby Cude's expected due date, or today. Today is the anniversary of the day the miscarriage commenced. Having a bowl of cereal seemed counterintuitive to my desire to simply sit and reflect on the bracelet's charms, but I had only a small window to eat before Eden would need something.
The last few bites of cereal remain in my bowl. Eden needed to be fed and burped. Soon, we will leave for the bank to open an account for the funds for Gabriel's run, to take place a month from today. I am now a very uncoventional mother of three, and all of their needs are different, but my time still somehow has to be split appropriately among them.
I'm overwhelmed. I've typed this blog almost entirely one-handed, knowing I should try to set Eden down, but unable to bear her crying today. I never want to give her a reason to cry, even though sometimes I've let her cry. I never want her to hurt, even though she will. When I think of the risks I took when I feel in love with Marcos, when I fell in love with Eden, I still feel the visceral ache of the losses before them. There are days when I feel myself building a wall between myself and each of them.
Almost three years ago I comforted my son in his hour of dying, just ten days after his birth. Every moment of my life since then has been informed by that experience. I'm still discovering the ways that I am affected by Gabriel's death, from the way I love to the way I resist my emotions. It's never been more obvious to me than on this day which Marcos and Eden have gifted me with, but which I am not sure how to accept.
Diaper changes. Feedings. Fussing. Cuddles. Tears. Bitter. Sweet.
It's just another day.
This is Day 11.
Thursday, May 8, 2014
On Saturday May 3, 2014, ten days ahead of schedule, Eden Eliana Lopez made her way forcefully into this world. Her brief labor began at approximately 10 a.m., and after a quick visit to the cemetary to see Gabriel for good luck and intercession, we arrived at the hospital some time after 2 p.m. Eden was born shortly after that, at 4:58 p.m. weighing 9 pounds, 11 ounces, and measuring 20 3/4 inches long. She's perfect.
"Eden" is Hebrew, and means paradise, and is quite obviously a reference to the Garden of Eden. The name was selected when I was 13, at the time more in honor of a favored character from a long-discontinued soap opera, "Santa Barbara," than in appreciation of my faith or the signficance of the name. "Eliana" is also Hebrew, and means "The Lord answers our prayers." It represents that whisper of my heart, sometimes so faint that even I couldn't hear it, that ember of faith that burned within me even in the darkest of hours. The Lord has answered my prayers.
My house is a nightmare. I was ill-prepared for Eden's arrival and her presence makes catching up difficult. My files at work are not where I wanted them to be before maternity leave, as I closed them up on Friday May 2 expecting to return to tend to them on Monday. I have a terrible case of PUPPS rash, a symptom of pregnancy and delivery I was unaware existed.
But I live in paradise.
This is not the Biblical paradise that witnessed the Fall of Man, innocent until that moment. Quite the opposite, this is a paradise that has already known grief, and violence, and heartache. This is a paradise that feels the missing presence of Eden's brother Gabriel, deeply. This is a fallen paradise, and it's beautiful.
It's not been lost on me that while Gabriel lived only ten days, which must sustain me the rest of my life, ten days were given back to me with Eden's early arrival. She was here in my arms, giving me comfort yesterday, the 13 year anniversary of the assault. She'll be in my arms this Mothers Day, the first of my four Mother's Days where I will have full arms. Sometimes I cry at the flooding feeling of gratitude that I have for this beautiful child and her loving father, who moves me daily with his affection and love for us. How did I get here?
The Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden is attributed for the pains of childbirth, and Eden's birth, though quick, was painful. That pain was quickly forgotten when they placed my beautiful daughter on my chest and I could only murmur, "You're real." I can't remeber now who said, "It's a girl." I remember the words. I remember what I heard: "Welcome to paradise."