Tuesday, June 20, 2017

When The Stars Go Blue



There are these moments that are so perfect.  The girls fit perfectly in the bend of my elbow, one perfectly seated on each leg.  Delilah turns the pages of the board book with perfect timing, while Eden "reads" along with perfect memorization.  Everything is perfect.

That's when I feel it the most.  That's when Gabriel's absence comes crashing back to me. That's when I am slapped in the face with loneliness that I shouldn't feel, surrounded by the love of my girls, and guilt for feeling lonely when each of them are the world.  I'm filled with regret for not being able to do the impossible, for not being able to heal Gabriel so that he could be here, wrecking these moments with his pleadings to not read any more 'baby' books.

Delilah turns the page.  I can't look.  I suddenly can't stand it.  It's all so beautiful, but the truth is something hideous.  The truth is there is a little boy that will always be missing from these scenes.

I can't look at the stars.  They stand between me and the little boy that I'd longed for all of my life.  Like a beautiful, tangled net, they hold him in the Heavens and all I can do is dream of who waits beyond those stars.  So I can't look at the stars.

Where do you go, when the stars go blue?  What am I supposed to do when no matter where I turn, I'm facing an empty space?

Not so long ago, under those stars at 2:25 AM, a little girl was born who looks so much like her big brother that sometimes I have to look twice.  A little girl with dark, sparkling eyes and a hint of a dimple in her left cheek and a toothy smile that will leave you victim to her charm.  A little girl who still nuzzles her head under my chin, against my neck, unknowingly filling the cracks in my broken heart.  My little star.  "Gabe," she attempts to say, as she tugs at his picture hanging next to the stairs.  I can't look at the stars, but I can't look away, either.

Nearby another not-so-little girl runs and jumps and spins and dances, curly hair flouncing, long limbs bending and flapping.  A not-so-little girl with a not-so-little personality and a not-so-little vocabulary that will lash you with its wit one minute then warm your heart with its sweetness the next.  My piece of paradise.

Outside a pot containing the famous blueberry bush still sits, waiting, hoping against the odds for another sprout of green, another sign of life in defiance of expectations.  I may never see another leaf or blossom or berry.  Maybe all you see when you look at that plant is a bunch of dead branches.  But I see what could have been.  I see what could still be.

Hope is a strange thing.  Hope can break our hearts and let us down and fail us.  Hope hurts.  Hope takes guts.  Hope requires love.  Hope keeps me hanging on, even when the stars are blue.

Gabriel, "I lit a fire with the love you left behind.  And it burned wild."  I miss you.  With every breath, with every beat of my heart, I miss you.  I always will. I'll always see the empty space.  But I'll always be thankful for 10 days that changed the world.  You changed my world.

*Credit to Grace Potter and the Nocturnals' song "Stars" and Ryan Adams' song "When the Stars Go Blue" for inspiration.




Monday, May 22, 2017

Double Take



The head of the woman in line in front of me whipped back and forth between me and her twin boys, as our six eyes remained locked in a stare.  I finally broke away to see her smiling at me.

"They're killing me.  I really want another."

She laughed.  "Take them for a few hours.  You'll change your mind."

"How old are they?"

"They'll be two in August."

"They're precious."

As she unloaded her things I looked at my own Costco cart, full of things that I am able to buy because I "only" have two children, including a new outfit for both Eden and Delilah.  If we were to add another to the mix, I couldn't spontaneously make these purchases.  But as it stands, buying things for the two girls that I love so much is one of the little pleasures in my life.

I'm fortunate that putting the girls in a new dress, or a new bow in their hair, can still make me smile.  Just an hour before my Costco run, I had taken my pre-session survey to gauge my depression and anxiety levels.  Survey says I've lost interest in things that used to interest me, and I find little pleasure in life right now.

I don't really have much to complain about.  I have a beautiful family, a good job that I love, everything I need and most of what I want.  But it all feels a bit meaningless these days.
As I leave the warehouse I encounter the woman again, the twin boys still sitting side by side in the shopping cart.  She sees my longing gaze and asks, "How many do you have?"

"Three."

"And you want more?"  I smile.  She has no idea how loaded my answer really is.

Increasingly I find myself grieving the child that I miscarried.  This always comes and goes in waves, sometimes affecting me more than others.  This wave will pass, but not a day goes by that I don't think about who that child might have been today.  I know that in those two boys sitting side by side, I saw the two children that will never get to be 21 months old.  I saw the future I might never have, the children I still hope to have that may just never come.

In the car the tears stream down my face as Zac Brown sang, "My whole world, it begins and ends with you. . . "  I don't know anymore where the world begins and where it ends, I only know that I'm drowning in it, and there again, I don't know why.

At home I presented Eden with her new outfit.

"It's a beautiful dress!"  I promise her she can wear it tomorrow.  Upstairs, in addition to her closet full of clothes, there are boxes and tubs and cabinets brimming with clothes each girl has outgrown, loving folded in the hopes that I will get to use them again on a child of my own.  Other clothes remain still in their package, a fading ember of faith that one day, I'll have another little boy.  I tell myself that if that day comes I will pat myself on the back for being so prudent.  But day by day I feel a bit more like Ms. Haversham, clinging to a futile dream while the world goes on without me.

Marcos tells me the news, that a terrorist attack occurred at the Arianna Grande concert in England.  19 are dead, which seems comparatively less devastating.  He tells me that online people are commenting, "Too bad Arianna Grande wasn't one of them."  Fleetingly, I think, "Too bad I wasn't one of them."  Very young people attend her concerts, young people with a whole life ahead of them.  Young people who still love to wake up every morning.  Young people who don't have children that are destined to grow up with a chronically depressed mother who never seems satisfied.

I go through the motions of bedtime routine.  I'm in a low, right now, and I know it will pass.  We brush teeth, read stories, say prayers, tuck in stuffed animals, and the girls seem satisfied that I've given them my best, even though my best is far less than they deserve.

I trudge downstairs and between picking up toys and sippy cups and board books I fix myself a drink.  I see tiny shoes, and think about the shoes that are missing.  I sit down at the keyboard and pour out my heart, filling its place with a cocktail and look ahead to a time when the pendulum swings and the
survey says that I love life again.





Thursday, April 6, 2017

Old Reliable

It's as constant as the rising sun.

My phone blinked with the alert and though I've promised I'll be better, I peek at my phone.

"Have you forgotten to enter your period?" my calendar reminds me.  Technology is amazing, but not as amazing as my own ability, after having lived in my body for the last 35 years.  I'm not late quite yet.  Still, I ignore the tell-tale signs.  Although I'm routinely asked, few people know how badly I want another baby.

With a subtle cramping in my abdomen, I make plans to set the pregnancy test out tonight, ready to take tomorrow morning. Tomorrow is a lucky number 7.  04-07-2017.  A good day to find out you're having another baby.  

Unsuspecting but for my suspicions, I go to use the restroom, and just like that the hopes and dreams fall down all around me.  The tears fall freely.  I can't stop them.  I'm not having another baby.

I'm reminded of the admonishments.  You're not ready.  You're so busy.  You're so overwhelmed by the girls already. You;ll never be able to afford to give them all what you want to give them.  You've got your two.  You'll always have your boy.  You have plenty of time.  Lots of people have babies much older than you.  High risk? Well, lots of women are doing it.  Just be happy with what God has already given you.

I am reminded of the regrets.  You shouldn't drink so much.  You should have taken better care of yourself.  Lose some weight first.  Space them out a bit more, you overwhelmed yourself the last time.  You've rushed into this. You're too eager.  You're always so scared that things aren't going to work out.

I am reminded of the dreams.  He would be another little boy.  Or maybe a third baby girl.  I'll call him this.  She'll look like that.  He;ll ride a red tricycle.  She'll cure cancer.  He'll be President.  She'll win a Grammy Award.  He'll learn to tie his shoes.  She'll live to be 11 days old.  My dreams are at once far fetched and starry eyed, and the things most of you take for granted.

A stained strip of toilet paper circles the bowl, then disappears.  A tear falls.  An ember of hope extinguishes.

Tomorrow someone will ask.  "When is your baby due."

"I'm not pregnant," I'll say.

The next day someone else will ask, "So, are you having more?"

"I guess we'll see," I'll answer.

I guess we'll see.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

D is for Diagnosis Day

D is for dream, like the one that filled my heart the day I learned you were on your way. The little dreams - You'd have my eyes, your daddy's nose.  The big dreams - Maybe someday you would cure cancer, pitch in the Major League, even be President.  September 28, 2010, with one positive test, the world opened wide.

D is for "Danny's Song," the lyrics that piped over the pumps at the Arco station where I stopped for gas that wonderful day, the words "Think I'm gonna have a son" and "Everything is gonna be alright" filling me with their promise.

D is for Doppler, that incredible machine by which I heard your heart beat for the very first time.  The tears poured from my eyes, streaking my face.  I'd never heard the heartbeat of your brother or sister before you, gone before we ever had the chance.  November 8, 2010, when everything was gonna be alright, because you had a heartbeat, and it was strong.

D is for December, a bittersweet month.  Your brother or sister was due that month, but nature had other plans and instead, I was three months along with you.  The holidays, the anticipation of the birth of the Christ child, took on new meaning as I spent the Advent season also planning your arrival.  It was the most wonderful time I would have for years.

D is for Diagnosis Day.  The words hit me like a spray of bullets, striking me with a force I had never felt, lodging in my chest, making it hard to breathe, hard to live.  "Incompatible with life". . . "Minutes, sometimes hours.  Sometimes days.". . . "No brain.". . . When I recall that day I can still feel it - The pull, drawing me into the whirlpool, forcing me under, drowning me in the greatest pain I had ever known, washing over and drenching me so completely that it will always be a part of me.

D is for drop, as my heart did, down to the pit of my stomach where it burned.

D is for destroyed, what happened to your father and me as we watched our dreams go up in flames one fateful morning.

D is for damned, the way I felt knowing my body had twice failed my children, unable to grow you each "correctly."

D is for decision.  You were my son, my baby boy, my Gabriel, my strength.  I'd waited my whole life for you.  The law makes you nothing more than a choice, but you were everything to me, so I chose you.  I'd chose you over and over and over again.

D is for drunk, the only way your father knew how to relieve his pain.  I resented him even while I envied him.  I longed to join him in a haze, forget it all.  There was so little I could do for you then.  Sobriety was one of the few parts of this journey that were within my control.

D is for Days - Ten of them.  I'd hoped you'd be that rare exception.  As we fed you, took you home from the hospital, bathed you, changed your diaper, I wondered how I got to be this mom that got to keep her child for 10 days, all the while knowing we were living on borrowed time.  You were not mine to keep. . .

D is for dead.  Dear.  He's dead.  My son is dead.  He died in my arms.  He died.  He's dead.  The words, the truth is so hideous that sometimes I still can't believe it.  I have to see the truth written out in front of me, my way of waking myself from this walking nightmare, only to discover this is no dream.  You're gone.  The pain is invisible, but runs so deep.  How can a stranger not see it in me?  It's settled in my bones, a part of every move I make.  It's pooled at the bottom of my fractured heart, which strains with every beat.  It weighs me down, making every step, every breath, every day a struggle.

D is for differences.  Over the course of the year following your death, your father and I learneed that the differences between us were insurmountable.

D is for divorce. People ask if it was because of you.  It wasn't.  You are just a tiny little baby, and it wasn't because of you.  Without you, though, there was no reason to stay together.

D is for dare. To get out of bed every day is daring.  To take each step is a risk.  To go on living, to go on loving was brave.  I idn't understand how life could go on without you, Gabriel, but I dared to go on with it.

D is for date.  One date with your stepfather Marcos led to another, then another, and the next thing I knew. . .

D was for daughter.  There she was.  My daughter.  Your little sister.  Eden.  Paradise.  Eden with her perfectly round skull.  Eden , nearly twice your size.  Eden, who could never replace you, who isn't here to take your place or fill my aching arms.  Eden, her own little person, her own little light in this world.

D is for Delilah, the "one who weakens," that precious little girl who's just stolen my heart away once again.  In her sweet face I see a perfect blend of her big sister and her big brother.

D is for the day that I hold you in my arms again.  I dream of that day you and I are united.  I pray that it's many years from now, that I have an opportunity to raise your sisters and watch them build families of their own.  But when death comes for me I will not be afraid.  I will face it with dignity, a lesson you taught me.  I will humble myself one last time, beg forgiveness for my sins, and pray that I have done enough with this life to spend eternity with you, my son.