Thursday, April 04, 2013

Travel plans?

My Beloved and I have never been big travelers. In fact, the last time either of us was on a plane (or out of the country, for that matter) was more than 13 years ago when we went to Las Vegas for a short mid-winter vacation. We even went low key for our honeymoon, taking the train to Montreal (which was so fabulous. If you've never been to Montreal, go. Go NOW).

Travel has just never been particularly high on our priority list. Babies were.


So now that babies are not on our list at all, pretty much everyone wants to know why we don't travel. Because I guess after people have finished grilling you about why you aren't adopting, the next thing they want to know is why in the hell you aren't traveling. You know, since now you have this fabulously carefree, responsibility-free, kid-free life that parents of young children can only dream of.


To be honest, I had to stop and think about why exactly we don't travel. For a big chunk of my 30s it was because I was immersed in the drama of trying to conceive, being pregnant, and losing babies. I had laser-like focus on family building, and that didn't leave room (or time or money, once we started visiting the fertility clinic on a regular basis--ah, weren't those the days) for planning much of anything else, especially vacations.

I couldn't wrap my head around anything except the idea of bringing a live baby home to stay. That was all that mattered.

And, of course, no babies came home. So we consoled ourselves by cocooning: watching endless hours of Mary Tyler Moore, going for walks together at night, visiting local farms on the weekends, losing ourselves in comic books (him) and yarn (me) and whatever else soothed our pain and took the ache away for a few blissful moments.

That just happened not to include travel.

For some people it does, I guess. But we were battered and bruised and just wanted someplace warm and safe to rest for awhile. And so we did play it safe, sticking close to home where our comforts are, in an environment over which we have as much control as you ever can in life.

As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing wrong with that. We all heal differently, after all. Maybe the travel bug will bite us one day. Maybe once we've healed a little more we'll get the urge to throw caution to the wind, pack our bags and run away to some exotic locale. But for now we've had more than enough excitement. Enough to last a million lifetimes, really.

Also, we happen to be content with the way things are. Maybe it appears as though we're frittering away our child-free life by not taking advantage of the kinds of things people with kids can't do as easily. Maybe the Hollywood version of our life story thus far would end with us climbing Mount Everest, cruising the Caribbean or  kissing atop the Eiffel Tower.

But right now it's just us curled up on the couch reading comics and playing with yarn.

Which sounds perfect (for us), if you ask me.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Thomas' birthday came and went. Mixed in with the annual busyness of trying to promote his Random Acts of Kindness Day (thanks to everyone who participated and made the world sweeter on my boy's birthday, by the way!), were the usual flood of memories.

It's interesting how the brain protects itself. The unthinkable happened eight years ago. We held that little boy--a tiny, motionless bundle of beauty that I still can't believe I had any part in making--as his fierce little heart fought to beat. We held that little boy after it finally stopped. We buried that little boy in a cold cemetery on a mercifully sunny day in March.

And for most of the year I just think about the ways I miss him and the ways my life is different than the one I'd come so close to having. For most of the year I am okay, triggered now and then by life and the joys others experience that I'll never know, but generally okay. Functional despite the tear in the fabric of my heart that will never mend.

But on and around his birthday, my mind sinks back to those early days of deep, dark confusion and grief. I hear the sounds, I smell the smells, I see the shocking and disturbing detail that my mind somehow locks carefully away for the rest of the year. It floods back during those first days of March. Every year.

I don't know how we're meant to survive this sort of thing. But yet somehow we do. Time pulls us forward, willing or not, and suddenly we're in the next minute, hour, day, week, month, year. Still breathing, still walking, still being.

My mind is quieter now. The birthday is past, the cake is eaten, and the acts of kindness have been recorded, so the memories have quietly started to pack themselves away for another year.

I'll bump into some of them again in the months to come--those sneaky stray bits and pieces that escape now and then--but they'll unpack themselves completely again next March.

And so it goes.

Thomas Joseph, March 9 - 10, 2005
I love you, sweet boy, and I'll miss you forever and ever.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Perception vs. reality

Back in the spring of 2010, when Thomas had been gone just over five years, I had a meeting with my very first boss about some freelance work he wanted me to do. Actually, it was with one of his underlings, but on my way into the boardroom we popped into his office so I could say hello.

I hadn't seen Ted in years. The last time I'd had any contact with him was just after Thomas died. Immediately after, actually. When I was about 8 months pregnant he'd contacted me about doing some work for him. I naturally expected I'd be having a live baby in a few weeks (and told him so), so I turned it down. Work was the farthest thing from my mind in those heady pre-baby days.

The next time I contacted Ted was to tell him that, as it turned out, I didn't bring Thomas home after all. His response was lovely. Sweet and sympathetic, with a good dose of concern and disbelief mixed in. I remember him saying that after he'd gotten my e-mail, he and his wife sat on the couch together in shock, talking quietly for hours about life and death and tragedies like mine.

So when I stuck my head into his office that spring morning in 2010, I expected him to see the mother of a dead baby. It's all I could think of--that he hadn't seen or heard from me since that horribly unexpected e-mail five years earlier. In fact, I briefly wondered if he was giving me the work out of pity.

The first words out of his mouth? "So, how's motherhood treating you?"

All he'd remembered was that I'd had a child. He'd forgotten that it died. 

He was, of course, horrified when I gently reminded him that motherhood wasn't all that great when all your children were dead. Although I didn't say it exactly that way, of course.

And then I made fun of him for forgetting, because that's what I do. And oh how we laughed.

Okay, we didn't really laugh and my joke probably wasn't all that funny, but I wanted to let him off the gigantic fish hook from which he was dangling as fast as I could.

I think about that day a lot. I should have been upset. I should have been hurt. I should have been desperately angry that he'd forgotten about something so huge that it consumes my life and has changed me forever.

But instead I was relieved. Buoyant, even. Because the fact that he'd forgotten meant that maybe, just maybe, people really do see more than just a bereaved parent when they look at me. Granted, most people don't forget entirely (although my new hairdresser did, asking me again if I had any children at my second appointment after we'd had a very long and thorough conversation about the fact that I don't at my first appointment), but it means that it is possible that I am more than the sum of the sorrows that I carry.

I don't know if Ted remembers any of this. Ha, probably not. But I'm grateful to him just the same for his ability to see and remember me.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Hats Off To Liz!

Huh. I guess I've gone a little quiet here lately. I haven't even made it up to 10 posts yet this year, for heaven's sake! I've started a bunch of 'em, but I can never seem to get them squeezed all the way out of my brain, so they sit in the queue unfinished.

Luckily I have been able to follow through on something...

There's this:

And there's the website that goes with it.

Wait, I didn't design the logo (that's one of My Beloved's awesome creations). I just had the idea and called upon my generous and talented friends (far and wide, as it turns out!) to help me get it up and running.

And it's been kicking it marathon-style ever since. We've been able to donate close to 150 handmade chemo caps and dozens of infant loss items (tiny blankets, burial buntings and hats) to the hospital where my friend Liz was treated - which happens to be the same hospital where Thomas was born and died.

I'm kind of proud of this little handcrafted, grassroots effort. But more than that, I'm unbelievably grateful to the friends and family who have supported it with such a passion.

People are awesome.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Back to school

Thomas would have started grade two this week. On the first day of school, I lay in bed and told him about the day that would have been. The special breakfast I would have cooked, the way we'd have walked to school together, the treat I'd have made him to snack on after school while he told me about all the adventures he'd had as a big boy in grade two.

Then I got up and carried on with my day. I don't remember what I did, I just know it was painfully ordinary.

Back to school pictures, which began popping up on Facebook back in mid August as children of my American friends headed back, reached their agonizing peak this week. The annual assault.

I would have done it too, of course. Thomas all dressed up in his first-day best, smiling at the camera as he headed out the door to grade two. I would have sent the picture to his grandma and his Auntie Kathy. And his bubby and nonno too.

I would have.

Ha. Would.

It was wearying. My last grief-frayed nerve about to snap on Tuesday, when a new friend e-mailed me and asked how I was coping with the onslaught. She barely knows me. We've met once. But she has been a staunch supporter of Thomas' Random Act of Kindness Day since a mutual friend told her about it a few years ago, and she has a rare kind of sensitivity that I'm discovering is like a cooling balm on a sunburn.

A blissful salve on time-worn grief.

It didn't occur to anyone else. And nor should it, really. I'm not the centre of anyone's universe but my own. At seven-years old, my grief is seasoned. And besides, I don't tell people that eleventy-billion milestone pictures coming at me for two solid weeks eventually starts to erode the stitches holding my heart together. So how could anyone have known?

But thank God for that one friend who did think to ask. It's all I needed.

All the bereaved moms I know say the same thing: every once in a while we just want someone to acknowledge our loss. Not all the time and not out of guilt or obligation. But maybe once in a blue moon; just a quiet nod to the ongoing agony of loss that ebbs and flows as life marches on. Especially as life marches on.

Because grief marches in place.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Brainpower is overrated

Okay, so here's the weird thing: I don't know what to do when there's nothing to worry about. My dad had his first heart attack when I was 13. On that sunny February day in 1984, something in my brain clicked on and it appears as thought I'm powerless to turn it off. I worried about him endlessly, right up until the night he died when I cried myself to sleep before I even knew he was dying in his.

I worried all through my tragically flawed pregnancies (and with good reason, as it turns out), and I worried during the endless hours I waited for doctors and tests results at the fertility clinic. I worried about the work I wasn't doing and the money I wasn't making because I was trying to make live babies. And then I worried some more about my dad.

Then the time for having babies came to an end. Then my dad died.

And now there's this peace that I can't seem to find a way to properly embrace, no matter how much I want to. There's peace and there's work and there's this lovely, quiet life waiting here for me - and all my brain wants to do is latch onto another problem and get to frettin'.

Who knew peace was this problematic?

So I've turned inward and I've started worrying about myself. I've worried myself all the way into a scorching case of acid reflux - which is, apparently, what happens when your brain is frantic to find something to do with itself after 27 years of hardcore worrying.

Eventually your body rolls its eyes, sighs resignedly, and gives Brain something real to fret about just to shut it the hell up.

On a related note, I hate Dr. Google. He will tell you you're dying almost every time. Doesn't matter if you have a gunshot wound to the head or a stubbed toe, Dr. Google will kill you either way.

I don't actually think I'm dying (mostly). And as of last week I'm on medication that will, with luck, see the symptoms improving soon.  I'm also working to adjust my diet (which means cutting out all my go-to comfort foods, naturally), and losing weight is penciled in on my calendar somewhere...

But still, I'm annoyed with myself and my all-powerful brain that seems to take such great pleasure in thwarting me at every turn.

I bet if I went back to the beginning of this blog and read it straight through, I'd find dozens of instances where I begged for peace - for things to be calm and normal and quiet.

And they are. Just not in my head.


Friday, March 09, 2012


"I miss him so much! I can't wait until he's home!", she said. Her boy was away for a few days and, like all mothers, she missed her child desperately. She was excited knowing that she was soon going to have him back home, safe in her arms.

"I'm miss him so much."

Multiply that by forever, I thought.

I have absolutely no idea how anyone survives the loss of a child. Every day I do it, and after all this time I still don't really know how.

Thomas would be seven today. He is gone. And I still breathe and the world still turns - and I just don't know how any of it is possible.

But somehow it is.

And so once again, I'm sending all my love and big birthday kisses heavenward to the sweetest and most beautiful boy I've ever seen.