Love Letter

Dearest Daniel,

Our 14th wedding anniversary is here, and it finds us both a little beat up and stressed out. You are still gimping around from your second Tough Mudder, and I am not adjusting to the stresses of the new school year very well.

I haven’t even managed to buy you a card for today.

I recently contributed a guest post to a Pittsburgh blogger who wed last week. Remember when we were asking for my parents’ blessing, and my dad said, “Marriage isn’t 50-50; it’s 100-100”? And then asked if I was going to cook you meat?

Yeah, that’s what I wrote about over there.

And I just want you to know that I know you have been in 100 percent since… well, since we started dating, probably. And I cannot tell you how loved that makes me feel; how safe and secure. And I also want you to know how proud I am to be with you, to stand as your wife. I am proud of you, and of your continual hard work as a husband and father, as a therapist, as a Tough Mudder!

You married an anxious lady, dude. And I appreciate it when you are patient with me; and I forgive you for being impatient with me too. I get it — I’m a little impatient with my hand-flappy self, too. I fluster easily, and I, much like at least one of our children, do not adjust to change very quickly.

However, since our first date, since before our first date, we have had the top three things that make our relationship work:

1. Humor
2. Kindness
3. Chemistry

You are patient and you are kind. You make me laugh every day. You make me feel loved and desired every day. I hope I do the same for you. I certainly think we do not disappoint each other when it comes to the third thing on that list.

I’m so glad I said, “Yes” and then, 14 years ago today, “I do.”

I love you, 100 percent, all in.
Your ever-loving,
Dawn

I Do

And I would, again.

Ten years, four babies, one giant heart break. Several jobs, one house, many, many nights of broken sleep, one business.

It hasn’t all been fairy tales and smooth sailing. It has been a lot of love, and immeasurable joy. I wouldn’t navigate these waters with anyone else, my dear.

Happy 10th Anniversary, Dan.

(PS: We need more pictures of just you and I.)

I Am My Beloved’s

Dearest DearDR,

Happy eighth anniversary.

I know we’ve been struggling lately (individually and together), but I also know that my life is better with you than without.

We survived the hardest thing that parents have to survive. We should be able to make it through different schedules, lots of work hours, and lack of sleep. That’s just life, you know?

I love you, probably more than I show. I will try to be better about that. I made a vow on that altar eight years ago, and I intend to live up to it, every day, for the rest of our life.

With this ring, I thee wed.
With my body, I thee worship.
With all my wordly possessions, I thee bestow.

All my love now and forever,
rpm

Six Years Out: The Memorial

Six years ago today, my husband read this excerpt from Letters to a Young Poet, by Rilke. This is from the fourth letter.

“…Here, where I am surrounded by an enormous landscape, which the winds move across as they come from the seas, here I feel that there is no one anywhere who can answer for you those questions and feelings which, in their depths, have a life of their own; for even the most articulate people are unable to help, since what words point to is so very delicate, is almost unsayable. But even so, I think that you will not have to remain without a solution if you trust in Things that are like the ones my eyes are now resting upon. If you trust in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge. You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within you the possibility of creating and forming, as an especially blessed and pure way of living; train yourself for that — but take whatever comes, with great trust, and as long as it comes out of your will, out of some need of your innermost self, then take it upon yourself, and don’t hate anything.”

I don’t know how he did it. I could barely stand up. Actually, I don’t think I did stand up. Someone got me a chair.

I held someone’s hand — or someone held mine. It felt like trying to stay above water. DearDR maybe; maybe my dad. I really don’t remember. My milk came in that day, too, at the restaurant afterward. Talk about insult to injury.

A lot of the accounts I read mention cremation for babylost babies. DearDR and I actually had a burial, with the smallest casket ever — we didn’t make any of the arrangements; my ILs did; and we had a picture of Gabriel framed for people to see him as he was after delivery.

I wish I weren’t thinking of this today. I’m so very tired. Since Saturday at 3 a.m., this week has been the longest month of my life. But the girls are restored to health and daycare, so I have to move forward too. My heart’s having a hard time of it. Grieving has taken a back seat to strep and laundry and work. Well, and Pittsburgh Penguins games. It’s not all a burden.

Miss you, little boy. Watch over us. Let us find peace.

Six Years Out: Birth Day

We went to the cemetery yesterday, a day earlier than usual. The girls ran among the grave stones and picked flowers for DearDR and me. We left them by Gabriel’s marker, along with the lillies I had bought.

I watched the their heads flashing in the sun, and I was sad that I didn’t know what my son looked like as a boy. I suspect he would look very much like Monkey: dark hair and blue eyes, tall. After she was born I marveled how much she looked like her brother, only, you know, alive.

If you have ever held a dead baby — and I hope you have not — the experience of holding a live baby is something you will never take for granted again. Even infants, newborns in their “potted plant” stage, thrum with vitality, weight.

I wasn’t all that grief-stricken as we sat in the grass in the cemetery. When the girls ran to us, I asked Monkey if she knew why we were there. “Mommy had a baby before you,” I told her, as I’ve told her before. “Where is he?” she asked. “He’s in heaven,” DearDR answered. “Oh, man,” she said, downcast.

As we left, I asked DearDR, “Is it less sad, or is it just different?” “It’s just different,” he said, pretty much confirming the way I felt.

I was okay (i.e. not crying) until we were pulling out of the cemetery entrance and Monkey said, “I hope he’s not lonely. I wish he could come home with us.”

Yeah, Monkey, me too.

The song “Will I See You in Heaven” by the Jayhawks was released in 2003. Such a pretty song. I can almost listen to it without weeping.

I Didn’t See That Coming

Thank goodness I had a good time on Friday night. DearDR and I headed to the Three Rivers Arts Festivals to take in the Black Keys. Afterwards we had a beer with this guy. It was a great night.

It all came to a screeching halt when Monkey woke up at three o’clock in the morning complaining about having to throw up. After taking her temperature, which was a lovely 101.3, I tried to get some Tylenol into her. No go. She immediately threw it up (along with whatever else she had in there). DearDR helped her out; we bathed her face with a cool washcloth, then all four of us fell back to sleep in our bed. (Shockingly — not — all the activity woke Bun.)

DearDR took off for work around 8 a.m. Monkey slept on, burning up, now an even lovelier 102.8. I tried some more Tylenol but she sicked that right up too. After a phone consult with my pharmacist mother, I sent Bun to Bella’s and tried to get Monkey in a bath to bring the temperature down. I intended to send Bella for Tylenol suppositories, but I noticed a fine rash all over Monkey’s face, so we headed to the pediatrician’s instead. She was so lethargic, I had to carry her.

I know what the term “glassy eyed” looks like now. A bit of an education I could have done without, thanks.

Turns out the rash on her face was something called pitikia, and generally appears when little blood vessels in the face burst from the heaving of vomiting. Well, she certainly had had that going on. However, one look in her throat, and the doctor declared, “Oh, that’s strep.” He backed off a little saying they would do a culture to be positive, but between her throat and the rash on her torso, it was almost surely strep.

It was.

As I was running the necessary errand to the pharmacy, I reflected that such a day with such a sick child certainly was a distraction from grief.

It also got me to thinking of a post I had read recently at Niobe’s place. Which, summed up, basically says if you put your troubles in a big pile with everyone else’s, you’d take yours right back up again after looking around.

This is pretty much true in my case too, especially now. I love my girls, and my husband, and my life. Yeah, I would tweak a few things here and there — who wouldn’t?

What about six years ago, though? If I had to throw my grief on the pile, my life after babyloss, wouldn’t I quickly snatch up someone else’s bag? I mean, anything had to be better than this.

But then I thought, well that would mean someone else would have to pick up Gabriel. Pick up where I left off. To whom would I do that? One of these families?

I declared on the first day in that hospital room: “If I have to go through this so that no one else I know has to, I’ll do it.” I meant it too. Kind of magical thinking in reverse.

I’d pick my bag right back up. Now, six years ago, anytime. Hell, I have it good. Gabriel’s loss is the worst thing that ever happened to me. But I own my troubles, not the other way around.

What about you?

Six Years Out: Other People’s Children

Over at Glow in the Woods, there is a conversation about dealing with live babies after babyloss. There are a variety of experiences of babyloss, from miscarriage to fetal death and still birth to the loss of a twin. At what level are we able or willing to be around live babies after our own losses? In the case of an absent twin, there is not even a choice. It got me thinking about the year that Gabriel was born.

When I got pregnant with Gabriel, Dr. Bro’s wife (WonderSIL — WSIL for short) was pregnant with her second. DearDR’s best friend’s wife (BFW) was pregnant. H was pregnant. My other SIL, Earthmom, got pregnant.

It was a happy time, right up until June 4.

I got out of the hospital on June 10. We all (my parents and sister, DearDR, my ILs) went out to eat. There was another family there, with young children — one a baby. The looks I was getting from my family were like, “Should we stay?” I smiled wanly and said, “I’m going to have to get used to being around babies sooner or later. May as well start now.”

WSIL’s son A had been born about a month before we lost Gabriel. I don’t know what possessed us (possibly the simplicity of an extended invitation), but DearDR and I went over there on Father’s Day. I looked at my husband with a sleeping baby on his belly. It gave him peace, was healing for him. I couldn’t even hold A.

I kept flashing back to an evening at Dr. Bro’s house when DearDR and I were dealing with A’s diaper change. I was still pregnant. DearDR and I were giggling helplessly at the situation, especially Dr. Bro’s instructions: “Don’t forget to clean well around the balls. That’s very important.” WSIL exclaimed, “These people are going to be parents?” In this context, it sounds cruel, but at the time it was hysterical.

I cried on the way home. I was numb and yet not. DearDR was unsure if he was being true to Gabriel’s memory, to hold another baby. I told him I could tell it had been healing for him. And that was okay.

H had A Boy in late May, but she was in St. Louis. I never saw him as an infant. He’s an adorable boy, though, and even now, he makes me think of mine.

BFW had a boy, also, C, in mid-July. DearDR and I went to the hospital. I was still in shock. I held C — he was the first baby I held after we lost Gabriel. I spoke easily (I think) with BFW. She had had an emergency c-section, and that, more than anything else was the topic of conversation. DearDR also held C. He kept smelling his head. When we left the hospital, he said of the head smelling, “I couldn’t stop. Gabriel smelled just like that.”

Visiting my SIL Earthmom in the hospital after she gave birth in October to my nephew L — whom I love very, very much, just to be clear — was an unmitigated disaster. I burst into tears as soon as I walked through the door to her room. I congratulated her, looked at my nephew, and walked back out. The numbness that had gotten me through my interactions with babies up until this point had disappeared.

I was supposed to be her — in the hospital, with the first grandson (on DearDR’s side), celebrating. But wait, if I felt that way, did that mean I wanted her to be me, the one with a dead baby? No! Jesus Christ, no! But I could not put aside my envy of her, my envy of her live baby, my jealousy that she was granted what I was denied. I don’t remember holding L as an infant; I cried throughout most of his baptism a few weeks later.

(Earthmom had wanted me to be L’s godmother — DearDR is his godfather — but fortunately she talked to DearDR first, and he talked to me. “No,” I said, crying and shaking my head. “No, no, no. I just can’t.” I know it was even more confusing because DearDR and I were C’s godparents. But, looking back, I was still numb from shock at the time of C’s birth and baptism. I spent the majority of that summer in a surreal bubble, truly believing that this was not my life. Thinking I would wake up with my baby restored to me and my poor, hurt husband.)

I survived this time, these babies, not by holding myself away from them or by immersing myself in them. I took it instance by instance. Even today, baby boys — especially infant baby boys — can pierce my heart. Is it any wonder that I want to have another boy?

Also to be clear: my interactions with all these “babies” — now, suddenly, 6-year-old boys — are normal. They no longer hurt my heart in that way. Often when I am with family and all the children, I feel Gabriel’s absence keenly, still. My missing child. But it doesn’t crush me any more; it doesn’t collapse me.

In part, of course, that’s because I’m trying to keep Bun from running into traffic. But primarily I think it’s the passage of time. Time doesn’t erase grief — nothing erases babylost grief — but it eases it. After six years, there is still sadness. But this IS my life. I know that now.

Random Thoughts: The Update Version

We went to the ENT for Bun’s myringotomy follow-up. Bun is doing just great with ear tubes, and the doctor seemed very pleased. She let me take a peek in the otoscope to see what it looked like in there; it was like a pipeline. Then they gave Bun a hearing test, and she got 100%.

Which kind of surprised me only because I have to call her name about 20 times before she hears me.

****

Today is the girls’ last day at DCL. I have to admit to being a chicken about the whole thing — DearDR volunteered to tell her they were leaving, and I let him do it. When I apologized for letting him to our dirty work, he said, “You’re not good at stuff like that.” Wondering exactly what he meant, I asked. “Being diplomatic,” he replied. “You’re not good at it. I am. Don’t worry about it.”

He’s right, too. I could not be called diplomatic or tactful. I think I’ve come a long way from high school though. The “no filter” years. Trust me.

****

Speaking of high school, if I haven’t missed the RSVP date (and if my MIL can watch the girls overnight), we are going to go to my 20th high school reunion. Up in Erie. I don’t really want to go, except out of morbid curiosity. I’m in touch with the people I want to be in touch with from high school — all two of ’em (hi, H; hi, M). I do miss A, but she and I have grown very far apart. It happens I guess.

Between the reunion, and our vacation in Cape Cod the following week, it’s time for me to commit to getting back in shape. (Yeah, in less than 3 weeks.) I have the 30-day shred DVD. And I’m doing it.

Ouch.

****

We are officially entering the Gabriel anniversary days. I will be appropriately reflective.

You’ve been warned.

Belated

Because I never did get around to it yesterday: Happy seventh anniversary, DearDR. I remember that day — the best wedding I ever went to. I marry you every day, dear, dearest. I hope you realize. Since binding myself to you with these words: “With this ring, I thee wed; with my body, I thee worship; with all my worldly possessions, I thee bestow.” As well as the more traditional, “I do.” I have never looked back and wondered if I did the right thing. I often look back and wonder that I did the right thing. Finally. For once. And forever.