My life was made better, not worse, in 2008. I gave birth to three beautiful children. No, I can't watch them grow up, marry, have children, live their lives as reflections of me... But, I can't change their deaths. And I wouldn't change the short lives they had because, in those moments, they accomplished so much. Have I, in nearly 3 decades, done more? Have any of us touched more people than our children have? You see me, but who you really see is their mother. I'm no longer defined by the shades of gray that my life was built on; I'm the rainbow of colors that being their mother has made me. God, how grateful I am for that.
The sorrow is so numbing at times. The anguish, hell, even the anger. It's a deeper suffering than anything I have ever known in my entire life. And yet, in their lives and deaths, I have found meaning in my life. Purpose to be their parents, even though they are beyond my physical grasp. A desperate need to be a better person. To do the things that are important in life. To tell Peter how much I love him and to try to stop nagging him for the little things he does that drive me bananas but, in the grand scheme of things, aren't worth the fight they turn out to be. To live for them, the way I thought they might one day live for me.
When we went to Dr. Lee's office, I expected more time. Time to ponder and decide, to wait and see what happens. I didn't expect to have my time table sped up. How this mimics so much of 2008. Yet, I am able to look at today with that sense of "Oh, this isn't what I'd planned" and be grateful for the opportunity instead of looking at it with "Ugh, this isn't what I'd planned" and thinking of the time I needed to prepare because my heart just isn't quite ready for the journey. I look back to a year ago and think "This can't be" and crumble because of all the missed opportunities with Nicholas and Sophia; I remember 3 months ago and fall apart because of the lack of time I had with Alexander. I'll always wonder what could have been and miss them with every fiber of my being. But I feel like I can't let the joy of their lives be overshadowed by my longing and sorrow. How many times have we seen people who can't embrace the love and light for all the sadness they harbor? I just can't be that person. I can't be. If I am, then someone might see me and not their mother...
I think what has caused my mind to trek in these directions are some comments I've received. I'm tired of hearing how a new pregnancy/baby will make me feel better and lift me from my sadness. Do people really think that? Do they think that another child suddenly takes the pain of losing children away? The thing that really hit was someone told me that my mood has improved- am I pregnant. Are you freaking kidding me??? Why do people link the mothers of dead children to happiness only if they have the chance to have more (living) children? Do we perpetuate the myth because we do continue to try to expand our families? I can't believe that. And then I worry... Do people think that we are trying to replace Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander? Do they not realize that, regardless of whether they were still living with us that we would still want a larger family? Is it the timing? I admit, I probably wouldn't be seeking aggressive fertility treatments if I had three babies at home, but I wouldn't use birth control either. I'm also tired of hearing how "young" I am. I'll be 29 in June and, time wise, that is young. I get that. But I've been with my husband for 11 years. 11. That's a long time. That's longer than most Hollywood marriages even last. With certain health issues not on my side, it isn't like I can just pop out a baby whenever I'm so inclined. I wish I could say to people, "Stop telling me how you delayed your childbearing into your 30s/40s and how I should just wait." On top of it not being that easy, it's also none of their business. The worst comment I've received this last week, though, was the one that I'm struggling most to come to terms with. Someone asked me what I'm doing this weekend and I mentioned that it is Sophia's birthday, and that we are having her birthday dinner with family on Sunday night, then her Mass on Monday morning and spending the day together alone. The woman kept shaking her head and asked "Are you going to do this every year?" I replied that, yes, we planned on it. Continuing with the head shaking, she said, "I really wish you'd just stop and let this all go. You're never going to be able to move on with your life if you keep remembering them."
I have to say that I was struck speechless (and for those who know me outside of the virtual world, you know how odd that is). Move one with my life... How does one move on after their child has died, let alone after three children have died... Have any of us moved on? Do those who don't do birthday remembrances fare better than those who do? Who the hell even dreams of moving "on" when it's the memories we have that keep us going at all? I couldn't say anything. I didn't know what to say. I just turned and walked out. I mean, were there really even any words possible?
I don't want to move on if moving on means forgetting. I'd rather remember and be joyous because of my memories. I don't want to take their photos down because you are uncomfortable; it is in seeing them that I find my will to live. I don't want to not talk about them because you can't see the worth to their lives; if not for them, I wouldn't be me.
Forgive me, but I'm going to quote Yoda. I'll admit, I'm not a sci-fi fan, but I grew up on Star Wars and Peter has all 6 of them. In Episode III (the final movie to be made), there is a scene where Yoda and Anakin Skywalker (who, we all know, goes on to become supervillan, Darth Vader) are discussing Anakin's fears surrounding the deaths of those he loves. Yoda's dialogue is along the lines of, "The fear of loss is a path to the dark side... Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not... Let go of everything you fear to lose."
What is it about death that frightens us so much? Is it the unknown? That we hope our views on an afterlife are true, but deep down, we are afraid that we are wrong? That there really is nothing?
I was so afraid of dying. God only knew what was on the other side and, if I were wrong, maybe there was no other side at all. I have deep, spiritual encounters with the Divine. It's one of the things I really love about myself. I enjoy the study of religion and the rituals surrounding spirituality. Even with that, the fear was palatable. With our children, the idea that I could ever lose them... Well, that was outside the realm of possibility! Our pregnancies were perfect and they were healthy... I never even considered their deaths. When Nicholas died, the world was turned upside down. Our little boy... One precious hour... No, that could never be enough. Surely, something was wrong and they'd confused us with someone else... Because we still held Sophia, I didn't feel like I could mourn my son because ,what if that caused her to feel unwanted... what if it made her sad and she died... what if... So, I wept in small portions and held onto my daughter, to the knowledge that, of course, she'd be alright. I mean, she had to be. The doctors gave us so slim a chance of even going home with her that, when that happened and she was still safely tucked inside. When her labor began... When the u/s showed that she had dropped... When the knowledge that we were going to have precious few moments came... Even then, I held on to the hope that she'd be okay. Her loss hit me like a ton of bricks. You would think that this would have prepared me in some way for Alexander, but no. I was convinced that it was inconceivable that I would lose a third child. Fate couldn't be so cruel to give and then to take away. Not again. I was unprepared. Yet, when the time of his birth came, it was then that I found peace... The loss was just as great, but the moments were clearer. I was awake and not in the grief-induced fog of Sophia's labor or the shock after Nicholas's.
And then, in one of the early days following Alexander's birth, as Peter and I looked for something to fill the emptiness, some cable channel ran the Star Wars movies and we turned them on. And Yoda, with his thoughtful quips and Buddhist wisdom, shares the tidbit I quoted about. "Rejoice for those who have died and gone to the Force... Mourn them do not..." Rejoice, don't mourn. Rejoice because they are now the breeze that cools you, the wind that rings the windchimes outside your window. Rejoice because they are the rain that kisses you and the stars that watch over you. Rejoice because they are a part of you that lives on and you are a part of them that has gone on. Rejoice...
I still mourn. I mourn what could have/should have/might have been. I mourn my life, empty in so many ways because they are not with me physically. I mourn my husband, for the little innocence he had left was stripped away. I mourn the mother I could have been and would have desperately tried to be, while trying to be grateful for the mother I remain.
But there has to be sunlight in these dark days. There has to be warmth in the chill I have the is so cold it burns me from the inside out. If there isn't, then I really am no better than I was before I became a mother, and I refuse to believe that.