Morbid tinted glasses

This post has a bit of a dark side. We all know the term “rose tinted glasses.” Seeing the world through a rosy, happy glow. We have this innate ability as children, as young adults without a care in the world. As long as we are untouched by sorrow.

I was thinking about perspective the other night. I was online late in the evening. I came across a post by a friend of mine. Actually, she is my friends mother. A man I have known since grade school. He was recently brutally murdered. His mother, she had posted that she was struggling. She was missing her son. I reached out to her (this is my calling, as an SBD, as well as my duty as a friend!) I called her, and I could feel the pain in her voice. She lives 3000km away from me, but I could absolutely feel her sorrow. All I did, was listen. She just needed to talk.

During the conversation, she mentioned that she had a disagreement with her surviving son in the weeks after her youngest sons death. It was a matter of perspective. He had done something in remembrance of his brother, (I won’t say what it was, out of respect for her privacy) which she was shocked at. She felt like his tribute to his brother was a morbid gesture, while he thought it was beautiful. And she asked me why…. why didn’t she see the lightness of his gesture, the way that he saw it?

I have thought about this question… this question has plagued me since my own journey with grief began. Why is everything so dark!!?? And I was honest with her. I told her that she will see beauty again, she will recognize it. But that in my experience with being a bereaved parent, my “new normal” was that perspectives change. Things seem to be “morbidly tinted.” A bereaved parent will always have this morbid tint to their perspective on life… We can laugh, love, enjoy life, but our perspective has changed.

We are people who know that ugly things do happen in the world. We cannot hide behind misconceptions such as bad things do not happen to good people, or innocent children. We are people who have experienced the dark side of human emotion. And unfortunately we are people who do not easily forget the darkness. We can rejoice in the lighter side of life. We can rejoice in the light and love that came from our deceased children. But once we have lost that piece of ourselves, we will see things through a slightly darker tint.

I wish I had come to terms with this early on in my grief. It would have saved me a lot of time spent wondering what is wrong with me, why am I so dreary? Why did I see that differently than how everyone around me saw it? Now I know that nothing is wrong with me, I am not strange or morbid. I am a woman who has a slightly different perspective. And there is an entire community of bereaved parents around the world who can see through the same shade of tinted glasses.

The Family Dynamic

Over the past couple of days I have encountered a few articles written about how a mother describes her family after a loss. The subject seems to repeatedly present itself to me, so I figure that it is time to reflect on it. I’m going to reach back all the way to about 6 years ago, when I can first remember feeling the sting of a strangers assumption that I was not a mother…

About 3 years after Levi’s death I was in a local health goods’ store, trying to decide on a method of eco-friendly menstruation control. After weighing all of the options (cloth pads, organic unbleached tampons, etc…) I decided to give the Diva Cup a try. There was a little sign on the shelf asking customers to inquire at the register for different sizes. So, I approached the woman at the register, and explained to her that I was unsure of which size I needed. It was a pretty busy day in the store, and there were a few customers lined up behind me. The woman impatiently snapped at me that there were only two sizes, size A was for girls who had never given birth vaginally, size B was for woman who had. She rolled her eyes at me and stated loudly, “Obviously you need size A, and we currently only have size B available. We’ll have to order size A in for you, it will take about two weeks.” Then she proceeded to dismiss me, and began to ring up items for the customer who was next in line.

It felt like a slap in the face. Tears welled up in my eyes. I got really angry! Rationally, I should have been more forgiving. A perfect stranger could not possibly know that I was a mother.

“Um, excuse me!” I interrupted, harshly. “I don’t need to wait for you to order Size A. Thank you, I will take the B size.”

The woman stared at me for a moment. Her eyes widened, her gaze softened as she realized that I was offended. Very quickly it dawned on her that I must be upset because I was, in fact, a mother, a woman who had given birth.

“I’m… I’m sorry. You’ve been a regular in this store for at least a year. I’ve never met your children. How old is your little one?” She inquired as she bustled around on the shelf behind the counter to find the Diva Cup in the size that I required.

My face burned. Suddenly I was very aware of the people standing in line behind me. I resented the woman for asking me such a question. Since Levi passed, whenever the subject of children came up, my normal response was no response at all. Most strangers assumed that I had no children, and I never had any reason to explain otherwise.

“My son is three,” I stated simply.

The woman brightened her smile. “Oh that’s wonderful!” she beamed. “You’ll have to bring him in to the store tomorrow! It’s Earth Day, we’ll be hosting some family friendly events.”

Quietly, I explained that, although I’d love to, I couldn’t bring him to the event because he was not with me.

She didn’t even skip a beat before she assumed that I meant my child only lived with me part time.

“Oh thats a shame,” she gushed, as she rang up my purchase. “Is he with his daddy for the weekend?”

I shake my head slowly. Again, I respond very quietly, so as not to involve the various strangers who were waiting patiently to pay for their purchases. “No, what I mean is that my son is no longer with us, on Earth.” My eyes are downcast to the floor, trying to hide my tears.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she mumbles, awkwardly. She finishes ringing my purchase through without another word, hands me the receipt, and tells me to have a nice day…

Over the years I’ve felt a twinge of guilt whenever I tell someone that I don’t have any children, or whenever I have passed up an opportunity to mention him for fear of creating an awkward situation. Thankfully it didn’t happen very frequently before I gave birth to Ghanima. It seems, though, that since I became pregnant with her, and during the months since her birth,  the question has come up more often. Well meaning strangers stop to admire my precious baby girl, and the conversation always leads to whether or not she is my only child. What do I say? Well, it depends on the person. If the person is just a passerby, someone I feel that I will never come into contact with again, I simply state that she has an older brother, and try to change the subject. If they happen to inquire further, sometimes I will share his name and age, implying that he is alive and well. If I feel like the person who is inquiring is someone who might become a part of my life, if I feel safe enough, I will share that Levi is our family Angel, who is watching over us every day.

I have absolutely come to dread the look on a persons face when I tell them my son passed away as an infant. I don’t need to feel pitied. Every day I struggle to see the positive side to his short life, and I try to put in to perspective that I was blessed to know him, and that he is in a better place. So when a person has a negative reaction to hearing about him, for the rest of that day at least, the struggle is just that much harder. I catch myself weighing out which scenario would be worse; do I want to feel remorse for the rest of the day for not acknowledging his existence, or do I want feel awful because of an awkward situation with a stranger?

… My husband and I were out for dinner with my brother one evening. I was about 4 months pregnant with Ghanima, and my belly was just starting to pop out. The waitress came to the table, and upon noticing my little belly, she began to ask the usual questions; “You must be so excited, how far along are you? Do you know what you’re having? Is this your first baby?”

I nodded politely, placing my hands on my tummy. “It is pretty exciting! I am about 16 weeks along. We don’t know what we’re having, we want to be surprised. This is my second baby.”

“Oh that’s nice, how old is your child?”

“I have an 8 year old boy.”

“Well, he must be excited to be a big brother! Let me know if you guys need anything else,” and with that she hurried away to see if any of her other tables needed her.

After she was gone, my brother leaned across the table to squeeze my hand. He said he thought that I handled her questions really well. I must have looked confused, because he added, “You know, you don’t want to make anybody feel uncomfortable by getting in to all the details…”

Sometimes I find myself outright lying to people about him, indulging in a little fantasy. I go to the local farmers market regularly, and have been going there for years. I buy my face cream and shampoo from a gentleman there who makes all natural beauty products. A few months ago, I was wearing Ghanima in her sling while browsing through his booth. Of course, the gentleman recognized me as one of his regular customers. He approached me to admire my three month old little bundle of joy, and asked me how I was enjoying becoming a new mother.

“Oh, I’m not a new mother,” I replied, smiling. “I have an eight year old son.”

“I’m sorry! I’ve never seen him with you before!” he was a bit confused because I’d been there almost every Saturday morning for the past few years and never had a little boy in tow.

I told him that I never brought Levi with me because the farmers market was boring for little boys and he would much rather be at home with his dad on saturday mornings…

Oh how my heart aches for that to be true…

I want to honour my son. I don’t want to feel as if his story is a source of discomfort. I want to be able share his life, the wisdom that he taught me, safely, with as many people as possible. And I need to feel supported in doing so. Otherwise, he died for nothing.

The Human Condition

After Levi passed, I told myself for a lot of years that I would never want to have another child. I never wanted to feel so much love for as long as I lived. I drank and abused my body with drugs, numbing myself of all feeling. Until he came to me on the fifth solstice after his Death. That miraculous glimpse of him showed me that I was meant to nurture. I was chosen to care for him while he was learning what it is to be human. He felt the pain of being human, but he also felt unconditional love, and I am sure that I was chosen for a reason.

When my husband and I decided to try for a baby in 2010, and that baby passed at 12 weeks gestation, it compounded all of that hurt over and over again. I felt like I was never meant to be a mother. I felt like maybe I was only meant to learn the lessons that pain can bring. My midwife said to me, “As soon as we discover that we’re pregnant, we already plan a full lifetime of love for that child, and losing them can feel like an entire lifetime is lost.” It’s so true.

At the time of that loss, there were a lot of friends and family members who were also expecting. I am ashamed to admit it, but I was so JEALOUS. I hated those women for being happy, posting pictures of their growing bellies, announcing their joyous births and sharing pictures of their happy little babies. I hated them for not having to feel the pain that I felt. And I am ASHAMED. I know now, that even though a woman may not have suffered the loss of a child, or suffered a loss through miscarriage, a woman who has children certainly can and will feel the pain of another woman who aches to hold her babies in her arms.

Now I have been on the other edge of that sword. I became pregnant again a year later, and although I was nervous, I was also ecstatic. When we passed the first trimester, and began to share the news with our loved ones, a close friend was suffering a loss. And I realized that she must be have been feeling some of that hatred towards me during her time of grief. I hate that life and love can be so cruel. I never want another woman to feel this immense pain, though it is part of what it is to be a woman, to be a mother. Emotional pain is, unfortunately, part of the human condition. We learn from it, grow with it, work with it, or become dead inside.

I have a 5.5 month old daughter now, her name is Ghanima. She was born on Oct.6, and that would have been the due date for the child I miscarried the year before. It’s funny how sometimes life events can be so parallel. Her birth marked an otherwise sad date, gave it a new cause for celebration. When she started to roll over, and laugh, and now is starting to sit up and eat her first foods, I am overjoyed, but always in the back of my mind I reflect about how it would have been if Levi, and our middle child, had reached those mile stones.

I hope that I will not be too over protective of her as she grows up. I know that I can’t put her in a bubble, but some nights I find myself checking her breathing. Some days I find it hard to bring her to places where she might catch someones cold, or pick up a sickness.  My husband is very supportive, he has a good way of putting things into perspective for me, gently reminding me that she is a strong, healthy baby. I try not to be such a worrier, but it is something I fear I will always struggle with.

As parents, we feel so much, our love is a giant entity, isn’t it? It is amazing that one heart can be so full, even at times when it feels like it should be empty. I am simply in awe of the human condition.

Levi and I, June 20th 2004. His last day of suffering.

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Ghanima and I, January 2013

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