Friday, July 11, 2014

Hugs from the 49th State and the Color

I'm sitting at the library in the little coffee shop while the boys are watching a movie. I look over at a table and see her name on the cover of a book: Alaska. It's a sudoku book of all things--49 puzzles from the 49th state. One benefit of naming my daughter Alaska is that I see her name and hear it often. Of course most of the time it is in reference to the state, but I still love when it happens. These are part of the story of how Alaska got her name.


Auburn also appears at unexpected times. The word "auburn" has been in several books that I have read since we chose Auburn as our fourth baby's middle name. I have come to think of these name surprises as little angel hugs for my heart (I recognize how ridiculous that sounds).

I will never get those surprise hugs from my babies, see their sparkly eyes as they smile and then wipe their dirty faces on my legs or shoulder. (Asher still does the face-wipe trick occasionally because he thinks it's hilarious. It is.) I'll take what I can get even if it is just because I have decided that seeing and hearing these words that are my babies' names feels like a hug.

To admit this makes me self-conscious. I mean it is kind of weird, but on the scale of the crazy shit I've thought since my babies died, this one is quite tame.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

10 Things About Me (Grief Aside)

Carly at Still Standing Mag posted her latest article this morning. It's a link up called "10 Things About You (Grief Aside)" where you're supposed to write just what it says in the title, and then share it with the community. I thought this was a lovely idea but didn't do it right away. Tonight when I started writing, I thought about Carly's article and decided to go for it.

Let me take you on my journey of trying to set my grief aside and come up with 10 things.

Grief Aside...10 things about me.

10. I love tomatoes. 
9.

But I don't know who I am anymore. I mean. I still love tomatoes, but I recently threw away two containers of cherry tomatoes that I didn't even touch (the whole Dead Baby: Take Two thing is to blame). I have to admit that I haven't bought more tomatoes, though, because what if I don't eat those ones either? It's not really fair to the tomato.

I don't read in the same way. I love books, but I can't devour them like I used to.

I write because I have to. I enjoy it for the release and discovery, but I haven't tackled any new characters or revisited old ones since Alaska died.

Pizza is good, but food isn't the same. Breathing isn't the same. Nothing at all is the same. (Dramatic! Yipes...but it's true.)

I love my family, but my love is different now. (Here is where words will fail again.) My love is bigger, more fearful, it had to grow because it contains two more people. I don't love anyone more than I did before--that's not possible with unconditional love, but I do think that it can get bigger (which is different than more...at least in the sense that I'm trying to describe).

Even something like my favorite show, The Walking Dead, is not the same. I am still drawn to zombie lore because of the exploration of how humans react to and interact in that world, but I relate to the characters in a new way. (The new way of relating to them sucks.)

****
At this point I realized that I should go back and cheat off of the list that I wrote last December just thirteen days before my grief started. My sister had posted a "10 Things" challenge on Facebook that I decided to use as a fun way to announce our new baby to the friends and family who hadn't heard our news.


  1. Of course I started my list with tomatoes. I did that today, too.
  2. I still suck at taking naps (and sleeping in general).
  3. The sky! I will never tire of the sunsets and sunrises and rainbows and clouds. It's a new experience, though. Rainbows remind me of Auburn. He was supposed to be our rainbow baby. Before the boys knew about Auburn, they both made several art projects with rainbows. It was exciting. Rainbows are still lovely, but they. aren't. the. same.
  4. Afraid of public speaking? More than ever. Afraid of crowds? Yes, but I can handle strangers better than acquaintances. I also have several wonderful friends who have truly helped me survive the crowds I couldn't avoid. Afraid of flying? I don't think so. My fear of flying started when I had my first child, and it ended when I lost my daughter.
  5. Asher had to deal with a few people who told him that he wasn't a big brother because his sister died, but I think we've worked past that obstacle. My boys are big brothers to Alaska and Auburn in a different way than what we had planned, but they continue to come up with new ways to include their baby siblings in our family.
  6. I still have the best husband. We celebrated 10 years of marriage a few weeks ago.
  7. Yep. Zombies.
  8. Now I have all of these major writing projects that haven't been touched since December, but I have been thinking about them lately. I will go back to them someday with my new eyes and see what happens. This blog is a major writing project that I have added to my list.
  9. I hope I still have my book finding powers...I think I do.
  10. As for choosing a special power, I would certainly go bigger than the ability to apparate. So much for my old magical thinking.


Now I feel that I have failed to do this task correctly because I couldn't put my grief aside.

Try, try again...

  1. Yoga is my favorite stress reliever.
  2. Harry Potter nerd for life
  3. Speaking of nerds: #dftba
  4. I am the mom in a family of 6
  5. My mom used to tell me that my freckles were angel kisses and that for every freckle I had a friend. I still disliked my freckles, but now I wouldn't erase them if I had the chance. (Asher wishes that he could get freckles.).     :)
  6. Fish are creepy to be around unless they are contained in an aquarium at a zoo (or filleted)
  7. I prefer the chill of fall
  8. My hands laugh at the most inopportune times (like when I need to use them)
  9. I love to look at dead trees
  10. When I say that my hands laugh, most people think I'm crazy, but a few will admit that their hands laugh, too. It's a special kind of connection when you find a laughing-hands-friend.

I am Still Standing in memory of my daughter Alaska Eileen and my tiny baby Auburn.

There. It was a wordy road, but I got here.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sleep Now

Sleep.

On my stomach first, just after I close my book because my eyes are ready for the break. As soon as I settle in my mind wakes, showing me pictures of everything I want but can't have and then (because there are no guarantees) of losing everything I have now and might have in the future.

Now on my side, clutching Beary by my face, I try so hard to change the story. Something happy--maybe with made-up characters that I could write about, some fun family time, or preliminary plans for my prayer flag design. I kick my legs and stretch trying to quiet their crawling but instead I imagine my blood cells with flailing limbs trying to burst through my thighs and shins.

Wishing I had a giant with a pancake turner who could flip me onto my other side, I wrangle the blankets and try to gently roll toward the wall where I will shut it off. Just stop thinking. A blank mind that will drift away into a dreamless sleep. You can imagine where this is going, though. Still stretching my legs I start to hear what I can't have--I mean I hear it in my "mind's ear" or whatever. It's the gentle breathing of my daughter followed by her cries (best sound ever) and then more quiet breathing with an occasional baby grunt or squeak. It's as real as a dream can be, and the loudest absence I've ever heard.

Over. Over. Over. Read to sleep but don't close that book.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Little Sister Moments

"I wish Alaska and Auburn were still here."

Elliott said this to me a few weeks ago as we drove home from his baseball game. That sentence, the fact that my son shared it with me, the truth and reality of it, hold an explosion of emotion that I can't really describe. The words simply fail.
Pain.
Gratitude.
Love.
Hope.
Truth.
Grief.
Heavy.
Happiness.
Anger.
Brave.
I swallowed and smiled and said what I usually say: "Me, too."

He went on to tell me how he felt when he helped his friend's little sister with a toy. He was laughing as he told the story and then he said that it made him miss Alaska. And if I could break any more, I did right then, but I also healed. We talked about how it must make Alaska and Auburn happy to see what a great big brother they have. And about how it's ok to be sad and miss our babies while also enjoying our time with friends and family, especially the little ones who might make us imagine what could have, should have, would have been.

Ultimately I feel gratitude around this experience. I am grateful that Elliott shared it with me and that we could heal a bit knowing that these little sister moments are a gift.