May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again, May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
-Irish Blessing

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Right Where I Am 2012: 8 years and 260 days (Wyatt) - 1 year 2 months and 19 days (Eli)

I find myself sitting in probably the same place most likely doing the same thing as last year when I wrote this post for Still Life With Circles.  On a quiet spring afternoon in front of my laptop taking a "break" from work.  It is Wednesdays when I find myself most alone with my thoughts.  Our daughters spend Wednesdays at Grandma's house while I spend Wednesdays with my laptop and a time clock.  This year there is one important difference -- there is six week old little girl sleeping peacefully in the bassinet which just one year ago her two and a half month old big brother would have been.  Today my eyes are slightly puffed from sleep deprivation rather than from shedding tears while all alone with my memories and my wants.

I have lost two sons to Potter's Syndrome, Wyatt in June 2003 and Eli in March 2011.  Even though Eli's loss is much more recent I find my thoughts centered on Wyatt more and more as the days pass.  I know why.  His birthday is next week, his ninth birthday in heaven.  Despite his absence there are still preparations for that sacred day.  I planned our weekly menu and a special meal which we will take graveside to enjoy along with homemade chocolate cupcakes lovingly decorated by myself and his sisters.  We still need to buy a small birthday toy which vexes me every year.  I have no idea what a nine year old boy would like.  Each year he grows older I miss knowing him even more.  Babies are easy.  They don't have much gender specific toy preference.  But as the years go by I realize that his likes and dislikes would be more refined and pronounced.  He would have his own style, catchphrases and mannerisms.  I will never know what those would have been.  I will never know what gift he would have really coveted for his ninth birthday, or for that matter, his third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth.  So today, this week, my heart is especially heavy and if it's possible, I miss him even more.

It is hard to grieve two children.  Especially when what I know of my children consists of hours and minutes rather than days, weeks, months or years.  Our living room wall is literally covered with framed pictures of our children - our sons and daughters.  We have framed pictures of Eli sitting out on tabletops which have not been moved for more than a year.  My grief for him today is somehow lesser.  Less not in the sense that I miss or love him any less than Wyatt, but that there is just more distraction.  We now have four living daughters, the most recent born just six weeks ago today.  Life is busy, it's messy, frustrating, overwhelming, exhausting, hilarious, exhilarating, joyful and crazy.  There is so much need that my need to grieve is often compartmentalized into a small dusty corner that doesn't get visited often enough.  I almost have to remind myself to go there. Those framed photos are like a string tied around my finger.  Having his sister here is a bittersweet reminder that he is not.  We would not have her if Eli had lived.  I don't like to dwell on this too much.  Eli would have been our last child and I would not trade him for her or her for him but the reality is that we were never meant to have both.

Today I find myself at peace with our losses, with the huge absences that our sons' brief lives left in our hearts.  That has not changed in the last year.  Somehow between the loss of our first and last sons I found how live without and yet still live.  That small but important lesson got me through to today and will take me past tomorrow.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lessons from My Garden

When I was growing up my parents gardened - alot.  Flowers, veggies, you name it and they probably planted it.  I was often dragged along on long shopping trips to nursery after nursery looking for the perfect plants.  So, naturally, it was then and there that I decided I would never have a grassy yard, much less a garden.  Yes, I pledged to have a concrete yard which I would have painted green in order to please my neighbors with simulated grass.  Brilliant.

Fast forward many years to the purchase of our first (and expected only) house.  We house shopped while I was pregnant with Wyatt and against my will.  My husband pushed me to do it even though shopping for a house was the last thing I wanted to do while waiting for my baby to die - but I am forever grateful that we did.  We moved in just one month after Wyatt was born and haven't looked back since.  Shortly after moving in we decided to plant a tree for Wyatt.  Thus, the weeping willow.  Just a tree wasn't good enough, I wanted to create a baby garden in his memory which would be filled with baby-named or friendly plants like lamb's ear, baby's breath, snapdragons, tiger lilies and bleeding hearts.  True to my nature, I dove right in with little knowledge or skill.  Plants grew and flowers bloomed.

The next spring, much to my dismay, plants and flowers grew, but not all came back.  In a way it was fitting, neither did my son.  It was just a reminder of another season passed without him and how life goes on, but it is changed. A stinging reminder of death's presence. So I planted again and seeded my hopes of new life, that something beautiful could grow in the absence of something beautiful that had been before.

In those moments I have learned so much.  I have learned that the best laid plans don't always work out.  I can plant the most beautiful flowers, water them, feed them, protect and nurture them, and sometimes they won't come back the next spring.  Sometimes, I find that they have moved to an unexpected place, which can be a lovely surprise or a frustrating exercise in relocation.  I can do everything right, the right zone, right amount of sunshine, right amount of water and sometimes it just doesn't work out.  Other times I can dig a hole and then do absolutely nothing else while nature takes care of itself and I am rewarded with beauty and fragrance.  My time in the garden has been invaluable, especially considering that I am definitely a type A, control freak, personality.  It has taught me to let go.  It has taught me that I don't always know what's best. It has taught me to appreciate the little surprises and find joy in the smallest living things.  I am more carefree, or reckless, (depending on your perspective) than ever in my garden.  I now have a good feel for plants and I know perennials well enough to divide and attempt to conquer - which basically means that I freely dig up plants and stick them in the ground in semi-random locations to see what will happen.

Over the last almost nine years since I planted Wyatt's garden it has changed much.  Thankfully many of the original plants are still thriving.  He enjoys the fragrance of baby's breath each summer, the poignant reminder of pink bleeding hearts, the fun and enormously tall tiger lilies, ever-so-soft lamb's ear which his sisters & I love to touch, little snapdragons that talk to us and new additions of purple dianthus, blue columbine, blue/purple Jacob's ladder, yellow coreopsis, many baby roses and special purple irises which have been in our family since I was a child.  There are also little volunteer Johnny jump ups and beautiful California poppies that fill in most of the empty space with color and whimsy.  Last year we added on Eli's garden which has many of the same plants but now also beautiful yellow daffodils and a sweet little hydrangea tree.

Every single one of those nine years the garden has changed, whether I have touched it or not.  It is a work in progress, like myself.  It is also one of my greatest teachers.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Number Four? No, This Is Number Six

What's in a number?  Years, pounds, feet, inches...children.  We are now a visible family of six.  Two parents and four girls.  Which of course draws many good-natured inquiries when we are out and about.  People tend to ask if baby is a girl which is then followed by comments, many of which are surprisingly pleasant from other parents of three or more girls about how much they enjoy their daughters.  Some are teasing, especially when my poor husband is around.  Depending on how the comments are made, some lead me to mention our two invisible sons.  You see, there are really eight of us, there are also two boys.  We will never know what it's like to show them off or simply just observe them as we do our daughters while out walking in the evening.  I will never have the privilege of hearing them say "I love you, Mommy", not even once or seeing just how brightly a smile could light up their faces.  I honestly don't mind the questions or comments, I am immensely proud of my daughters and wouldn't trade any one of them for anything.  I no longer cringe or pause before answering, my responses are finely tuned to the question, the person asking and my own feelings that particular moment.  I no longer feel guilt in the times that I acknowledge only my daughters and I no longer feel guilt at the reactions I get when I acknowledge my sons.  It is what it is and nothing I can say or do changes my reality.  I own my feelings, my family and my love completely.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Drinking in the Bittersweet

Let me start of by saying baby and I are doing wonderfully.  She has already gained one pound since leaving the hospital (where she lost 12oz after birth)!  For having had my 6th c-section I am recovering fabulously and feeling better than ever before- I guess all of those mornings I was up at 5:30am exercising have paid off in spades!  :)

Love and happiness (as well as a healthy dose of sleeplessness) are abundant in our household these days.  This is what I envisioned a year and half ago while pregnant with Eli before finding out about his Potter's.  I dreamed about his sisters cuddling, snuggling, hugging and kissing him.  I saw the smiles and wonder on their faces as they watched their baby sibling interact with a brand new world each and every day.  My visions were so clear that the Potter's diagnosis hit that much harder.  This is what should have been.

That is what I find myself thinking now and then.  It stabs my heart to hear our 3 1/2 year old playing baby dolls and talking about how one of them died.  Or when they tell me that they hope their baby sister doesn't die like Eli.  Again, what can I say?  A crystal ball is not part of my toolbox so I can only respond that she is healthy and we are taking good care of her and that I hope she doesn't die too.  These are conversations I would just love to erase, or at the very least forget.

Perhaps this is life at its fullest, abundant joy tinged with the deepest sorrow, hand in hand.  One there to make the other shine brighter, impossibly intertwined.  I don't know that I could experience this purest of joy having not lived through our sons' lives and deaths.  My husband  has asked me many times since baby's birth if I'm happy.  Which is funny, because when I say "yes" he responds with "I know, you seem happier than ever", and that is the truth.


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