This post is long, so let’s start with some Jacob love.
Okay, here we go.
I write. When I started this blog almost two years ago, it was to get myself to write on a regular basis. Of course I hoped that sharing my experiences would help others to understand motherhood in a personal way, but it was more for me than for anyone else. After Jacob was born, it turned into a kind of baby book for him, recording his milestones, his growth, his ups and downs. Family members and friends looked to it for Jacob photos and videos (sometimes even admitting that they skipped the writing, and that’s okay). Still, it was as much for me as it was for Jacob and them. Now I find this blog is my number one therapy in dealing with the loss of our second little boy (who, if it turns out is actually a girl, I will call Ethana Karla when I meet her—?—in heaven).
Before I picked up Jacob post-ultrasound that day, I started to write a letter to Ethan in my head, in my heart. As soon as Jacob went down for a nap, I typed it up. I read it back a few days later, and every word still felt true. I’m writing posts days ahead of time now. They’re flowing out of me, but I want to give each set of words its time to sit and be read or not read. I am grateful for the opportunity blogging gives other people to see how I’m really doing. I wouldn’t tell friends this over the phone or anything because it’s so darn tacky, but really, if you want to know how I’m doing, read the blog.
I shop. I’ve been shopping a lot lately. Part of me thinks it’s silly to buy boots and sweaters and books in a time like this, but for whatever reason it’s a comfort to me. Plus I really did need boots and jeans without holes in them. Last week, I stumbled on some incredible sales, which meant I wasn’t beating myself up for spending tons of money on a silly way of making myself feel better. A sweater is never going to replace a child, and that’s not what I was trying to do. As much as this healing is about accepting the reality of being a mother, and as much of a comfort as Jacob is, I need to not be mommy 24/7 for a little while. I need breaks to take care of myself, to let myself think, to be alone (or alone with John). And it’s just plain easier to shop without worrying about the price tag.
Last week I wrote about God’s timing. It feels strange and superficial to say it this way, but it keeps getting better. Apparently this is the time of year to fill the gaps in your winter wardrobe. Fifty dollars at Banana Republic equaled two sweaters and a fancy dress. When does that ever happen?! As silly as I felt, I didn’t spend a lot of money, and after I came home, John said how nice it was to have such a frugal wife. (Frugal somehow means two pairs of boots, a pair of jeans, three sweaters, a dress, and some books—I’ll take it.)
My shopping wasn’t just for me though. Some of it was for Ethan. I bought a frame for his ultrasound photos, a tiny blanket and hat, and some nice paper to print letters to him for his memory box. More on that another day.
I think. Shopping and blogging are really vehicles to let my mind do its thing. Even if I’m not actively saying to myself, “How do I feel? What do I need to say to God? What do I need to do to be able to listen to God right now?”, taking a break from the other bits of reality lets things slow down so my mind can take its time. What I really need is time. I’m grateful my work has slowed down, and I don’t have anything that is a stretch for me to complete right now. I don’t have much to stress out about at home either, which means I can take each day slowly and one at a time. It gives me room to think.
Sometimes I think too much, and it’s hard to fall asleep, even when I’m tired. Tha makes it hard to get up in the morning, even when Jacob’s calling, “Ma! Mama!” But then, I can’t let my impulses drive me all the time. Sometimes I need to make a decision based on thought, not feeling. I know I need to get up and care for Jacob, even if I want to sleep, read, eat chocolate, or some combination of the three. I can take it easy and give myself some breaks, but I need to consciously remind myself that some things need to be done, and at least sometimes I need to be the one to do them. That hold on reality is crucial right now.
I babble. If you ask John, and he’s being honest, he’d tell you that I babble to him every day, whether it was good or bad. There is truth to the value of your husband being the first person you want to talk to in the morning and the last person you want to talk to at night. And oh man, can I do some talking. No one ever says, your wife is the first person you want to listen to in the morning and the last person you want to listen to at night, but I hope there’s some truth in that in our case. If not, sorry, John; you are a very patient man.
I realized quickly that this is part of how I’m healing. The phone calls I valued most are the ones that don’t expect me to talk about Ethan and don’t expect me to be sad, but that give me room for whatever I need in the moment. Most of the time it’s talking about the incredible sale on the boots I bought, or the fact that we saw Godspell this weekend. Ethan will come up, my physical recovery will come up, the fact that the days are easier than the nights (as melodramatic as that sounds) will come up. Sometimes it feels like I have to console the person I’m talking to, because she sounds so sad. But my sadness can’t be forced. Trust me, friends, I am crying. This is hard, but reminding myself of how hard it is isn’t going to make it better. I let the sad moments be sad and the not-so-sad moments be not-so-sad. Have I mentioned the sale on boots?!
I hug. One of the greatest parts of John taking some time off work to be home with us after we got the news and after I had the D&C was that there was always someone there to hug me. Jacob is a really good hugger, too, but sometimes he’s too busy, and other times I don’t want Teddy Graham sludge on my sweater, post-hug. Having John just be there—as well as do the dishes, figure out meals, bathe Jacob, put him to bed, etc.—is a great help. He is like a rock for me to lean on. Isn’t that what marriage is all about?
I cry. Oh, do I cry. And not just at The Biggest Loser anymore. Most of the time it’s in the evening, mid-sentence or mid-grace. When we say grace, we have an extra bit that I think used to be common, but few people say anymore. A priest we had over for dinner once was surprised we still said it! It’s this that often gets me, but only at dinner (when Jacob’s asleep and I’m not doing grace in a silly voice): “And may the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.” I think about Ethan often during the day, but God’s grace is helping me to 1) not think in what-ifs and 2) be grateful that he is with God, watching out for our family, and interceding for us there. You can’t be sad when those attitudes are reigning in your heart, and so it is in the evenings, when things slow down, when I look at Ethan’s ultrasounds in our room, that I miss him in a lost-baby kind of way.
I purge (and organize). The first few days after we knew and had the D&C (I say it this way because Ethan was gone before we knew it, maybe two full weeks) I didn’t want to do much of anything. I cleaned what needed to be cleaned, but not much else. The night before John went back to work, I got my act together and maybe even went a little overboard.
First I had to put Ethan’s ultrasounds in his new frame, so they’d all be together and safe. I have about five thousand pictures of Jacob. Ethan? Five. Just five. As I shopped through the frames at the store, I saw a sweet photo album with an initial monogrammed on the front. Thank goodness there wasn’t an “E”; I don’t have enough photos to fill it.
The next order of business was taking down Jacob’s last ultrasound. I love this picture because it looks so much like Jacob even now, in profile. But looking at this was harder than looking at Ethan’s. I keep Ethan’s out, so I can see how big he got, look at that profile that was forming. I put Jacob’s away because even there he is so much bigger than Ethan ever was, and that breaks my heart.
I also organized my closet (needed room for my new digs), rearranged a couple of bookshelves, and controlled the chaos that was my desk. There is some more order now, which is good. But partway through, I realized I was pushing to have something to do, something to make go my way. I stopped for a second and just about collapsed. It took everything in me to get into bed and pull the covers up.
Being a mother can wreak havoc on your heart, your mind, your body, your sleeping habits. But with all that, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I grieve because I love, and that is the greatest thing we can ask for in this life. I grieve because I am grateful.