Friday, January 31, 2014

wild wooden horses

Sarah and I spent most of yesterday's acupuncture session talking - about creativity, dogs, and Chinese New Year. It was great conversation, and in the frame of acupuncture it was just as healing as the needles. We often have those sorts of conversations.
There was no acu-nap, in fact we laughed so much that I had to keep stopping myself from jiggling the needles out of me. I didn't rest as much as I usually do during acupuncture sessions - it was more like laughing yoga and I came out feeling not only relaxed but rejuvenated in a way I haven't felt for a very, very long time.

Sarah has a very healing way of (doing everything) translating her knowledge whether it is trying to find a way to explain Chinese medicine using English words, or her perceptions throughout our conversations - physically/medically, emotionally and everything in between. These conversations are as powerful as the needles and create a really good energy just in themselves.

I didn't cry as much as I have been during acupuncture lately.

When we got to the subject of the Chinese New Year Sarah told me about an article she had read about the significance of this year of the Wood Horse.

We have just been traveling through [a] void - in two Water years - which immersed us in a descending place of degeneration, dissolution and chaos, a time when our internal world of formless spirit and emotions held total sway over every attempt at external control or order. For most of us, it was an unsettling time of letting go of many things, either voluntarily or forcefully, a time of deep soul searching, with gradual or sudden destabilization in many areas of family and livelihood.
I don't think there is anybody I know who doesn't look back on 2013 as a year of profound change, good and bad - but mostly bad. Massive life shifts, career moves, family's losing and gaining - and losing again. I think about Andy's dad, the awesome Ken Schmidt, who passed away right on the cusp of this massive shift in energies. There are a lot of really incredible people who left us in the last twelve months, and I can't help but wonder if they're all connected in some very special way.

It was just as the second water year began that my mother was given weeks to live, just as the baby growing inside me was making it clear he was a survivor (of pregnancy). Turmoil, chaos, confusion, ...absurdity followed.
Those water years were hard, especially the last, filled with profound loss, but with scattered moments of extreme happiness. Many, many people made major adjustments to life.
It's not just me Sarah and I were talking about - herself, and so many people we know have been though a lot in the last year. I know more people who lost in 2013 than any other year I can remember. Friends (and friends of friends) have been through hell and back with health and life on the line. Lots of people moved too; all over the world, big moves, life changing moves, families blending, families splitting up, new houses, new stuff, new places - coincidence?
Meh, this stuff happens all the time, right?
There might not be a bigger shift of energies
in the entire 60 year wheel of Chinese astrology
 than this one coming up
–the shift from two Water years of deep introspection
to the fast-paced spurt of extroverted forward propulsion
that the Wood Horse brings.
It's impossible for me to not look back on 2013 and not try to find some sort of meaning. I'll be doing this for the rest of my life, I'm sure - sifting through the chaos, trying to understand the absurd (running on a hamster wheel). At the same time I'm desperate to find a meaningful path to follow forward. I've been feeling this strong sense of disorientation for months and need more than anything some clarity.

This feeling I have of being in a new life dominates the days. I'm in a new house, surrounded by things and friends from the past - familiar but new simultaneously, missing some significant people, not quite knowing what to do with myself, not really knowing how to define myself anymore ...I even think I look different (beyond just the expected postpartum changes). My old life ended when Finn died, and I've sat stagnant ever since.
Is this lunisolar event a new beginning, or the start of something? I want to hope so.

The article goes on:
This will be a Promethean year, the Beginning of all beginnings, arriving around January 31st to February 4th, 2014. Full of uplift, optimism and compelling inspiration, we will be guided into purposeful action of the most elegantly simple and powerfully fruitful kind. After two years of feeling every revelation of corruption in the dark as if it was scouring our subconscious insides and wringing us dry of watery emotion, we are ready for this change! Light, hope and clarity of vision gallop in.
We laughed throughout my acupuncture session every time Sarah said, "Giddy up!" like a new mantra or affirmation. It sounds so silly. Silly, but effective (and I suspect a lot of people will be saying it in the coming months). Later in the day Rohan and I laughed at a CD that arrived as a freebie in an order of wool I received - it claims to be music for creativity along with affirmations, which I assume are things like "I am beautiful" or "I am worthy" and other nauseating phrases. I'm going to guess there's no "giddy up" on that CD.
This is a year to follow your inner voice like never before, for it will have a universal cosmic ch’i within it. Higher guidance is with us every step of the way. Reach for the sky, call up your vision, fuel your plans with vision boards and creativity, find a fresh path and pace yourself well.
My inner voice and vision have spent the last few months as a tree, specifically the oak tree that anchors the south east corner of our front yard. In the early days after Finn died Sarah had me use the image of a tree as a device in relaxation breathing - to take me someplace else and be something else, breathing in from my roots and reaching toward the sky, feeling the light and the air, imagining the seasons...all of it. I've used it daily ever since, and always as a way to calm myself before a grief counselling session.
The tree works for me, I've always had a good relationship with trees - from my childhood spend in Wishart's forest to the rows of the tree farm, and of course my affair with the trees of Waverley Park and other urban giants.

Trees are about the only thing that have interested me about our new yard. The garden stuff will come in time, for now it's just not a big concern for me (I imagined myself too busy with a baby too think much about it).
The trees in the yard - and in the park across the street - have actually been quite entertaining. Their colour in the autumn is how I see the blur of those weeks, and their lights are what brought me (and others) a smile at a very dark time (of year and otherwise). The Wild Thing in the park will never be seen as two ordinary trees urban trees, but always with ears and horns looking out on the lake. In the backyard a small mountain ash has the wings of a million birds every day, its berry supply almost entirely devoured already.
It's easy to correlate all this tree business to wood and the symbol of the wooden horse, and if anything I can consider it a starting point - to something..

I'm already on a fresh path, not by choice but here I am; and I have no choice but to pace myself because my body and my mind need to heal slowly. If a little bit of optimism is ahead I'll take it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

rainbow hat, favourite blanket, and a bird's eye view

I occasionally doodle photographs before I take them - plans or diagrams, I guess, of what I see in my head. I don't do this for every photo, obviously - most of them are spontaneous anyway, but when I have reason, or if I'm just feeling inspired without my camera, I doodle... 
I did this a lot leading up to Finn's birth, planning on taking many of my own infant photos using the adorable props and outfits I was collecting. Etsy got so much action last summer that my bank even called me one day to alert me to the increased traffic in my account. I told her: I'm very pregnant, very excited, home alone most of the time, and completely caught up in buying adorable baby stuff online. She laughed, completely understood, and dismissed the alert.
Beautifully handmade hats became my Etsy obsession. I collected carefully, there's a reason for every selection - except the ladybug, that set was a gift :) fulfilling an important 'garden bug' element in the collection. 
I was going to have fun taking photos of my baby, and found myself apologizing to my belly knowing that I was going to over-photograph and over-share the poor kid growing inside me. There were other babies too, friends' babies, that I wanted to photograph - all baby boys born shortly after Finn. It was going to be fun, and a chance for me to experiment with and learn something new about photography. Who doesn't want to take photos of adorable babies wearing adorable hats?

I found the doodle of the rainbow hat with the "favourite blanket" sometime just before Christmas, and took the page out and tucking it in the inside pocket of the notebook I drew it in. I didn't want to lose it, or separate it from the other notes and doodles in the book, but I didn't want to flip through and see it too easily. It's a hard to look at that one now. The rainbow hat was the only one he ever wore (that morning, when we were just goofing around, thinking we had all the time in the world together...). 

His favourite blanket ...not that he really knew it was his favourite blanket - but it would have been; it was the softest blanket I've ever sunk my fingers into. I had ordered it from ...*drum roll*... Etsy, and it arrived the day I was induced - we missed the delivery and were left with one of those post office notices to pick it up, which Rohan did sometime in the day after Finn was born.
I had ordered two blankets: one white, the other blue. As much as we all like to dislike the pink and blue thing with babies, it exists. If I carried Finn around in a pink blanket and posted all those photos of him swaddled in pink everyone would think he was a girl. It's just the way it is. The way I saw it (when I ordered the blankets): eventually blue goes both ways, but pink always seems to stigmatize girls..., so blue was the safer bet. Rohan brought the blankets to me in the hospital and I immediately brought the blue one to Finn in the NICU, where the nurses all fussed over its incredible softness. Finn spent the rest of his life wrapped in that blue cloud.

The brown bucket in the doodle is beside me right now. It's a gorgeous bucket: old, heavy, darkened aged wood..., it's Rohan's and I know he's told me the story of where it came from but I can't it remember right now. I've always seen it as a great photography prop. I've never photographed it.

The other doodle on the page was me imaging a bird's eye view of a chair with a small baby carefully rested asleep on the seat. (I've seen this in others' infant photography.) The only problem then was the missing prop chair - I wanted something interesting, old, with natural character, not something I would find instantly (or while purposely seeking).

Yesterday, while shopping for felting needles, we found ourselves in an antique shop buying a chair (I told you nothing in my life makes sense these days...). It's pretty much what I had in mind; not that I have much purpose for it anymore.
I bought it anyway, even though I'm missing my star, my focus - as soon as I saw it I saw my drawing.
Photographing an empty chair isn't what I had in mind.
Neither was pinning the only knit hat he wore inside a shadow box.

Although he's not nestled in his blue blanket tucked in Rohan's old bucket, the photo we're left with (him in the hat on the purple backdrop in the morning sun) is so very important - even more, I think, because it was one of those spontaneous moments. Those are always the best photographs.

the light always shines on him

So often I look up and see sunlight shining into this house and lighting up my baby boy. His photo on the mantle in the other room even catches the moonlight. I'm not getting all corny over this, imagining this as "signs"or any other nonsense. I really don't know if I believe in that.

...but I do love that he's always shining so bright around here.

We talked about this the other day when the girls were over - Sheri told us how she's felt her father around her, and sees him in her youngest son (which, um, yeah - have you seen that kid?! he's a spitting image of his grandfather...). 
I used to feel my dad around me; for the first couple of years after he died I could - but only ever in H's room when I stood near her crib. I would brush it off as a silly feeling of hope, but it happened often enough to get me thinking. 

I haven't had that feeling with my mother..., well, except for being somewhat convinced she aligned the stars to put this house in our laps. When Finn and I would discuss future games of I Spy I told him how his Nana must have made it so he would have the view he did, from a window that met her architectural approval (which was extremely important...). 
I joke with my sister that I felt her with me every time I rode my scooter when I was pregnant. Her pointy finger of disapproval jabbed me during every ride. (In my defense, mom, I think is is just as dangerous to walk in this city - recalling how often I've had my toes run over on crosswalks.)

I hoped my mother was with us when Finn died. I begged for her; Heather assured me she was there. I can't say I actually felt it. I suppose, if there's anywhere I "feel" her most it would be in this house. Here I'm able to have her things all around me - not in storage or stuffed in a corner like they were on Pearl. Every day I marvel at that damn clock - keeping time for ...maybe the first time ever, or at least since it lived in our family home ..before my father died. 

This house is filled with light, even on grey days. I noticed immediately that the light shines through here the same way it did the house I grew up in - I don't know if that makes any sense, but it's all about the position of the house: on a hill, the direction the windows face, and having windows front and back giving it that see-through quality. In the afternoon, when the sun is shining through the side and back windows and I can hear CBC radio playing from the kitchen anywhere in the house, I could swear I'm five years old again. (If I start hearing the sounds of my dad talking to some geologist (Rohan?) in the kitchen and my mother's typewriter down the far hall we'll know I'm actually losing my mind...)

There was a day not long after Finn died - it was the first morning I was home alone. I don't remember if it was because everyone was out, or if everyone had left... either way, I was alone; it was morning; and I was very disoriented. 
I had left my home early one morning, in labour, and suddenly (it seemed) I was here, alone, in this completely new space which wasn't my home but some other house. It wasn't that I had forgotten that I had moved, but somewhere in having and losing Finn I lost track of time and space - and place...(if that makes any sense). My things were all around, my mother's things were all around - a lot of it had been unpacked so there was familiarity all around me, but it wasn't unpacked by me (many thanks to my sister and sister-in-law for being organized get-it-done-ers) so I didn't know where anything had been put. I was lost. 
I just stood there in the middle of the kitchen feeling lost, not moving, just contemplating, trying to figure out was my next move would be. 
As I stood there the sun rose. It was the first sunrise I experienced (that could remember experiencing) since Finn died. I wasn't close enough to a window to actually watch it, but I could see how its light came through the house. It came in shining right on the place I found Finn losing his life, across the floor and on to me starting at my toes and slowly rising up my body to blind me and move on. Had I been locked in place in any other spot in that kitchen I would have missed the whole thing.

The photos of Finn that are hung on walls or leaning on mantles haven't moved much from where they were first put in place for his service. I haven't wanted to move them. They've been put in new frames and permanently attached, ....and every day they catch the light of the sun, the moon at night, streetlamps, and house lights in ways that beam across his precious face. He always seems to be in the light.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


So much love surrounds him...

I made these videos while we waited to be discharged from hospital, he was three and a half days old. I wanted to capture every second of him before he changed, before he could grow up too quickly. He was incredible, I couldn't believe he was ours, and I wanted to share him and all his cute little sounds with everyone.

I still want everyone to see him. He's still incredible, and I still can't believe he was ours. Our sweet baby boy, perfect in every way. Stolen silently on his 11th day, our hearts are left shattered.


morning sunlight
shining on
my angel baby
There's an absurd amount of effort put into suppressing thoughts and feelings just to get through every day, so much it is exhausting. I think it explains how Rohan and I are able to sleep at night, we're so drained, physically and mentally.

When we first started seeing Hugh Walker for grief counselling he made it pretty clear that there was no going forward until we were able to face, confront, deal with the images, flashbacks, and memories that haunt us most. I've tried, I really have - in so many ways I can't avoid it...
It's not easy; I fight it, play mind games to throw my thoughts somewhere else, but it all comes back to me one way or another. Not a day goes by with agonizing tears. I'm either unable to get off the floor or I'm locking it all up so tight I shake - I can feel it in my hands, and in my jaw when I try to talk. Leaving the house requires too much of me most days; I know I can't hold it together and the anxiety brought on just by thinking of having to say anything out loud or look anyone in the eye is an absolutely frightening feeling.

Every day I try to put Sarah's tools to work, the exercises she's taught me to take controlled breaths, to relax my mind and my body. I breathe deep and I try (so hard) to think of something else, think of myself as something else, somewhere else. I try to just think of my breathing - through my whole body like she's taught me..., but lately all I hear is Alejandra Ribera's lyrics, there's so much labour just in breathing lately...

It's all so exhausting. 

Too many competing emotions, all wanting to take center stage: grief (unthinkable grief), confusion (about everything from aforementioned grief to tying my own shoes - or skates), sadness (with me for life), loneliness (but not a kind anyone here can cue), anger (with no direction), disbelief, I could go on..., name an emotion and I've it. Each of them need tending to. 
There are times I feel happiness when I think of Finn or of being pregnant with him. It's a strange kind of happiness though, and I'm not sure I know how to describe it yet (brings us back around to that confusion).

The work it takes to concentrate on anything other than Finn, or Finn and my mother together is merciless, and I feel enormous guilt for trying so hard to get away from any thoughts of him. I just don't know how to get by otherwise...
With my mother, I'm not as conflicted; I understand why she died and as I've said before: we expect to lose our parents. I'm sad that she lost her life so early (she was only just 71) and I'm sad that she suffered in any way, but I understand why she's gone. What gets me all wound up is thinking about her and Finn - and the bizarre connection of profound life events they shared in 2013. 

Still, I can't help feeling like an orphan, an orphan and a childless mother all at once, overnight it seems. Learning to live with this uncomfortable empty feeling which I know is never going to leave me makes me I feel like I'm caving in on myself ...and starting to understand that this is simply the new me. I get these very brief moments of feeling ridiculously powerful for this, but those moments aren't often and I usually get rid of them pretty quick. The only powerful one here is grief. 
Time ever since Finn's death has gone by very fast (you'd think it would be slow...) I don't notice days going by, all the details just become part of the blur. Add that to the confusion. There is routine, sort of - I get up every day, I see H off, I stay up, I watch sunrises... 
It's hard to return to things I used to do. It's the messed up mind again: I can't remember basic things - like plant names.. ugh.. You'd think turning to gardening would be therapeutic - perhaps when I can physically do it, because mentally I'm lost. At H's birthday party I was talking to someone and blurted out a couple plant names, surprising myself, reminding myself it's there, somewhere. It's just all boggled up. I'm not going to stress it right now, just shelf it. We'll see what happens in spring. 

I still can't seem to cook or bake with the ease I used to. Part of it is a complete loss of appetite and a confused (there's that word again) palate. Everything tastes salty to me (no I'm not dehydrated) (deficient kidneys, yes), but bread and grains also taste off to me - and have since I started eating again after losing Finn. Everything changed. My postpartum grieving body is not accepting food with ease, more and more I'm starting the day throwing up; and the pain of digestion is causing me to ponder pros and cons of eating - usually resulting in a meal of water. I hate this. I used to love food.

In an effort to try to do something else (something different) I pulled out H's sewing machine yesterday - the one we gave her for Christmas a few years ago which I don't think she's ever used. Ahem.
I used to sew all the time, making quilts and clothes and toys for H. I thought maybe I'd try to make things - tangible things; I don't really know what's going to come of this. Staring down the machine's needle - a new to me machine, much fancier than the reliable (and heavy) (almost 50 year old) machine I inherited from my mother years ago (currently MIA) - I realized quickly that I have no idea what I'm doing. Google brought me to the 72 page pdf manual, which I'm convinced was written by someone who understands English as a third or fourth language. I think I'll get it though; it's a change of scenery but still familiar territory. My mother taught me how to sew.

I'm not entirely sure where to end this post...

Friday, January 17, 2014

not my life

Sometimes I think about what happened - to Finn, to us, to me, and I think there's no way that's real. It couldn't have happened. Photos of him and us look like somebody else's. That couldn't haven't happened to me. I couldn't have had that and lost that.

Too many people don't know how precious it is to get pregnant, to stay pregnant, to birth a healthy baby, and keep that baby for the rest of their life. It's so, so precious. So fragile.


The Little Red Crayon ...and other colours of life and loss

We had no idea how life changing our experience at St. Joseph's Hospice would be; we understood the obvious, obviously..., and all the difficulties we had with space aside, the real experience was something no one could expect or prepare for.

My mother's first few hours in St. Joe's were spent listening to me petitioning the staff for more privacy, a less dreary space. Anything. She had been put between a dingy looking wall, not unclean - just old, a part of the hospital that hadn't been updated in forever. The curtains were hospital blue and the bedding looked like something out of a 1970's hunting magazine (I'm not kidding, there were deer on that blanket...). The space was so tight my sister and I couldn't sit on either side of her, we had to squeeze (quite uncomfortably for being as pregnant as I was at the time) two clunky, stiff chairs beside the dingy wall. 

The other side of the wall was the bathroom, the bathroom for the four dying people in the room, only one of whom could actually get up to use it - which she didn't often, but when she did it was always a production (nurses, wheelchairs, lifts, blue canoes, stage managers, lighting...). Anything that happened in that space was a huge production - these people need more care than any I've ever seen and when the nurses gathered for one of these (a bathroom visit, a bath, bedding changes..) everyone else cleared the room to make way.

I went in there with my mother's plea for privacy in mind. I tried not to look anyone in the eye. An impossibility in that space, in the middle of all that. There was no getting away from death, heartache, sadness, grief. It was in everyone's eyes, faces, in the sounds in the hallway. The nurses were all gentle about it, but you saw it in there eyes too. I expected that - it's really not that different from being on 1A.

It was in all the shuffling just before one of these productions that the curtain opened up between my mother and the bed beside her - just enough for me to see what I didn't expect ...completely and utterly naively and I still don't understand why I was so taken aback. She's so young, I thought - oh my god, oh my god, she's so young I thought over and over again. 
I don't know why I was so shocked by that, people die at every poor baby boy lived only ten days (11ish) (I still don't know how to count it...). For some stupid reason I went in there expecting everyone to be old. I didn't even think of my mother as old, ...and thinking of friends like Helen and Lisa even younger and younger. So, I can't explain it.

Kim was beside my mother or across from her for most of my mother's stay in the hospice. She had a beloved golden retriever (who even visited her in hospice!) (I'm still damning that I missed that.). Her mother has/had bassets, and it was clear early on that we were comrades. It was often difficult (both ways, I'm sure) to know when it was appropriate to be in each others space, and with it being so tight we often couldn't help it. It often made the days go by a little softer. 

Kim had just become an aunt (again) twice, and often these little babies would visit - completely changing the air in that place. They sent my pregnant imagination soaring. Watching Kim nap with her nephew was the most beautiful thing - and I still recall on that moment to remind me of when things weren't that bad. I tweeted about it, and wound up connecting with Kim's brother (because that's how Thunder Bay works..)..

All the commotion near the end of my mother's life, the room move, the battle it was to get the private room... the final days with her were so wrapped up with her care that I only remember blurs and flashes of conversations with anyone else. When she died - within a couple hours - we were somehow packing up her cards and paper flowers and moving out. Again, something I wasn't expecting... it was like we were being kicked out. No longer a part of that club. Take your stuff and go. It wasn't cold in any way, the nurses were (and continue to be) wonderfully compassionate. We could take all the time we needed - but ...what for? Suddenly, we had no reason to be there and us much as we all (me, Rohan, and my sister) wanted to run out of there and never come back - it was impossible to deny the feeling of, I'm really going to miss these people, and strangely - missing that place. 

I thought about Kim a lot. Always wanted to visit but - along with every other strange feeling, as much as I missed the people and the place I could not step foot back in there. I tried - a few times. Even tried to drop off forms for Dr. Miller but chickened out and sent Hannah and Erica instead. I tried to write notes, but never got around to sending anything... 
Thinking back to those final months of pregnancy - after losing my mom I sent my head straight to babyland, and did my best to think of nothing but. I trusted those day three hormones would take care of any grief lingering around. 
We drive by St. Joe's and I look up (I always do) to quickly glance at the three windows I know, and in a flash the whole experience runs through my head. I haven't forgotten a single face. It sounds like I was affected profoundly by this - and I suppose I was, ..but I think about people like Kim, who spend many, many more months there. That was her home. She was lucky, in a sense, to have such a loving family around her, being with her, helping her. There were some people there with nobody. I still can't wrap my head around that.

It was a lot easier to shelf all this when I had a baby growing inside me; when I held him. Nothing could touch me when I held him. I begged for my mother when Finn died, and I've said many times I can only hope they're together somehow - that she's holding him. If I can't she's the only one I would want... The months between then and Christmas are a blur, yesterday is a blur, ... today will be too. I'm much more aware now though, that I'm pretty messed up. 

So the other day when a small package arrived - not unusual with all the Etsy orders coming these days- I was thrown. Lost for words because there were too many swirling around my head. It was addressed so beautifully, and local, and a name I didn't recognize immediately. I choked a little, feeling that feeling of knowing something inside was going to trigger some tears. We've received unexpected kindness in all forms, it's been overwhelming..., but this took that whole experience with my mom, those flash of images - seeing Kim so young and out of place in that hospice, pregnancy in the hospice, babies in the hospice, losing my mother, losing Finn - wrapped it all up in a small colourful book and said, here, I hope this makes you feel better

Kim's sister found a way to make some sense of it all. It's a lovely way to honour her sister - and put it in perspective for the baby who slept in his aunt's arms across from me to understand as he grows. I read the book over and over again when I first received it, but it's been tucked in a cloth bag with the photo book M sent since. I can't look at it right now. I will though, many many times - I'll always remember Kim, and I'll think of my mother ...and, of course, my baby boy. It was the most timely gift, when the slowness of this time of year is beginning to send me in too many directions - even if I can't look at it... I can think about it. 
Both Rohan and I were swept away by her card, the thoughtful words, and of course the book.., completely unexpected. The experience that connects us seems so profound to me right now, and knowing that Finn's short sweet life connects to this, and is thought of - possibly as profoundly, well.. I have no words.....
You can learn more and buy your own copy of The Little Red Crayon through Michelle Kolobutin's website:
..and I believe she's got a booth at the market ;)
I think she's done a pretty amazing thing.

Kim passed away in October. I missed any announcements, so consumed by my own grief. In the blurs and flashes of images in my head I do remember the colours of the season; there was so much colour around Thanksgiving this year it was impossible to ignore - even in my condition. Like the pink sun that rose on the walls of my mother's room as she took her last breath, it's the colours that I see most in my memories.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

an open book, a new chapter

I find dark, slow to start mornings like today's difficult. Even in a good year I would find it hard to get motivated. Sunny days make me want to hit a trail, go for a walk, run the dogs at the tree farm or something - just to see the lights through the trees. A walk around the neighbourhood - through the towering cottonwoods of Waverley works too when in need of an urban tree fix.

These cloudy days make me want to sleep the winter away.
It's too easy to sit here and imagine the way it should have been.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I wake up every morning thinking of Finn, feeling confused, wondering where he is, ..sometimes I can hear him. Then, I open my eyes and I see him, framed on the wall beside my bed - all my trinkets on the table below. You'd think I would just burst into tears every morning..., but I don't. Sometimes I do. Most days I just lose my breath for a while, tremble... the tears come but so silently.

I break down, we both do. It gets ugly. This grief is unlike anything I ever imagined. I had thought about it - what parent doesn't; it crosses your mind for a second and you push it away because nothing could be worse, you can't think about it. You'd die yourself if anything happened to your child.
I feel like that every day - like I'm dying ... not in a suicidal sense, just dying. Slowly and painfully. I have to learn to live feeling like this for the rest of my life.

In the first weeks after Finn died it seemed everyone around me was worried I would kill myself. The subject came up with doctors, with counselors, directed at both Rohan and I, I'm sure, but mostly at me. Those postpartum hormones gave me a bad rep. I understand why the subject came up because believe if I didn't have Hannah to consider the idea sounds like a pretty good option. I used to think I would - if I lost Hannah. I always wondered how people survive this.
I remember being quite angry, twice, when the subject came up in those early days - just because I didn't get out of bed didn't mean I had forgotten that I still have a daughter. I can't control the grief that makes me unable to move, and I trust that Hannah, though young still, is mature enough to understand. She's the most compassionate person I know - she always has been, naturally.

Early on Dr. Atwood said to me, " you carry yourself though this is going to affect Hannah for the rest of her life.." I'm sort of paraphrasing, but not really - those words have repeated themselves in my head every day since.
She's sixteen, and "knows everything" so talking isn't always easy - I often get the eye roll and the yeah yeah mom, but I hope - I hope - somehow my messages sink in somewhere. She, like so many others, didn't know how to talk to me at first..., I know it scared her - seeing me in such shambles. Not that she would admit that.
I think the loss of Finn is going to affect her deeply as a woman, and someday as a mother. I try to think about that when Dr. Atwood's words replay in my head.
She grieves quietly and privately. Losing my mother, her beloved Nana, was really hard on her. She doesn't talk about it much, but I know she's hurting. Losing her brother, and all the commotion around it - so much attention on me - I think it must be really confusing for her. She says no, but how could it not.

It's hard to turn her over to our (amazing) counselor, Hugh Walker - and not know what is said behind that closed door. I still see her as that little girl in a pink jumpsuit and pig tails. Somehow she's old enough to do this on her own..., and I have to let her. Some day I'm sure we'll be able to talk about this in a different way.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Finn turned all the sadness of losing my mother around during his brief stay with us. I hadn't seen Hannah so happy and excited in a long time. One of the best memories is of being in labour with Finn that morning, September 18th, being in the labour room with moderate contractions (I wasn't screaming yet) while Hannah (taking the day off school) worked on her chemistry homework with Rohan. I felt somewhat ignored - for equations. It was like my dad was in the room. (Maybe he was?)

It was Hannah's job to take the first photos, send them to my sister, and post an announcement on Facebook.
I'm so saddened by the thought that she lost that chance at being a big sister. She was great. She wanted to hold him all the time - until she realized that babies cry a lot, and I think she was a little put off that he would stop crying when I held him. I kept telling her to have patience. He was just being a newborn: hungry and needing his mum...., soon he would have longer breaks between eating and sleeping, and he would stay with her longer as he got older. She didn't get to experience that - she'll never really know.

The 2:00am - 5:00am parties rockin' from the nursery did not impress her. For a very brief moment I, as a mother, got to experience sibling resentment. It was great. Poor Hannah wasn't prepared for sleepless nights.

For a little while we were a family of four. Only once did it ever really hit me - when I overheard Rohan on the phone talking about something to do with the move, and listing our family members, "...our daughter and our son.." I had that my family is complete feeling that I lost when we lost my mother. I was going to be okay - we all were. It was a new start.

Well, it is a new start indeed.

How is one supposed to start this way? I can't even find my footing.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You go through life with the understanding that someday you'll lose your parents, your grandparents - friends even. I've been very well aware for a number of years now that I was going to lose my mother. There was time to prepare. It's strange how I think of it now, what it was like when it happened... it was beautiful, her final moment, that is. Dr. Siren had gone on about it at an appointment a few weeks before, telling me that death was a beautiful thing - as I sat there nearly 25 weeks pregnant with my little boy. At the time I was pissed, like, what the fuck - my mother's dying, this wasn't beautiful, this was sad, and St. Joe's was the saddest place on earth. I was not seeing the beauty.
Now - now I see the pink sunbeams in her room, I remember the light,  remember how soft she felt. It was beautiful.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
In the time I've been rambling the light outside has changed; it's brighter, the trees have turned themselves off, and it's beginning to snow. It's kind of pretty.

This is the kind of day I had imagined - sitting here by the fire, dogs sleeping in dog beds on the couch, baby Finn in my arms or swinging in his swing by the window. It was just going to be him and I, as Hannah and Rohan are off for the days. It would be new mom time for me and I was going to enjoy every second of it - knowing so well how fleeting it is.
In our time together I would stare at him and have to stop myself from thinking about him growing up because I didn't want to jump too far ahead, I wanted to stay in every moment.

This winter was going to be all about baby snuggles and watching days like these go by beside the fire.
We'd sneak out now and then to swim somewhere, maybe a kindermusik class some days...
we'd go for strolls around the neighbourhood for a breath of fresh air..

I lose my breath when I see strollers now, car seats too. Especially walking around here. Avoiding those stroller mom groups is nearly impossible, and absolutely terrifying. I have to walk in the middle of the night to avoid strollers and even then it's been known to happen.

Every week day when I see the school bus pull up to pick up the little boy a few doors up I sink a little further into the sand. I can still see so clearly, an imagined moment with Finn as a little boy sitting at the end of our walkway waiting for his bus.
I can see perfectly his face and the way his little boy self would be at about four. He'd have the Millar look with blonde hair that curls in all sorts of wring directions, his knees covered in scrapes from climbing fences and skidding down Hillcrest hill. Sometimes I see us sitting at the piano together, his little legs dangling from the bench, same blond hair. His profile is the same as it is in his ultrasound photos, a little underbite...

How can I see him that age so clearly? Why no older? Why so little in between?
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Sometimes I imagine losing him other ways - having him with us longer, but losing him more tragically, or suffering in someway, something worse. I don't know if it's my mind playing some sort of sick, twisted game to rationalize how he did die. I hear and read about all these young kids with cancer, suffering, slowly dying before their parent's eyes and I think, oh god I could never live through that, that would be so horrible. Just as I used to think about a parent living through life in my new shoes.

I'm trying so hard to hold my head up it physically hurts. All the stuff going on in there - horrible thoughts, images I never want to see again, terrible earworms, it's a nasty mess in there. It's hard to hold it all at bay to maintain composure as a mother, to set an example. I often don't do a good job. There's no invisibility cloak for this, I can't hide.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

September charms and trinkets

The sapphires came from a Mining Matters silent auction, Rohan gave them to me for my 39th birthday. Always loved the dainty little blue bracelet, and thought of it as a lucky charm for no reason at all. Sapphires are September's birthstone, and I've always loved September.

The baby I miscarried in 2012 was due in September; Finn was born in September ...and lost in September. 

It was just a silly joke throughout my pregnancy..., to make it to September so our baby would have a sapphire birthstone. I don't like the August peridot ..and being married to a geologist, these things matter. Or, at least they used to. 

As a gardener, September is the month of harvest, of lushness in late summer plants; beginning deep in greens and ending washed in colour. With most leaves still hanging on to their branches, September trees are the best trees - even better than spring blossoms, I think anyway. It's an absolutely beautiful month. A combination of flip flop and warm sweater temperatures perfect for days in the sun and nights by the fire...
 ...That's what Finn experienced in his short life, sunny days and cozy nights. I'd say that makes me happy if it break my heart so painfully.

When Finn was born there was apparently a great scramble to get some baby boy charms for the Pandora bracelet Rohan had already - waiting for the right time to give it to me; which he did on the Friday after Finn was born (with day two postpartum hormones kicking in). He and Hannah enjoyed poking fun at my tears of boy joy, it being at the time a moment we would laugh about for years to come... could I ever have imagined what those charms would come to mean. When Finn died, when he was taken out of my arms, I remember asking Hannah to take the bracelet off. I couldn't look at it...

I put if back on for his service and will never take it off again. The charms I wear are all for Finn.

Yesterday the little dragonfly bracelet I ordered inscribed with my little boy's name arrived and has been added to my wrist, falling near one of the little dragonflies that surrounds his hand-print tattooed on my arm.

I've ordered a number of lockets and charms with inscriptions, dragonflies, asters, sapphires, anything blue, his beautiful name... they dangle off his photos that hang around the house. I'm not sure I understand why these trinkets matter so much, but they're here and I want to see them and hold them. 
I want to see him, and hold him. 

Alejandra Ribera - I Want

Friday, January 10, 2014


We picked up this little pencil drawing of dragonflies on September 30th 2012 when we drove down to Lutsen and back exploring the artist studios open for the Crossing Borders Studio Tour. The drawing is by Betsy Bowen and is an original illustration from the book Hawk Ridge by Laura Erickson. I didn't know at the time where we would hang it, and for many months it lived propped up on the bookshelf in the living room. 

When I started decorating Finn's nursery it was a natural fit in the room, and thinking back it would have been the first thing I chose to hang on the wall (that and the giraffes playing in the pond painting)... 

September 30th 2013 was the first day I had to learn to live without my little boy. I didn't open my eyes.

It was some time in late summer, I was home alone, hot, hiding in the living room which seemed to be the coolest room in the house with very little, if any, direct sunlight with the fan blowing on me. I would bounce on the exercise ball while listening to satellite music streaming through the television... when Cradle Song (Holy Nazan) by Norma Winstone began to play I was mesmerized. I quickly downloaded the song and added it to my lullabies playlist. It was such soothing and beautiful music I listened to it repeatedly for the rest of my pregnancy to relax, fall asleep, and dream of holding my baby. When in labour it was the song I listened to most. I imagined these little pencil dragonflies fluttering around to the music...

I haven't been able to listen to the song since.

That is why there are dragonflies surrounding my two tattoos - ten in total for the day's Finn lived.

The Chinese characters came from Sarah (my acupuncturist - and very special friend). In the first few weeks home after losing Finn I was such a mess (obviously)... Sarah would come to the house to treat me, absolutely life saving sessions, not just for the needles but for her calming and healing energy. I'd fall into the deepest sleeps after being with her for an hour. When I told her I was getting Finn's footprint tattooed on my foot she told me about this acupuncture point - located on the dorsal aspect of the foot, between the fourth and fifth metatarsal bones - known as Zu (foot) Lin (to face forward, to arrive at, to overlook) Qi (tears, to weep, [silent tears]) 'Foot Overlooking Tears'
For how important Sarah has been on this journey to have a baby, and for how much she has helped me heal, it was really important to me to include her. The characters are in her handwriting (as best copied by Remy the tattoo artist) and will always bring me back to those early days when the grief was so deep. It's all part of me now.

I'm not ready to share my other tattoo yet. Someday...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

the sunrise this morning

9:29 am
9:49:05 am
9:49:57 am
 9 January 2014

every day is a new challenge

I woke up with a bad feeling today. I've been feeling so numb and disconnected lately that it's been awhile since I woke up with that sinking feeling, that deep internal emptiness that comes with grief. Its one of those days I can't glance at Finn's photos on the wall without losing my breath and balance.

It's going to be one of those heavily medicated days.

Thank goodness for Marie and Fred - and Jenn for texting me this morning reminding me to have fun on our "double date" tonight. They're coming for dinner - our friends who share the same horrible living nightmare we do.The air is a little easier to breathe when they're around.
I remember very little of the first few days after Finn died - most of which just comes to me in flashes of images, faces, murmurs of voices, darkness. I remember noticing I was moved to another room when the light came from another direction, but I don't remember what I was seeing - if that makes any sense. The first voice that comes through is Marie's, holding me and saying, I'm so sorry this happened to you. I was so far away but I knew she knew where I was - even in that moment. I thought of her baby, Lily, who earned her baby angel wings when she was just eight days old. That was the first time I realized I was not alone.

Marie and I share the experience of holding our babies in our arms as they died. What a thing to share.

So many people have been thoughtful, generous, compassionate. Finn's death has brought a number of old friends closer, my circles have expanded and tighten around me - everybody wants to help take my pain away ...which of course no one can, but all the effort is so appreciated.
Which is why I find it hard to understand how in in the last week I have received two messages from people on Facebook with congratulations on our new baby - one was a comment on a photo where every other comment included some sort of 'so sorry for your loss' or 'thinking of you' ...I guess she didn't read ANYTHING on the page. Another came in the form of a private message today. A long congratulations message, with an "oh, did you move" along with liking a number of recent photos. Again, obviously this person did not bother to read anything on the page, or any comments of photos. Or pay attention to anything I've posted since JULY.
Now, I don't go around studying every bit of information on everyone's page - but I do pay attention. It's not that hard.


I've been shaking since I woke up. Had another meltdown over my camera. Let's hope today turns around.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

the moon

8 January 2014
6:08 pm

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Regina Spektor ..with butterflies for Ava

window bird

The house is too quiet today, well... was..    I'm now playing Regina Spektor's Don't Leave Me (Ne me quitte pas) on repeat hoping to kill the nasty earworms that echo so loudly though my head. From the time Finn died I've hear the worst songs in my head - like Bryan Adams' When a Man Loves a Woman over and over and over ..and I don't even like the song, would never listen to it. I've never understood - why that song? It plays like I'm sitting long in a gymnasium and it's playing on a record player in a far away corner. Creepy. I've tried everything to get rid of it - playing songs on repeat until I think I've absorbed enough of something else..., but the next day while I shower (always in the shower... why?!) there he is again, Bryan fucking Adams and that cheeseball song. I hate it. And I.Don't.Understand.It. 

Story of my life now..I don't understand much of anything anymore. I don't feel like the same person I was before Finn while at the same time feel like myself amplified - if that makes any sense. I feel bizarrely creative, full of ideas (mostly of things to "make for Finn" ...which I haven't yet decided is something unhealthy or just a natural need to keep "doing things for him"... ) so I've ordered a odd assortment of paper dragonflies, felting wool, and fabric (among other bits) ("Etsy" is our new word for "mail") and we'll just see what comes of it.

So far I've been completely useless at the things I used to do naturally - camera controls are still foreign to me; completely lost it the other morning when I couldn't get the shot of the tug leading in one of the last salties of the season. When 'the shot' appeared of the front page of the paper the next morning I lost it again. Something tells me I should just put down my camera for a while.

Watching the harbour activity has been a saving grace - I think both R and I agree. I can't deny the beauty I see all around me. As much as I miss Pearl I am grateful for this view, the light in this house, and the distraction of a constantly changing window view.

In the few days I had with Finn, in the few times we sat in our chair in his room I would talk to him while he nursed, tell him all about what I could see - all the boats in the harbour, tugs leading them around, the trains we see shuffling back and forth, planes coming in, all the activity in the park... I couldn't wait to play I Spy with him. Even the snow ploughs are interesting to watch as they clear High Street in a choreographed street dance early in the morning. A little boy would love watching this I think to myself as I stand alone in the window.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Finn's photo book

created using Shutterfly's photo books.