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.
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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, "..how 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.
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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.
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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.
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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?
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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.

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