Monday, September 28, 2009

Josie, my first little girl...almost one year later...

I started writing in advance of Josie's birthday. Things were coming to me, bit by bit, in the last few weeks of "the first year." I'll write again, I'm sure, before the 10th.

You might think that in the run-up to the big day, as it were, I would feel overwhelmed by grief again, but this isn't the case for me. I know that for others, it has been, and completely, utterly and totally respect that. But for me, the word "grief" so profoundly expresses what I felt in the first few weeks after Josie died - the utter desolation - the never ending spiral of despair...that it feels somehow incorrect to use it now, when things have settled to a new normal, for which I am grateful.

Nevertheless, I have been flooded with emotion. I think about Josie every day - I can say that there hasn't been a single day I haven't thought about Josie at various times. She's with me all the time. Every second of the day - and this isn't just imagination: when a woman has a baby, she actually carries that child's DNA around in her own bloodstream for the rest of her life... It's palpable, I can tell you. It's like a permanently activated link to your child: except with a child that isn't there anymore, the link is to the wherever our souls go after we in some ways we're permanently a little adrift forever after...

I do feel sometimes like I'm floating above people around me, hooked to a big, green, hugely deep sea of life to which we all fall up into when we go... A big energy - enormous and beyond comprehension. In some ways, since October 10th 2008, I've been standing in the middle of a bridge between two worlds. It's not a bad place now - there are trees and flowers, and sunshine - but nobody else. It's peaceful.

Back when Josie first died, I was stripped naked and whipped to the bone, bloody and bruised and completely spent, almost dead: laying on this rock bridge above a river of lava. My hair curled and frazzled in the heat; my skin blistering and completely raw - totally done. It was the beginning of a new world - before new life appeared in the small puddles of water next to the river...before the beginning of a new consciousness. My humanity had been completely undone, like a corset, fallen away and sending guts spilling out helplessly into the outside world. One can fight with fingers to keep them in, but they keep coming out...

In so many ways, that was exactly what had happened, though. At the end of a beautiful, nine month relationship with my girl, things had gone horribly, inconceivably wrong and I'd found myself stripped, roughly examined and catheterized, stabbed with needles and then anesthetized. So horribly, one-hundred-percent different from what I'd been preparing for. You can't prepare for that in any birth class. No woman can prepare to be walking into the entrance to a hospital, blood running all over the place, knowing her baby no longer had a heartbeat but that until just minutes ago, she had been kicking - one last thump on the way to the ER. No person can "get ready" for the utter desolation one feels to wake up to be told the child one loves is dead, even though the hospital staff tried desperately to revive her for thirty minutes with heart massage...electricity...epinephrine... You can't "make the best of" a birth plan gone so horribly wrong that you can only spend just over a day with your baby before giving her to the funeral home.

You can't "not be too disappointed" with the extraction of a little being from your body, like an abscess, ripped out quite violently through a large incision, instead of being able to birth the little one quietly and lovingly. In terms of birth plans gone wrong, this one's a big one. In terms of family members trying to deal with everything: seeing their woman lying there on a bed and being told she might not survive is not something one has to face every day. In terms of recovery, not being able to stand at one's own daughter's funeral because of the eight inch band of internal and external bruising that turned black was not where I thought I'd be on the 13th of October, 2008.

I'd never, ever known such mental pain. Or such physical pain. My body just ached for my baby - I cried from my eyes and my breasts leaked as I wept: big fat tears for my little one. My body, like a tiny child, unable to understand what was going on but just yearning to feed the infant, wondering where she had gone... How do you explain to your own body that your daughter is no longer there?

In terms of communication, my body and mind were torn apart - uncooperative; going down separate roads. I looked in the mirror and cried, cried and cried because of the great big scar on my belly and the big black bruising, and the soft mama-tummy I'd been left with for my infant to lay on. I really hated myself for weeks. I just cried, feeling like an empty shell, pulling bits of myself to myself; walking about picking pieces of the old me off the carpet like slivers of meat. I knew I had to heal; took my vitamins to help myself; rubbed oil on my scar but then looked at myself in the mirror and felt like two different people: the one rubbing oil in, and the one having the oil rubbed into them - the one I just couldn't stand.

I do remember the very first time I broke down and felt bad for me, having flagellated myself for a long time: perhaps it was November? I had a shower and just held myself tightly and as usual, cried. But this time it was a cry of "come back to me, my body - come back to me, my mind - let's be friends again instead of hating one another..." instead of being lost.

Being strong is a "doing" word I think. It's also a total choice: it really is. Every day for a long time I made a choice: get up and carry on as best I could, or slip into a bog and drown. It is a choice anyone can make in a position like mine - you don't have to be "special" to make that decision each day. If you know at the beginning of the journey that you want to live, it's a simple as making the choice to carry on, every day - every day until you start standing up again. Don't let yourself go under: you're the one resource you have.

Regardless of that, now, I am further down the path and able to look back over my journey. I've got to say, it's been damn hard. No two ways about it. I love my daughters - both of them (not discounting A and D, who I love equally) - the one who died and the one living in my belly and it was always going to be hard. From the emotions at the beginning of the journey, to the life changes, to dealing with other's grief (which one can only really observe and try to help with, never control) and the outbursts that come with that whole's been very rough at times. But...

It's also been beautiful. After you get through the anger and the destructive emotions; the desolation and then the crazy feelings, you do - you really do - eventually come to a point of acceptance. For some this can take years. For a certain extent you can control when you come to this point, too: but beware of depression! Acceptance is so much more peaceful. The seas are calm. You're not drowning any more: you're just floating, waiting for something interesting to come along.

I have the Kate Bush song "And Dream of Sheep" on my playlist for this blog (in case of international people who can't access that content) and that song is the beginning of the "Ninth Wave" part of an album entitled "Hounds of Love." It's about a woman drowning in a big, dark ocean, and I always felt drawn to it after Josie died - and still do, now. Here are the lyrics:

Little light shining

Little light will guide them to me
My face is all lit up
My face is all lit up
If they find me racing white horses -
They'll not take me for a buoy.

Let me be weak, let me sleep And Dream Of Sheep.

Oh I'll wake up to any sound of engines
Every gull a seeking craft
I can't keep my eyes open -
Wish I had my radio

I`d tune into some friendly voices.
Talking 'bout stupid things
I can't be left to my imagination
Let me be weak, let me sleep And Dream Of Sheep -

Ooh, their breath is warm,
And they smell like sleep
And they say they take me home -
Like poppies, heavy with seed -
They take me deeper and deeper.

That was me, almost a year ago. Today, it's still me - but now, the scene depicted by the song is like a featherlight veil covering my body. You can see through it, and perhaps if you didn't know what had happened, you might not notice at all - just a thin, light covering of...something...

Like the ocean in this song, I am deeper than you might realize. There's more to me. The loss of Josie has dropped into the darkness of the inside of me and my heart pumps it around my body every day.

If you know pain too, then come and sit with me and be my friend. We don't have to feel it to know each other now - we just have to have been there. Then, we can go out into the leaves of fall and kick them around together - we can feel joy and pleasure and depth and sorrow and love and compassion and calm together, because we know - really know - what real pain feels like. We know how to be grateful beyond the spread of a bountiful harvest. If we want to, we can experience everything life has to offer and not be destroyed by it, and remain thankful...


angie said...

Beautiful post, Jay. I think you are right, there is a point where it is a choice. Sitting quietly with you as you approach Josie's day. With love.

Shannon Ryan said...

you said everything so perfectly jay!!

Fireflyforever said...

What a beautiful, powerful meditation on the nature of love and birth and death and grief and choice and ... well, I think you covered it all. Love you. When I think about Emma (which I do so much) I think of Gideon and Josie too - three babies who left over one short week in October. I'm holding my own daughter close to my heart right now and remembering your beautiful girl with much love too.

Anonymous said...

Describing your connection to your little girl and thus to the beyond is beautiful and bittersweet beyond words. You and your daughter will be in our thoughts.

Emerging Butterfly said...

Holding your hand and kicking the leaves of autumn sounds really and truly perfect today....I would like that so much. Blessings blown your way on the crisp winds....

Jeanette said...

Such a beautiful and powerful post.
This part
"when a woman has a baby, she actually carries that child's DNA around in her own bloodstream for the rest of her life... It's palpable, I can tell you. It's like a permanently activated link to your child:"
explains how I've been feeling,but was unable to express. Thank you.