Sunday, January 11, 2015

Finding Some Beauty Through The Pain

Just before Simon was born, I asked for, and was given, a spot and date to exhibit my paintings.

I naively thought that newborns slept a lot. I was also unaware of how much pregnancy really exhausts me beyond any other kind of exhaustion I've ever experienced, including sleepless nights with a newborn.

A few months before I was meant to bring in my paintings, I admitted to myself it just wasn't going to happen, told the shop owner, and left the dream for another day, when I had a firmer grasp on this motherhood thing or more help at home, giving me time to paint.

And then I was pregnant again. And really really sick. And exhausted again. All. The. Time. With a toddler on top of it.

And then Ben was born. And I had no newborn keeping me up, or busy with feedings and holdings all day. And I have a fairly independent toddler who naps regularly and sleeps very well at night.

Now, I still don't really have a firm grasp on motherhood (but I've gotten good at faking it, and I think I'm a pretty terrific mom), and have the same amount of help around the house as before. But I have time, energy, and grief to work with now. And I needed... SOMETHING... to work towards. Some little way of moving forward instead of just stagnating.

So I asked again if I could show my paintings.

And they said yes. In March if I was up to it.

So I have been working my butt off the last few weeks painting every night and at Simon's nap time.

It doesn't mean I'm OK. It doesn't mean I'm "over it" and have worked through the grief of losing my son. But it does mean I can still be involved in something I enjoy. And that I can still find beauty through the pain (I may or may not have partially been inspired to take the big step of actually committing to do this by an episode of Dr. Who...*). And having that goal has helped me see past the pain and work with it.

It took a lot of thinking and praying to commit to this, honestly. Not only am I so overwhelmed by feelings sometimes that just getting out of bed and making sure Simon is fed, clean, and not in danger of jumping head-first off things is a massive effort, but this would be/is real work. That I am committed to someone else to have finished.

Then there is all this guilt. Stupid, stupid guilt over having free time. Because I SHOULDN'T. I shouldn't have the time or energy to be painting at night or in the afternoons. So while every painting I finish is a triumph, a little "yay me! I'm doing things!", it is followed quickly by the thought "this is just wrong". And working with that takes effort, too, because at first I couldn't do anything because of it. Now the wrongness is changing to, "well, life is just wrong and not how it should be, without my second son, but I can work with it, and through it, and try to accept the wrongness as just a part of a "normal" life".

*I do NOT compare myself to Van Gough. I am a ridiculous amateur who is half decent with a brush, not a master of putting color and light and emotion on canvas. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Yes I'm posting this a bit late. I have reasons. Which will come in the next post. Also in this one. 

Christmas was an interesting combination of fun, relaxed, and heart-wrenchingly painful.

It was Simon's second Christmas and, at 19 months, he still doesn't GET it, but was old enough to actually enjoy opening gifts and playing with them. 

Reading Miki by Stephen Mackey

For 10 minutes. Then he discovered wrapping paper and boxes and the same stuff he takes out of the kitchen cupboards every day.

And while seeing him SUPER excited to open up his new cars and trucks was quite fun, when he put those off to the side because he opened up the books we'd gotten him while we were in Hobart, and sat on his daddy's lap for 15 minutes asking to be read to, my heart swelled with pride and melted a little bit. Because my child loves books! And I don't know that there is anything he can do at this age that would make me prouder.

It was so nice to have a quiet Christmas morning, just the three of us. To enjoy Simon's happiness and at the same time remember that we should have had little Ben with us, too, to share toys with, and kisses, and have pictures of his first Christmas. And we needed that quiet time together, the three of us, to remember, to cry, to laugh, and to prepare for the big family Christmas day with everyone from my husband's side of the family. 

We love ham.
The night before I'd made a really nice Christmas Eve dinner of ham and veggies. And home-made cooked egg nog. Oh. My. YUM. We ate leftover cold ham for breakfast with, what is becoming kind of a tradition for us, fresh, flaky biscuits and eggs. We try to keep it small because Christmas lunch with my husband's family tends to be HUGE. And then they eat the leftovers cold for dinner. It's quite delicious.

No gingerbread house or TARDIS this year. Just plain cookies.
I tried adding to it, at least for immediate family members and some choice friends, anyway, by baking gifts this year. A combination of gingerbread, almond roca, and some chocolate chip cookie dough truffles (I can't choose a favorite. They were all fantastic to, um, taste-test...). I let Simon "help" me this year. Since gingerbread dough has no egg in it, I thought he could play with some of the dough while I made the cookies. Turns out, Simon LOVES gingerbread (he now ASKS for it yelling "Dindinbeh!") and immediately stuffed the bits of dough in his mouth and yelled for more. So, not wanting a toddler hyped up on sugar, I put a stop to his "helping" and gave him rice puffs instead. Later, he learned the art of stealing cookies while I am distracted frosting them. Was he helpful? No. Was it annoying? No. I decided when I started that I was going to enjoy the time with him no matter what. We spent time together doing things. Well worth loosing some gingerbread and time baking to make the memories I now have of him!
Bites of heaven.
I mean eggless chocolate chip cookie dough truffles.

This year was honestly probably the most relaxed and nice Christmas we've been to. 

Except that by the end, I had had more than enough socializing and pretending that I was ok. Because I wasn't. The one and only time I mentioned Ben's name and being in the hospital was during a legitimate story I was asked about (why Simon was running around singing, "Die Die Die!". It's from the song Dumb Ways to Die, which I had on my tablet the first time we were in the hospital waiting for scan results and ran out of ways to entertain Simon. So we let him watch it and he is kind of obsessed with it now). The people listening actually turned away from me. I mean legitimately turned their backs and stopped looking at me. To say it was hurtful would be downplaying what that felt like. It was one of those moments where I was tempted to yell "I DON'T HAVE A DISEASE!". I get that I am the face of pain to them right now, and they don't know what to do, but really, it was probably one of the worst things they could have done. Well, that, and ignore me. Which they did too. It was super fun, let me tell you...

You can use tractors and trucks to make cookies.
But Simon had fun. And that made most of it worth it. And by the end of the night, at home with Simon in bed, sitting with Phillip, a glass of wine, and watching Elf (after shedding copious amounts of tears, because you can't cry while watching Elf. It's too funny), I could say it was a nice Christmas with my little family. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Silent No More

A fair warning to anyone who reads this blog: I will talk about my dead son.

Apparently, the fact that I HAVE a dead son and mourn his loss makes people uncomfortable.

The fact that I am slowly gaining the strength and courage to actually talk about him, and the trauma of loosing him, makes people more uncomfortable.

And so I warn you, I will not be silent about it. It is a fact and a pain that permeates every facet of our lives now. And I will not ignore it. 

And if that bothers you, stop reading. Stop following. 

I tell you this not to spare your feelings, not to make you less comfortable. Because I don't care about your feelings right now.

I care about mine. 

I care about my husband's.

And we have, in a short time, already been very very hurt by people who feel uncomfortable around our grief that, even if we tried to hide it, pours from us. 

And we no longer have time for that. We no longer have time for people who want us to stay silent because it might upset them more and because THEY feel uncomfortable.

We lost a child. If YOU feel uncomfortable, think about how we feel. WE now get to deal with this loss, with our feelings,  in what way we choose. YOU get to choose a new way.

And if you are among those that have rallied around us in prayer, thoughts, and kind words...

Thank you. You have given comfort in ways that you can not imagine.