Just a little disclaimer: I have been writing all month, just not able to finish edit and publish until this week, so that is why I am publishing a few posts right in a row. Particularly ones about August...
It is August again. When I first came into this community, it seemed all the people I met had August babies. I look on my perpetual calendar and nearly every day is filled with names of babies who died, and their mother's names in parenthesis. It is not my baby I am mourning. It is Roxy Jean that I mourn. It is Samuel Marc. It is Ezra. It is Hope. It is Georgina, Mizuko Star, Tikva, Madicken. It is Noah and Teddy and R. and Katie and Gabriel. It is Aiden. Emma and Chase. It is Lev and Wyatt, and it is Miller and your baby. I would have never met him, or her if they lived. I would have never met Roxy Jean. Yet I mourn her.
I anger quickly. It is my default emotion. My hookable place. When people would say to me, I miss Lucia so much. I would take her back from them.
"You didn't know her," I would spit out the thought, but remain silent. "What do you have to miss? She is mine. You can't miss her. She belongs to our whispers and cries in the night. Don't say her name. You go home to your babies. Leave me mine to mourn."
But I knew they could miss her too. They loved me. By loving me, they loved her. They could mourn her. They could take her death for their own too. She never belonged to me. It took me a long time to understand that.
Lucia never belonged to me.
It is the strangeness of this community of grieving parents. It is the oddity of meeting under these circumstances. Our babies died, then we became friends. In your mind's eye, you see your new friends parent. They are parenting their baby, even if the baby died. And these people you would have never known would be amazing fucking parents. You just know it, because you talk about what you miss about your baby, and what you would do with your baby, and how it would have been if you just insisted they take the baby out of you two days before. These people would be the traveling and reading books every night parents, and playing ball and creating art and listening to the Ramones. You mourn that they haven't been able to parent. Their first. Their second. Their fourth. Their nineteenth. You cry for their loss right alongside your own. It suddenly feels so immediate. You get so indignant.
THIS AMAZING PERSON LOST A BABY TOO!
IT IS SO UNFAIR!
THIS IS SO WRONG!
It snuck up on me. I started grieving a baby in Australia and one in England and one in California and one in Indiana. You grieve for all of the babies you suddenly know about, whose lives are suddenly missed in the world. I fast forward through all the lives never lived--artists and lawyers, athletes and poets, drunks and the person that can always make you laugh. The people I would have never known anyway, those people feel more real than my neighbors some days.
It used to be strange to get a friend request from someone just because their daughter died in the same exact way that my daughter died. It was strange years ago. Now, more than half of my friends on Facebook have dead children. That is how we met. I write status updates about it, and so do they, and we pretend that the rest of Facebook knows who the babylost are and why we post pictures of Day of the Dead and artwork and animal medicine that get followed by hearts, and likes, and loves, and thinking abouts. Probably you are reading and writing them too. And my earth people friends roll their eyes and hide my feed and sometimes mention how fatiguing it all is. But I don't care. The unfriend button is lovely and invented for people bored with parents who talk about their children.
The thing is now I appreciate knowing what other babylost parents look like, and the babies, and the ones that were running around before the death and grief. Everyone looks so normal. And maybe I look normal. Sometimes I look at those pictures from the before-time...could I tell the difference if I didn't know her baby died? Could I tell when your baby died if you never mentioned it, and we were soccer moms together? Would we be friends if our babies lived?
When I went back to Facebook after Lucia died, I would just write two word status updates.
I would write and people would make little hearts, or say HUGS! In two little words, it contained a novel of emotions: I need you. Help me. Save me. Understand I am not over this. My daughter died. I don't know how to live anymore. Send help. Send a cleaning crew. Or just send bourbon. But do something.
There was nothing to be done.
At about seven months, my friend posted something on her wall. She wrote about what it is like to be hit by a taxi and be wheelchair bound. It was a heartbreaking, honest, and darkly humorous piece. Turns out two months after Lucy died, she was hit running across the street in the city. I hadn't quite made it back to Facebook at two months out, so she hadn't heard my news, and I hadn't heard hers. We grew up a mile from each other, played softball together, wrote on the school newspaper together. She wrote a beautiful, touching email to me after I commented on her piece. And she told me her best friend Kenny had lost his baby in the same way I had lost my baby. She told me she grieved for Roxy Jean every day. Every. Day.*
I didn't think I could be more touched by her words. "And, hey, by the way, you and Kenny should be friends," she said. She disappeared again a few weeks later.
Two weeks before I gave birth to Thor, I received a few comments and then an email from a man explaining that he was my friend's friend. He was Kenny. The one she mentioned way back in the beginning. I was a year and a half out from Lucy's death.
Kenny and I started writing slowly. Both my childhood friend and Kenny are musicians and writers. It was a few weeks before Thor was born, so he told me about their new baby. The anxiety, the stress, sadness, grief, all of it from top to bottom was what I was going through right at that moment. He was so honest, and the respect and love he showed for his wife. And he made me laugh, and I made him laugh. And our writing picked up speed after Thor was born. Kenny seemed like the boy version of my grief.
I have always wanted to write about him, but it feels weird. Because men and women aren't to be friends. There may be the idea of sex. Or the idea of the idea of sex. But there wasn't. Because we were just grieving parents who liked to write with spouses who don't like to write. Spouses we love and are devoted to. So we wrote. We emailed everyday. Sometimes more than once a day, if we were both there and needing to talk. I read those email to Sam sometimes, and Kenny read them to his wife Terra too, because they were addressed to us all. There were no secrets. Sometimes I wondered if men and women just grieve on different timelines and where he was at three years was where I was at one and a half. Our grief paths intersected at just the right time. He said his wife's grief had changed, and I know what he means now. My grief has changed too now.
It felt cool to have a babylost pen pal. We don't write nearly as much as we did, but I think he is one of the most influential people in my grief journey. One of the people that abided, made me feel normal, made me feel understood, which helped me understand. And in that way, I will always be indebted to him and his wife, and always cry for Roxy Jean.
I had this imaginary conversation with an imaginary person which is the conglomeration of a bunch of shit said to me by different people over the years when I tell people what I write about and do since my daughter died.
It must be sad to talk to so many grieving women.
No. It's not so sad.
But isn't your grief enough?
My grief doesn't feel as bad when I'm talking to someone else about their grief.
I don't understand.
I have compassion for other grieving people. Their grief might get ugly, or mean, or angry, but it never seems unwarranted. Eventually, I forgive myself for my own ugly grief emotions. I develop compassion for myself.
But still, why keep talking about babies dying? Surely, you have forgiven yourself already. How can you listen to sad stories over and over? It seems depressing.
Forgiveness is not a sudden landing. It is a journey. I have to keep forgiving myself. The stories aren't sad to me. They are just birth stories, parenting stories, living stories. The story I hear is not about death. It is about how to live. But some people I know take breaks from the babylost stories to get through times when they need to focus on their own grief or joy.
See, that is what I mean.
Sometimes when you feel unlovable, you have to love someone else. I feel like I need to give back, because someone wrote about grief when they had three years, someone started a website, and wrote and made poetry and I cried and I missed a stranger's baby.
What do you get out of it, though?
*My friend Faith wrote and sang this song about Roxy Jean's death, and shared it on still life 365, but I listen to it almost every day. Here it is again. I hope Faith or Kenny don't mind. Kenny also has a new album coming up which I will write about. He wrote a few songs about Roxy Jean, which are so exquisitely beautiful.
Enjoy this one.