Thursday, April 11, 2013
Three years ago, I gave birth to a live kicking baby. I was in awe, mesmerized at his mere survival in my womb of death. My sister and I always joke that as a baby, Thor looked like a snake that swallowed a baby pig with his gigantic newborn belly and goodnaturedness. (Are snakes goodnatured?) Still, a baby Buddha. All smiles and farts. Big belly and huge smile, arms stretched far overhead. His long limbs hang over me now, more than half of my length, the impending man in him stretching his little bits farther than his age. He will be tall and broad and handsome like his Papi. I can see the man in him, and I want to bundle him up and eat his tummy because I can and this time is so fleeting, I feel it gone already.
It hardly seems possible that three years ago happened. I was filled with anxiety and anger and grief and rebellion and Thor. There seems none of that anymore. I'm still learning to live without a baby in my belly, or a child at my tit. And that my body is something is my own.
Thor is so funny. So animated. So emotive. So sweet, and demanding in a way only a three year old can be demanding. How can someone so annoying be so cute? He asks me now after every statement and request and instruction, "Why, Mama? Why?" And I want to bundle that curiosity into bouquets I can give to my most seasoned friends.
Remember when you wanted to know why?
Whenever we leave to head out to the Indian restaurant for dinner, which we do most Wednesdays, Beezus says to Thomas, "Aren't you excited? We are going to see your friends!" And he nods vigorously. The night before he was born, we went for Indian food at our favorite restaurant. I told them I would have the baby the next day, and they cheered and gave me a mango lassi. Now, when we walk in, the men all scream, "THOMAS!" And he runs in their arms. My introverted little baby, the one that will not speak aloud in crowds, runs out from behind my legs, and into the arms of these Indian waiters. By all rights, these men should be strangers, mustachioed strangers in particular seem to instill some sort of inherent fear in little ones, but not Thor. They hold him and rustle his hair and pretend to take his cars, and he laughs. He loves them, and them he, as though in some past life, they walked arm in arm down the street of Jaipur as equals. When he runs to them, I always think of that night before his birth when they held my husband and I in some ancient ritual. They fed us rich foods with cashew, coconut, curry, spicing it up to move things forward. They celebrated without knowledge of Lucia's death or my fear, just because pregnant mamas should be celebrated and babies welcomed. It is then they forever held my Thor in their food, a basket of naan with navartan korma, and watched him become three. During my labor dinner, I let go of the fear and anxiety. I had done all I could do--now I had to birth him. There is a joy in the birthing that I had forgotten in my pregnancy with Thor. Ruled as I was by the fear of stillbirth. The Indian food, the Indian men with crosses tattooed on their hands and red vests, brought in the joy.
Thomas' favorite color is truck, his favorite animal is a truck and he wants to be a truck when he grows up. He only wanted a baby truck for his birthday, and a truck cake, yes, Mama. I wrap him up and kiss each eyelid. He squirms out of my embrace.
"Too many kisses, Mama."
"There's never too many kisses," and I laugh. He screams.
"NOT FUNNY!" He stomps and juts out his bottom lip, crosses his arms. Growls at me. He is Sam's familiar, and I nurture that connection, because it seems ancient and soulful. I buzz around him, and try too hard for kisses. I can see that teenager, not wanting to acknowledge his little brown mama, and me waving like a fool at the curb of the movie theater. "BYE HONEY! I LOVE YOU!"
I have this sense of generations, watching my children, imagining myself as their children's grandmother, already that feeling of what will come simultaneously living full in the here and now. I suppose children do that to you, remind you of your mortality force you to be present. That existential pull and pondering, my death and my parenting and my grandparenting, stood on my chest as I baked the truck cake. Will I do this for his son one day? And if I am here, I will, and if not, then I will be the breath that helps him blow out the three candles on his cake.
My littles are born within a week of each other. My little Thor turned three on the first. Beezus turned six on the sixth. My neighbor says this is Bea's magic year--six on the sixth. Six seems magical to me. I remember reading that six is the age where one's true nature emerges. When I first read about mizuko jizo, there is this idea that being is poured into the body like water, slowly through years. Mizuko, meaning water, represents the idea that the child is all water, and no being yet. The Japanese idea is that this process continues until the child is six. Six is the year you become who you are meant to be.
Six, from my thirty-nine year old point of view, is this place of wonder and curiosity and kindness and generosity. I am in awe of this girl. She weaves flowers into her hair, and tells me stories of fairies and miracles and tries to convince me that she moved something with her mind.
Six. Three. These ages that seem distant and yet feel piled on top of one another, because all of it happened so fast. Beezus, then Lucy, then Thor in three years. Three babies, and a mess of a mother trying to figure out how to do all this parenting and grieving and arting and becoming who I am. When they speak, and think, and make art, and sit silently to clear their little minds, and tell me about the world, I cannot believe how creative, interesting, amazing they are. As I write this, my daughter writes in her dream journal and draws the dream she had last night. She wears fairy wings, and flowers in her hair. Thomas is pretending it is raining, and he is jumping in puddles behind me. My kids. My children. And of course, there is the ache between them that I have somehow made peace with. This acceptance feels natural now, when three years ago, I was absolutely certain I wasn't ever going to feel acceptance, hell I wasn't even aiming for acceptance, or peace, and most definitely not healing. That was not my goal, and yet here it is. Lucy died, and she is still part of our life. I could never imagine how to integrate her into our lives. It seemed so forced to have a dead child and make her live in our family, and yet she does. When I try to explain it to others, it sounds strange and morbid. I think others who have lost children know this life our babies have after they die. She changed each one of us, and I think we are better for her life, wiser for her death. It is the way it is, and we cannot change that. But we have accepted that the past is not open to change, but her life, how we perceive her place in our family, is.
On the night before Beezus' birthday, I told her that if she woke early, she should come into my room and wake me up. I didn't care what time it was. And at 5:50 am, she poked me under the covers. "It's my birthday and I'm awake," she whispered.
I kissed her and wished her birthday happiness, and I saw it was still dark. "So, my love, should we..." And she nodded, "Mama, can we watch the sunrise outside?" And we ran downstairs, she grabbed her juice, and I grabbed coffee, and we took blankets and curled up on the big wicker chairs on the deck, and watched the sunrise. We giggled and listened to the birds and talked about her birthday party. We meditated and I did reiki on her, then we made a garden tea party with paper flowers and butterflies and pinkplosion, and cupcakes in tea cups, and a parade with handmade crowns while the girls held sunflowers and instruments and marched around declaring it BEEZUS' BIRTHDAY!
I ache for things between us to remain trusting and open. When I play guitar, she sings with me. Joni Mitchell and the Beatles and the Stones and when I hear her voice, I want to cry for its beauty. When we lay in the moss, and let it tickle our cheeks and stare into each other's eyes, I always say, "Thank you for letting me be your mother." And she says, "You're welcome." And I remember the year after Lucy's death, when I just stared at her in wonder at her mere survival--breathing in and breathing out. And we talked constantly, and read folktales constantly, and painted constantly, and were just together constantly. It is so different now, but when see that time in each other. This is the seed we plant for all our life--unconditional love and open ears and perfect compassion for one another. It is my wish when I blow my mama candle out this year.