We’re coming into what I like to think of as the calm before the storm. Four years ago in early September, I found out I was pregnant. We weren’t trying, we hadn’t even thought it was possible at that moment, and we were totally unprepared. BUT I was excited and overwhelmed. Around this time I had a scare, I started bleeding heavily. Luckily I got in to see a doctor and at just 6 weeks old, I saw Austin’s heartbeat for the very first time. It was magical, and in that moment I fully accepted that I was going to be a mom. I promised that little heartbeat I would love it, that I would spend every day teaching him or her how to be the best them they could be. I prayed daily for health and for myself, that I would find the strength to be a good mom, even at just 21 years old. It was a hard beginning of pregnancy, I was sick all the time, and as fall slowly took over, we told family and friends. For that first half of pregnancy, for the holidays, and into January, everything seemed good! Great even. And now, every year since, this is the calm. Even with Chantry to distract me, I can feel the storm building slowly ahead of us. The months that will always be the storm season for me. Full of memories and hurt and joy, the storm that wrecked my life, and remade me. It’s coming, and it always will be, but for these months, I’ll live in the calm, and remember a time when I was just so excited to be pregnant and carrying a little soul that I dreamed of raising as my own. Even though that didn’t come to pass, and that soul now lives in a different realm, I will remember these months of joy fondly, and try to ignore the storm that will soon break all over again.
I watch her sleep often. She’s so at peace, and it fills me with a sense of calm. But today, today I can’t feel it. Today as I see her peace; mirrored are pictures of children sleeping on floors. Surrounded by other children, not knowing where their parents are, and if or when they’ll see them again. The contrast of this daughter of mine that is protected and safe because of her citizenship, because she was born in this country, and these children that were not, and are being punished for it, traumatized by the same government that says it will protect her. How is that possible? How can people not see? That these children and their parents are us. We are all simply us. I understand that people are “breaking the law” but I just don’t believe that this zero tolerance policy is solving any problems. And I don’t believe that crossing a border warrants losing custody of your children. It is simply traumatizing and breaking apart families. There are ways to secure our borders without hurting these people. Without taking children and placing them in tents. I don’t know how to fix everything, I simply know that I cannot be at peace until I know our government has stopped this. I cannot stand by as this time goes down in history as one more instance that America was nothing more than cruel. Stand up. Call your representatives, do whatever you feel is right to stop this. Because this is not ok. And we won’t be ok until we fix it.
June 1st always takes me by surprise. I think it’s because I’m always certain May 31st will last forever.
I remember this day three years ago in pieces. I was moved to the postpartum wing, into a soundproof room made for women like me, women that didn’t have a baby crying in their arms. I remember them bringing meals, and I remember not eating anything but a bite of cake. I think my family brought more meals that I ate more of. I remember the smell of the hospital room, and the quiet. And the laughter. Because there was laughter that day, in shock or just because we needed to feel anything else for just one second. Our social worker, Maria, came in twice. Once to bring me a teddy bear with a weight at its center to help with the overwhelming feeling of emptiness. Before I thought that sounded strange, but when he was plopped down in my arms, and some part of my soul felt like it might be ok again, I didn’t care how it looked. And once again to tell us the funeral home would pick Austin up soon.
I didn’t cry that day, I didn’t need to, or didn’t know how. I think the loss was too overwhelming to be put into any kind of physical act. It was too much to show anyone. I remember the doctor coming in, and fretting over the fact that my oxygen levels weren’t normal. I didn’t tell her that breathing was the last thing I wanted to do. Breathing was the one thing he couldn’t do. For weeks after I felt a physical weight sitting on top of my chest. I didn’t know how to explain it, other than my heart physically didn’t want to beat anymore. It wasn’t a will to die, and it wasn’t anything like suicidal thoughts, it was just something any mother would feel for a child. Any mother would die in place of her children, and this was the physical manifestation of that sacrifice. My heart didn’t want to beat, My lungs didn’t want to fill. It took months to not feel that weight anymore.
Today, three years later, I can feel the shadow of that weight, but it’s easy to lose it in the weight of Chantry. As a one year old she’s still not aware of her big brother, but she loves the teddy bear he held in his pictures, she laughs every time I let her hold him. She tries often to pick up the other weighted teddy bear, she’s still not quite strong enough. She is the biggest blessing of my life. She brings constant joy and reminds me daily of how much life there is to live. Austin will be there at the end of it all, but until then, we’ll find the joy in the little things, and the big things.
There is magic here. It hides beneath the ever growing trees and faintly sparkles off of the glass hewn fairy roads we made as children. There’s a shadow of a tiny girl sitting up in her favorite tree, hiding from school work and chores. Another shadow shows a young teenager, dancing her heart out with all of her friends at a homeschool homecoming, it was the best party that year. There she is again, on a the deck, dancing again, but this time with her new husband, young and in love, nothing to fear, knowing he would always catch her. She sits again on that same deck, just one year later. Mourning but laughing as she drinks enough wine to try to forget that her son isn’t there. Trying to lose that feeling of weightlessness that set in the moment she let them take him away.
She’s here again, not in shadow but in life. Holding a daughter that’s just turning one. Marveling at how quickly times passes and how suddenly she becomes shadow. There is a lifetime that was built in this backyard. There is a girl turned women with a lot of life still left to live. There is a daughter that she hopes will find the magic she left here, hiding inside of a mother and her siblings, and the house they all called home.
I want to enjoy these days. I want to laugh and play and love on this perfect little girl I get to raise. But every time, without fail, I wake up and I can’t go to church. And if I do go, I cry the whole time.
My first Mother’s Day after Austin died, we went to our church in California. They were giving out flowers to all the moms. They didn’t know to give me one, there was no baby in my arms. When we sat down, I was already a mess. They then asked all the Mother’s to stand. With tears streaming down my face, I did. I couldn’t not without it feeling like a betrayal of the son that had lived for just a couple of hours. I had to honor him. Honor the fact that he made me a mom. But ever since then, I can’t go to church. Not on this day.
So instead we woke up slowly. And even with Chantry bouncing up and down as she woke up and found her joy, even with her perfect beautiful face beaming up at me, it was still all complicated emotion. A mix of happiness and sadness and pain. Because even in all this love, there is a deep ache for the little boy that never came home. I miss him in May the most. When we are planning a first birthday for our little girl, and planning a day of remembrance for our little boy. Mother’s Day is just one more day that will always be complicated, and that’s just going to have to be ok.