It all started with a swing. Every time Lucy and I would go on a walk, we passed by a perfect little swing hanging innocently underneath a neighbor's porch. A neighbor I didn't know. Boundaries have never been my forte, so off I trudged through their side yard and helped my daughter to their delightful swing. After weeks of swing stealing, the right moment finally arrived for me to ask "formal permission" to use the swing. Permission was granted and an acquaintance was born. Not quite a friendship then, and even though I haven't seen Meg, the swing's owner, and Izzie, the swing's user, for quite some time, I consider it a friendship now.
Meg sent me the following email a few months ago. She is not of my faith, but she is of my heart. I have thoroughly LOVED getting to know people from all walks of life, all religions (or no religion), races, and backgrounds through this blog. If you know me well, you know I have always wanted to be Jewish (and have been told I look Jewish), so in some ways, meeting all of you is a SMALL way to live my "if-I-weren't-Mormon-what-would-I-be-" dream vicariously through the potpourri of people I have come to know.
I thought about shortening her beautiful email, but couldn't bring myself to do it.
Dear Molly, (and Vic and Lucia)
This is Meg Parker, Anna’s old neighbor with the swing. I have been reading your blog since May, every entry. I have been thinking of you almost daily since May, sometimes for a brief minute, sometimes for hours, sometimes once and sometimes many times. Sometimes I read your blog and it leads me to others that break my heart and simultaneously make me so so grateful. I often find I want to come over to your house and hug you and listen to you talk about Lucy and tell you that you should never ever have to apologize for crying or being sad or wanting to stay in bed all day or for the rest of your life. I have even driven by your house. I see the faded ribbons on the house and happy neighbors and I think of your grief and can’t (thankfully) imagine it. I think of ways I can help and also ways you can help. I think of how we really don’t know the pain the person in the grocery store next to us might be in, or the person helping us with our groceries. And then I think that nothing nothing is really a big deal if we get to be a mom, if we get to keep being a mom, if we get to outlive our children, if we get to live a long long time with our children. That they get us for a long time too, but mostly that we get to see them grow up into whatever it is they want to be, whatever they are meant to be. I thought I understood what loss and pain and fear was before I was a mother, but really there is no way anyone gets parenthood until they are a parent. No way. There is also no joy that comes close to that joy, no reason to live that comes close, no pureness that comes close. And so I guess that is why you live on after the loss of a child? I certainly pray (or whatever it is called when you don’t pray) that I never know how you go on. But my brother says, there is always a reason to go on. I told him, well, tell me if you still think that once you have your own child, tell me then if you think you could stand outliving that child. But you go on because of your faith, because of your loved ones, because of hope, because of the gift of her life with you so far, and in your case for the life you have with her later. You go on because you will have her sibling soon. You go on helping others, and loving others and you have so much pure love in your lives.
I remember standing in your kitchen and telling you how badly I wanted another child. I think I remember telling you that I love so much being a mother, and that I can’t imagine not being a mother. And that nothing, nothing would ever replace a child. But that to have another child would give you a reason to go on, would allow you still to keep being a mom. It makes me sick. I still really really want another child. Because I want Izzie to have a sibling, because I want a bigger family, because I loved being pregnant, loved giving birth, breastfeeding and every other stage of motherhood. But I know that I would give up every future child I want- to have my one child, safe, whole, happy and with a long life with me. But that is not how it works is it? We don’t really get to bargain with the universe I see.
On another note though, I kept waiting to read in your blog that were pregnant and I just sensed that you were! And then the letter from Lucy to her Daddy, introducing the new sibling-how brave was that! I am so happy that you are pregnant. I am so happy that you are showing and have something to hold now. And I bet it is so bittersweet? That your new baby does not have her earthly big sister? That it will be the three of you and not the four of you? But it is the four of you, isn’t it!? I know I am not saying anything you have not thought. I hope it is OK for me to express it. It is ok to feel these things, I know I would. It is so easy to say things like, well at least they are young so that she can have more? Still a baby is a blessing and it will bring joy into your lives again, I know it! I have realized so much over the past few years. For everything awful or hard or frustrating we go through someone might be going through something worse, but someone else is probably having a perfect day (and may not even know it!) And somehow you also have to find a space to love the baby inside of you without fear or reservation and with your full heart! Which I am sure you can do.
My loss this spring is nothing nothing compared with yours, but I lost a pregnancy (a little girl) at 15 weeks along because of a fatal fetal chromosomal abnormality. It was very hard. Because of my age, they did initial genetic testing and said everything looked good at 11.5 weeks, just getting pregnant and not miscarrying in the first trimester at my age is no small feat. And then at 12 weeks my blood work came back and further testing showed something impossible to imagine. You can google it, Trisomy 9, very rare, the doctors said I should play the lottery, that I drew a short straw, etc. It was particularly hard because I had separated from Isabella’s father a week after finding out I was pregnant and figured this is my last chance to have another baby. I went through it all without the support or love of him. I went through it knowing that I could not try again in a few months, that Isabella might never have a sibling, that I might never have another child, so I was grieving two things at once. But this was all going on during your loss and in a strange way it really put it in perspective and made me work even harder at being grateful for what I already had. One thing that has really hit home for me is that the universe probably has a plan. You helped me to see that (even if our spirituality is different it still comes from a place of truth and heart). I cannot force something to happen that is not supposed to. I am trying to accept things such as maybe Izzie is supposed to be an only child? Or maybe I still will have more children in one way or another even with the obvious barriers? Anyway, my due date would have been November 5th, and I think about that and then I think about you.
I thought about you all on Halloween. I imagine a sweet girl with curls in a princess costume, with wings and pink and smiles.
I am rambling. My heart has been breaking for you. Being a mom was all I really ever knew I wanted to do, everything else was a means to that end, was a path or my life until I got there. Everything that I thought would be good about being a mom was so beyond wonderful it was impossible to articulate, everything I thought would be hard was not nearly as hard. Except for one thing, I never realized I was going to be so full of fear and so neurotic. I lived in fear for so much of my Izzie’s first two years, I could not control it, and I felt like I could go crazy from the fear of losing her. When I finally realized that I was not the only parent who had these fears I felt less neurotic. And then I have a neighbor who makes the realization that it can occur real. I have been depressed, scared, neurotic, grateful, obsessed with being a mom.
I drive by Lucy’s tree at least two times every day because we moved right up the street. I miss my daughter when she is at her daddy’s for one night. I want to hear her breath, kiss her goodnight, touch her cheeks, and I get scared that something will happen. And I get her back the next day. I simply can’t and don’t’ want to imagine your life.
But I think of these things. You have a man that you are so in love with, and that is so in love with you. You have a faith that is so strong and so supportive. You have a community that holds you up. You know what it is like to be a good mom, a perfect mom, and you will be so grateful of your next baby (babies?). I think how lucky you are that you documented her life. That you had her room the way it was so right. That Vic was not a workaholic even though at times that seemed like something he “should” have been doing. That you did so much with Lucy in her life-travel, theater, music, photos, outdoors, continued romance with her daddy, just being with her and friends and family. The real job of a loving family and a place of peace you provided. I have so many friends who see their children for a few hours a day and don’t know what they are missing. Of course you know what you are missing because but you did not miss it! I am so lucky that I have never taken being a mom for granted (maybe because I wanted it for most of my life and did not have it until 39), and I did not need a wake up call that I think your blog can be to some. But this does not mean that it does not serve as a reminder in those tiny moments when things that are so not important start to creep in and add stress and seem important. I really responded to your blog about clothes and tv and how unfair people cared about these things. One night Izzie was wanting me to do something, or was not cooperating, it was late, I had work to do, had to put her to bed, had just picked her up from her dad’s, she still needed her jammies, teeth brushed stories and I had groceries to put away. I was tense and stressed and my voice showed it when I said something like, “Isabella, mommy has a lot to do and is stressed and it is late.” And she said, “Mommy, it just doesn’t matter.” At three! And it didn’t. I put the perishables in the fridge and left everything else, took care of her, let her show me what she wanted, relaxed while I read her stories and put her to bed calmly. And I did what I could after she went to bed. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that the house does not need to be clean…or whatever it is.
I wrote this in my blog in August:
One night The blessing of a wet bed at 12:30 am
About three weeks ago Izzie woke me up: "Mommy, I need you to change me, my bed is all wet." She was covered in pee. Her bed was soaked. But, as she pointed out her animal blankie was ok.
I cursed to myself. I cursed at Ben (silently), why didn't he put a pull-up on, why didn't he make her try to pee, why did she have so much to drink so close to bed! It was a yoga night so it was his turn to do all that. I was frustrated with her at first too. I looked at the clock, I thought it was hours into REM sleep, but I had only been asleep for less than two hours and was in the middle of a deep sleep. I was starting to get worked up about being tired in the morning, about not getting back to sleep, about being woken up, about having to change sheets. And then I stopped. And I thought about the blessing. The blessing that I had a sweet three year old to wake me up, a child that needed me, a wet bed to change, a little person to care for, a moment to spend time with her in the middle of the night, that she was safe and just needed new pajamas. And then I said, "Do you want to sleep with mommy?" and she said yes, mommy. So I did not have to change sheets. I just got to sleep next to my baby girl (at three), to listen to her breath, to feel her warm body next to mine, to touch her hair, to hold her hand, to put my arms around her, to smell her. To be her mother. A shift in perception. A blessing to wake up to pee in the middle of the night. And I can only hope that I will always be grateful when she needs me or wants me, however inconvenient it seems at first. Maybe it will be a nightmare, a sickness, a question. I can only hope she calls and asks for a ride as a teenager rather than getting the wrong car...(or maybe she will just be home...safe...not peeing her bed, but not getting to sleep next to her), help with an all nighters’ in college, the phone call in the middle of the night when she goes into labor with her children, when her children are sick and she has a question....to always see this as a blessing-is a blessing. I am so grateful for the time I get to be with her. Even through the potty training.
I partly have the Jackson family to thank for this thought shift with pee in the bed on a work night. I am grateful to them to share their loss in a way that helps the rest of us count our blessings, one precious night by night.
I am so lucky and blessed.
I am pretty sure that I will always think of sweet Lucy and her curls and smiles when I see a swing:
But for you the reminders must be in everything.
Rainbows and hair barrettes
Swings and Peter Pan
Songs and Silence
Nephews and Nieces
Curls and girls
Giggles and grass
And a love that is ever ever lasting
Please say hello to Anna for me. Give Vic a hug-you are so lucky to have a man like him (and I am sure he feels the same). I have been awed by what he has written as well. I have family members who are Tibetan Buddhists and so much of what you said during your grief in the first few months is so Buddhist. It might be interesting for you to read some of their writings. You are enlightened beings.
Let me know if you ever want to meet at the tree. If you need a person in person for a walk, a talk, etc. I am around a lot.