May 14, 2009

Coming up for air

Dear Friends,

It's been three months since my last post... a long, long time, I know. I have no good reasons for my absence... I guess I just needed some time to myself.

Many of you have written emails letting me know you are still here with me on my journey and I do so appreciate the support and love you continue to show me and my family.

It's been nearly nine months since Christian died and still I have trouble coping with his absence from my life. Will the pain ever go away? I don't think so. And I hope not. This pain has left a scar on my heart that will forever remind me of the most joyful time of my life. On most days, I welcome the constant heartache. Because with it comes the vivid memories I have of my son. Joy, love, loss, loneliness... all feelings which have permanently taken up residence in my heart. No, I am not the same person I was a year ago...when I began this journey. I was innocent naive. I feel I have aged a hundred years since that time.

I've spent many hours in Christian's room. Nothing has changed... His toys, clothes and bassinet are still there....waiting for him to come home. I am unable to pack them away...afraid that by doing so, would mean admitting to myself that he is truly gone forever. And, I'm just not ready to let him go. Some days, I feel this giddy excitement when I cradle the teddy bear which held constant vigil over Christian's little body while he was in the NICU. It's almost as if I'm anticipating seeing my son again...and then reality hits me. The precious few days I spent with my son are all that I will ever experience with him in this lifetime. That bitter reality chokes me. Even now, tears form in the corners of my eyes. I miss my son so much.

This past Sunday was Mother's Day... another holiday...another first...another dismal reminder of what I had...of what I've lost. I suppose it's unnecessary to tell you that it was a tough day. My mood began changing a few days before Sunday... sadness...uncertainty. Would I be included in Mother's Day and all the fanfare which make up the day? I wasn't sure... Of course, I carried my son for 8 1/2 months... took the best care of us during that time. I gave birth to him...made the best decisions I could for him when he struggled to live, and I held him tears covering his face as he took his last breath in my arms. I am a mother, right? I had 4 days and I did the best I could. I am Christian's mom... I was there when he took his first breath....and I was there when Jesus called him home. I thought I would be included in the day... but I was disappointed.

I made mention to Ryan a few days before Mother's Day that I was sad. Somehow, he mistook that statement into believing I did not want to celebrate the day. And that's just what happened. I was so horribly let down and hurt.

We woke up early on Sunday morning because we planned to surprise Ryan's mom for Mother's Day... Since she lives 1.5 hours away, we needed to move quickly to get to Sarasota to meet her and Ryan's younger brother, Mike, for breakfast. I remember waking up and my foggy morning brain hearing Ryan say, "Happy Mother's Day". He said it in a low tone...almost somber for the occasion and I couldn't help but think that I must have heard him incorrectly. I didn't press him, but rather, I acknowledged the sentiment with a wistful smile before I bounced out of bed to get ready for breakfast.

Little did I know that would be the extent of what the day would hold for me. As the day grew longer, my heart sunk to the lowest depths. My first Mother's Day and I would be forgotten.

At any rate, breakfast with Patti went off without a hitch...she was surprised and we were elated to be able to spend the time with her. On the ride back home, we were both off in our own little world... the combination of a hearty breakfast and a long trip back home made for a lull in conversation. We were exhausted! And, as soon as we walked into the house, we both made a bee line for the bedroom for a mid-day nap. At this point, I still held out hope that Ryan would give me a card or letter...something to mark the day. I drifted off to sleep determined to give him the benefit of the doubt...although my rest was constantly interrupted by an awful pain in my stomach. I knew he forgot about me.

I don't know at what point in the day when Ryan realized he made a grave error...I could only tell later on in the afternoon because he was very quiet and VERY reserved. For my part, I fought hard not to crawl back into bed and cry myself back to sleep. I wished the day would hurry up and be over with... I kept telling myself this was nothing compared to what I've experienced in the last several months... I could handle disappointment. But I was on the fringe...

By the end of the evening, our conversation basically consisted of one word sentences...and several, "umm hmmms". There was a huge and vast empty space between us waiting to be filled with some sort of explanation...but it never came. We went to bed uneasy about what transpired throughout the day.

The next day was a blur... it was as if the air was sucked out of the house. It seemed as though we couldn't be near each other. We weren't fighting...we weren't bickering...we just weren't in sync. I got a card in the mail... a Mother's Day card from dear friends of ours...but it was a God Mother's Day mention of my own son... I think that was the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back for me... I was HURT.

I went to bed that night doubting my relevance as a mother...If no one else seemed to think I was a mom...perhaps I really wasn't. I was sick hearted and I missed my son. I kept repeating the words, "I am a mother"....over and over again until I fell into another restless night's sleep.

Everything finally came to a head on Tuesday. I finally asked Ryan what I had done to make him behave this way. The pain in my voice was evident because with each word came a pregnant pause...I had to choke my tears down and it was a struggle. He just said that he was, "going through some things..." and left it at that. Angrily, I snapped that while he was dealing with his issues, he was tearing my heart out. I hung up on him...disgusted with myself for losing control.

About an hour later, he sent me a text message asking if we could talk when he got home. I never responded...too afraid of what I might say to him in anger. It took a monumental effort for me to meet him at the table for a discussion. At this point, I felt indignant... he hurt me and I wanted make sure he knew it! But after I sat down and looked at his face, I realized he was hurting just as much as I was. Instantly, the stiffness left my shoulders and I let them sink down...the weight of all the pain I was feeling bearing down hard. All I could muster in that moment was a pitiful and questioning look.... "Why?...What happened?"

After several moments of awkward silence, we broke the ice... In a fragmented voice, he told me he was sorry....he misread my wishes about Mother's Day and he felt horrible. Actually, his words came out in bits and pieces...but I could put everything together..I knew what he was trying to tell me. I was okay after that... all the disappointment left me and I was OK!

We struggled through the next several minutes...trying to find our way back to the easy rapport we've managed to cultivate over the years. But it was hard... on both our parts. We stumbled over words and had long period of silence between us. But the huge cavern that separated us seemed to shrink with each passing minute. Finally, he got up put his arms around me and told me I was a great mother... We just stood there...hugging each other. Our actions speaking louder than what our voices could communicate. We were back on track...

What amazes me about this event is just how fragile our relationship really is. Ryan and I have been through a life changing experience... we had a son together. And, he died. We have cried together, laughed together...and truly leaned on each other in the most difficult of times. And yet, we still have much to learn about each other. We are still growing in our relationship. Christian's life was the pinnacle of achievement in our marriage. But we still have much to learn about each other and we are still building a life together. There will still be moments when talking to each other can be as foreign as each of us speaking different languages...but we will get through it. We have seen each other so broken...tears and snot running down our faces... curled up in a ball and fighting to breathe... but we are standing today. And we are together.

It wasn't the Mother's Day I had hoped for...but I'm grateful for the experience. Each day I learn knew things about myself and about my marriage that continue to shape who I am. Some days it's not pretty...but then again, I have a long way to travel on this journey.