Thursday, May 29, 2008

A complicated sadness

(I wrote this on Sunday night, but wasn't ready to post it until now.)

I didn’t see it coming.

The weekend was full of celebrating. Little Jack had been born. He was healthy and strong. The tumour that had worried all of us since it was discovered on a 20 week ultrasound was disappearing almost before our eyes. The mark that was left seemed little more than a birthmark – a little anti-climactic after the months of tears and angst and unanswered questions that baffled even the doctors.

I was rejoicing to hold my new nephew. Rejoicing to see my sister welcome her son. Rejoicing to see my little niece so in love with her little brother. Rejoicing to see the family all return home to their own house.

I didn’t see the sadness coming.

It snuck up on me. The first twinges came as I watched my sister nursing her son on her couch in her home. I thought it was tiredness from watching a two-year-old for a few days, staying up too late to welcome the out-of-town family who’d come to rejoice with us, and living through the emotional roller-coaster as fear turned to hope which turned to joy.

The twinges grew when I climbed into the bathtub hours later. “I think I’ll have a hot bath,” I’d said. “I’m feeling a little tired and achy.” I thought it would be refreshing. I didn’t know that my body was trying to tell me to escape to a quiet place where I could entertain the feelings that were creeping up in me.

The first tears surprised me. “What’s this?” I wondered. “I’m supposed to be happy. My sister has a new son and he’s HEALTHY. It’s better news than we even dared hope for.” But then melancholy waved its hand in front of my face to get my attention. “Remember me?” it whispered. “Your old companion? It may be seven and a half years, and I may not visit very often anymore, but I’m still with you.”

Then deep and abiding sadness, my old friend, wrapped its familiar arms around me and I nestled in, letting the tears flow. Trying to resist the sting of guilt over what seemed like utter selfishness, I whispered my truth to the bathroom tiles. “My sister got to bring her son home, and I didn’t. The answer to her prayer was ‘yes’. Why did I have to live with a ‘no’?”

I climbed out of the tub and did the only thing I know how to do when sadness creeps in and consumes me – I went to visit my son. At his grave I sat and wept. I wept for the lost years, for the empty arms, for the milk-filled breasts that didn’t get to nurture my son. I wept for the lost potential, for the “what ifs”, for the “what age would he be now?”

As I wept, I recognized – and almost welcomed - the comfortable warmth of tears on my cheeks. These were not bitter tears – nor were they tears of jealousy. These tears were the healing reminders of what had grown to become a comfortable sadness. Adding to the mix this time were tears of joy for the little boy I’ll get the privilege of watching as he grows up – a little boy who bears the family genetics of both my husband and myself.

“Matthew, I miss you. I wish you could be here to meet your cousin.”

As I whispered my son’s name, I knew that I was rich beyond measure for the complicated sadness that had filled the hole his death left behind.


ccap said...

I'm so sorry. And I miss him too.

mmichele said...

Lots of love to you Heather. I thought about Matthew, too. It feels like not enough to say it, but I wanted you to know.

andrea said...

What a lovely post, and being the lucky mother of two wonderful sons who hasn't experienced your pain I still feel your comfortable sadness. This is a wonderful, honest way to acknowledge it.

PS Well done with the fitness/weight loss.

PPS Did I tell you that your pumpkin bran muffin recipe has become a household staple? I love them.

Anonymous said...

Oh sweetie. I wish we'd been able to meet him as well.

I love you, and it's not selfishness.

Erin said...

Praying for you Heather...I'm sorry for you too.

Anvilcloud said...

Great post about a difficult time (difficult to say the very least).

Janet said...

Heather, once again, I'm amazed at your ability to write from deep in your soul with such clarity. I'm so sorry for your loss...a loss on at level so profound that I've never experienced anything like it myself.

I don't think I'll ever be able to express myself with the grace that you find within yourself.


Linda said...

I too, thought about Matthew. Blessings to you Heather. Thanks for the beautiful post.

sarah said...

Oh Heather. I'm so sorry! I've read your blog on and off for awhile and didn't know about your son. Heartbreaking.

We have a son, Gabriel Isaac, born still in 2002. It's overwhelming how that changed my life. . . .

Liz said...

Honestly? With Jack's birth, I was waiting for this post. I can't imagine how you wouldn't have thought about Matthew at this time. Hugs to you my friend.

joyce said...

beautiful heart in you.

Pamela said...

I don't remember if I told you about my aunt. She cried whenever she talked about Norma Carol - her third little girl who died at the age of 9 months.

Aunt B died at the age of 99 -- still very much alert and full of joy for life. But always with that special place to visit in her heart - where she remembered her loss.

Stephanie said...

What a beautiful post that captures the joy and heartbreak of this time in your life. I have been thinking of this post ever since you wrote it, and it always makes me pause in my thoughts.

christa said...

heather, i'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond. being on the road means falling behind on a lot of things... but thank you for the note and sharing your story. part of continuing to tell people about my emmett and his death is that i then get to hear other womens' stories. it's good to not be alone. and it seems more people have a connection to this kind of loss than one would expect.... so thank you for talking about matthew, and it's good to read here about gabriel and norma, and i will think of them along with my boy. i know what you mean that the pain eases, it becomes part of you in a less present way than in the first couple years, but i do think it will always be sad that these little ones are gone. so much love to all of us mothers! christa