I don’t want this to be my life. There is nothing about having a dead son that I want. I suppose that is kind of obvious but it is a thought that races through my head at various points throughout the day. I don’t want to feel proud of myself for getting through each day. I don’t want to feel proud of myself for going to restaurants or yoga class or other places where who I will encounter feels out of my control. ‘Be compassionate to yourself’ they say. “Be patient. You would never be so critical with Eli.”
As a baby loss mom, I have so much love trapped inside of me, wanting to get out, my love for Sidney, with no real outlet, or at least not a clear one. Of course, I love him, and of course, some of that love does come out, as I gaze at his pictures, as I think about my pregnancy with him, or as I talk to him at the cemetery. But a lot of it doesn’t really have an outlet, and it definitely doesn’t get returned to me, with a giggle, a smile, a feeling of satisfaction as I gaze at a sleeping baby in a drunken milk stupor.
I have this great desire to mother but I am not very good at mothering myself. I never have been. So is there a way to take some of this bottled up desire to mother Sidney, and all of the love I have for him, and be kinder to myself (and also to others, of course)? I don’t really know but it’s an idea I have been thinking of. There is physical health. As Eli’s mother, I dropped everything when he cried to nurse or to rock him when he needed to sleep. So is there a way now to prioritize my own physical health, to make sure that I am eating well, exercising and sleeping well? Maimonides, a great Jewish scholar, said something about how the body is the house for the soul, and if it is not in good physical health, than the soul cannot be either. So if I want to keep living in a more active sense of the word than I am doing, then I need to take care of my physical health.
The harder part for me is the emotional mothering, speaking to myself with kindness, helping myself not feel alone and supporting myself as I try to live without my precious Sidney. How can I sit with myself, tell myself to take small steps, be there as I try to do small amounts of work, as I venture out of the house, as I learn to ‘live’ again? This is the hard part. I have a critical voice inside of me, yelling, telling me I am worthless, that I can’t do anything, that even if I did not directly kill my son, I let him die, or my anxiety weakened his immune system, and somehow, in someway, his heart stopped. I write these sentences and I am full of shame. I leave the house and I am full of shame. But if Eli ever talked that way, I would hold him tightly, I would kiss him, and I would tell him that I loved him, that it wasn’t his fault, that he was perfect in his imperfection. So why can’t I do that with myself? I barely do work, paralyzed, frozen by fear of failure, or thinking what I do is meaningless, unable to focus. I feel a pressure to live life more fully since I need to live it for Sidney now too. But if I am living for Sidney, then perhaps I can figure out a way to mother myself, the way I would have mothered Sidney. I would not yell at him as he learned to live again, after the most traumatic experience that he’d ever experienced. I would tell him I was by his side. So why can’t I be by my own side? I don’t know how to mother myself yet, but I am hoping that writing these thoughts out will help me continue to think about the idea. A friend of mine who has dealt with anxiety issues of her own, although not related to the death of a child, said that her therapist suggested carrying a picture of herself as a child, and actually talking to that younger version of herself, thinking about what she would say, and the kinder, gentler tone that she would use. So I will work on mothering myself, in all of its painful glory, as I go kicking and screaming, protesting, since I don’t want to mother myself. I want to mother Sidney. (I should say that I do also think that we need other people, no matter how kind we can be with ourselves. I just saw an article that said that social isolation is as deadly as smoking and worse than obesity, so clearly we need people. But of course, how do you go about building community when it’s a) hard to do for me in the first place and b) I am so damn broken in the second?)
I took a break from writing this and went to yoga. At the end, the teacher said that the hard part was showing up, that what we are in this moment is enough. Enough? I am miserable. I might be enough, but enough for what? (I actually liked this teacher , but I got kick out of this blog entry by Megan Divine on yoga after death. http://www.refugeingrief.com/the-new-yoga/). I am trying to really live in the moment, to be present, but how do you do that when your heart is broken, and the present is without Sidney? It has occurred to me that there would be some peace in being delusional, in somehow being able to convince myself that nothing had happened, and to truly believe it, and to not realize I was delusional. But alas….I have maintained some grasp on reality, however tenuous that grasp may be.
A few other things:
Someone finally asked me how many kids I had. She said, “How old are your children?” I said, “Eli is 3.5.” And I left it at that. She said, “Do you have any others?” Seriously, woman, why would you push me? I said, no, but I wish I had said, “Yes, Sidney. He would be four months today if he had lived.” But I didn’t. I regret this. I didn’t like the woman though, and don’t plan to engage with her much again. She also offended another woman by saying, “I don’t understand how people can have babies in their thirties. My kids were already much older.” Luckily, the other woman responded that she had just turned 35, and was single, and scared she wouldn’t find someone and wouldn’t have kids, and would be grateful to have kids in her 30s. Some people just dont’ think.
Yesterday, my husband and I had a date day. We took a walk in the woods. Then we had lunch and saw a movie in the theater–I hadn’t been since a few weeks before Sidney died, when I had thought to myself how it would be the last time we could have a date night in a while. We saw Come Hell or High Water. I liked it. Except that I cried during the preview for Deepwater Horizon when Kate Hudson watched an explosion over skype, and feared her husband’s death. I felt her grief. And then I cried again during opening credits, the tune of the music reminding me of an old prayer, and then the words a Sidney Kimmel production flashing across the screen. Sidney’s name in print on a big screen. My beautiful boy. But it was a nice day in my new fucked up normal.