Sunday, September 16, 2012

Illuminate: Self Portraiture

I will be reviving my blog for the next few weeks as I experience a photography course designed for bereaved parents to use photography to work through their grief. It is called "Illuminate" and is facilitated by Beryl Ayn Young. Thanks for stopping by.

Week One: Telling my story through self-portraiture and a letter to my babies

Dear Alex, Amelia, David, Elizabeth, Gabe, Madeline, and Rebecca

I miss you. I had too little time with each of you, and I tried hard to appreciate every moment we had together. It would never be enough. I learned so much from each of you. You were unique individuals who brought different things to me, and I was a different person with each of you. Alex, you made me a mother. All of you deepened my experience of  motherhood and the connection to that part of myself. Even though I wasn't considered by the word to be a mother because I had no child to prove it and live it, I was your mother from the moment you were conceived.

So, how am I doing?

I'm enjoying mothering your brother, Tyler. He is bright, curious, generous, and sweet. He asked me to give him a baby brother recently on a beautiful day at our neighborhood park. It was so unexpected, I was stunned silent. I saw a large bee fly by and knowing how nervous he gets around bees, thought he would forget asking. No luck; he asked again. I told him that I was sorry, that I tried, that I wish I could. He pressed for more. I told him his dad and I were done having children. He wasn't satisfied with that answer, but I had to let it go. I had to go. I wanted to go. I wanted to escape. I thought we were past this, that asking for a sibling was a phase all kids go through and that at age 7, we had managed to avoid it.  A few days later, he asked me again. He said there were babies in the world who needed parents and couldn't we buy one of them. (He's seven - how does he know that?) I decided the moment I had been waiting for was here. I told him he does having siblings; they just aren't here with us like we want them. He wanted to know why. I told him some of you were sick and some of you died for reasons we'll never know. I told him I tried very hard to give him a baby brother. And, that I was sorry.

This is a hat I knit for a baby boy. The brother Tyler wants will never wear this.

Tyler took the picture.

I have emotions, thoughts, revelations, all coming from my experience of mothering all of you, and I have nowhere to put them. I feel I need to move on, to be over this, to be done, to not need to talk about it, to put it in a box and put it away.

You know this box. This is the box I kept your mementos in - ultrasounds, a candle, an angel from a friend, special cards from your life. Your belongings are now in a scrapbook, which will eventually also hold letters I've written to each of you. This box is empty, to show that I have pieces of my soul I want to put somewhere. But, it's empty.

I want to put this experience of grief behind me and to start a new phase of my life. I'm nine years out from losing Alex and two years out from losing Rebecca. When am I going to be done?

When am I going to put all this grief behind me and move on to live the life I have? To appreciate what I have and not think about what I don't?

When am I going to stop trying to incorporate you into my life (and then feel frustrated and guilty when I can't find the right way)?
When am I going to stop hating this place because it's where the nightmare of losing you happened?
When am I going to stop crying at songs with lyrics that make me think of you?
When am I going to stop feeling the hole in my heart were a daughter was supposed to go?
When am I going to stop feeling "I want what you have," when I see a pregnant woman?
When am I going to stop resenting families who have one boy and one girl?
When am I going to stop trying to get others to understand?

These are the questions in my mind.
The answer is my heart is....never.

I'm never going to stop trying to incorporate you into my life.
I'm never going to stop resenting this place.
I'm never going to stop crying at song lyrics.
I'm never going to fill the hole in my heart.
I'm never going to stop feeling envy when I see a pregnant woman.
I'm never going to stop wanting what I tried for years to create.
I'm never going to stop trying to get others to understand.

I will never stop missing you. I will never stop loving you. I will never again be the person I was before each of you came into my life. I'm so grateful for that. I'm grateful for you.

I love you.



Reese's mama said...

You wrote a beautiful, honest and poignant letter, Cynthia. I loved that you wrote that you're grateful for not being the same person you were before your babies came into your life. Your pictures are very creative! The empty box picture really spoke to me. Alex, Amelia, David, Elizabeth, Gabe, Madeline and Rebecca are so lucky to have you for their mommy.

Stormy said...

Beautiful words. Oh, I can so hear myself in your words, how you will never stop doing those things. I feel that way, I will never stop trying to make Gideon a part of our everyday lives, I will never stop feeling this hole in my heart, I will never stop loving him. I especially love the picture of the hat, it has so much meaning and even more knowing that your son took the picture.

Chirleen Evans said...

Cynthia, this is so beautiful. You struggle with many of the same questions I do. Realizing that things will never be the same as before, that we are different people and thankfully we recognize the beauty in that... it's amazing how we are all such different women, from different places & backgrounds but we all have so many similar emotions and feelings about our losses. I loved reading your post and look forward to seeing your future assignments!

Anonymous said...

Cynthia, as I read your "when am I" questions I kept thinking NEVER. As I read farther I saw that you came to the same conclusion. I am so sorry for all the pain you have had to go through. It is so difficult to explain to a younger child. My children ask to go to the "baby store" to buy a new one. I tell myself though that our children will be very compassionate adults one day. Tyler took a wonderful picture! Jeannette

Jim and April said...

Thanks so much for sharing these beautiful yet raw feelings from your heart with us! So personal and touching! There are and will always be for me too, lyrics and certain things that make me think of them more and just bawl! <3 It's part of the journey I believe. The picture of the hat that your son took is precious!

Beryl said...

I LOVE this letter Cynthia. "You made me a mother" "I'm never going to stop trying to incorporate you into my life." "I'm never going to stop trying to get others to understand." Those are still words I live by today even 3 years past the loss of our Bella. That first image is a powerful one and speaks volumes for how you feel about your baby. xo.

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