Half-life.

6 months here and 6 months gone.

It’s Halloween, Samhian, Dia de Los Muertos, Diwali. All of these significant days in several different cultures marking the thinness of the veil between your world and ours. The place where darkness and light meet. The time of year to honor and remember and connect from deep, deep within. From our darkness and to your light. Now I have you over there on the other side so I feel what they feel. I get it now. The trickster spirits, decorating the body, spending time in the darkness, meals at the cemetery, candle lighting. I get it now. How do I get to you? Let’s try this.

You’d be six months old and I don’t know when you would start eating solid food but this half year is my best guess. I would have watched for signs of your readiness and then tried this or that. I would have worried and braced myself and said a silent prayer before giving you an allergen. But now I don’t have to worry about you choking or your esohpagus swelling or anphalactic shock. But I have this freezer full of breast milk. I pumped after you died and my milk came in. It was a deep, thick yellow the whole week I was able to pump. It came readily until I was taken to the hospital myself a week after you were born. Until I sat in the wheelchair, all of the sudden swarmed by nurses and doctors and CNAs, taking blood and setting up an IV and remembering to call your dad and staring at the wall, the now familiar stupor, the shock. I hurt after you were born. I ached and I couldn’t walk and I had a hematoma and gash, so I took vicodin and iburpofin and then morphine when I was in the hospital. But I pumped because maybe there was a mama out there unable to sleep, terrified because she couldn’t feed her baby for some reason. Maybe there was a baby out there that was hungry and needed your milk. I pumped and stored and labeled until it dried up on it’s own after the shock of the hospital. There were mamas and babies but as soon as they learned about the meds, they never wrote back. Time and time again. I was so disappointed. It came because you were here and it could help but no one will let it. I thought about saying, “My baby died. Will you come and take my milk and tell me you’re going to feed it to your baby?”. I thought about not telling them about the meds at all. I just gave up instead. I put your milk in the chest freezer downstairs and it’s been the pea in my mattress ever since. It’s forgotten, lost power pulsing away down there. It was meant for you and only you and you are gone.

Fall has moved past it’s prime. It’s getting colder now, the leaves more brown than beautiful, the world is hunkering down for the winter, the sky is clouding over, it’s beginning to weep, day after day. You were born as Spring was passing it’s prime. Buds in full bloom, sunshine and cloudless sky, warm weather heating up, time for outside and play and ease, more freedom and space. Somehow our summer stretched from when you were born right up until  couple weeks ago. The outside world beautiful and warm and joyful. A perfect contrast to my inside. A buoy. Now, I will spend the next six months or so in perfect synergy with the outside world: mostly gray and blowing, rain and tears, the occasional break in drudgery that reminds us to just hold on a little longer. I’m looking forward to it really. Stitching ourselves back together on the living room floor, playing board games and eating soup in front of the fire while the world outside does our mourning for us. Let’s see how we emerge next summer.

You were on your way here during the full moon,  the pink moon, and a lunar eclipse, all in Scorpio. A half year later almost exactly, back into the depths of our grief, the full Scorpio moon comes again and again into eclipse.

Your service was held on Sunday May 5th. By what I thought was convenience, I scheduled a six month ceremony, to mark all of the above occasions, in my seemingly endless and futile attempt to ease my loss and emptiness, on Sunday Novemeber 3rd, 6 months of Sundays, the same Sunday on the other side of the year. Everything about the last two weeks has been the other side of your life and death and memorial.

There is this huge world of people out there who love you and I wanted to invite them all. But instead I invited those who were with you when you were here: your aunts and uncles, your midwives. Your uncles couldn’t come, nor your midwives so it was me and Daddy and Vesta and Jenn and Larissa, K and M, not far away. Michael brought you a beautiful, autumnal bouquet in the morning and got me out of bed and out of my head. Perfect because I forgot to have Daddy get flowers. Jenn spent her afternoon thinking about you while making us a huge pot of soup. She brought the snake she’s been knitting, so you have one just like your sisters. She offered a ladybug hat, too small for M but perfect for you, just like the one that you wore when you were here, that M wore when she was small. Larissa planted a mother and a baby house plant together for us and dug deep into her childhood seashell collection for a shell with arms (all of us) cradling a perfect spiral (you). Daddy bought me donuts and cider that taste like home. Vesta and I made muffins. I prepared some foods for you in little dishes with a little spoon: squash (from Tamara), guacamole Vesta made, banana, soft boiled yolk. I couldn’t do it myself so Jenn poured your milk into a vase and we arranged a tray. I brought your box from Natalie and a lighter for the candle Daddy bought special.

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We carried it all out to our park.

We moved here for that park. So we could open the door and be in the trees and the grass and the playground with our kids. So, we went there with one of them and for the other.

We found the perfect tree, arranged the tray and ourselves. We listen to Traces of You and Vesta began collecting pine cones and needles, leaves and a stick, placing them on your box and rearranging some of the items until they were as she liked. I had also forgotten to do that on our way into the park, so again, perfect. Your midwife sent you a note that Larissa read since I was unable:

For Harvey:

I will never forget your mom’s strength and your dad’s excitement as you were being born. I will never forget your chubby cheeks and your soft skin.  There are mysterious miracles surrounding your birth (your body is a gift to other babies and your mother is alive) but I wish we could have experienced the ordinary miracle of you being born and hearing you cry. You have shown me that sometimes there are more questions than answers but most of all you have shown me that love endures.  You are loved by so many and that will never change. We love you Harvey.

I love you Monica and Danny and Vesta.  I hold you in my heart today and always.

-Heather

Your sister took the paper from Larissa and read from it what she saw, what she felt in her heart. I don’t know what she said but it was about sisters and brothers and family and love and my heart swelled as much as it broke. She is going to know you as she grows up and she won’t know a thing about you. Just like us.

I tell your aunts how much I appreciate them, how much I need them again and again and again, that they keep coming to my side to relive again and again again. That they won’t forget you ever either. Jenn remembered how she arrived in Portland same day you did, the day you were conceived. You’ve been here together the whole time. Larissa is honored to be here for us and to have seen you, been with you. I put my arm around your dad and his around me.

I ask Vesta if she wanted to pour the milk. I had decided that there is more good in that milk than bad. You and I made it and though through other mother’s eyes it’s tainted with medication, with chemicals, with what gave me the most comfort in the depths of my discomfort, it will nourish something. It will not keep poking me from the basement. I will let go of it and let go of my utter disappointment. I have to turn it around somehow, so I decide I will pour it on this plant, I will pour it in the park, on the grass in our courtyard, on your herbs and on your flowers. Wherever you would be will be nourished by what was meant for you. She is so excited. She takes the pitcher and so happily pours the milk onto the plant. She pours milk onto the grass of the park and I cover it with a huge heart leaf.

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She stayed the whole time with us. She’s in it with us and she knows it, so she stayed. Her little “sister” M and the playground just over her shoulder but she stayed with us. Your dad wept and wept. She stared wide-eyed again at him and then looked to me and I would smile and she would smile and then look back at him. I cry little bits everyday so she has gotten used to me. Daddy saves it all up for awhile and then it all comes out at once. She’s so happy to participate, to tell you her story, to pour your milk, to sing you a song. She doesn’t feel the weight of your absence the way we do, so it doesn’t make sense. Not to her. Not to us either, really. We talk about it later.

We sing. “I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river in my soul” because your sister has been singing it to herself for weeks. One of her teachers at school sings it. We were going to sing “You are my Sunshine” with extra verses written by Jenn and Natalie. I was able to sing that to you when you were here, the first song I sang as I held you, the weight of the truth of it coming down on me only as the words left my lips. None of us could get through this time so we packed up and came back to the house. Daddy made a fire, we ate soup and donuts and the girls played.

We went to bed and we talked and we cried because everything has come crashing down. Because we can’t breath. Again. There is no phoenix in this ash. There is just more and more to dig through, to sort out, to try to make some order of. Nothing makes sense anymore. The structure I had built around me, how we related to each other, our plans for our family and our future, it has all crumbled. So we laid there, both staring at our piece of the ceiling and we tried to make sense. Just like this ceremony, just like lighting the candles, the tattoo, this blog, it’s an empty exercise. Our arms are still empty, there is a space between us in that bed where you are not, your piece of the ceiling unobserved. I make up all of these things to do to try to reach through that veil. Maybe I get there. Maybe I stand there in the park and look at your picture in a box, the food you’ll never eat, the milk you never needed and you’re there with me. Maybe I tend to your altar, clip the flower stems, add and remove and change, wipe down and dust off and you’re there with me. But I always come back to our side of the veil. You are still always gone. And I’m still waiting for you, I’m still in shock, I’m still trying to find a way to wake up. Except when I’m not. Except when I can look your absence right in the face. Except that time or two that I’ve felt you near and not broke in half. I keep waiting to stay full. I keep filling myself up with ritual and remembrance and then empty back out into your loss. That’s how it goes, ebbing and flowing, tossing and turning. The candle never bright enough, the decorations unable to fully disguise, the veil never quite thin enough to reach you.

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4 thoughts on “Half-life.

  1. We have not talked since Sunday morning. It means so much to me to read these words – it brings me a little closer. I was thinking of you, but could not find the space or focus to have the parallel observation I had hoped to spontaneously surface,

    So reading this & seeing photos allow me to share and experience those moments. Thank you.

    The confluence of events at this 6 month point is astonishing and I am so thrilled that you have identified it,

    I feel the emptiness of Harvey’s absence… it is ever present. But I also have empty arms because I cannot hold the 3 of you,

    The love that binds us keeps me afloat.

    1. Once again the pain returns that I try and hide but really cannot. Harvey looks down on my at my desk as I write. He does this to me every day and I love it. I sent a birdhouse for Harvey’s six month birthday. Put it on the tree that is in the picture. Hopefully new life will come out of it in the spring to celebrate his first birthday.

      1. Sorry papa! I forgot to bring the birdhouse out with us! 😦 but it is here and we’ll hang it and Vesta and her friends will enjoy watching the family of birds that moves in. And we’ll think of Harvey every time we see it.

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