holding still

So, an update. This will probably be all over the place. And it will lack all poetry. But I want to be writing here, so anything is a start.

Thank you all for your hugely loving responses to our loss of Love Child. That is still ongoing. Love Child’s heart likely stopped beating nine days ago, and I started spotting pretty much immediately. Spotting turned to bleeding within a couple of days, but we’re still waiting for my body to let go of the baby. We are hopeful (I am hopeful) that this will happen naturally, but at some point we will turn to Cytotec. I hope to avoid a D&C. I delivered Emmett Ever at home, and I hope to do so with this baby too. For me, the sense of failure is great. It would mean something to be able to do this well, to lose well. For anyone who wants to know what natural miscarriages can look like, here’s a good account. And by good I mean sad, but honest. This is not unlike our loss of E, though in her case, I was told that it wasn’t happening, so the pain just made me crazy. And I fought it. Resisted every single contraction. And the agony of that resistance nearly broke me. Now I’m having contractions every day, though usually only for two or three hours. And I don’t fight them. I ask for them. I breathe through them. I don’t tell myself that they aren’t real because I wasn’t further along. I don’t dismiss what I’m feeling, nor what J is feeling as she loses another non-gestational child. Mostly, we just wait. We feel paralyzed. We want to grieve, but it feels impossible while we wait. I have rarely felt more stuck.

And then, last Thursday, the day after we didn’t hear a heartbeat, our beloved boy cat Hades died very suddenly. I was working in Bram’s playroom while he and his babysitter A were playing, and A called me from the bedroom. Hades was dead. He was curled up in my armoire with his (litter-mate) sister, which was exactly his favorite place to be. He had been sick for a year with kidney disease, but we’d been giving him subcutaneous fluids every other day and, though he was vomiting liquid frequently, he seemed to be doing better: he played his favorite game of make-the-bed every week, he chased B’s puzzle pieces around the room, he dragged his favorite orange mousy up the stairs twice in his last week, he was eating. We opted not to do an autopsy on his little body since knowing what happened wouldn’t bring him back. So we’ll never know. He left in peace. And he left with mystery, not unlike E and Love Child. The many mysterious creatures we love.

Hades and his sweet girl-cat sister Nemesis came into my life when I was only twenty years old. I found them in Japan, behind a door that said, “Caution. Feral cats. Do not enter.” I entered. They each fit into the palm of my hand. They purred and hissed at the same time. I knew they needed love, not caution. When J came into our lives, she signed a contract vowing to share their care with me. She adopted them. We even notarized it. Those were sweet sweet days.

Though I very much hope to have many other much.loved animals in my life (and though I deeply love Nemesis), I have a theory that you only get one soul animal. One animal who looks you in the eyes and understands, one animal you just get. Sort of like your daemon, if you’re a Pullman fan. Anyway, Hades was mine. Now there’s a hole in my heart and our home is full of sadness. Bram is confused. He walks around calling “cat” and “Hadie” because when he did that, Hades always came. And Nemesis is lost. She’d never spent a night without her brother until now. Her eyes are one of the saddest things I’ve ever ever seen. I’m not sure she’ll make it through this, though she and J have a special thing, and J thinks she will. I’ll write more about our puppy-cat soon. And post photos.

And then, last Friday, I finished and submitted my dissertation. After eight total years of graduate school (MA, teaching, PhD) and two and a half years of writing, I am done. And right now, that feels pretty empty. We were going to celebrate. Celebration feels impossible. I was waiting to submit my dissertation to even begin grieving my dad. Grief feels a little overwhelming now. As our friend Jessica says, we have grief fatigue. It is a thing.

There’s an odd stillness here. J and I feel stuck. Slow moving. Trudging, as if through heavy water. This almost.baby is holding still, and always will be. Hades is still. Ever still. Only Bram seems truly full of life, and thank the gods for his joyful self. But for his smiles, these days might be unbearably dark. We have waited for spring, and now spring has come, but it feels like more winter. And so we wait still.

I said there would be no poetry, but I do have this, Mary Oliver. This is where grief can carry you if you let it. So I guess mostly right now, we pray for the courage to let it. Thank you for being here with us. We know you are, and that is something larger than I can explain.

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hands in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent
and my laughter,
as the poet said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it –
books, bricks, grief –
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled –
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

Mary Oliver, “Heavy”

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13 thoughts on “holding still

  1. I feel so sad and at a loss for what to say. Congratulations on finishing your dissertation. I’m sure it’s hard to celebrate amid so much loss but it is a truly amazing accomplishment. I am sending love.

  2. I am so heartbroken over all this loss. And I know that doesn’t begin to compare to what you’re feeling. I am so sorry. For all of it. I hope you find some peace soon, and with the peace I also hope for an abundance of joy. You’ve had enough sadness.

  3. Know that you continue in my thoughts as well. What a tremendously difficult time for your family. In the midst of it, I hope you find a few moments to savor the great accomplishment of finishing your dissertation. It is a genuine triumph…even greater given the incredible challenges, trials, and tragedy you have faced. May the sun shine brightly on you all very very soon.

  4. It is indeed a thing. Ours has been at a remove, but too many losses so close together can make you numb. Congratulations on your dissertation. I hope for only good things.

  5. I wish words provided more comfort. But perhaps comfort is not what is needed as much as company while you feel whatever it is you need to feel. So that is what we can do. Stand next to you (via Internet) while you feel this heavy heavy grief. Know that you are surrounded by love from all around this world.

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  7. Just wanted you to know that I have been thinking of your family throughout many moments this week. I hope some of those thoughts have made it to you three and have helped you feel just a smidge more supported and cared about.

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