Thursday, May 19, 2005

A random column in our local newspaper today really ticked me off. I read it online and the tease said something about a "tough" mother's day. I probably should have ignored it, but I guess it's true that misery loves company. I clicked to the full article expecting a story I could relate to and a woman who might be a local kindred spirit. Instead it was this ridiculous column about how mother's day is "tough" because if her family doesn't shower her with gifts and attention she feels neglected, but if they do she feels guilty about all the times she hasn't been "supermom."

(that's probably a generational reference; apologies to anyone who hasn't seen "The Breakfast Club" 142 times.)

But really, this is what constitutes a difficult mother's day? Please! I was telling John about it, trying to describe how it made me feel to read that, and it's difficult because I don't want to be the kind of person who thinks no one else's problems amount to a hill of beans because they haven't had to tell a doctor they understand there is nothing left to help their son and then ask to hold him while his heart stops beating. I guess it's all in your perspective. I hope this woman never experiences any more difficulty than that on mother's day. I would not wish this pain on my worst enemy, even the evil girl who tormented me all through junior high. But I think before complaining publicly about how "tough" things are, people might do well to think of how much tougher they could be and thank God or their lucky stars or whatever for what they have.

It's not easy. We all struggle with it. I had a good reminder tonight of the love surrounding us when I was looking for an email address and ended up scanning through the hundreds of messages in my "Will" email folder. I don't go there often--it's enough to know that the messages are all there. But every now and then, I re-read a few to recall the love and support that surrounded us while Will lived and when he died. I'm not so insanely at peace with myself that I actually feel lucky to have had this experience, but we are blessed to have such love in our lives and to know it. That's what enables us to endure the tough days.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Nothing profound to write tonight, but I just wanted to check in. It's a fairly miserable, rainy Wednesday night and I have a couple of hours or work still ahead of me and plenty of distraction to keep my mind occupied. Still, as always, it seems as if I'm constantly thinking about Will. This weekend I made prints of a couple of my favorite photos of Will so I could keep him with me. Mary had been out at the time, and as I was slipping the pictures into my wallet for safekeeping, she came home. She asked what I had been doing, and I realized that I'd been talking with Will. I find myself doing that a lot, actually. I don't have extended conversations with him, but I do let him know that I miss him, let him know about things I wish he was going to be around for us to do together. He's such a strong presence in my life (and in Mary's life, too, I know, as well as in the lives of so many others), nearly as strong in his absence as when he was with us.

I ran into an acquaintance the other night that I hadn't seen in several months, and he asked how we've been doing given the fact that 2005 has certainly not been our year. I found in talking about it that the experience of being in the NICU every day has faded a bit; I no longer have dreams filled with the beeps of monitors and my stories about that time no longer revolve around treatments and medical equipment. It doesn't seem like such an immediate part of my life. But my time with Will is still very much with me. It's as if I've been able to focus, much as we did when we were at the hospital each day; all of the surrounding distraction has fallen away and left what is important. I think that's the way it ought to be. Slowly, all of that baggage is receding, and I'm left with the memories and feelings and joy and sorrow of having been with Will. Those photos in my wallet are just a token, of course; I don't need them to think about him or remember what it felt like to hold his hand or read him a story. But sometimes, when I'm talking with him, it helps to be able to look into those cute little eyes and let him know that I miss him, that I'm hanging in there.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Yesterday we joined more than 300 people in Iowa to walk for preeclampsia awareness. This walk was part of the Preeclampsia Foundation's first annual walk-a-thon in 20 cities across the country and was organized in Davenport by family and friends of Shelly, the woman whose story I linked to here back in February. She died from HELLP Syndrome at University Hospitals in January, just before Will died. Her daughter lived though, and Hailey's stroller led the walk yesterday.

Several of our friends joined us and it was another beautiful Saturday morning--a little warmer this week. We walked along the Mississippi River for about 3 miles. I don't know if it's being with friends or walking for a purpose, but these cause/charity walks sure don't seem as long as my regular exercise walks. At the end, I met a few other women who had suffered from HELLP Syndrome recently. They seemed to have had more trouble with it than I did, especially after delivery, but maybe I was just so focused on Will that I didn't register my own physical woes.

We also met and talked to Shelly's mom, who told us her story--truly tragic. By the time they realized she would require a liver transplant and located a compatible organ, she had suffered brain damage and they had to let her go. Her mom was amazingly composed talking about all of this. I think they have just decided that the way to honor their daughter is to tell her story as often as anyone will listen, in hopes that someone else might be saved. One of our friends asked her about Shelly's daughter and she said, "Oh she's right over here." Before I knew it, someone else was standing in front of us with this beautiful sleeping baby girl in her arms. I had conflicting urges to scoop her up and cradle her in my arms or to run far away. I did neither. I stood there staring as the tears streamed down under my sunglasses. She's not your baby, I told myself. She's a motherless baby and you're a babyless mother. It's not fair for anyone. It just is what it is.

Pretty soon she was gone, but the woman who had been holding her came back and embraced me in a warm, comforting hug. "I lost a baby, too," she said. "I understand. It's so hard." We just stood there, strangers hugging for a few minutes, a veteran comforting a newcomer to this sorority no one would ever choose to join. She was Shelly's husband's aunt and she had lost one of her twins 18 years ago. It still hurts, she said, but you learn to live with it. I'm learning.

Mother's Day, 2005.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Yesterday our parents and many friends joined us for the March of Dimes WalkAmerica event here in Iowa City. It was a beautiful day--cool and sunny. We ended up kind of bringing up the rear and it was a good vantage point to see the line of walkers stretching for two blocks in front of us.

The UI Collegiate Council chair spoke at the beginning of the walk telling the crowd about Will and that many of us there were walking in his memory. She got a little choked up talking about him and I'm sure others there joined us in our tears for a few minutes. It's not the most uplifting way to start your day, but I think it was probably a good reality check--a reminder of why we all got up and out there early on a Saturday morning.

Later in the day I went to mass, where I still have a hard time, but I still go when I can because I think staying away completely would allow the sorrow build up to an insurmountable hurdle and I'd never regain the peace I once found there. I started out teary, thinking about Will and the walk and the love and support that surrounds us, propelling us forward as we make our way through this daily jumble of emotions. Then a song began that has always stirred my emotional memories, ever since I was seven and it was played at my baby brother's funeral mass. The lyrics are based on one of the readings we used at the family service we had for Will:

I will never forget you my people. I will not leave you orphan.
I have carved you in the palm of my hand.
Does a mother forget her baby? Or a woman the child within her womb?
Yet even if these forget, I will never forget my own.

Luckily I had some tissue in my pocket, but I'm sure the people around me wondered what was going on. And then, just as the song was ending and I was getting myself back under control, a sunbeam came in through the stained glass directly to the place I was sitting, like a spotlight. My first thought was, "Hi, Will." My second thought was "If I saw this in a movie I would think it was so contrived and cheesy!" But I really did feel love and warmth in that moment, and I believe that Will can bring light to the dark places of my life.

I just need to keep walking.