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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Three Years, and Where's the Hair?

Not sure if anyone still reads this, but here we go:

Sean is nearly five months old. A couple of days ago, I gave him my traditional morning greeting: scooped him up and french-kissed the folds of his neck. Kind of obnoxious to do to someone first thing in the morning, but it makes him smile so hard I can hear his cheeks crackling - so I do it anyway. Then without warning - in the midst of my snarfling his neck - I suddenly got a dull stomach-knot feeling.

I haven't had a stomach-knot in a while, so this one caught me a wee bit off guard. It was there all morning, just a vague unsettledness. A mild one, mind you; not enough to shut myself in the bathroom and bawl into the sink with the water running, but enough to feel myself grinding my molars together. It was an unusually cloudy day, too; kind of chilly and Englandy-feeling, perfect fuel for brooding thoughts.

It took a few hours and several glances at Sean's hair, of all things, to finally pinpoint the source of the knot: Zachary's three-year dirthday. It was, I'm pretty sure, the day he was delivered, the day that Kevin and I held our child wrapped in a blanket and wondered how and why we got dealt this particular bad hand.

First, I should say that I stare at Sean's hair a lot. Not just his hair, but his fingers and toes, his tummy, shoulder blades, nutsack, everything. Sean's aliveness amazes me constantly, and I melt into a smitten schoolgirl gazing at the new cute boy in the front row of class. I can't stop staring. An old story, I know: parents being amazed by their children (good thing it works that way, or our entire species would die out). It transcends words, this feeling, and it's really why I can't bring myself to write a new blog about motherhood, or even discuss it much with my friends.

I mean, gawd. Not to sound biased in any way, but isn't he delicious, even with a droodle coming from his mouth? Don't you want to just slurp it right up? This deliciousness means I can't sit around and think about the past all day, not when the present is so...alive (who would snarfle Sean's neckfolds if I were too busy pondering the past? Well, his daddy-o and grandparents certainly would/do, but I'd like to think that mommy-snarfles are the best kind). And not thinking about the past means that the hurtful things - including of course the biggest, baddest hurt - get tucked waaaayyyyy deep into the hidden folds of my heart.

But they resurface sometimes, as in the case of the hair.

Sean's hair is light and fuzzy, the color of straw (aside from the darker tuft of mullet-action at the nape of his neck). And his hair happens to be one of the only daily reminders I have that Sean is, in fact, not Zachary. Zachary's was, after all, superdark brown and thick. So it was the sight of Sean's hair that reminded me, again, that I've got this past, and that there was once another different and separate child. Which accounted, I'm pretty sure, for the dirthday-stomach-knot.

Death doesn't ever die, it turns out, even when awesomely amazing life pours in and eclipses most gloomy things. As I looked at Sean's hair, it felt briefly like the wind was knocked out of me, and I swallowed hard. Right then I really, really, really, really wanted to see Zachary's hair again, just to... I dunno. Hold it in my hand? Rub it between my fingers? Hold it up to the light and examine its follicles? Hold it next to Sean's hair to see how different they really are? Set it on the kitchen counter and think deep thoughts about it?

Didn't matter. I just wanted it. So I set Sean down on his play-mat-thing, and began digging my way into our wreck of a bedroom closet. It took several minutes of groveling around on my hands and knees, yanking out shoeboxes of old CDs and dusty books and other random junk that gets tossed into that dark and scary space, but I finally found a light blue, satin-covered box that ties shut with a ribbon. Zachary's box of Zachary-stuff.

Sean was, at this point, crossing over into grumpyland for whatever reason. But I let him lie there and squawk for a couple of minutes while I untied that box and peeked inside. There were some odds and ends, Zach's "cremation identification tag" (so they wouldn't mix up his ashes with that random dead lady who happened to be there at the same time, I guess). His footprints in ink on a piece of parchment paper. My hospital ID band. But the ONE THING that I really wanted, the most real piece of his body that still exists on this planet, I couldn't find: his locks of very, very, very dark brown hair in a zip-lock bag.

I still can't find it. Fucker. We probably accidentally filed it with our tax returns, or it fell behind the refrigerator, or got used as a bookmark and is now stuck inside that trashy romance novel from last summer. Either way, Kevin's been right all along: "good lord, this house needs to be cleaned!" Maybe now is the time to bust out the Windex and Pledge duster and give this small wooden home a good scrub-down. Time to get organized. Re-file stuff. Clean out that bedroom closet.

Maybe next week. :)


leahjane8 said...

Glad to hear from you and so glad to see beautiful pictures of your Sean! He is quite adorable.

I had a day like yours a couple of months ago and it got me thinking about where I am in regards to my grief. In most ways, having Finn in my life has healed my heart and makes the past so much easier to bear. But in another way, every now and again, having him in my life, kissing his neck folds (do all moms do that?), watching him grow, loving being his mother, makes me feel SO VERY sad to have lost my first baby. In a way I never felt before. Because now I know firsthand just how wonderful and amazing being a mother and having this baby in my life is. Now I know what I missed. What I lost - the time, the milestones, the simple day-to-day routines, the love - is so much more real. It goes without saying that this kind of sad is MUCH preferable, but it is real nonetheless.

"It transcends words, this feeling, and it's really why I can't bring myself to write a new blog about motherhood..." Beautifully put. But I hope you continue to write every now and then!

Natalie said...

Oh just look at that adorable face! I have to agree, he's pretty damn perfect. I love giving my little girl snarfles. Oh how I love to revel in her aliveness.

Sending hugs your way. The dirthdays are hard. I get the urge to pull out Devin's stuff sometimes, maybe just to remember clearer and compare.

Schae said...

i still check in every now and again and get a pleasant surprise like i did today.

sean is utterly utterly edible.

i hope you find Zachary's locks soon...

good luck with the cleaning :P

Big Love, Big Acceptance - or so I say said...

Yup, still reading. :)

Sean is yummy deliciousness!

I read this post and imagined I will feel similarily if/when my dh and I have our next child. I can imagine there is so much joy and celebration in life in the moment, with your living child. I imagine I will have a new, heartfelt appreciation and love for my next child that would have been different with my first. Now I *know* how precious life is. It brought a deep smile to my face to read this update. And I appreciated hearing about how the death of Zachary impacts your parenting now.

Seems to me us DBM have a new perspective on holding both pain and joy, and appreciation for the moment tinged by regret/loss of the past.

Thanks for the update!

Wanna Bee said...

I still read - and I point people in this direction frequently. Not surprised that Sean makes you want Zachary all the more. I still want my babies. I hope the child we eventually adopt doesn't ever feel second best, but a new child sure doesn't replace the old one.

B said...

i hope you find his hair. it would drive me mad. i've lost a copy of one of my scan pics, and i'm still gutted about that. even though i have the original.

i'm glad to hear updates every so often.

sean is gorgeous!

sara/emerging butterfly said...

Hey there...

I just wanted to tell you that I still read your stuff. Your post strikes me at the core; once you see what you are missing right in front of you, in the form of differences, hair, really does challenge the feelings. I live with that as the mother of five living sons. I can't help but to know that something "shoulda been". I snuggle with my boys and I feel the lump in my throat and the thought of "what would they have been like...what would Simon and Alexander have been like???" Every time I look at my sunny kids, and notice their differences, I feel it. Because, it's not enough to say "oh yeah, I have kids so, all the pain can go away....naw, it's not that easy. I almost lost my mind when I couldn't find the little purple and yellow "platy-puck" (duck? platypus...who knows!!) we bought when I was pregnant. Suddenly, the house was filthy and every corner was filed with a fine tooth comb. I found it. But then, I was holding this silly toy with the acute understanding that it was only a toy, and the real issue was that the thing I was missing wasn't a thing. It was my twins.


Also...your drooling over your baby's drool is perfect! I'm so glad you have him to snarfle with. After all you've been through, there isn't a chance in hell that you would ever take his wonderment for granted. Sending you love and warmth...

jetlag said...

hi Monica--just wanted to comment that you're still on my google reader and I still read. I'm KDx1 "only" via miscarriage (can't even imagine what you went through) but I endured 3+ yrs of infertility prior to getting the gift of my own, now 3-month old blue-eyed son. I was disappointed you shut down your new blog because you're an excellent writer and I would love to read about your experiences but I understand it didn't feel right. I'll bet you find that lock of hair sometime when you're least expecting to...that sounds like it would be Zachary's way. Take care--

Do I Have to Be a D.I.N.K.? said...

Your little Sean is too cute! I was excited to see a post from you! Thank you for sharing.

myskytimes said...

OMG.. speaking of the most adorable drooler - ever! I don't see a hint of a mullet... but instead I spot a tiny mohawk. Super-cute.

I used last week's anniversary for an obsessive housecleaning-mission. And man, it felt good... perfect for crying-sessions. I really hope you'll find Zachary's lock again. Pretty sure you will. *cross fingers*


Brenna said...

Your posts always resonate so perfectly with me Monica! You say exactly what I'm thinking but with the perfect balance of humor and sweetness and sadness that I can't quite capture the way you can.

Sean IS absolutely edible. I would absolutely be smooching on those neck folds all day long.

And of course the Zachary comments made me tear up. Sept. 25 (our "dearth" day) is right around the corner. Not sure what that means in the face of the oh-so-very goodness of Tatum's oh-so-very aliveness in our lives, but I'm sure at the very least a knot will sit within my belly on that day.


Reba said...

i hope you find zachary's locks.

last summer we had a grease fire in our kitchen. our whole house needed to be professionally cleaned, de-smoked, and painted.

a few months later, i discovered that the cleaners had thrown away the little dried flowers i had carefully saved in each of my babies' funeral baskets.

i have pictures. they were only flowers. it's ok.
i think you will find his hair again. when i knew something was really, truly lost, somehow it didn't hurt as bad, because i knew there was nothing at all i could do about it.

Enough happiness said...

I am still checking in here. Sean is so adorable!

I think it is great that you take a moment and think about Zachary on his dirth-day. If it was the birthday of another relative who had passed away, you would pause and think "this is Grandma's birthday". Zachary deserves the same.

Hope's Mama said...

Hope's dirth day was the same day as Zachary's (and myskytimes' son, Sky). I was thinking of you on the day.
Sean is just adorable. Thought it was just my boy I had the soft spot for, but it turns out, I have one for yours as well.

Ya Chun said...

oh he's adorable.

I love "I've got this past". It's so true, this grief this past that is carried around, sometimes shoved into a closet, but still there

seattlemomma said...

I can't help but continue to check in to your blog every so often, and was very happily surprised to see your update. I've read and re-read your book because I've missed hearing your "voice".

Sean is precious, and even more so day by day. Can't help but smile when I see his picture.

I hope you continue to write, here or elsewhere; your mommyhood is an inspiration.

And please let us know when and where you eventually find Zachary's hair. As we say in my house, "It's gotta be here somewhere". :)

Amanda said...

Good to hear from you.

God I love little baby boy neck snarfles too. Especially after such a long journey to get to the point of being able to snarfle. Touching post.

* ButterflyChik* said...

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the misfit said...

Somehow I missed this when it was originally posted. I feel like telling you that you have the dates wrong - Sean can't be that old. I feel like you disappeared from the blog radar about twelve minutes ago. And I hope this doesn't sound too strange to say, but, although I am delighted to hear of your new adventures, I miss your fabulous articulate voice in the chorus on my side of things. And I'm so sorry you're missing Zachary.

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy I dropped by. This is exactly what I needed to read. I needed to know that I'm not the only one whose stomach somersaults into the land of loss. I lost my Noa during birth(I'm not sure you might remember me from that homebirth post), now I have Lucas, Lucas is 6 months tomorrow and often I find myself in that place, the place where I am that mother whose baby died, that mother who held that dead baby and kissed her until she was taken away. But wait, I also am the mother who kisses Lucas so much that at the end of the day he smells like spit, my spit.
I totally relate to that awesome feeling that is that endless love we feel. I am head over heels in love with my sweet boy who often reminds me that life has moved forward. He is the smile on my face, the reason I can function.
Grief assaults, it does not knock on my door before coming in and interrupting my morning cup of Lucas or my afternoon snack of him, it is like a drive by shooting of pain, shoots away and then passes so quickly but always leaving that wounded soul behind. The good thing is a mother's heart is resilient. The way I have come to terms is, that is not just life, it is my life and if this is the only way I can have Noa then so be it. You see, I want her, any way I can, even if it is painful, it is what it is because of the love I will forever have for her, my firstborn, my baby girl.

rebecca said...

So glad I by chance checked in to see just in case whether you had posted anything lately.

Your words still move me so much, Monica. I really miss reading about what's going on with you and the beautiful, beautiful way that you articulate such painful things.

And Sean is delicious!!!