blue sky shining over

Month: February, 2012

story

food and shelter notwithstanding, there’s a lot that i don’t have these days.

i don’t have spit up stains on my clothes.

i don’t have sling tying skills.

i don’t have any idea how to “encourage latch.”

i don’t have caps in my power sockets or gates on my stairs.

i don’t have diaper change arguments with joel.

i also don’t have diapers.

i don’t have an infant seat in the car or pacifiers in the glove compartment.

i don’t have to “sleep when the baby sleeps.”

i don’t have memories of the first look, the first diaper, the first grin.

i don’t have sky.

but i do have a story.

it is a horror story … to this day, some of the awful moments in this story make my stomach drop and my eyes widen in terror.

it is a murder mystery … back and forth, i wonder who is the culprit in sky’s death: myself, God, the universe, the occasional tylenol … and, like in any good mystery, i get the impression that at the end of this story i will find some unimaginable plot twists.

it is a fantasy … a brief wild journey into this fanciful elusive dreamworld of parenthood. sometimes still, like susan in the chronicles of narnia, i can’t quite believe that it was real.

more than anything – this will sounds cliché but i don’t care – it is a romance. a great epic of love running many tangled directions … between a husband and wife, a mother and child, a father and child, a couple and their family, a family and their community, a God and his children and their child who is also his child (because the family of God is confusing like that).

but – and here is my confession – i don’t want this story of love, with all its tangles and intensity. i want another story, a less interesting story. i want a halcyon biography so idyllic that my telling of it would put you to sleep, and you wouldn’t be reading this post because i didn’t write this post because i’m too busy uploading baby pictures to facebook.

and that is where i am today, sitting and pouting in the middle of this transcendent epic of love. i would trade it in a heartbeat for a few mundane spit up stains.

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remembering

this post will be disjointed. the voice that usually does the writing is silent right now, and in its place is one that is considerably dis-squirrel!-tracted. first, however, if you happen to be pregnant while reading this, get up from the computer, grab your phone, and go take a pregnancy picture right now. no, really. i’ll wait.

i have very few pictures from my pregnancy with sky. no cute maternity session photos, no “here we are at fill-in-the-blank resort and we’re pregnant” photos, and not nearly enough cell-phone-bathroom-mirror photos. and yes, i’m a photographer for a living. how does this happen?

well …
lots of clients
+ nausea
+ “i am not spending that much for cute maternity clothes”
+ nausea
+ an epic battle between a cranky pregnant lady and her new camera that refuses to act like her old camera
+ did i mention nausea?
= me, now, desperately searching for photographic evidence that my baby lived and we were a family.

fortunately, i found some. my sister-in-law and business partner documented sky’s growth in a series of photos from our sessions and weddings last year, and i think i like them even better than formal portraits. our time with sky was spent doing things, being active, enjoying his kicky little presence while living together with him, and i love how these pictures stir those memories.

i’m pulling these out and sharing them right now because this is where i am … seeking to remember, to enjoy his life, and to engage with my 2 month old in every way possible. sometimes the remembering is hard and painful, and sometimes it’s sweet and beautiful. 9 months with our little boy wasn’t nearly long enough, but it’s still a long time to spend living in tandem with another heartbeat … long enough to make some beautiful memories.

and so, pictures.

getting a bit paunchy in june at 13ish weeks, right after the catastrophe of “never-chop-your-hair-off-during-the-first-trimester-just-trust-me-on-this-one.”

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this was a downtown engagement shoot in july at 16 weeks. i had already started to feel him move, but wasn’t sure it was him until much later. we went everywhere for this session: st. john’s park and bridge, waterfront park, hot lips pizza, backspace cafe … no pics of my tummy, but it was definitely one of the last times i squeezed my poor baby into skinny jeans.

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finally showing at 23ish weeks, shooting a wedding at blackbird farms in 95 degree heat. my beautiful pregnancy cankles blossomed out of my toms for the very first time that day … it was a special moment.

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30 weeks, shooting our last wedding of the season on a cold, rainy october morning at the abernathy center. the faces people made when i climbed up that stepladder were priceless.

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31ish weeks, engagement shoot at mcmenamins edgefield.

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i love this picture of the three of us (+ clients) demonstrating a pose. so unflattering – all bulgy and frizzy, but so candid. sometimes the process of creating art isn’t flattering, and sometimes the process of creating life isn’t either.

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finally, the last shoot of the season at 34ish weeks. we hung out at a farm, shooting tall grass and cats and bugs and each other (and a high school senior). that cute pic of joel on the right? he’s just making people smile and laugh, as usual, camera or no camera.

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our family …

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monday

journal entry from 1.8.2011

“less than 4 weeks after giving birth to my dead child, i walked onto a college campus as a student for the first time in 7 years. it was january, the dead of winter, the dead of everything.

i arrived early, breathing in the crisp soft dewy bright morning, and sidled in the back of the classroom. history 101: ancient to medieval. studied my fellow classmates, bleary-eyed youths with secrets.

i have a secret. i am bleeding and leaking milk and suppressing tears that wouldn’t come even if i stopped suppressing. i adjust my new dress to hide my protruding stomach and secret stretch marks. i am afraid to look up, wondering if my eyes betray my soul. i doubt it; pretty sure that mostly happens in books. how often do we see past the pain in our own eyes well enough to see it in others’? blind and dark in fog, each head in its own cloud.

and the rest of this fiction is yet to be written, because this hasn’t actually happened yet. tonight is sunday night. tomorrow is monday, or is forever monday? it starts with history 101. then beginning art history. then, much later, spanish 101. the day after, web design 101. 16 credits of coping 101. starting over 101. living with no sky 101.

tomorrow is the 8th anniversary of either the day that joel asked me to be his girlfriend or of our first date. neither of us remember. 8 years is enough time to forget. 25 days isn’t.

25 days since i birthed my beautiful sky. 27 days since he left his body and my body to be somewhere else … somewhere far away, past my cloud of pain and their clouds of whatever and the winter sun and tentative morning sky somewhere over the rainbow refracted through tears that i cannot shed.

it’s my first day of school.”

every day is still 101, but even in a 101 class you start to learn and know. i’m still in history 101, but now i know more about the greeks. i’m still in spanish 101, but i can say, “mi hijo cielo” now.

i’m learning.

running

this post is brought to you by an introvert who is currently more concerned with being very honest for the sake of other grieving parents than protecting her little introvert shell, but who will most certainly regret it in the morning.

i’ve been trying to write all week, but the words haven’t come. i can only write well when i’m being honest, and not when i’m attempting to say profound, spiritual, grief-y things while my thoughts are mostly consumed with midterms.

it takes a long time to realize that. i sit at my computer … why can’t i write. i go over my list of ideas and begin one, then another. all rubbish. all lacking. all dishonest.

running away. that’s what i’m doing. i’m running away. you see, i’m pretty terrified of my grief this week. i wasn’t last week; last week i embraced it and accepted it and shared it and felt whole in it … this week, i’m running so hard from it that i’m breathless and exhausted and wide-eyed and heaving. i can’t blog, i can’t write, i can’t reflect or be alone with myself … i can only avoid and study the greeks. (see aforementioned midterms.) and sometimes even the greeks hit a little too close … all that darn philosophy and oedipus and stuff. darn oedipus.

i shut my mind down … and feel guilty for shutting him out, but i can’t face it. i can’t gaze on the terrifying face of a little baby, my little baby. i can’t know what will happen if i do … the grief stalks, hiding behind trees and jumping out at highly inopportune moments, and i raise my mask, my shield so fast that i can’t get a good look at it….

the power of a parent’s grief is formidable. people have gone crazy from less.

i have no idea what it wants, what it looks like. i really don’t even know why i’m so afraid. the “sorry-your-baby-died-here’s-how-to-get-over-it-except-you-won’t-really” books say to welcome your grief. they say don’t avoid it, don’t put it off, don’t stuff it cause then you’ll get stomachaches and neurotic.

the grief only wants to help, right? it wants to come to me and make me whole, entering and weaving together the tangled and confused and hurting parts, molding art from pain clay.

but not this week. i’m afraid to hurt, i’m afraid to be caught, pinned down like a butterfly. i’m afraid to have my little jar of pain clay exposed, even only to my own grief. i’m just too … little. too little to integrate these hurting parts and collapse under the weight of them. i’d rather pretend they’re not there. (and, coincidentally, have panic attacks. darn sneaky grief.)

but as long as i’m not acknowledging its existence, like my own shadow, i’m going to keep dashing away terrified every time the sun peeks out. every time the sun appears in the sky, my sky.

maybe God is somewhere in that scary grief too, i don’t know. probably. it seems like the type of place God would hang out, a place so humble. but oh no, when it finally catches me i know it will hurt, and every moment will taste of salt, from tears or blood or imagination i will not know and i will not care.

and the pragmatist hopes it will catch me soon so i have something else to write about.

gift

as i endeavor to make this place a resource for other grieving parents, it would be unfortunate to limit posts to only my own thoughts. some very wise friends responded to me after last week’s little insecurity fest post, and were gracious enough to give me permission to share. they wrote some beautiful words on the significance of telling the stories of our little ones.

“one thing i have learned, on the road paved with losses and deaths and lots of love and tears, is that God authors our stories to be told, that the telling of stories is how we express Him to the world. the telling of His son’s story has woven its way into yours, just as sky’s story will always be intrinsically linked with yours.

[…] parents are storytellers in so many senses of the word.”

~ kelli

“don’t be strong, lani. your strength is not enough. don’t endeavor to hold shattered pieces together. let them fall to the ground so the Savior can pick them up and put them back together according to his design and by his own strength so that he might truly be glorified. we are called to be weak. what a relief, and yet how hard that is for us strong women. but he promised that his grace is sufficient, so now comes the daily challenge to trust his promise and rest our vulnerable selves in his hands. praise God that his power is made perfect in our weakness and praise God for the times where we truly become aware of our weakness in order that he might be better glorified in us. He doesn’t glory in leaving us weak, but in giving us the strength and power we require.”

~ michelle

“sky has one massive extended family, and we want to know. it’s joining the ranks of family stories at all of the reunions, and in the scrapbooks, and when we get old and gray and remember bits and pieces of life in between our jello at denny’s.

don’t call it momentary insanity. call it more-than-momentary sanity. […] we want to remember him, because his story is part of our story.”

~ bekah

wise friends.

i mentioned our night nurse from the hospital, heather, briefly in sky’s birth story. as she was preparing to leave after our second night she asked to hold sky, and spoke these words:

“every baby brings a gift into the world. i think his gift is understanding … and love.”

a prophecy from a kind obstetric nurse. sky’s story compressed a lifetime of meaning into a few womb-encased months, and i will spend the rest of my life exploring and discovering that eternal meaning. and sharing it.

every lost baby brings a gift.
every lost baby has a story.

faith

adapted from a 2am journal entry:

i feel such a burning loss tonight, an angry sad
my heart is torn and my breast cries out for the injustice
my stomach craves relief from the gnawing pain
my leaden lungs are too tired to inflate
my arms ache with emptiness
and my head with confusion

i cry, but tears bring no relief
they struggle from my eyes and crawl back into my ears
soaking my face in wet shame

in the valley of the shadow of death
that comes at 2am like no other time
i fear no evil
i have already lost my child
what is left to fear?

i gaze on evil
i cannot rise to meet it
i lie down
exhausted and apathetic

what is more evil than a naked and helpless child
robbed of his life
stripped of relationships
betrayed and strangled by the cord of his lifeblood?

this is not design
this is not providence
this is not God’s will

this is evil
wholly bad
defies order
chaos

the enigma of God is not how a good God can cause evil to happen

no,

the enigma of God is in His impossible promise to make the evil into good
to restore moments that are forever lost
to unbreak the shattered pieces
to balance scales tipped with the weight of the universe

God promised.
(the little child cries in ringing whine, “but you proooomised!!!”)

and if He could forget this promise before my son died
He cannot now

i cry every day in ringing whine
you promised
remember, you promised
i won’t let you forget that you promised
i don’t know how you’re going to do it but you promised so you have to
so there.

 

pictures

just a few. just enough to remind us tonight that we are parents. he sleeps away from here, beyond the heavens … but perhaps not so far away after all.

sweet dreams tonight, my starry sky.

confused

i am so confused.

yesterday was 2 months since sky was born. yesterday i also posted his life story, shared it, and …. a lot of people read it.

at first i was on a bit of a high – not a sunshine-flowers-happy high, but a wide-eyed-oh-my-gosh high. well, that crashed pretty quickly.

i feel so guilty, like i’m appropriating sky’s life for attention. like i’ve usurped his story for my advertisement. the guilt swells and threatens to choke me … what have i done? i put my dead child on display; i laid my heart out naked for the world to judge.

what possessed me do this? vanity? popularity? can i plead temporary insanity?

in posting his pictures and story, i feel like i’m pirating the life of an unknown person. i don’t know his mind. i don’t know if he wants his pictures plastered all over the internet. he is a stranger to me. what right have i to treat him so cavalierly?

most parents get to move past the initial “who is this and did i really make it?!” phase with their babies. i will never move past it with sky. he will always be remote, aloof.

i am torn between the intense desire to share my beautiful child with the world, and the awful illicit responsibility of appropriating the distribution rights to a stranger’s life.

like i said, i’m confused.

stuck

i am sitting in the sky bridge of lloyd tower, where joel’s office is, waiting for him to be done with a strategic planning meeting so we can go home. it is loud. and cold. and the chairs are uncomfortable. and it is valentine’s day, or as i prefer to think of it, the second mensiversary (i.e. 2 months) of sky’s birth.

this is a busy skybridge, connecting the gleaming offices of lloyd tower to the even gleamier interior of nordstrom. posh.

i gaze at the business people striding past. their faces are set, unsmiling, vacant. their eyes unseeing as they walk this bridge they have walked many times. this is a transitional place – the space between their office and the starbucks or parking lot. they’re only passing through. me, i’m stuck here for a few hours.

high heels click. raincoats rustle. keys jangle. nylons make that funky zippery sound they make when you walk. snatches of cell phone conversation … “the flowers were so beautiful” … “he goes, ‘are you kidding me? you can’t” … “and i learned that we are an address based application instead of a” … something in chinese …

and i watch them. i watch these hundreds of people pass by.

every one of them was a baby who lived. the poor feet wedged into 5 inch heels were once pink and pudgy, the bearded faces were soft and kissable, the professional voices a newborn’s wail.

i have a sudden desire to stand up and scream at them. “you lived! do you even realize that? do you realize how lucky your mamas are? do you realize how lucky you are to be on this bridge, in this transitional space, striding between your paycheck and your latte and your prius?! you might have died. your fragile lifeline might have strangled you and you would not be here, you people of the paychecks and lattes and priuses!

but i don’t, because i’m not that crazy. (at least not today.) and because there’s no moral to my sermon. no “go thou and live better.” i don’t care if these people appreciate this skybridge more.

i’m just a slightly crazy mama who ought to be nursing her 2 month old, not pecking away at a computer on the skybridge of lloyd tower.

motivation

this was a journal entry i wrote one week after sky died.

sky’s death was no less unjust than that of babies dying of malnutrition in 3rd world countries. his death was wrong. his death was senseless. it was unnecessary. it shouldn’t have happened. there’s no ranking in injustice. either the scale is evenly balanced, or it is tipped to one side. just as pain cannot be ranked and compared, injustice cannot be ranked and compared. we and he are victims of the same injustice that has caused every human rights violation, natural disaster, and betrayal in history.

his life released so much passion, energy, and drive in my heart. not his death, his life. now that i cannot pour it into him, it threatens to go toward fighting the feelings and the reality of his death. instead, i must consciously direct it to fighting the injustice that took my son. God did not take him, injustice took him. God keeps him safe, loves him, and will make this right in the end. God has already beaten death and injustice and continues to work through people to fight it in the world. when we fight injustice we’re really fighting death, which is perhaps when we’re being the most christlike.

i needed this reminder today. this is keeping me going. this is why i’m sitting in my art history class (and illicitly blogging), learning about 9th century Qur’an calligraphy after crying most of the night. this defines my life and will continue to define my journey.
… how exactly a mediocre art history class is going to achieve that end, i don’t know. but i don’t need to know that right now.

one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.