Some thought-provoking, holiday-related questions from the medusas at Glow in the Woods, along with my answers. Follow the link for more answers from other readers.
1 Welcome to 2009. What have you left behind in the year just past? What do you hope to find in the year to come?
Left behind: a full decade of grief and loss and life in the aftermath of stillbirth.
Hoping to find: a greater degree of peace & serenity in my life, and a better sense of purpose as I edge closer towards my (eek) 50s.
2 We've just come through the season in which our culture touts cheer and peace and family togetherness rather relentlessly. How did your child's death impact your experience of the "holiday" season, personally or culturally?
Katie's stillbirth was followed closely by the death of my grandfather, who was the personification of family Christmases for me. So the loss of the Christmases I had envisioned in the future became intertwined with the loss of the Christmases I had always known. In the gap between, a sort of hybrid celebration has sprung up... I cling to those memories of Christmases past, and there's enough surviving elements to be able to carry on as we always have, mingled with melancholy & longing for what once was and what will never be, again or ever.
3 If you celebrate in any way through December, are there ways you include or acknowledge your lost baby/babies?
Katie is ever-present for us during the holiday season. Her due date was in late November, and I've written before about how I had fantasized about watching the Toronto Santa Claus Parade from the hospital window with a baby in my arms. So I can never watch the parade now without that picture in my mind.
We attend our support group's annual candlelighting service.
We decorate Katie's niche at the cemetery.
I usually manage to work in a reference to Katie in our annual holiday letter, and our Christmas card usually features something Katie-related (Classic Pooh, angels, etc.).
Our tree is covered in teddy bear angels, Classic Pooh ornaments, and hand-knit baby booties, in tribute to our little girl.
4 Through the year are there any holidays, seasons, or parts of what were once cherished rituals that have changed for you because of your child's death?
All of them. At GITW, Niobe said, "On almost every holiday and holy day, I realize how alone I truly am" and I thought, "Yes!!" I always find myself bristling at the suggestion that "Christmas is for kids," etc. -- and yet, I have to admit, there is some truth to it. Dh & I often find ourselves very much alone on most holidays during the year. Christmas we do spend with my family, but they live far away, & his brother & father are often busy with inlaws and stepfamilies. So for Easter, Thanksgiving, etc., we are often at loose ends. While the moms I know bustle around & chatter about colouring Easter eggs & designing Halloween costumes, I remain silent. I had looked forward to doing these things with my children... and dh & I do some traditional things (e.g., we always carve a Halloween pumpkin), but they aren't vested with quite the same anticipation or enthusiasm as they would be if we had a 10-year-old around.
5 Do you do anything to remember your baby/babies' birth and/or death day? Or will you?
We have several rituals we usually carry out for August 7th. In most years past, I have published an "In Memoriam" in the local newspaper (although I'm debating whether I'll do it every year, now that 10 years have passed). We make a donation to our pregnancy loss support group. I take the day off work, if it's a work day, and go through Katie's box of things. We take pink roses to the cemetery. And we order in Chinese food for dinner, in remembrance of what we did the night we arrived home from the hospital.
6 Is there anything about the winter season (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere right now) that lifts your spirits? Is there anything that especially brings them down?
I grew up on the Canadian Prairies, so Christmas (or my birthday) doesn't seem quite the same without snow (lots of snow!) around. Those first few snowfalls can be magical. And I love Christmas -- the music, the lights, the decorations, the party clothes, the traditions (the food!!), the generosity.
But -- while I can enjoy, or at least put up with winter, over Christmas and through my birthday season, by February, I've had enough. The Toronto area can be kind of grey & slushy during the winter, which I find terribly depressing. I get lots of jokes about my home province & how cold it is, but, honestly? I often find it preferable. Back "home," the sun is usually shining (even if it IS minus 30C outside -- without the windchill factored in...!), & (outside the city, at least) things are white and sparkly, and the snow crunches underfoot -- a sound I miss.
Also, while I love Christmas -- the IDEA of Christmas -- the reality is (a) linked so closely to my daughter, it can't help but be tinged with some sadness, and (b) it's year-end at work, so I don't usually have the time to enjoy it and take everything in the way I would like to. Sigh.
7 During your hardest times, how have you found your way forward?
By leaning on my dh. And on my friends, especially those I've made through my IRL support group and online forums. By writing. By being really good to myself. By taking yoga classes (helps me keep the anxiety at bay... sometimes...!). By realizing that many women have trod this path before me, and eventually, I will find my own way too. By realizing that I am a person of value and worth, no matter what my reproductive capabilities (& if others can't see that, well then, too darned bad). And that I am a mother, just not to a child here on this earth.