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Glory, Glory

9 Jul

It has been two+ months of a feeling of completeness that I cannot put into words.

I am reminded every day now of a sentiment that a good friend shared with me about having her son. She said that she and her husband could not remember what they used to do from day to day before their son came about. When she said this to me, it had been a few months since losing Demilade and I too, could not remember what life was like before my heart was torn into pieces.

I recently read a blog post by another grieving mother where a quote seemed to capture how I had been feeling over the last two years. The quote from the book, You are the Mother of all Mothers by Angela Miller, says that it takes invincible strength to mother a child you can no longer hold, see, touch or hear. 

I see you walking this path of life you’ve been given, where every breath and step apart from your child is a physical, emotional, and spiritual battleground. A fight for your own survival. A fight to quiet the insidious lies.

Upon reading this, I felt like someone out there truly understood what it feels like to live without one’s child. Whenever a parent speaks of their living child, I wonder if they look at me and consider that my own, although not present, is always on my mind. I read this quote and offered words of encouragement to the mother, the blogger who had just lost her newborn. I wanted to say more. Not only that it gets better and the pain is not so haunting after some time but, that eventually she would find the courage to be present in the life that keeps on going around her. I wanted to tell her that eventually she will get the courage to try again. I tried again.

At the time I was reading the blog, I was about seven months pregnant with my second child and son. While I could offer words of encouragement to someone else, I couldn’t readily share where I was in the healing process because it was very hard to be sure of what the future held. If there is one thing I have learned from Demilade’s loss, it is that nothing is promised from one day to the next. It is important to live in the present. I just had to hope for the best.

I cannot say its been easy because it is experience that has taught me this lesson. For 10 months I prayed for peace of mind and God granted me just that. It is an overwhelming task to be pregnant and aware of the many outcomes (even for someone who hasn’t walked in my shoes) and, to actively work on keeping a healthy balance between being overjoyed and being grounded in one’s reality. I can not begin to explain how important it was for me to be at peace during this time. I shut out all outside noise and tried not to let all of the knowledge I had gathered about preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome, since suffering from it, bother me. Many people experience loss, some are unfortunate parents like me who lose children. It is not a club anyone wants to be a part of.

I now understand why in many African cultures (and many others) a pregnancy is treated as though it is invisible until the baby arrives. I don’t agree but I understand. When one’s life has been transformed by this kind of loss, there are a few lessons we grasp very quickly. One prominent lesson is that very few truly understand your grief and most would rather not have to talk about/acknowledge your dead child. For most people, my still born child was just that, still born and then the next day everyone’s life moved along. People say their sorry and expect you to carry on with life the way it was before your unfortunate life event. For us, for the grieving parents, it is a pain we have to learn to live with every day of our lives. It never goes away. Except with the less than handful of people who may be in tune enough to check on our wellbeing or oblige us by speaking about our son by his name every so often, it is a lonely journey. For this reason, my husband and I decided that this pregnancy would be a personal journey for us and we embraced the custom of our motherland. The anxiety, fear and doubt we felt and then quieted away with prayer, could only be understood by ourselves.

Now here we are. Two months after the birth of my handsome warrior. We did not know what to hope for while I was pregnant. We just hoped for the baby to be healthy. I went through this pregnancy with nearly no alarms and delivered him (after over 48 hours of labor) without any incident. He is healthy and much more than I could have ever hoped for. Akinlabi is a joy to behold and a daily reminder of God’s miraculous work in our lives.

Everyday I look at him, grateful for his life and with a heart full of joy. Everyday I wonder what I was doing before he came along. His face makes my heart smile and, for the second time, I get to experience unconditional love. Whatever I was doing before heartbreak and all, I don’t miss it!

 

Loss, one year later

13 Mar

I’ve heard people say that a parent never wants to experience a child’s death.

I didn’t understand how a natural part of life could be so devastating as to cause one not to want to live anymore.

I didn’t understand it when my mother died when I was 11 years old.

I didn’t really understand when my maternal grandmother refused to eat and was overcome with depression when the 7th (as far as I know) of her 8 children died before she did.

I didn’t understand the sense of hopelessness and doubt that takes over when one has lost a child. I didn’t understand it all until I lost Demilade.

I’ve never been the type to talk about all of the things that I have been through. I am certain most people look at me and immediately think that I have been lucky in life. We all do this. We look at someone who seems like a great package and has it all figured out and we stand in awe and admiration; and sometimes we envy, not considering all the hardships they may have had to endure and the scars that are too deep for all to see.

I relatively do count myself lucky. But as lucky as I am, its been a tough life.

I know loss. My older brother died in 2004. Even though I had lost my mother at a young age, when my brother died, I experienced the finality of death. When the body of your loved one is lowered into the ground and covered with earth, there is nothing more final. That is the end. There is nothing left but memories.

Last year when we buried my boy, I can not tell you all of the thoughts that ran through my mind. Some are too disturbing for me to tap into again, but the one thought that stayed with me was that this was the end of my journey with him. I had only gotten one day to look at him. I’d never see him again. Although lifeless, I felt a sense of comfort having gazed upon his face, holding him and confirming who he looked like. Knowing that he was the spitting image of his dad. I was comforted by the fact that although the worst happened, my 33 weeks with him were not just a figment of my imagination.

All the day dreams I was having of him growing, laughing, crawling, even running were just dreams now. I’d never experience these things with him but he was indeed real. All of these things were  marked final by the earth that would cover him.

So now I would say I understand a bit what it is to lose a child. I can literally walk through the sequence of events in my mind from the moment I was told there was no heart beat in the wee hours of March 13th, 2013, to the moment he was buried on March 18th. Everything flashes before your eyes over and over again.

I still see the flashes, the only difference is that I am not as defeated, hopeless and doubtful as I was one year ago and over this last year.

Losing a child is the worst thing I’ve ever experienced and I now know why people say that a parent never wants to experience a child’s death. The emptiness and longing that results is something I have felt every single day of this past year.

…and the baby?

23 Dec

Its the end of the year. For whatever reason, I’m running into a lot of people that I have not seen for some months now. I never remember that the last time I saw some of them was when my stomach reached out ahead of me. It was front and center. Anyone who knows me would have known I was with child.

For over nine months now, I have been grieving the loss of my first child. The one who’s cry I didn’t get to hear; who’s little fingers never gripped my own; who’s absence left me broken. But I have been feeling one with myself as of late. When images of his face flash before my eyes, I am no longer overcome with sadness, anger or hopelessness. God has granted me some peace of mind.

However, it is the season of holiday parties, gatherings with friends and family and apparently a time for me to be reminded that Demilade is not with us for his first Christmas. I have been to maybe four or five holiday gatherings and at each one I have been greeted warmly with the usual “hello, how are you?” I am never prepared for what comes next out of these well meaning individuals. “And the baby, how’s he?” 

It makes sense. They saw my size 2 body morph into something much more meaningful. They shared in the excitement of the new life we all expected. It makes sense that after an appropriate amount of time, they’d ask how my baby was. And on some level, I really do appreciate the acknowledgment. It is what comes next that I don’t yet have a handle on. My first instinct is to walk away and find a corner to fight back the tears in. However, it has been just as effective for me to respond with the only truth I know. “He is fine.”

He is fine. With God. That’s as fine as he can be.

 

Today, an old colleague stopped by. I hadn’t seen her since January or February but we work with the same people so, I did not expect her to ask me how my baby was. She had to have known. But there I was, in front of my supervisees who have no knowledge of my loss, having to say out loud once again that my son didn’t make it. I can no longer take the time to delve deep into all that has happened to me and my child with every person who insensitively asks “what happened?” when I actually answer the “and the baby?” question. What happened is that my son died and I will not be giving the play by play of the causes while standing in a room full of cheery party goers or worse yet, in a quiet office with random passersby. It has taken me nine months to stand in such rooms, among oblivious people and be able to smile like my life is just fine.

Uttering those simple words in response to this inevitable question help me to believe that my boy is just fine. He is fine. As bad as these circumstances may seem, this too is therapy because tomorrow I know how I will respond.

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Peace which surpasses understanding

14 Oct

Philippians 4:7 (KJV) 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

7 months.

Today is my birthday. On this day last year as I awoke, I was greeted by an email from the Baby Bump alerting me to the 3rd month of my pregnancy.

Yesterday marked the 7th month since Demilade Christian left us. I can finally say and think this without feeling like the ground has been pulled from under me.

Earlier this week something profound happened to me. I was on a work trip driving from Kitwe to Lusaka (Zambia) along with two colleagues when one of them suggested that we stop and visit the site where Dag Hammerskjold’s flight crashed. Hammerskjold was the 2nd United Nations Secretary General. I had no previous knowledge  of this history and when I looked at the untarred road that led to the site, was not the least bit interested in finding out more about this wreckage site or the man who made it so significant.

We drove 4 kilometers to the site and it seemed to have taken ages. I had no idea what to expect except maybe the wreckage itself  at the original point of impact. I mean it was in the middle of bushes and hardly any community around it as far as I could tell. What we found, however, was a beautiful forest of foreign trees; firmly planted on the grounds where the plane carrying 16 individuals had crashed many years ago.

I jumped out of the car and was immediately met with a sense of calm. Perhaps because I was on grounds dedicated to the departed which, to me, are sacred. I took a huge breath in and walked toward the hill with a gazebo atop it. Apparently, this is the site where Hammerskjod’s body was found. I felt uneasy being there but, I proceeded to walk up the stairs that led to the gazebo and once I reached, sat on a bench. I wanted to cry. The image of my son had crept into my mind. and vividly so. But something told me it was alright. I called out my boy’s name under my breath and smiled. I closed my eyes. The wind blew ever so softly and I felt like a burden had been lifted off of my spirit. In that moment I felt peace.

For the short time I was there surveying the memorial site, the thought of my child did not cause anguish or pain. I just was.

During the last 7 months, I have not felt the calm, peace, and joy that I felt in those few moments. I didn’t know how to describe it or where it came from but, was reminded of the scripture above. Truly, I do not understand it and surely, it must come from only one place.

I prayed for peace daily at the beginning. I know I’m achieving it but wasn’t quite convinced. That moment gave me vigor to continue seeking peace of mind. It is possible after all.

I said a prayer for the lives lost and I left the memorial grounds praying that they are at peace. I thanked God for the life of my little boy and thanked Him for this unexpected moment.

Da Hammerskjold Memorial site - Zambia

Da Hammerskjold Memorial site – Zambia

Babies everywhere!

29 Sep

I’m not sure if I just notice it more if every woman on my friends’ list is having a baby but, everywhere I look there’s a baby born. In the last couple of days two acquaintances on one social network have had baby boys; in the last two weeks two others have just successfully completed their pregnancies with live healthy babies. One of these new babies is also named Christian. How can I possibly not wail for my boy???

I’ve kept it together over the last six months and have actively tried not to be outwardly affected at seeing others so happy with their new additions. I’ve attended baby showers and baby birthdays, hoping I can heal faster. However, deep inside, I’d rather be anywhere else! Afterward though, I feel like I have conquered something monumental.

A few days ago, I saw yet another parent flood my Facebook news feed with pictures of the newly born child. I’m sure my reaction was the same as the other friends who looked upon this little angel and oohed and ahhed at the cuteness of the little one. What always follows for me though, is what was wrong with me that I didn’t deserve these kinds of moments. What did I do wrong? And why should I be happy for anyone else (although, I am)? On this particular day, I just cried as I was filled with so much emptiness. Why did this have to happen to me? To us?

Life can be so cruel.

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