“I tried to recall something of him from that time; his face, his hands, his memorable flesh. But there was nothing. Trying to remember was like plowing snow, packing it into a bank. Dense whiteness.”
-Augusten Burroughs, A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father
I cringed at a third day of memory-prompt writing. It seems like a fresh form of mocking to Babyloss women who have so little to remember and a vast ocean of memories they would like to forget. Another example of the cruel unfairness of it all.
I have already written about the horrible memories. So on this weekend of my son’s birthday, I will instead try to capture what was joyful. The positive pregnancy tests were always met with a mixture of thrill and not quite believing, for all four of my children. Two lines were not definitive enough for me, I needed to see the word “pregnant.”
The days that followed would always be blissful. I was giddy in the knowledge that I had a secret – something that I knew, that an outsider could not tell by looking at me. Or maybe that could tell, maybe I radiated that fabled “glow” of pregnancy.
There was telling family and close friends, and then there was telling “the rest of the world.” With Theo, we waited the prescribed first trimester to make sure everything was “ok.” With Quentin, we were much more confident, so I think we spilled the beans around seven weeks. With Nelle, we found out the gender through some early testing so waited for those results to announce both simultaneously, at eleven weeks. With Iris, I wanted to surprise my entire family at a Christmas gathering, so I was nine weeks. In a world of social media, announcements like this are always met with the flurry of congratulations. With Iris especially, also met with the tenderest of well-wishes and prayers.
|Announcing my pregnancy with Theo – March 19, 2009|
|Telling Ger we were pregnant – July 16, 2011|
|Announcing pregnancy with Nelle – June 23, 2015|
|Announcing pregnancy with Iris – December 26, 2015|
I have had to make two other announcements in the past six months: that we lost our baby girls. I had already started looking at cute birth announcements on Etsy, but instead, I had to write obituaries. Remembering their short lives included finding words to capture what they meant to our family.
Nelle Claudia Dej Yang left this earth before her birth on September 4th, 2015. She is survived by her loving parents, Anna and Ger, and her brothers, Theodore and Quentin. All services will be private.
“I will go forth to prepare a place for you / Then I’ll come back to take you with me / that where I am, you may also be.”
Iris Madeline Hnub Yang was born on February 13, 2016. Instead of joining her family on earth, she instead joined her sister, Nelle in heaven, so that the two of them can play together for eternity. She is survived by her loving parents, Anna and Ger, and her brothers, Theodore and Quentin. All services will be private.
“i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) i am never without it.” -e.e. cummings
I formulated their obituaries in a note on my iPhone, as I often do when writing, likely in the darkest hours of a sleepless night. I have not been able to delete those notes yet. They stare at me every time I go to compose something new.
Yesterday, at the water park, Theo wanted to climb a rope ladder that went to a high slide. I gingerly followed his lead, unwilling to admit how terrified I am of heights. Even though there was a net underneath and seemed sturdy, my heart still beat a little faster. I told my therapist that I am not a risk-taker, never have been. I want to know the outcome. My friends find this quality in me to be endearing, and my kids are comfortable in the predictability of our lives.
Who would have predicted two losses, in quick succession, and the encapsulating grief that followed? Writing about grief may have been one of the bigger risks I have taken in my life. Though I have been blogging for years, there is something different about being so unapologetically open. Knowing that people can judge not only my grief, but also my writing is a double exposure. However, in the analytical part of my mind and “risk versus reward”: the restorative value of writing so openly has been worth the risk.