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Entries in mourning (3)

Thursday
May032012

Cesarean Scar: Heather A.

My son's birth (extraction) story is too long, and probably too graphic to have on the site, so I'll give you links to it and let you decide if you want to link it there (I wouldn't post it outright... WAY too long!).
 
My first son, Jericho, died of a fatal abnormality called Classic Potter's Syndrome. There is no cure or treatment, he was born without kidneys and the cells which make them never developed. He died peacefully, without tubes and wires, in his father's arms. 50% of babies affected with it are stillborn, and the rest pass within hours of birth, mothers carrying babies afflicted do not carry beyond 35 weeks. While my son lived about an hour... I never got to see him alive due to medical mismanagement of my unnecessary cesarean. I fought, but not hard enough, and he was taken from me while I lay unconscious on a cold slab. I was so disconnected from the experience that it took over a year for the grief to truly hit. He was 34 weeks to the day when he arrived. A little early, but chubby and a head full of long black hair.
 
The doctor and nurses that tended to me that night were very unkind, and when I received his handprints the following day it was clear they hadn't even tried to give me something clear. They didn't even bother to unfold his fingers, even inking the top of his knuckles instead. It was pathetic. What I got was partial, smudged and barely classifies as a set of prints. It was devastating.
 
When I was pregnant with him he favoured one side; he always sat there, bum down, pushing against this one spot on my inner hip. I know now that it was his hand that I was feeling. None of my other babies have favoured a spot quite like he did.
When he was taken from my body the only mark that was left behind was an ugly scar. Every time I looked at it I felt angry and depressed: I didn't remember my surgery, I didn't remember his last kicks, his last breath, or see his face while he was still alive. I was angry that it was all I had, and I hated to see it. I still hate it. I wished he'd left something real, like stretch marks, or even padding from the extra weight... instead the surgeons carved me bare and replaced his memory with their disgusting sense of vanity. I desperately wanted something of his to be left on my body; something other than a scar from a surgery that I didn't have any part of, didn't want, and didn't need.
I decided I wanted a tattoo of his handprint in his favourite place. Unfortunately, because the prints were so mangled it took me years of canvasing tattoo artists to find one talented enough to say they would attempt to reconstruct it. Everyone I asked said they couldn't draw the details of a print and at best it would look like a "paint blob" with no definition or individuality... just a generic baby hand.
I finally made the appointment a few weeks ago when I found someone special. The artist I chose took his partial set of prints, and a template that my best friend had provided from her newborn daughter (she was one of the only people present at his birth and death, so having her involved is special to me) and reconstructed his hand using tracings, one little curve at a time. She painstakingly kept all his palm lines in tact (the only part of his prints that was preserved!) and made such a perfect reproduction that it really does look like he pressed his hand into ink and touched me.
 
Now when I look at my stomach, the scar doesn't look quite as bad... It's still horrible to see, and hard to imagine it's really there, but at least now there is a part of my son there too. This is his place, and he has finally made his mark.
 
The first photo, the smaller and uncensored black and white, is one I took less than a month following the surgery: I was trying to show how the scar made me feel.
The second is from the day after I received my tattoo. The scar looks exactly the same as it did almost 5 years ago... but it feels different today.

 

Saturday
Nov272010

Abuela Passed This Morning

Her only child was at her side, reading her loving letters written to her from around the world, translated into her native Spanish. With each letter, her breathing slowed and became more labored; she was not in pain.

After her son, my former husband, read the letters, he put the Classical Channel on Pandora and put headphones on her. As soon as the music was to her ears, her breathing eased, but continued to slow. I like to imagine she melted into the notes and melodies she loved so much, her breath becoming lighter and softer, eventually ceasing.

Her beautiful, wonderful, full heart continued beating, slower and slower, for another five minutes. Her son held her hand and talked her through the end of of her journey.

There is a saying: Be kind to the children for they are close to the other side. Today, it is a joyous day for those children on the other side, to have Abuela to sing them, play with them and to cook them their favorite dishes.

While the tears flow in our family, we are thanking the powers that be... God, the Universe, fate... that we had so much time with such an amazingly strong woman. She will always be an inspiration of strength and power in my mind and heart.

As I wept this morning, I did take a moment to think about what a broad range of experiences she had in her lifetime. Being born into a family with 16 children, living in a house without indoor plumbing for many years and then, as she died, listening to Pandora on the Internet on her son's Smart Phone. I just sat for a few minutes and marveled at it all.

Thank you to everyone who has cyberly kept vigil with us. Your thoughts and prayers were/are most welcome.

Her dear son Bolivar (Bo) created a memory page for his mama, Jacoba Lora , and we will fill the site with love and memories for all that knew her. Selfishly, I want the site to be a place where our kids can go to remember and continue loving the woman we all admired and loved... their Abuela.

Aimee holding Abuela's hands a couple of weeks ago. 

Thursday
Nov252010

Abuela's Baby Boy Shares His Thoughts

I received this deeply touching comment to my Transition post, the piece I wrote about my former mother-in-law and her walk towards death. Abuela has not died (yet), but she shall any moment now. Her son, my former husband Bo, is by her side, loving and touching her as she slowly slips from this world into the next. His comment was so beautiful, I needed to share it as its own post.

Continued love and prayers for a peaceful transition are welcome.

Barbara,

Thank you for the wonderful words.  I'm a practical person as you know. I don't get hung up on a lot of things and I realize that this "transition" is necessary for all of us.  A few weeks ago my mother told me: "I don't understand why dying takes such a long time, I never thought it would take so long."

This made me think of something as she now refuses to eat and is slowly decaying and degrading.  I can't tell you how many people have called me and asked if there isn't anything we can do for her.  People call and pray with her saying that God will make her strong again and she will recover. Some can't understand why she doesn't have a feeding tube! Some can't understand why we can't prolong her... life? No.. I would say death!

It seems that we as a society are so adverse to the death "transition" that we are willing to delay it as long as we can. Even if it means dying longer.  But why ask about a feeding tube? What would a feeding tube do for my mom right now? As you pointed out, an active woman who never stopped.  We used to call her the energizer bunny. At 75 she would put any of us into shame by running circles around us. She doesn't want to prolong her death. How else would you refuse to eat for more than a month? It is a testament of her strength and will. If I don't eat for a day, I get VERY UGLY!

In this process I had long hard thoughts about my ultimate transition. Where will I be? What will my kids think and do? I've thought about the next step for my mom and the aftermath. When she passes, what will people expect? I know she hated funerals. I don't want to mourn as much as I want to celebrate her beautiful life. I don't want to wear black, I want color, because she brought so much color into our lives. She has touched so many people. So many people who I don't even know call me to say that she was like mother to them.

So right now, life for her seems to be just the breaths she is taking... but those breath taking moments are still there when in her frail condition, she still manages to work a smile or open her eyes.