Ten months

Ten months ago today I gave birth for the first time. After 36 hours of induction and subsequent labour, I got to hold Odin in my arms. It was the best and worst day of my life. I met my son but knew that he wouldn’t come home with us.

I’m sort of ashamed to admit that I hadn’t been paying attention to the date and I didn’t realize that today is the 20th. It wasn’t until a kind friend sent a message saying that she was thinking of us today that I looked at the calendar and understood why I had been having a tough day. It’s incredible what you can know and not know.

For the last ten months I’ve been grieving my baby who died. His sweet little face and tiny body; his eyes that never opened; his mouth that never fed. Our little boy who was too sick to stay here with us. I’ve been longing for that baby and in my mind I’ve kept him frozen in time — on April 20th, 2016. Until very recently, thinking of Odin as anything other than a little baby isn’t something I’ve been capable of. For some reason, though, over the last few weeks I’ve been triggered by my wandering imagination. When I see a toddler scamping around in a snowsuit, but don’t catch a glimpse of his face, I fight tears. When I hear a little kid laughing, my mind drifts to a reality where Odin is still here with us. When I see parents pushing a stroller I can’t stay focused on the conversation I’m having. It feels a bit like that sensation right before you pass out. Things get tunnel-y. Voices fade. Things go dark.

Today I saw this drawing on the Compassionate Friends Instagram account and I lost it. I don’t usually find images like this upsetting but this one made me realize for the first time that Odin would certainly have been taller than me. A completely new thought and new grief. Maybe I had been subconsciously protecting myself from speculating about what I could never know because it’s incredibly painful. I didn’t realize how painful until today when this new idea washed over me. It’s like losing him over and over again with each new imagining of what he could have been like. And right now that’s imagining Odin as a teenager, wrapping his arm around my shoulder as we walk down the street. He’d say something clever, lovingly and sweetly conning me into a bit of extra cash to buy a new video game.

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Rationally, I know that grief is not linear so I’ll ride this wave like I’ve ridden the others. I’ll tread water and swim and swim because my life depends on it. To give in to the darkness of grief would dishonour my little guy and the last thing I would want to do is disappoint him. It’s like they say, the price of great love is grief. And my love for Odin is the greatest.

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Scent, ritual, memory

In the earliest days of raw, unimaginable, soul-destroying, suffocating grief I would take out my baby’s little knitted outfit (the only thing he would ever wear) and unfold, refold, unfold, refold. The blue blanket, the white blanket, the blue sweater, the blue hat, and the white booties that were heartbreakingly tiny, but still too big for Odin. I would do this over and over again which I could tell by the worried look in my husband’s eyes made it seem like I was coming unraveled. And truly I was. But it was the only way at the time that I knew how to mother my dead son. Unfold, refold, unfold, refold. After I felt like I had performed the ritual enough times I would hold the clothes up to my face and inhale the soft scent that still lingered (it’s gone now). I’ve heard people say that there is nothing sweeter than the smell of a baby’s head. I don’t know if I agree or disagree with that but the scent on Odin’s clothes was not that smell — the smell of powder, tearless shampoo, warmth. His clothes smelled of something clinical, clean, and cold. I loved it so much and couldn’t get enough. The fact that I couldn’t make it stay is a heartbreak on its own. I’ll probably never know what it actually was but I will never forget it. It’s the smell of my baby and I miss it.