and if you look, you look through me

this sunday is maia’s birthday. i say it matter of fact like that because i am not sure how else to say it. i wish i knew the words large enough to convey the breadth of emotion that this time of year brings, but i am not sure they exist.

her first birthday was a tough one, the pain still incredibly real and sadness only a stones throw away. i spent it alone that year, outside in the sun. marko didn’t want to go out, staying in bed was his wish, and so it was. then last year we decided last minute to rent a car and spend the day in steveston with our new camera. cohen was there in my belly kicking at the sun that afternoon and the knowledge of him made the day brighter, easier somehow. this year he is here and he is healthy, and he has brought back a joy into our lives that we had forgotten. the pain isn’t as deep anymore. cohen didn’t replace her, he didn’t make us forget, he just reminded us that it is possible to be happy, that it is possible to have things work out in the end.

i don’t often talk about maia here or my experience with grief, opting instead to keep most of that time locked away in a private place. i sometimes wonder if it is because I am afraid of what others will think, that they might trivialize it or judge me for needing to speak, and sometimes i think it is because i don’t want to make others uncomfortable. truthfully though, i suspect it is just too private a thing to put into words, too close to the heart to make sense to anyone other than me.

i wrote the following journal entry in december of 2004, eight months after maia was born. it was the beginning of what turned out to be the hardest month of my life. i found it while looking through the past tonight and i thought i would share it, i don’t know why, maybe just as a way of saying what i feel without having to find new words.

"i don't know if it is the wet west coast weather we are having, but i am sure singing the blues tonight. i was trying to figure out just what it is, to pinpoint the exact problem so as to work out some sort of solution and i have to tell you it's tough. i have said it before but it's worth repeating, i used to believe that grief was a thing that came to you in a tangible form. like when my grandma died i was sad that she died and it was a very palpable sadness, i was aware of it's origins and most of the time i could continue on, it was only in the moments that i thought of her in which i felt sad. she was old, i knew that she would die one day. but when someone really close to you dies tragically, the grief is nothing like the grandma grief. this other grief becomes you, without you even acknowledging it.

do i think about maia every five minutes? no i guess i don't, or maybe i do and don't realize it, but my life has become this enormous void. this emptiness is all pervasive. i can be sitting reading a funny book and just start crying, and when marko says why? i sputter out; i don't know i am just so sad. i am so sad i don't even remember what it was like to not be sad. i am so sad that even in the happy moments it is lurking behind the smile. i have become one of those people who are constantly asked, are you alright, because this hole inside me is visible to others. it prevents me from moving ahead. some days i think the only thing that will fill the hole is another baby. to have an outcome that contradicts the first. but what if, like so many other things, it turns out i am wrong? don't get me wrong, it has gotten better. i guess the difference is that before, months ago when this was all still new, i thought when people said it gets better, they meant it would go away, well not go away but that somehow i could salvage a piece of my old life out of the rubble. but the truth is it gets better because you grow accustomed to the idea of the loss, you absorb it, digest it and continue. but it sits inside of you and affects everything you do.

i guess tonight i am just feeling particularly affected. i just wish more than anything i could go back to the way things were. as the year comes to a close i find myself asking...can i give it back? i would give just about anything to have you say yes, on nights like tonight i would even give back the memory of her."

i now know that i wouldn’t give back the memory. it is still one of my most prized possessions. a day that came and changed me forever, in a million different ways that could never accurately be named.

she was born on earth day and every year i have managed to celebrate her birth outside. this year, after much fence sitting (and weather forecast watching), we have decided to take cohen camping overnight to a local provincial campground. i know it sounds crazy (and cold), but i couldn’t think of a better way to remember my daughter, the first baby i ever knew, then by sitting under a tree looking up at the sky.


juno said...

your writing is so beautiful, so perfect, so touching. I can only imagine the depth of this feeling. i wish you a wonderful trip with your beautiful family.

Jennica said...

Now I understand why you were lugging stuff to a car a few hours ago...

Thank you for sharing your journal entry. I'm not sure what I can say except I'm glad you have happiness, and I'm glad you are able to remember Maia, too.

lori said...

i hope you have a wonderful time camping.
thank you so much for sharing your journal entry... it was really beautiful to read.

Trish said...

sending hugs your way. I hope you have a good (special) weekend.

m said...

I keep coming back to read this post and struggling with what to write. While your loss seems insurmountable (to me, anyway), the way you are living with it is so admirable. I know that you don't share a lot of it, and perhaps inside you are different than what you appear, but whenever we've spoken of Maia, you have such grace, strength and honesty. So admirable and inspirational.

I will always think of Earth Day a little differently now. This is a good thing. Thank you for sharing this.

Kleja said...

T, I have also been returning to this post, reading it and struggling with what I want to say about it. I still don't really know you that well. I guess I just want to tell you how much I admire your courage and willingness to allow love to live in your heart along side the pain when it would be easy to shut out both and feel nothing. Marita said it perfectly, "So admirable and inspirational."

Tara said...

I guess this explains why I spent much of yesterday afternoon thinking about you. I was planting my veggie garden and I thought about you. I put my bookcase together and thought "Did Tara ever tether that to the wall" - as I did so Lily wont get toppled on. You were a constant thought for me yesterday and now I see why.

It's not something I talk about with people, or have even shared with you. But you inspire me, watching (read as - Reading) about all you have experienced with Cohen, gives me the strength to know that I too will experience the joys of motherhood someday. And that I too will be happy.

Thanks for being a part of my life and understanding and sharing. XOXO