Thursday, September 24, 2015

On Your Death Day, another letter to Emmett

You feel more like a dream than anything. I never really had you. Never bathed you. I don't have pictures of you with your siblings. You are a dream. I can't remember some things about you, because you aren't here to remind me by being them. 

But I know in even the farthest crevices of my being that you were real. I know because the loss of you is woven like a thread into every cell of my body. I know because I died the day you died. The me that I used to be I buried with you. The me that lives only lives because you didn't have the chance. 

And I'm sorry. With all I am I am so sorry. For all the failings, all the shortcomings, all the crappy, crappy situations that kept us apart. My heart cries for you, I still need you the way every mama needs her baby; in her body and her soul, I ache to hold you and smell my milk on your breath. Not just today, every day. Every single day. 

Emmett! I didn't get to know you like you knew me. I guess now you know even so much more. You always knew so much more, old soul. What is it, this message of your life? What is it I am supposed to know and glean and learn? 

I hate life and am also intoxicated by it. I know nothing matters but those we love, yet I want everything. Because I want to feel it all. I've held my dead son and cried and drowned in grief. I have had everything stripped from me and then gutted. I want to feel the other side of human existence now. 

These things we living hold so dear - like pride and being right and getting what's ours, and getting what we can out of others - that's the stuff children talk about. That's lower level stuff. What can you give, how can you bless, how can you help, who can you grow? Do we still not see that it is in our emptying that we are fulfilled? Stupid comfort zones. They are pots too small for our roots, and we can't tell that we're just slowly dying.

I am so empty Emmett. I died with you. I'm old old old in my soul now. I see now that it's all folly, so I dance with fury and embrace my dreams with zeal. Because sophistication is a mask and an illusion, and we are just dust. 

You bright and shining profound Truth, my Emmett. You are my greatest treasure and my greatest achievement. I am your Mom. You honor me with that choice. You've made me who I am now. How amazing. 

So hey, reader, I'm Emmett's mom. And Emmett died. That's everything and all that matters. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Letters to Emmett

You are a blessing and a gift from God.

You left us on Wednesday, on your one month birthday. I had planned in my head to write something that day in praise of you and your brother: how you both were my sweet, strong, gentle warriors who taught me how to fight and to persevere, beyond what limits I believed about myself, all for Love of you. You and your brother took me outside of what I thought possible, you tapped a strength within me I didn't know existed. I have the scars on my body now, from fighting, for you especially Emmett, as evidence. I love that scar now. It is my proof, my evidence that you were really here. That for however brief a time, you were really mine.

You were always on the peripheral. From the moment you were born, every glimpse of you was a gift. From the first moment of your birth, our relationship was marked by longing and by distance. So in many ways, it has not changed. I love you deeply forever and always, from afar.

I am endlessly thankful for the time I had with you. Sweet, sweet hours in the NICU, holding you skin to skin, your rhythm of breath and heart warming my soul. In those hours, everything was perfect and right and whole. I am so glad for the time we had you at home to ourselves. I am so sorry I was so tired and cranky; if I knew how precious and limited those days were, oh I would've been different! I never did not love you Teddy bear. I never, ever did not love you. I have from the moment I knew you were growing inside of me loved you with my whole heart - from that first moment, you were my world, my soul, my life.

I would give anything, anything, anything and everything to have you back in my arms, smiling mischievously in your sleep. You had jokes and mischief to share! We wanted you with everything within us. We will miss the shenanigans you would've caused with your brother.

I don't want to write this sort of letter to you, Emmett. I want to say these things over you while you nurse next to your brother. I want to tell you these things when you are sixteen and pretend to be embarrassed by them. I ache for the man I saw you as one day. I ache for the little boy I was only just beginning to know, and loved endlessly.

I miss you today. I miss you every moment. I want to kiss your chubby teddy bear cheeks and hold you close. You have part of my heart with you forever.

I love you my Emmett Teddy bear, always and forever.

Monday, January 12, 2015

2014, Emmett's Year

If you were to ask me, I would have had nothing good to say about this year. It's been the most difficult year of my life. I know this is not unique to us, for many this has been the hardest year ever. But ours, it feels, was something especially awful.

We moved three times. First, from our house in southern Arizona to a second-floor apartment in Tennessee that we shared with my two brothers and sister. Four adults, one of them pregnant with twins, one teenage girl, and two small children, all in a three-bedroom, second-floor apartment. The weekend I went into preterm labor with the twins, we were moving from that apartment to a house in another town in Tennessee that we shared with my siblings and my parents. About six weeks after that, we moved from that house in Tennessee to a house in Tempe, Arizona. But before we moved into the new house in Tempe, we lived in two separate houses of two separate friends in the Phoenix area, all while grieving for our youngest son, planning his funeral, and having his funeral. (And thank you friends, for generously opening your homes to us during that time.)

This past year I was pregnant with twins, and it was physically and emotionally the hardest pregnancy I've had. I went into preterm labor with them at 33 weeks due to what was later discovered to be placenta abruption. In hours the birth I had planned at the Farm Midwifery Center turned into a hospital vaginal birth for Llewyn and then a C-section for Emmett. Llewyn was born like lightning, full of energy and power. Emmett flipped breech after Llewyn was born, and because the doctor lacked the skill to deliver a breech baby, I had a C-section. Both boys were in the NICU, Llewyn for around two weeks, Emmett for three. The week Llewyn was home, and Emmett was still in NICU, was a horrible, awful week. I was forever in two places: the hospital to see Emmett, and then home 30 minutes away with my other three kids. I couldn't be in either place enough. Instead of having babies at my breast, I had a hospital grade breast pump. I pumped every 2 to 4 hours around the clock for month. I stopped pumping so often when Emmett came home, but then I was always pumping or breastfeeding, nonstop. I stopped pumping completely when we left Tennessee to return to Arizona. I haven't pumped since, and I hope I never have to ever again. It was a draining, demanding thing to pump exclusively for two babies. Yet it is one of those experiences that really revealed to me my own level of determination and dedication.

This past year my husband's addiction to alcohol reached a head, and between that, the stress of everything externally in our lives, and our own baggage, our marriage began to crumble around us. Over Christmas, the end of the year, I wasn't sure if we would have a marriage in the new one. Many marriages end because of alcohol. Many marriages end because of the death of a child. Many marriages end over the struggle of having a child with autism, like our oldest son. Oh, and money troubles. And moving. So it is no surprise that we hit a place of crisis. What is miraculous is that we are no longer there. 

This year my son died. He was exactly one month old, to the hour, in the early hours I woke to find he wasn't breathing. I screamed for my husband, and put Emmett on the beautiful wooden floor of our part of my parents house, and my husband tried to save Emmett's life by performing CPR. However traumatic it was for me, I think he had the worst of it. Because he was trying to save his son's life. I couldn't do that. That's why I put Emmett down, and went for the phone, because I couldn't do that. So it isn't only grief that we navigate, it is also trauma.

I was in the emergency room in Columbia, Tennessee, where a nurse came up to me and told me that it had been half an hour that they had been performing CPR on Emmett, and there was no breath, no heartbeat. I remember the sound of the empty, despairing "No..." that erupted from me as though it was something I overheard; I remember my husband wailing, wailing at the top of his voice. "This wasn't supposed to happen," and "WHY." And I sat there, numb, as he screamed for us both. This year, I told a doctor in the emergency room that it was mine and my husband's call to make when they would stop CPR, not his. I never saw the doctor again. But it *was* our call, and I remember as we walked together into that room and I asked if I could see my son, and my husband told them that they were to stop CPR. And the hospital staff parted like the Red Sea around us and there was my baby and he was gone. Dead.

This year, I sang to Emmett the song I sing to all my kids, but after he died. "I love you, I love you, morning, noon and night. I love you, I love you, you make my world so bright. I love to hear you laugh and sing, learning as you play. When I see your smiling face, this is what I say: I love you, I love you, morning, noon and night. I love you, I love you, you make my world so bright." It was a long time before I could sing that song again, without sobbing and crying for the baby who didn't get to hear it. Sometimes I still can't. 

We were with him after his death in the hospital for a little over an hour, I think. I am so thankful for that time. I'm so thankful the nurses were so kind to me, so thankful they told us to stay as long as we needed to. I learned that day that there is something harder than leaving the hospital where your babies are in NICU, and that is leaving your baby's body. The next time I saw Emmett was in his coffin in Arizona, the day before his funeral, and he looked nothing like himself. 

This year I buried a son, having never given him a bath. Having never taken a picture of him with his three other siblings. So many experiences lost and stolen from us.

This year wasn't hard, it was trial by fire. I have cursed this year as I went through it, because at one point or another I lost everything.

Until today. Don't mistake me: I curse the experiences. I curse the death. However, I had a realization that changed a few things. It has been almost a year exactly that I found out I was pregnant with what we later learned was the twins. Super Bowl 2014, I couldn't drink beer as I had found out that morning I was pregnant. It's almost Super Bowl again, and in the shadow of that coming anniversary I realize that 2014 is Emmett's year. It was the year he lived, the span of the whole of his life here. 2014 is the only year we had him. Suddenly, 2014 is sacred. It is a sacred space and time, and the trials fall away and all I see is him. 2014 belongs to Emmett.

Emmett means Truth in Hebrew. And that so clearly defines this past year in retrospect. Truth. The truth of who we are, what we are made of, what we have truly sown in our lives, the truth of our relationships, our finances, our habits, the truth of our own patterns of behavior; there is literally nothing left unturned throughout this year. And it was hard and difficult and ugly because we have a lot to change. We are meant to be so much more than our past patterns of behavior. 2014 has been a light into our dark places, showing us where we are weak and where we are strong, and what we have sown. 

Yes, now I see: 2014 is sacred. 2015 is the new beginning: it is the rest of our lives, after Emmett. I have no idea what that will look like, but I hope to honor him with every day.