Friday, January 27, 2012
My daughter’s birthday party was two days after her real birthday, which was also Elias’s birthday and angelversary. (Angelversary is just so much easier than saying one year since he died or death anniversary…I don’t really believe he’s literally an angel. I guess it’s metaphoric in a way.) Her party was…exhausting. A bit robotic and “sterile” feeling, being in a community center (we didn’t have room in our home for the number of guests). I am not complaining; please know that. But oh my, it was difficult to go through the motions and not lose my mind. And I felt like people were looking at me waiting for me to freak out. Did I have fun? Of course. Do I realize how lucky I am to have been able to throw a birthday party? Of course. Yes, I’m grateful to have a living child out of my pregnancy, and I fully realize that I am blessed to have her, and that this anniversary would have been much more difficult without being a member of the “parents of living children” club. But on the other hand, it IS much more complicated to have a pregnancy end in both a loss and in a living child at the same time, and I can’t pretend that to not be the case. Celebrating their birthday was very complex, and it took me months to figure out what to do. Same day? Different day? If they were both alive, obviously I would celebrate their birthday together, but is it not so totally different to celebrate the first birthday of a living child than it is to honor the anniversary of your child’s entrance into heaven? Those are just two completely different things, and to try to blend them together did not feel very natural to me. So I was left unsure of how any of it would really turn out. I just had to move forward and start planning what I could. I knew that I wanted to mentally step outside of the whole “babylossmama” mentality and just focus on my daughter as much as possible, and if you judge me for that, fine, whatever, but you have to understand that I did not want to rob her of any joy that day or rob myself of the celebration of finally having a living child to celebrate a birthday for. (I’ve had two losses, remember, and both traumatic in very different ways, so this has been a long road for me.) I didn’t want to stay glued to the couch and wish my life away. I didn’t want to spend the months and weeks leading up to my twins’ birthday feeling sorry for myself. I wanted to do (mostly) what I would have done had I been preparing for the first birthday party of a healthy singleton baby. Call that denial, call it a defense mechanism, call it crazy, call it whateverthehellyouwant, but I wanted to do all of those things I would have done had I NOT been a grieving mother. So I did. I filled a scrapbook someone had given me at my baby shower, and I didn’t edit any of the pages. I remembered in the early days hating that scrapbook and thinking none of it would ever apply anymore after Elias died, but it was a gorgeous scrapbook that someone had put a lot of time and effort and care and love into, and it needed my addition of family photos. So I spent weeks putting the photos inside organized by theme: pregnancy, shower, birth stats (I included a photo of clay molds of Elias’s feet opposite of Evelyn’s photo), bringing Evy home (that part stung the most to put together), bath time, meal time, family time, etc. I also put together a weekly photo album of my daughter (I am a photo freak), which was something I had dreamed about doing even before I was ever pregnant. I had seen such a photo album at my niece’s first birthday party, and I had thought about how intensely I wanted an album like that for my own child someday. So it was very therapeutic to put that together and remember that even though my life has been filled with such pain, there were times when I wondered if I’d ever get to parent a living child, and I didn’t have to wonder or fear ever again because in my hand was an album documenting the weekly changes in my gorgeous daughter. These things I enjoyed doing, but I admit I also did them partly in defiance, resisting the urge to lay around and pity myself and get lost in my grief, thus missing out on the simple joys I would have had as a mother to a healthy singleton baby. Mostly it just felt great to put together these keepsake albums for my little girl. I was actually really proud of myself upon their completion. I haven't been proud of much of anything in a really long time. (Irrational guilt gets in the way, really.) As for the invites to her party, I made sure her brother’s presence was incorporated into the design. A girly owl graced the invitation, and there was a blue butterfly flying on its own happy little journey. I cried when I found the invite on Etsy. It was just so incredibly perfect to represent my babies. That invite set the theme and tone for the whole party. I wanted it to be girly and chic, with coordinating decorations, and so “mod hippie owl girl” became the motif. However, many of the decorations also included butterflies. My absolute favorite part of the party in terms of remembering Elias was that I had made and ordered (online) plantable seed cards in the shape of a butterfly to hand out as a party favor in his memory. My husband agreed that as much as we wanted the party to be her special day, we also wanted to include Elias in a more obvious way, as the first anniversary of his passing was a very difficult milestone for us to approach and pass. I think in the future we will be okay with his presence being a quieter more subtle one, but for this first one we wanted it to be clear and not only honor him but also send a message to guests that we recognize him as our son. I got the impression that people were really touched by the favors. And honestly, their reaction wouldn’t have mattered to me in the end either way, because I did what I could to elbow space for my son in the world (as my friend Sarah would say), and that’s all I can do. Finally, we had Elias’s name in the sand (what you see at the top of my blog) on display, just in case people didn’t pick up on the butterfly symbolism. We also did a quick balloon release, but I don’t really want to talk about that. It was rushed, and I felt flustered, and I felt like I looked like “that crazy lady” trying to get people to participate, and I felt a little like I was going to stab someone with the pink plastic cake knives if people didn’t come outside, but whatever. I am judged in my grief, and I know that. But I have to be brave and grieve anyway and do what I feel to be right. All in all, the day of Evelyn’s party was nothing in comparison to her actual birthday. (Their actual birthday.) I will have to save that for my next post. But I will say that I put together a Facebook event in the weeks prior called “Remembering Elias”, and I can’t tell you how good that felt to do. To have something “out there” just for him, just as her party was (at least mostly) focusing on her. That balance is so difficult to strike, and I like to think I’ve managed to do it pretty well. It was very healing for me to also “explain” to people what caused his loss, as we had never been able to do that. I know they aren’t owed an explanation; it was more for me than anything else (that part of it). It was my way of saying I wasn’t going to hide in shame anymore, that I was going to talk about it, that this was something completely rare and unexpected and quick, and I’m not going to succumb to pressures to keep it hushed. The Facebook event went really well. It was amazing how many people sent their support from all over the globe. Countless people made remembrance pictures in honor of Elias (which was a suggestion I had made on the event page, because I wanted to be able to add to his album on FB). I love having an album on FB just for Elias, one that I can add to, just as I add to my other albums regularly. I know this probably sounds silly, and I know it’s just FB, but for me that helps me “elbow space” for him. As I’m uploading “one year old!” photos of Evy, I can upload remembrance photos of him, and the sting lessens a tiny bit. I received heartfelt notes all week long in honor of Elias. I received dozens and dozens of photos from people for his album. Every single one made me tear up – grateful tears that my son was being recognized, that he mattered, that he matters still, and that he will always matter. I received flowers – gorgeous flowers with butterflies sticking out of them – in honor of my twins from a woman I’ve never met in person but feel so connected to. She also lost her son from a boy girl twin pregnancy very close to term. I cried when I got those flowers, and I brought them to my daughter’s party. It’s not every day you get flowers sent to you from someone who lives in another country – that was so incredibly special to me. Another friend of mine in the U.K. attended a candlelight vigil and remembered Elias. Candles were lit globally for him. I received ornaments in the mail - five – in honor of Elias for our Christmas tree. How lovely to have these and to know that we will be hanging them every single year. The outpouring of artistic expression, of love, of grief, and of remembrance for Elias moved me and changed me in ways that I can’t quite articulate. It’s taken me over a month to even write about it here. More to come in Part Two…where I share their actual birthday with you.