When I say his name, When you say his name

I wonder if most bereaved mothers have been there.  Some-one utters the name of your child gone too soon.  And there is a quick sideways glance, monitoring your reaction.  Breath held.  Will she be okay?    

The mother of a child gone too soon talks about her son.  Furrowed brows.  Concerned looks.  Is she sliding back?

A mother accidentally calls one of her living children the name of the baby who left.  Silence.  Is she delusional?

In the months immediately after Xavier died, I would talk about him all the time.  His name was burned on my heart and never far from my lips.  I would speak of him to ensure he was not forgotten.  I would speak of him because I needed to hear his name out loud.  I would speak of him, between tears, because I needed to articulate my pain and I needed to remind those around me that it still cut deep.   His name remains deeply engraved in my heart, but I speak of him less these days.   And when I do speak of him, it is for different reasons.  His memory and his legacy feels safer now.  I do not speak of him to remind people he lived, or that his death caused me immense pain.  I speak of him, because simply and beautifully, he is my son.   

When I talk about Xavier, I do so because I love him.  It has taken time to get a point where I can talk about him simply because I love him.  To a point where I can talk about him without the lingering sadness.  Where I can say his name without tears.  For any bereaved parent, this is a difficult and long-fought battle.  Talking about a child no longer in your arms is not a sign of weakness, or sliding back, but rather a testament to strength.   It is a part of integrating them into the fabric of life.  It is something to be celebrated and acknowledged.

If I choose to talk to someone about Xavier, I do so because I trust them with his memory.  I know that they will cherish him.  It is a gift, just as some-one speaking to me about Xavier is a gift.

When someone talks to me of Xavier, my heart skips with happiness.  When someone says, easily and happily, that Elijah looks like Xavier, I beam.  When someone tells me something reminded them of my son, I want to embrace them.

There is a beautiful piece of advice written by Elizabeth Edwards, oft quoted by bereaved parents:  

 “If you know someone who has lost a child or lost anybody who’s important to them, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died, they didn’t forget they died. You’re not reminding them. What you’re reminding them of is that you remember that they lived, and that’s a great, great gift.”

When a bereaved mother talks about their child, whether with a smile or with tears or with both, please accept it as a gift and a vote of extreme confidence in your understanding.  Do not be afraid to say their child’s name, but rather know that your remembrance brings more joy than pain.  Even if your kindness leads to tears – it’s only because you have given permission to drop the veil for a moment.

A dear friend of mine has written:

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A bereaved mother is, above all, a mother.  A child that has gone too soon is, above all, a much loved son or daughter.  And a parent, above all, loves each of their children.  In reality, it’s that simple.

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Reclaiming the Silence – Permission to Just Be

The last few weeks have been a blur of activity.  I have been hard at work organising a fashion fund-raising event for SIDS and Kids, whilst dealing with the every-day craziness of my life.   There have been late nights and mother guilt and reliance on beautiful friends and family.  There have been highs and lows whilst organising the event.   And then finally the event itself, over and done with in the space of a few short hours.

Today, I spent most of the day just holding my Elijah.  I was going to do the neglected house work.  I was going to tie up the inevitable loose ends after an event.   I did none of those things.  I spent some time with a dear girlfriend and the rest of the day curled up on the couch cuddling and playing with my precious baby.  I do not do this very often.  I do not give myself permission to do this very often.

As a society we have an obsession with busy-ness.  We measure our worth against how much we do, how much we achieve.  I am guiltier than most – packing my days with all sorts of activity.  Even when I pause for a moment, my thoughts turn to checking my Facebook or email.  My mind constantly chattering.  Thoughts flying from one place to another.  Rarely settling in one spot.   Rarely allowing me to just focus on Elijah and nothing else.  Not his food or his bath or his sleep routine.  But just Elijah himself.  Getting on the floor with him and playing with him.  Tracing every one of his features and committing each eyelash to memory.  Just marvelling at his smell.   The things you do with a newborn that start to fade as they grow.

After Xavier died, for the first time in my adult life, I had the gift of uninterrupted time.  I chose to spend that time connecting with my son.  A wonderful friend and I would exchange epic emails about our sons gone too soon.  I would craft and create.  I would walk.  And at times, I would just sit and be.  I would sit and wait for a sense of peace.  A sense of Xavier to descend.  I could not do this in the hurly burly bustle of every day life.  I needed to set aside time.  I needed to make that conscious decision because it was the only way I could mother my son.  In the depth of grief, the present was my only friend – the past held too much pain and the future too much fear.  I had to practice mindfulness.  I had to let silence into a life that previously had only known noise.  Because my Xavier can only speak to me in a whisper on the breeze.  My Xavier needs the silence.

Elijah lives and breathes and cries and demands my attention.  I do not need to consciously create space in my life to be his mother – it comes without my doing anything.  But I do need to occasionally reclaim some silence and calm in my life.  I need to stop and smell the baby.  I need to stop the busy sometimes and give myself permission to just be.  Just to sit still and be comfortable in the silence.  To know the value of it.  To appreciate that those moments are part of my being a mother to my three boys.  And a vitally important part.

 

Mothers Day

There are days in the year that tear me in two.   Christmas, Birthdays, Fathers Day, Mothers Day.   There is the joy and the noise.  The handmade cards and the sticky kisses.  The impractical gifts and the restaurant meal. Hugs and laughter.  One side of the coin.  The other side yearns for solitude in the midst of all the excitement.  Wishes for a moment of a peace and reflection.  And more than anything, wishes another little voice joined in the commotion.

Mothers day is hard for a lot of people.  Those that have lost their own mums.  Those, like me, that have a child or children in heaven.  Those that have tried and tried to fall pregnant only to face another mother’s day without a baby in their arms.  Those that yearn with all their hearts for a child but know it’s a wish that will never be granted.    It is a day filled with flowers, breakfasts in bed and handmade cards.  But it also a day filled with pain and yearning for so many.   And all of those people deserve a little love on Mothers Day.

I am fortunate to be celebrating today with my two earth-side boys, my mum, my grandmother and my mother-in-law.   Surrounded by beautiful family.  There is, as always, much to be grateful for.  There is, as always, much to turn my mind from Xavier.  The pain of missing him, now just a dull ache where once it was piercing, seems at odds with the day.  And yet, it must be part of the day.  I find it easier to reconcile my feelings on his birthday or anniversary.  They are clearly days to be in remembrance of him.  Clearly days when tears and reflection are appropriate.  Days that belong just to him.  The days that tear me apart belong in part to my living family and in part to the one who has gone where I cannot.  These are the days when I must learn to integrate the joy and the sadness.

Today, I think of my mum, who is a beautiful, unique and talented soul.  She has given me everything and I love her more than she knows.  I think of my grandmother, who continues to live an enviably full life and is one of the most peaceful people I could ever meet.  I think of my mother in law, who never stops for even a moment and would do anything for her children and grandchildren.  I think of my boys.  My eldest, crazy and wild, funny and loving.   My youngest, gorgeous and curious, healing in his very bones.  My middle son, never far from my mind and always in my heart.

Happy Mothers Day to all.

 

Mumma, I am Five

What five looks like

My beautiful five year old boy often challenges me.   He is teeming with ideas and questions and opinions.  His energy is apparently boundless and his determination to get his own way often stronger than my will to enforce boundaries.  I find myself counting down from 10, and the rage barely simmering by the time I get to 1.  I love him and adore him, but at times I find him extremely difficult to parent.  It is in those moments, I need to remember what is to be five.

If he had eloquence and insight, this is what my five year old might say to me:

Mumma, I am five.  In my veins course fire and imagination, energy and creativity.  My legs were not made to sit still.  My arms were not made to rest.  I am busy, busy, busy.   I need to run and to jump and to play.  Sometimes the enormity of my energy overwhelms me – and I need to get it out. Out. OUT.

Mumma, I am five.  When I see boundaries, both figurative and literal, I want to push against them.  I need to climb them and test them and see where I stand.  This is my job and it is your job to guide me, to limit me, to expand my world and to keep me safe.

Mumma, I am five.  I don’t just play Batman and Star-wars and Octonauts.  I AM Batman.  I AM Luke. I AM Kwazzi.  When I am saving the world or the galaxy or the oceans, it is much more important to me than cleaning my room or eating my breakfast.  Give me time to break away from the places that consume me.  I will listen.  Eventually.

Mumma, I am five. I know you don’t like guns and we aren’t allowed them in the house.  But I will continue to bite my sandwiches into a pistol shape and wield the plastic cricket wickets.  I am playing a game that boys have played since little boys begun.

Mumma, I am five.  I am very grown up and I am still very small.  I am negotiating a whole new set of rules and people and things at school.  I am learning new things and trying new things and figuring out who I am.  I am your grown-up boy.  I am still your baby.  I might push away a hug and want kisses a moment later.  I am figuring a lot out right now – I need you to help me.

Mumma, I am five.  I love you so much and I do want to please you.  I want to do the right thing.  Sometimes, it can take me a little while to figure out what that is.  Please do not think that your parenting up until this point has been for naught.  That I am a stranger adopting behaviour you never modelled.  This is all a process.  I will come back to what I have learned.

Mumma, I am only five.  There are a lot of expectations on me.
Mumma, I am such a big boy of five.  I like to be grown-up.
Mumma, I am such a little boy of five.  I will always be your baby.

Mumma, you are doing a good job