Embarrassing

Thursday, January 30, 2014

I've noticed that when I post anything about Max or grief on my Facebook page, it basically goes ignored (except for by a few obligatory likes or maybe a comment from another bereaved parent).  If I post something about Mo or our house in Costa Rica or anything else, I get lots of likes and comments.

I've asked other bereaved parents if they've had the same experience and what they think about it.  They tell me that it is because my feelings embarrass "regular" folk.  And, so I guess that means I am expected to post only about light and fluffy stuff.  I find it kind of irritating.  You might feel embarrassed about my talking about my son but I do not feel embarrassed about him.  I feel a LOT of emotions about Max and losing Max - pride, love, missing, longing, adoration - embarrassment is not one of them. 

A colleague told me that Facebook is a place to post the kind of stuff you would talk about at a cocktail party.  Keep it light.........Maybe this explains why I avoid cocktail parties.

Another bereaved mother suggests that I offer a week's stay at our house in Costa Rica to the Facebook "friend" that shows me the most Facebook compassion over the month of February.  I thought that was pretty funny - cynical - but funny.  I feel like I might get a few more "likes" if I made that offer.

I guess when I post about grief on Facebook, I am not really looking for anyone to respond necessarily.  But, just because they don't respond, doesn't mean I am going to stop posting about grief.  You can ignore the things that make you uncomfortable all you want - but that doesn't mean that they are going anywhere. 


Homeland

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

I have been working in Jewish communal non-profits for many years now.  I like to say that I chose this field because I wanted to get sent to Israel for work every year and have all of the Jewish holidays off.  I like to say it because it is true.  Plus, I actually do feel passionately about the work that I do.  For the last seven years, I have been working for the Jewish National Fund in varying capacities.  I started as a Senior Campaign Executive, became a Regional Director and then just before Maxie was conceived, I was promoted to Zone Director.  It was an exciting time in my life - I got engaged, married, promoted twice, pregnant, and became a mom all in just over a years time. 

And then Maxie died.  And, I couldn't face the people I worked with.  And, I didn't have the capacity in my heart or my head to care about anything in the world around me.  I didn't know how I would take my next breath.  I figured that I would just get fired.  I was basically just waiting for the call.

And then, I told you what happened next.  The CEO of my organization met with me and told me to take my time.  "I want to walk beside you", he said.  I will never forget how it felt to have that weight lifted from my shoulders.  I will be forever grateful.  A few months later, he worked with me to reinvent my position with JNF - one where I could work from home and where I didn't have to interact too much with others.  My new position has been an absolute blessing, as has he.

In just a few weeks, I will be boarding a plane to Israel and will be traveling around the country with a group of my colleagues for a week. I honestly didn't think they'd ever send me again....and I was fine with that.  I mean, it made me a little sad, but I was mostly just grateful to have a job still.  Also, I had been sent in the past to oversee trips of donors and I am not working with donors anymore. I had pretty much kissed that part of my life goodbye - a very very very small sacrifice when compared with losing my child (everything is). When I got the email invitation to participate, I was completely surprised.  I thought it was a mistake in fact and wrote back, "Is this for me?".... but I knew right away that it was something that I wanted to do.....even though it makes me more than a little nervous.

Most obviously, I am nervous because I will be away from Mo for a whole week.  I know he will be fine - Ted's mom (Gigi) is coming to town for the week, my mom will be around, Mo's nanny will be here and of course, Ted will be here too.  Mo will be in good hands.  But, I will miss him....desperately.  It scares me how much I know I will miss him.

Less obviously, I am nervous about spending a week with new people.  There has been a lot of turnover in the two and a half years and I don't really know a lot of the new staff people.  They don't know who I am.  They don't know about Max.  I am nervous about sitting on the bus next to a new person and having them ask me how many children I have.  I am nervous about being in Maxie's Forest- a place that I'm sure will bring up so much emotion for me and not having anyone around me to lean on, who understands what it means for me to be there (although actually, My boss will be there - and he does understand).  It will be weird to visit without Ted and Mo.  I am nervous that I won't make friends or find a comfortable niche (something I never used to worry about).  I am thinking that the best way to approach it is to just look for the experience to move me on the inside and try to ignore whatever is happening on the outside until or unless I become more comfortable.

I am thrilled about going back, so honored that I was asked and feeling very grateful that they are going to organize a small dedication ceremony for me in Maxie's Forest.  I know that I will be missing Ted and Mo like crazy on that day and that my heart will be breaking (as it is every day) for my Max.  I look forward to putting a prayer for Maxie and Mo and our family in the Western Wall while I'm in Jerusalem.  I am really looking forward to seeing Israeli friends who I haven't seen in way too long.  Israel has always held a very special place in my heart.  It is a place where I feel closer to G-d, closer to my roots, closer to my own self.  It is a place that I am in love with and inspired by.  It is the place where I met Ted for the first time, where we got engaged, and where a beautiful forest has been planted in memory of my baby boy.  I know it will be meaningful - but I am feeling pretty nervous.

 Me, planting a tree in Israel on my last visit to Israel in 2010.

Chaos

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

I love when Mo gets to be a part of crazy chaotic play.  He totally gets swept away in the craziness!


Okay

Monday, January 27, 2014

This morning I ran to the grocery store to get milk and eggs.  I was feeling pretty BLAH.  When the checkout clerk asked how I was doing, I said "I'm okay".  It's what I always say.  Some people always say "good".  I always say "okay".  Since Max died, I am just okay - I feel completely inauthentic saying "good".  Anyway, this morning after I said, "okay", the more than 80ish year old man in line behind me replied, "You look like you are doing a helluva lot better than just ok" and then he winked at me.  Flirtatiously.  It made me smile.  I'm not even sure if he had teeth.  But, his funny flirt made me feel better than okay for a few minutes.  I even got in my car and laughed.

Clarification on the B o M

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ok.  As I said, I enjoyed the Book of Mormon but it made me strangely uncomfortable.  It wasn't actually the poking fun at Mormons that made me uncomfortable (and I will explain that in a minute - because I had to think about it) but it was the stuff about Africa.  If you haven't seen Book of Mormon and are worried I might spoil it for you, skip this post.  If you have seen it, you know what I mean.  It was supposed to make you uncomfortable.  It's an upbeat humorous musical set in a village that is rampant with AIDS and terrorized by a raping and pillaging warlord.  When I worked at the Shoah Foundation, we called it gallows humor. It is when you find something to laugh about in the most horrific of situations.  I actually like gallows humor (with limits), which is why I enjoyed the show, but it is meant to make you feel uncomfortable.  Plus, in this case, it's how the show makes it's point - which I am not even quite sure I've figured out yet.

As to why I didn't mind them poking fun at Mormons.  I did at first.  I was thinking, "This is a whole show about making fun of a group of people"...so I wasn't sure if I was comfortable with that.  Usually when I am trying to decide if I am comfortable with something, I put myself in that position.  Needless to say, there has been endless entertainment and similar satire written and performed at the expense of Jews since the beginning of time  - some produced by Jews and some by non-Jews.  Most of the time, I hardly think about it.  With that in mind, I don't think that Book of Mormon really crossed a terrible line but that is why I wanted to hear what Mormons would say about it.  It obviously exaggerated a lot of stereo typical Mormon traits like - being super upbeat/glass half full, being all-American goodie two shoes-y, and being super white.  But, I really have no idea what kind of sense of humor Mormons have about themselves.  Is Book of Mormon to Mormons like the Passion of the Christ is to Jews (not that any of us have seen it but we hate it)?  Or is there a more "Woody Allen" vibe?  I have no idea. 

I can laugh at a lot of Jewish stereotypes - like the Jewish mother stereotypes, and the Jewish American Princess stereotypes, and all of the Jewish neurosis.  But I get offended when people make jokes about Jews being super cheap....or using "Jew" as a verb or adjective meaning cheap.  I have met my fair share of cheap Jews - and my fair share of cheap every other kind of person also.  I also find that most people who make the Jew=cheap joke to me are people who I consider to be kind of cheap, so I am not sure about how that one came to be.  But, generally speaking, I find "my people" to be generous and philanthropic...but of course, that isn't always the case.  I am sorry about the others (though I don't think of them as my responsibility).  And, there are other stereotypes of Jews that I find offensive and disgusting... but whatever, I don't need to list them.  You know what they are (and if you don't, even better).  I don't mind provocative, and there is a fine line, but I draw at racism. Anyway, I'm not sure which stereotypes push a Mormon's buttons.  I've never really discussed it with a Mormon.  

Regardless, I liked the music, the sets were awesome, everyone in the show was amazing.  So, I enjoyed it.  It's also possible that I've over-analyzed a little too much - like:
Was the point of the show that Mormonism is a made up  religion?
Or, were they saying that who cares if Mormonism is made up if it brings happiness and hope to a village.
Or, maybe they were saying that when religious people go on these kinds of missions that they are getting in way over their heads.
Or, maybe they were saying that we need to be paying more attention to Africa.
Or, maybe they were saying that Mormons are not in touch with their emotions. (All of the Mormons I know are pretty in touch with their emotions but maybe this is a stereotype of Mormons?)
Or, maybe that Mormons are unusually upbeat, even when the world is crumbling around them? (That would be the opposite stereotype than the Jewish one of complaining even when things are perfectly fine).

I'm going to leave it there but would love to hear what you think.  I know I have some Mormon readers so I'd be interested to hear that perspective.  For me, getting Ted to a musical is what it was really all about.  He got us tickets for my birthday.  He came up with the idea all on his own.  Such an awesome gift.  The last musical production we saw together was Wicked (also for a birthday several years back - also at the uncomfortable Pantages theater).   Let's just say that Ted is not a fan of musicals.  Perhaps he'd be more interested if someone could produce a musical about the zombie apocalypse.  He did, however, watch "Rock of Ages" with me last weekend, and I'm pretty sure he enjoyed it, since he joined me in singing most of the music out loud in our living room.  (Rent "Rock of Ages", especially if you were a teenager in the 80s.  I promise you: every song is a hit).  I love musicals.  I often wish life were a musical - the last few years would be filled with sad Les Miserables type songs.  I'm hoping the future features a few more upbeat numbers as well.

And by the way, look what I just found:
http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/i-asked-some-mormons-what-they-thought-about-the-book-of-mormon
&
http://articles.latimes.com/2012/sep/07/entertainment/la-et-cm-mormon-mormons-20120907

Recap of a fun night

Saturday, January 25, 2014

I have not fully processed The Book of Mormon yet. I know I enjoyed it and yet, it made me strangely uncomfortable. I guess that is what I expected, considering that it was written by the creators of South Park. What I really want to know is what Mormons think of it.

Mostly, I enjoyed being out on the town with my man last night. We had one of the top five meals of our relationship. Plus, we loved the name of the restaurant:



Not only did the show make me strangely uncomfortable, but the seats at the Pantages Theater are CRAZY uncomfortable!  I think I am going to have to bring my own seat cushion next time we see a show there.  Here is a super dorky selfie that we retook 10 times.  Ted still doesn't approve of any of the shots but this one's going up anyway:


(PS - that woman directly behind us talked through the entire show!  ENTIRE SHOW!)

We had big plans to go out for a drink after the show but about a block from the theater we decided going home would be so much more fun.  Who have we become?  Old.  We've become old.  

Mo is at an age where I feel a thousand times more comfortable leaving him with my mom or his nanny, which still means that I am probably a thousand times more uncomfortable than most parents probably are leaving their kids with a complete stranger.  I hope that makes sense without sounding like I am cutting on my mom or Mo's nanny.  I am grateful that there are people I trust to leave Mo with.  Most importantly, Mo enjoys his sleepovers:


No emotional sharing in this one. Just a recap of a fun night out (entirely planned by my better half!)

All Shared Out

Friday, January 24, 2014

There is SO much I could write about today because my brain is a mish mash of crazy makingness.  But, honestly, I just don't have the energy to share.  I am all shared-out.  The truth is that I get tired of sharing.  I like to share here and occasionally with people who are close to me or when things are especially difficult, but day in and day out, I am just over it.  It makes me tired.

I was IM'ing with a girlfriend yesterday and explaining to her how I basically just act normal all of the time and it's just that - acting.  On the inside, there is no normalness - not even my "new normal" because I am only on my way to finding what that is.  I haven't arrived at "new normal" yet...even though people have been talking to me about it since Max died.  She said it bothers her that I "act" - she thinks I should just be upfront.  Who cares what people think?  Well, I don't care what people think at all, but I do care about how people interact with me because I have to interact back with them.  I can't just run around screaming and crying about Max - that would wear me out entirely.  I don't like to just tell every Tom, Dick and Harry about Maxie either - because Maxie is special and sacred to me and he isn't just conversation with randoms in the supermarket.  I won't allow him to be.  And, you know what else?  It hurts my heart when I talk about Max and I get a cold and unfeeling response.  If he was alive and I was bragging about him, the person I was bragging to would smile and act interested, even if they weren't.

Listen, I am just all shared out.  Period.  I'd rather tell you how much I am enjoying pole dancing, Zumba and my new favorite class: Body Pump!  I'd rather tell you my thoughts about this season's bachelor (Juan day soon I will...).  I'd rather tell you how excited I am to be going out to a fancy pants dinner and then seeing "The Book of Mormon" in Hollywood tonight with my husband.  I'd rather tell you how just in the last week, I've noticed that Mo is much more of a toddler than a baby these days.

What can I say?  I'm all shared out!

Big kids are mean

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Big kids can be mean! We play at a few playgrounds and indoor play spaces and Mo is always drawn to the big kids.  It's no surprise to me that he especially favors the kids that are the same age Max would be.  It also makes my heart sink a little.  He always toddles over to them with a big smile on his face.  Once in a while, they are welcoming, think he's cute, and let him play.  Most of the time though, they give him a dirty look, and push him away.  What's up with that?  I guess I would understand better if I had a three and a half year old myself.  I would know that they aren't always that nice. They are just learning to share and play well with others. Luckily Mo doesn't mind. He can't understand what they are saying anyway and he is used to getting pushed out of the way by our dogs - he just pushes right back.  But I feel bad.  Whenever I see him run up to a little three year old kid, I can't help but think, "You should have a playmate this age at home all of the time little buddy."  Naturally, I want to see what that would be like.  Plus, we mostly go play outside of our home so that Mo can have the opportunity to play with other kids.  But, most of the time what I see is that big kids can be mean and that Mo ends up entertaining himself.  I guess Mo will probably be like that too one day (hopefully, a quick lived phase)!


Mo playing by himself at our favorite indoor playground.  He ALWAYS goes for this shopping cart!  And if you don't believe me, here he is again: 



Limited

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The other night I was talking to Ted about my blog.  I was saying that the blog is many things to me, but most importantly, it is a space to remember Max. "You should write more about him then.", he said.  "What else is there to write?", I said.  "I've already shared most of my memories and the rest of them are drying up".....which is the most horrific part of it all.  There are things that I can't remember as well and I think that is just going to get worse as time moves on.  Ted isn't the first one to say this. 

I used to get emails all of the time saying, "Post more photos and stories of Max".  I'm not sure where I lost everyone.  I don't have more photos and stories.  My memories of Max are limited. I can only tell you all so many times how happy he was, how I loved carrying him around in the Baby Bjorn, how he babbled whenever he woke up in the morning or from a nap, and how he always smiled when we came into his room to get him. I also only have so many photos - nine and a half months worth. I wish I had taken more, but I didn't know he was going to stop breathing at daycare and leave our lives forever. I can't write more because there aren't more memories to write.  I can't write about who he was other than to say, he was very special and loved.  He wasn't old enough to tell me his hopes and dreams. He never told me which friends he liked best or how much he loved me. He never said one word.  You see, and I know you must know this, I don't have anymore photos or memories because I only had him for nine and a half months.

That's the point - this blog in many ways is about what we don't have, what he will never have. When I write "about Max" it is often abstract.  It to say that what I have of him now are a few memories and a huge void.  My hope is that despite that, you can understand how special he was by listening to us tell you what a gigantic hole he left in our hearts.  The point is - I don't have the luxury that most parents have to post new photos and funny stories everyday. I am just hoping that you will trust me enough to know that he was cute, and funny, and easy going, and delicious and that he was our everything. Honestly, I would love to post new stories and photos, but if I had those, it would be because I had Max and then I wouldn't even need this blog.

It's true that even to me, my blog seems pretty narcissistic.  A long list of ways that my life is hard - all connected to the loss of my child.  But, this is all I have.  This is all I can share with you.  This is what connects me to Max....and I hate it.


Sleep, Dream, Repeat

Monday, January 20, 2014

I am one of those people who always remembers their dreams.  This used to be so interesting when I was younger because every single night was like a new adventure in my head.  These days, not so much.  And, I shouldn't even complain because for a while, all I had were gut wrenching nightmares, which I rarely have anymore.  These days, I literally have the same three dreams over and over and over.  I know my brain is trying to work something out, but I have no idea what it is.  These are the basic frameworks of my three dreams:

1) I am married to someone who isn't Ted who I feel lukewarm about.  He is fine.  Nice person.  We don't have a lot of chemistry but we seem to have a nice enough family.  We like each other, even if we aren't really in love.  In the back of my mind, I have a faint memory of being married to someone else who is the yin to my yang - someone that I am ga ga about.  I wake up and see Ted sleeping next to me and breathe a sigh of relief.

2) I am in Costa Rica on vacation with friends with the intention of staying at my house.  When I get there, I realize that I never told anyone that I was coming and so my house is rented out and we end up staying down the road at some kind of a youth hostel.  The trip is fine but totally unfamiliar and strange.  We go do fun stuff but we hang out on a different beach, we go out to different places I have never been to and we don't see anyone I know.  It is fine, just not "my" Costa Rica.

3) I enter a vortex where time and space don't matter at all and the landscape is the combination of Costa Rica, my Jewish summer camp, and my kibbutz in Israel.  I am confused about who to look for first because they are all in a mish mash.  My room on the kibbutz is in the middle of the younger kids cabins at camp and all I really want to do is go swimming in the Costa Rica Ocean.  Nothing happens at all - I am just surrounded by familiar places but feel totally out of place in all of them.

What makes me crazy is that there is only ONE thing that I want to dream about - MAX - and I almost never do.  Once in a while, he is a background character.  Like, in the dream where I am married to some guy - Max is one of our children and the story of his life is definitely there.  But, I don't get to interact with him at all, other than to maybe know he is around.

After he died, I had many dreams about Max - but they were horrific.  I've written about some of them here- but not all.  Some were too awful to ever recount.

And, then - there was that one dream.  The dream that I beg to have again every night before I got to sleep. The one where he was mine again.  I could smell his sweet baby smell, I could kiss his chubby soft cheeks, I could hug him and feel him in my arms.  He was mine.  He was here.  He was alive.  And, it was SO SO real.  Instead, I am stuck with these same three other dreams night in and night out.

Sleep, Dream, Repeat. 

Milk

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ya. We aren't working on giving up the bottle. He likes it too much.

Photo courtesy of Greg "Helldog" Heller

Nothing funny

Saturday, January 18, 2014

My sense of humor sometimes borders on the inappropriate. Sometimes my inappropriate jokes can crack up a whole room, other times they bomb hard and I just try to convince myself that it wasn't as bad as I think.  I think I am known for my inappropriate humor in some circles.  Many years ago, I sent an inappropriate joke to a friend by email who must have then forwarded it to others.  A day or so later, the joke got back to me from this friends mother with a very disapproving "Some people never change" that was clearly meant for her daughter (about me).  This was in the days before parents really knew how to use email and the internet.  She hadn't intended for me to see her email, and still, I was mortified. 

In the days after losing Maxie, I was out of my mind.  I cracked jokes and laughed at other people's jokes and stories to keep sane.  When I think about the fact that I found anything to laugh about - I am beyond mortified.  My son had just died.  My whole purpose in life was now gone.  I would never be the same.  As far as I could tell, nothing would really ever be funny again.  I was secretly/not so secretly wishing I were dead too. Still I felt desperate to laugh.  

I remember a friend I hadn't seen in years showed up to Maxie's shiva. I made a big deal about him being there and teased him about being too cool for school.  I think I just wanted to try and take the focus off why he was there.  The idea was making my insides turn.  

At my mom's house after Maxie's funeral, I stood in her livingroom for hours watching a slide show of Maxie's life roll by.  I couldn't tear my eyes off the screen.  I was describing all of the moments of his life to everyone who was standing nearby.  Suddenly, a photo of Max with a nylon sock over his whole head appeared on the screen.  He looked like a little bank robber.  It had been taken at the clinic where he got his helmet.  He had to wear it  so that they could scan the shape of his head, without hair getting in the way.  Taken out of context, it is a very strange photo.  In the context if his funeral, I felt shocked - and very embarrassed.


I was stunned to see it and didn't know how to describe it and instead of explaining I said, "I guess none of you are wondering anymore how I ended up with a dead baby".  When I think about saying that, I want to bury my head in the sand forever.  It was just weird.....and so was I.  Completely out of body.  In total disbelief that I was really watching photos of my child's entire life flash by while standing around at his wake.  How can anyone who was standing there ever understand - I barely do.

I am sure there were many other things I said that were completely crazy and disconnected but I have no recollection of most of it.  I was desperate for normalcy but there was nothing normal about the situation. Nothing at all.  It all goes against the laws of nature.  I was not cut out for this life.

Sometimes I crack jokes at the inappropriate time because I am uncomfortable.  Sometimes I crack inappropriate jokes because I am trying to lighten the mood.  Sometimes I crack jokes because I actually think what I have to say is funny.  But, in those days after Maxie's death, I think I just didn't know what to say to anyone.  I was pretty sure that I had fallen into a rabbit hole and that there was no future that made sense for me ahead.  Truth is that there wasn't....for a long, long time.  There is nothing funny about any of it and if you happened to be standing next to me at my mother's house after Maxie's funeral, I hope you can now understand that I wasn't really trying to be funny. What I really wanted was to disappear with my child.....and still sometimes do.  

They say some people never change, but you have to believe me when I tell you, nothing about me will ever be the same.



Thank you

Friday, January 17, 2014

I loved all of the comments I received yesterday and I am so glad you shared with me.  It makes me feel good to know that there are people who can relate to what I am saying or who just are reading because they care.  Thank you.  What's really funny is that I tried to write back to a number of commenters and my comments didn't publish!  Oy, I guess my blog isn't as user friendly as I would like!  Every so often I get emails from friends that start with "I tried to comment on your blog and couldn't".  I am not sure why it is so difficult since I am just using the very basic and standard version of blogger.  For a while I used Disqus to moderate and facilitate comment posting, but that became difficult for some people as well.  I am working on an overhaul of my blog.  If anyone has any suggestions about a more user friendly site or a better way to manage comments, please let me know!  Anyway, more importantly, thank you for letting me know that you are reading!  It means a lot to me!

AND - it looks like I accidentally downloaded some sort of virus onto my computer yesterday that is inserting advertisements into my posts!  AHHH!  Awful!  Don't click on them!  Sorry

Maybe

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Sometimes people act embarrassed to tell me that they read my blog.  I'm not sure why.  I WANT you to read my blog.  That is why I am writing it.  I often feel down about my blog because it seems like nobody is reading it.  I have very few "followers" and don't get many comments.  I compare these stats to the other blogs I read and I feel inadequate and wonder why I am still writing.  Then I look at the number of page views and the number of places around the US and the world that people are reading from and I feel a little better.

When I think out loud about trying to improve the visibility of my blog, people wonder why.  Why on earth would I want people - especially non-grievers - to read my blog.  Do I think that my life is so interesting?  Do I really want to share all of my ups and downs with everyone who might happen upon my online journal? 

The answer is more complicated than you think - and it is both yes and no.

I 100% know that my life isn't interesting.  In many ways, it is a typical life with a small child.  We are home a lot.  Sometimes we go to the park or on other outings.  Occasionally, we visit family or friends or take a vacation.  I don't blog because I think my life is so cool.  Not at all.  I continue to blog because I believe that my thoughts, my experiences, my challenges, obstacles, upsets, and triumphs are very typical of a parent in grief.

My intentions are to advocate for the bereaved, to try and bring our experiences out of the closet, to give the non-bereaved the tools to connect with us, and to connect to others in grief.  My intention is to create community.

The stigma around grief and loss is such a burden.  The burden I feel carrying around this loss, and having to be the person that nobody wants to talk to, is the second greatest burden I have ever carried in my life.  So, I think, maybe if you knew who I am and how, in many ways, I am just like you - maybe then you would treat me like a human being.  Maybe if you understood that I also have dreams, and deeply love my family, and have both sad and silly in my life, and friends who both lift me up and disappoint me, maybe then you would relate to some aspect of me.  Maybe my little blog would give you some context to the experiences of other people you know in grief.  Maybe you would know that saying Maxie's name, that sharing with me how you think about him, and by telling me that although you've not lost a child yourself, you know how much I hurt - that you are doing way more for our connection to each other than you would be by just pretending he never existed.  Maybe you can do these things for someone else you know in grief.  Maybe.

Blogging creates another kind of community as well.  I have connected with other parents who are having my experience and the friends that I have made here are people with whom I can share how I really feel - through emails, phone calls and visits.  As raw as it sometimes seems I am willing to be on my blog, I have never really written some of my darkest thoughts.  If you haven't lost a child yourself, I've probably never even really told you the depths of it all.  You don't know all about the blame, the guilt and the anger.  You know some of it - but not all of it.  I can't share that stuff with anyone except for other parents like me.  They are the only ones that I know won't judge.  My blog is my address in the grief community.  It is where you can go to find me or send me a note or become my friend.

So, yes, I DO want people to read my blog.  I want people to find my space and pay attention to what I am saying.  I don't think I speak for all bereaved parents but my intentions are to put a face on my kind.....one of many faces.  I want you to know that we are here, that we live with great pain, lots of love, broken hearts and tremendous hope.  I want you to think of us as one of you - because we once were - because we still are.  I am not trying to hide out - my intention is for you to know who I am.  Maybe then you won't be so embarrassed of me.








Explaining

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Just when you think you've got a handle on something - some new situation pops up and you are thrown for a loop.  This keeps happening to me.  The question that caused me the most anxiety after losing Maxie was, "how many children do you have?".  I never know how to answer and the truth is that I know that, in most cases, the person asking doesn't even care....they are just making conversation.  I used to feel sick to my stomach in any kind of new situation because I knew that the question would come up.  It came up a lot when I was pregnant with Mo.  Strangers were always asking me - at the supermarket (when I went, which wasn't often), at the physical therapists office, while out shopping.  People truly believe that a big pregnant stomach is grounds for conversation.

After Mo was born, I figured out ways to get around the question.  When I meet people that I know I'll never ever see again (like once at park not close to home with Mo, or in the checkout line at a store at the mall, or someplace anonymous), I just say that I have two boys.  I love saying it actually.  I beam with pride saying that I have two boys.  When they ask me how old my second son is, I tell whoever it is that he is three.  I love playing make believe like this.  I feel whole for the split second that I am saying the words.  I am explaining my life as it should be.

When I am responding to people that I might see again - like at my own grocery store or on the nearby playground, etc.... I say "I only have this guy at home" and look down at Mo.  I'm not even sure what it means, but it answers their question, shuts them up, and it doesn't feel like I am lying.  It's true.  I only have Mo at home right now.  Ugh.

Mo and I just started a Mommy and Me at the local synagogue's nursery school.  The idea of the class is to prepare toddlers for preschool - so that when they get there, they are already familiar with the place, the rules, and the rituals.  It should help Mo get comfortable with the place that he will likely go off to school in a couple of years.  It happens to be where we planned on sending Maxie to preschool as well.  My friend Limor's daughter goes there and loves it so we signed up together for this Mommy and me as her younger daughter is Mo's age.

Anyway, the first session was a few days ago and it was all going fine until we had to go around the circle and tell everyone a little bit about ourselves.  I just said, "I am Abby and this is Mo and we are happy to be here", or something like that.  The teacher/facilitator said, "Anything else?".  My mind went blank and I thought - no, nothing else, I can't tell these people yet.  "How many kids do you have?", she asked.  "Two", I said.  "How old is your other child?" she asked....and then came the long pause.  How weird people must think I am.  That I don't know my other child's age.  So, then I have to explain.  And, then I remember - this is my life.  I will never be the regular mom in the group.  I will always be "this" one.  And, frankly, I hate it.  I hate it so much, I could just die.  And, the truth is, everyone was nice.  A couple of people came up to me afterwards and gave me hugs.  I am sure that they can't imagine how terrible it really is - because nobody can.

I seem normal and functioning from the outside and I can't help but wonder if people who hear my story think I must just be heartless.  I lost my child but am still engaging in life.  I can't believe it myself.  What must they think?  I don't know.  The whole thing is just exhausting.  All of the time.  Just when I think I know what to say, I realize I don't.  I can hardly explain it to myself.  How can I be expected to explain it to anyone else?

Poles

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I have this aversion to poles.  Yes, poles.  I used to ride the subway to work when I lived in Brooklyn and the metal pole that everyone would put their grubby hands on grossed me out beyond belief.  I had Purell at the ready so that I could totally disinfect as soon as I got off the train and I would be obsessively thinking about how soon I could Purell for the whole ride.  It's weird because I am not easily grossed out by germs.  I totally abide by the 5 second food falling on the floor rule and I will eat in restaurants with a C grade without a second thought.  Come to think of it, maybe it's not that I am just easy going about germs, it's just that I am extra unconcerned when it comes to food?  I guess I like eating....that's another post.

Despite this aversion to poles, I took my first pole dancing class on Sunday.  Yes, pole dancing.  My nanny bought me a certificate for my birthday.  It is her new obsession.  And, yes, it is funny to go pole dancing with your nanny.  It wasn't really until we started dancing on the poles that I remembered that poles totally gross me out.  Luckily there were spray bottles with alcohol and rags to wipe them down - but still, sweaty hands + metal pole = MAJOR gross out factor.

This is what I learned out about pole dancing:
- Strippers work way harder than you may even think for the money.
- The art of pole dancing is super technical and REALLY REALLY hard.  Unless you hold the pole just right, you will get stuck or fall on the floor.  I am covered in bruises.
- Pole dancing is a really hard workout - I am sore in a lot of places - mostly my abs, legs, arms and back.  So - ya.  I am sore everywhere.

I love dancing with Ted when we can because he is great at spins and dips and it is so much fun to get whipped around on the dance floor.  Pole dancing lets you do it to yourself.  I bet when you get good at it, it is really really fun.

I am not sure that it was entirely "for me" but the challenge was enough to get me back in the studio and trying again. Plus, I could probably stand to get a bit of my "sexy back".  Two pregnancies and deep grief can't be doing much for me in that department.  At the end of the class, all I could think about was getting in the bathroom so that I could wash the pole off my hands.  Being a germ-phobe is probably also not entirely sexy but whaddya gonna do?  I used to LOVE getting out of my comfort zone to try new things.  I don't really anymore.  I really love just staying in my comfort zone even though my comfort zone gets really boring.  New experiences do help to remind me that life can still be new and adventurous.  It can be.  Plus, you get to wear 6 inch stilletos - nothing boring about that.




Mo's Hat

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Our friends Erika and Ian got Mo the cutest hat for his birthday in July.  Ted and I were so bummed that he would never wear it - he hates hats and always takes them immediately off his head. But then, a couple of weeks ago, he just grabbed it and put it on! We love how cute he looks in this dapper hat!





The last photo is of Mo with Harlan, Erika and Ian's baby.

By the way, Ted says Salma Hayek was never his celebrity crush. Maybe she was mine and I got confused. ;)

Fork

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Mo got these awesome "construction" themed utensils from Auntie Beth and Cousin Sadie for Hanukkah.  This video is from his first day using a fork!  We were SO impressed!


He gets the speed eating from me.

Celebrity Crush

Friday, January 10, 2014

Who is your celebrity crush?  I've had a few over the years.  I don't think there is anything disloyal about celebrity crushes - that is what celebrities are there for, right?  My husband's is Salma Hayek, or it was the last time I checked.

My first celebrity crush was Ricky Schroeder.  I tore out the pictures of him from my Teen Beat magazines and taped them to my wall.  I even dressed up like him for Halloween once in grammar school - which basically meant I put my hair in a pony tail and wore an argyle sweater vest.  Somehow my parents got me to a party for some afterschool special he was in and my memory is that he "stole" my ice cream sundae.  I cannot tell you for sure if that is a true memory or a made up memory but whatever it was, it effectively ended my crush on Ricky.  I tend to think I was done with him but needed an out.

I had many celebrity crushes over the years too - most notably: Bono (or Larry Mullen Jr., depending on whether I felt like crushing on the underdog) in high school, Kurt Cobain in my college days, and Justin Timberlake in my twenties.  While I was working in San Francisco and New York to bring attention to the genocide in Darfur, my celebrity crush was John Prendergast.  Though he isn't really a "celebrity", he IS "famous" in the human rights world.  I was WAY more excited about meeting him at the Darfur rally in DC that I helped organize than I was to meet either George Clooney or Barak Obama, who were also there.  John Prendergast is dreamy - and I guess I am not the only one who thinks so - "they" say that he had a little fling with Angelina Jolie when he brought her to the Congo.  Lucky girl.

More recent crushes have been Eric Bana and Daniel Craig - not only because of their obvious appeal, but also because they have each played the part of historically based Jewish heroes.  For me, "Jewish" ups the appeal.  So does Latin.  Which brings me to me current celebrity crush:

Mando from Sesame Street.  Yes, this is the truth.  I mean, really, come on.  Mando is the very best human character on the show and so cute....and that hair!  Forget about it.  Plus, that voice!  Just have a listen: 


Ladies, am I right? Like BUTTER!
(Not sure why this video is not showing up in the mobile version of blogger- you'll just have to trust me!)

I think the celebrity crush is a pretty good indicator of the stage of life you are in.  We always described my Grandma Marilyn as super hip, in no small part because her celebrity crush was Jon Stewart (and her favorite movie was Spinal Tap - she really was the coolest).  My grandma was definitely in a more political stage of life when that crush developed.  I am clearly in a mommy stage of life, which is why my celebrity crush is a Sesame Street character.  Mando - rrrrrrrrrlllllllll! (I'm rolling my tongue to indicate his hotness).

Me vs. Grief

Thursday, January 9, 2014

We all walk around with varying degrees of protective emotional gear on.  It is how we are able to watch the evening news, with its horrific stories of local tragedy, and then flip channels to watch the Real Housewives.  It is how we are able to drive past the man standing with the sign at the off ramp asking for money and not keep thinking about him blocks later.  It is also how we are able to get through the speedbumps in our own lives - the disappointments, the heartbreak, the feelings of inadequacy. 

I have always had a pretty thick protective gear - though I am not sure that I knew it.  I considered myself sensitive in that I had deep empathy for big things and my feeling were hurt easily.  But, the truth is that I was still able to live my life - which was full of friends and laughs and adventures.  When Max died, my protective gear completely disintegrated.  There was nothing protecting me and the world felt immediately unsafe, scary, dark and full of horror.

Slowly, the protective gear (or skin) has grown back.  It's still totally inadequate, but it helps me get through each day - some more easily than others.  This past week, it was totally stripped away again - and I am not completely sure why - but finding a moment of peace within my own brain was close to impossible.  It is so scary when it happens because there is no way of knowing when the pain will subside (because it never fully goes away - the best I can hope for is for it to lessen).  In the meantime, I spend A LOT of time trying to think of a way out.  That train of thought usually goes something like this: I need to know that Max's soul still lives and that we will be together again......I need to find a way to believe in a spiritual realm......I should find a new spiritual practice, philosophy, community........We need to move far away - like Australia, or India, or Croatia (Ya!  That's the ticket).......Maybe there is a book I haven't read yet that can give me some answers: about grief, about eternal life, about where my child is!!!!......Will I ever be happy again?.....Will Teddy?......Will I ever see Maxie again?.....How come some people have experiences that they see as messages from their loved ones and I don't?.......How come other people get pregnant and get to be excited and hopeful?....How come some other people get pregnant period? (No, I am not)......Why do I waste time feeling jealous of what other people have?.......What did I do to deserve this?......This isn't about me!  What did Maxie do?  NOTHING!!!!......I am so angry at god!.....Maybe there is no god!.....Then, there is probably no afterlife......There has to be a god!  I am sorry god.  I am sure there is a plan!.......and so on and so on and so on and so on.....until I am sick and dizzy and worn out and even more unhappy.   Sometimes this lasts for a day.  Sometimes it lasts for a week.  Right after Maxie died, it lasted a year!  A WHOLE year.  I feel fairly certain that it won't ever be like that again, but, I can't know for sure.

And then SNAP!  For no reason at all, the looping stops, a thin layer of protective skin grows back, and I am back to baseline me.  Baseline me is still sad but can appreciate the immediate things in life that make me happy on a day to day basis, without as much worry about anything past this very minute.  My snap happened yesterday - and I feel relief.  Like, my whole body (and mostly my poor brain) is taking a rest.  When I am going through the other stuff, I can hardly think of anything else.  The vet yesterday was kind of laughing at me because I couldn't remember parts of our last conversation, I couldn't remember the medications Jake is taking, and I couldn't even remember that he had had some pretty important blood work done a couple of months ago.  Jake is very important to me, but I just couldn't think.  I was in recovery mode and just trying to get through the appointment.

Before you think, "Well, she is just losing her mind", I want to tell you that I am not.  What I am feeling and going through is very common.  In the several online grief groups that I am a part of, I hear similar descriptions all of the time.  We are a very misunderstood bunch.  It isn't even depression (though that can be a part of it too) - it is grief.  And, oh my god, it seriously takes a very serious punch at me every few weeks and I am never sure whether I am going to survive through.

In the latest battle of Abby vs. Grief -  Abby wins.  Wish me luck for next time. 

Jake's post radiation check in

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I took Jake to the vet today for a check in.  Three months ago, we did a week of radiation on the tumor in his mouth in hopes of stabilizing the growth.  Today, I learned that it hasn't grown over these past months, which is the best news that I could have hoped for.  The vet asked me how he is doing - I told him he seems great: lots of energy, loads of cuddles, happy all of the time, good appetite.  This is ALL good news.  I hope I can stay ahead of this tumor as it sounds like it is possible that he could have a few more good years in him - something I wasn't told on any of my previous visits.  I am keeping my fingers crossed because my Jakey is really something special.


Kicking myself

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

My New Years Resolution is to try and transcend the nonsense that occupies my mind and is peripheral to Maxie's death.  I am only seven days in and it is already proving to be incredibly hard.  That being said, I don't have space for it.  I really don't.  Especially because I have other goals I am working on that need my head to be in the game.  Under the best of circumstances, it is hard to not get caught up in all of the chatter that happens inside, outside and around each of us every single day.  My circumstances are not the best but that is why it is even more important for me to focus on the positive.  Sometimes I just need to give myself a little kick to get my focus back.  Let's consider this post my kick for the day.

Anonymous

Friday, January 3, 2014

I found myself stewing last night after reading an awful comment on the blog of a fellow grieving mother.  It was meant to be hurtful.  It was meant to make the blogger feel badly about herself.  It was meant to minimize the grief that this mother feels for her daughter and it's author was, OF COURSE, anonymous.  I have been on the receiving end of so many of those kinds of comments since I started writing my blog.  Every time I get one, it feels like I'm being punched in the face.  And, yes, I get it that our blogs are public, so people should be allowed to comment and say whatever they'd like.  After all, we are opening our lives to you.  BUT - honestly, who the hell targets a parent whose child has died to send such mean spirited commentary?  Just the absolute worst kind of person ever I have to imagine.  In my case, I usually have a pretty good idea who the anonymous commenter is.  First of all, there are ways to trace the comments, so they aren't really all that anonymous after all. I am SURE that anonymous is smart enough to recognize that, right? (NOT).  But, I also think that there are people who get off on kicking people who are struggling.  I think it brings them satisfaction to know that they pushed the knife in even further.  As an outside looking in on an anonymous comment on another person's blog, I have to say, those comments were really put in perspective for me.  The only person who looks like an a-hole is anonymous. 

No way out

Thursday, January 2, 2014

A couple of mornings before Max stopped breathing.  I was out for a morning bike ride in Griffith Park. I had gone up into the hills and the chain came off my bike.  I really had never fixed my own chain before and didn't know what to do, but I knew I'd figure it out and be fine.  I pulled out my phone and found a video on youtube about how to fix the chain.  In less than five minutes, I was back on my bike and riding down the hill again.

Up until the morning we lost Max, everything in my life had been fixable. 

In the beginning I thought all of the time about how I would get myself out of this one.  How I could get back to the life I had, with my husband and brand new baby.  We had JUST started a family and we were so happy and so looking forward to our future.  And, just like that, he was gone.  Our family was no more.  I spent most of the day trying to figure out how could I get Max back. There had to be a way.  I discovered mediums and spiritual ideas about where the soul goes and have been trying to convince myself since then (still do) that Max is "somewhere" and that we will be together again.  The problem is that I want to be with him NOW and so I am caught between two worlds - the one where my last day on earth cannot come quick enough and the one where I have just started over again and am looking forward to seeing my Mo grow up and wondering who and what he will be.

I spend a LOT of time and energy trying to block out all of the negativity and grief from my thoughts because if I didn't work so hard, I'd just go be with Max, and I'd wait around for Mo and Ted to get there - because if I got there, I'd know there was a "there" there and that the two of them were coming.  As it is, I don't really know anything at all and it's the unknowing that kills me.  That, and the fact that there is no way out of this.  He will always be gone.  He will always be missing.  I will always have one child who died.  It's more than I can bear honestly. 

Expectations

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

This probably isn't the best day to write about this.  I feel like I should be writing something uplifting and full of hope with it being New Years Day and all, but this is what is on my mind this morning.

When my Grandpa Bill left my Grandma Marilyn for another woman, she was devastated.  They had three children, the youngest was just an infant.  She had been a stay at home mom, married to a handsome pianist who I suppose she was very much in love with.  Her heart was broken, she had to figure out how to make a living and balance three children.  It was really hard.  Eventually, she found a job working at Kaiser and met my Grandpa Jack, and they fell very much in love.  He was a well respected Pathologist with two children of his own and he was crazy about my grandmother.  And, although she really ended up with a beautiful life (I mean, she really really did), the cheating and the heartbreak and the strength that she had to muster to move forward broke a part of her.  And, every so often, she'd bring it up.  I think she wanted people to know that her happiness had not come easy. That she had struggled deceit, and heartache, and the challenges of being a single mother.  I never felt it was self indulgent of her to talk about that period of her life, even when a part of her still sounded sad.  I always just felt like she was honestly sharing her life with me and I admired that she'd been through an unconventional hardship (for her era) and made it through to another side.  I know there were some who felt she should stop telling and retelling the story because it all worked out fine - and that it was somehow insulting to her second husband and maybe to a certain extent that is true.  But, overall, she was scarred and I doubt she ever went to counseling or spoke to anyone with great insight about the situation.  She just buckled down and kept going.  Of course it scarred her.  I adored my grandma Marilyn - she was honest, and good, and kind, and generous, and nurturing.
 My Grandma Marilyn with my Auntie Al

My dad's mom felt sorry for herself her whole life and I could never actually figure out why.  She had a very smart and successful husband.  She had two beautiful children.  She lived in a nice house in a nice neighborhood.  She traveled all over the world.  Had she just decided at some point to be happy, she probably could have been, but I think it was easier for her to be angry.  She thrived off anger and drama.  She was constantly stirring the pot, pitting people against each other, looking for issues to be dramatic about.  I guess I loved her somehow, but she sucked the life out of me - not only whenever I saw her, but whenever I even just thought about her.  I used to pick her up to take her out to eat or to a movie and the whole time I'd have to deep breathe and clear my mind of her negativity.  In her mind, the whole world was against her.  It was exhausting.  She lived into her 90s.  I don't know how her anger and grief didn't kill her much earlier.  She was only happy with people she didn't know well.

My brother and I with Grandma Ann

I think about these women all of the time.  I do.  And, I am pretty sure my parents each worry that I will end up like their respective mothers.  They've hinted as much to me since Max died.  My mother worries that I will carry the loss of Max on my shoulders for the rest of my life and that even if life looks beautiful from the outside for me again someday, I will still be crying over my child.  She is right.  I will.  And, I know there will always be people that will say that I should be over it, and that I should count my blessings, and that life turned out lovely for me (assuming it does).  That is ok.  The fact is my grief isn't all about me. It's about Max- and the life he won't get.  They can say whatever they want anyway.  They haven't lived through what I am living through.  They don't know how much strength it takes to even imagine a lovely life when your child dies.  They don't believe my struggle and I can't, nor do I need, to try and convince them.  But, I will share Max forever, because I love him and because I believe his life was important.  The truth is that people can move forward and still have deep scars, like my grandma Marilyn did.  That essentially sums up the human experience.  We get knocked down, we lie there for a while (sometimes a minute, sometimes a year), we get up, we move forward and then we get knocked down again.  It never bothered me to hear my grandmother say her heart had been broken - because it was the truth. And, by the way, when my first boyfriend cheated on me, she is the one I went to about it and she understood like nobody else did.  I'd be happy to end up like her. 

My father, I am sure - worries that I will end up like his mother: Bitter, mean, entitled.  When I first lost Max, this was a real possibility - I could have ended up like her.  Though, I'd be quick to point out that unlike her, something horrible happened in my life - in fact, to the most important person in my life.  She hadn't lost anyone close that she loved or been left by someone she trusted or had anything bad really happen to her.  I've always wondered whether her husband was very fond of her, but honestly, I am sure he wasn't.  She was really a difficult person.  And, who knows why?  Maybe there was some reason that she never shared with us.  Regardless, I have been very aware of who she was and how much I don't want to be like her.  She never expressed gratitude for what she had and the truth is that her life was full of abundance.  She could be generous, but rarely with warmth and love. She was mostly miserable to be around, and I guess I should feel bad saying it because grandmothers are supposed to be sweet and warm and lovely - but mine just wasn't and that is ok.  In fact, I truly believe that if I had any kind of understanding of what had made her the way she was, perhaps I would have felt some compassion.  But, as it was, I didn't.  

I've been thinking about these two women and how they have shaped my life and more importantly, my parents.  I know that both of my parents have felt disappointed at various points that I haven't been able to be stronger in the last two years.  They have wanted me to be the bigger person in certain instances and encouraged me to put one foot in front of the other when that felt impossible.  I think my mother and I have mostly reached a place of understanding, where she knows I am doing the best I can.  I also think my dad might see that but I can't be sure.  I wonder if they notice how much strength I actually have had to muster to keep going - to have another child, to take care of him and make sure he feels loved, to nurture my marriage, to plan for more children, to keep my job, to find ways of coping and even enjoying life.  I worry that they are more worried about my becoming one of their mothers than they are about my becoming my "new me".  And, I hope that my parents can see the difference between having lost Max and the experiences of their mothers.  They have each spent large portions of their lives listening to women who felt sorry for themselves on a certain level, and to have me in that same place probably feels familiar and scary.  My feeling sorry for myself is a trigger for them.  I hope that eventually, they will fully recognize how natural it is to feel sorry for oneself when a child dies.  I think they feel it too but they are also afraid of becoming their mothers, so they mostly "buck up".  I hope that one day they can feel proud of how far we've come since Maxie stopped breathing.  Perhaps I am being too generous with myself but I believe that though my life has been influenced by both of these women - neither one of them is me.  And, the two of them couldn't have been more different.  My life, my experience, my love, my loss - it's different than either of them and so am I.



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