common ground & peter pan

Four years ago today, my aunt lost her son.

It was unexpected.

I flew home immediately. I remember picking out his flowers. I remember placing a Peter Pan book in his casket, his sister falling apart as she walked into the funeral home, and choking through tears reading this poem at his funeral:

Longing For One More Day

“When we lose someone we love it seems that time stands still. What moves through us is a silence… a quiet sadness… A longing for one more day… one more word… one more touch… We may not understand why you left this earth so soon, or why you left before we were ready to say good-bye, but little by little, we begin to remember not just that you died, but that you lived. And that your life gave us memories too beautiful to forget. We will see you again some day, in a heavenly place where there is no parting. A place where there are no words that mean good-bye. ”

The only thing I can do for my aunt is tell her that I remember his beautiful life. I only held my son for minutes. She held him for 26 years. I cannot imagine the amplitude of her pain. She finds grace in dark places that only grief and sadness know.

I hate to share this common ground with her– we’re undeserving. But in her I see that life beyond this grief is different, but possible– and for that I am thankful she is my teacher.

Second star to the right and straight ahead till morning, Johnny. I love you. I miss you. I remember you.

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who put me in charge?

I did, I suppose. 

The grief is omnipresent and saturating. It stresses relationships & interactions and has changed every part of who I am now and who I will be later.

It just seems like, with that heaviness, I’d be ready to be lighter. To let go a little bit, to unburden myself of sadness, and to move forward with positivity. But I can’t. I’m not ready.

I have to be sad for him. I have to mourn him. All I’ve ever been was sad for him. It’s the closest emotion I have tied to his memory.  If I smile, how will that remind everyone that he existed? 

I am in charge of remembering him. I don’t trust anyone else to remember. Who else will cry for him if I don’t? Who else will imagine holding him while making breakfast while his Dad sings funny songs to him? If I don’t, who will imagine him at his soccer games? Or him sleeping on his Dad’s chest? I don’t trust the rest of the world to not stop remembering him. It is an incredible weight to exist with– but I don’t want to let it go. 

But he has given me things. He has given me a new relationship with my sister. He has shown my husband and I that we are stronger than we ever imagined. He has given me the opportunity, several times over, to see the people that we call friends and how mighty they are in their support when we need something. These things, especially the latter, is something I can not help but be happy about. If we did not experience infertility, pain and loss– we wouldn’t know these things. In an honest moment, I will remind you that these life lessons aren’t worth the cost. But in a second moment, I will say that in the moments of grief, these lessons are what keep us moving forward. 

And moving forward we are. We have had over 500 viewers of our blog. We’ve raised nearly $500 in the last 48 hours towards our goal. We have launched our Facebook page to keep everyone posted on new blog updates, new fundraising goals and opportunities and new milestones in our journey.

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We called the agency today. I’ve printed the application. I’ve tucked it neatly in it’s folder. I’ve printed the applications for grants from two non-profits for adoption assistance. 

We’re ready to build our home.

 

remembering

On May 6th, 2012, we found out we were going to be parents. At 6dp5dt (IVF lingo for 11 days post ovulation), I saw the faintest line on the test. I bounded out of the bathroom and woke LB up to show him. He wasn’t sure he could see it, but we convinced ourselves something was there. I secretly texted my friend Aimee a picture to have someone else to ‘squeeeeee’ with. I had never seen two lines before, and although faint, I knew it was there.

We went to his soccer game as parents that morning. He carried my chair for me across the field and made sure I was comfortable before he took off to play. The sun felt brighter, the grass looked greener and we were parents.We confirmed with a blood test through our reproductive endocrinologists office a few days later– we were pregnant! I tested every.single.day to make sure it was happening. Two lines. Over and over and over. Two beautifully pink, clear as day, lines.

The day before our first ultrasound I began bleeding heavily. I knew it was too good to be true. I was beating myself up for allowing the hopefulness to be so pervasive. We found out the next morning that I was miscarrying– a twin. But one baby, in it’s tiny sac, was still ok. O.K. was good.

I still remember all the numbers. 131- first beta. 112 bpm- first heartbeat.

I listened to Aerosmith’s “Dream On” over and over and over. And once more for good measure. I never gave myself time to mourn our first baby– I was too busy hoping for this one. I lived every day with the terror that I was going to lose this pregnancy. That he would slip away from me somehow. And the sadness that came with that fear was paralyzing. How would I continue to live without him? How would I ever recover from losing this thing we wanted so badly? It was our only chance at our family. How do you keep living when your dream dies?

August 22nd was our anatomy scan. For most couples, it’s the day they find out if they’re Team Pink or Blue. I secretly hoped for a girl, but I wanted the cliche– a healthy baby. I just wanted a baby. We held hands as the technician started the ultrasound. LB whispered to me that the safari wallpaper in the room was exactly what he had in mind for the baby’s room. It was the first time he talked about tangible baby things. The wand pressed down on my belly and we both smiled. Healthy heart. Healthy kidneys. Healthy brain. He was perfect.

“Can you cough for me?”, the tech asked. “Ok, bear down for me like you’re pushing.”, she instructed. “I’m going to get out the transvaginal wand to get a closer look.”  I froze. I squeezed my husband’s hand and I looked over at him and I said, “Something is wrong.”

I had only 5 mm of cervix left. I should have 3.5-4 cm of cervix left. Our office consulted with Maternal Fetal Medicine at several hospitals nearby. No one could fix this. The membranes were funneling and any procedure to save him would risk losing him. Immediate bedrest. Immense panic.

Three days later I went into labor. Two days after labor began my water broke on the way to an emergency surgery to save him.

On August 27th, Dziko George Banda was born and died at 8:30 p.m. I remember screaming, “IS THAT HIM?” and “NO! NO! NO! MY POOR BABY” over and over and over. I remember holding him and apologizing to him. I remember being struck by how much he looked like his daddy. I remember my husband crying. And I remember feeling like my entire world just fell apart. We held him for hours. We showed him to our family members that were at the hospital. I don’t know how, but we slept. We held him again. They kept him wrapped in warm blankets for us.

And I remember the distinct feeling of wishing I was dead when I left the hospital without my baby.

I do also remember how amazing my friends were (and still are) throughout this time. I remember my group of friends, lovingly referred to as The Bitters, sending me hilarious gifts, including a majestical 3 wolves shirt in order to watch over him and keep Dziko safe. I remember the chocolate covered oreos Aimee sent me that helped me feel Dziko move for the first time. I remember Sara asking the hospital to find a separate room for my family to grieve in, so that they didn’t have to watch happy families await the arrival of their newest family members. I remember Sara buying all the thing in Whole Foods so that I didn’t have to think about cooking or feeding myself. I remember Sara visiting me in the hospital and crying with me. I remember Sara and Noelle sitting with me to look through his pictures. I remember Kristi setting up a GiveItForward donation page for the medical costs and memorial. I remember all the people I had never met donating and thinking of us– and crying for us. I remember my mom getting on a plane hours after our anatomy scan and staying with me for a month and taking care of me while she grieved the loss of her first grandchild. I remember my sister keeping herself together while I, and her car, fell apart. I remember her coloring with me through my bedrest, keeping me company in the hospital when LB couldn’t be there….

And I remember you all crying for us. And I remember that you helped me realize I was not as alone as I had imagined I was. I am touched that I know so many great people. And I am touched that so many great people loved Dziko.

I wrote our story. I never thought I’d be able to do it, but I wrote our story. I love him and I miss him so much. He helped us see that “dziko lo kongola” (the world is beautiful- in Chichewa).

Our decision to move forward in our pursuit of parenthood is challenging. This process must honor him as our son. I believe very much that he will help us along the way– to navigate each turn, each obstacle, each roadblock. I hope he knows how much he means to me and how much I wish to parent him. Since we are unable to be his parents, I hope that he can be our guardian.