Even now, it's so hard to wrap my brain around it all... El Capitan doesn't think I'm due any answers for the who/where/when/how-long/why of things.... why is that so hard for men to understand? lol
And then there's Yoga Girl..... already my stomach hurts just thinking about her.
Then I got an email from a friend... a dear friend. Long story short, she and I actually became friends because (several years ago) she was posting on a mutual friends myspace page about a relative of theirs who had lost their newborn to SIDS - and I sent her an email.
At the time, I was an Area Coordinator for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. In those days, NILMDTS was still in it's relative infancy and I was one of the three local photogs in Portland who were working to bring the program to our major hospitals in the Portland Metro area (I think there are like 40 photographers from Portland currenlty registered!). Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is an AM.AZING non-profit organization which provides (free) infant bereavement photography services for families who are facing the demise of their baby - this can be in utero (and we photograph the stillborn baby once it's born), or sometimes it's in a nursery as they turn off the machines, it can be any number of situations - so long as the baby is 25 weeks gestation or more and sadly.... has demised or will demise shortly after birth.
I was the Area Coordinator for St. Vincents at the time (and later brought the program to Kaiser Sunnyside), as well as helping our OHSU coordinator field her calls (one night at OHSU I photographed three different babies for three different reasons!) In the twoish years that I was with NILMDTS, I photographed over 70 babies who sadly.... didn't get to go home with their parents.
That's over 70 Moms who left a hospital with empty arms. Sadly... there are millions more every year.
Calls for sessions came during the day, during birthday parties, holidays and in the middle of the night... because, frankly, death doesn't give a sh*t about anything - it just comes whenever it feels like it. Death... well - I'll be honest, death is ugly, painfully ugly. Babies however... are *always* beautiful. ALWAYS. Whether they live to breathe in your hands, may be never took a single breath at all.... or they take their last breath in your hands: they are always, always beautiful.
I remember nearly all of 'my' babies, how many weeks they were, how small they were, how big they were, and most of the time, why they died. Often I find myself thinking about several of them, and I often reflect on the bravery and strength and courage of their Mother's who left that hospital room empty handed - going home to pack up a nursery, give away the newborn clothes they received as gifts and bury the lifetime of dreams and hopes and plans that they had already made for that baby from that very first moment that they got those two pink lines when they pee'd on a stick.....
Because, those Moms: they lose everything.
They lose it all... and most of the time- for no damn good reason at all. Just .... because.
So I saw the post on myspace and I contacted the lady posting - I'm pretty sure she thought I was an effing freak offering to photograph her relatives now demised infant... but she passed on my info and after that.... she and I became friends.
Several years later..... I would read a post from that same lady (who was now a good friend) and I knew by the title of the post that nothing good was going to come her way.... They were pregnant and had been for their ultrasound that day.... that day, her life fell apart. That day, her hopes and dreams died a very slow, painful and public death. That day, they found out that their baby boy had anencephaly. This is a condition where the brain doesn't grow and, often, there is no skull past the eyebrows and the head is fully exposed. It is what doctors consider "incompatible with life".
Instantly, I knew what my friend was facing........
I guess, sometimes, it's a perk having a friend who isn't afraid to talk about the impending death of your unborn child, the challenges about with it, how to try to deal with it. I think I was able to be there for her in ways most of her other friends couldn't be there... and sadly, even some who couldn't handle what she was facing - just stopped being friends with her.
She would call me angry and crying and pissed.... sooooo pissed. And rightfully so. She was young and healthy and ate organic... organic dammit! She exercised (no 40s of malt liquor and heavy smoking for her! lolol) - and yet... here she was with the sh*ttiest of news - each day bringing her both emotionally closer to her child and yet one day closer to his burial.
Now that... THAT is brutal.
I would tell her EVERY. SINGLE. TIME she called: that she had already gotten what she wanted: a son.
That her son was hers - and he was already perfectly who he was meant to be. That she needed to accept him and the very short like he would have and try to come to terms with the fact that there wouldn't be more days... or in her case, even a few more hours. She was blessed to have the time she would have and she should spend it loving him - because, as I promised her, she would have a lifetime to cry over him, but only a few short hours to hold him. We are all destined to live the lives we are meant to live from the moment we're conceived. Period. I would tell her over and over that every life is important and valuable and the amount of time of that life IS NOT important. No one ever say's.... "Crap, if Grandma had lived a more day - I would've loved her more...."
Love is love. It doesn't understand time. I think that's one of the few places love and death collide: neither of them gives a sh*t about time.
That was years ago now, that my friends baby was born and passed away on the same day. And here is she now... in spite of my many, many warnings to her to back up her computer..... lol - she can't find her sons photos and slideshow that I made for her. Of course, I'll tear about all my hard drives until I find it and burn her a new one (hopefully) - but..... her email has been a wonderful reminder for me and brought back, in a flood of grateful pain - the memories of all those teeny, tiny sweet babies I held and said goodbye to.....
I have to learn to accept that my marriage is what it was meant to be. Perhaps it wasn't meant to see those Golden Years... perhaps it wasn't supposed to "stand the test of time". I can't celebrate its brutal, unfair and untimely ending.... but I *can* still try to celebrate the good times, the days that were happy - and certainly the years that brought me my own sweet, wonderful, amazing babies.
And I should just effing sack-up and (emotionally) move-on already!
No one died.... *I* was lucky - I shed 240lbs of cheating asswh*le...... period..... no infant casket was required for that. And, when you stop and think about that: infant casket. I don't think there is a more cruel, unfair collection of words in the entirety of the English language: infant casket. They just don't belong together.
I often think of my Moms, that look of love and pain and betrayal in their eyes is... well, it's just not something you ever forget. The loss of their babies... each and every one, is like a stain on my heart - a beautiful reminder that life is NEVER long enough and we shouldn't take a second of what we have for granted. I know this sounds strange.... but I never understood life until I held death in my hands.
So.... my friends frantic email during my weekend of self-centered emotional turmoil was a reminder to me .... that what I had *was* perfect and it's unfair that it's gone... but it could be worse... much worse - and I'm just going to be grateful for what it *was* instead of resenting what it wasn't. Hell... may be I'll look back one day and say I never understood "love" until I lived through the "death" of it.....
off to dig through hard drives now....
PS...if you wanna' read about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep click on the link. It is a wonderful non-profit org. and if you have anyone in your life facing infant demise, please pass that link on to them. Also.... if you're one of those ladies like me - who now owns a wedding dress you no longer need to enshrine as a "symbol" of your love and marriage - you can donate it to these AMAZING ladies at HAIN - who will cut it up and make the most gorgeous gowns for the babies that NILMDTS work with.