I love you. I love you. I love you. Over and over again. 

I am roaming again. 

My stomach aches and I can’t sleep. I’ve fed it something that I knew would come back and haunt me this evening. I don’t know why I do this to myself. So the acid rises up to my throat and there’s the uncomfortable gurgle deep in my guts. 

Bad stomach, they say, genetic.. you got it bad from both sides. 

And then I think of my mother.

You are not her. My sister says. She tells me this multiple times over my lifetime and my own mortality keeps me awake sometimes at night, when the acid rises and my guts bubble. 

I should get to a doctor I think. Get this checked out. But I won’t. Because I know I am not her. 

Instead, I’m in my brain… thinking of a life without me. Thinking of the letters that I write to my boys, that everyone thinks are so sweet. And I say yes, it’s so they know how they were growing up. But in reality it so they can hear from me if ever I go too early. They’ll have my voice with them. Saying I love you. I love you. I love you. Over and over again. 

And I am in my brain. Apologizing to the baby because he doesn’t have as many letters as his older brother. And calling a friend that will take care of their photos and writing down all of the things I do to keep this boat floating that J doesn’t know. Passwords and payments and appointments and keepsakes and letters so many letters. 

And then I am sad. Because people shouldn’t think about things like that. Right? But I do. When I’m roaming and the acid starts to rise. 

And I roll over in the pitch black room and listen to his breathing. Unwrap his arms and make room for myself to crawl in. He mumbles but accepts. But he doesn’t know about my brain and what my stomach makes me think about. He doesn’t live in a world where he can’t speak to his mother and hear I love you. I love you. I love you. Over and over again. 

Where are you going? He asks as I stumble out of bed. 

My stomach is aching. I need to get up. I’ll be back after it settles down. 

The things I would do for you

Tucking him in… 

“Sometimes I think a bad man is going to come in and take me.”

I look down at him. Sometimes I forget how little he still is even though he is so big. I crawl in bed with him and wrap my arms around him and do my best to find the words to ease his worried mind. 

These talks of fears and thoughts that lead us from one conversation to another and I get to see a small glimpse of what’s happening inside of his head. I get to see a little bit of what makes up the parts of who he is. 

We talk about the dog, our protector, our guardian. We talk about locks and latches and things that keep us safe. We talk about how I would never let anyone hurt him. How I would never let anyone take him away from me. I rub the hair away from his forehead and we talk about everything. 

He tells me of his nightmares… which he still calls nightmarers. He asks me how come I gave him my protector for his dreams when she won’t be able to keep my safe. I tell him the simple truth… that I care more about him than I do myself. 

I’m sure some of this has to do with his daddy being at work during the nighttime lately. He asked for him three times at bedtime tonight. It’s easier with him here. It feels safer with him here. 

Instead I will tuck him in and check on him again before laying down my weary head. Because he doesn’t know the extent of the things I would do for him. He doesn’t know how deep my love goes for him. He doesn’t know that I would do anything to keep him safe. 

Let them eat cake.

We need to pick out Benjamin’s birthday cake soon. I say to him late last night, while we’re both staring at our phones. We both know the date is coming up. Looming over us as each day in February passes us by.

I think we should do a rocket ship. He says

We did that for his second birthday… then there is silence.

I hate picking his cake. I say and I feel my face starting to get hot. I feel my eyes starting to give way.

He looks up at me with serious, sad eyes. The way he always does when I get like this. I can tell my Mom not to make a cake this year if you don’t want one. He says, trying to fix it for me. Trying to make this a little less hard.

That’s not what I’m saying. I hate picking the theme. I hate that he’d be four this year and I have no clue what he’d like. I mean surely he’d be in to something. Like love something. And I just don’t know what it would be and that kills me. I hate picking his cake. But I want to celebrate him.

How about just a four with stars? He says. He’s trying to find a way to make this what I want it to be.

That sounds good. We need to figure out what we want to do also. Like if it’s just cake with our parents or if we go somewhere and do something. But not on his day. I can’t go anywhere on his day.

He nods. He knows.

 

In my day dreams I have a middle child. A child that sleeps on the bottom bunk while Jack sleeps up top. A curly haired boy who is a link in the chain that connects Jack and William together. A piece of our puzzle. A third booster seat in the car. Another little person to raise. I can see what it would be like… with him here. I could see how life was supposed to be. But it’s not.

So instead, the first week of March every year we throw  a sad birthday party for a boy who never got to be a day old, an hour old, a minute old, or a second old. He lived for 8 months inside of me, but never took a breath. We eat cake and plan small trips to celebrate him. To include him in our lives. What would Benjamin want to do at 4 years old?

It’s almost March and it’s almost time to eat birthday cake.

 

My bubble and being connected 

Is it possible to feel both way too connected to everything and disconnected at the same time?  Whatever that feeling is… I am it. Right now with the world the way that it is, with people treating eachother the way that they are, I want to retreat back into my bubble with my little family. I don’t go out much, unless I absolutely have to. I’m sure a lot of what I’m feeling has to do with the weather. The bitter cold has given way to dreary rainy days… but I know the cold will still return in February… maybe even March.

I’ve been readingthings about children. Random articles seem to find me. Topics about neglect or abuse. And it breaks my heart every single time. I don’t understand it. How anyone could ever be cruel to a child.

Everything is internal. I don’t feel like talking really. I don’t feel like doing things outside of my house. It’s not to say that I’m sad. I just need to be alone for a little while. To figure out why I’m feeling this way, what I can do about it, and decide if I need to change it or just feel it.

I’m sure I’ll feel better once the sunshine returns.

I have so much hope for this year. I have a casuous heart and watching eyes though. I feel like I’m missing something or someone.

Life has been about surviving lately. Making it through the day. I haven’t found a good balance here yet. I feel like most days, evenings especially, are just doing things in order to have everyone functioning for the next day. Checklists and piles by the door, waiting for the morning so I can start over again.

I need to find my rythym. So I’m not just surviving. Or maybe let my own expectations of my self be a little lower so I can be more present.

This is my brain right now.

I’m sure I’ll be better once the sunshine returns.

The things I want to say to you: pt. 2

It’s starting to get colder here and I’ve been missing you terribly. It seems as though when every November rolls in and October leaves me, the slight aching in my heart returns and it beats in a rhythm of longing for you.

Did you know that dad remembers you each year? He doesn’t say anything or announce it. Every year for the past three years, with the exception of this one, he has requested having Jack come for a sleepover. His quiet way of acknowledging my love for you. For giving me the break, allowing me to be on my island, and just miss you. He didn’t this year. It didn’t work out, or maybe he figured I wouldn’t want to be away from the baby also. He did show up tonight, as he does on more Sundays than not, with tired eyes, because he needed to hug the boys. I watch him with them. He tries so hard to be a great grandfather to them. He’s doing a great job and so is T. You’d appreciate the love she gives to them, I think. 

Tonight I’m wondering what you think of them. Most of the time I can get past you not being here to see them and I’m not really 100% sure about the afterlife. It makes me really sad that you’ve missed everything. 

I’ve distanced myself away from people who failed me after you left. As I got older and started my family I figured that they weren’t there for me then so why should I give them the most awesome privilege of knowing my kids? My family dissentigrated to almost no one, but has grown so much since then. 

I wish you were here. The baby favors you. People say he looks like his daddy and I suppose in someways he does. But when I look at him I see you. He has your serious stern eyes and your forehead wrinkles. He has your big brown eyes. And you can’t see them. You can’t see how much his personality resembles what yours was.

So now I guess I want to tell you what you’ve missed. Not the big things, the important things. Kayla got your sense of humor. She’s the funniest teenager I’ve ever met. Her jokes are ridiculous and stupid and lovely, just like yours were. Chris is not a saint, like you thought he’d be, but he is special. He’s a good kid. And he will grow up to be a good man and a good father. Noah, sweet Noah, is the most caring kid I have ever met. He’s sweet and generous and will take care of Jenny for anything she needs as he gets older. Mattie is me. So much like me that it makes my heart ache for her sometimes. Sensitive. She’s going to care for so many people in her lifetime but with as sensitive as she is she’s ten times as strong. My Jack is the best. He is smart and artistic and he genuinely cares about people. But my proudest thing is that he is kind.

Your middle has achieved more this year than she has in the past 10. I feel like you already knew what she was capable of. But you’d be so proud if you saw her now. 

I don’t know about your oldest. I wish I did. I feel like every time I see him there are so many things unsaid, and deep sadness for how things are. I will fix this one day. Not today, but soon.

And me. I have a family, a big one, that loves me. I have everything I’ve ever wanted. I have everything that I need. I have a good man and two beautiful boys. But I’m still missing you. 

Happy Birthday Momma, wherever you are. Come visit me in my dreams. I’d like to hear your voice again. I’d like to lay with you and talk about how wonderful everyone is. 

I am missing you.

Time ticks down. 

I am her and she is me. We are different genetically but our hearts, they’re sewn from the same cloth. She comes to me when life has us both reveed up. We are screaming inside with the answers to our deepest fears. The ones we only dare whisper to each other. We talk the talks of childhood and beliefs. We dance around our questions, our insecurities, our life. We talk about the internal clock that powers both of our hearts. Always ticking down, down, down.Running out. 

We talk about the things we don’t dare to ask. We look at each other with knowing eyes. I am her and she is I. We know because we were there, together, holding hands and gluing the soles of our shoes back together. Our mother may have called us beautiful from time to time, but she called us strong more times than that. Our mother raised warriors, survivors, and beasts. 

We never spoke about the monsters of our childhood because monsters weren’t real, even if you did see them crawling across the floor, faceless, in the dark. And we were there, together, holding hands and tucking our feet deep under the covers while shutting our eyes tight. As we grew and the monsters became real and they would yell, close to our faces, with alcohol drenched breath, about how stupid we were, how much of a disappointment we had become. We were there, holding hands, caring for our mothers and whispering in the night about how we’d wish he’d just die. 

I am her and she is I. Older now. Raising warriors, survivers, and beasts. Moving on and forgiving the monsters of our dreams. There is an invisible string that sometimes calls one of us across town. We look into each other and understand the things that are unspoken and we are together, restarting the clocks in our hearts, standing up and choosing to believe our stories won’t end the way they do in our dreams. 

I am her and she is me. 

Gratitude and slowing down

The last few months have been a huge race… running toward the new house, trying to get the old house sold, juggling new work schedules, school activities, family obligations, and a new baby. 

It seems in the last couple months I was so stressed and anxious that I kept seeing red, finding it hard to breathe, and using my most over used phrase of I need a break. 

Things have slowed down this week, schedules figured out, the baby is finally on a day schedule to go along with his already established night schedule. Old house is in motion to be sold, and the new house is ours. For the first time since W was born I feel like this is it. It’s working and we can do this. 

Today, this morning, snuggling him in silence. Thankful for my time with him I realized wow, he is actually mine.  Even though his pregnancy was typical and okay, despite all of my anxiety and everyone else’s,  I didn’t actually think he’d be here. And now he is… and we are a completed family. 

I’ve always hated the term “rainbow baby”. After losing Benjamin and reading and talking and watching others who had experienced the same thing I hated that term with every fiber of my being. Rainbow baby. Thought it was the stupidest shit. The rainbow after the storm. I still hate it when people send me photos of rainbows. Awe look! Benjamin sent us a rainbow! Shut up, no he didn’t. That shit happened because of rain and science. 

And I laugh about it. Not because it’s funny. But because it’s sad. Because that’s what I do. I’m so the person who laughs at funerals. Because I’m awkward. But hey, it’s who I am. 

So W is not my rainbow baby. He’s just my baby. My baby who put all of my fears to rest even though i thought for sure that I would not carry another baby to full term and have it be born breathing. And technically, I guess he wasn’t full term. One week shy of it because I had awesome doctors watching me closely, watching him, and making sure they beat my body to the punch. 

I feel like this is all over the place. I guess my point is this week I finally have the opportunity to feel grateful for how things are going. I have a sleeping baby in the living room, and though sometimes my overly anxious heart makes me go over to him to check if he’s breathing, I am so happy to have him here. I am so happy to be here. 

Benjamin’s things

William has been using Benjamin’s diapers, Benjamin’s clothes, and the Benjamin blanket since he was born. Sometimes, William even uses Benjamin’s name. 

I like to watch people as they’re talking to see if they catch it. A slip of the tongue, a moment without thought, and there it is; they are holding William, but they have called him Benjamin. Sometimes they catch it and put their hand over their open mouth, look at me with wide, sad eyes, and say repeatedly I’m sorry.  And I just smile. 

A conversation with a family member two months after William was born. He kept calling him buddy. He said I’m sorry, but I won’t ever call him by his name because I’m too scared of messing up and calling him by the wrong one. He stepped around the subject, not saying what he meant but saying it all the same. My response was the same response I give to any one who slips up and gives me those wide, sad eyes. 

Why should you be sorry? If anything it makes me happy because that means he’s in your brain. He’s there and he meant something because he existed. 

We have been using Benjamin’s things. Today I asked j to go get diapers out of Benjamin’s closet, even though he’s never lived here. Tonight I dressed William in Benjamin’s blue submarine pajamas, even though he never wore them, and when I lay him down to bed William will be wrapped up in Benjamin’s blanket, though it was sewed with love and given to me two months after we laid him to rest. 

I didn’t know how unearthing all of those tubs of baby things, that used to cause me so much pain and were hidden from my sight for three years would open up life again to our dear Benjamin.Every time I see something I remember. But it’s no longer the memory of failure and despair, now I remember my hopes I had for him. And though William could never replace him, it’s kind of been a bit therapeutic using his things and laying those hopes to rest. 

We have been using Benjamin’s things. 

Ketchup on crackers and cycles

When things got real bad I remember looking in the fridge and trying to figure out what I was going to feed your brother and sister. I didn’t have any money for food. One night I fed them ketchup on crackers. Thankfully, there was a neighbor in our apartment building that knew what was going on and she would invite us over for dinner. She knew I was too proud to ask. She shared all she had. 

In my life I can not count the times I saw my mother go hungry. By the time I came into this world things were a bit better for her. Maybe because she was constantly working to support us, busting her ass day and night, just to keep food on the table.

The relationship my sister and I have with food stem from this. From watching her as we grew up. This relationship isn’t noticeable unless you’re looking for it. It’s serving yourself last and least. And watching your babies eat and eating very slowly yourself… Just watching and when they’re done but you can tell they still want more you announce I’m not feeling very hungry… Would you like the rest? Handing over your plate. I have watched my sister do this and I have seen myself do the same. Because we remember and we know what it’s like to go to bed hungry.

The universe, currently, has been handing us a series of fuck yous. We are saving for the new house, the dog got sick, and now my car decided to break down. I am finding it hard to stay positive. I have been throwing mini pity parties for myself on occasion. Always in private though. Another thing I learned from her.

I sat last night thinking about how something has got to give. Something has got to go right because there’s been too much wrong happening all at once, making me question whether or not we should even be trying for our forever home.

I woke up today to a text telling me a got a job I was hoping to get. There’s one good thing. But I can’t shake this feeling like I should be doing more. Working more. Providing more. Saving more.

Things have been tight before and we’ve always made it through. I feel like there is a mountain in front of me and I’m not sure if I should climb it or sit down and have a picnic.

I’m tired and I just want things to be simple again. My thankfulness is low and my anxiety is high. I need some time to regroup.

I need a break.

Nineteen

I have moved nineteen times in my life. I am a master packer. I know how to choose what is of value, what to keep, and what to leave behind. Four of those moves were packed, moved, and unpacked within one day’s notice. My mother liked to move us in the middle of the night, or while her significant other was at work. Leaving behind the tv and one piece of furniture. No notice, just a note left behind on a recliner. The ultimate “f you” so to speak.

I made the decision at 22 to move down to North Carolina to be with Jason. He had been deployed for the seven months before hand and we had spent the 2 years of our relationship before that apart, only seeing each other when leave was available. It would be my first time living without my mother.

You know you can come with me? I’ve already asked him. I said one day, sitting on her bed. You don’t have to go to Jenny’s you can come with me and see the ocean. 

It is time for you to go, Jo. It’s time for you to blossom. 

And so I left.

My whole life if you asked me where my home was I would have probably replied with my grandmother’s house. Mostly because that’s where we’d end up whenever my mother’s relationships tanked, but also because that was the place I felt most comfortable. Most at home in my own skin. After I turned 19 I knew I couldn’t return there. My grandmother had passed and there was too many burnt bridges from fires my mother had started and never went back to put out. So home became my mom. A person not a place.

When I moved to be with Jason I felt very homesick. Calling my sister five times a day to chat. Sometimes I’d ask for Mom, sometimes I wouldn’t. Our talks became more and more less frequent. She got very sick. And it was the end of our story 3 months after my move. No amount of me flying home and sitting by her bedside could bring her back to me.

Jason became a rock for me. He’s quiet and internal 90 percent of the time. A man of few words. But he was there and I latched onto him for dear life. He sat next to me at the funeral. He held my hand and in time, he became my home. Our home in North Carolina felt temporary, because everything in the military was temporary. We got married, had Jack, and then decided to move home.

We moved in with my dad for six months. Then we rented a house in town that Jason had actually grown up in. After we lost Benjamin we became hell bent on buying a house. (A big distraction to ease the grief of our baby dying.) We bought our current home and have been here three years this month. I have loved this house and I have hated this house. But now that we are moving I’m becoming sentimental about what it has been for us.

We’ve always talked about our “forever home”. How one day we will have a place to be that we won’t need a vacation from. We found a house in a better area, with a good school, and a river and woods behind it. It’s big and beautiful. My hope is that it becomes a place where the boys feel completely comfortable and at ease. I want this to be it until we’re sixty five or so.

I am packing today.