Beauty in the Darkness

“Write hard and clear about what hurts.”

Today, I got the call.

It didn’t work. We aren’t pregnant.

We had already been at what we thought was going to be the final cycle, two months ago, and after another failed cycle, we decided on a last Hail Mary attempt in hopes that a more aggressive protocol would work.

And it didn’t.

It’s hard to explain to those who have never experienced infertility, let alone the loss of a child, how mind-numbing this can all become.

My cycle begins, we call the RE, I get an ultrasound and get put on medications that make my body go a little batty trying to make more eggs, more meds, then an insemination, then more meds and a 2 week wait that feels like a 2 year wait, just to find out, again, that we are not pregnant.

You are hopeful. So hopeful. You repeat the process over and over, until you make the decision that you just can’t anymore. Your body can’t take it, your mind can’t take it, and you are forced to make the choice on your quality of life.

And this is where we are now. At the end of the road.

It’s a challenge not to look around at families with multiple children, in awe and with a bit of envy. It breaks my heart to look at Elia walk around alone, without a sibling of her own, without a built-in best friend. I can’t explain to you how much my heart hurts for her.

She came with us to the first appointment during this last cycle, and she told the doctor she wanted a baby girl sister. We were so hopeful.

And that, is why today, I am devastated.

I have Elia. I have Gina. I even have a crazy little dog on wheels. We have each other. And for them, I am so grateful.

We found out last Thursday that our friend who has been battling cancer, has now come to a point where they have ended all chemotherapy and entered hospice care. Her life, and the potential of it ending, has reminded me of how lucky we are. She has bright eyes and a sparkly personality. And soon, she will likely be leaving her body. I feel like this has been perfectly timed by life for my own lesson. 

Since last Thursday, I have been replaying the news, and these feelings, over and over again.

How can I complain about my life, when my friend’s life is ending?

We can’t compare the two.

I am allowed my pain, and my sadness. We are allowed our moments in the dark. After all, it is the dark that allows us to see the true beauty.

I can be heartbroken about my own experience.

But I also know well enough now, through my son Luca’s death, and the reminders from the precious lives of those taken too soon, that I can pick myself up at some point, and life will get lighter again.

When is that going to happen?

Can’t quite pinpoint it. Right now, I’m feeling all of it.  I’m down. My heart is heavy. I’ve had tears in my eyes for the last three hours, wondering what’s next? Wondering, what is this life about? I’ve been a mama to a baby and a toddler and now a preschooler, and she needs me less and less, and I’m not sure how to handle that transition when I was so certain we would have another baby.

But, in just a few hours, I get to pick up Elia from school, smother her in kisses, and play make-believe with her until it’s time for sleep. We get to wake up to her wide-eyes, and to her requests of what she would like to do and see, and then feel her wrap her little arms tightly around me in a big hug. I get to live in a beautiful city with the beach and the mountains and the desert, and the freedom to do whatever I’d like. I get to be surrounded by friends who know our journey, and give me a safe place to land when I need the support.

I get to live. And that right now, is certainly enough.

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The 58th 10th. And Life Advice from Holly Butcher

I read a post that was written by a 27-year-old woman in the final days of life.

I’ve been reading it over and over, and over.

Although Luca lived just one day outside of my belly, his lessons on life and love shed light on me all the time. It’s when I’m wrapped up in the bullshit that really doesn’t matter, sweating the small stuff, or throwing myself a pity party, that I’m NOT growing or getting the most out of this life.

Many times over the last almost 5 years since he died, I have felt how unfair life can be. It isn’t fair that I lost my son. It isn’t fair that we tried so hard to get him, only to have him die.

But that’s not it. That’s not the point.

Life isn’t fair, and can be at times, completely devastating and heartbreaking.

But it is still beautiful.

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And even after a terrible loss, or tragic event, you can feel love and joy and happiness, again.

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Though I don’t feel a connection to a specific God, I do apply my faith in the Universe, and the fact that there are bigger plans for us than we may be currently subscribing to. I know people and events are put in our path to foster growth, and make us learn and understand life a little better.                                                                                                               
We lost Luca.

We had Luca though.

He made me a mom. He was beautiful, with a soul I felt was going to do nothing but love everything around him. We were lucky enough to have him. If even for a moment.

And I carry him in my heart, every moment of my day.

He taught me that life can be gone in a blink of an eye. The bullshit and stress that comes up does not need to be lingered on. We don’t need to bathe in it, and we certainly don’t need to complain or be in crisis, when our life is a good one.

And they are all mostly, good ones.

Today is January 10th. The 10ths are always special days of reflections for us, since Luca was born on the 10th.

This is the 58th 10th since he came and went.

This is the first 10th since Holly Butcher passed away. I wanted to share a bit of life advice from her, and I want to put her advice into action in my own life in honor of Luca, and for souls like Holly who were here to teach us:

“It’s a strange thing to realise and accept your mortality at 26 years young. It’s just one of those things you ignore. The days tick by and you just expect they will keep on coming; Until the unexpected happens. I always imagined myself growing old, wrinkled and grey- most likely caused by the beautiful family (lots of kiddies) I planned on building with the love of my life. I want that so bad it hurts.

That’s the thing about life; It is fragile, precious and unpredictable and each day is a gift, not a given right.

I’m 27 now. I don’t want to go. I love my life. I am happy.. I owe that to my loved ones. But the control is out of my hands.

I haven’t started this ‘note before I die’ so that death is feared – I like the fact that we are mostly ignorant to it’s inevitability.. Except when I want to talk about it and it is treated like a ‘taboo’ topic that will never happen to any of us.. That’s been a bit tough. I just want people to stop worrying so much about the small, meaningless stresses in life and try to remember that we all have the same fate after it all so do what you can to make your time feel worthy and great, minus the bullshit.

I have dropped lots of my thoughts below as I have had a lot of time to ponder life these last few months. Of course it’s the middle of the night when these random things pop in my head most!

Those times you are whinging about ridiculous things (something I have noticed so much these past few months), just think about someone who is really facing a problem. Be grateful for your minor issue and get over it. It’s okay to acknowledge that something is annoying but try not to carry on about it and negatively effect other people’s days.

Once you do that, get out there and take a freaking big breath of that fresh Aussie air deep in your lungs, look at how blue the sky is and how green the trees are; It is so beautiful. Think how lucky you are to be able to do just that – breathe.

You might have got caught in bad traffic today, or had a bad sleep because your beautiful babies kept you awake, or your hairdresser cut your hair too short. Your new fake nails might have got a chip, your boobs are too small, or you have cellulite on your arse and your belly is wobbling.

Let all that shit go.. I swear you will not be thinking of those things when it is your turn to go. It is all SO insignificant when you look at life as a whole. I’m watching my body waste away right before my eyes with nothing I can do about it and all I wish for now is that I could have just one more Birthday or Christmas with my family, or just one more day with my partner and dog. Just one more.

I hear people complaining about how terrible work is or about how hard it is to exercise – Be grateful you are physically able to. Work and exercise may seem like such trivial things … until your body doesn’t allow you to do either of them.

I tried to live a healthy life, in fact, that was probably my major passion. Appreciate your good health and functioning body- even if it isn’t your ideal size. Look after it and embrace how amazing it is. Move it and nourish it with fresh food. Don’t obsess over it.

Remember there are more aspects to good health than the physical body.. work just as hard on finding your mental, emotional and spiritual happiness too. That way you might realise just how insignificant and unimportant having this stupidly portrayed perfect social media body really is.. While on this topic, delete any account that pops up on your news feeds that gives you any sense of feeling shit about yourself. Friend or not.. Be ruthless for your own well-being.

Be grateful for each day you don’t have pain and even the days where you are unwell with man flu, a sore back or a sprained ankle, accept it is shit but be thankful it isn’t life threatening and will go away.

Whinge less, people! .. And help each other more.

Give, give, give. It is true that you gain more happiness doing things for others than doing them for yourself. I wish I did this more. Since I have been sick, I have met the most incredibly giving and kind people and been the receiver of the most thoughtful and loving words and support from my family, friends and strangers; More than I could I ever give in return. I will never forget this and will be forever grateful to all of these people.

It is a weird thing having money to spend at the end.. when you’re dying. It’s not a time you go out and buy material things that you usually would, like a new dress. It makes you think how silly it is that we think it is worth spending so much money on new clothes and ‘things’ in our lives.

Buy your friend something kind instead of another dress, beauty product or jewellery for that next wedding. 1. No-one cares if you wear the same thing twice 2. It feels good. Take them out for a meal, or better yet, cook them a meal. Shout their coffee. Give/ buy them a plant, a massage or a candle and tell them you love them when you give it to them.

Value other people’s time. Don’t keep them waiting because you are shit at being on time. Get ready earlier if you are one of those people and appreciate that your friends want to share their time with you, not sit by themselves, waiting on a mate. You will gain respect too! Amen sister.

This year, our family agreed to do no presents and despite the tree looking rather sad and empty (I nearly cracked Christmas Eve!), it was so nice because people didn’t have the pressure of shopping and the effort went into writing a nice card for each other. Plus imagine my family trying to buy me a present knowing they would probably end up with it themselves.. strange! It might seem lame but those cards mean more to me than any impulse purchase could. Mind you, it was also easier to do in our house because we had no little kiddies there. Anyway, moral of the story- presents are not needed for a meaningful Christmas. Moving on.

Use your money on experiences.. Or at least don’t miss out on experiences because you spent all your money on material shit.

Put in the effort to do that day trip to the beach you keep putting off. Dip your feet in the water and dig your toes in the sand. Wet your face with salt water.

Get amongst nature.

Try just enjoying and being in moments rather than capturing them through the screen of your phone. Life isn’t meant to be lived through a screen nor is it about getting the perfect photo.. enjoy the bloody moment, people! Stop trying to capture it for everyone else.

Random rhetorical question. Are those several hours you spend doing your hair and make up each day or to go out for one night really worth it? I’ve never understood this about females 🤔.

Get up early sometimes and listen to the birds while you watch the beautiful colours the sun makes as it rises.

Listen to music.. really listen. Music is therapy. Old is best.

Cuddle your dog. Far out, I will miss that.

Talk to your friends. Put down your phone. Are they doing okay?

Travel if it’s your desire, don’t if it’s not.

Work to live, don’t live to work.

Seriously, do what makes your heart feel happy.

Eat the cake. Zero guilt.

Say no to things you really don’t want to do.

Don’t feel pressured to do what other people might think is a fulfilling life.. you might want a mediocre life and that is so okay.

Tell your loved ones you love them every time you get the chance and love them with everything you have.

Also, remember if something is making you miserable, you do have the power to change it – in work or love or whatever it may be. Have the guts to change. You don’t know how much time you’ve got on this earth so don’t waste it being miserable. I know that is said all the time but it couldn’t be more true.

Anyway, that’s just this one young gals life advice. Take it or leave it, I don’t mind!

Oh and one last thing, if you can, do a good deed for humanity (and myself) and start regularly donating blood. It will make you feel good with the added bonus of saving lives. I feel like it is something that is so overlooked considering every donation can save 3 lives! That is a massive impact each person can have and the process really is so simple.

Blood donation (more bags than I could keep up with counting) helped keep me alive for an extra year – a year I will be forever grateful that I got to spend it here on Earth with my family, friends and dog. A year I had some of the greatest times of my life.

..’Til we meet again.

Hol

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Grief and the Holidays

“Grief is not linear.”

 I can’t tell you how many times I have heard this in therapy, from other loss families, or from seasoned veterans of life who have experienced loss. And now more than ever, I know.

Grief is not a mountain you climb where once you reach the hardest part, it’s an easy downhill ride the rest of the way down. 

You never get over it. Losing a child is nothing you can even remotely, get over.

It is a lifetime of unknown, nonstop peaks and valleys in which you never know what each day will bring.

I have an idea of what times may be more challenging like milestones or holidays. But truthfully, there is not much you can do to prepare for the weight of the hardest days.

As we move through our fifth holiday season since Luca died, we are reminded of him in everything we do, everywhere we go, and in the children all around us. Most of the time it’s bittersweet, watching Elia take everything in, and wondering what it would have been like with him. It’s a mystery to us what it would have looked like to see our two children interacting and enjoying the holiday season, together.

It’s not all sad moments. With Elia around, it’s absolutely near 100% joyful everything. But there are times when it’s hard. When a family with two children Luca and Elia’s age walk by, Gina and I catch each other’s gazes and without saying a word, I know that she’s thinking the same exact thing I am- what if he was here?

Those instances are hard. Time stands still all over again.

So- what helps us?

It is the people who show up and ask us how we are or randomly check in, holding space for us when they know we are having a rough go, all the while knowing it might be uncomfortable but asking us anyway. It is a random text with Luca’s name in a picture.  It is people sharing Luca’s story with others. It is everyone who has ever showed up to his birthday celebration and skipped a rock into the ocean for him.

These souls that we call our friends and family help more than they will ever know. The friendship and the love given during these times, even nearly 5 years later, means the world to us.

Today, I got a holiday card made out to my entire family, including Luca. 

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It took my breath away.

It’s moments like these where I am so grateful that we have a village that knows how much it means to us, even though he isn’t here in the physical, to continue to remember Luca.

To the people around us who are silent, who don’t say a word while they watch us struggle, or never approach us or say his name, I want you to know-

You don’t have to fix us. It’s not your responsibility. But you can show up for us or any friend that is having a hard time by simply acknowledging the space they are in, or the feelings they are experiencing- especially around the holidays. I get it, it isn’t easy, and it can be totally awkward.  

But a wise friend once shared something I’ve said before-

“Joy shared is doubled. Grief shared is halved.”

So show up. Hold up someone else for a bit and double their joy, or hold some of the grief burden they carry.

Gina and I are certainly not the only ones that have ever experienced loss, and we will not the be the last. But if I can bestow any knowledge on my community based on our journey in loving Luca, and can help to create a world with a little more compassion for people going through truly harder times, then I feel like I’m doing something good in his memory.

Luca changed my life forever.

In the lowest lows, and the highest highs, he remains with us always. Please don’t ever forget that, because whether we are in the middle of a peak or a valley in our grief journey, we never will. 

Resurfacing

It’s been 18 months since I wrote anything. Well, anything that I felt comfortable enough to post. 

Well, really, there have been so many feelings of discomfort over the last several years.

After Luca died, we did the best we could with ourselves and made attempts to keep going even though it felt like time had stopped. We got pregnant with Elia and I hung on to hope in the midst of the anxiety and fear I would lose another child. Life was already like a grief banana-split, but with some extra special add-ins like a dollop of fucked up post traumatic stress disorder and complicated grief whipped cream. When she was born, it was healing and amazing, but it was also all survival mode.

Nearly two years ago, when Elia was around a year old, I started feeling like I had my wits about me, and I decided that I wanted to begin writing and sharing my posts as a mom. Not just specifically coming from the perspective of a mother who lost her child, but as a mother to a living child, as one of two mamas in a same sex family, as a Latina, as a sorta crunchy mom who lives with depression and complicated grief.

And so I started writing. I was excited. I had shared my idea with a friend, who told me that what I was doing wasn’t new, and that I wouldn’t be offering anything different from any other mom bloggers out there. It hurt my heart when they said that. But for a moment I said “fuck that”, and I went ahead with it.

A few of my pieces were published and were shared on several popular platforms, and before you knew it, the trolls of the internet had lots of shit to say about what I wrote. They commented on my personal experiences, attempting to invalidate them, and trollsplaining why my issues weren’t really issues; that instances where I felt hurt, were in fact, not real, and that I was making a big deal about nothing.

Some people came to my defense, but others continued to downplay my experience as a lesbian, as a Latina, as a mother who had lost a child, as a human who had dealt with so much grief already.

It scared me and made me feel so little, that I departed back into my brain cave. It did seem like that friend of mine, was right.

I stopped most things that made me feel good. Luckily, I was able to get back on some depression meds to get me through the roughest part, and able to wean off of them when I felt like the weight of the day was bearable.

And my daughter, she lifted me up everyday. She continues to lift me up everyday. Even when my brain wasn’t functioning properly and felt like it was melting out of my skull, her bright eyes and silliness and appropriately golden heart and soul, kept me afloat.

So now here I am. Nearly 2 years from the last time I hit the ‘publish’ button.

Content. In transition. Wondering what’s next. Mother of a preschooler. Mother of a child whose genetic material flows through my veins, but one I’ll never get to hug or kiss, or just even, touch. A lesbian. A Latina. Trudging through the damage I did to myself and my psyche over the last few years.

I know I’m lucky. I got out of the deep darks. But they linger, threatening my every move some days. I am my own self-help coach. Elia is my assistant. Gina is my cheerleader. Luca is my spirit guide. They are all on my team, encouraging me to resurface. Reminding me to breathe.

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Luca’s 3rd Birthday

March 10th, we celebrated Luca’s 3rd birthday.

If you would have told me in the days before his birth, that three years later we would be celebrating his life without him, I would have never believed you.

Life is unpredictable. There is so much to be said for living each day like it could be your last. But yet, we hold on to the hope that there will be a tomorrow, and more memories to make.

And so now we make memories with his sister, and we hold him in our hearts every second of every day, for the rest of our lives.

A mother who has lost her child can never ever put into words how deep the pain is that she feels.

I have tried for years, and while it helps, it’s futile. We may try, but it doesn’t translate to words. It’s an indescribable feeling, a chronic ache, a pulling at your heart from the other side of life.

So. I will keep trying. Even in the futility of it.

Below is a message I shared with the friends and family that showed up for us on Luca’s birthday.

“Thank you to everyone who celebrated Luca with us in some capacity, near or far, yesterday. We had a beautiful turn out at the beach and it was another stunner of a sunset. I’m not sure I can ever even put into words how much it means to have people show up with so much love in their hearts to celebrate a child most of them have never met, but I can’t sleep and my chest is about to burst with gratitude, so let me try.

I believe Luca has sent you all to us as gifts, as ways to remind us he is ever present and his energy will always surround our family. Just like the songs he makes sure are on the radio or playing in a store or sung by the singer at the farmers market at the most perfect time, or the butterfly that circles Elia while we are on a walk, or the hummingbird that levitates near me as I stand there smiling and knowing it’s a love note from my son.

All gifts.

Over the last three years, your gifts have been everything from the food, the calls, packages at our door, the words, the mail, the pictures of Luca’s name on the earth people have written all over this planet, the random acts of kindness you put forward into the world in Luca’s memory, and the mentioning of his name and lessons to better relate to others who are in grief.

For all of these, we are so grateful. But for me, three years later, I am most grateful that you remember him. For those of you who knew us when we were pregnant and expecting him, you remember how excited we were, how much we had planned for him and how empowered I had become already as his mama. For the amazing lot of you who have joined in on this journey later in the game, wow, simply wow. Your generosity and love and willingness to show up for new friends that aren’t all sunshine and rainbows is pretty spectacular.

But what all of you seem to have in common, and what I take Luca’s biggest legacy to be, is that you share the want and willingness to relate and show compassion to others in need of it. So many of you have told me that knowing our story have given you the ability to show up for their friends, or teach others how to show up for people completely outside of their immediate circles.

There is plenty of work to be done, but to know that Luca has affected so much change and left us with a legacy of love, empathy, and appreciation in even the darkest of times, makes everything that much lighter, and convinces me that my son was bigger than life.

So thank you. Again and again, for showing up, for celebrating, and for carrying Luca’s message in your hearts. We are forever grateful.”

 

Calling all Angels

On the night before my 35th 10th, I read a passage from the book You Can’t Make This Stuff Up by the Long Island Medium, Theresa Caputo, and it spoke to me.

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Did you just silently judge me? Yes, I said the Long Island Medium. Watching her show in the weeks and months after Luca died kept us afloat, gave us hope, and showed us that we weren’t alone. I take her words to heart, and after reading this passage in her book I’m talking louder….

On the 35th 10th, I woke up the same way I do most of my days, with his little sister next to me. Elia opens her eyes and immediately has a smile on her face.

I think about how lucky we are to have her.

But.

There goes the damn but again.

But. We will always miss him. We will always wish he was here with us, with her, being an almost 3 year old. For the rest of our lives we will always wonder about Luca.

So, we get out of bed, walk to the living room and start our music for the morning. I look up the playlist we created for his birth, and we start the songs. I haven’t listened to it in months, and it feels both heavy, and so comforting to hear his songs.

“The Devil Went Down to Georgia” comes on and I’m gutted for a moment. I think of Gina holding Luca in her arms, he’s already gone or almost gone, and she is singing it to him and kissing his sweet face.

We interpreted that song for months after his death, and it made sense that it was his fight song. Luca had an exit strategy before he was born. He wasn’t meant to stay. But he certainly did kick some ass while he was here.

And even though it’s so hard to accept, I can say it and know that there was nothing that I could have done to save my son. His death was for a bigger reason, one that nearly three years later I’m still working on figuring out; one that I may always be working on figuring out.

“My Sweet Lord” comes on and Elia leaves my side, maneuvers her way off the couch, and begins to dance in front of me.

She carries Luca in her heart and in her soul, too.

Revisiting

For months I have been noticing that I was stuck. Bitter and angry and so mad that where there lives one, there should be two.  I carried this stuckness with me everywhere: to breakfast, to my baby music class, to my stroller exercise class, to coffee, to my local mom group, to the store- you name it, wherever I was, there came along that stuckness.

It was weighing on me so heavily, that it finally became too much to hold. And luckily there were a few people around me that could see I was at my breaking point.

One of them was my therapist.

She kept telling me we had more work to do, and I knew what that meant. She was very aware of what I was doing in our sessions. I was going round and round in a circle that I couldn’t tangent off of to get free of that same heaviness I’ve been carrying.  So, she suggested a new plan of action in the form of Complicated Grief Treatment.

So here I am in week 4 of treatment, and this week’s main focus has been to record my recollection of the precise moment Luca left his body, and listen to it everyday. It has been even harder than I thought. But for a much different reason than I imagined- it’s jogging my memory and bringing the days surrounding Luca’s birth and death back into focus.

And it’s made me remember

His smell.

The feeling of his body weight on my heart and shoulder. 

The sutures on his head from where the brain activity monitor had been placed. 

The lighting of the room as sunset approached.

Seeing his beautiful face for the first time, and recognizing him as my own. 

The internal dialogue I had with myself, where I was certain if I could get his skin to touch mine, that I could fix him. 

It’s heartbreaking all over again. I’m not running away from it though, and I never really have. But I am hoping this treatment offers me a a different response, or a way to be able to bounce back from the sad.

So now I’ve found myself getting angry. Angry that this is my work. Angry that I have to listen to it everyday. It makes my blood boil.

And that’s how I know it’s working. Because in all of this discomfort, I know there is growth happening, soul expanding, and that this is right where I am supposed to be.

Retelling. Learning. Embracing the courage and surrendering to it all. Getting out of the roundabout I was on, and headed, one step in front of the other, to the next part of this journey.

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