My first Mother's Day after Anna died Brad and I went to Italy. He still had flight benefits to fly standby for free at the time, and I just wanted to escape. It had only been 5 months. So off we went, and it was beautiful, everything we all imagine Italy to be. Having been before, this time we went south from Rome to Sorrento, Capri and beyond. Took in the stark beauty of the ocean against the dramatic cliffs, my favorite little old men with their canes and caps trolling terraced olive groves, the haughtiness of Capri regulars against we lowly tourists. Pizza, pasta, lattes.
We pulled our suitcases over cobbled streets, hauled them up staircases when the hotel had no elevator, arranged ferries and busses and found our way through quintessential Italian coastal towns. We must have interacted with and passed by at least 3,000 people. How is it then, that no one acknowledged our very guts copiously hanging from our open torsos? How is it no one saw our shredded hearts? Noticed the tears that threatened to pour virtually every moment? For when I look at those pictures, it's all I see. Broken people. Moving and pretending and persevering for the sake of the other.
When talking to other parents of recent child loss about the decision to go Italy for Mother's Day, we always say "You're still going to be miserable, but you're miserable in Italy", as if that somehow makes it more bearable. It doesn't, but the laughter we so often get from them is high praise, when laughter is the very antithesis to their being at that stage.
Which brings me to today. Seven years later. I'm filled with my two incredible living children and as contented as I'd imagined I'd be long before infertility and infant death entered my world. And I am the very definition of amazed that this is so. With 100% certainty I can tell you that seven years ago I could not would not have imagined a Mother's Day with virtually no feelings of sadness or grief. (Though the act of writing this is bringing some up.) For years I needed the sadness. I wanted it. It was how I proved to myself and others that she still matters. Now I can own her existence as matter of factly as I can my living children.
This weekend is filled with happiness and gratitude and glorying in the un-promised result of our clinging to this vision. To be sure, our family is the picture of getting what you wanted in a way you never could have imagined. We eschewed donor egg and now have the most amazing little blue eyed blonde of another woman's genetic material, whom I could not possibly cherish or love more fiercely. We have a darling, precocious son with dancing brown eyes, born of another couple whom I desperately hope will become an interactive part of our extended family over the years. And I have a dead daughter with my hair, my nose, who makes herself known to me at 11:26 every so often, AM or PM. Or at some random actual time of the day on a clock with the wrong time, reading 11:26. A girl I think of every single day, often several times a day. A girl with whom I keep at a safe distance from my psyche often times, the same way I keep God. If I were to step into their presence too much, go and actually spend time with them, well, my constructed functioning world would crumble. And I've spent so much time amongst the rubble these last years, I just choose not to right now.
Today I get to enjoy the culmination of our journey. My three children. My beautiful daughter of soul and spirit involved in her own journey to which I am not privy on this plane, my sassy strong-willed moody funny introspective dramatic precious girl, and my bright outside-loving climbing talking happy curly-haired son.
I am a lucky woman indeed. Luck. Ha! Let me rephrase. I am a woman who recognizes this life is not guaranteed. I am a woman who gutted through and survived horrible scenes and experiences and still held the vision of this life. I am a woman rejoicing. I am a woman victorious! I am a Mommy.
Happy Mother's Day to me, to you, and to all the women with mama hearts whose children are not here, whether taken or not yet created…. you are all on my heart today.