Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Struggling with CPR

--It's been forever.  Too long.  Then again, maybe not long enough.  I struggle with writing this blog.  I've probably thought about it a couple of hundred times since Bren was born last March, five days after the one-year anniversary of her brother's death.  Bren is now (happily!) over a year old.  I still cringe and stress every now and then, but my anxiety has decreased to where it's really just a normal part of life... not unnoticeable, but manageable certainly.  I don't sit huddled over her in agonizing uncertainty through every nap and bedtime.  I don't ignore her during the night for fear of what I might find.  I still go back and forth a little bit between helicoptering over her and an almost heedless laissez faire attitude, but I'm much closer to "normal" than I've been in a very long time.

By in large, we're a happy little family.  We go to church, we have family play days on Saturday going out for hikes or ice cream. We play games occasionally, have our Family Home Evenings, and I bake bread when I remember or get really motivated.  But we still struggle.  We're changed.  We know that nothing is, or ever could be the same.

Some days I hardly think about our little baby Carrick at all.  Then, when I do think about him, I usually feel so unbelievably guilty that I haven't been thinking about him, that I hardly know what to do about it.  Do I sit and stew?  Do I throw myself into depression?  Do I ignore a screaming baby and two squabbling big kids to retreat into my own little morose, and sometimes morbid thinking?  No.  Not usually.  Fortunately or unfortunately, the kiddos keep me pretty well balanced.  By necessity, I really don't have time to focus, obsess, or panic.  Having three busy, running, messy-but-happy children around, keeps me so practical that I hardly can take a shower without planning it.

This week though, this week is hard.  Right after Bren was born, we went to an infant CPR and choking class.  I think I was in a daze the whole time.  I still remember my training, but the class isn't something I like to think about or remember.  The only way I made it through that hour or however long it was, was knowing that my hubby was sitting right next to me and going through the same things that I was.  Well, now in my attempts at masochism / "practicality," I've signed up for a full-length First Aid / CPR class.  All it took last night was a glance at the Infant CPR at a Glance booklet provided with my course workbook to send me into a tailspin.  No freakouts.  No crying.  But definitely no peace for the rest of the night.  How can I rest, when even my faith seems to fail me, and I can't help but to torture myself with "what might have been?"

We're a spiritual / religious family, and we belong to a church with very structured religious beliefs.  Things are well-detailed, and the "plan" is complete; even when it comes to the death of a small child. In our religion, all children under the age of eight are accounted as being innocent in the eyes of the Lord.  They are without guilt and without sin.  When they die, it is essentially a one-way ticket to Heaven, no layovers, detours, or delays.  As part of that, worthy parents who work hard, fulfill the spiritual promises that they have made, and "endure to the end" are promised the opportunity to raise their departed child in the life hereafter.  I don't know whether it's the pseudo-Catholic upbringing I had, or my unrelenting perfectionism that makes it so difficult, but I never seem to actually be able to convince myself that I will ever be worthy of that opportunity.  In fact, most days, it seems almost impossible to believe that I will ever see, let alone hold, my baby boy ever again.  Even during worship at the temple, a place where the veil between this world and the next are thin, I cannot feel him.  He is gone from me.  Maybe not forever, but for now, he is gone.  And sometimes the absence feels so acute, and the tacit lack of recognition from certain family members and friends has been so... complete, that my memories of him seem more a fluke of my imagination than anything concrete.

By the same token, I recently became acquainted with a woman who had a miscarriage several years ago.  For her, the memory and promise of that pregnancy are still so fresh and so raw to her, that she is constantly in tears over it.  Her family talks about it constantly.  She has a child born after her miscarriage that regularly talks about it.  In fact, every time I see this child, he talks about it.  At first, I approached this family, understanding a measure of their grief, and while our circumstances were different, I felt sure that we would understand one another and that maybe I could even help.  But there was no helping.  To them, it appears that their grief is more a badge of honor than anything else.  And while I continue to try and soften my heart towards this individual, I frequently have to stifle errant thoughts of .... well... rage.

I don't understand her.  I don't understand why she is forcing her family to relive the pain over and over again. Her child born afterward, now five, lives constantly in the shadow of the failure of this pregnancy to progress.  The mother herself, appears to bring it up at every possible situation.  And while I understand that all of us grieve differently... certainly I have had my own moments of weirdness, I am having a very hard time understanding this.  Yes, the death of a child hurts, and it hurts forever.  But I do not, and cannot understand those who refuse, years later, to try to find peace with it... especially in our religion.  A dead child is not a fashion statement.  It does not inherently make you more spiritual, cool, or a better person.  Losing my son almost destroyed me and my family, and I have no patience for those who play with fire... even understanding that there are days and times when feeling the pain of loss is greater consolation than feeling nothing at all.