To my Fellow Mothers

I hope this reaches you in one way or another. I hope that this will never be too late. For our struggle is a daily thing. Some just get by faster than others, but I know that slowly we’ll get there…

Yesterday was particularly hard. It’s difficult to celebrate when you are reminded by the loss. I know the dull aching pain that creeps up on you, consuming your whole being. The pain that gives you the sudden migraines and body ache, enough to have an excuse to sleep the day off. It takes a great deal of strength and self control to hold back tears, especially when you see new Moms holding their tiny babies, celebrating with their own families.

I know because I am like you. I lost my little one, too, last year and sometimes, it still feels like it just happened yesterday.

But you know what? We’ll get by. Trust me, we will. We just need to give ourselves time to grieve and heal. Recovery is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. And every runner has a different running style, pace, and endurance.

Whenever I feel so low, I remind myself that I am a Mother to an Angel. And that one day, I’ll be able to hold his tiny little fists, hug him, and kiss him in heaven.. or wherever the afterlife is. And that gives me the strength that I need to make it through the day.

To my Fellow Mothers, I pray for our collective strength, resilience, and faith. Happy Mothers’ Day!

Birth of An Angel

A few days back, I was asking myself what date to keep to remember Ezra by. See, when a mother suffers a miscarriage, we tend to hold on to every little memory that we have of the baby that we haven’t physically held. That includes the dates – the day you found out you were pregnant, the expected delivery date,  the day of the first sonogram, the day you heard a certain song on the radio that connected you, and the day that you lost your baby.

I told Cris about this because it was really bothering me and he came up with an idea: What if we commemorate the miscarriage and treat it as Ezra’s birthday? If we look at it, we did not really lose him. That was the day he became our angel… 

It was a good idea at that time and I was pacified. I loved it! We will go to church first thing in the morning, light a candle for Ezra, and say a little prayer. We will then buy him a cake and sing him a Happy Birthday.

But it turned out that it was a much bitter pill to swallow. The night before the 10th, I was crying myself to sleep. I woke up with swollen eyes, a heavy head, and a way heavier heart. The more I thought about our plans, the sillier they seemed. I was beginning to think of backing out and just crawling back to my bed and just stay there for the rest of the day.

But something clicked. It’s already been a year and I still feel the pain today as if it was still fresh. Then for some reason I got reminded of  a quote from the book Tuesdays with Morrie:

You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, “All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.”

Ezra Prayer

Maybe, the pain and sadness is not really meant to go away. You never really get over a loved one’s death. The feeling just varies in magnitude; some days are just harder than the others. They do come in waves, with their crest and troughs.

But you need to be able to recognize it and acknowledge it so you can compartmentalize. There’s no way around it but through it.

Author John Green agrees with this, too: Pain demands to be felt. 

And so Dear Ezra, let Mama and Papa greet you a Happy Birthday. You still make me sad, but you’re my favorite pain that I will never want to let go.

Ezra Cake

On Dates and Memories

As a kid, I felt the need to memorize my family’s birth dates because how could I not? They’re family. My father’s, my mother’s, my brother’s and later on, my kid sister’s.

As I grew a little older birthdate memorization extended to Lolos and Lolas, Titos and Titas, cousins, and close friends.

And much later on, the range extended not just on birthdates but on other life milestones, too — monthsaries, anniversaries, the day you first met, your pet’s birthday…

Dates are always associated with memories and with it comes the good and the bad. It can get too overwhelming, too, that sometimes, we feel the need to downplay it. Monthsary celebrations are limited to anniversaries, even your couple anniversary become overshadowed by your wedding anniversary, because one just can’t have that many of a celebration!

But my current question is this:

When it comes to babies and losses, which date do you keep?

The day you found out you were pregnant, the expected delivery date, or the day that you lost your baby?

Do you reminisce the happiness, be nostalgic at the feeling of anticipation, or commemorate the loss?

It’s a little tricky is it not? But amidst this confusion, I hope that I find clarity…

Dear, Angel.

Today, you gave me a little sign from heaven. I was on my way home when that Jon Secada’s song played on the cab’s radio.

I haven’t told anyone this before but it was almost the same time this year, well maybe the exact moment, when the same thing happened.

And when I heard that song a year ago, it made me sad to the point of crying. At that time, I attributed it to pregnancy hormones. And nostalgia.

Two and a half weeks later, I lost you.

During my recovery, I was thinking.. A LOT. I guess it’s our normal instinct to make sense of everything by putting together pieces of memories leading up to an event.

And this is what I realized:

This song must have been your way of slowly saying goodbye.

I actually lost you before you hit your 11th week but the doctor’s diagnosis is you stopped growing at 8th.

Around this time last year…

It may just be a coincidence, but I feel it deep in my heart that it’s not.

Here I am a year after– hearing your song again. Our song. But this time, I take it as your way of saying,

Hello! How are you, Mama?

Mama’s doing fine, baby. I am writing this with a smile on my face because I know you’re in a better place now. I hope it’s ok if I chose the song for us. Because you really are my Angel… and your light will always shine.

Postcard to Self: Malaysia

I considered our trip to Malaysia last October as a moment to reflect. When I booked it with Cris, I didn’t know yet that I was pregnant. When I found out that I was, however, we immediately dismissed it.  See, it coincided with my expected delivery date.

But then, I had the miscarriage. After thinking it through, we decided to push through with the trip. It could be a good breather for both of us.

In one of the evenings, I found myself on top of the Menara KL, the tallest telecommunications tower in Southeast Asia. It gave me a great bird’s eye view of the city. From where I was, I could also see the Petronas Twin Towers, which is Malaysia’s signature tourist gem.

Enjoying the city lights made me reflect on where I was at that moment — emotionally. They said that approaching your EDD after a miscarriage is an emotional battle.

It was.

Talking to family and friends could only do so much. There will come a time when you yourself would think that they’ve had enough of your stories. It’s the war-against-yourself that’s harder to win.

You and only you could fully help yourself to recover.

With this in mind, I found myself buying a cheap postcard in one of the souvenir shops and writing… to myself.

 

Some may think that it’s pathetic to write to yourself. Don’t you have friends who can write to you? 

But it proved to be therapeutic.

Especially, when I finally received the postcard a month after.

I would like to tell my past sad self that my present self is doing well. She is getting on her feet again and excited to fully recover. She is happy that the Presently Sad Dada is a thing of the past.

[happy] Mother’s Day, Birthday Girl.

Last Sunday, May 14, was specially hard for me. My birthday coincided with the nationwide celebration of Mother’s Day. People all over are greeting moms, telling them how they are the greatest. Watching ASAP with Jolina Magdangal hosting this special tribute to non-celebrity moms while doing the dishes was a struggle.

I cried silently, careful not to let Cris know; my fat tears mixing with the dishwashing liquid’s foamy formation on the sink. It was a good five minutes of this drama before I decided that I had enough. I searched for the remote and turned off the TV.

A friend who had a miscarriage, too, warned me about how Mother’s Day is specially difficult for us.  For it is a reminder of what you have lost and what could have been. And seeing moms, especially the ones who are just pregnant or recently gave birth, hurt. You want to be happy for them, but you can’t help but feel sorry for you, too.

That’s the sad reality.

I am not a birthday person but on that day, I decided to celebrate like a normal birthday person would. I think part of me was determined not to waste the day feeling sorry for myself. That is not what Ezra would want his Mama to do.

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One of my friends whom I barely talk to these past months sent me a message which struck me the most:

This year is just starting and it became the happiest and toughest at the same time. I admire that you can still stand up and offer your smile to everybody. Wishing you more doses of strength, more smiles to offer.

Cheers to your life, Dada.

And in part, he was right. I am one of the most pessimistic person I know, mostly because I believe in self-preservation. I don’t want to get my hopes up over something that will not even materialize. But through this journey, I discovered that I can be really optimistic if I wanted to. And that my strength is something that could withstand all of my weaknesses.

My sister-in-law who, coincidentally, shares her birthday with mine greeted me a ‘Happy Mother’s Day’. She insisted on it upon seeing the surprised look on my face. “You’re still a mother”, she said. Thinking it through, she is absolutely right. I may not have a baby now but I’m currently a mother to my angel. I appreciate her bluntness sometimes. I’m so grateful to her for not skirting around the issue and trying to be polite.

One of the sweetest gifts that I got was from my brother-in-law. It was a picture of Ezra (represented by Ezra Miller as The Flash) playing with Mr. Frodo. A poem was attached to it that makes me tear up every time I read it:

 

Mama don’t fret. Papa be strong…

Don’t worry, Ezra. Mama and Papa are trying their best. 

It took me almost a month to finish this entry. Part of me was thinking to delete this altogether because this site is becoming a wee bleak. But I found that honest writing helps in the recovery. Especially since I had a hard time talking about my real thoughts and feeling with the people around me. Sometimes I feel like having an alter ego. The public Dada is the happy Dada, while the private Dada is the one who still cry a little every night and still dwell on her what ifs.

Little by little, step by step, I’ll get there…

I already made a small achievement by congratulating a couple friend for being pregnant. And in so doing, I only felt genuine happiness. No sadness; no feeling sorry for myself.

One day at a time…

As they say, there’s always a rainbow after the rain. And right now, these two boys are the very spectrum that completes me.

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Someday there might be four, five, or six of us in this rainbow. Who knows?

Mr. Frodo and I

When I went home from the hospital, fresh from my miscarriage and D&C, I was expecting to come home to a dog who will console me. I have pictured it in my mind during our cab ride home: The moment I open the door, he would come up to me, look me in the eyes, and express the same kind of sadness that was overflowing from me. He would give a little howl, perhaps lick my face tenderly, and just stay with me while I drown in my thoughts. Similar to Marley with Jen Aniston’s character when she lost her baby in the movie, Marley and Me.

Marley and Me

But it did not happen. I did not have my Marley and Me moment.

Instead, I came home to the usual overly excited pug who acts like it’s the first and last time he’s seeing me. Since I don’t want my husband and brother to worry about me any more, I gave him the same response that I have each and everyday — greeted him excitedly, patted him, and played with him a little. But deep down I was thinking,

Does he not know? Is he not sad that Ezra is no longer with us? 

Where is my Marley moment? 

The problem with having a dog is we were conditioned to have this great expectations from them — that they would think like us, feel like us, and be like us. Blame the books and movies for giving us Hachiko, Lassie, and, yes, Marley. All of them knows how to console the movie characters on cue. They have full on empathy like a real family member. They will make you feel better, not act like nothing’s happened; like everything’s normal.

The day after, when Mr. Frodo and I were alone in the room, I talked to him. My sister told me that I should try talking to him because it may help with my recovery. So I did. I told him that I’m so sad that Ezra is gone. It feels like my heart has been crushed into pieces and all these tiny pieces are waiting to burst out of me. I told him that I wanted to cry all the time, even if there are no more tears. I told him about all the moments I have imagined Ezra and him would no longer have. But all he did was sneezed straight to my face, turned around, and walked away from me.

I ugly cried after that. I’ve felt like my best friend has abandoned me.

Does he not know? Is he not sad that Ezra is no longer with us? 

Where is my Marley moment? 

The next few days was full of resent for Mr. Frodo. I gave him the cold shoulder; I wouldn’t even look at him. When Cris asked me if there’s something wrong, I told him nagtatampo ako kay Frodo. He doesn’t even console me, I said. Cris, being the good cop that he is, told me that maybe he’s just not showing it. Or he doesn’t have a full understanding of what happened. Maybe he’s just happy to see us safe and well after being confined to the hospital.

I did not buy it. He’s supposed to know; he’s supposed to empathize. He’s man’s best friend, isn’t he?

Sunday came — my most dreaded day of the week. It was a Sunday, a week earlier, when I was first given a sign that I will lose one of my most precious. So that particular Sunday was very difficult for me. I again found myself crying my heart out with Cris consoling me. Let it out, he said. Just cry it out.

And then I felt him — his fur brushed my hand; I heard his ragged breathing going nearer and nearer. He sat in front of me and looked at me with those big black eyes while I was crying. All I can say at that moment was, “Frodo…”, but I know that he somewhat understood. When I was pacified, he stood on all fours, leaned in to me, and licked off the tears that ran down my face. This is it! This is my Marley moment!

But as per normal Frodo style, he sneezed on my face, turned around, and walked away.

That moment made me think: I think that in a way, dogs are like humans, too. They react differently to different scenarios. It’s not like a cookie cutter Marley world where you expect every dog to be as emphatic as you would want them to be… very much the same with humans…

And for me it’s OK.

During this whole ordeal, I learned a thing or two about the people around me — how they reacted to the news, how some consoled me, how some chose not to, how some whom I haven’t talked to in years could give you the kindest words, how some whom you’re expecting to offer even the briefest of “I’m sorry for your loss” could just brush it off and choose not to reach out, and how some would not even utter a single word and yet you know that they are crying with you.

And for me it’s OK.

I can’t blame those who choose not to reach out. Miscarriages still carry a stigma especially here in the Philippines. Most people would rather talk about the weather than know how you bled, how capsules were inserted in your vagina every 8 hours as part of your D&C process, how you last saw your still baby, and how your first consoling words came from a nurse who’s a complete stranger to you.

And the stigma does not stop at the people surrounding you. There’s also a great stigma about talking about your own grief. Most of the time, those who suffered miscarriages are shy, even afraid, to talk about their inner struggles. We are afraid to be branded as weak, overreacting, and hypersensitive. Mainly because of the incorrect notion that our loss is not the same as losing a child that was actually born. To some, a miscarriage is not something tangible so they expect you to get over it quickly.

But as one of my acquaintances who had a miscarriage herself said, talk to your friends who are willing to listen. 

I guess I have Mr. Frodo for that while I’m still mustering the courage to literally face my human friends. I would just have to endure all of his sneezes for now.  Mr Frodo and I

When Patience is your Super Virtue

Are you not going to sleep yet? The look of concern is undeniable. 

I’m not yet sleepy. You go ahead. Trying not to look you in the eye in an effort not to tear up. Again. 

Come. Try to rest in our bed. You’ll feel more comfy… You offer your hand which I quietly dismissed 

It’s ok. Still waiting for my phone to get fully charged. An obvious and pathetic excuse. 

OK. I’ll wait for you in our room. Trying to be understanding but until when? 

Truth is, I feel sleepy. I feel tired. And all I want to do is to curl up in bed and go into hibernation for the longest time possible. But I don’t want to go to bed. I don’t want to try to sleep. I don’t even want to close my eyes. Because the moment I do, the memories come flooding in. Again. Vivid as if it were just yesterday…

Listening to the deafening static sound from the fetal Doppler as the third doctor patiently scans for heartbeat . Then a series of thump thumps that would make my own heart skip a beat. 

Nurse, check her pulse. 

It’s just her. 

Just.. me. 

The agonizing minutes in the ultrasound room while we desperately check for your movement.. or any signs of life..

Ma’m, please hold your breath for ten counts. I will scan for its heartbeat. Flat line continues. 

It.. My baby has been reduced to an it.. 

We’ll try again, ok? Hold your breath in 3…2…1… 

Baby, please.. please breath for Mama.. 

I would tell you that I’m better than expected. That I’m OK most times of the day. But the sleeping and the waking up is the hardest. Even though you never failed to kiss me good night, hug me close, and cheer me up in the morning.

I know that it makes you sad. It pains you that you can’t do anything to make this go away. But it’s OK. It truly is. I know that it’s something that only I can fully comprehend and go through alone.

Good morning.. The look of concern is there again. 

Good morning.. I came up to you and gave you a hug. 

Polly.. please be patient with me. Hugging you tighter. 

I am. Always. Hugging me back. 

Thank you. 

I love you. We’ll get through this.