Monday, November 29, 2010

to be a mother

It's almost December.  Just over four months since Luka was born and then left this world.  It's hard to believe she would be four months old if she were still with us.  There are days where everything that happened seems like yesterday, and there other days where time seems to go by so slowly.  It was a busy weekend.  Michael and I worked frantically on Friday night and all day Saturday, to get our report cards done.  On Sunday we went to the East Side Cultural Crawl in Vancouver.  It's a big showcase for a variety of artists, and allows the public to view their talents.  It was lovely to be around all types of people, who were celebrating and appreciating the value and process of art. Every second person seemed to be a mother carrying their newborn baby in a sling.  I sometimes wonder if I should be immune to these things by now, but every time I saw a baby,  it would tug on my heart strings.  To be a mother.  What a glorious feeling.  The bond you have instantly; whether you fully realize it or not.  To hold your child in your arms and feel her on your skin.  To truly experience unconditional love.   And to have that taken away, without warning.  Before we knew that  Luka wasn't going to survive,  I thought I would be raising a disabled child.  And there was no question in my mind that that is what I was going to do, and love her everyday of her life.  Then I had to do what no mother ever dreams of doing;  I had to hold my daughter in my arms and watch her take her last breath.  I had to let her go to be with the wind and the trees.  It was the most challenging, powerful, life changing, and devastating moment I have ever experienced.  As I watched the mothers with their babies looking at art,  I longed to be them.  I wanted to tell them how lucky they were.  To embrace every moment.  To hold on to their children tightly, because life is so fragile.  So precious.  On the drive home, Michelle and I had a long conversation about motherhood, and the fact that society doesn't celebrate and honour motherhood like they used to.  To me, it is the most important and honourable job that is given to us as women, if you choose to have children.  I think of how much I would have loved to raise my little Luka, and how I wanted to give her all that I know and understand in this world.  And for those few precious days, I gave her all I was able to.  I can't wait for the day when I will be a mother again.  And in time,  I know in my heart, that it will happen.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

ninety-nine percent

This morning we drove to Vancouver for our first meeting with the genetics team since Luka died.  It was a beautiful clear morning, and the moon was still in the sky as we drove down the mountain.  It felt like Saskatchewan, dry and cold. There was a massive wind storm last night and there were remnants of fallen trees everywhere.  But today was calm and sunny.  A perfect way to start our journey into Vancouver.  It was a quiet and reflective drive.  Remembering Luka, and thinking about the future. When we arrived at the hospital, I wasn't expecting the emotion to hit me so hard.  As soon as we stepped through the doors, the smell and the emotions of four months ago overwhelmed me, and I immediately began to cry.  We walked the same hall that took us to the cafeteria, where we ate our last meal before we took Luka off her life support.  We walked by the little park where I stood outside and asked the universe to take Luka into the wind and the trees.  So before we even entered the elevator to the genetics floor,  I felt like I was back in July.  I pulled myself together, and while we waited to see the counselors,  Michael and I sat quietly, holding hands, anticipating what the next hour would hold.  The counselors were wonderful, a young doctor in her last year of residency, and an experienced doctor who has been with the genetics team for thirty years.  The young doctor had met Luka, and had examined her in July.  We talked for two hours, about Luka, the future and chances of having a healthy child.  They showed us pictures of chromosomes, told us about all the genetic testing that is possible in our next pregnancy, and gave us statistics.  As I listened them to speak,  I realized how lucky we are to have this kind of care, and the wonderful care Luka had in her short life.  I now know that our chances of having a recurrence is only one percent. This may seem high, but the doctor said to look at it as a ninety nine percent chance of it not reoccurring. We are at a very low risk of having another Trisomy 18 baby.  They wanted us to walk away today with hope, and lots of it.  After leaving the hospital, we went for lunch and then Michael went and bought a new winter jacket.  On the drive home, I fell asleep thinking of Luka and her last moments.  Once home, we went for a walk as the sun was setting, with Sassy, the neighbour's dog.  It was cold, but it was great to get some fresh air and watch Sassy chase sticks in the snow.  I thought about hope, and ninety-nine percent.  It's so hard not to think about the one percent.  Just the thought of it happening again scares me to death.  But the thought of the opposite, makes my heart soar, and my soul cry with happiness.  And so I hope.  With one hundred percent of my being, I hope.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

chopping vegetables

It's about an hour until ten people arrive for a dinner party celebrating Michael's birthday.  It's an evening of celebrating being alive and new friendships.  I've spent the whole day cooking and getting ready for the festivities.  It's been a very hard week emotionally, and I am excited to be with people tonight, drink wine, and feast on ginger carrot soup, lasagna, and pistachio gelato.  As I was cooking today,  I thought of Luka and her presence in my life even though she is not with me in the physical sense.  Everyone who is coming to dinner tonight, was part of her life and has made an influence on our lives.  Without Luka we would not have developed the friendships we now have.  It's been a long time since I've had a dinner party, and I've forgotten how much I love to cook.  Listening to music and chopping carrots, I remembered how my nieces had nicknamed Luka "baby carrot" when she was in my belly.  The memory made me smile.  All this week I've been missing her so deeply.  I'm not sure if it's been the weather change, or my body's memory of her growing inside of me last year.  There's been lots of snow on the mountain, and Michael finally put on his snow tires.  Our landlords and friends have been so great in lending us their vehicle, and just being there for us when we need them.  It wasn't until last night that the sadness lifted.  I went to Vancouver with Michelle and attended a fundraiser for Growing Chefs, a program where chefs go into elementary schools and teach kids about growing their own food.  We ate great food, laughed, and talked about the challenges and rewards of life.  It was great to get out of Chilliwack, and shake the darkness of the week.  I can't wait to share another pregnancy and birth with Michelle. Lately, I've been visualizing giving birth to my next baby.  I can't wait for that moment and the feeling of deep joy and gratitude.  I will never forget my little Luka, but I look forward to bringing another life into this world.  I have a feeling Luka's little spirit has been hanging around as I cooked dinner.  There was this wonderful optimistic energy as I created a meal for the people who knew her and loved her as much as I did.  She needed to be part of it.  Here's to you my baby carrot.  This dinner is in honour of you.

Monday, November 15, 2010

stormy weather

It's been a difficult couple of days.  Sunday was miserable.  The fog settled on the mountain, and didn't leave all day.  The sadness settled into my body, and didn't leave all day.  Michael and I had to make a decision about whether to go to Saskatoon for Christmas, and we couldn't figure out why it was so hard. Later on in the afternoon as we drove down the mountain to the gym, we realized it was because without Luka, Christmas seems pointless.  Last year, at this time, we were imagining the excitement we would have to bring her home.  It was to be our first Christmas in thirteen years with our own family.  Now,  going home seems so painful, because we have nothing to bring, except our emptiness and the memories.  At the gym, we ran into someone who hadn't heard about Luka, and she asked us how our baby was.  It came at such a vulnerable moment, and as I stepped onto the elliptical machine, it took all my power to hold back the well of emotion.  All I wanted to do was cry uncontrollably, and curl up somewhere where no one could hear or see me.  But I forced myself to work out, sweating out the emotion.  It helped a little bit, but coming back up the mountain, the fog crept back in, and we still had to decide about Christmas.  So, through tears and gentle conversation, we decided that this year we are going to stay in Chilliwack.  We're going to celebrate Michael and I as a family, and the hope of the new year and new life to come.  We are going to find things to do that honour us, and give us enjoyment. We love our families, and we will miss them, but this year Christmas will be here.  I went to bed early, to try and sleep off the sadness, but with the morning came the rain, and the sadness seemed to permeate deeper.  It was very hard to walk through the doors of the school today.  Both Michael and I didn't sleep well, and we were grateful when the school day was over.  Grief can be so exhausting.  As we left the school, the sky was a stormy mess. It was mild, but the clouds were swirling, and the wind had picked up.  In the horizon, the sun was shining and casting the most beautiful light over the city.  It reminded me of how I felt.  A mess of emotions, swirling and twisting.  But somewhere, there is a glimmer of light, of hope.  That amidst all this pain there is joy to be discovered.  I know the storm will pass, and the sun will shine again.  I just hope it's soon.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


It's been a lovely Remembrance day weekend, and I have been enjoying these four days off.  The weather has turned chilly, and I keep on reminding Michael to put on the winter tires in case it snows.  You absolutely need winter tires living on a mountain.  We're babysitting our landlords cats and it's been nice to have a purring critter fall asleep with me at night. Remembering Mango, our cat of 12 years. This long weekend is a nice break before the craziness at school of report cards, and then a big Christmas production.  Last time this year, I could only eat salty things, and I remember driving down the mountain just to have a McDonald's egg mcmuffin.  We've had a pretty social weekend. Dinner at a friends, and then last night I went out to a Burlesque show full of glitter and boas.  It was a fabulous night of fun, celebrating women, and eating cheesecake.  In the quiet moments, I've been remembering.  Remembering being pregnant, remembering Luka's birth, and remembering her death.  At the Remembrance day assembly on Wednesday, at our school, I had to stop singing O Canada because of tears.  At every assembly when I was pregnant, when there was music,  Luka would move in response.  I would sing to her every night before I fell asleep, "You are my sunshine."   She loved music, and I have no doubt she would have been a musician if she had been born healthy.  Remembering is painful but necessary.  On Thursday, before going to bed I looked at her photos of when she was just born. She was so beautiful.  I remember her looking at me as she was wheeled out of the operating room,  and I remember thinking she looked just like her grandmother.  I remember her soft skin, and when you touched her through the incubator and spoke to her she would respond.  It's amazing how I can remember those three beautiful but difficult days so clearly.  It's like it happened yesterday.  Some people would want the memories to fade, but I need to remember.  It's all I have left of her, and I need to hold on to something.  I don't want to forget, and I look forward to remembering her with her brother or sister someday, when that time arrives. 

Monday, November 8, 2010


Anger.  It's not a pleasant emotion but it has begun to bubble over in the last couple of days.  There are moments where I'm angry at the universe for taking away my Luka.  I know it's selfish and childish, but there are days where I want to yell at the top of my lungs, "It's not fair."   It's not fair that others around me who were pregnant at the same time, had healthy babies.  It's not fair that I had to have a c section and because of that I have to wait to try again.  It's not fair that Luka never got a chance to smell the fresh air.  It's not fair that I had to hold my baby while she stopped breathing.  It's not fair that my parents watched their first grandchild die.  It's not fair that all the memories haunt me everyday.  I am angry.  And as much as I try to ignore it and hide it, it continuously resurfaces.  A wise friend and mentor once taught me to feel the emotion as deeply as you can feel it, until it changes.  Because eventually it has to change.  The great thing about anger, is that it does get boring.  It feels good to vent, but eventually it hurts too much to hold on to all that pain. I know in my heart and in my soul, that losing Luka has nothing to do with fairness.  There are so many people in the world who suffer horribly from war, poverty, abuse, and other things, that I could never fathom living through.  Is what happens to them fair?  What happened to us was pure chance, and is a biological mishap that I can never explain or fix.  It's life.  But today, I'm allowing myself to be angry.  To feel it, really feel it.  Until it changes.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

surrendering and strength

It's been a good week.  I started writing my novel, which has been a great creative outlet.  The challenge is to write a novel in thirty days with fifty thousand words.  I'm writing a children's novel, and the main character's name is Luka.  She's thirteen and full of spunk.  In my imagination this is how Luka would have been if she was born healthy and strong, and grew to be a teenager.  I know it's silly, but it makes me feel like she is with me as I write. Writing has become a wonderful healer, and I'm really enjoying discovering the joy of words.  I've been really looking forward to Wednesday nights, because of yoga and getting a chance to root myself into the earth.  We also go for dinner after with friends, and it's a really nice way to break up the week. Yoga is a huge trigger for emotion. It is always a gentle and welcome reminder to live in the moment.  Last night the instructor encouraged us to find the balance in our bodies between surrender and strength.  Is it possible to be strong and let go?  It was a perfect metaphor for the last three months, and the grieving process.  It's a constant shift; one minute I'm a tower of strength, and the next minute I'm an emotional wreck.  I still cry everyday.  Some days it's buckets and other days it's a gentle cry after looking at her pictures, or her ashes on our dresser.  Surrendering has always been hard for me.  To truly let go has been one of my biggest challenges in my life.  I love to hold on.  Being pregnant and losing my child was the biggest letting go experience I think I will ever have.  If someone had told me that I would go through this, I would have told them that I wouldn't be able to, that I wasn't strong enough.  But I am strong, and from my strength, I have been given the gift of learning to let go. To surrender.  As we lay in silence on our yoga mats, we were instructed to recite a mantra silently in our minds. Mine was, "I surrender to the process of life, and I trust new life will come to me again." That is my hope and my wish, and I let it go for the universe to decide.