Loving Gavin

I wake up today the same way I do each day, to a lurching drop in my stomach and  panic in my chest. He’s gone. He’s dead. It’s been X number of hours/days/weeks/months and I’m that far removed from him. What am I doing about that? How can I fix that? How can I fill the hole and ease the guilt and pain and fear and longing? My mind races and whatever answers I come up with are not enough. I cannot stop this hurt, I cannot bring him back, I must get up and push through the day and the pain as best I can until I can sleep again.

I replay his life. The decisions we made. The panic when his heart rate would decelerate during labor and that last big drop right before I pushed him out. The surreal feeling of holding him after months of waiting and imagining what he would look like and hoping we’d get to meet him alive. The sheer physical, mental and emotional exhaustion I felt when that time actually came. The hours of separation while he was in NICU. The lineup of doctors and practitioners asking me what I wanted to do, and the complete inability to formulate a response. Despite my training. Despite the fact that I was his mom. Despite the fact that I had rehearsed every scenario in my head for months and thought I was prepared. Realizing I was feeezing, that precious moments were ticking by, that moments of his life were spent with him in a warmer and me in a wheelchair at an utter loss as to what to do. Had I known he’d only be earthside for 6 hours I’d have never let him leave my arms. But then, if I’d done that, I’d have always wondered “what if?” So after the medical data was collected, after his blood gasses proved to be worsening and his heart function looked terrible on his echo, I asked to hold him. And then I knew. He was ready to go, there in my arms. I let him go. I kept breathing while his heart stopped. And I’ve felt this incredible panic and tearing in my soul every moment since. Was he scared? Did it hurt to die? Did he feel our love? Where is he now? How can I reach him?

My precious darling son Gavin, how can I love and honor you today? How can I keep you alive with me? Because the moment I stop trying is the moment I will completely disintegrate. I’ve come close to that, incredibly close, and that release called to me with the promise of finally finding peace again. But I must stay here, painful as if is. So how do I mother you today? I cannot hold you, carry you, nurse or snuggle you the way every ounce of me longs to do. I cannot breathe you in, my face close to yours, and relish in the sheer blessed miracle of your presence here with us. I can’t watch you sleep and memorize your face and savor the sight of your eyelids fluttering while you dream. I cannot derive peace from these things. So how do I connect with you? How to I ease this panic in my chest, and keep your spirit alive with me? Because this world needs you. It needs your sweetness, your gentle peaceful trust, your innocence and purity. It needs you, my love, and I must share you as much as I can.

So I mourn your loss and I try not to hide it. I try and celebrate you. I say your name, I am proud of you and of my love for you. I listen to other moms that have lost their precious children, I truly understand their struggle. I celebrate and honor and miss their children with them.

I do my best to love your brothers, although I know I’m coming up short, as grief has definitely stolen part of their mother from them. I don’t hide my love for you or grief over your loss from them. They say your name. They love you, too. I work to savor every second of them, as they are changing and growing so quickly. I feel the tension between the need to move forward with them and to stay with you. So I must carry you forward with us.

I work at loving your daddy. It’s been a struggle. We grieve so differently, he doesn’t understand me and I want so much for him to just embrace me right where I am, and be part of that foundation that my feet are desperately trying to find and stand on again. I want to lean on him. He’s trying. But he doesn’t know what to do with the intensity of my grief and anxiety at times. He wants me to “be better.” That would be so much nicer for everyone, myself included, but I am not in control of this process. I am reaching out to him as best I can. Building connections. Offering grace. Letting go of hurt and resentment. My ability to do that in even small increments may be the single biggest accomplishment of your sweet little life.

I dance. I remember you dancing with me. I have entire narratives involving you for some of the movement, and I cry at times. I want so much for you to physically be there with me. I am grateful for your spirit, I am grateful for this expression, I am grateful for the chance to feel your presence as I move but it also intensifies the longing.

I take time to notice other living things. Small, easily overlooked creatures that seem to need protection but also manage to thrive without my intervention. Butterflies, dragonflies, birds, rabbits. I know they aren’t you. But they are from a world I don’t fully understand. And they do visit me. Their visits are often brief but always magical.

I see feathers, hearts, rainbows. Maybe they were always there. But I see them now. Maybe it’s the noticing things I didn’t notice before that keeps you even a little bit closer. I visit your grave. I see your name written in stone. I remember that you were real, and I wonder how any of this can actually be my life. I see the many other small graves around you and realize I am not alone in living this life after losing a child. I wonder how all of their parents have gone on. I hate that so many others have felt this choking pain. I offer empathy and support to other loss parents when I can. I know their souls need every ounce of love and support that  they can get.

I search for you everywhere. I always will.  You are a part of me, and I cannot move forward without you. Come with me, sweet boy. Please come with me.



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