I finally got around to reading a book that my friend Sandra had given me on the day of Ellison's remembrance service. It was actually more a collection of poems written by women writers who have lost children of their own - "to linger on hot coals" it is called. I think reading it at 1:30 in the morning was a bad idea as tears began flowing that I could not stop. But reading it did remind me that I am not alone. Other women are in this "in between" as a I call it. We experienced birth and death at the same time, so we're not like other mothers.
There were several poems that dealt with this concept. There are plenty of other women, whether you may hear about it or know it from them, that have experienced this in between. It may be taboo to talk about, or express, but there are women who do talk about it, just like I am, and probably do a better job at it than me. But I'm glad they talk about it because it's hard for others to understand what we feel or why.
One poem brought up several points about this in between that I struggle with. It was entitled "Why I Cannot Join a Moms Group" by Stephanie Paige Cole. While the poem is written by a mother who has one living child and one who died, which is different from my situation, the concepts are still similar. One line reads "I belong and I don't." In other words, I'm a mother, but I'm not. She's with me, but she's not. Then it goes on to say "There's a little girl laughing in the corner, She would be just her age, Now I am choking on thoughts, That I cannot turn to words, I will not allow myself to cry here, But I miss her I miss her I miss her." That's often how I feel when I do venture out into public and observe what's going on around me. The poem goes on to say, "Talk only about the live one, You will alienate yourself, You will be the-woman-with-the-dead-baby." Well, I don't have the luxury of talking about "the live one" because I do not have another child - I lost my first. But I do sometimes feel like I'm known to others now as the-woman-with-the-dead-baby. The words are true but I'm not only that. I'm the mother of Ellison, who just happens to have passed away. That is not what I want people to only know about me or her. She may be dead in a physical sense, but she is not dead to me. She is still with me, and I am still here, so I don't want to be known just as that woman. Do not pity me, support me (and her), and hope for me.
The last verse of the poem goes like this "And you don't realize how good you have it, There are things worse than sleepless nights with cranky infants, There are sleepless nights alone." Being alone at night is the worst. When my husband is working overnight, and I have no one to hold my hand until I fall asleep, or try to fall asleep, and no cranky infant to console - this I can assure is so much worse. Nights alone are further reminders of the "in between" I have experienced - I'm a mother, with no baby. I birthed death all at the same time. But I have realized, through others' words and poems and messages, I'm not alone in this. Others have been, and are currently, where I am now. And that helps me to not feel quite so alone during those sleepness nights.