Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Smells Like Jack"

For as long as I can remember, there has been a scent I associate with my mother. It's a perfume, and it's only on rare occasions I capture of glimpse of it.  I remember going to Girl Guide camp (any other GG's out there?) and one of the camp counsellors smelled like my mother and when I would become homesick, I would sit near her and feel instantly better. It's been years since my mother ever wore that particular brand of fragrance, and she can no longer recall the name of it. But I remember, and I always will.

I like to smell good. I'm more of a fan of "clean" smells on myself rather than overly powerful florals or musks.  I have 2 favourite perfumes, which I plan to smell like forever.
Philosophy's Amazing Grace

LaCoste Pour Femme.

I like to smell a certain way because I want people to remember "my smell" and associate it with me. I like that both of these scents are subtle and people don't generally smell them unless they're up close and then they always comment on my "smell". 

I can still remember exactly how my high school boyfriend smelled (I picked out the cologne and regretted it as soon as we broke up and I realized my next boyfriend couldn't smell like that, too). I remember the smell of a guy who sat next to me in Grade 12 English class. He smelled of an XL Tim Horton's double-double coffee and cigarettes- somehow this was an intoxicating aroma. For the record, of all these people, Scott smells the best. 

Well, the second best. 

There is a strong smell I associated with Jack.  It's strange in a way, for him to have developed his own smell since he was barely even here. But I remember smelling it right away- and knowing he was all mine. Kinda like how they say cats know when humans have handled kittens, they can tell just by the smell (by the way, is that even true? Or did my parents just tell me that so I didn't pick up stray kittens?).

It's difficult to described the scent other than to say it smells like baby. The aroma is strongest in the nursery where all of his things are encapsulated in 4 walls. It's almost like a combination of unused diapers, scent-free laundry detergent (I don't care what the label says, there's always a smell), Burt's Bees and consumer packaging. It smells of Jack- it smells of what his fresh newborn, fluffy head smelt of. It smells delicious.

Sometimes, when my longing for him is especially strong, I allow myself to go into his room and "breathe" him in. I lift the blue onesie he wore the day before he became ill, and press the collar to my nose and inhale him. For a moment, if I close my eyes, I can taste the smell.  When my eyes open again, I search for the stains from the milk he drooled, stains which will always exist on this article of clothing.  I try not to cry onto the onesie as I don't want to wash away the smell, it will always be one of my favourite possessions. By the way, if there's ever a fire, you will find me packing up his shit in the nursery- it's ALL coming with me. 

Occasionally I'll get a smell of Jack in unexpected places. I smell him for only a second and then I can't find it again. We'll be in the car, windows down and I'll announce I can smell him. It's not just me,  Scott has confirmed it- "smells like Jack" 

I feel like this is a way for me to know we are right where we're supposed to be. Getting rewarded with a little sniff of him when we're on the right track.  It's one of the things I want to hold onto forever as I find it incredibly comforting to know just what he smelled like. Just as I'll always remember how my mother smelled to me as a child, I hope to always know what Jack smelled like.

I made him, and he smelled so good.
Do you have smells you associate with your child? What are they? Do they bring back vivid memories for you, too?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Year of Jack

A year ago today, at 25-ish weeks pregnant, I finally "outed" myself to the general population of Facebook. People at work (obviously) had known for a while, as had most of my in-real-life friends. But ex-boyfriends and "frienemies" of Facebook, they did not.

Warm congratulations flowed in of the coming hours and days, and I relished in them. I remember feeling such a sense of excitement that my news was finally universal. I had waited until after Jack was"viable" before spilling the beans, because how awful is it to have to "undo" all of that. HA <- That is the universe laughing at my misfortune.

Sometimes I think of where I was this very moment in time a year ago. I had ordered our stroller because it was on sale and I was soo excited. I had begun to register for thoroughly reviewed baby items. I had watched all of National Geographic's In the Womb videos to see how development had been progressing. I was looking forward to another few months of work, then being home with my baby for a year. It was to be the year of Jack- of baby massage, stroller days, and showing him off to friends and family. We would nurse, we would play, we would be raising a strong, independent little guy. I would make organic baby food,  change his biodegradable diapers, and wear him in my Moby. I would enjoy the shit out of him.

Instead, in the months which followed Jack, I have mourned him. I have mourned the very existence he should have had. The one we all should have had, as a family.  I've thought about the differences between a year ago, and now and they are astonishing. I'm angrier. I'm (more) emotional. I have more empathy, but less sympathy. I don't pity anyone. I have little time for grown men who are angry with the cards they've been dealt, when the cards- they really ain't that bad- not from where I'm standing.

I've watched my husband long for the son he had and then didn't. Of repeatedly telling me he wishes Jack was here. That he misses him. Of telling me he wants a baby right now.

2011 has been the year of Jack. Of birthing him. Of loving him. Of having to say goodbye. Of missing him. Of grieving him. Of grieving motherhood and fatherhood.  It's been a year of learning who I truly want to be, and what I have to do to get what I want. I am resilient- I wish I never had to know this about myself, but it's true. I am an eternal optimist, to the point where I annoy the shit out of even myself. The world is not all good, and there are a ton of bad people inhabiting it- all of whom seemingly get to keep their babies. But life? It has to get better. It just has to.

What should have been the greatest year of my life has been challenging. It's been a lesson in loving and letting go. Of letting go of my son for the last time, of letting go of the "plan", or letting go of how I thought all of this would go.

It's a struggle every single day. The guy in the desk next to mine has two older sons from his first marriage and 2 little girls (22 months and maybe 6 months?). I hear him on the phone at least once a day telling the older of the two how much "daddy loves you. Daddy misses you". Every time he says this, my heart hurts. I wish I could just could just call up Jack and whisper these things to him... 

I really wish.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ten Years, & Eight Months

I have read countless posts this week regarding the events of September 11th. I don't really think there's anymore more I can add to the narrative than to add where I was, and what I was doing.

Like so many others, I remember exactly where I was. It was my second day of university, and I had just woken up an stumbled into the kitchen of my dormatory.  My four roommates were huddled around the tiny 13 inch screen in the shared livingroom. I remember the burning buildings, and remember thinking it was weird they would be watching this movie so early in the day. "A plane struck a tower in New York", I was told. I remember thinking it was an accident, until I heard a second plane had hit. Bewildering, and life as we know it had changed. I was a week into my university career- my first week away from the safety of sleeping under my parent's roof at night.

It was also the day of my very first Political Science class- the program which was to be my major. I still remember sitting in the auditorium as my professor walked down the stairs towards the floor. He began, and ended our very first class by announcing "This is Political Science 101, and class is cancelled for the day. I suggest you go home and watch the news". I remember being terrified as I watched my professor, the head of our department, provide interview after interview on television that day.

I remember watching the coverage with bewilderment. Who would do this, and why? Who hated America enough to want to do this? I remember hearing Enrique Iglesias' "Hero" played over and over again, becoming a theme song for the events of September 11th.

The vision of people jumping from windows, ash and plumes of smoke, the flying papers scattered through-out the air- all things I'll never forget.

A few years ago my husband and I were at a bookstore when we came across a book with hundreds of photos and stories of everyday people. The Book contained collections of photos were taken by Magnum Photographers in Manhattan and they are a beautiful tribute to a day which will never be forgotten.

One of the quotes in the book was from a photographer named Steve McCurry. He wrote,

"Who would have ever dreamed that one tower would have come down, let alone two? It was just indescribable, the terrible sadness. You might just as well have told me that my mother or father had been killed in an accident, or that my best friend had died. It was sorrow of that magnitude".

There's a "then and now" mentality towards the events of that fateful day. What the world was like "before then" and what it's now like, as a result. I feel like, having now suffered a personal tragedy of my own, I finally understand a little something of what was lost in those days and weeks surrounding September 11th. I remember thinking how difficult it must be to move on with your life when someone is missing- a life unresolved.

In 8 short months since my son was first born and died, I am able to comprehend this a little better. To understand a little bit about what it takes to get out of bed every morning and try to do something with my day. It isn't always easy (and more often than not, it's exhausting), but some how I put one foot in front of the other and keep moving.

I didn't post on Jack's 8 month birthday this month, nor on the 9th of September from when he was declared. Today is September 12th, so I technically didn't post on the 8 month of his passing. I feel like I say the same thing every month : I miss him. I love him. I love his daddy, and I'm so thankful for his beautiful self. More every month than the last. That's all.

We're rapidly approaching the whole, "he's been gone longer than he was here" thing. Longer than he was here, in terms of how long I was pregnant with him. It's unbelievable to me still, that this is his story.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Caught Between Worlds

Our "fortunes" from dinner on Saturday.
I am caught between two worlds.  One in which I read the newspaper and check out the horoscopes not only for Scott and myself, but for my little Capricorn, too.  I think of him whenever anyone discusses missing someone/ feeling left behind/ lost loved ones/ loss of any kind/ tragedy/ un-flailing love/ being a mother/ the worst thing ever/ the best thing everanything really... It doesn't even have to be the littlest bit related to our situation, or rather his... But my mind goes there, as through to interpret peoples "take" or suggestions, as though they are speaking directly about Jack. I still prepare for future babies by buying things in an optimistic manner (aka, if we don't have boy/girl twins, I will be entirely over prepared for the next several pregnancies). He is both my very first, and my very last, thought of the day. I miss him. I am so grateful for him. I wish he was here So much so.

In the other world, I still continue on life as a wife. I make dinners (um, from frozen...), I meet with friends, complain about work, I cry at weddings, and laugh at movies. I plan extravagant renovations, obsess over home decor I would love to have in my forever home (but not this one, as though this one doesn't deserve nice things?). I plan to stop eating like crap (see aforementioned frozen food), start exercising *but I hate it so much*, and make a better life for us. I think about what life with children might be like as though it is a foreign concept to me... Because I should know, and yet I don't.

I think what Scott would be like as a father, as the situations he was able to experience with Jack were so severely limited. I think of what it might be like to have Christmas with our children shrieking as they rip open boxes and toss wrapping paper everywhere. I see people interact with their children and think, "I would never", "I totally would", or "that woman is an animal". I dream of reading stories to my children every night, and of recounting their days: "what they ate, who they saw, what they did, and what we're doing tomorrow" as I tuck them into bed.

I'm caught between a world where my life revolves around my son. My son. My son.  The one who is no longer with me in body, but fucking right he's with me in spirit... I'm caught between there and the world I still want to explore. The person I still want to be, despite all of this. Despite all of my broken-hearted-"ness". I know at some point the two worlds will collide- a day when it's okay to simultaneously long for my boy, but cherish the family I WILL have... I wonder when this might be? A year after we lost him? Two years? After we have our next baby? The one after that?

Because one day, just maybe, we could be happy?
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