I spent a lot of years resisting my story, desperately trying to rewrite and erase the painful, uncomfortable and embarrassing parts. Resisting it made things worse. It kept me trapped - agonizing over yesterday, paralyzed today, and afraid of tomorrow. I have very gradually learned to embrace it.
What follows is the piece I resisted the most. It is the story of my firstborn.
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be Mother. As a young woman, I went to college and earned a degree, but no other dream emerged. All I wanted was to have children.
When the time was right, I got pregnant. I felt alive, vibrant, robust and beautiful. I gave birth to a pink-cheeked, precious little boy. His name was Josiah. I cried when I brought him home from the hospital because I couldn't believe how perfect it all seemed. He was mine and I was in love.
I slept very little for the days that followed because I didn't want to miss a moment. Whenever I would finally start to doze off my little boy's eyes would pop open as if to say, "Hey, Mama, I'm awake again. Watcha wanna do now?" I couldn't resist his invitation.
Six days passed after he was born in this way. Then my whole world turned upside down.
Josiah began to have a series of what is most simply explained as heart attacks. The first one was in my arms. His ruddy, healthy glow turned into a blue pallor that terrified me.
After he was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, his color returned. As I waited with him in the ER, I continued the rhythm we had at home. I held him in my arms and went back over every precious facial feature that I had already spent hours memorizing. I sang him love songs and we locked eyes.
I also watched his color. I hoped and prayed that the nightmare that began at home was just a fluke and would never happen again - but it did, repeatedly throughout the night and the next day.
On the morning of his eighth day, just as the sun began making its ascent on the horizon, my little boy slipped away. I was with him when he died.
That is part of my story that I have had the longest and most difficult struggle to embrace. Until the eighth anniversary of his death, I struggled with it by keeping my heart open to a secret hope. The hope that - somehow, some way - Josiah would return to me.
I didn't know how it would happen, I just knew that I needed it to. I didn't know how I would ever be okay unless his death became untrue. I couldn't accept that THIS was my life.
In order to bridge the chasm between denial and acceptance, I knew I had to take steps to consciously engage with my reality. It started by finally putting a stone on my son's grave - more than eight years after I buried him.
And that process continued here. I began to write about him as a way to identify my grief and forge the path to acceptance. I remember. Come with me:
I Remember: The Waiting Room
I Remember: The Cemetery
Also about Josiah:
Was Blind, But Now ("I am not the woman who lost")
For When You Are Ready to Revel (Guest Post)