Is the Plane Moving Mommy?

“Is it Mom? IS IT?  Are we going yet?  Is. The. Plane. GOING???”

This is an all too familiar version of the same relentless “Are we there yet” banter which accompanies every trip with kids, without fail.  This time we were all going to Maui.

Translation:  we were going to be on this very crammed aircraft for a really long time.

“Look out the window,”  I say.  “Can you see everything moving past?”

Noo,” my five-year old son says, “I caaannn’t”.  (Insert pained and impatient overtone).  “It is just clouds out there.  And they are not moving at all.”

“It’s ok buddy, we are moving.  I promise.” I tell him.

Trust  me.”

Five minutes later and at constant five-minute intervals for the duration of that flight, my little guy would ask,

“Are we almost there Mommy?  Are we there yet? WHEN will we be there Mom, WHEN?  This is taking so so long!”

“Be patient Oli.  I know being patient is hard.” I would say.

I should have just put that response on voice recorder and played it to him on repeat.  That way I might have been able to read a page of my book or shut my eyes for a while.  Retrospective genius is so unhelpful.

This conversation is familiar to me, and not just because I have it with all of my kids every time we take a trip.  It is the talking track which has looped endlessly in my own head everyday for the last few months.  I am having the conversation with the Big Guy Upstairs.  It goes something like this:

“Hey!  Excuse me? Sorry to interrupt but, am I getting anywhere close?  I mean am I getting anywhere closer to where it is I want to be?  Is this even the direction I am supposed to go?  Can you please give me some clue as to what that ‘right place’ looks like anyway?  At this point, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t recognize it if I saw it.”

I have these uncertainties because this plane or train or bus that I am a passenger on, seems like it is at a virtual standstill……kind of like the train my then soon-to-be-husband and I once rode from Jaipur to Varanasi, India.  This train moved, but there was as much sideways momentum as there was movement forward.

Lately I feel like this.  I have experienced tons of change.  Much of it has not been predictable and most of it seems meant just to shake me up, not move me in the general direction toward “Better.”  You are just journeying down this road of life, naively believing that everything is mostly always, pretty great. Then WHAMMO!  You get crosschecked, hard, right into the boards, and nothing is ever the same again.

Ever.  Even when it all looks the same, it is not.

So many things that I thought were’ done deals’, have fallen apart well after the point falling apart should have been possible. Samuel dying at 40 weeks and 3 days inside my womb was the first event in this series of the unexpected.  Clearly none of these other changes have had the devastating impact that did.

Compared to losing my baby, frankly, all other challenges pale.  My work situation, plans for graduate school, childcare; all of these facets of my life have abruptly changed over these past few months.  And each of these things have affected the others like an ironic game of dominos, jarring me into a sort of stunned standstill, and rendering me incapable of making decisions or trusting any I have already made.

These events are truly just bumps on the road of life.  But none-the-less, even a series of small bumps over time can create a sort of mental-emotional whiplash.  The cumulative effects are noticeable.  One begins to wonder what the hell is going on when every plan seems to get turned on its side over and over again.

It is not at all devastating, but all of this change of plans stuff is certainly surprising, annoying and somewhat confusing.  Will any path will lead anywhere you expect it to?  The over-uttered adage, “Everything happens for a reason,” becomes terribly trite and annoying at a point.

Maybe the message is this;

“Just sit back and let Me move this train you are on.  Know that even though it doesn’t feel like the train is going anywhere at all, it is actually going so fast that you can’t feel it move.  Look out the window….do you see Me?  I am the clouds you are watching go by.  I am right here with you.  I promise.  Trust Me.”

I guess all of this change, this sideways momentum, is just there to remind me that movement is happening.  There is no doubt about that.  The plane is really moving after all.

Now I will just have to learn to sit back and be patient.  Maybe Oliver and I can learn together.

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In Search of Lightness and Belonging

I see Moms at the preschool my little boy attends, standing at the entrance, laughing and chatting, their toddlers jostling around at their feet.  There is an easiness  to their interactions and lightness in their demeanor.

I used to join them.  Now, I do not.

Now, I stand just outside the group, busily checking my phone or studying the notice board.  I avoid the opportunity to engage at all costs, avoiding eye contact, and purposefully excluding myself from conversations.

I used to be at the centre of the group chat, rallying back and forth with the other parents, encouraging and humouring.  Our momentary interactions seemed to spur us on to make it through one more menial challenge, and collectively celebrating the small victories of parenting young children.  It was as if this camaraderie carried us forward to the next part of our daily round.  I loved these shared moments with other mothers.  Our animated discussions were for me, an outward celebration of doing this “Mom thing” in a community of people I respect just because they show up everyday and put their best foot forward.  I felt inherently connected to these women simply because we were all doing the same thing; being Moms.   I am fierecly proud of being a member of this club. But now I just don’t  feel like I completely belong.

Why is it different now?  I am still a Mom.  I am a mother to my four children here, and to my angel Samuel.  Losing my fifth child should not change how I connect to other mothers.  I have been a mother for 9 years, and still am.  So why has losing my baby changed how I identify with this group?  

Somehow it has, and I hate it.  I don’t understand this change.  I suppose I resist connecting with these women because these mothers, whom I now watch from a distance, all seem to have their bubble of innocence still well in tact.  They haven’t touched this part of motherhood; the part where you have to let go of your baby with no say in the matter.  The part where you did everything right, and still things went completely wrong.  I envy the innocence of this perspective, because I used to have it.  God how I miss it!  I miss the optimism.  I miss the “everything generally works out just fine” viewpoint.  I even miss thinking that small problems were bigger that they actually were.  Part of me yearns to find that again, to let myself be tricked into believing that everything is ok, and that it is ok to let go and let the light in.  I crave to be able to chat with other parents about the menial aspects of life and parenting without wanting to shout, “This doesn’t matter!  It doesn’t matter that you are tired because you are up all night with your baby, or that the hardest part of your day is trying to manage a playdate with school pickups and going to Costco!”  Because of course it matters!  The day to day round is what being a mom and a parent is all about.  I just can’t seem to let go so that I can converse with others about the smaller aspects of the everyday.

Will I ever see things without this filter of fragility and powerlessness?  I wonder if I will ever feel it is worth my energy to connect with my community of Moms unless I know them well.  I really want to feel inclined to try.  But  I just can’t summon the courage to engage with others the way I used to.  I guess I want them, those “other mothers,”  to know this thing about me.  The thing that happened to me that explains the cautiousness that veils my eyes and the wariness in my smile.  If I could just announce the news first, maybe it would feel easier to be amongst them.  If I were to stand up initially and say, “Hi, I am so and so, and I lost my baby boy 10  months ago.”  In other words,   “Treat me tenderly. I don’t know how to relate to you without you knowing this about me.  Help me find my way back to belonging.  And yes, please, please ask about him.  Please don’t avoid the topic.  That feels false and even more painful.  I want to share him and my experience just as you want to share your stories about your 10 month old.  Samuel would have been 10 months too.”  

I guess maybe that would feel just a tad awkward in a large group.

This experience I have been through though is not mine alone.  Sadly there are so many who have walked this road.  Perhaps even in this community of mothers I belong to, there is a Mom who knows this same truth about life and loss. Maybe she will recognize this pained look right behind my strained smile.  Maybe she will reach through the invisible barrier, and help me re enter this world I know so well and miss so much.

I hope she sees me.  I hope she recognizes my discomfort, and gently helps me find my way back to belonging.