Today is November 24th and for the first time, in a long time, I don’t feel lost. For me, it’s an annual day of retrospection; of looking back at what could have been, what might have been and, honestly, what should have been. While many of you are coming out of your tryptophan coma this morning or maybe sleeping off the remnants of yesterday’s all night Black Friday power shopping, I’ll be marking time but I won’t be sad. Not today.
Today, I pause to remember. In the past that could have meant many different things. Some years, it involved pills or booze to numb the pain and a day in bed. Some years, it meant Netflix and sobbing or a welcomed distraction. Some years, I hardly remember at all. Some years, it felt like the anniversary of the end of the world. But none of it ever seemed real because, though my heart shattered from the pain of the reality my mind was never quite able to digest the loss of what my eyes never got to see, what my arms never got to hold and what my lips never got to kiss.
I never got to touch his cheek. Kiss his warm gooey forehead. I never got to smell his head or feel his heartbeat beating next to mine. I never got to feel him wiggle in my arms. I never even got to see his eyes fixed upon me suspended beyond all space and time like only a newborn child can do to his mother. I got nothing. I was cheated in the worst possible way.
I felt failure. I felt like I had a very vivid bad dream. The worst dream ever. The dream in which every possibility of happiness was on the horizon and just as quickly snatched away. I felt empty and sad and mad and angry. I wanted to punch the world and sob and be held and left alone, all at the same time. But I never had closure. I know now that I never will. There is no closure for this situation. It’s an open-ended question of what might have been.
Worse, I had nothing. In many ways, it feels like he only existed to me, like some cruel imaginary friend, a figment of my imagination conjured up just to break me down. It felt like to everyone else…everyone…he was nothing more than a glob of cells and he was gone before most knew he even existed. No harm, no foul. But there was. I was harmed. I was egregiously fouled. He was real, as real as my other 2 children are to me.
You know how I spent that first November 24, 2012? It was Thanksgiving, I hosted 40 people. It had been 6 months since my miscarriage. I had to go on living. But on that day, my heart was raw. I was vulnerable and my sanity was being held together by a stick of bubble gum and a tic tac. It wasn’t going to hold.
I just kept telling myself, you just have to make it through dinner. Then it happened. My 1-year-old nephew was running around my house when my someone (I’m not naming names because it was a total accidental foot in mouth moment) looked directly at me (on November 24, 2012), and said, “Don’t you miss the sound of little feet running around your house?” I was dumbstruck. I couldn’t speak, for if I did, all the tears that I’d been holding back for the past 6 months every time someone said something stupid, or I ran into a pregnant friend, or baby Center send me an alert would surely come pouring out and drown me dead right there on the spot.
I knew I needed something, more than fragility as a souvenir of my third child. I needed a way to move through this grief without losing my mind. I decided that I a permanent mark on my body that reflected the permanent mark on my soul. I didn’t want closure. I wanted something more but, at the time, I wasn’t even sure what that was.
After 5 years, I knew what I wanted and I knew I had to have it before November 24th (what should have been a birthday). I was compulsive in my pursuit. My brother, Jose Cruz, an established tattoo artist obliged my desperately grasping heart last Friday. I needed this like I need air to survive.
What was this life-altering body modification? It is a story, wrapped in a metaphor and held by my heart. They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
Explanation; the big bird is the Big Guy, the next bird is me, the third bird is our Gabs and the fourth bird on the branch of our family tree is our oldest, Bella. We are all looking in the direction of the tiny baby bird, that we never got to hold, as he flies away.
I wanted it all done in black silhouettes because sometimes our family feels like a shadow of its former self. We are not broken, but we are not whole without our baby bird. We remember. I remember every single day.
The baby bird is flying up towards a small heart within a heart. This is in reference to a line from my favorite E.E. Cummings poem I carry your heart with me; I carry it in my heart. It’s on my left arm so that they are always close to my heart.
[i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart]
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
Maybe you think this makes me sad. It doesn’t. In fact, it makes me immensely happy. I think it’s because for the first time ever, I can look down and see my entire family; all three of my children; my three little birds.
Maybe this makes me sound crazy? I honestly, don’t even care because it makes me feel whole again.
Through this tattoo, the baby who never lived outside of me lives on forever on my wrist surrounded by the family who loves and misses him. He was here. He is here, in my heart, forever and for always. I told my story without saying a word and maybe no one understands it but me, but that’s more than enough. The baby I lost was not a secret. I want the world to know he was here.
More importantly, I finally have something tangible, proof that I am the mother of three and not just two; even if it is only a tattoo of a portrait of silhouette birds.