It has been one month since Little I died. If you feel compelled, you can donate to the things he loved in life. What follows, is heartache.
On Friday at 1:50 pm I sat in my office looking at my calendar and realized I physically could not move from my chair. I wanted to go to seminar. I felt obligated to go to seminar because there are not many faculty in my department and my absence would be noticed.. Yet, I could not make my legs work. I heard colleagues leave their office and I jumped up to close my door, hoping to conceal that I could not leave mine. Instead, I sat at my desk for the hour and read articles on grief. When you’re a scientist and you don’t know something, you read the literature.
I found one particularly helpful, from The Compassionate Friends, whose stated goal is to help people after a child dies. They seem to identify symptoms I am feeling that feel particularly acute – guilt, the feeling I am going insane, and an inability to make major decisions.
Next Friday, I am supposed to have my IUD switched out. When Strange and I started dating 8 years ago that decision was an easy one. We had 5 children between us and we were both broke. Our situation changed this month and over the past 8 years and my fertility is declining by 30 eggs a day. Those eggs I have aren’t necessarily great. My Sea Monkeys aren’t having sex. Are they not the right age or are the conditions not right? I have Lynch Syndrome. What are the ethics of reproducing when you know that? There is no time to read the literature, or is there? I’ve already lost a child, do I even have a hospitable womb?
On Thursday, one of Little I’s peers committed suicide. One of the local principals called me, warning me that the news was coming out the following day, that I might be triggered but all evidence said Little I’s death was not a suicide, and that they were going to call Little I’s father next. The principal sobbed as he told me the news. I was snuggling TD, watching Drag Race, and felt mostly numb. I told him I would pray for him, and I did. The next day, my social media was full of Little I’s friends mourning the loss of a peer. So many pictures of Little I popped up. I texted their dad that I was sad for the other family. He said the principal hadn’t called. I felt guilty. That was triggering.
Social media starts to learn your identity more. You start seeing messages about your state banning trans kids from sports and also trans kids whose parents aren’t accepting them and gay kids who aren’t accepting them and all you can say is that you loved your child and would give anything in the world to have your baby back. You tell them that, if you need a mom, you are there. Every LGBTQIA+ kid/adult in your timeline is loved. You remember a night at a bar that has become immortalized on Instagram. You remember the bartender who was still serving you at 1 am, even though you were sitting next to their boyfriend, eating up their time together. You remember the bottle of teal nail polish they pulled from their pocket and started to apply messily. You remember telling them how you regularly did your baby’s nails and you’d be happy to help. You hugged, obviously. You feel so much anger at parents who can so easily give up the miracles they made. You try your best to coach 3rd-4th grade basketball, knowing that every single kid is a miracle to someone.
When I was a graduate student and pregnant with Little I, I taught Sunday school for the teens at our church who were seeking confirmation. I found joy in re-educating our deacon as a mother by calling them “little lambs”. Innocent and full of our hope. Last night, one of them reached out to me, who I had felt particularly humbled to know. One of their parents was what our oldest would call a “rockstar professor.” Someone everyone looked up to, who achieved so much very early in their career. They were adopted. Their spouse had a more typical academic track. They told me the full litany of things they had done. I told them that I still loved them. I meant it. Strange told me the litany of things his peers’ kids had done. I realized that achievement does not equal protection for your children. Your bootstraps may not save your children.
When a child dies unexpectedly, your home becomes a crime scene. They take all of your kid’s gadgets. iPhones, Chromebooks, computers. If you share a password (we did, I was entirely in Little I’s shit every second), that all gets erased when the police unlock their gadgets. Then people start texting your condolences and memories and you have to try to decipher who they are. Every day you are reminded that you have to rebuild your life from the ground up. Some people share the same name. You have to try to decipher who is texting you from limited evidence.
Then a war breaks out in Ukraine.
You are married to an Eastern-European Jewish man and have Eastern-European people working around you, asking for time to get their beloveds into this country. Of course! How much time do you need to protect people who are your most precious?
A friend asks if you’re willing to offer “Shabbos.” You learn the meaning of this word. It’s what you’ve been trying to offer for your entire life.
You call people. You say “I still have a heart of love to give and my mourning is not worse than anyone’s in Ukraine.” You realize you call the wrong people based on their names and what you could decipher.
Go back to the top, when you start to think you are a crazy person.