Thursday, May 17, 2018

"Daddy I have two sisters"

Our dear little William is now a bubbling happy three year old, curious about everything that life puts in front of him. It's pretty wonderful hearing all of the quirky things that pop in his head.

"Daddy look, I fell down just like the Sens!"

"Daddy, can me and Juliette go to your meeting with you?"

and also

"Daddy I have two sisters. One - Anya. One - Juliette. Anya died. I was sad. Daddy why did Anya die? She didn't want to die"

It's always a bit surprising to see William demonstrate how much he's absorbed in his short life. He's already at the point where he understands that he had a sister called Anya, that she died, and that death is sad.

Tackling 'Why did she die?' is a tricky one. I try to balance being forthright and honest, without framing it in a way that could make William fearful about his own mortality, or that of his parents and sister. Usually, this is by answering that Anya's body didn't work, that it didn't let her breathe. And that usually, bodies don't stop working until someone becomes very old.

To which he responds "Daddy I'm not old, I'm new."

Yes William, you're new.

Eventually we'll have to tackle the cruelty of that unfair caveat, "usually". But we're not there yet.

Friday, February 16, 2018


We've used the term "how far we've come" a number of times over these past four years, always with a positive undertone. From devastation back to normalcy - it's been a journey that I am proud to say we 'completed', in a way.

The strange thing about reaching normalcy is that it's not the end of the road. We keep walking down that path day after day, year after year, eventually taking us out of sight of the path of devastation, but with it, the place where we met our first born. And there's no option to circle back and revisit our connection to that past. 

Keeping her legacy alive through new thoughts and words gets progressively more difficult when no new thoughts come and all of the words feel like they've been written. I may be close to the point where there is nothing left to say, and that in itself is a sad milestone. 

There's a great big wonderful future ahead. It's a shame we can't bring the past along for the ride.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

You Are Four

My dear Anya,

Can you believe that you were born four years ago already?

I find it hard to believe that we have been that long without you. Yet I can hardly remember the time that came before you. 

You should know that I have thought of you each and every day since I learned of your existence. I will continue to do so for as long as I can. You should also know that you live on. 

You are the one who anchors me to the love of the present, with the knowledge that tomorrow is uncertain. You are the one who reminds me that looking forward is nowhere near as important as appreciating what is, right now. Tomorrow is full of promise. But one day, one of these tomorrows will mean losing something, or someone again, so I hold on to today for as long as I can. 

Yes, my beautiful Anya, you are still alive in me, in how I approach life, and in how I love your mom, your brother William and sister Juliette. 

Happy birthday, my eldest. I love you. I miss you. Thank you for all that you have given me.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Waves of Grief

Life is pretty crazy these days... interrupted sleep, little time to ourselves, toddler tantrums. In the midst of this exhaustion, I'm struggling to appreciate life and the little things. And I'm certain 4 years ago I vowed never to take life's treasures for granted...

I'm struggling and I'm hurting as I realize there is no formula, no series of choices that can make life exactly as I want it to be. There is not enough will power or trying that can make life perfect.

It's naive to have thought that it ever could have been perfect, I know.

When William (our rainbow baby) was born my life shifted overnight. The time I gave myself to grieve, to hope, to reflect on life, to work through tough emotions almost vanished, and my life became focused on immediate needs, survival, and love of course. William brought us so much love, so much vitality.

Grief for the loss of Anya was still present, but it became background noise as I focused on the present, and I learned to love life again. I basked on the dry beach in the ebb of the waves of grief. This is a good thing. But I invested myself so wholeheartedly in loving life that I didn't even notice I had built a dam, and grief stopped flowing.

Then something shifted, I don't know exactly when. Maybe it was when Juliette was born. I dreamed again of life with a daughter, precious dreams that had once been for Anya. Maybe it was a few months later when the aforementioned exhaustion set in. Something shifted and grief returned, less acute, but still present like a long slow wave.

Now grief takes the shape of anger and hurt as I am forced to accept the realities of life. Everyone I love will one day die. Being a parent is hard and isolating. I will never find the perfect balance between family, work and my own needs. And no matter how many kids we have, our family won't be complete.

If there is any silver lining in all of this, I think it is having a place to share these feelings, to let grief flow and to soon find the ebb of this wave.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Highs and Lows

Aren't we lucky?

That's a question and sentiment we find ourselves asking and feeling quite a bit these days. That is - in between the occasional moments of frustration and exhaustion that naturally come with parenting a couple of kids under three.

Life is good. Great, even. The highs of having the wonderful family life we've always dreamed of are just fantastic. Over the past couple of years, we've also tried to minimize those frustrating, everyday lows  (e.g.: Two year old melting down: 'NO BED TIME! MORE MONSTER TRUCK VIDEOOOO! WAAAAhhh') by telling ourselves  'Ahh, this is nothing compared to the real lows we've lived through'.

It relates somewhat to a sentiment that came to me after losing Anya: "I should be so lucky as to be kept up all night by my kid. I can't see myself ever being frustrated as a parent, because with every cry and whine I'll just know that I'm lucky to hear them.". While I do still believe that I'm lucky to hear those things, the idea that I could be this sort of super-parent, with all of the patience of Spock never getting frustrated, is a tad ridiculous in hindsight.

The lowest lows can help put the wonderfulness of the day-to-day into perspective, and for that I really am lucky. It helps me recognize all that I have. But the lowest lows can also make the other lows - the everyday stuff - feel like they should be swept off as trivial. And the more I reflect on that, the more I've come to think that there's a danger in invalidating them in that way.

Being a parent is still a heck of a tough job; one that is as rewarding as it is frustrating at times, and those 'trivial' frustrations can certainly add up over time. It's not necessarily tough to forego a bit of sleep in short bursts, but lack of sleep for month after month is something else. It's also not necessarily difficult to 'take one for the team' and skip the activities you enjoy doing by yourself for a time, but continuous self-sacrifice can bring you to wonder whether you're still the same person you used to be.

The stupidity in invalidating those types of problems is that it hinders our ability to find solutions - sometimes really simple ones (like making sure one of us gets to sleep in on weekend days, or by giving each other time to do what's important to us as individuals). So that's the mindset that we're moving forward with - tackle the small stuff before it becomes bigger. If either of us is frustrated, it is absolutely not something to brush off as trivial. It's something to work together on, and to find solutions for. Aren't we lucky?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Motherhood and Grief

I've been hiding from my grief. It is hard to make time for it, but it shows its face now and then...

I look at Juliette, and I wonder... What kind of mother would I have been to Anya? What kind of mother would I have been if I hadn't lost Anya?

Would I love as fiercely? Yes.

Would I worry as much? Yes... But I imagine my feelings of worry would be naive and abstract as they once were. Now when I worry, it is a gnawing pain, a knowing ache of loss... Fear flashes before me as a deer in the headlights, and it is terrifying, if only for a moment.

Would William and Juliette be here today? Probably not. It makes me sad to think I could only ever have had Anya or William and Juliette. It makes me grateful I wasn't the one to choose... because William and Juliette are everything to me... Today, William and Juliette mean more to me than Anya does. I feel sad and guilty about that.

I also find that I am angry with myself, disappointed to face the same shortcomings as all parents... I feel like I should know better. Life gets busy and I forget the lessons Anya taught me about life and love.

I get impatient at silly things. I get lost in thoughts about dinner or work, when I should be paying attention. I don't play enough. But Anya taught me that this moment is precious... it could all be taken away in a moment. One day these precious moments will be gone...

I keep trying to simplify and be present. Though I know I will forget sometimes, I will try again and again to truly appreciate each day. Because that's all we can do isn't it?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Music and Memories

Music has a way of helping me relive certain moments in life. There's something therapeutic about it. Over the years, I've created particular associations between Anya's short existence and a handful of songs. They have helped me to relive certain moments, reflect on them, and progressively come to terms with them.

I feel like they deserve to be part of this overall record. They are worth remembering. So here they are, along with what they represent.

1- Across The Universe (Fiona Apple cover) . This song played during the early stages of labour, while Kayleigh was trying to stay calm. It reminds me of the calmness and the faith in life that we once believed in so strongly.

2- Babys (Bon Iver). This song reminds me of the anxiety-ridden drive between the birth centre and the hospital. Anya had been born, and she had been taken way by ambulance. Something was wrong - but I was trying to stay hopeful, until hope was taken away in a crushing instant.

3- To Build a Home (The Cinematic Orchestra). Saying goodbye to her. Returning home from the hospital without a baby. Seeing the note we had pasted on the door to let Kayleigh's mom know that we had made our way to the birthing centre. Ripping it off in anger. Being greeted by the mess we made as we were excitedly leaving the house. Remembering the thought that "when I come back to clean this, i'll be a dad". Feeling the worst feeling of defeat I've ever felt.

4- About Today (The National). Lying in bed on the evening of December 19th. Feeling exhausted, incredulous, powerless. Dreading sharing the news. Wishing for a time machine to go back just 24 hours and fix things.

5- The Wolves, Act I and II (Bon Iver). New Year's Eve. The day after her funeral. The lyrics "With the wild wolves around you; In the morning I'll call you" remind me of a certain feeling of loneliness and anxiety I felt at that point - as much as I was surrounded by loved ones, I was alone in coming to terms with what was happening in my mind. That feeling of failing as a parent at the single minimum requirement for parents - keeping your kid alive.

6- World Spins Madly On (The Weepies). Trying to find some sort of return to normally. Being upset at how life just seems to keep going for everyone else.

7- One Sunday Morning (Wilco). This song reminds me of those first few weeks, getting up on what would usually be a workday, and instead of going to work, just... having to find something to do. Painting a wall. Fixing something. Contemplating what the hell we do from here.

8 - Father Daughter Dance (Craig Cardiff). Reflecting on what could have been.

9 - Nobody Dies Anymore (Jeff Tweedy). Trying to find faith in life again, and in the idea that things can turn out alright.

10 - Sky Blue Sky (Wilco). Starting to believe that the worst may be behind, and that sunnier days are ahead.

11 - Hanging from the Earth (The Pines). Coming to terms with acceptance, and with the guilt of feeling happy.

Here's a Google Play Music playlist.

Thanks for listening.