Friday, June 26, 2009

Isabela Eva Bertling

we would like to announce the name of our first child, Isabela Eva Bertling. for reasons we will never know or fully understand, we are not meeting her today, her due date, as we hoped we would. but we want to recognise her as a child we would have loved, and give her an identity that makes her a part of our family.
the name Isabela is the Italian variant of Elisabeth, which means "consecrated/pledged to God," or "promise of God." it is an Italian name, because that is where she resides in spirit and memory (see this post), and that is where she spent some of the first weeks of her short life in the womb. in addition, Elisabeth is the middle name of both her fraternal grandmother, Sabine Elisabeth Bertling, and her maternal great-grandmother, Anne Elizabeth Gieschen.
the name Eva was the English name of Yu-Ying Eva Chan, her maternal great-grandmother, who left this earth one week before Isabela Eva did. when we lost our baby, there was comfort in the image of Eva Chan already there in heaven to welcome and hold her when she arrived. Eva Chan, who is also missed, was an incredible woman of courage, faith, and fierce love. and more importantly, the name Eva is still carried by Isabela Eva's maternal grandmother, Nancy Eva Gieschen.

Isabela Eva Bertling, we hope to meet you someday. in the meantime, we will remember you, and we do consecrate you into the hands of a loving creator God. thank you for what you have given to us in your short life.

Friday, June 19, 2009

no hiding

here i am, in the month i was supposed to finally meet Tummymuffin. i would be a week away from my due date right about now. just when i think i'm fine, the latent pockets of grief make themselves known; i almost didn't want to celebrate my birthday this week just because i felt so emotionally tired, and not even in an overt way, which makes it even weirder to deal with. seeing my social lethargy as a bad warning sign, i invited a whole bunch of people to come to my backyard throughout the day to have a cupcake or two with me. it was a success, and i realised how relieved and happy i was to be with people. i'm glad i was proactive; i want to keep moving forward and not hide out.
there's other posts brewing in the near future, but for now i just want to avoid isolation and accept that there are mostly good days but sometimes it still hurts a lot. in a week, on what would have been the due date, we are planning to give Tummymuffin a name because she needs to have her own place in our family. more importantly, the name "Tummymuffin" needs to be freed up for whoever we hope her brother or sister will be in the future. we're still trying, and hoping, and praying. for awhile, i was really hesitant about naming her; i guess it takes some courage to really call her a real child and recognise her as our first.
in some ways, i wonder if after the due date passes, i will sense an end to this "emotional pregnancy" and i'll feel differently. for any of you out there still reading who have dealt with a pregnancy loss, what did you do on/around your due date, and did things change?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

i would like to love you

we had always hoped they'd have a child first.
when Thomas' brother called with the news that they were expecting, we were so happy. due to various reasons, we'd always hoped they'd have the first grandbaby, that they'd experience parenthood ahead of us. and honestly, when Thomas told me, i felt a wave of relief: now it can be our turn, i thought; now i am free to become pregnant. and then i was, a few months later. and then i was not, a few months after that.
we always were happy for C & K. that did not change at all for me when we lost Tummymuffin. i sort of focused on "at least there is still a baby coming for the Bertling side." it was while i was in that ancient stone convent in the mountains of Abruzzo that he arrived. it was the day after my epic battle to finally let Tummymuffin go that little Tom came into the world -- a different baby with the name Bertling on his wrist. i was happy and devastated at the same time and it was utterly confusing. at first, i couldn't look at the photos of him without sobbing. then i went into a sort of numbness about him; he was a baby 6000 miles (9650km) away with no relation to me. Thomas' brother called: will you be his godparents also? he asked, in a gesture of trust and love between brothers that was nothing short of historic. i continued to feel strange. i didn't feel like an aunt, or a godmother, or anything.
actually, what i did feel was just weirdness, weirdness and strange guilt and the disappointment of being cheated again out of loving a baby. i simply wanted to be happy for them and happy for us that we have a nephew, but of course you can't parse the complex messy reality of emotions into neat categories. i felt full of apology: i'm sorry Tom, you won't have a cousin right away; i'm sorry mother-in-law, you can't come to the doctor's office and see the ultrasound and come back to America in July; i'm sorry Mommy, you aren't the one who gets to be a grandmother. and i'm so sorry, Thomas, you won't be holding your own child in just a few months' time. i don't know why i felt so apologetic towards other people's phantom losses, but maybe that was a natural part of accepting that Tummymuffin wouldn't be coming back, ever.
we planned a trip for late May; Tom would be three months old and we needed to meet him and spend some time with C & K. when i would picture myself holding him i would start to shake and cry silently. this is not good, i told myself. i put a photo of him on our refrigerator and would talk to it. hallo, Tom, i'd say. Ich bin deine Tante Erika, und ich möchte dich liebe. i'm your auntie, and i would like to love you. this helped. a little. i tried not to panic as the date of departure came and went.

i am here to tell you that Tom is, of course, adorable. he's big for his age, over 7 kilos (almost 16 lbs)! much to his parents' amazement. he gurgles and grabs your finger like a lifeline and burrows his head into your shoulder and snuffles around. in other words, he's like any other baby. but unlike any other baby, this one will hopefully be part of our lives for a long, long time. this one bridges unseen gaps in the family; gives us a rallying point for our disparate lives, and brings us together in our love for this little drooling person.
i can't say it was easy meeting him. watching Thomas hold him, spin him around, cuddle him wasn't initially emotion-free. feeling how easily he fit into the groove of my baby-holding woman hips, how instinctively i could calm him, breathing in the smell of the top of his head -- that wasn't so easy either. but it was easy to pleasure in the astonished joy of the parents, to take ownership of the love for him that is mine by familial right, to choose to step into this delicate new network of connection.
i'm still sorting through the whole experience; i've had to ask myself how honest this reaction is -- for some reason i thought i would possibly find more painfulness than i'm letting on to. maybe i will as i continue to pray and journal and talk through it with Thomas. or maybe i'll be surprised that i can hold on to this tenuous feeling of happiness for a baby; it tells me that i am getting better at not playing the Let's Compare Everything to Your Loss Game, in which i am always the loser. the truth is that some days are better than others, but isn't that life in general?
welcome to the family, Tom. now i'm not the newest Bertling anymore.