Last week, P. and I went to Detroit to visit my brother, sister-in-law and brand-new-adorable niece, S..
An intense journey, both physically — a very long drive for my very pregnant self — and emotionally. A travel through space, through time, in a way, as i was reliving vicariously the vertiginous first few days with a baby, but also a travel into an unknown, unexplored reality.
A reality in which my little brother is now a dad, in which he is learning to parent as i struggle not to be able to have more perspective on this role i should be well acquainted with by now. The jealousy and envy i have felt at some points since knowing Paul would have a cousin before i could give him a brother or a sister has receded, but as the days pass, i wonder how i will feel once S. reaches and sails past 28 days of life. I don’t know what to make of this reality but accept it exists, and go along with it.
I spent as much time as possible with S. while we were visiting. I hugged her, kissed her and rocked her. I sang to her, talked to her to let her know i love her and will be present for her. As i was holding her close, feeling both the warmth and softness of her presence and the more elusive existence of her cousin growing within me, i couldn’t help but notice how deeply my feelings have evolved over the last months. I remembered, a year ago, holding another of Paul’s cousin, just a few months older than him, in an effort to exorcise my discomfort in the presence of other babies. I remembered speaking to him through my tears, overwhelmed by the loss. I remembered wondering if i could ever feel at ease, at peace with another baby knowing that Paul would never again fill my arms. And there i was, holding S. in my arms, filled with calm and the hope that all would be ok for her, that the sheer amount of love surrounding her would be enough to protect her…
During our trip, we visited the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit exhibition at the Institute of Art. In the middle of the impressive collection of art and artifacts from Frida and Diego’s time in the Motor City, an entire room was dedicated to Kahlo’s experience of child loss, which happened while she stayed in Detroit, as Rivera was completing his Detroit Industry Murals. In one of the exhibition signs, i came across this sentence that i have been going back to for the past week:
Kahlo compares the physicality of loss to a snail:
« soft, covered, and at the same time open »
And indeed, i find that to apprehend what grief and loss are, the image of the snail can be useful and meaningful. I can visualize learning to live after an intense loss as a journey at the rhythm of the snail — a painfully slow, messy, and never linear experience. I can also envision my grief process as a travel along the spiral of a snail shell. As i continue to move forward and to find some distance from the abyssal pain of early loss, i return over and over to re-explore some of the issues and sentiments i have already come across. My perspective changes, evolves as i gain some perspective but i don’t feel like the pain is gone or the issues fully resolved.
With the passage of time and the distance travelled, the pain and discomfort become more bearable, perhaps as i find myself walking in ever-growing arcs, affording my the luxury to believe i am no longer travelling in circles.