Praying for a new promise

I am sitting on a plane back to LA from New York, where I’ve been working for almost two weeks. It was the first time I’ve done a job there since I was pregnant with Finley.  I was glad to stay away from the things that I think of when I think about that trip, that time in my life; I am so very separated now from who I was, where I was, and the promise of what lie ahead.

This time, I stayed in a hotel in Soho, not in an apartment in Chelsea.

This time, I didn’t breathe in the beauty of any museums. I sat in what we referred to as dungeon of a location in New Jersey, as a mega-star was being caught on film in the next room, and breathed in the mold from the walls because of the recent flood.

I ran to the 15-person passenger van with co-workers after a very long shoot day, as the cold January rain turned to sleet on my head.  Last time I got happily lost in Central park in the summer rain.

I wanted to write what happened next by now, but the work I’ve been preparing for – having started a new project on the anniversary of Finley’s death – and then being in New York City – has made me too busy to be emotionally present enough to step back into the experience of my second trimester, 2009.

And I am not ready to share it with you yet.  And I am scared to write it down, because I know how that story ends.

So I shall stay in the present, which is fine I suppose, as I am experiencing enough emotion here and now to merit this side bar.

Since losing Finley, I have separation anxiety when I leave Craig.  I experience it less if he goes away for a weekend with friends – though it is present, and then it actually causes me to connect more deeply, really more desperately with my son’s spirit – than I do when I am the one who goes away.  When I go away, I get very anxious not being near him.

When I am sad or anxious, when Craig hugs me or touches my arm or I touch his back or he rubs my feet – when we have any form of intimacy – I am calmed.  I am connected to him; our energy secures the circle of love we have for each other and for our son.

So when I am not with him, I am increasingly anxious.

I remember when I had my first work trip after Finley died.  It was less than 5 months after he had died.

I had just learned that my 1st IVF had failed, while I was working out of an ad agency in Irvine. I had been so confident it would work, and when my phone rang and I knew it was my doctor’s office, I ran to the bathroom, where I received the bad news.  Minutes later, literally, I was working with a client’s cost consultants, to make sure we were getting the best deal for a job in which we would ship a couple of cars across the world to Argentina to film a commercial. Add to that, I had to drive home from this office at the end of that workday – which was 55 miles on the infamous 405 freeway.

Tears flooded my face as I gasped and clutched the wheel for dear life. I really don’t know how I made it home that day.

I don’t know how I got on an airplane days later as I was so fragile. A career woman with a personality that outwardly demonstrates strength and confidence; in a job in which I have to be assertive every hour of the day – people with whom I worked had no idea what was really happening.  But I felt like if a person looked a little closer, he could see my insides, and I felt naked, exposed; I was the skeleton of who I had been.  I was a bereaved parent, who wanted desperately to have a child, and I had just learned that I was not pregnant.

I felt rejected.

And yet days later I was to get on a plane with co-workers to head to Buenos Aires, Argentina, the travel time of which is longer than my son lived.

The day before 2 co-workers and I were to leave, co-workers who didn’t know anything about my personal life, I was feeling very high strung. I was scared to leave Craig, the only person who knows truly what I go through, and I decided to open up to my co-workers.

I walked into a copywriter’s office and asked him to come over to the art director’s office with me.  We went into her office, and I sat down and looked at them and said that I had to tell them something about myself. I remember telling them in very simple terms that I had just lost my son, and that I would work my ass off as I had been already, but at the end of the day when they wanted to go out to dinners or dancing or drinking, that I wouldn’t join, that it was too much for me. I told them that I wasn’t telling them this for sympathy, but so that they could be prepared for possible vulnerabilities, moments when maybe my guard came down, so that they could understand why.

It’s not that I needed for them to do anything differently; I just needed them to know.  They were both kind and understanding, and it came as a huge relief to have said it, as it felt like I had been holding my breath.

Simplifying it, if people don’t know what happened to me, they don’t know anything about me.

I was leading, and I continue to lead, a double life.

Craig and I had gone to our favorite resort for a weekend get-away in Ojai before I had this work trip, and we had brought his picture, and continued there our ritual of lighting a candle by his image every night.

On this trip, I intended on doing the same. I shall elaborate on this time when I get there chronologically in the ‘story’, but I will share 3 things now:

We ended up staying in Argentina one week longer than we’d originally anticipated, as the cars we had shipped over did not make it in time for our shoot, and so my anxiety level was heightened significantly.

I was about 2 nights away from running out of the candles that completed the ritual that continues to be so important to me, and when I asked the hotel if they had any, they brought up a tray of several, and I was so grateful and relieved.

A producer ends up having meetings with co-workers in her room; on every production in which there is travel, I end up with 2 – 5 co-workers in my hotel room, hovering around a computer or a speakerphone to talk about next steps.  In this case, we had to talk about implications of our hero product, these cars, not being there in time for shooting.  But the thing is – when I had returned to my hotel room that evening, the cars were supposedly on their way; it was only after I’d removed that day’s clothes and lit my candle – about to head in the shower – that I got a call that the cars were not on their way, which required an impromptu and urgent meeting in my room.  I thought about whether to move Finley’s picture, so that my co-workers wouldn’t see him and ask questions, but at the same time, I am so proud of that photo, this possession or memory which I pride above ALL else, and I left his beautifully framed picture out, next to the candle.  The creative director Robert came down to my room first. He was not one of the 2 people I had told.  As I was scrambling, working on Instant Message with the head of production who was back in LA, responding to emails, taking phone calls on both my own and my international phone, he saw the picture of Finley.  He went over to it and picked up the photo, looked at Finley, and with the frame still in his hands asked, “Who is this?”  I ignored the beeping computer and the ringing phone, and said, “That is my son Finley, who only lived one day.”  He looked at me closer, almost trying to see behind my eyes, where I hide the sadness and the pain and the truth.  “Wow.  I’m so sorry,” he said.  Robert was a good man, he was one of those guys who will ask how you are and actually wants to hear.  But more co-workers walked in, he put down the frame, and the moment was gone.  I caught him looking one more time over at my picture, as if he was trying to learn more.

I was vulnerable and exposed, but it gave me strength to speak the truth, to merge my double lives into one. For a moment anyway.

On this trip, the one I am flying home from now, I lit my candle next to his photo every night except last night – because I didn’t get to go to sleep last night, and on one of my earlier nights found great comfort in stroking the scar from the infection where my C-section was, as the candle lit up the room and shined on his beautiful little face.

The C-section scar is slight, but the infection I had, one that lasted for a couple of weeks and was gross and had a fever and was a constant reminder of the total fucking insanity that I had given birth, but had no baby to hold, caused a scar that is circular and about the size of a penny, with a very smooth texture.  Gently touching the scar connects me to the truth, that my son did come, that he was here; that this is not all a dream – even though it is a nightmare.

During one of this trip’s meetings, I had to plug in my computer to a shared screen for all to see some video clips, and a co-worker joked with me later that he had noticed that I had Googled “spiritual quotes” that morning.  We all had a good laugh about it, and I felt a little closer to not leading a double life with a couple of co-workers, as I then told them that I am searching for comfort and meaning in this life, and why.

And like all other work trips, I ended up having meetings in my room, so I had to think about what to do with his photo, once I knew that the Chairman of the agency for whom I am freelancing, was going to be in my room.

I take small and very careful steps towards merging my lives and becoming truly whole, and in this case, I chose to put Finley’s picture away, as I did not want to expose myself.

I silently spoke to Finley and let him know how proud I was, asserting that the reason I was putting his picture away was not because of my shame in not being able to protect him from his death, or any shame in the fact that he had little red marks on his face in this photo, because he had been so sick, so very deathly ill – in fact no longer living – by the time this photo was taken.

I told him I just didn’t want everyone to know about him yet, that I needed to protect him and myself.

Most mothers take every opportunity to show pictures of their sons.  I was raped of that.

And finally, the shoot was over, and I got back to my hotel room at about 4 AM for the second night in a row this morning, but this time I had to pack and shower for my 9 AM flight home.  I wore my Finley necklace in the shower. Have I mentioned this yet? I have a gold necklace I wear every single day that has my son’s name on it, as a badge of pride and honor, which often catches a light source and allows for a magical and beautiful light dance.  It is one of the ways my son visits me and my husband – this light dance – often through this oval reflection of the shape of the necklace, and sometimes there are flickers and magical light dances even when there is no light hitting it, or if it is under my blouse.  More on that later…

So I was out of the shower.  Tired, looking forward to going home, still wearing the necklace, with the bathroom all fogged up with the steam from the hot shower, and all of a sudden the light started dancing in the fogged up mirror in front of me.  First it was mild, and then the light got stronger and stronger.  And if you’re reading this, you’re already a good person, who is emotionally sensitive and generous, I propose, so I don’t mind telling you that my son visited me in this moment.  I felt his presence, strong, blue, overwhelming, as the reflection in the mirror seemed to dance with me, even when I wasn’t moving.

I have had two full days off in the past 40-something days.   I did not have a lot of sleep obviously as our shoot days went way longer than we’d hoped.  I hadn’t felt the loving touch and amazing energy of my husband in 12 days.  And there I was, standing in the bathroom that felt like a steam-room, with the spirit of my son surrounding me, dancing with me, enveloping me.

And I began to cry.  Not tears that gently flow down my face, as they are in fact while I write this, but huge tears, so big that I almost could not see the magic that was happening in front of my eyes.  I stood in that room naked, emotionally and physically, and thanked my son for visiting me.  I told him how grateful I am that we have this relationship, not the relationship a mother dreams of having with her child, but a relationship nonetheless.

I told him I love him and I miss him.  And then I cried that it’s not enough.  And I pray to G-d that G-d was listening, and that those two little embryos on ice are warming up to the idea of coming to be my husband’s and my next child or children; I pray for a new promise.

One thought on “Praying for a new promise

Leave a Reply to stacey levin Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>