Gratitude to my Stillborn Son

Dear Sebastian,

It’s that fragile time of year. It’s hot and humid here in southern Ontario – exceptionally so – which always makes me think of you. And cabbage leaves. (To be honest, fridge-cold cabbage leaves in the bra sounds like a pretty good idea right now. But it would definitely make me cry. The wasting of your milk was painful in every way.)

Life on Earth, at this moment, is quite possibly the weirdest it’s ever been. Though I’ve always been sad that you’re not here with us, right now it’s nice to think that you’re somewhere much more peaceful.

Lately, I haven’t had as much time to connect with you as I would wish, because I am taking a course for work and it’s busy. Still, there have been recent losses grieved by people I know that move my deep empathy muscles – saying goodbye to a son, a friend, a baby.

Also, I’ve been realizing that my body thinks about you anyway. In July especially, there are parts of me that grieve you, no matter what my brain is doing. And this year more than ever, I’m grateful for that.

Last weekend, I had a complete meltdown. Daddy and I were having an intense discussion (about a topic that deserves its own blog post), and in the middle of it I was suddenly crying. I don’t mean welling up or getting teary-eyed – though I do that frequently, sometimes predictably and sometimes not… But this time tears were flooding.

Partway through this experience, I realized that I had been needing this giving-way for a long time. Until that moment, I had not fully lost my composure at any point during the pandemic that has disrupted almost every aspect of daily life. I was basically calm throughout the last four months – even though I worried about everyone. I don’t know how I did it – just the keep-on-truckin’ instinct, I guess.

Through the tears, I ended up saying exactly what I was feeling, unfiltered. It was such a relief. The stress that I hadn’t recognized I was holding began to recede.

Thanks to you, and this fragile time of year, all of that was able to bust through whatever blockages I had unwittingly set up in order to get through global chaos. All this time, I’ve maintained that I really have the best of this terrible situation. Which is true, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not still hard.

The course I’m taking right now is about First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples in Canada. As fragile Dilovely, I am even more open to absorb what the guest speakers tell our class (via Google Meet) – the sad and angry parts as well as the joyful and hopeful parts.

On Wednesday, on the anniversary of your last morning alive, the students in our course were privileged to hear the teachings of an Inuit woman and her 15-year-old son. There was so much fascinating information. The part that touched me most, though, was this wonderful educator describing how her mother, having given birth to her, got to hold her for only three short hours before giving her to the authorities. She was immediately put up for adoption, as part of the “Sixties Scoop” (which actually continues to this day).

Knowing how painful it was to let you out of my arms, even though there was no way to mother you… I can only imagine the agony of relinquishing a child who is alive and well and yours, simply because the system says you must.

It is good to know that this woman, decades later, has reconnected with her birth mother – her son’s grandmother – and is deepening her ties to the place that would have been her home in the North.

Sweet boy, I have another thing to thank you for as well. You know that picking berries has become a ritual for me that I connect with you. I have sometimes had moments at the berry farm that felt like little hellos from you.

This time, as I gathered my things for harvesting, a little boy – maybe eight years old, brown hair, serious face – looked up from the rock he’d hopped onto and said, “Hello.”

I had seen him, but wasn’t expecting a greeting; he was at an age that tends to be oblivious to strange adults. What a cute surprise. I smiled (through my mask) and said, “Hi!”

A moment later, a man I assumed was his dad called out, “Sebastian! Come here.”

It took me a moment to absorb that. If a heart can grin with tears running down its proverbial cheeks, that’s what mine did.

Sometimes I feel too much the skeptic to look for signs from the universe… but however this one came to pass, I appreciate the un-subtlety. If I was wondering whether nine years has made it harder to connect with you, it was heart-squeezing to get a literal hello.

I basked in this moment for over an hour of harvesting. The hot sun, a sublime breeze, and the lush scent of berries. The berries are small this year, but dazzlingly bright, fragrant and flavourful.

Yesterday, on your birthday, your brother and sister inaugurated our new sprinkler – which was bought expressly for them to play in, during this crazy heat. For a moment I pictured you there with them, and felt a stab of sorrow at all the fun things you miss.

Then again, maybe you don’t miss them. Maybe you’re here, any time you want.

I love you, and I still miss you, all the way through my soul. And I know, as always, that your heart and my heart are always together.

***

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4 Comments

  1. thanks for this story of connection.
    a strawberry is shaped like a human heart; what a great symbol you two have chosen
    <3

    1. It is a really soothing symbol. Obvious reasons why the strawberry is very special to the Anishinaabe (and probably other Indigenous peoples).

  2. Lovely! Everything about this post is powerful. Memories, Sebastian (both of them!), meltdown, learning about First Nations, and of course strawberries. Maybe I need to go pick a few more before they’re entirely gone. Both you and Beth said they’re small this year, but the ones I picked a couple of weeks ago tended to be large, and some were huge. I guess the heat took over and ripened them fast before they could get bigger. I was certainly there in early days of the picking — most of the berries I saw were white!

    We still have a few here, but they’re almost gone. Why, oh, why don’t local grocery stores sell local strawberries? Not that I’d bother with them, since the berry farm is closer than the grocery store, but it would nice for other people.

    If that little boy was nine instead of (maybe) eight, he’d be just the right age…

    1. He could have been a smallish nine. (I was.)

      Our closest grocery store does sell local strawberries, but not consistently, and often more expensively than imported ones, which seems silly…

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