It was hard to decide on a picture for this. What side to this beautiful mess of grief-life do I want to show?

The early weeks after I gave birth I wanted everyone to see photos of our sons. I was profoundly proud of them and so sad that hardly anyone ever got to meet them. I had this kind of surreal euphoria that I had labored and given birth to three beautiful boys, held them, named them and then the disorientation of their absence after. Where were my boys? Where was proof of my motherhood?

I had a very mother’s love skewed view of their pictures. I thought think they are beautiful, handsome boys. I couldn’t fathom why anyone wouldn’t want to ooh and ahh over them. I saw the joy more than the sadness as I sat in my grief fog, life swirling around me, clutching those photos, running my fingers along their cheeks, smile-sobbing as I kissed them. Surely the world can see how amazing they are, right?

Jer was a little more realistic (though he thinks our boys are just as beautiful and handsome and amazing as I do). He understood that people may have a hard time looking at their pictures. He encouraged me to consider waiting before posting pictures on my blog or facebook. I’m thankful for that now, not because I’m any less proud but because I’m fiercely protective of them.

As the hormones leveled out and the months passed I could finally see that my babies didn’t look like the big fat babies everyone else had (I say that without a hint of bitterness, I swear, haha). I started offering warnings before people looked at their photos “I know some of them are hard to look at. It’s okay if you don’t want to see them.” An uneasiness grew in my stomach as people flipped the pages of their album. I wanted people to see what I see– that Oscar looks so much like Jeremy, especially his little nose, lips, and chin; that Desmond has Jeremy’s legs exactly, his long fingers and my face shape, forehead, and nose; that Rudyard has Jeremy’s body shape and my full cheeks and lips. I’ve learned their pictures are sacred space, not for the casual observer. I still want to share them with the world, but I also want to spare them from judgement.

The end of August 2011 my dear friend Danielle came to visit me from Japan. She bought her ticket when I was still pregnant, planning that she’d either be sitting by my side watching movies with me while I was on bed rest, or helping to take care of three little newborns (they would have been about 34-35 weeks then and surely either born or on their way any second). Instead she came to a house in mourning two and a half months in, muddling our way through; the fog of grief still thick.

We decided a rather impromptu road trip to Sequoia National Park and then to Monterey and down the coast would be a good distraction. I remember trying so hard to be okay and upbeat because I didn’t want to ruin our trip. That was my own head game by the way, Danielle did not expect that at all.

I was in my head a lot during that trip, a mix of emotions volleying around my insides. I was so happy to be with my friend again but so anxious to be away from home, away from the boys (well, their urns anyway) and Jer as I was convinced he would die too. To be out in the soul-cleansing nature of the sequoias was so healing, yet often my thoughts would wander…picturing our little boys running ahead on the path, thinking “when the boys are older we’re going to have to bring them here”before reality’s gut punch hit and the tears welled up. I took a lot of pictures of trees in threes, but felt embarrassed by how much comfort it brought.

      

I have no idea how much of my inner turmoil was showing but I tried my best to stuff it down and just have a good time, even though it felt kind of strange to go on vacation so soon after our losses. Is it allowed? Shouldn’t I still have been curled up in a ball somewhere?

Enter my photo pick for day 3:

Capture Your Grief Day 3: After Loss Self-Portrait

This is Danielle and me on a bench by the great General Sherman sequoia, being silly. I remember us taking shot after shot on our phones, deleting the worst ones (usually because one of us threatened the other that the picture with the triple chin best never see the light of day!), trying again, laughing the whole time. It’s a really good memory.

I picked this one for a couple of reasons: to show you can still be a goof-ball and have fun even when you’re in desperate pain, and more importantly, because while this is my after loss self-portrait, this is one of Danielle before loss. Just a month shy of a year after this was taken Danielle gave birth to twins, and her beautiful baby boy Judah died. I kept staring at this picture yesterday, trying to wrap my head and heart around that, wishing I could be with her now. Her little girl Karis is thriving overall but needs every prayer and good thought you can spare. Danielle and her husband Clifford need them too. They are newlyweds balancing the overwhelming loss of Judah, with the daily NICU visits to see Karis, and the worry and pain of leaving her each day (along with the million other emotions that come with grief and trauma). You can follow their journey here. Let’s all picture our hearts leaning in to give them a big hug, okay? xo

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