Early Wednesday I woke at 2 am, plagued with a rare bout of insomnia. I have always been grateful that sleep has allowed me an easy respet the last 5 years, and having one night awake gives me so much empathy for those who battle with this on a regular basis. My mind was playing hopscotch, not staying on one thought for long, and then somehow making a connection and jumping to yet another box. It starts with to do lists, and the normal run of the mill items, and its fine. Suddenly, I land in a box I haven't visited in a while. A box that is hard. And real. And I am watching nurses search for Koen's heartbeat, and them telling me they had it. Another nurse coming in moving the monitor all over, making it seem as if its the monitors issue, and not my baby's problem. My doctor being called in from a Memorial Day picnic to deliver the news to us of Koen’s death. I hop again, trying to remember how my mom even got to my house from Chicago that day. Why do I need to remember that? Why do I feel the need to? Why are some things etched in my memory so vividly, and others so foggy? I want to remember everything, every detail, every moment. Its all I have.
I used to hopscotch through these memories while reading a book, (maybe that is why I haven't been able to complete a book in years .. too much mind space), or even mid-conversation with someone, typically at the most unexpected moments. Its been almost five years, and I don't go to that guttural painful place, a place I used to forced myself to replay almost daily - fearful then that if I stopped replaying the memories that his little hand would slip out of mine even further. I think of Koen every day. Every. Single. Day. But in different ways. He makes up part of me, my heart, my life, my outlook, my empathy, my faith. I am grateful to have moved, most days, from the ache in my heart, pit in my stomach place, to a place where peace and gratitude, for all three of my boys, resides. All three that I love beyond any earthly capacity.
Before I went to sleep Tuesday night, I learned of Barbara Bush's passing. I never knew that they had lost a 3-year-old daughter to leukemia. Tobin is three. Losing Koen was earth shattering, but if something was to take Tobin from me now ... after knowing the ache and pain that can exist, but only tasting it ... I cannot fathom how breathing would even be possible. Barbara brushed her daughters hair as she took her last breaths. The oldest child, George W, took on the role of lifting his mothers spirits while she was in the midst of her devastation. So Wednesday, in the early morning I read more of her life, while trying to escape my hopscotch, but it only made me jump in more boxes. Thinking of how excited Barbara must have been to see her daughter again. Thinking about the impact Koen’s death had in me, and then on Hackett, what role did he have to take on for me? How will that shape him as an adult? He loves me hard, and always makes sure I am okay ... even asking me today ... is this why? He knows I am not invincible, he's seen me on my knees, in and out of hospitals, hooked up to IVs, and tears in my eyes when it doesn't make sense.
I no longer reside in a dark and sad place, but those squares never go away. I will always jump to those memories, and relive the pain. Relive the beauty. And say goodbye to Koen, again, in the middle of the night. But on most days, most hours, most minutes ... it is well.
Find your tribe. A mantra that I see popping up on cute jewelry and wall hangings. But our society has changed and evolved so much, that it leaves us all alone. We often don’t live near family or in the community we grew up in. We don’t build on family land or have grandparents that live in our homes. The large majority of women are not at home during the work day, no time to sit around and play Bridge, drink coffee, and gossip with neighborhood ladies - like my tells me her mom did. My grandparents were Detroit transplants from Iowa, and their community and family was the neighborhood. Kids roamed free and hopped from house to house, playing in the middle part of the block ... no fences. Now we fear letting them outside and sometimes don’t even know our neighbors names.
I think most of us, maybe at all levels, but I feel like I can speak for my peer group - mom’s with kids in our homes, are on an island much of the time. On an island where we hear of threats constantly that make us worry, and fear for our babies - of all ages - safety. We are momma bears on an island, standing on our hind legs and big bear claws wrapped around our kids. Its difficult to breathe easy, and without a tribe of other momma bears around you. Mommas Bears of all ages that help watch over all the cubs, calm your fears, and reassure our crazed momma bear mental states when we hear our baby bears are being treated unfairly, when we hear of another school shooting, when we feel that we aren’t enough and are failing, or when tragedy strikes and we can’t stand alone.
God gave us the most beautiful gift, friends. Kevin is truly my best friend, but he doesn’t always understand my momma bear, my lonely heart, and need to talk-cry-laugh through the things spinning in my head or hurting my heart.
Finding “my people” isn’t easy for an introvert like myself. I have to awkwardly wave and smile for quite a long time before I open up. Hackett is now living in his 4th home, and town, since he was born. I have had to search for my tribe as mom four times now. It doesn’t come right away and sometimes isn’t even in the town we live in. It takes time and has forced me to come out of my shell and introduce myself to new people. My ever faithful God has brought people to me, and not always in the most expected way either. Even as I have moved geographically, my tribes have let me continue to be a member, and have loved and supported me, and made me laugh, even from miles and miles away. I often pick up my phone and see 72 missed texts, and smile because I know something is either hilarious or someone is being showered with the love and support they need.
My tribe from CA sent me so much support when Koen died. That day while I was waiting to deliver him, they were there, praying and crying with me from 2,000 miles away. Having moved just one year before Koen’s death, we had just started to find our new tribe and these sweet families surrounded us as if we had been friends for far longer. In many ways it helped me meet more amazing people. It is those that sweep in, even when they don’t need to, that you want by your side for life. My tribes carried me when standing was so hard. Our latest move was not preplanned and not part of my plan, but I trusted God. Once again, he stepped in and has given me the opportunity to do a side gig while I stay home with Tobin. The biggest perk of this “job” is the friendships, so many virtually, that have blessed my life and given me joy daily.
If you are blessed with an amazing Momma Bear circle, keep your door open, look for opportunities to extend kindness to that lonely bear in the corner. Its what we teach our kids and what we should practice as women. Look for lonely bears with or without kids, and of all ages. Who knows what blessings will come when you grow your tribe. Or maybe they may not blend beautifully in to your tribe, but they could become a new beautiful part of your life. Kindness is the new cool, practice it.
I have been tribe-less before and always feel so alone when we move. It is hard, hard when my fellow momma bears can’t help me watch over my cubs, hard to watch other tribes and know you are excluded or don’t belong or won’t be let in. So if you find yourself without a tribe, pray for one and extend yourself to an uncomfortable place, and know its like dating - you may not find the perfect fit right away, but keep fishing. A tribe is so worth search.
I am Jackie.