Kimberly Low - Narcissism is Necessary

A lesson about death

The 3rd anniversary of our twins’ passing happened a few months ago and in a moment of grief/madness/genius, I got their pictures out from the abyss of my computer and started photoshopping away the grislier aspects of the pictures. I added floral crowns, vignettes, and some clever filters in an attempt to breath life into them so to speak. While deep in my work, Liam came across the pictures on my screen and began to question me about the babies.

The husband and I believe that children are more capable of processing theories and digesting information than given credit for, so whenever “tough” topics arise in our conversations, such as this, we do try to explain to him as clearly as possible without any dumbing down or sugarcoating.

While he already knew that he has siblings that have passed away, this was the first time he had actually seen their faces. To be honest, I had no intention of showing him any picture well until he’s at least a teenager but since it had happened, I didn’t think it was wise to skirt around it.

So I told him, yes, these are Levi and Lola and to my relief, he said that they’re cute. He also said that he’s sad that they are dead. He asked me how they died.

I explained to him how babies have to grow for 9 months in their mommies’ bellies before they could be born but Levi and Lola came out of mine before they were ready. I also mentioned how lucky he was that he managed to grow just enough to stay alive eventhough he also came out of my belly early. He asked me if they had turned into stars and I said, yes they have turned into stars and planets and trees and rivers and mountains – because I do believe that after death we are all literally fed back to the universe.

Now Liam is only five years old and I have no idea whether he absorbed any of what I said. But for a child, he seemed respectful with his questions and also remarkably empathetic. Later that night, while reading to him at bedtime, he suddenly said that he missed Levi and Lola. I laughed and told him that he couldn’t have missed them as he has never met them. He answered, “But mummy, I miss playing with them!”. Well, me too, buddy.

Recently, a mother cat and her two newborn kittens sought refuge in our backyard. I’ve never been a cat person, but for some reason I felt something for the cats. Seeing the two little ones suckling on their mother, I guess I identified with the nursing mother, so much so I didn’t have the heart to shoo them away. I gave the mother water and plain scrambled eggs so that she didn’t have to find nourishment away from her babies. I wasn’t going to adopt them but I guess I could be somewhat kind?

The mother with her healthy kitten.

I checked on them daily but one day, from my window I spotted one of the kittens crawling very slowly towards the drainage hole, away from its mummy and sibling. It was very weak; I knew that it was dying. A few hours later, I found the mother licking and grooming it so I held some hope that maybe the kitten was going to make it. However, by nightfall, it was dead.

Didn’t make it.

I didn’t expect to feel as sad as I did. With teary eyes, I insisted on giving it a proper burial and I wanted the kids to be involved. Gareth told me that he thought I was so affected because it was a symbolic act for me since we didn’t get to bury our twins. As soon as he said that, I bawled even more.

We had signed them away to be dealt with by the hospital and to be honest, I have regretted that decision ever since. We were in such terrible shock that our first instinct was to avoid doing anything pertaining to them. There wasn’t anyone who took the initiative to sit down with us and talk things through with us. Everybody walked on eggshells around us and expected us to make the best decisions after we just lost our kids. I wish someone, anyone would just say, look…you have to give them a proper send-off, they’re not hospital bio-waste. Alas…

I digress.

Gareth moving the lifeless kitten into a box.

I found a box and lined it with kitchen towel. At first I was worried that the mother cat was going to attack us, but she actually watched quietly while Gareth picked up her dead baby.

We told her that we’re sorry for her loss and that we would bury her kitten in a nice, peaceful place. Liam drew a picture that he wanted to bury together with the kitten, though he forgot to bring it with him so it’s now on our fridge. I did promise him that I’ll bring him to the grave again so he could leave it there.

Liam’s drawing that he wanted to bury with the kitten.

We found a nice shady spot near our house, just off the walking path to the park in our residential area. With Liam and Lily watching, I dug a hole as deep as I could with a tiny trowel.

Digging.

Then we tipped the kitten over into the hole and buried her. The kids chose some heavy rocks, we placed them over to mark the spot and called it a day.

Rest in peace, little kitty.

I guess Gareth was right, I did feel a wave of relief washed over me as soon as the act was done. I may not have buried my own but this will do.

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This is how I popped – version Lily

Lily is more than 9 months old now so I better write this down now before I completely forget about the entire birth process.

# – This was taken last month when we’re on holiday in Perth. She loves her food!

On 18 February 2018 not long after dinner, I went to pee. When I wiped, I found myself looking at a bloody gloop on the tissue paper. I knew what it was, as it’s the most familiar sight to me. It’s the ‘bloody show’. While I dreaded the sight of it in my previous pregnancies, this time I was elated because I knew my baby was coming. She’s fully-formed at more than 39 weeks, fully baked as they put it.

# – This selfie was taken on 17 February 2018. What a whale haha.

I should have called my dad then to come pick Liam up but for some reason I didn’t think it was going to happen until the next day. How wrong we were….

We put Liam to bed as usual, and after that settled down to watch a movie together. It. Yeap, of all movies, I chose to watch last year’s most terrifying flick – It. In hindsight the movie had probably hastened my labour haha. Towards the end of the movie, I was curling my toes everytime a contraction kicked in. As the credits rolled, I told Gareth I think I needed to go to the hospital. We called my dad, told him what was happening and then left for the hospital with Liam still fast asleep at home alone.

I know what you’re thinking we probably should have woken him up and bring him along but it’s almost 3am. We had a plan in place. My dad was to drive to the hospital to get our house keys and then he would collect Liam from our house which was a 5 minutes drive from the hospital. It was the plan that made the most sense! It’s only about 15 minutes drive during that time of night so Liam would only have been left alone sleeping for at most 35 minutes?

Anyway, dad successfully collected Liam and I could finally focus on the labour. I eschewed epidural and gas because my labour with Liam was pretty straightforward without drug other than gas, as with the dear twins so I thought Lily’s would be the same too. Well, wrong. Turned out Lily just wouldn’t engage. She’s stuck somewhere above my hip and even when I was fully dilated in less than 2 hours….she just wouldn’t drop down! My blood pressure was hitting the roof and doc gave me an injection to control it.

In hindsight, I should have taken the epidural and probably I could endure the wait for Lily to engage? I was in so much pain with nothing to push and everytime I pushed my blood pressure shot up. Lily’s heartbeat also slowed down everytime I pushed. It was pretty traumatic, I’d tell you that.

After what seemed like an eternity I was ready to throw in the towel. I shouted at my obygyn to cut her out. He looked relieved upon my request. But it was like 4 something in the morning and they had to wait for the on-call anesthetist to drive to the hospital from her home which was 30 minutes away. Man, I was so crushed when I heard that! It was the longest 30 minutes I had to wait. My contractions were fast, furious and fucking hellish. With my previous pregnancies the babies were out pretty quick so I didn’t have to endure the pain so long but this time I was writhing for 2 hours plus (like level 10cm dilation pain) with a baby who’s not in a hurry fml

At last the anesthetist arrived, a nice well-spoken Malay lady. I asked her if she’s giving me an epidural and she said no, I was far too advanced in labour to get one so I’d be knocked out completely. I was very happy to hear that cause I just wanted to not feel anything anymore. I wasn’t prepared for a surgery so did not fast they had to give me some meds to stop me from vomiting. It’s funny how everything seemed extra slow when you’re in tremendous pain. From being rolled towards the operating room to being slid to the table under the lights, to breathing in the cocktail of bliss – everything felt so slow. I just wanted to die, not kidding.

Anyway, I breathed in deep, I guess my eyes closed and when I opened them, I found myself in a recovery room with warm air blowing up my nether region. I asked a nurse how’s my baby, she said she’s fine and waiting for me. I felt so happy. At last, we did it. I did it. My living baby, my rainbow. Lily’s here. I asked the nurse if she could bring her to me for skin to skin. She said I will get to see her later when I get to my room. I didn’t argue. I fell back asleep.

Later I was transfered to my room and they brought Lily in and placed her on my chest. She went to work at my boobs straightaway!

I was beyond words. She’s real! She’s real and she’s ours and she’s safe and healthy and did not need NICU time. Liam finally has somebody to play with!

# – Yeap, this is our baby girl!

The past 1.5 years I had been in a limbo, entangled in a messy web of grief, confusion, fear, disbelief, anger, and also joy, desperately clawing my way towards the end goal – giving birth to a full-term, healthy baby, in spite it all. Lily’s arrival was like a magic salve for all my pain.

# – 3.54kg of love :)

# – All the men I love with Lilypad.

And I finally did it. We did it, Gareth.

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One year. 

My dearest Apollo and Artemis, 

One year has passed since you both left me. It’s interesting how I perceive the memory of what happened to us. Remembering, at times feel really foreign, as though it’s just one of the dozens of sad stories of strangers I read on the Internet everyday. There’s a fleeting sadness but I feel hardly any attachment. 

But sometimes, sometimes I feel like everything happened only yesterday. It feels so fresh and raw. My chest would tighten and tears would start flowing freely. This often happen in the middle of the night while I am in bed, when it’s dark, quiet and all I could hear are my own thoughts and your dad’s breathing. 

Well-meaning people tell me that I am still young and that I can give birth again. True, but telling me that does not comfort me. Not in the least. What it sounds to me when they say that is, you both didn’t matter. 

But you both mattered, so much and you still matter to me. Despite your untimely departure, you have made me a better person. I take care of myself better now, and because of that I am a better mummy to your brother, a better wife to your dad (at least I think so). I may still be reduced to a blubbering mess sometimes but it comes with the territory. 

My loves, before this, I used to believe that when people die, they just become extinguished. Finished. That there’s no heaven or hell, no afterlife. The only things left were just memories when somebody dies. However, guess what, I couldn’t reconcile my belief with your deaths, especially when we never even got to make any memory together. What was I to do? 

In desperation, your mummy went to see, wait for it…..a tarot card reader! Hoping to make contact with you guys and all that. Well, of course it was a colossal waste of money but it gave me a taste of comfort I had not tasted for a while since you both left. That encounter made me realise that I needed something in my life, nope, not cake……spirituality! Long story short, say hello to your new crystal-admiring-sage-burning-mummy-formerly-known-as-the-nihilist. I also have an app called Angel Energy Cards on my phone that I may be using a bit too much.

My dearest babies, what a year you had given me. Because of you, I’ve experienced turmoil like nothing I could ever have imagined. Also because of you, I have experienced true joy. The kind of joy that expands my heart and fills me with a sense of contentment, just from something as simple as seeing your brother conquering his fear of coming down a slide. Or seeing your dad walk through the door, sweaty and panting after a night run. 

Thank you for teaching me how to tell the difference between stupid, frivolous things and the important ones. You both have given me the greatest present of all, the gift of clarity.

Thank you my babies. I love you forever and always. 

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