Jacob has changed me to the core of my being. He has made me stronger and he has made me more vulnerable. But the strength seems to be winning out these days. I've already lost the ultimate, afterall. Nothing can hurt me as badly.
The happiest days of my life were when he was with me, and the darkest days of my life were after he left. I am still navigating through the dark days and I always will be.
He has given me the courage to try new things. He has made me more outgoing too. I don't have the same fear of failure and rejection that I used to. I still have that fear, but it isn't as strong. I'm more likely to take risks, even if that risk is as small as talking to someone who I don't know or calling out someone's name in a crowd when I think I know them, but I'm not really sure (like at the hospital when I thought I saw the social worker and called her name. The old me might not have taken the chance for fear of looking dumb). When I get scared of something, I tell myself that I have already been through the worst thing, the death of my child.
Last year, my Mom joined the Clarkson Music Theatre group and was in a cabaret show in May 2010. I went to see her perform on May 29th, a Saturday night, 2 days before I found out that Jacob had died.
Because she broke her ankle in November 2010, she needed a drive to the practices for this year's show, which started in January. I had thought about joining before since I love to sing and I love being on stage singing. So I drove her to the first practice and participated in it. A friend of my Mom's and one of the producers of the show, Margo, knew that I was coming and didn't say anything about having to audition before I arrived. When I got there, Margo and another producer, Christine, said that I would just have to do a short audition at the end of the practice if I wanted to join. I had been hoping that people wouldn't really notice me and I wouldn't have to audition, but of course they did notice me and I had to.
During that 3 hour practice, I alternated between being nervous about auditioning and not being nervous, because my son died and I had survived that, so what was one little audition? I think my Mom was more worried about it than I was, because she was worried about me being nervous, and it was sweet. She wrote notes to me in the margins of the music, saying that I didn't have to do it and we could run out as soon as practice was over. I considered it, and part of me wanted to, but the other part of me said that I got through my baby dying and what is the worst that can happen here? I was scared though, that I would be more depressed if I didn't pass the audition. Any rejection at that point could make me lose any progress I had made, could knock me back into the pit that was already taking me so long to climb my way out of. I felt so fragile. It was 2 months since I lost Cub and I was still reeling from so many losses in 6 months. I didn't tell Mom that I was worried about that happening, but she had been thinking the same thing. I liked that she was worried about that.
Then I moved onto the problem of what to sing. I thought of all these songs from musicals, which I know off by heart, but I was worried it wouldn’t be good enough.
At the end of the practice, Mom said to Margo that maybe I would think about joining and right away Margo asked if I was nervous. I said a little and she said to just sing Oh Canada or something, which is what I did. While we waited for everyone to leave, Mom and I went into another room and I practiced singing Oh Canada. We came out and Margo thought that we had left and had been looking for us. I went into the room with Bob, the music director. We were the only ones in the room and he immediately put me at ease. I sang Oh Canada and he listened and looked at me, smiling the whole time. I sang about half the song before he stopped me, said it was great and that I was in. He told me that some people sang Happy Birthday and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in their auditions. Poor Mom was waiting outside the door, not realizing that everyone had left but Bob and she was feeling terrible for me.
I was, and am, really proud of myself for doing it. And I know that Jacob was the one who gave me the courage to do it. I told him that as I was going to get the car and thanked him for changing me for the better.
Practices were every Wednesday night in February, March and April. The last two weeks, we had practices on Monday and Wednesday. When I first started going, I was pretty sure that I would either have to stop going halfway through because I would be pregnant before the shows at the beginning of May. I was so nauseous when I was pregnant with Jacob, so I figured I would be again and would have to quit. Or, I wouldn't have to quit, but I would have a growing belly as I went to practices and more hope in my life. Of course, neither of those things happened.
The first few practices were hard because everyone was in high spirits and talking, joking and laughing with each other. I still had, and have, problems doing that. It had only been recent that I could be with more than 2 people and not be totally uncomfortable and overwhelmed. Seeing all of those people so happy showed me what a long way I still had to go. I felt so disoriented among them, the happy people. I wasn't one of them and I didn't even have the strength to pretend that I was. They were so foreign to me. It was hard to believe that I had ever been one of them.
Although I enjoyed singing, it was hard to go to practice sometimes. I've always been a homebody, but it got worse after Jacob died. I didn't like to be out and have the expectations of others on me. I didn't like to have to be out and acting OK when I could be at home. But I kept going because: a) Mom needed me to take her there in the beginning before her foot and shoulder started getting a lot better, and b) I wanted Jacob to be proud of me. Mom and I have also always talked about joining a choir together and it seemed like a good opportunity so I didn't want to stop going and one day regret that we never did it.
As time went on, it was easier to be among the happy people there. I didn't feel like such an outsider to their world. I didn't joke around with them much, but I didn't feel like I was struggling to get through each practice without crying. I didn't feel badly for enjoying myself when singing. I always felt like I was singing to Jacob anyway.
We had one rehearsal in the church we would be performing in. This was the same church that the show was in last year and I found it hard to walk in there again. The last time I was in the church, Jacob was in my belly. He was dead, but I didn't know that at the time. I looked around the lobby and remembered standing there with my big belly. I walked into the sanctuary and stared and stared at the seat that I was in last year. I saw Jessie, Brian, Dad and I sitting there. I was telling Jessie and Brian, who were sitting on either side of me, how one side of my belly was getting hard and the baby must be shifting around. They both felt my belly at one point and said they could feel the difference. I was wearing my maternity pants because they were the only ones that fit. I was so happy. And in 2 days, I would be hearing his heartbeat again and I couldn't wait.
All of those images went through my mind and it wasn't easy to focus on rehearsing.
Our first show was on Friday, May 6th. I wasn't nervous about the show, which was a little surprising. Mom was nervous and was surprised that I wasn't, but I told her that I've been through worse. Jacob died, nothing can touch that.
The show went well and was fun. It was fun to see the audience getting into it and singing along or just dancing around in their seats. There were a few songs that were my favorites, songs that I would have liked to sing to Jacob. In one song, different groups of singers (altos, sopranos, second sopranos) would sing different parts at different times, and then we would all come together at a certain word and I loved that part. I felt Jacob close when that happened.
The show on Saturday night was good too. The only bad thing was that a woman who was about 5 months pregnant was there. I saw her when walking through the lobby before the show started. I hoped that she wouldn't be finding out in 2 days that her baby was dead. I didn't see where she was in the audience until the second act. I tried not to focus on her, but my eyes drifted her way once in a while. Some of Mom's friends came to the show on Saturday. It was nice looking out and seeing familiar faces.
The last night of the show was Sunday night. Ted, Jessie and Dave, Lindsay, Dad and Dave's Mom Janice came on Sunday. I was more nervous on Sunday, but still not too badly. As we made our entrance to the stage, I looked out and they were all smiling at us. We sang a few songs before leaving the stage for the soloists. I wondered if Jessie was remembering being there last year when I was pregnant. I wondered if they knew that I was thinking about Jacob the whole time I was on the stage.
At intermission, I went into the lobby and talked to them. Jessie came over, put her arm around me, and said how proud she is of us. I loved that. She is so sweet. Sunday was also Mother's Day. Ted gave me a card, Laurie called and said Happy Mother's Day, as did my Mom. Before we picked up Jessie to go to the show, I said to Ted that I bet that Jessie got me a card. She did and it was perfect.
The second act went well and I felt a little sad that I wouldn't be singing those songs with the group anymore. One of the songs that was sung by a soloist, The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, has several lines that I applied to Jacob.
After the show, as we were outside and walking to the car, Jessie came up to me and said that she imagined that that song would be a good one to sing to Jacob. I hugged her, kissed her cheek and said that I love it when she says things like that.
The next day, I got this email from her:
I know I told you about the song that I imagined being sung to Jacob, but that doesn't mean that was the only time I thought about him. When I saw you in the choir I kept thinking about how you were probably thinking about him the whole time, even though you were also concentrating on singing. I had also imagined bouncing him on my lap and pointing you out to him, saying "there's Mommy", as we would have passed him around down the aisle. It was too hard to tell you that last night after the concert, since everyone was running around between the cars and in a rush to leave, and it made me emotional just to tell you about the song. I find it hard to describe my thoughts because I get a lump in my throat and I feel like I won't be able to explain it properly, or that I will say it the wrong way, but I know you'd rather hear them one way or, another, so I'm trying to tell you more. Some things are just easier to write down than to say out loud. At the end of the show when they were thanking people and said Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers I was looking at you and saw you looking at Ted with a knowing look that was likely fighting back tears. I thought a lot the whole time about the last time we went to that concert in the same place and it was the Saturday before you found out on the Monday that Jacob had died, and how we had been sitting at the show talking about your bump and we had no idea. I was glad we were sitting on the other side of the room, because it would have been harder to sit there. When I was talking with Laurie yesterday she was saying how strong she thought you were at the hospital, because she knew when you left the room sometimes that you were leaving to cry, but she said even so, she thought you did a great job being there because it must have been so hard. I thought you should know that.
I don't think I need to say why I love her email so much.
On our way home, Ted said that he hasn't seen me as happy as I looked on stage since Jacob died. I felt so bad for him. He has been living with someone who is always sad for almost 12 months. That isn't easy. Even when I'm not acting particularly sad, I'm still not the same person that I was.
So that is the long story of one way that Jacob has made me a stronger person. Thank you baby boy. I'm so proud that you're mine.