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A Love Letter to My Sweet Son Lloyd (IV) James Markle

Dearest James ~

When I found out I was pregnant with you - I just could not stop smiling. I shared the news with a confidante and she marvelled, "I don't think I've ever seen you so happy, Laura." I loved you instantly James.

The day I felt you move inside me - I was driving in the car. I squealed inside and laughed, patting my stomach, cooing: "Hello there, my child." I could not wait to meet you.

I only have one photo while I was pregnant with you. I was swimming in the ocean at Deep Cove. I could just barely see the bump of you growing inside me but I'm so happy I have this photo. I felt so peaceful and serene in the water with you.

The day I found out that your heart had stopped beating inside me - a dark cloud crashed down on me. My world stopped, my heart broke, my body revolted.

You were so tiny, so young. Once they started the induction process -- I honestly figured you'd come quickly. I was in a haze, detached & lost. The medication made me sick to my stomach and caused me to shake with fever. My room was surrounded by the noise of birthing mothers and crying babies. But, the silence of my own room crushed me. I was in disbelief. Feeling despair.

When evening came - a new nurse came to meet me - asking how she could support me. I begged to take a bath - craving the feel of water.

As the warm bath water poured over me, I sang out loud to you James... "Come out little baby. Your Mama and Daddy want to meet you. We love you. We would give anything to bring you back to life, but we will take whatever time we can. You are so loved and wanted and we will carry you."

I felt the warmth of the water holding me, seeping courage into my heart. I also spoke to my body, " I know this is so impossibly sad. My body - you are not alone. I will not abandon you. It's time to let go and birth your baby into this world."

Shortly after you made your appearance into this world - caught by the safe hands of your Daddy. We sang to you, talked to you, and your Daddy read you books. I lay in the chaos of our hospital room gazing at you laying in your little basket. You were perfect to me James.

You were supposed to be born in the spring - with the hope of flowers and cherry blossoms and warmer days. Instead you came in the fall - as the leaves died and the world tucked in for cold days. As you died on that cold day - I died with you too.

The days, months, and years have not stopped since the day you were born. Grief has not grown smaller with time. In fact, grief has grown as I feel the weight of all we've lost with you James. We've lost the first steps, first words, watching you eat for the first time, and sleep through the night. The hugs and laughter, birthdays and celebrations, or meeting your extended family. The day you should have started kindergarten. I cannot write out all that we've lost with you - it's the weight and fullness of a lifetime.

Some days I have cried so much and refused to leave the bed. Some days I go through the motions - doing what needs to be done. Some days have been so dark and full of envy, anger, and hatred. And in more recent years - some days just seem normal or even happy which is terrifying in a whole other way.

A few months after you died - we gathered at the ocean to return part of you back to the water. We floated flowers out to sea with your ashes. At the time, I was just craving a way to honour you James, and being with water just seemed right. However, as time has passed - my connection to water has become a sort of ritual: a rhythm that guides me through grief, has become a means of connection to you, and an insurgence of hope to live again.

The summer after you died - I was at the beach on a summer day. The salty water just called out to me. I did not have a swimsuit but I jumped into the ocean in my clothes anyways. As I lay back in the water - I closed my eyes and I felt you.

It was more than in my mind. It was a physical sensation -- that you were right there James. Floating beside me and around me and in me. I felt your love and strength and pride in me. I spoke to you -- telling you of my love.

This photo is part of a project called 'Unspoken: Exploration of Perinatal Loss & Grief' by Felicia Chang photography

I have continued to return to swim in the ocean - both in warm and cold months. I was lucky to find other individuals at Seeking Ceremony who have shared in this cold water swimming and this has brought further validation and witness to this time. Every time I wade into the ocean - I feel you right there with me James. The act of swimming has become a safe space - where all my conflicting emotions and grief can be heard, accepted, and released. I have found a space where I can lay back, hear the silence and the roar of the water, and just be myself. Returning to the cold water to swim has become a ritual for me - a means to process the complicated emotions in both a physical and mental way. And always - as the cold ocean water washes over me - we are together James.

This photo is part of a project called 'Unspoken: Exploration of Perinatal Loss & Grief' by Felicia Chang photography

I would not say that the grief has grown smaller with time. I would say that these days the traumatic memories are more often quieter and less suffocating. However, the quantity of loss and grief has grown as I lose more days and moments spent physically with you.

But what I have found amazing as I've returned again and again to the ritual of ocean swimming is that I have grown stronger, better able to carry the heaviness of living life without you here physically. Every time I swim - I feel you James - infusing me with courage, strength and love, and filling me with gratitude and bravery. After a swim when I return to the shore from the cold frigid waters, my body tingles with the cold but my heart always sings: "I am strong and brave. I love you James."

I see the way the water ripples as I swim - spreading out around me. And my heart has found a beautiful, new way of living: I want to do things in life that are beautiful and brave. I want to be your presence in the world James. To be your hands and feet, breath and body - so that my living spreads ripples of you through the world.

James - you have been my greatest gift. I love you more each day

This photo is part of a project called 'Unspoken: Exploration of Perinatal Loss & Grief' by Felicia Chang photography

A friend shared this poem with me and it reminded me of you James and our swimming adventures

"Swimming in the Sun" by Mallory O'Connor

Community Art Initiative at The Grief Well

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