Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A’s 3rd Birthday

I wrote this to A on his birthday last month. I am finally getting around to posting it here.

My Darling Son,

We are having exceptionally warm weather. That last time we had such unseasonably mild October weather was in 2011 as we were counting down the days to your arrival.  I remember wearing sandals up to the week before you were born - convenient because my swollen feet didn’t fit into my shoes. I remember walking over to the hospital in a light t-shirt and rain jacket. I remember feeling the wetness of Daddy’s raincoat when he collapsed on my chest sobbing during that final, conclusive ultrasound.

Each beautiful sunny, autumn day makes me ache for you. As your third birthday approaches I wonder what theme you’d have chosen for your party this year? Pirates? Dinosaurs? Outer space? And what about Halloween, my Love? What would you like to be this year? Whatever you choose, we’ll come up with a corresponding costume for your little sister; it’s probably the last year before she asserts her own opinion.

I often wonder what the sibling dynamic would be between you two. I wish that I could be witness to that evolving relationship. Daddy and I have decided to have another baby. If we are fortunate enough to bring a new baby home I know it will break my heart all over again watching your sister dote on that baby. I fantasize about a 15-month-old you meeting Dragon at the hospital for the first time, kissing her face sweetly, insisting on holding her by yourself!

It is undeniable that you, dear boy, have made me a better mother than I would have been. I have shed my pride. Inhibition, embarrassment and judgment do not influence my parenting as they once did. I have clear priorities that spending time together, with Dragon and with family, are far more important than any chore or job or mess. I am liberated from concern about what others think or feel about me or my choices. Now I can do what is best for us without hesitation. Just one of your many gifts.

I love you with all my being.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Crazy Scale

While going through A’s box this week, I came across the cremation certificate – because, you know, that’s a normal part of baby books. Anyway, I read it over and noted the address of the crematorium is very close to our house. I know this crematorium because we have passed it many times. The actual funeral home that handled all of A’s arrangements, including picking him up from the hospital and coordinating his cremation, is a 30-minute drive from our house, but the crematorium is in our neighborhood.

I also note on the cremation certificate the name of the gentleman who signed it. I wonder if he is the one who actually cremated A. The next thought that popped into my head is that I could go to the crematorium and meet this man; shake his hand; look into his eyes and get a sense of who he is. This man is (quite possibly) the last person who touched my baby.

I’d like to think he’s a quiet, older fellow who has been in this line of work for some time and who respects the reverence of his occupation. But what he isn’t. What if he’s gruff and disgruntled? Would I regret having met him? Is the fantasy of Mr. Cremator better than knowing the truth?

This idea is not one I can share with many people because it is morose and a little batty. But I’ve always felt safe sharing these sorts of thoughts with the babyloss community. What do you guys think? Where does tracking down the man who cremated by baby fall on the crazy scale? Total lunacy?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Familiar Territory

A’s birthday is nearly here. As in years past, I start to get weepy and emotional as soon as the weather changes and it begins to feel like fall. Then, October arrives and I withdraw into myself. 

Right now, things are very similar to the weeks right after A died. I am lethargic, unmotivated, grumpy and very fragile. I feel utterly drained. Today, I literally laid on the couch while Dragon brought toys and books over to me; climbing atop and over me. I just didn’t have the energy to play. Poor girl. What will she think of this annual unraveling?

We put her to bed and I crash onto the couch watching mindless television until we head to bed ourselves. (This was our tactic in the early weeks to distract our minds from the stinging reality.) But, as it always is, I cannot fall asleep. Instead, my brain plays flashbacks of A’s days over and over. I berate myself for not having kissed him more, for ever having laid him back in the isolette; why didn’t I hold him the entire fucking time?! 

I have learned from past years and so this year I took offof work the entire birthday week. I am incapacitated. I’m barely functioning and facing my son’s third birthday makes most other things completely insignificant. There is no way I’m able to focus on work. Plus, the breakdowns are coming more frequently. You know how it is, puttering along washing dishes or something and then you just can’t suppress it. The tears come, you collapse, body shuddering with sobs. Eventually, you pull yourself together, gather the pile of wet tissues and try to get on with the day.

Also as in the early days, I’m avoiding going out in public. It is so incredibly uncomfortable and downright frightening. It isn’t just that I’m extra fragile right now and could have a meltdown at any moment. But it is more clear this time of year that I do not belong; that I am very broken. I do not know how to navigate social situations anymore and attempting to do so is very taxing to my already low energy stores. If it weren’t for Dragon, I’d stay in the house the entire week. Well, there is an exception. This year I planned ahead and scheduled some self-care by way of a massage. Though it gave me anxiety to go out in public and put my vulnerable self up on the table, it was totally worth it. Like all the chocolate I’ve been eating, it didn’t relieve my pain and sorrow, but I did feel more grounded afterward and definitely more relaxed.

New this year was the stay-super-busy-so-you-don’t-have-time-to-think strategy. It started subconsciously but I quickly realized what was going on. I packed my days full of chores, projects and the like. Much more so than the usual crazy multitasking that goes on around here. At the end of a ridiculously busy (and productive) day, I was beat and fell into bed only to get on the hamster wheel again in the morning. If there wasn’t any down time then my mind couldn’t register the anguish within, couldn’t notice that it was nearly October, couldn’t redirect my attention to the heartwrenching reality that we live in. This technique, of course, is only effective temporarily because inevitably all of those things do creep in. And, as noted above, eventually the grief becomes crippling and despite those lingering to-do lists, I am, essentially, in a catatonic state.

E, per usual, has stepped up as I have fallen apart. He picks up the slack around the house and tends to Dragon. He is extra supportive and always asks what I need. I find that I avoid making eye contact with him; the second I do, I devolve into tears; because he is my rock, because he is hurting just as badly as I am, because we are in this together and it is so fucking intense.

In the coming days I am trying to set aside time to let the tears flow and the rage run. I will sit down and go through A’s album again and again. I will go through his box of stuff. I will read the sympathy cards I saved from three years ago. I will cradle, kiss and talk to his miniature urn. I will carefully remove his hair from the envelope that houses it and roll the downy softness between my fingers; sniffing it in hopes of catching a whiff of my baby boy, before meticulously putting it away. I will read his little sister the book, Someone Came Before You which chokes me up every time and we only read on special occasions and holidays. I will curl up on the ground and bawl and howl. I will write to A. I will do all of these things because this is how I know to grieve and although the day-to-day functioning is easier than it was three years ago, the pain, agony and longing are as intense as they ever were.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Little Boys

It’s been a couple years since I attended my company’s annual summer picnic. In 2012 I opted out because I was still a mess over A’s death. Last year I had planned on going but fortuitously Dragon got sick that week. This year Dragon and I went. Fortunately I had the nap excuse; by the time she woke up and we got there, there was only an hour or so of obligatory niceties left.

The picnic is a time for the families of the all the staff to gather. I have to admit it’s insightful to meet my coworkers’ and bosses’ spouses, children and significant others. There were some “big kids” [read: school aged] and Dragon was entertained by their running and wrestling antics. But she naturally migrated toward the only other toddler-sized person at the picnic – my coworker’s son who was born 5 months after A. She pursued this little boy until his shyness abated and they happily played together tossing a ball back and forth. He was very sweet to her. Toward the end of the picnic all of the coolers had been emptied and Dragon made a beeline to the giant piles of dumped ice cubes and water. The next thing I know she’s got a dirt-covered ice cube in her mouth and the little boy comes running up saying, “No! Don’t eat that. Yucky! No!” and swats it out of her hand.

For the most part I was able to swallow the lump in my throat and make small talk with the little boy’s mom and dad. But that ice cube encounter was a dagger to my soul. It was such a kind, brotherly gesture that I just about lost it right then and there.

Our neighbors and good friends also have a son who is roughly A’s age (he was born 4 months before A). We see them often and while his behavior toward Dragon can be doting, he is, for the most part, pretty mean to her. He hates to share, snatches things away from her, hoards toys and has pushed her more times than I can count. Hopefully this is just a phase that he’ll outgrow as he learns better social skills, but I also recognize it as natural 3-year-old behavior.

I try to avoid children who are A’s age (he’d be three in October) and I try even harder to avoid situations where children who are A’s age get to play with Dragon. It is a mirror to the life we ought to have. It is a glimpse into what it might be like to watch my two children interact, both the good and the bad. I am not deluded to think that if A were alive our lives would be rosy and my kids would get along 100% of the time Flanders style. When I fantasize about how things would be with a living A, I can clearly see a possessive older brother and a tantruming little sister; a big brother who takes advantage of his age and size to trick her out of snacks or other coveted things.

It also makes me wonder how different Dragon would be with the influence of her elder sibling instead of the attention-filled daydream of her current existence. My friend Julie sums it up well when she recently wrote, “Bode’s personality is in part shaped by being the only living child in our home, by our grief and paranoia about his safety, by our desperate love.  He would certainly not be the same boy if his older brother, 17 months his senior, was growing up alongside of him.” Click here to see her entire post.

Ever since she could register facial expressions, it’s been obvious that Dragon loves to be around other children. She especially loves to be with ‘big kids’ and will watch, enthralled, as they ride scooters, play ball, jump waves or simply run amok. I’ll never know what the dynamic between my two children would have been, but I know that they’re both cheated by not having each other.