Eleven months

Dearest Sidney,

I miss you so much.  I would give anything to be able to kiss your soft cheek again, to breathe in your smell, everything about you.  But it would never be enough.  How would I ever be able to let you go?  I still don’t understand sometimes how I have even made it this long without you, how I got through those first months when I was operating in trauma mode, as if I were under attack, how I am learning to live without you, even though I will never accept that you are not here.

I wish that I had your 11 month picture to post.  Instead, when I arrived at the cemetery a few weeks ago, I saw that they had put your stone in.  I am including it here (with last name blocked out).  It is beautiful, in a tragic sort of way.  But it is nice, and I think it is a stone that you would be proud to have.  Sidney without last name

We were at a park on Sunday, and Eli asked if he was still a big brother.  I said yes, that he would always be a big brother.  Just like you will always be my second son.  Just like I will always want you and love you.  Nothing can ever change that.  Eli and I read the book ‘the invisible string’ sometimes, and we talk about how nothing can break the invisible string between a mother and her children.  My string is still firmly connected to you.

We are approaching the time last year when I was really starting to get ready to bring you home.  I had put a plan in place for colleagues to finish my classes if you were to have come early, and we started looking through Eli’s old baby clothes and washing them so that they would all be ready for you.  Passover also came later in the year last year, towards the end of April.  We went to the seder at a friends’ home, and everyone eagerly talked about your arrival.  Less than a week later, you were born.  This coming Monday night, we will all go back to seder at the same house, but you won’t be with us.  I miss you so much.

I am starting to think about what we should do on the year anniversary of your birth.  I have a few ideas.  I think I will ask everyone to do something kind for themselves or someone else, so that your existence will make the world a little bit better of a place.  And I may ask people to send me stones from special places so that I can put the stones on your grave, and know that people are thinking of you.  But how to mark the actual day?  Maybe we will go to the beach and set up some safe-for-the-environment flaming lanterns.  Maybe I will stay in bed and not get out.  Maybe I will visit the cemetery.  I don’t know.  Nothing feels quite right.  How could it, without you?

I love you, Sidney Louis.  I will always love you.  Nothing can ever change that.

Always and forever.

love,

momma

Ten months

Dearest Sidney,

It has been ten months and one day since I said goodbye to you.  I am sorry I didn’t write to you yesterday.  It is the first month since you were born that I haven’t been thinking about dates.  But I have been thinking about you.  I always think about you.  I always miss you, and I always love you.  Ten months is a long time.  I have been a grieving mother for ten months.

Papa is going to Seattle tomorrow.  He will be gone for a week.  I am a little overwhelmed to be back at work full time, and also have all the responsibilities of Eli to myself for a week.  But I keep thinking that I should be even more overwhelmed, that I should have my beautiful little ten month old, alongside my 4 year old.  I am so sorry you are not here.  I don’t know what your first word would have been.  I don’t know if you would be standing yet.  I will never get to know these things. I miss you so much.  I still look at your picture every night.  I kiss your picture, but I want to be kissing you, breathing in your sweet baby smell.

I went to the cemetery today to visit your grave.  I sat outside with you for a long time, feeling the cool breeze and missing you.  Then I came home.  Eli and papa were at a birthday party.  It would have been so much nicer to just take a walk with you in the carrier.  There are many days I still can’t believe you are gone.  May 4th does not seem that far away anymore.  Your birth day , and the day I had to give you back.

We have been interviewing for a new position in my department.  One of the candidate’s wive’s just had a baby three days before he flew across the country for his interview.  Another colleague’s wife just had her second son.  Babies are born healthy all the time.  You were healthy too.  But your heart had stopped.  No one knows why and I will never understand or accept it.

But I will always be your momma and I will always love you.

Love,

mama

Rants

I don’t have anything particularly insightful to say.  I have been missing Sidney more intensely this weekend, crying again at random times, longing to hold him in my arms, and thinking about his last few days.  He was kicking inside of me, and then somehow, slowly, he was not.  Eli has also been talking about Sidney more again.  We were driving to the grocery store, and he said, “We were very excited that baby Sidney was going to come.  But then one night, something bad happened….he died!” He says this in an overly dramatic voice (these lines are basically from the book “Something happened.”) He also kept telling me, “the happiest day of your life is when you got to meet me.  The saddest day of your life is when baby Sidney died.  At least one of your babies got to come.” Correct.  But that will never be okay.

People at work are bothering me.  I took a walk this morning in the hopes it would help me start off my work week in a better mood.  My Monday am walks usually calm me down, but today, for some reason, I just got more and more riled up.  I am tired of being judged, criticized, watched, ignored, and misunderstood (I understand that there are some contradictions in here).  We are interviewing for a new assistant professor, and my ‘mentor’ sent me an email after he looked at the schedule commenting that I had only signed up for a fifteen minute session with one of the candidates, and he doesn’t understand why, and I should have taken a 30 minute or a 45 minute session.  I responded that I chosen the fifteen minute one because I had also signed up to take the candidate to dinner (not to mention I will be at their one hour job talk, and the one hour discussion that followed).  But of course he didn’t notice that but instead was quick to judge.  he’s not my boss, and it’s not his job to stand over me, not to mention that if he is also going to tell me that I should be publishing more, then maybe he should be supportive of helping me make time to do that.  And then I sent out notes from the faculty senate meeting, and the chair said, btw, you should make sure you date your notes.  I know.  This is a very small thing, and he is right, I should, but how about they also comment on some of the positive things I am doing, instead of telling me everything I am doing wrong.  How about they comment about the suicidal student who told me that it meant a lot to her that I had noticed that she changed her hair, and she appreciated how supportive I was, and how open she could be with me, or the graduate students that I make extra time for as they try to process the scariness that is our world right now.  Those things don’t count, aren’t noticed, aren’t valued.  We are also interviewing potential post-doc candidates and in the write up on why we should hire one, the chair talked about all the potential collaborations he would have with people in the department, as an urban geographer.  But he didn’t mention me, even though I was hired as the urban geographer.  I am forgotten, replaceable, not worth anything, except when I forget to put the date on something.  I know I am being whiny, and I know that this is not really how things are, but I am just angry at everyone.  I am angry that Sidney is not here.  I am angry that this is how things turned out.  And I am angry at myself.  Angry at wasted opportunities, inability to get things done, inability to get to the hospital in time to save Sidney.  I think that I am particularly angry because I am afraid what they are saying is true.   I wish that I had a small pouch of poison darts and I could just throw a dart at anyone bothering me.  It wouldn’t kill them, just momentarily stun them, and get them to leave me alone (don’t worry.  I am not actually a violent person).  I am just tired of a lot of things, and clearly also have some issues with male authority figures.

I wish I had a new picture of Sidney to post, or could talk about something he was doing, but there is nothing new, no updates on him, his achievements, personality or funny things he should be doing.  Because to be as blunt as Eli, Sidney is dead.  And yes, even though it’s been 9.5 months, my heart is still broken.

Nine months

Dearest Sidney,

Nine months.  Almost the amount of time I carried you inside of me.  And now you are gone.  There are many days that the horror of losing you almost seems like a nightmare, something that could not have happened in real life.  Yet, you are not here in my arms, crawling, laughing and playing.

Your brother turned 4 on Monday.  It was a hard day for me.  I showed him a picture from the hospital, with me and papa holding him, so he could see what he used to look like.  Then I took a walk on a path through woods near our house.  I started crying as I walked.  I will never get to show you pictures of what you used to look like.  I will never get anymore pictures of you at all.  On your birthday, perhaps the only new picture I will have to share will be of your grave.  And that will never be okay with me.

Tomorrow is Eli’s birthday party with friends from school.  We have always done his parties at our house, more like a play date style, with homemade cake and snacks.   But this year we are doing it at a MyGym, and I ordered a Paw Patrol cake.  I don’t want to have multiple families at our house all day.  I don’t want to remember Eli’s birthday last year, when you were inside of me, happily kicking.  Some of the friends hadn’t known about you, and I proudly showed off my bulging stomach, taking for granted that you would be alive and playing at Eli’s next birthday.  And now you are gone.

I started teaching again last week, my beautiful little boy.  It felt good to be in the classroom.  I mostly have new students, so no one has asked about you.  But I already canceled classes for your birthday, writing on the syllabus that students should use the free time to do something kind for themselves or others.  I know I don’t want to teach on your birthday.  I was teaching the day you died.  I don’t know what we will do.  But I  know I can’t teach.

I also had a meeting with my mentor.  It did not go as well.  He started off the conversation with, “I am very concerned about your lack of progress. You don’t seem intellectually engaged.  Have you been writing articles?”  I started crying.  I said I have not been writing (I was on emergency family leave).  But I said I have made progress.  I no longer wake up every single morning with intense physical heart ache.  I know I need to publish articles to keep my job.  But I also want to find out a way to use my time, and be the type of person that will make you proud.  And write articles for academic journals that only a few people read doesn’t quite seem right.  I have been working with kids, my beautiful Sidney, volunteering and also doing a project with some middle school children about how they feel in various public spaces, the concerns they have living in the neighborhoods in Baltimore in which they live.  And that work seems more meaningful to me, as does being back in the classroom, where I am teaching a seminar on global poverty, and a class on urban geography.  But this stuff does not matter as much to tenure committees, and especially not to my ‘mentor.’ And I don’t like that talking with him made me anxious, made me cry.  I need to figure out who I am, and who I want to be, and how to make my life have meaning now that you are gone.  And how I can write to an audience in a language that expresses what is important to me.

I miss you so much my beautiful boy.  I look at the pictures I have of you every night.  I think of you every day.  I wear my necklace that has an E and an S on it, for my two boys.

I will always love you Sidney Louis.  Not a day goes by that I don’t long for you.

Always and forever.

Your mama

Some choppy thoughts on disbelief and sickness.

I am back to having a lot of trouble believing Sidney is dead.  I look at his pictures every night before I go to sleep, and I have started flashing back again more regularly to arriving at the hospital in labor, and having some random doctor tell me, “Your son has passed.  Do you understand what I am saying?” The raw pain overall is not as consistently intense but it can still knock me down.  I think that the problem I am having is that in general, when I get anxious about something, in order to reassure myself, I tell myself, well, that is unlikely, or you are worrying over nothing, or X is not actually so bad, but there is a disconnect in my brain, because I think well if I am worrying over nothing, than Sidney must not be dead.  I don’t really know how to explain this, but all I know is that my heart is aching tonight, and I want my baby here in my arms.

Eli has a stomach bug, at least rational me thinks that is what he has. He’s actually never thrown up before this, other than baby spit up.  And he already seemed a bit better tonight, and even ate half a ginger snap, the first food he agreed to eat all day.  When I called the doctor she said that I did not need to bring him in, that there was just a bug going around.  But of course, my mind worries that I might be missing something, like I missed something with Sidney.  Earlier yesterday, Eli was riding on my husband’s shoulders and my husband walked him into a hanging sign by accident, and he smacked his head.  Eli cried, but he didn’t black out, bleed or actually even really get a bump.  But of course, when he threw up last night, I spent a lot of the very early am hours, reading about symptoms of head injuries, and wondering if something more serious could be going on.  Shortly after Sidney died, I went to a meeting of a group called Compassionate Friends, for anyone who has lost a child.  There was a father there whose 5 year old had died. He said that on a Tuesday she told him her stomach hurt, and then by that Thursday, she was dead (I don’t know of what.  I actually did not return to the group, because I wasn’t in a place to hear about all the horrible ways that children can and do die).  So I am sitting in the room next to Eli’s, listening for sounds of distress, mostly thinking he is fine, but still scared.  I tell myself, well, that is unlikely. He just has a normal stomach bug, and then I am back to disbelief, not grasping how Sidney could be dead after a healthy pregnancy.  I will never really understand it.

On an only peripherally related note, the Baltimore City schools are a mess.  On Wed, I was volunteering in a second grade classroom, and one of the girls threw up (which adds to my paranoia that I am somehow the one that got Eli sick, and am carrying some bacteria or virus unknowingly, like perhaps I did with Sidney).  No one was helping her, so I went over and rubbed her back and then walked her down to the ‘nurse’.  The nurse found her a pair of over-sized shorts to change into (it’s winter), and said she would call her mom to bring her pants, and then immediately sent her back to the classroom, not taking her temperature, giving her water or juice, or sending her home.  In my elementary school, if someone threw up, they were required to go home.  It might be because some kids don’t have parents who can take time off to get them at school, but it still seemed like a problem, and perhaps an explanation why the kids seem to get sick so frequently (and don’t get me started on the nightmare of an appointment to lead the department of edu, and how things will probably get even worse).  And also reminded me of a rather absurd thought that I had when ebola was in the news so much.  I remember thinking that if I had a child who got ebola, it would be so difficult not to physically comfort them or hug them when they were in need.  It made my heart physically ache at the time to imagine it, to have you child in pain, needing you, but not being able to embrace them or provide them any comfort.  When I have worked with kids in the past, even though I know I might get sick (but of course, we are talking about much much much milder sicknesses), I can’t just not comfort them when they need me, hence helping vomiting girl.  I have even gotten lice a few times, because I felt like I couldn’t not hug or play with the children who obviously had lice, but then let other kids sit on my lap, especially since the ones with lice were often the most neglected or in need of attention in the first place.

But somehow Sidney needed me and I didn’t realize.  He was suffering, and I didn’t save him.  And now my heart is broken.

And no, I don’t want to hear about all the people you know who are pregnant or giving birth.  And no, it is not okay to ask me if so and so is pregnant.  Why in the world would you think that makes sense?

Next week classes start, and I will be back at work full time.  In some ways, so similar to last January, but in other ways, so entirely different, a much worse version of my life before.  And I still somehow can’t believe Sidney is not here, that I am a mother of a dead son.  He has now been gone about the same time he was even here.

And it is Eli’s fourth birthday next Monday.  Something Sidney will never have.  I miss him.  I will never understand why he is not here.

Eight months

My dearest Sidney,

All is not as it should be.  You should be here.  I should be charting your milestones, and posting your elephant pictures.  You might even be crawling already, which if you were like Eli, would be an army crawl, as you sneakily crept across the room.

I miss you so much.  You will always be baby Sidney.  You will never get to be anything else.  Dr. Sidney, author Sidney, or even unemployed and living at home Sidney.  I won’t ever learn anything else about your personality, and that really is not okay with me.

We have been in Kentucky all week with grandpa and your aunt and uncle.  Tomorrow, the rest of daddy’s extended family is coming in for a memorial service for grandma.  I am going to have to make small talk with them, be the upbeat and supportive wife, since I am only indirect family.  I don’t want to.  I don’t want to talk to people who I don’t know very well, if I don’t have you in my arms, if I don’t have you to proudly present to them.

I have been longing to kiss your cheek, to hold you in my arms.  This past month, your brother has been talking about you a lot more.  He immediately connected your death to grandma’s, and started asking questions again.  Then I imagined you in the outfit we had picked out to bring you home from the hospital, the outfit we ended up burying you in.  I never saw you in that outfit.  My heart broke, imagining you in the ground, in your brown and white striped pajamas with the matching hat.

Today, the third fell on a Tuesday, the same night we found out you had died, and the fourth fell on a Wednesday, the early morning in which you were born.  Your last days and your birth have been replaying in my mind.  I can’t stop it.  It is so painful, but in many ways it is all I have left of you.

I have enclosed a card that was sent for you.  We were given fifty dollars to donate in your memory.  20170104_222245

2016 ended.

Later this month, I go back to work full time.  I start teaching again.  Teaching.  I will be so visible.  I should be preparing to leave you alone, and stressing over how I will be able to pump enough breast milk for you.  Instead, I have to go back to being visible, exposed, change my routine, but not get to come home to you.  I am very anxious.

I miss you so much.  Eli told me he feels said when he sees little boys with baby siblings.  Me too.  I love you.  I miss you.  I love you.  I miss you.

I don’t know what else to say other than that you are my beautiful second son.  I will love you always and forever, and I will always be your mama.

I love you,

Mama

 

Seven months

Dearest Sidney,

It has been seven months since I held you in my arms.  I cannot believe it has been so long.  The world doesn’t really make sense for me without you.  My Sidney bear finally arrived.  It is a beautiful bear, with a bow tie that has elephants on it, to symbolize the elephants we had bought for your monthly pictures, and with a firetruck on its tummy, because your brother wanted to name you fireman.  instagramcapture_547acbfe-697c-4f97-b9ba-79d9fda665e9

But no matter how cute the bear is, I don’t want a bear.  I want you.  I want to be able to hold you, to kiss you, to watch you grow and develop as the beautiful little boy that I know you would have been.  You would most likely be sitting by now, babbling away, your distinct personality already shining through.  I try not to think too much about what  milestones you would be getting to, but sometimes it is just too hard. Your brother misses you too.  He is gentle with the ‘Sidney bear’, just like I think he would have been with you. instagramcapture_e83226e4-0443-4574-9d31-477c8cc61200

Today, I went to a walk-in clinic.  I pinched a nerve in my neck and it was causing a radiating pain down my shoulder and arm–the pain wasn’t going away and I didn’t want to wait until tomorrow to get it looked at.  But now, whenever I go to doctors, my blood pressure shoots up, a small PTSD symptom from your death.  So I told the nurse to please take it again, that I have anxiety since you died.  Her eyes filled with tears, and she said she was so sorry.  She asked some questions about you.  I like being able to talk about you, but I wish I had a different story to tell.

We went to the play ground with your brother today, a playground built in memory of a six year old who was killed by a drunk driver when she was crossing the street.  So much death.  So much pain.

This has been a very hard month for our family.  More tragedy.  Grandma, daddy’s mom, joined you.  Just a few weeks ago, out of the blue, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  We changed our plans, and went to spend Thanksgiving with her and grandpa.  We brought Sidney bear but I wanted to bring you.  Grandma was supposed to meet with the oncologist Friday, but Wednesday night, she felt out of breath, so grandpa took her to the hospital, and an hour later, she was gone.  She died holding grandpa’s hand.  (I have a lot more I could say about this, but this is not my story to tell, and I want to be respectful to my husband and his family). But even in her death, grandma touched my heart in her love and respect for you.  In preparation, she wrote her own obituary.  And in that obituary, she wrote, she has one grandson, Sidney, who pre-deceased her.  She included you.  She loved you.  And now she is gone too.  We are in shock, and I am scared for daddy and for your brother.  Grandma loved you so much.  We all love you so much.

Eli has been more clingy lately.  How can he not, when you and grandma, out of the blue, both died within seven months.  He is scared.  I am scared.  I am so scared without you.

I love you so much.

Always and forever, my dearest son, always and forever.

Love,

your mama