Two years

Dearest Sidney,

Today would have been your second birthday, and the last day we took your elephant photos.  I cannot believe you have been gone for so long.  Time seems to move both  more quickly and more slowly since you died.  The weeks leading up to your birthday this year have been really hard.  I find myself struggling more with a combination of anger and sadness.  I am less in touch with my sadness than I was last year, in which crying and physically aching for you were my constant companions.  But I don’t miss you or think about you any less.  The feelings nonetheless seem more distant somehow, or different, in a way I don’t fully know how to express.  And so perhaps the anger and unfairness of it all is striking me more deeply this year, because I have allowed myself a small absence from it.  On Tuesday, I was driving back from teaching, and planning to head straight to volunteering, when I became consumed by extreme anxiety.  I cancelled my volunteer work and went straight home.  Perhaps because it was a Tuesday, not unlike the Tuesday that I drove home from lecturing, in labor with you.  The flash backs have been more constant again too, as I imagine the moment I found out your heart had stopped.  Or I would think to myself, “two years ago, Sidney was alive…but maybe he was brain dead (I have no idea if this happened, since I don’t know what happened).”  A constant gnawing in my stomach, a tightness in my chest, a desire for you.

Yesterday, I took a walk in the woods that I walked in rather frequently right after you died.  It had been a long time.  I listened to the sounds of the birds and the insects, stared at the trees that have been there for decades, perhaps even centuries, and remembered how those woods helped carry me, allowed me to see that I (and also you) are just a part of something bigger.  I thought of all the people who walked along with me that first year, and how since Silas’ birth, I have resumed a ‘normal’ routine, and don’t have the support network that I clung to the first year after you died.  So in addition to asking people to do something kind in your name, which I also did last year, I am going to try to reach out more to friends, reconnect with those who I care about.  I have always been bad at keeping in touch with people (but good at picking up where we left off when I see them), but nowadays, it just seems like I go too long without seeing people–it’s been nearly five years since I have seen some of my so-called closest friends–and well worth some more effort on my part to maintain these relationships.

We went away for a night to the Chesapeake Bay.  I thought getting away as a family would help me during your birthday.  But as we sat in rush hour traffic with Silas screaming, my anxiety got worse and worse.  Deep breathing.  When we finally arrived, I took a walk with Silas by the water, the sound of the waves hitting the shore providing a short calm.  Later today, we will go to your grave, say some prayers, and be as physically close to you as we can.

In some ways, it seems like another chapter is ending.  We close on our new house on May 15th, and will move away from the home in which I lived during my pregnancy with you, which has sheltered me in my grief.  Here, everyone knows our story.  When we move, new neighborhood, and a new school for Eli, people won’t know about you, and I will have to decide again how to tell them.  Filling out kindergarten registration forms, siblings and ages.  Sidney, deceased.  I will never be okay writing that.  But leaving you off is not an option either.

A few weeks ago, Eli and I were driving home, and we saw an amazing twilight on one side, and a regular dark sky on the other.  Eli suggested that maybe you sent us that twilight.  I don’t know if that is true, but as Eli reasoned, if you are now part of everything, the sky, the butterflies, earth’s energy, than there is no real reason it also can’t be true.

So my dear boy, my heart breaks that I cannot hold you in my arms and watch you squeal with delight as you blow out your two candles.  But we all love you so much.  You are not forgotten.  You will never be forgotten.

I love you.

Always and forever,

Mama20180417_202416

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Twenty three months

Dearest Sidney,

It has been almost two years since I kissed your soft cheeks and held you in my arms.  I think this will be a hard month, since two years ago, I was excitedly awaiting your arrival.  Passover came earlier this year than it did in 2016.  We went back to the same family’s house that we spent Passover 2016 at, just a short time before we said goodbye to you.  Everything appeared ‘normal’, and the hosts continuously complimented your brothers.  But nothing was ‘normal’ because you were not there.

Eli has been missing you too.  He was talking about turning people ‘on’ and ‘off’.  Then he said, I wish we could turn Sidney ‘on.’  Even though you are not here, you are very much a part of our family, and you always will be.  I often take your younger brother with me when I visit your grave.  I have begun talking to him about you, and who we are visiting.  You will be a part of his life from as early as he can remember.

We are most likely buying a house, and moving about 10 minutes away from where we are now.  We debated moving to a different county, where my commute would be a little shorter, and the schools are better.  But I don’t want to be so far away from you.  There are still a few things that would make me change my mind on this house–we haven’t seen the HOA rules yet, and if they will not allow me to plant your tree, then we will not buy the house.

Next week, I go to our annual conference.  I have not been in a long time.  In 2016, I skipped it because it was near the end of my pregnancy with you.  In 2017, I was pregnant with your brother, and also in no place to go to a conference.  I am nervous to go this year–to see people I haven’t seen, and to have to negotiate how to answer the question, ‘how have you been?’

People have also been asking me if I am pregnant.  I am not, I say.  I just have a lot of remaining fat from two subsequent pregnancies, and the grief and anxiety that comes along with that.  But I don’t want to have to deal with that in abundance at this conference.  Academics are not known for their social skills.

Sidney Louis, I love you.  I love you always.  I love you forever.  My beautiful second son.

Much love,

Mama

Twenty two months

Dearest Sidney,

I did not forget about you on March 4th.  In fact, I composed a version of this letter in my head.  On March 2nd, there was a big storm, and the wind knocked out the power.  The city managed to get our power restored the following day, but we only got internet back late this afternoon.  So posting your letter was delayed.  The storm served as a visible reminder of the precariousness of life, how in just a few moments everything can change. IMG_20180303_102117039_HDR

Of course, I have been very aware of this since your death.  On the night of March 3rd, I lay awake listening to the wind rattling against the window.  I looked over at the time, and thought about how 22 months earlier I was in labor with you.  I almost dry heaved as I thought how I will never know whether you were alive or dead in that moment, and at what moment your heart stopped.  It feels surreal sometimes.  I don’t understand how you are dead.

Eli’s been talking about you more again.  Tonight, he said that there are five people in our family, and then he listed them-himself, you, Silas, me and papa.  He said he loves us the most in the world.  He included you.  I like when you are included.  He also wanted to bring the elephant stuffed animals to the cemetery to take a picture with your grave.  It was a nice thought.  But it makes me too sad right now. Maybe I will feel differently at a different time.

On the fourth, I went to the cemetery.  I left two new stones at your grave.  They are stones Eli and I picked from the back yard of a house that we were looking at.  We have been trying to find a house to buy before Eli starts kindergarten.  It is stressful, and there is very little inventory in the areas that we are looking.  Moving means we will meet new people.  They are bound to have little children who were born around the same time you were.  Another visible reminder that you are not here, and not the joyful little 22 month old I imagine you to be.  We have been looking for housing in two different counties.  On paper, one area is a clear winner.  But it is a different county from where we are now.  It would feel like starting over, and leaving the friends and community that have been holding us up since you died.  And I don’t think any of us are ready to do that.

My dearest littlest Sidney.  I love you so much.  I  miss you.  And I love you.  Always.  I will always love you.

Always and forever,

Mama

Twenty one months

Dearest Sidney,

Another month gone by.  Another month without you.  Yesterday, we had Eli’s fifth birthday party.  And you were not there.  I usually try not to imagine life with you, Eli and Silas, because it is a life that could never be, but I want it more than ever.  I want to be the overly tired busy mother of three active boys.  After Eli’s party, Silas and I went to visit you at the cemetery.  I talked to you but I don’t know if you heard me.  I love you.  That will never change.

The flu is very bad this season.  All four of the pre-K teachers in Eli’s school have the flu.  And one little girl who was at his birthday party yesterday has it now, 104.5 degree fever.  I am scared.  Scared that your brothers will get sick.  Scared and wondering if somehow I got sick and didn’t realize it and that is why you are not here.  I will do my best to be vigilant.  But now that you are gone, I can’t tell myself that I am worrying over nothing.  Because now I know that I can be the rare exception, that things that ‘don’t happen’, really can.

I went back to teaching last week.  It brought back my memories from when I returned to work after my emergency family leave after you died.   It also brings back memories of my last day with you inside of me, teaching, and then heading home, in early labor, getting ready to go to the hospital to meet you.  It still stops my breath to remember those moments.  It is a trauma that will never be okay.  Going back to campus is different this time–I rush home after my teaching days to nurse your little brother, because pumping milk is hard for me.  I should have been doing that with you, too.

I am going to get a small picture frame with spots for three photos to bring to my office.  I will put a photo of you and each of your brothers.  I also added another ‘S’ to my necklace.

I love you my perfect beautiful second son.

Always and forever,

Mama

 

Twenty months

Dearest Sidney,

Another month has gone by without you.  It has been a challenging one.  Your little brother developed a respiratory sickness.  We brought him to the emergency room, and spent three nights in the hospital.  He had respiratory syncytial virus, which then caused bronchiolitis. The doctors said that it was basically a fancy way of saying he had a cold, but that in babies, colds can be really dangerous.  As I held your brother in my arms, watching his chest rise and fall as he was hooked up to an oxygen machine, I thought about how maybe something similar had happened to you.  Perhaps you got a sickness that would not be serious in an adult.  But then we missed your distress and were not able to help you in time. I will never be okay with not knowing what happened to you.  And I will never be okay with not having you here.

We went to Kentucky for a week to see grandpa.  And I saw some people who I had not seen since I was pregnant with you.  I am in a safe little bubble now, and I really only interact with people who have been by my side since you died.  So it was a bit overwhelming to see other people, to be returned to a time period before I knew the heartbreak of your death.  And I looked at grandma’s computer and saw some pictures of me when I was pregnant with you.  A different life.  I had therapy today, and the therapist said that in someways it did not seem like it was that long since I started to come and see her, shortly after your death.  To me, it seems like a life time ago.  I don’t remember who I was really before I had you, and lost you.  I don’t remember a reality before I was your mother.  Twenty months.  It has been twenty months.

I go back to work this month.  I remember going back to work after you died.  It was overwhelming–hard.  It is different this time, but still hard.  Sometimes (often times) it all feels so overwhelming.

This week has brought record cold temperatures.  The world has seemed off kilter since your death–like once you died, we entered an alternate reality, where all sorts of things that shouldn’t happen happen.

Anyway, my beautiful dear little boy.  I miss you.  I love you.  Another month without you in my arms.

I love you, always and forever.

Love,

Mama

Nineteen months

Dearest Sidney,

Another month has gone by without you here.  Another month of not holding you, of not watching you grow, laugh or play with your brothers.  I went to Massachusetts for Thanksgiving.  It had been two years since I had been home.  The last time was Thanksgiving 2015, when you were growing inside of me, before I knew the depth of pain and heartache I have now become familiar with.  As we drove through Hartford around 10 pm at night (which is 1.5 hours from my parents’), I started to cry hysterically.  I had imagined going home last Thanksgiving, in 2016, with you and introducing you to everyone.  But that didn’t happen.  (We didn’t even go to Massachusetts because grandma was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer on November 15th, so we went to be with her.  On Nov 30, six days after thanksgiving, she died.  So much death, so much sadness.)  Going home without you.  Seeing people who I know so well on the one hand, but who have not seen me or interacted with me since before you died.  This time, I didn’t really see friends like I usually do when I am home because I just couldn’t do it emotionally.  I spent the time with Bubby and Opa, and your aunts and uncle.  I didn’t want to have to see people ‘for the first time.’  Here in Baltimore, I rarely meet new people now.  The people I interact with all know about you, all held me (and still hold me) as I learn to live life without you.  But it’s not like that in other places.  People only know the old me, the pre-loss me.  But that person no longer exists because you have changed me.  And I can’t (and would never want to) go back to a time before you, my dear second son.

Papa and Eli just got back from spending five days with grandpa in Kentucky.  I stayed here with your little brother.  It was the longest Eli and I had ever been apart.  I don’t know if you would have stayed with us, or gone with the boys.  I don’t often imagine a scenario with all three of you, because it can never be, and it never would have been, anyway.  Lately, when I am going about my day to day routine, I will be hit with a vivid memory from my pregnancy with you, and then I feel like I have been punched in the stomach, recalling finding out your heart had stopped, delivering you, and then the horrendous pain of facing a life without you.  And I still cringe when people offer their opinions about the age gap between Eli and Silas, and think about the age gap between you and Eli, wondering what your relationship would have been, thinking about whether you would have been able to play together more, and how you would have been in high school at the same time, you in ninth grade, and Eli in 12th.  But that will never be.  Oh, how I miss you.

The world feels like it is falling apart.  It has since 2016 for many reasons.  We will most likely all go to grandpa’s towards the end of the month.  You will be missed.  You are always missed, my beautiful boy.

Lately I have been more anxious.  Anxiety can weaken immune systems.  If that hurt you, my baby, I am so sorry.  I will always be so so sorry that I wasn’t able to get you the help you needed.  I love you so so so much.

Always and forever,

Mama

1.5 years

Dearest Sidney,

It has been 1.5 years since I bore you.  I can’t believe that so much time has gone by.  I wish with all of my heart that you were here by my side, that we were celebrating you being 18 months old, and marveling at all the new things you were saying and doing.

I am having trouble writing this letter to you tonight.  I keep writing sentences and then deleting them, since nothing seems adequate, nothing captures the complexity of emotions that I have had this past year and a half, the pain I have over not being here with you.  I continue to have flash backs to the moment I found out that your heart stopped.  Mine did too.  In that moment, mine did too.  Or I will be driving, and I will flashback to driving home from work in early labor with you, talking to my mom on the phone and wondering when you would arrive.  Sidney, I love you.

We went to dinner tonight at the house of a family whose second child also died, a little girl.  Fifteen years ago.  Somehow deciding on names came up, and they talked about naming all three of their children, and so did we.  We included you, told the stories of Eli wanting to name you fireman, Eli or yucky.  It was nice to have someone that understood just a little bit.

Your Opa visited these past few days.  We went to the cemetery, knelt by your grave, straightened the stones that are there. Later, somehow, minivans came up.  He said, “Well, you don’t need such a big car since you only have two children.”  I have three, I thought, but you don’t need a physical seat.  I carry you in my heart.

I want to know you more, Sidney.  To hear you laugh.  To know your personality.  To watch you and Eli play and delight in each other.  To breathe in your smell and kiss your soft skin.  Sidney Louis.  I want new photos to post of you, funny stories to share about you.  But all I have is my memories of my pregnancy with you.  I look at your beautiful picture ever night.  I still always think of you.  I will always love you.  That will never change.  Always and forever.

Love,

Mama20171022_175527