Pleading with God

I broke down sobbing hysterically in the car on the way back from therapy today.  I don’t even really believe in God, at least not in the stereotypical way with a king sitting on a throne ruling over people, or even in an everything is part of a larger logical plan sort of way, but as I sobbed hysterically, I literally was begging God out loud to bring Sidney back, to make this all be a bad dream.  I don’t know where this begging and pleading came from-maybe because there is literally no one else who could change anything, make this not be true.  And of course, I don’t really think that God could change this either, or make it not be real.  But it surprised me.  Many things have surprised me about this experience, beyond the obvious of being in shock over Sidney’s death and still unable to accept or comprehend it.  It has surprised me that I find physical comfort in going to the cemetery, and sitting next to Sidney.  It has also surprised me my need to stare at his picture, and be close to it, that I can’t go to sleep without looking at him, that i don’t want to be away from the picture too long.  I guess my need to be near to physical remains or reminders of Sidney is surprising, since in the abstract, I know that his body and his picture are not the same as a living baby, but I need them.  They are nearly all that I have left of him.

I have always had conflicting feelings about organized religion but in times of grief, it becomes especially clear to me the purpose that it serves.  We are members of a temple through Eli’s preschool, but do not participate much, and did not personally know the rabbis.  But one of them showed up at the hospital after Sidney died and sat with us and cried with us. And he helped us with the funeral, and visited us at the house.  They also have been saying Sidney’s name during services, and people from the preschool have organized meals for us.  As has become abundantly clear, there is no easy way to get through grief and move forward.  But I think having community, friends and those who love you who can sit with you and be there for you is essential, and I think that is probably where religious communities often fill a role.  When we drove back from Sidney’s funeral three weeks ago, I was saying that I wished I had faith in a higher being and plan, that it would be easier, and our nanny said something that seems insightful to me. She said that religion is not the only thing to have faith in, that you can also have faith that friends and family love you and will be there for you.  I am terrified that I will be left alone in my suffering, especially as time goes on, but I have been trying to hold on to her words.  I have been thinking how f-ed up society is lately, how we have all the wrong values, that everyone really just wants to have a sense of belonging and feel fulfilled, and that society is not set up in a way where people try to connect with each other, or are comfortable just sitting and being with someone who is openly experiencing emotions.  Tears in general, and intense grief and heartbreak, in particular, scare people, and there are not many spaces where it is acceptable to express them.  I worry about this when I try to think about re-entering the world.  I have been very selectively seeing people, mostly just taking walks with a few people in the area, or visiting with a few friends from DC.  And I still can’t bear it.  So how will I be able to do it when I am around people who don’t know what happened, who don’t care, or who are uncomfortable about seeing someone express emotions?  If people cared about each other, and felt more connected, we would all be better off, but we often remain closed, and continue to push people away.  I think perhaps that is one of the reasons I have always liked working with children, to help them know they are not alone, to play and be silly with them, and let them know that their opinions matter, and their stories matter, even when others in their lives tell them that is not true.  And maybe because kids are usually not as bitter and jaded yet as adults, and are more open in their need for connections, their willingness to accept you, and to reach out.  Connection, belonging, that is what many of us search for to escape our own loneliness.  Building a family is one way that I want to get that belonging and make those connections.  I long for that for myself and for Eli, and weep that Sidney will not get to be a living part of that.

 

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Heart ache

The pain in my heart is worse, constant, aching.  I have never really experienced heart ache before.  It is hard.  I try to breathe, focus on it, live in it. But then anxiety joins the pain, and I can’t breathe, can’t think, don’t know how I will do this.  Future unknown.  Overwhelming.

Watching Eli suffer.  Pretending.  Smile.  Are you still grieving, he asks?  yes, my love, i say.  But you can be happy and sad at the same time.  Trying to believe that.

Still refusing to accept that Sidney is really gone, that this is my new reality.  How can I do this?  I don’t want to do this.  No choice.

My heart breaks, aches, longs to hold him, to snuggle him against my chest, for this to be a bad dream.  To be sleep deprived and happily  nursing Sidney in my arms, while Eli acts out for attention, since his world has been disrupted, but in a normal way.

It’s not your fault, they say.  But perhaps I could have prevented it.  I failed in my one job to protect my baby.  Failed in an unacceptable unchangeable no going back way.  Intense longing.  Buddhists say don’t be afraid of your emotions.  I try to breathe, to concentrate on feeling the pain rather than fearing it.  Unbearable, but it must be borne.

The grief counselors say my grief is still so raw, so intense, so new, that I need to be patient, that I have experienced a trauma, a tragic shock, that the feelings and reactions I am having are normal.  But I don’t want this to be normal.  I don’t want to accept that this is who I am now.  Who we are.  Marked by tragedy.  That this will stay with our family forever.

One moment at a time. Just breathe. Breathe.  Cry.  but what is the point in crying when it won’t bring Sidney back?

Why is it that the heart hurts when someone dies?  What does the heart do and why are the feelings located there?  If grief and pain are physical, which they are, can’t they be alleviated?  What is the science behind all of this, and why does no one really understand it? I guess I want answers, some way of getting on top of my grief.  But I am learning that we can’t get on top of grief, but just have to live it, experience it one day at a time until we learn to live with it.  My  mind is split though, because on the one hand, I want to move beyond this minute by minute hell.  But on the other, I want to suffer.  How can things be bearable when Sidney is not here?  I don’t deserve for things to be bearable without my son.  My mind fights with itself, wanting to offer me relief but not sure how, and then wanting me to be in a misery that is reflective of the death of one’s son.

Just focus on my breathing.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  And repeat the words I told Eli until I start to believe them.  Broken hearts heal.  They always leave a scar but they do get better.  With time and with love from friends and family they can heal.  I have to believe that.  Even as my mind fights both that Sidney is really gone, and that I should heal, that I should want to get better.  I have to focus on Eli, and making my words true for him.

Numbness and shattered dreams

This morning Eli asked, “You thought baby Sidney was going to come but then he didn’t get to come?”  “Yes, my love,” I said, pain wrenching in my gut.

The only way I can be at all functional, and we are talking minimal levels as it is, is if I focus on the moment.  I can’t think of tomorrow without experiencing horrendous waves of anxiety and pain.  This is a very different mindset than I am used to.  I can’t plan, I can’t imagine, I can’t daydream.  The thought of anything, not just the exams I need to grade today and tomorrow, but even something as basic as looking up something on the internet, overwhelms me.  And thinking about our family and the future is even worse.  so many unknowns, so many dreams torn away.  This makes me worried about the type of mother I will be for Eli.  I am trying to be present for him, moment to moment, but it is painful.  I smile and laugh-and it seems false.

I left the house this weekend, for something other than a therapy appointment or a walk, for the first time since Sidney’s death.  On Saturday, we drove out to Cunningham Falls State Park, and did a short walk in the rain to a waterfall.  For the first time in my life, I carved a name in the wood by the fall.  It was not deep and I know it won’t stay, but I wrote Sidney’s name and birth/death date and listened to the water dropping in the creek below.  Then on Sunday, we went to a birthday party for one of our neighbors.  It was at Chuck E. Cheese.  Loud, flashing lights, a lot of parents and babies.  I didn’t cry.  I felt numb.  Too much noise, too much stimulation, but I didn’t leave or ask to leave because where would I go?  There is no where to escape to, no where where this is better or different.  I have been crying a lot less.  Numb?  What is the point in crying?  It won’t change anything.  But my lack of crying also scares me.  It’s just a horrendous gnawing in my gut and chest.

The amount of time I have makes me angry, and is another knife in my chest.  I should not have time to write blog posts, to read novels, to sleep.  I should be nursing, and up around the clock, and busy.  We thought about watching a movie last night, and I got upset.  I don’t want to be able to do any of these things.  I should be busy with an infant.  Why am I not?  I want to scream and get angry but at whom?  If only I truly had faith in some higher order, that there was a bigger picture for things.  But I don’t.  Not just because of this, but in general, I have never really believed in God in that way.  At that same time, a small part of me wonders if this happened because I didn’t appreciate what I had, and was always stressed out, and not making time for the right things, and that this happened to change my perspective on the world.  But I mostly think that is bullshit, and that is not how things work.  If there were a god who intervened, why would he kill an innocent baby, just to teach me a lesson?

I keep thinking of Sidney’s picture, his face, wondering what type of child and person he would have been, and feeling intense sadness that we will never know.  I think he would have been mischievous and kind, and I long to have him as a present part of our family.  But he is not here.  I still don’t understand how this could be real.  And if I think about expanding our family, I get hit by another wave of intense pain and anxiety and retreat to the safety of trying to take things minute by  minute.  Adjusting to this new life, the realization that everything has shifted forever, is too much.

Oh, and I thought it wouldn’t happen, but it did.  And at meditation for grief, set up by a hospice organization, of all things.  I went, so out of place, me, three older women, and the two facilitators.  And one of the facilitators said to me, “When my dog died, it was really hard.  I know how you feel.” One of the facilitators…..

And the guilt is bad today.  thinking about how probably between thursday, when I lost part of my mucus plug, and had some early contractions, and tuesday, when I went into full labor and Sidney died, he didn’t move as much.  his heart was probably slowing, and he was dying inside of me, and I did nothing, went about my normal days, not knowing what was going on, and not protecting him. my one job.  a lot of moms on these babyloss boards lost their babies due to genetic problems, or placental problems, but maybe I lost Sidney slowly, because I didn’t know to go to the hospital earlier, because I was in a bad mood, and felt a hormonal shift, but didn’t do anything about it.  And know I have to live with that, and Sidney does not get to live because of that, and it is so painful to bear.  to know there could have been a different outcome.

Jumbled thoughts

I can’t breathe, a pit of despair in my stomach.

My baby is dead. My son is dead.

I alternate between waves of despair and then denial.  Everything is a trigger.  I fed Eli sweet potato this morning, and thought of how Sidney would never get to eat sweet potato, Eli’s first food.  Unsure of how I  will bear this loss.  Yet, I am bearing it because there is no alternative.

My mind keeps telling myself it can’t be real.  It does what it does whenever I am anxious about something.  It tells me, you didn’t do anything wrong, you’re worrying over nothing, this can’t have happened.  But it did happen.  How can my mind still be trying to tell me it didn’t?  I catch a glimpse of the condolence cards.  A really sweet one from my students.  You are an inspiration, it says, we are praying for you, it says.  From my department.  There are no words.  Lean on us if you need to.  But how?  and in what way?  When people ask what I need, I want to scream, “I need Sidney.”  But I say nothing, thank you.  When they say how are you, I want to scream, My baby is dead.  How do you think I am?  But I say, taking it one hour at a time, or struggling, or something a little more socially acceptable.

I looked at Sidney’s pictures last night.  It was the first time I had looked at them.  I wanted to convince my mind he was real, and that he was gone.  He looked less like Eli than I had remembered, a bit more like me.  And his face and lips were purple, an indication that life had already slipped from him, before it began.  In one though, it looks like a ‘normal’ newborn picture, a new baby sleeping on his stomach.  I wish I had held his hand, stroked his fingers, accepted the nurse’s offer to cut a piece of his hair. And now it is too late.  I will only remember kissing his soft perfect cheek, knowing he was gone already. I will never know what color his eyes were, what his personality would have been, how he would have fit into our family routine.  I ache for him, and want to cry out, but have not been crying as much.  My mind has gone on a retreat, insisting that this is not real.  Why don’t I cry?  what is wrong with me?

I got an email from the interim department chair.  It demands to know if I will teach in the fall or take a formal leave of absence for medical reasons.  The option that I would have had, to not be on leave but not be teaching, seems to have vanished, and I am not sure why.  He also asks how I plan on getting my grading in, and says my maternity leave was never filed because he thought the old chair had done it.   bullshit, I want to scream.  i didn’t even know of my pregnancy until you were already chair.  but what is the point in fighting, in getting angry.  not sure how to respond to him, how to plan for the future, when the future has been ripped from me.  angry that i have to deal with him at all.  i have gone out very little, beyond appointments with doctors and bereavement counselors and an occasional safe walk with a few people who have reached out.  when I went to meet with the bereavement counselor yesterday, i was kept waiting 30 minutes in a waiting room.  i wanted to scream, my anxiety mounting, listening to receptionists talking about their trip to new york, and thinking how i had canceled my trip to new  york when i lost my mucus plug, believing labor was imminent.  if i had gone in then, would sidney be alive?  the doctor said I didn’t have to come in but would it have mattered?  unproductive thinking because either way he is gone.  My son is dead. I wanted to get up and throw the magazines across the room, yell that they shouldn’t keep me waiting.  but what would that accomplish?  i could say I wish I were dead too, but that isn’t true.  I just want Sidney to be alive. I could say, commit me to a hospital, medicate me, help me, but it wouldn’t help.  that wouldn’t bring Sidney back.  Nothing will bring him back.  Nothing can change this, which makes everything seem pointless. People compare this to miscarriages, telling us they have had losses too.  their losses are real and painful, but they are not the same.  Sidney was full term and my body went into labor on its own.  He was big enough that he should have had no problem surviving.  but why didn’t he?  how could he not be alive?  with all the inventions in so-called modern medicine, how come they didn’t know this was happening, how come they couldn’t save him, how come they didn’t try? how come he is not here with me now?  how could this be real?

I have learned all these new terms, baby loss mamas, rainbow babies, sunshine kids, joining facebook groups I wish that I didn’t know about.  I don’t want to be part of this club.

The few people I have been seeing tell me to just get through each hour, to make sure I get out of bed, so what is wrong with this department chair, that he expects me to make big decisions right now?  where is his sympathy?  the rest of the world keeps going and expects me too as well.  but how can I?  my son is dead. I am angry that my body seems to be physically healing.  it is betraying me too.  how come it keeps working, functioning, when my heart is broken?  how does it not know or care?

A phone message from the rabbi, call him to talk.  Kind, but what will talking do? what will anything do?

 

Mornings are the hardest

When I first got home from the hospital, I thought that nights would be the biggest challenge.  How would I be able to lie in bed and sleep knowing that Sidney was no longer inside of me?  How would I not replay everything that had happened in my mind?  But nights oddly enough bring with them a peace that I have made it through another day.  It is mornings that are hardest.  I wake up with a horrible sense of dread in the pit of my stomach and the recognition that Sidney is not here with me.  That he is still gone, that my reality has not changed.  I lie in bed, unable to breathe, but knowing there are no alternatives.  I struggle to get out of bed, to play with Eli and respond to him with some level of sincerity as I die on the inside, fearing how I will get through another whole day.  I still have very bad waves of denial, unable to accept that this is my new reality, that Sidney is actually dead, and instead I keep thinking how things like this don’t really happen, shouldn’t really happen.  I imagine my contractions killing him, his heart slowly stopping.  I know such thinking is not productive and try to block these thoughts from my head, from my heart.  But today is Tuesday.  A day that I will forever hate.

Two weeks ago on Tuesday morning, I woke up to my alarm, thinking if I could just get through the day before going into labor, I’d be at a good point in my classes to stop early.  I went to school, I taught, and I told the staff that I would email them if I was heading to the hospital.  That evening, the contractions picked up, I sent out emails canceling my meetings, also aware I hadn’t felt Sidney move in a while.  I ate something sweet and maybe felt him move a little.  To this day, I will never be sure.  I think I felt his head bump gently against me. In hindsight, he may have been saying goodbye.  But now, all I can think of is that throughout the day Tuesday, he might have been slowly dying inside of me, his heart slowing down while I worried about teaching, while I thought let me just put Eli to bed before I go to the hospital, before everything changes.  but that ‘everything’ was bringing home a baby, being a family of three, not having my second son die, not becoming a ‘lost parent’ and learning about the world of grieving parents and stillborn babies.  It is not a world I want to know about, want to be a part of.  And I am ashamed to write about this, to expose my guilt to the world. But my guilt, or alternatively, it not being my fault, as doctors have insisted, won’t change anything.  It doesn’t matter.  Nothing matters because nothing will change the outcome.  And now I have to figure out how to get through each morning, through each Tuesday, to not have Sidney’s death be my figurative death too.  But for now, I write because I’ve been told writing will help. And I don’t know what else to do…..

Not any easier-changing time

Your loss is so painful for me.  Each day, I suppose the reality of your death is sinking in, but I am still in denial.  I still can’t believe you are gone.  I looked at facebook, knowing that it would be a mistake, and saw many baby pictures, and that an old friend had a baby boy the same day as you. How can this be real?  How come you don’t get to come home with me?  My heart is broken, every few minutes are hard to get through.  I am not sure what to do with my time, what to hold onto, what to believe in.  I am consumed with a desire to be pregnant again, not because it will replace you, but because I want to at least feel like I am taking steps to continue to grow my family.  But I can’t try again right now.  I just need to sit, knowing there is nothing I can do to change this, to make it better.  There is a big recall on frozen vegetables and fruit due to listeria.  Will it turn out that that is to blame for your heart stopping?  I go over everything I ate those last few days, but cannot find the answer.  And the autopsy results won’t change anything.  they won’t bring you back. but how can you be gone?  it was a healthy pregnancy, and i had no indication that you would be taken from me.  i am known as a worrier, and i think of that short ride to the hospital, still thinking everything would be fine even though i hadn’t felt you kick in a while.  and then when the nurse had to call in a doctor, i knew not to ask if that was a bad sign, but i still couldn’t believe the words, “I am sorry, but your baby has passed.” how could this be true?  how could you not be inside of me now, or nursing on my chest? how do i go back to living?  before, all joseph and i felt like we needed was more time, more time to get work done and play with eli, to get our house ready, to get things done, to enjoy each other’s company, and now time is my enemy. i listen to the clock ticking and am not sure how to fill my time.  i think about how with time, people say this will get easier, and i want the time to pass.  i think about how my body needs time to heal before it can get pregnant again, and i feel angry.  i think about the time it might take to grow and deliver a healthy living baby, and feel angry and impatient and scared that my body will not perform the way it needs to.  i think about how the gap between eli and any potential living sibling will be much larger than i wanted it to be, and that eli will not play and engage with any subsequent baby in the same way, and my heart breaks even more.  and i think about how time is against me, as any subsequent pregnancies i will be over 35. what does your loss mean?  in and of itself, your loss is so painful, so unbearable, but do i also have to give up a dream to have three living kids, do i have to give up my job, finding joy in playing with eli?  how much did i die in the moment i lost you?  i have never been good at being in the moment, not having a plan for the day, just an empty day, an expanse of time stretching wide out in front of me, but now, without you, that empty time is even scarier, when all i wanted was time to be there for you, taking care of you, watching you and eli play together. i told eli the other night that broken hearts do heal, but they leave a scar.  and i told him that two things helped them heal, time and love. i need to believe that, to hold on to it, but right now it is hard.  it is hard to imagine this getting easier, but also deeply upsetting to me when i read other websites and books that say that it is usually 18 mo to 2 years before the period of intense grief lessens. how can i bear these intense feelings for such a long time period?  is that supposed to be helpful or encouraging to me?  what am i supposed to do for two years of this?  again, time, you feel like my enemy.  if i only i could go back in time, and go to the hospital earlier, and deliver you healthy.  how can i accept that you might not be here because of me? that two weeks ago, everything was good and hopeful and exciting. that i went to a prenatal yoga class, thinking i would meet you any day.  but i will never get to know you, to know your personality, to see the boy you would become, and to have you as an active living part of our family.  i love you, forever, son and little brother, my beautiful baby Sidney Louis.

Remembering your kicks

I want to write this now, because it is painful for me to think about.  Your kicks.  You were so active, the dr’s commented on it a number of times.  And I thought about how you would be a jumper like your big brother.  During your ultrasounds, you would move around, and it was hard to get good pictures.  The very last ultrasound, they couldn’t actually get any pictures because of the movement.  You especially liked to kick while I was putting your brother to bed, and he would put his hand on my stomach and feel you moving inside. If you were here, these would be the stories that I would lovingly tell you.  I want to get to a point where such stories don’t bring me pain, but it is hard to imagine.  I loved having you inside and I didn’t appreciate you enough.  I am still in denial though so I wanted to get this out before it became too unbearable to even remember.