Lonely (and still purposeless)

I’ve realized that I am lonely. On Friday, I wanted to have people we could go and socialize with, but we had no plans, and no one we knew to call who might be around at the last minute.  It’s a conundrum really because my anxiety about uncontrolled group settings where we don’t know anyone or know what to expect makes it hard for me to go out and do something in public, like listen to live music and eat dinner outside, etc.  I am afraid that people will congratulate me on the birth of my son, will think I am still pregnant because of my stomach fat (Eli has delighted in constantly reminding me that I have jiggly fat all over my body, and playing with it), or that something will trigger an emotional breakdown.  All the ways we’d normally engage in conversation with strangers (asking about family/children, or even saying how is your summer going etc) are challenging questions that I don’t know how to answer.  So making new friends seems near impossible, and even getting out of the house has its own challenges.  But staying inside alone is not good for any of us, and the social isolation, depression and anxiety can build.  Of course, it does not help that my husband is introverted by nature, so I am normally the one who makes social plans for us, or rallies us to go do something.  But since I am so scared of everything, I am not in a place to do this.

We had friends drive up from DC to spend the day with us on Saturday.  They have a daughter the same age as Eli, so it was nice for him to have someone to play with, and us to have people to talk with.  Especially as we sat around eating dinner, and the children were a bit more mellow, some of the talking was even fun.  Then on Sunday, two of my friends stopped by.  The first was a woman who comes in to town every so often since her family lives there, and she just infused the room with positive energy, which was good for all of us . And then the second was a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while, who was also in town visiting other friends and family.  She came over with her 16 month old, which was also nice, and was the first time I’d held a baby (granted he’s not too small) and also saw a baby nursing around me, which was manageable.  And it was nice to watch Eli have to play with a younger child, and have to learn to negotiate and share, and I realized how much I wished we had a big community and close friends here, so that even if we couldn’t give Eli siblings, life and laughter right now, he’d get it from our fake family.  But we don’t have any of this, and that makes this so much harder.  I am especially worried about this coming weekend.  Three days.  We literally have no plans.  So do I email a few families we have socialized with before, and see what they are doing?  They have to be families that are okay with me staring off into space sometimes, with my crying sometimes, with my pain, who know how to just be with people in grief, but who can laugh with us, live, at the same time.  This feels like a lot to expect of people we only know peripherally. And many people are busy anyway, busy with their own lives and plans and don’t feel a need to expand their existing social circles to include one new family, especially a grieving one (most people who we’ve met are from here, married to someone else from here, very established in their lives). But what is the alternative?  To be alone in the house for three days?  This is also a horrible option.  Do we go to the local 4th of July festival, where I will run into people whose name I do not know, but who know we were expecting, where I feel visible and drained, and where my lack of desire to talk to anyone who doesn’t know what happened makes it especially unlikely that even going to these things will help us begin to form a community? I’m not sure what we will end up doing–I suppose it will in large part depend on what Eli wants to do, but it’s hard, and it makes me sad.  This whole thing makes me sad.

And I still haven’t started researching/writing/volunteering, or even mosaic-ing.  I want to feel proud of something, like I am accomplishing something and not just caught in this horrible limbo of waiting for time to pass.  Baby steps, friends say.  I took Eli to the dentist this morning, saw a pregnant hygienist and didn’t cry, dentist asked how we were, and i didn’t blurt out, horrible, my second son is dead.  So maybe those are good enough baby steps?  It sure doesn’t feel ‘good enough’.  I need to think of a small goal for the week.  I am not sure yet what it will be, since it’s hard to have goals when you are too scared/anxious/broken to know what you are ultimately working towards, but we will see.

I still haven’t been ready to write our whole story in the about us section, but I did add a picture of baby Sidney, for those who would like to see.

Broken: Sidney was a real human

I don’t really have clever titles for most of these posts, since they are mostly stream of conscious right now, and encompass so many scattered emotions that they are hard to neatly summarize with one title.  It has been seven and a half weeks since my little Sidney was still born, and my longing for him is very intense.  The past few days, my arms have been physically aching to hold him, to nuzzle my face into his warm soft skin and inhale his newborn smell, but I never did that, and now will never get to.  This breaks my heart.  I continue to have a physical ache in my chest for him, different from the normal tightness I sometimes had related to my generalized anxiety before Sidney’s death.  I did finally make an appointment to see my primary care physician but I feel like she will mostly dismiss my questions about the physical manifestations of my grief, or tell me to see a psychiatrist.  I wish there were cardiologists that specialized in how the heart is physically affected by emotions.  I think my obsession with understanding the physical manifestations of my grief has to do with a desire to do something about them.  I guess on some level, if only intellectually, I have accepted that I have to experience the emotions of grief, but shouldn’t I be able to do something about the physical feelings that come along with them?

I took a walk with a friend yesterday, and right as we set off, she checked her email to check in on someone who had had her baby last night.  I felt like I had been punched in the gut.  I only peripherally know this woman, and I knew that she was due, but it hit me hard.  Why do other people get to have their babies, and I don’t?  And then when I dropped Eli off at school this morning, there was a notice taped to the door, announcing that another one of his classmate’s had become a big brother.  I had imagined that announcement going up for Eli awhile ago, when I last saw a sign like that, and was already pregnant.  And now he won’t get that.  I had even literally imagined posting pictures on facebook of me, holding Sidney, with Eli by our side in the hospital.  And now I won’t get to do that.  Eli never came to the hospital, never saw Sidney alive.  I haven’t announced anything about Sidney’s death on facebook, or posted anything since May 3rd, the day my world cracked.  I have been debating if and when I will post, and I think I eventually will, but only when I am ready to write the details of what happened, and to replay the day in my mind.  Even though I have been writing these blog posts, I have not yet been ready to make the ‘about’ page, or make a page with Sidney’s story. It is too hard for me right now.

I have also become obsessed with the idea of sharing Sidney’s picture, even though I have only in actuality shown it to a few people.  I didn’t want to go to West Virginia without it, so I scanned the five pictures we have into the computer, and then also sent them to my parents, my in-laws, my sister and two friends who had asked.  When I called my father for father’s day, I asked him if he had looked at the pictures, and he said yes, that it was hard, because it makes Sidney human.  His comments did not offend me, but I think that is why I have such a desire to share them.  Sidney was a real baby.  He had a full head of hair, and weighed over six pounds.  He was real, is real, to me, and I need him to be real to other people.  But even people who love me, and are being supportive, don’t have a mental image of him.  I need them to see him, to know that he was a baby, to convince myself that he wasn’t a figment of my imagination.  And also to legitimate my grief. I finally spoke on the phone to the interim department chair.  He said, “I wasn’t sure if you would be moving forward, but after person X visited you, it seems clear you are not.” Ummm, you mean I’m not ready to just resume my normal pre-Sidney’s death life after just a few weeks (at time of person X’s visit)?  That is correct, and I won’t ever be the same again either.  I’m not being over dramatic, but the death of one’s son (and probably death in general) change people.  I’m not the same person that I was on the morning of May 3rd–I don’t know how I am different yet, other that I feel miserable and not hopeful and excited. But I imagine it will also more permanently affect me, although as I said, I don’t know how yet. But I guess I feel like if I showed the department chair Sidney’s picture, he would be forced to recognize that I lost a real baby, and real son, and wouldn’t seem so surprised that I am not ready to move forward (I did tell him I wanted to stop the tenure clock, which means in the fall, I will work 60%, with research and service, but not teach, and have another year to prove my academic worth. I will write more about this when I am ready to process it).

On Monday night, I started hyperventilating for the first time since Sidney’s death. We had just gotten back from West Virginia, and I had put Eli to bed.  My husband and I were watching the Martian, the movie where Matt Damon gets left on Mars.  At one point, his helmet cracks, and he is gasping for oxygen.  I lost it, sobbing hysterically, as I imagined Sidney gasping for oxygen inside of me.  The hysterically crying morphed into hyperventilation, until my husband made me look into eyes and take deep breathes with him.  I am convinced that Sidney died slowly inside of me, running out of oxygen and not kicking much over the weekend, but not actually dying until sometime Tuesday.  He had been such a kicker throughout the pregnancy.  And now I can’t remember the last time that he actively kicked.  How can I not remember?  Why didn’t I act when he wasn’t as active over the weekend?  WHY? WHY? WHY?  Thinking of how long his death may have taken is extremely painful to me, upsetting, and I might never know the details of what happened.  We are still waiting for results from pathology, results which I am not optimistic we will ever be given unless we continuously call to follow-up.  The OB’s office could at least make this one part easy, by checking for us, and actually calling when they are done.  But the doctor at my six-week follow up clearly had not even really looked until he got into the office, because he thought he had all the autopsy results, and informed us that the cause of death was unknown, since Sidney was fine chromosomally.  It was only when I asked about infections and the placenta that he even realized there were no results listed about the placenta.  He said he didn’t know what happened, and only after prodding, he called pathology and found out that they were still in the middle of analyzing it.  He told us he would call us when they finished, but I am skeptical that he will even check/know they have finished, especially since we don’t have a follow-up appointment scheduled.

I need to find an activity, not research/stress related, but something I can do.  I have been thinking I would like to make a mosaic on a table–someone suggested buying old plates at good will and then smashing them to use as pieces of the mosaic, so I may try this, but actually getting out of the house and doing anything continues to be really challenging for me.  It is part of that visibility/invisibility thing, where I feel like everyone is watching me, and wondering where my baby is, but I also feel invisible–no one sees Sidney or knows of my grief.  WE ARE NOT MEANT TO GRIEVE ALONE. But our society is not set up in a way that encourages processing grief in public, that allows or facilitates supporting grief.  It probably even seems crazy to many that I am considering post a picture of my dead son on the internet.  But to me he is beautiful.

Ashamed

I read that some women feel ashamed after a stillbirth, that it makes them feel like less of a woman.  My first reaction was this did not apply to me.  But now, from our hotel room in West Virginia, I realize that I have been feeling ashamed.  I feel like everyone is looking at me, wondering why it looks like I just gave birth to a baby but they don’t see me with a baby, wondering why I only have one child, who is already 3 1/3, and don’t have more kids, wondering why I am zoned out and unable to focus, not smiling, not paying attention, and most of all, why I don’t have more kids.  Why I only have one child, when many people my age have two or three.  Does she not want them, they might wonder.  “No!” I would scream, “I do want more kids.”  Is it that she can’t handle them, or is devoting too much attention to her first, feels too tired from just one, or can’t afford to have another?  What is wrong with her?  I imagine them thinking.  I want to scream out, I do want more, I was going to have another.  He was growing healthfully inside of me, and then suddenly his heart stopped.  And I want more! I long for more! I ache for more! And most importantly, I long for Sidney! I know feelings of shame are not productive, and that I shouldn’t be worrying about what other people think. I  know that I should be focusing on grieving Sidney and caring for myself, Eli and my husband.  Other people’s thoughts are inconsequential.  But I guess this is where I am.  It is hard to be in West Virginia, around a lot of other people, with their multiple children, and aspects of the lives I want.  The place we are staying is a ‘resort’, although it is in a state park in West Virginia, and actually rustic enough in a good way.  But it is hard to be here, trapped, feeling like everyone is watching me, with no one who knows what happened, no outlets, not even much time for myself, since we don’t have help with Eli, and I barely get any time to myself (I am writing this while my husband gives Eli a bath).  I want to tell everyone.  I want them to all know, and understand, so that they can be sympathetic and not judge me (although realistically most of them are probably not really paying much attention to me at all).  It is still draining though.  Aching heart, aching body.  Grieving for me manifests itself as stress (and heart ache), and it is taking its toll on my body.  My neck, shoulders and chest have been in perpetual pain for six weeks now.  I will try to make an appointment with my primary care physician, but I doubt they will be able to do much to stop the physical drainingness of grief (it of course doesn’t help for me to think that this may be taking years off my life).

Since some people have inquired, I did have my six week follow-up appointment, where they told us they would give us autopsy results.  But when we got there, they only had preliminary and partial results.  They told us that chromosomally, Sidney was perfect.  This means that there was no reason he should have died.  Eli thinks his heart stopped working, but his heart was just fine.  It was something in my body that failed him, and my inability to react quickly enough and go in. They don’t know yet what happened since they haven’t analyzed the placenta but it could have been an infection or it could have been something wrong with the placenta, like a clot of some sort.  So I need to somehow accept that there could have been a different outcome, if I had gone in earlier, Sidney might have been alive, that I failed him.  I don’t know how to forgive myself for that.

The doctor asked me if I am experiencing periodic bouts of weepiness….Umm, does he mean do I still cry?  Yes.  Does he mean do I still cry hysterically sometimes?  Yes.  I don’t have melancholia, walking around weeping in a long white nightgown.  My son died.  I am grieving.  What kind of question/check box is the doctor trying to fill?  What would he be doing if his child had died during labor?  I don’t like doctors, not just because of this, but I don’t like people who think everyone fits into a box, that things are black and white, and don’t pay attention to connections between emotions and the body or some of the grays.  Many stillbirths are unexplained, but the doctors don’t ask questions or collect data on the moments leading up to the birth, that I lost my mucus plug, that I had contractions that stopped, and then a few days passed, and I don’t know if I felt Sidney move much in those days.  These details, if they were all collected in a data base, might be important.  Or they might not.  But I still want to be asked.  I want my story to matter.  I want Sidney’s story to matter.

Eli asked me if he was still a big brother.  I said yes, that he had loved Sidney, felt him kicked, talked to him and sang to him, and imagined all the things they would do together, and how he would share his toys and play with him.  So yes.  I told my husband that I said this, and he said that he would have said it was complicated.  I asked but wouldn’t you think you were still a father?  If I didn’t have Eli, he said, I don’t know, probably not.  This hurts me.  I am 100% sure that I would still be a mother, even if I didn’t have Eli.  I am Sidney’s mother.  If my husband can’t recognize that, than a whole lot of other people won’t recognize that either, and that hurts me.  I read a quote about how mothers protect their children when they are alive, and protect their children’s memories once they are dead.  This partially resonates with me, except that I failed to protect Sidney when he was inside of me, which makes it especially important to protect his memory.

Eli told me that he doesn’t want me to have more kids.  This hurts me, that he has somehow become disillusioned with the idea of being a big brother, that something he was so excited about, has somehow become something he no longer wants.

Yes, I tell the doctor.  My heart is still broken.  I still have my ‘periodic bouts of weepiness’.

All the things you shouldn’t say….

So it happened.  Pretty much all in one day, I had people say all things that I had heard from other blogs/still birth groups that people might say but still hadn’t experienced.  First, I ran into my  neighbor, who I actually like very much, and can tell really feels sad over what happened.  She repeated a number of times that there were no words, and to reach out if I needed her, and it seems genuine. I told her that the doctors don’t know what happened, that there was no cord around Sidney’s neck, and that  we would get autopsy results on Wed.  And then she said, well this may be nature’s way.  Nature’s way?  And asked if it had looked like anything was wrong with him.  I actually didn’t get too upset, just said no, that he had looked perfect.  But nature’s way?  I guess it is better than hearing that it was god’s way.  But even if it turns out that the autopsy reveals some chromosomal abnormality, I will not feel better about my son’s death, it will not feel okay or easier.  I don’t like the implications of ‘nature’s way’, almost seems Darwinian to me, like he wasn’t one of the fittest, so he didn’t survive. and then the unspoken implication of this, the ‘therefore, i should just accept that he is gone.’

Then I got up the courage/energy to take Eli to a birthday party for friends of his from school.  I figured that everyone who was there that I knew knew what happened, since the school sent an email out to his class.  But then a woman came up to me, someone I don’t know well, but have made small talk with, and she looked at me and my belly, and then said, “Congratulations.”  I knew that a moment like this was bound to happen, but I hadn’t experienced one yet nor mentally prepared.  I murmured, actually, we lost him.  my eyes filled with tears, and I turned away.  (not sure how I feel about the use of the word ‘lost’ yet, since I know where he is, but he is ‘lost’ to me. I will elaborate on this later once I have decided how I feel about this word choice).  She came up to me later, and apologized, and I said that she hadn’t done anything wrong.  She then proceeded to tell me about some early miscarriages she had, and some friends of hers who also had experienced losses.  She said that the main thing that had helped them was trying again as soon as possible (check–this is along the lines of ‘you can always have another’ although i guess phrased a little better).  and then she said, “at least you have Eli.  It is harder for people who have to come home to an empty house.” Again, this may be true.  I am extremely grateful that I have Eli, and love him so much.  But is this supposed to make me feel better, the well, you have some good things in your life so you shouldn’t feel so bad type of thinking? Again, I actually don’t dislike this woman, and she didn’t quite push her comments to the extremes that other moms have experienced, but it was still a lot.

After the party, we decided to eat at a restaurant for dinner.  Nearly all the places near us are triggers for me, places that are very linked to my life, and then by implication, my pregnancy, so I didn’t really want to go anywhere that we went when pregnant, in part because I didn’t want people to ask me about the baby. So we picked a sushi restaurant.  And it was fine in the sense that no one mentioned pregnancy…but it took so long.  and I realized that I have become extremely impatient in the past six weeks.  They eventually apologized, since we basically got our food an hour after we ordered, but it was really hard for me to just sit and wait, and of course, I had trouble not snapping at Eli, who was also hungry and having trouble waiting, understandable for a preschooler.  This is not the first time since Sidney’s death when my impatience and anxiety have acted up over having to wait, even given how little I am going out into the real world.  I already wrote about waiting for the grief counselor and my great desire to hurl magazines across the waiting room.  On Friday, I was at the Whole Foods with a friend (first time in a supermarket since Sidney’s death) and tried to order from the deli counter.  It was taking a long time, and I just couldn’t wait any longer, so she waited for me.  I have been trying to figure out why it makes me so anxious, the waiting.  I think because I was afraid I would somehow scream, that some little thing, like someone going in front of me, would be the final straw, and I would blow up, or someone would try to make small talk and I wouldn’t be able to escape.  I can’t quite figure out what it is.  And I think also because I am tired of waiting.  I waited 9 months to meet my son, and even longer than that to start trying for him, only to have him taken away.  And I am tired of waiting.  And angry about waiting.  And know that no matter how long I wait, even if the waiting gets me a living baby, and a sibling for Eli, it won’t bring me back Sidney.  I went to the support group meeting on Thursday.  It meets once a month at a local hospital, although not the one that I delivered Sidney at.  It was only me and two couples, one who had lost their son at 31 weeks in January, and one who had lost their son at 39 weeks two years ago and now has a one year old.  It was a weird dynamic, they basically asked me questions and gave me advice.  The whole meeting was focused on me, since my grief was the newest, and it made me a little uncomfortable.  But the facilitator asked me what I was anxious about, and I said that I was anxious about how I could live my whole life without Sidney.  And that’s true.  there are no points to get through really where things will change.  I am coming up with little points, like the autopsy this Wed, but it will never get better really.  There is no, just get through the next three months, and you will be fine, or even get through the next year and you will be fine.  I have been counting my life in weeks for sometime now, measuring the past year in the weeks of Sidney’s pregnancy, and now measuring time in the weeks since his death.  I imagine that will change at some point, but I am not sure when.

I am scared for the autopsy results.  On Wed, I go to my six-week followup check up.  They will also go over the results.  I am afraid for what they will say–they will confirm one of the many horrifying scenarios that I have been replaying in my head for the past six weeks.  I know that Sidney will be dead either way, but I guess with any one scenario, so far, I have been able to say, well that didn’t really happen, you don’t know that that is what happened, but after the autopsy, I will know what happened.  Or maybe I won’t.  There is a chance the results will be inconclusive.  The results may also affect when we can try again, and how we can try again, and that is also scary for me.  So I know that the autopsy won’t make things better, but it could make things worse.  that’s where I am at, at this point. Can’t think of much to make this situation better but can think of a whole lot to make everything worse.

My husband wants us to work on a joint project in the evenings once our older son is asleep.  I think this is a good idea but we can’t think of anything.  We want it to be relaxing, involved but not stressful.  Any suggestions?

Rejected: Looking for meaning

I am bored and restless today.  I have been reading a novel all day and want to get up, do something, be around people, but whom, and what should I do?  It is the first day since Sidney’s death that I have felt like this.  It feeds into bigger questions of what I want to be doing with my time, and my life.  What purpose do I want to serve?

On Sunday morning, one of my journal articles that I had submitted a while ago got rejected.  Even writing that sentence gives me a tightness in my stomach, and brings back all the fears and anxieties I have had about my academic career since long before we lost Sidney.  On the one hand, I felt angry at myself for even caring about the article rejection, since it is so so so much less important than the death of my beautiful baby boy.  but it just seemed symbolic of my inability to do anything, and also of wanting to feel like i have meaning, to feel both like i am contributing to the world in a positive way, and also to myself feel fulfilled.  but i don’t have the energy right now or the calmness of mind to figure out how to re-craft this article, to think about who i want my audience to be or how I want to convey the research I’ve done, and also fear that it is not just about whether I want to go back to my job, but even if I can keep it.  All the attempts to expand my research that were half done before Sidney’s birth/death seem like failures, rather than the beginning of projects, and I don’t know what I want to be doing, what voice I want to write in, and how to have my writing be meaningful, and it will take time to figure all that out.  I know that I am good at teaching, and good at working with children, but how do I convey their stories in ways that are meaningful to them, to policy, and also allow me to continue to have my job?  I am not sure how to even begin given how anxious even writing about this makes me.  I will stop my tenure clock for a year but I am not sure what the next first steps are? I am not really in a place to begin to answer these questions, but sitting on my bed all day reading novels and grief blogs is also not what I want to be exclusively doing, and does not seem to be particularly beneficial to me.  I think I would like to slowly start working with kids, but I am not sure how to set that up, and if I should start in a volunteer capacity, or make it about research.  If I mention the research up front, then everything gets more complicated.  And I have to go back to my notebook, the interview I had the last Monday Sidney was alive, when his heart already may have been slowing, and revisit a moment when I felt so hopeful, good research lead and conversation, and the excitement that I felt for the pending birth of my second son, a birth I could feel was right around the corner.  Then Tuesday evening, as the contractions got closer together, even after I already knew I had felt him moving less, I wrote emails to a bunch of people, canceling meetings and saying I was off to the hospital.  Little did I know that as I wrote those emails which seemed so important to send, my son may have already died, or may have been dying inside of me.

How do I make my time and life meaningful?

And I am very anxious about the autopsy results.  I think we will get them a week from today at my six week follow up appointment, but I am not even sure.  Everything seems uncertain.  And what do I do in the meantime? I went for a jog/walk yesterday.  I hadn’t been jogging since near the beginning of my pregnancy, and it felt good.  I will go again this afternoon, but what else?  I have never been very good at having unstructured time, and it is especially hard now.  I think of Sidney and what should have been, but feel too panicked to try to figure out what can still be.  I try to continue to take it one hour at a time, but how do I do that, when I don’t know what I am working towards?

I have read some interesting novels in the past 5 weeks, a few historical fiction, which are especially appealing to me right now because they bring me back to a time period in which infant loss was common, in which the agonizing pain I feel was still so agonizing but at least was shared and understood by women throughout the community.  I also read another novel about the orphan trains, when orphans and immigrant children who were not actually orphans were sent to the midwest and fostered to families in exchange for labor.  it was good, engaging, but at the end, a 90 year old woman gets reuninted with her daughter who had been given up for adoption and I wept because I will not have that reunion with my precious Sidney.

It is clear I need some activities and to slowly re-enter the world but how, what steps should I take, and to what end?

Random thoughts: My husband and I are both second children.  Sidney was our second son.  With both Eli and Sidney I went to the hospital on a Tuesday, delivered them on a Wed.  Of course, the results were very different.  But I love them both and ache for Sidney to be here with us.  Last night, Eli asked if Sidney’s crib would have been in his room, and I said that yes, after a few months, it would have been.  And Eli said, I wanted that.  I know, my sweetheart, I said.  I wanted that too.  Then he asked if he could go under the ground to play with Sidney’s body.  I said no, that his body was broken, and that it wouldn’t be fun to play with, and that if he were under the ground, then he couldn’t play with me or daddy or his friends.  Then he asked if lightning would hurt Sidney’s body, and I explained that his body was safe and protected in a casket.  This seemed to satisfy him somewhat. He asked me wrap my arms around him until he fell asleep.  Every few minutes, he would ask, “are you still here,  momma?”  “Yes, my baby.”  I responded.  “I am still here. It’s okay” as much to reassure him as to reassure myself.

The novelty has worn off

The novelty of this thing called grief has worn off.  I am overcome by despair and a feeling that I can’t do this.  I have been crying again a lot more, hysterically sobbing over the loss of Sidney and all the things we will never get to do. During my acupuncture session, the acupuncturist put her hands on my head in a soothing way, a very maternal way, and I burst into tears, because I will never get to comfort Sidney.  I will never get to rock him to sleep, soothe him when he is upset, have him feel my arms around him, and feel safe, and me feeling complete in my ability to protect him, mother him.  Because I couldn’t protect him. I didn’t protect him.  He died and now I can’t mother him. And I did not hold him for long enough after the birth.  I kissed his face but I did not hold his little hand, wrap his fingers around mine, and now I never can.  I physically ache to have him in my arms, to examine every aspect of his perfect body, to cover him with kisses, and I can’t.  There is nothing I can do to fix this, and that is incredibly hard to accept right now. I am overcome by the immensity of knowing this loss is with me forever.  I read quotes or blog posts that say that grief never goes away, that you just learn to carry it. I don’t want to learn to carry this.  I don’t want to be the mother of a dead son, a perfect little boy who I want(ed) so fully.

Very slowly, I have started doing more activities with Eli outside of the house.  We went to dinner at the house of one of his school mates, and it was okay, although it felt strange to be out, laughing, doing something normal, when Sidney is dead.  But for Eli’s sake, it felt important.  I came home drained.  My son is still dead.

Our nanny asked for an exorbitant raise.  But I can’t deal with her leaving at this time, deserting Eli, deserting us, so I feel we have no choice.  She was supposed to be taking care of two children, getting more hours for that too.  I would have gladly given her raise in those circumstances.  But nothing is as it should be.  I still feel like this is not my life, like I am watching a character in a novel, or a very tragic movie.  But this is not a novel or a movie but my life.  And this is a horrible situation. I wish that everyone in the world would read about grief, would understand that this will stay with me forever, and acknowledge and support me in this journey.  As much as I am refusing to accept that this is now who I am, I am also afraid that people will rush  me along, not understand the depth and intensity of the grief over losing a baby, and not accept that this has changed me forever, that this is now who I am. That this will never go away. But then again, I have not accepted this either.

I would like to frame Sidney’s picture and put it up on my bedside table.  My husband does not want to have his picture out.  He thinks it is morbid, keeps saying that it is a picture of a dead baby, not Sidney when he was alive.  This is true.  But he does not look ‘dead’ in the picture, and it is all I have.  Hiding him in a drawer makes me feel like we are ashamed of him, that we don’t want anyone to acknowledge him or remember him, and this hurts me. And if I say I am going to visit Sidney at the cemetery, my husband says that I am going to visit Sidney’s body.  Technically, he is correct, but to me, they are one and the same, and I don’t want to have to make that differentiation. This morning, I gave Eli a friendship bracelet that he could keep on, and look at if he was missing us (he has been having separation anxiety), while he was at school.  It has three colors, and I explained that each color was either Eli, my husband or me.  But I was thinking to myself, baby Sidney does not get a color.  I did not say anything out loud, though.  But then Eli asked me, ‘which part is for baby Sidney?’ and I was so touched he had asked.  I told him that the knot in the bracelet, the place where the three colors came together, was for Sidney, and he seemed to accept that answer.  Then, as we drove to school, he asked me, “Is Sidney growing up in the cemetery?” “No,” I said.  “When bodies die, they stop growing.  He will stay a baby forever.  That is why I am sad.  We won’t get to know him.”  Eli asked, “Is he a stranger?” I thought about it for a minute.  “No,” I said.  “we got to know him a little when he was growing inside of me.  Remember when you would feel him kick, and you would talk to him, and tell him you would help take care of him, and protect him if he was scared that a wolf would try to get him? Well, we got to know him a little bit.  We just won’t get to know the person he would have become, and that is a very very sad thing.”

I am so exhausted from this.  A friend just told me that I should try not to have any expectations of how I will feel or should feel, and just take things moment by moment.  This makes sense to me, but I don’t know how to do it, how to not feel overwhelmed that this is how I am going to feel for a long long time.  How do I not wonder when I will start feeling better, or different, or entering some sort of new phase?  When I say that they novelty of this has worn off, I mean that I have tried most of the recommended things at this point: therapy, taking walks, making sure I get up in the morning, going to support groups, and I feel like I need a new plan now.  But I am not ready to make a plan, and I don’t know what that plan will be.  Once I have done something for the first time since Sidney’s death, the novelty of trying to do it, being anxious about it, and then doing it, wears off, and then I still feel devastated, having to adapt to this new reality.  Someone suggested I go to a mikva, to mark the end of 30 days of grief, not because it means it is time to move on, but just because maybe it will mark the end of one phase in grief for me, and entering a new phase.  I have never been to the mikva, but I like the idea of this. I like the idea of being part of a ritual that has been going on for hundreds of years, I think because it reminds me that women have been losing children for hundreds of years, and I am part of something bigger.  However, I do not know what this new phase that I am entering into will be, and it feels like each phase is as painful as the next, if they can even be called phases.

Tonight, I told my  husband and Eli that I will go with them to the monthly children’s shabbat at the temple.  I am afraid this will be very hard for me.  It will be a big setting, with lots of young children, and babies, some people who know what happened, many who do not but who may remember that I was pregnant, and a less controlled, more overwhelming situation than I have been in since Sidney’s death. But one of the hardest parts is that even if it’s hard and if it’s bad, and if it sucks, there is nowhere that I can go where it will be better, where Sidney will be alive, where this is not my reality, and that is what’s heartbreaking for me.

 

 

 

I won’t ever…

I won’t ever get to put Sidney to sleep, rocking him until he feels safe and drifts off.  I won’t ever get to comfort him when he cries.  I won’t ever get to hear his laugh, or hear him call me mama.  I won’t ever get to nurse him, or watch him play with Eli.  I won’t get to do any of the things that I longed to do as his mother. And nothing can ever change that.  And it breaks my heart. I have been crying a lot today. I do not want to be a woman marked by baby loss.  I don’t want to join this club that I did not know existed.