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.

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6 thoughts on “Broken: Sidney was a real human

  1. everything you said is spot on. We are in a very similar timeline with us losing Cora six weeks ago. I too imagined all he cute posts I was going to do and announcing her healthy arrival. I too think of the last movements…how the last movements I felt were intense and probably her way of saying “help!!!” and I just continued to sleep. I find moments of hope in the day and then moments of such intense pain and anger. I’m so sorry work is being insensitive. No one knows what this is like unless they’ve gone through it and it’s so infuriating. I’m thinking of your family and especially Sidney.

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    1. Thanks. I have been thinking of you and Cora as well. I am glad you’ve been able to find some moments of hope. I think it will probably useful for me to establish some sort of routine for the summer, but I don’t know quite what that means. Are you working? Do you have a new ‘routine’? Thinking of you all.

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      1. I go back to work in early August. Everyone tells me it’ll be good to go back to work and have my mind on other things for majority of the day. Then again they don’t know what this is like…to deliver your baby knowing that they are already gone. I’m so sick of the textbook advice but know that no one knows what to say. As of right now I prefer to be at home (people visiting are ok and i sometimes laugh and smile!) but going outside is torture bc I don’t know what will upset me on any given day. It’s all just terrible. I will keep you posted on work…maybe it’ll be good? I can only hope!

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  2. There’s a poem called “My Child Did Exist.” It speaks to the need to share things about your child and needing the acknowledgement that they were here and left an everlasting imprint on your life. In a few days, it will be 5 months since Quinn has passed. I struggle with the desire to share her picture and to talk about her as well. Sharing her picture on my blog not that long ago was the first time I really let the outside world in to see what we walk through. I am so sorry to hear your place of employment has been so utterly unsupportive. It is hard when you feel like no one around you even makes an attempt to empathize with you. Thinking of you!!

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    1. I just looked up the poem. It captures how I am feeling well, because it also has that element of people not getting it/turning away. I’ve realized that the way I talk about ‘dead babies’ can be jarring for some people, that they might want to use gentler words, which I get, but I also feel like I need to use those real words in part so that I accept/acknowledge the depth of our loss. Thinking of you and Quinn.

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