After Sidney was born still, I mostly stopped singing to Eli. It was too painful. I had imagined Sidney already getting some comfort from the lullabies, having heard them from my womb–and it was Eli’s bedtime that he was most active, kicking the most, as my two babies rested together. But last night, he asked me to sing him some songs, and I felt like I couldn’t say no. Of course, all of the songs that I sing him are sad, and are about time going on. He asked me to start with the Circle Game. I sang it to him, and he interrupted me after the line, “We can’t return. We can only look behind from where we came.” He wanted to know why the person couldn’t go home. I explained that it wasn’t about going home, but that we couldn’t go back in time, so that I couldn’t be a little girl again, and he couldn’t be a baby again. And I thought to myself, I can’t go back to my pre-May 3rd life, when everything made sense, and Sidney was alive inside of me. And of course, the song is about someone getting older, and my precious Sidney will never grow older. The other song Eli wanted to hear was Cats in the Cradle–of course another tear jerker, about time, and growing older, missing your whole child’s life because you are too busy working. Eli wanted me to sing this song over and over again, which is what I used to do when I was putting him to sleep. Really, since the time he was just a few months old, we would sing to him none-stop, sometimes the same songs over and over, and sometimes a mix. He used to know most of the lyrics to these songs, but that he seems to have forgotten a lot of them made it clear to me how little I have been singing to him over these past 14.5 weeks, and also how time has a really different meaning in the life of a 3.5 year old. In general, there have been moments when he seems confused about the permanency of Sidney’s death, telling me that he wants the baby to share his room, or talking about what he will do when we bring a baby home. At least on some level, he gets that Sidney is dead, but I don’t know that he really grasps it. But as I’ve written before, how can he, when I still have moments when I think that this can’t be real?
I also realized I haven’t really been listening to too much music in general, I think because of its power to evoke emotions. We had played ‘Lean on me’ a few times in our first weeks home, and I had started crying when I heard ‘Leaving on a jet plane,’ another song I sang to Eli (apparently, I mostly sing sad songs). So today, when I was driving, I put on the radio to a country station. I didn’t grow up listening to country music, but after having worked in South Carolina for six weeks one summer, I started listening to it more, connecting to the story lines of many of the songs, and the way the singers really seem to sing about their feelings. Kenny Chesney’s ‘Save it for a rainy day’ was playing, about heart break, but a different kind, and I thought if only I could actually follow the lines from he song, and tuck away my heartbreak and save it for a rainy day. “There’ll be plenty of time for what if’s and why’s, and how’d I let you get away, but the lying in bed all stuck in my head, is just gonna have to wait.” For me, grief doesn’t seem to work this way. I think other people are more able to compartmentalize. But I can’t. I just started reading a book called ‘Finding hope when a child dies,’ about how other cultures grieve the loss of a child. I haven’t gotten beyond the first few pages, but I am interested to see whether other cultures acknowledge their losses more, if they grieve communally, if they express themselves more, and what beliefs they have about what happens to babies who die–I will share as I get further into the book.
Today, my former adviser and some people who I went to grad school with sent us a tree, with a tag that says ‘In loving memory of Sidney Louis.’ For now, we put it in a potting plant, since we rent the house we are in. But I like the thought of moving with it, putting it in the ground, and watching our Magnolia tree grow, providing shade and shelter to others in the future. (Knowing my husband and I, we will probably kill it somehow. I used to have a plant I bought at ikea. It was one of those plants that basically lives on its own with no maintenance. He took care of it when I went to Egypt for the summer, and when i came home, it was dead. He claimed that the hottest day ever had occurred–we will try to avoid this with our Magnolia tree).
I realized how much getting things with Sidney’s name means to me. Memorials, keepsakes, tokens, anything that indicates he existed. A fellow baby loss mom took pictures of our children’s names written on stones, and it touched my heart to see the picture flash across my screen. On a few walks I have taken, I have also carved Sidney’s name with my keys into some wood, and I have never been someone to do this in the past, never felt a need to ‘tag’ things, to show that I was there. But Sidney’s written name is one of the only ways I can share him with the world (The camera on my phone broke at the hospital, so I can’t take pictures–pictures on this blog were taken by my husband).
But for the most part, people are silent. Not only to they not send tokens with Sidney’s name on him, but they don’t contact us at all. The rational part gets that they don’t know what to say, and that it’s painful, but their silence hurts too. And it bothers me even more the few people who reach out but then don’t follow through, who ask what they can do, but ignore us when we respond. Seriously?! I am broken, and I get that you have young children and your own lives but I am struggling here so don’t offer if you don’t mean it. It shouldn’t be on me to follow-up to those families with a preschooler and a baby and said, you know how you said can we visit, and my husband answered yes and gave some dates…well, it’s been three months and we haven’t seen you. And the woman who keeps asking me to take a walk and then the day we are supposed to walk, canceling because her work day is busy. Again, rational me gets it, but irrational me would rather just not make plans in the first place. Don’t they know how hard I have to emotionally prep myself to do anything?
A few other things, in no particular order.
I got a massage today. It was nice. The masseuse, who knows what happened, said that my shoulders, neck and chest are among the tightest she’s ever seen, that I am hunching my shoulders as a way to protect my heart. This makes sense.
We got four new chairs for our dining table. Eli asked why no one was sitting on the fourth one.
We got invited to dessert at this families’ home–their daughter died 14 years ago, at a few weeks old, and they have a living 13 and 18 year old. It was nice to be welcomed in, and I like the idea of knowing families/people of different ages. They said we could stop by whenever we want, leave Eli if we want to go out. It’s hard to imagine taking them up on this, but I would like to have a community like this.
I saw a friend from grad school who was visiting the area from the Philippines, where he lives and works. We took a walk in the woods, and it was nice to be around someone who has known me for a while, for nine years. I don’t think I have realized how much it takes it’s toll to be grieving in an entirely new community, to literally only be around people who we’ve known for a couple of years or less. I know I’ve mentioned my lack of community before, but being around people who know me as more than a baby loss parent, and even more than just a parent, was nice. I also was able to talk about work a little bit without having a panic attack–I didn’t feel so alone when I was walking with a friend in the woods who got it.
I guess that’s it for now. Here is a picture of the tree (not the best quality–we also couldn’t photograph the memorial tag because it is basically like a mirror and kept reflecting, although it made for a kind of artsy photo with Sidney’s name and our faces reflecting in it.)