Five months

Dearest Sidney,

It has been five months since I held you in my arms.  There are no words to describe how much my heart aches for you.  I am very aware of all I am missing, of all the things I will never get to see you do.  At five months, your personality would already be emerging so strongly.   I try not to think about it too much, as it consistently breaks my heart.  This Sunday, we went to a memorial service for you and all the other babies that died too soon.  I cried when they read your name, and I went up to receive a red rose in your memory.  I will never get to hear your name called to honor you, at your graduation or for your accomplishments, to take attendance or for any other reason than in your memory.  After the service, we each got a butterfly to release.  My butterfly crept out of its little envelope and then stayed for a moment. Maybe you know I miss you.  Maybe you know I need hope.  That evening, we were invited to a big dinner for Rosh Hashana.  We have only been once before to this house, just a week before you died, when we went for Passover.  Such different circumstances this time.  I missed you.  I miss you always.    You would have felt comfortable in the joy and chaos of families eating and celebrating together.

Rosh Hashana services were very hard without you.  It is the Jewish new year, a time to reflect on the past year, the changes we want to make to have a better year, to ask forgiveness, not just of God, but of the people that we have wronged.  As I thought of my year, all I could think about was you. Last Rosh Hashana, you had just come into existence, and I was hopeful.  I beg you to forgive me, to know how much I love you, to know I would have done anything in my power to keep you safe.  I am so sorry that I didn’t know you needed me, that I didn’t know you were distressed.  You have to know that I love you with all of my heart and wanted you here with all of my heart.  As we pray, we say over and over again, that on Rosh Hashana, our fates are written, on Yom Kippur, they are sealed, but that with prayer, charity and gratitude we can change those fates.  It is hard not to feel like it is my fault that you are gone, that I didn’t repent or reflect enough, and so you were taken from me.  But I read a different interpretation of that prayer this year, that I think makes a little more sense.  It did not say we could change our fates with prayer and charity, but that we could lessen the pain and isolation of whatever it was that we were experiencing through this small acts.  With human connection, then, maybe I will learn to live without you.  Life and death, love and grief are two sides of the same coin.  But it is still hard to pray, hard to sing over and over about wanting to be part of the book of life, when you are not here with us, when I don’t believe in a higher power that listens to individual supplications, when I literally cannot make sense or really grasp your death. The torah portions are also hard ones this week–first we hear about the binding of Isaac and that one of the many reasons we sound the shofar blast this holiday is to remember Sarah’s six cries of pain when she found out that Abraham had been willing to sacrifice Isaac, and that her soul died in those moments.  And then the second story we hear is about Channah, and how she longed for a child and was taunted for her infertility.   True or not,  so many of these stories are stories about the desire for family, human connection, and figuring out how to have hope or survive with what you have.  In the middle of the service, the rabbi read the names of all the children who were born this past year.  He did not include your name.  I did not hear your cries, coos or happy babbling throughout the service, like I did of the other babies.  I cried when I stood up to say kadish for you.

After services, we went home and ate challah, apples and honey for a sweet new year.  We did not have a big meal, and invite friends like we did last year.  What should be a happy family holiday was a bit too solemn.  But after, we went and took a walk.  It was a crisp fall day, and your brother ran excitedly down the wooden trail.  We found a spot by the water, and dropped bread crumbs in, symbolic of the sins we are throwing away, the behaviors we want to change.  Eli dropped one in for being mean to his babysitter, for kicking me, for doing bad listening, and then he dropped one in for you, he said for Baby Sidney.  I told him it wasn’t his fault, and he said he knows, that he just wanted to throw bread in the water for you, because he was sorry you weren’t there, he was thinking of you, and he missed you.  We all miss you.  Eli and I found sparkling stones from the trail to bring to your grave.  I wanted us to all be together as best as I knew how on this family holiday so we went to the cemetery after. It was a hard day.

After we put Eli to bed, I spent time with your father, and went to sleep.  Eli woke up in the middle of the night, a bark like a seal, the sound of croup.  We tried to bring him into the bathroom and run the steamy shower, but he was getting too upset.  He kept saying, “my body is not working.  I need to go to the hospital” and then he would gasp for air.  So we got into the car, and drove to the hospital in the middle of the night, just like we did the day you were born, five months ago.  We went to the emergency room though this time, and the doctors were able to help your brother.  They gave him epinephrine to open up his throat more, then steroids, and then apple juice, and he left happy and very wide awake for four am.  But as I held him in the hospital bed, I thought of the last time I was there.  I looked at the charts, heard the beeping, watched them monitor his oxygen, and grieved that we were not able to do that with you, that your outcome was so different.

Sidney Louis.  You are forever my second child, my second son.  I will try to live life for you, to make you proud that I am your mother.  I am trying.  But it is just so hard.

I love you always, and forever, my little Sidney Louis.

Love,

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6 thoughts on “Five months

  1. I found this in a random article by a woman called Helen Plotkin, not related to baby loss: Putting aside the issues of fate and free will, however, there is another part of our experience that finds perfect expression in the Book of Life metaphor. You know that in reality there is only one life story that is yours. Though it has yet to unfold, and whether or not it is preordained, the story of “what will have happened” is real. I sit here today and I wonder: What will my life be like one year, one decade, from now? When I turn the next page, there may be a tragedy that makes everything I strive for today seem worthless. Or maybe there will be a wonderful surprise that makes my striving irrelevant. There will be exactly one future, and it is impossible to grasp. How should I live right now, given this uncertainty?

    Of course, the future is always out of our hands. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are no different from other times in that way. But like many Jewish holidays they are a training ground for living all year. For 10 days we are in intensive training on this point: Something will happen and we don’t know what. We are in a plot, and we don’t get to write it. We would very much like to be in control of our own lives, but the fact is we are not. The great joys and sorrows will happen largely without our consent.

    What difference, then, can teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah possibly make?

    Even if they don’t change the plot of your story, they do change your character. That is, they make you a more worthwhile character in your own story. It’s not the plot that determines whether a work of literature is great or not so great. When you read a novel, you don’t appreciate the characters on the basis of whether they live long lives with no loss. What you appreciate is the depth and richness of the characters’ lives. Teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah can change your story into one worth reading. They can introduce the forms of thought and expression that make your story eloquent. They can make you part of a well-written novel, one about good characters grappling with serious issues.

    Teshuvah—repentence, response, return—is the ability to move, to change course, to come back to center, to reconcile.

    Tefillah—prayer—is the ability to let the world take your breath away, to hold onto and to articulate gratitude, hope, and awe.

    Tzedakah—righteousness—is the ability to pursue justice and to act from a fountain of generosity.

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  2. This is a beautiful letter to Sidney, it simply breaks my heart but warms it too. Your love for your precious son shines through your words. Thinking of you and your little family. So glad Eli is well. I resonate with your thoughts at the emergency unit whenever we go in with my living son, thoughts of his sister are never far away and that fateful day we had to unwillingly say goodbye. Thank you for sharing this. Much light, Zia’s mum

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