Last week, my phone broke suddenly. I am not sure what happened, but it had frozen at the start screen (and is still frozen…tech support said there was nothing they could do). It happened when we were on a short vacation in the Poconos, and so I spent four days without a phone, which was mostly okay, since I have never been much of a phone person. But it also means that I lost two weeks of photos, which for some reason, did not get backed up, photos of moments that I can never get back. And I am not quite ready to accept that I may have to spend hundreds of dollars on a new phone, especially since I have only had this one since December. So I decided to re-activate an older phone, the phone that I had when Sidney died. I called AT&T, and they said they could not re-activate my old SIM card, that I would have to go to the store to get a new one, but assured me it would only take a minute and that I wouldn’t have to wait in line. So on Monday night, I went to the store with Silas. It took me a while to even find anyone who worked there, and when I did, the worker asked for my name and information. I explained that I just needed a new SIM card, and AT&T had assured me it was something they could just do quickly. The worker responded, “well, you have to wait in line. Everyone else has been waiting and it would not be fair if I let you go ahead.” I repeated what AT&T had said, and he said in an even louder voice. “Yes, it would just take a minute. But it is not fair to other customers.” Of course, by this time Silas is fussing, so when the worker informed me that I could either wait the hour he estimated it would take to help the 7 customers in front of me, or come back the next day, I stormed out. Choosing the perfect revenge, I went next door to Trader Joe’s and binge ate some chocolate covered cherries. And then returned home, exhausted, sick to my stomach, and with no phone. Silas cried hysterically the whole way home. It was horrible. The following morning I went to a different AT&T, was helped quickly and efficiently, and was able to turn on my old phone.
I didn’t expect that activating an old phone would hit me so hard. I looked at some of the messages that I had sent, some of the old pictures. And it remained me of those first months when my grief was so raw, when each second seemed like an eternity. And then I decided to read the old text messages between me and our doula, messages I had not looked at since they were written and sent. I read each message as I described my early contractions, how they had stopped, a calm weekend, not being sure when Sidney would make his arrival, a message that I was going to the hospital, a message that I had not felt the baby move in a while, and then nothing. I stopped messaging, having been delivered the worst news of my life, “I am sorry. But your baby has passed. Do you understand what I am saying?”
I keep meeting parents on the playground who have children three years apart, the age gap between Eli and Sidney. It will never be okay that Sidney is not here. I filled out a memorial message to be included about Sidney for the approaching high holidays.
Eli talks about Sidney at random times. I received a video of Eli’s group at camp. They were learning how to cradle lacrosse balls, and the counselor says, hold it like it’s a baby, and then asked all the children to move forward. Eli didn’t go, and stayed against the wall. I asked him why, and he said that he had been sad when the counselor said baby because it made him think of how Baby Sidney is dead. He also periodically tells me that Silas is still breathing, or that I had three babies, Eli, who was the first, and got to come home, baby Sidney who died, and Silas, who got to come home, and tonight he said, “I think that Silas will live until he dies at a a very old age.”
I am participating in an online writing boot camp for academics. We were placed into small groups of four assistant professors and a tenured academic coach. We had our first phone call to all meet and talk about how the program would work. Because of confidentiality, I won’t go into detail about who the other participants are and just focus on my experience. We had to introduce ourselves, and talk a little about our publishing obstacles and why we were doing the program. I said that I had not been writing on a regular basis, and was very behind, because I had been on emergency family leave because of the sudden death of my son, and basically felt really bad about myself. Then I explained that I had not been as productive as I had hoped to because of some anxiety, and that there had been a number of things interfering with writing. First year, I was getting used to teaching and the university. Second year, I was nauseated and tired, pregnant with Sidney. Third, year, I was grieving his death, and then dealing with pregnancy after loss. And now I have Silas, who I am not ready to put into full time care, but who makes writing articles challenging to do. Dead silence. No one had anything to say. The coach said they were sorry for my loss, and that sounded hard, and then we moved on. How could I be open without mentioning Sidney? Do they understand that his death is not just an obstacle to my productivity? I felt more drained than I had imagined after our one hour phone conversation, and now am writing this blog instead of working on the self-assessment that I have to complete as part of my contract renewal.
Contract renewal. I have to complete it by Sept. 15th. Write what I have done in my first two years (which for me has been three), where I am going, and why they should renew my contract with confidence that I will be able to get tenure, to show that I have contributed significantly to my field. this is hard to do, hard to frame what I have done, to know how to explain what I have not done, and why, that I could not travel to high altitude areas because of pregnancy, that I didn’t travel to present at conferences because of grief. To say with certainty what I plan on doing in the next few years. Planning when sudden death has made the uncertainty of life all the more clear.
In order to actually get my materials prepared by Sept 15th, I think I need some help with Silas. But I am also struggling with leaving him so soon. Eli’s babysitter will help out a bit with him for the next two weeks, and I will nurse him whenever he gets hungry, rather than pumping, which I hate but know I should be doing for my inevitable return to work. But I don’t want to, and thinking about it is stressful….. and I have a migraine, and have not met my writing goals of the day. That is all for now.