Seventeen months

Dearest Sidney,

I am so tired.  I am tired of not being able to watch you grow up.  I am tired of not being able to kiss you, and hear your little voice say ‘mama’.  I am tired because your little brother has decided to stop sleeping at night, and because your father is away in Seattle.  And because everyone seems to think life is okay now that we have your little brother. I am tired because people don’t understand–yet how they don’t understand, how they could think the death of a child is something you move on from, is beyond me.  I miss you so much my precious second son.  I want to know so much more about you than I know, than I will ever be able to know.

It was just the Jewish New Year, and the Day of Atonement.  I associate you with these fall holidays.  Two years ago, during the high holidays, you were growing inside of me.  One year ago, I was broken and grasping.  And now I returned to synagogue without you.  We sat in the quiet room, overlooking the bima.  Papa rocked Silas back and forth.  There were a few other families with toddlers in there too.  At one point, a little girl kept coming near you, watching you, and staring.  “Baby,” she would say. “Baby.”  “How old is she?” I finally asked.  Almost 1.5 years old, her mother said.  Just a few weeks older than you would have been.

The world is a scary place these days.  Tonight is the start of sukkot, a holiday that emphasizes community and fragility.  Will we have enough to get by?  How can we join together to prepare for the winter and help each other?  I have needed a community so much since I lost you.  On October 1st, I went to a memorial service in your memory, and the memory of other babies who died too soon.  Familiar faces, familiar heartbreak.  It was a place to say your name, to see your name written.  Towards the end, they call each baby’s name, and the baby’s parents and other family members go up and receive a rose and a little angel statue.  With your last name starting with T, you were near the end.  Having an A last name, I am used to being near the beginning.  As I waited for your name, I thought about how I am going to have to get used to my children’s names being call near the end.  You were the first of my sons whose name I waited to hear, who helped me have this simple realization (that I am having trouble articulating).  But it won’t ever be your name I am waiting to hear at graduation.   This is my chance to hear your name.

So as I write this, I whisper your name out loud.  Sidney Louis. I remind the world that you existed, and that I will love you always and forever.  And I will.

I miss you my precious second baby boy,

Love,

Mama

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Missing

I have been missing Sidney more intensely these past few days.  He should be here.  He should be toddling around, playing with his brothers.  He should be more visible, so that people stop asking Eli what it is like to be a brother, because it will be so obvious that he already was a brother.  Wednesday night was the start of the Jewish new year, the year 5778.  Because we go by the Jewish calendar, it always falls on slightly different dates.  Rosh Hashana two years ago, I remember sitting around and talking to friends, unaware that Sidney was already growing inside of me, but desperately wanting to be pregnant.  Rosh Hashana, one year ago, still in the raw early days of trauma and grief.  I went to temple, in a fog, unable to make eye contact with most people, terrified to have to interact.  Sitting in services, the rabbi pauses to read the names of all the babies born into the community.  He gets to the last names starting with ‘T’.  No mention of Sidney.  Skips over him.  Even though he cried with us at the hospital.  Even though he presided over the funeral.  Even though he sat with us in those early moments of desperate raw grief and shock.  Later in the afternoon, went to do tashlich, where you say you are sorry and throw your ‘sins’ in the form of bread into the water as you reflect on the changes you want to make in the new year.  Desperately sobbing for allowing Sidney to die, for not knowing he needed me, for not being able to save him.  And now it is Rosh Hashana again.  I sit in temple this year and everyone smiles and asks about Silas.  I stand in the back, wearing him in the moby, and rock when he gets fussy, the singing and prayers lulling him back to sleep.  This time when the rabbi reads the list of babies born in the last year, he includes Silas, acknowledged and welcomed into the community.  At dinner for Rosh Hashanah, talking about Silas’ birth, I mention that he came out after 1.5 pushes, and she says, yes, but that’s because it is your second.  He’s actually my third, I think.  And you know that.  You met me for the first time just a week before Sidney died and was born.  How quickly people forget (or pretend to forget), now that Silas is here.  It’s assumed that I am fine.  That I am happy.  And in some ways, I am happy.  I love Silas so completely.  But I mourn for Sidney.  The other day, my husband pointed out that if Sidney had lived, he would have had some time with my mother in law.  Silas won’t.  She knew about him, but she died before he was born.  For over a year, I went to the cemetery to visit Sidney every week–I think I literally only missed once or twice.  But lately, I have been missing more weeks, struggling to find the time, as I juggle parenting Eli and Silas, and trying to work at night, once they are sleeping.  My little Sidney.  I am sorry. I miss you.  I don’t want to move on from you, to be pushed forward by life.  I need you.  And I can’t have you.

I don’t know what I will do for child care with Silas when I go back to work full time.  Eli’s nanny has been with us for over 3 years now.  But she is not sure she wants to work full time again (she is only in the afternoons now).  And I did not enroll Silas in the daycare at Eli’s school because I couldn’t future plan.  They only have one day available right now, not sure if that will change before January.  There is a waitlist there anyway, but the director seemed to think she might be able to work something out.  So many moving parts.  Eli is pre-K this year.  It is the only year that he and Silas can be at the school together.  Sidney would have had two years.  Sending Silas to a different day care seems like a big deal.  I want them to see each other on the playground, at shabbat.  I want lots of things that can’t happen.  We had friends over for Rosh Hashana dinner last night.  There were 7 children under age 5.  Eli was the oldest, Silas was the youngest.  There should have been eight.  Missing.  Sidney will always be missing.  And my heart will always be broken.  Even when it is filled with love for Eli and Silas.  Even when I can recognize the positive in my life.  The missing doesn’t go away.

Sixteen months

Dearest Sidney,

It has been sixteen months since your birthday, and I continue to miss you everyday.  Today, a friend visited who I haven’t seen since the beginning of my pregnancy with you.  She last stayed with us when your papa was out of town, when we still had not told many people I was pregnant with you.  I told her though, because the night she stayed was the first night that I threw up from my pregnancy with you.  She should be visiting with all three of my boys, my preschooler, my toddler and my infant.

In the past week, I have seen two babies who are nearly the exact age you would have been.  Yesterday, at the playground, there was a toddler watching me as I played with your brothers.  I asked her mother how old she was, and her mother said she was about to be sixteen months.  And then today, we went to a labor day barbecue and there was another sixteen month old there as well.  16-month-olds are so old, walking, saying a few words, so actively part of the world.  I never really got to imagining you as a 16-month old.  I had imagined those first few months of you as an infant, but that’s it, so seeing these little people really drove home how big you would have been, how big you should have been.

The barbecue we were at was hosted by a family who we met through Eli’s school.  They have a little boy that was in his class, and then had another boy two months after I had you.  So now they have a little toddler–and it’s hard not to be jealous, even though I don’t want their baby.  I want you.

I had to activate the phone I was using during my pregnancy with you.  So of course, I have been looking through old pictures and text messages, remembering the certainty with which I spoke about your arrival, the excitement I had from you growing inside of me.  I miss you, my beautiful boy.  I can say it again and again, but it will never make sense to me that you are not here.  I will never stop loving and missing you.

love,

Mama

Old phone, painful memories, and other random thoughts.

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.

Fifteen months

Dear Sidney,

Today, you would be 15 months old.  I love you and I miss you.  In some ways, I think I miss you even more since I had your little brother.  Tonight, we went to a PJ Shabbat service.  I haven’t been in about a year.  I only went once after you died–it was so hard, to see all the little babies crawling around.  I stared blankly and tried to avoid making eye contact with people.  When someone said ‘how have you been?’ I could barely answer.  So I stopped going.  But your older brother wanted to go tonight, so we went.  We didn’t really recognize anyone–I think because it’s summer and a lot of people are away.  No one there knew about you.  So they asked how old your little brother was, and congratulated me.  One woman said, “that’s a great gap.  To have a four year old and a new baby.”  I didn’t have the energy to correct her in front of Eli and all the other little children.  To say, “this is the gap between Eli and Silas, but we have another brother in between.”  She should know better than to make a comment like that to a stranger.

I had stopped working on the tree mosaic that I started after you died.  Then the woman whose house I was working at moved away.  She was back in town to back up some final things and called me to come over and get my mosaic.  I am happy to have it in our home, and plan on finishing it soon.  When she saw me with your little brother, she said, “I am so glad to see you’ve moved on.”  Sidney, I want you to know I most certainly have not moved on.  I am so happy to have your little brother, but that does not take away my longing for you.  That does not change how much I love you, how much my heart aches for you, and how much I mourn not ever getting to know more about you.  As I said, in some ways, my longing  for you has increased.  As I compare Silas to Eli when he was a baby, I think that I never really got to do that with you.  Would you have been a good nurser?  A good sleeper?  Who would you have ended up looking like?  What color were your eyes, and what color would they become?  We talk about Silas this way, and I want to be able to talk about you too.  I really really want to be able to kiss your cheeks, and feel your warm body curled up in my arms, listen to your little baby sounds, and the expressions you make in your sleep, watch as you begin to explore the world around you.  I am so sorry that we don’t get to experience that together.  I am so so sorry.

I read an article recently that said that your cells stay inside of me after I give birth–I had read that before–but it also mentioned that your cells could end up in my future children.  So your cells live on in Silas.  You are a part of him, as much as you are a part of me, and our whole family.

You and Silas look a lot alike.  More like each other than like Eli.  You have the same lips and chin.  boys

I love you my dear second son. With all my heart.

Love,

Mama

Sadness

I am feeling sad tonight, more sad than I have felt in a while.  I am not sure what is triggering it. I am tired, which tends to make everything worse.  My husband goes back to work Monday, and I worry that I will feel isolated.  I don’t have a strong community here yet but I don’t think I am in a place to go to mommy and me type activities.  In Seattle, when we had Eli, I made some amazing friends from the parent-baby group that the hospital organized.  I have so many positive memories, taking walks, commiserating, panicking, laughing, and sharing an incredible experience together as we navigated our first adventures of parenting.  Of course, some of the moms I was closest to had little boys around the time Sidney was born…..

I think no matter what, it would have been different to go to parent-baby groups here, mostly because I am not a first time mom, I am probably older than a lot of the new moms here being in my 30s, and also, everyone in Baltimore who I meet is married to someone else from Baltimore, and lives on the same street as all of their siblings, parents, and cousins (I am only kind of exaggerating) so they wouldn’t need a parent-baby group in the same way.  But now there is the added complication of not relating to ‘normal’ moms.  I can picture it now.  We all sit around.  We introduce ourselves and our babies.  Then we go around and express our concerns.  Maybe I say I am afraid of SIDS, and the other moms say that SIDS is rare, to which I respond, well, that means nothing to me now that my second son died for no known reason during labor, which is also rare.  Or I say, I am having trouble knowing how to mother all of my sons, two living, and one dead, and everyone just stares at me.  It doesn’t quite feel right.  I took Eli and Silas to the playground together today.  There were some other  moms at the park with their children, and we made small talk.  I did okay-no triggering conversations–but I realized I haven’t talked to random moms who I don’t know about parenting/children in a very long time.  They assumed a common ground, asking how old Silas was and congratulating me on getting out of the house.  I don’t think they realize the disconnect that I feel.

Tonight, I sat nursing Silas, and watching a movie that I saw a long time ago, called In America, not to be mistaken with Coming to America.  When I first saw the movie, I really liked it, and cried at various points in the film.  This second time, scenes took on new meanings.  The film centers on an Irish family with two daughters that moves to NYC after their son Frankie dies at around age 5.  The father cannot ‘get over’ Frankie’s death.  He says he can’t feel, he can’t cry.  And one of the daughters at one point is convinced her father is not really her father, because he has changed so much, not playing with them, and just being different.  It all hit home.  And then the mother gets pregnant again, and it’s a risky pregnancy, and there is concern that either the new baby or the mom will die, but neither do.  The film facilitated me crying, which I think was good for me, since I haven’t cried since Silas was born.  I don’t know why it’s been hard to cry lately.  The film is also semi-autobiographical, although the real Frankie died at age 10.  Beyond that, I am not sure of the details.

I can also tell I am mildly depressed because all I want to do is eat.  I am tired, and I am craving sweets, and not feeling great about my post-pregnancy body.  I am in a slump.  How do I get into a routine?  How do I do all of this?

I miss Sidney.

Fourteen months

Dear Sidney,

I miss you.  Today you would be 14 months old.  I would have taken you with your brothers to the neighborhood celebration for the fourth of July.  We would have marched around the block in the parade, eaten watermelon, and then played at the playground.  We would have run into neighbors who knew you, and would have delighted in seeing you.  I would have had all of my three boys with me.

Papa’s aunt is visiting.  She arrived with three presents, and explained to Eli who they were each for.  “The one in the red is for you, Eli.” she said, “The one in the yellow is for Silas, and the one in white is for Sidney.”  Eli responded, “But baby Sidney is dead.”  Papa’s aunt said, “I know.  I have a stone for him to leave at the cemetery.  It has a special story behind it.  I will explain it later.”  I started to get teary eyed.  Papa’s aunt is one of the few people who fully integrates you into our family.  When she wrote us a letter about visiting, she wrote, “I would love to play with Eli , visit with Sidney and see his marker, and help with Silas.”  For her, you are just another one of my sons, which clearly you are, but some people have trouble recognizing that.

I have a fake enemy in the neighborhood.  She is not really my enemy, but I am jealous of her.  She lives down the street (although she lives in a huge beautiful house and we rent a small not so beautiful town home).  She is the type of person I would have been friends with before your death/birth (I think, given that I have never actually spoken to her).  She was pregnant when I was pregnant with you–she had her daughter a few months before I had you.  A few months ago, I noticed she was pregnant again.  So when I  was walking a few days ago with your baby brother, another neighbor stopped to look at him.  I told her that he was born June 13th, and she said neighbor X had had a boy June 12th.  So now she has both of her children there with her, and I don’t get to have you.  At some point, I might still introduce myself, because it would be nice to have friends with babies in the neighborhood, but I wish I had been able to introduce myself to her after I’d had you. Alas, it was not to be.  It is still so hard.

Sidney Louis, I want to kiss your cheek, cuddle you in my arms and breathe your sweet smell in.  But instead, I visit you at the cemetery, write letters to you that you’ll never get, and replay a nightmare that still seems surreal over and over again in my head.

I love you, always and forever.

Love,

Mama