Bittersweet Tuesdays

It was a late Tuesday evening that I went to the hospital in labor and found out Sidney had died.  For months (and sometimes still), I would replay that last Tuesday in my mind, trying to figure out the moment that something had gone wrong, thinking about how that was the last day of my life when things were ‘normal’, when I didn’t really comprehend that babies could just die, when I took Sidney’s live birth as a given.  After he died, every week when Tuesday rolled around, I would think, I have made it one more week.

Now, 60 weeks later, Tuesdays will be used to measure something else.  Two Tuesdays ago, June 13th, I gave birth to my third son, Silas Gabriel, named in memory of Sidney and his grandmother (who died at the end of November).  Tuesdays, for the time being, will now measure how many weeks old Silas is.  And of course, that is a joyful thing.  But as I watch my precious third son, it is hard not to think about how much I have lost, how much I won’t experience with Sidney, and how many people assume that my tragedy is over, now that I have another living child.  And while I am most certainly overjoyed that Silas is here, Sidney is still dead, and that is something that will never just be ‘over.’ So many people have told Eli, “now you are a big brother” or “you’ve been a big brother for two weeks.”  Sometimes I correct them but mostly I just think in my head, “actually, you’ve been a big brother for over a year. Now you are just a big brother to a live baby.”

Pregnancy with Silas was a roller coaster of emotions that cannot easily be summed up in one blog post.  Needless to say, however, my pregnancy was very visible, which meant that people, most often strangers, were constantly asking me when I was due or if this was my first.  I usually just tried to politely end the conversation, by saying no, but some would push more, asking how many kids I had.  So I would say, well, I have a four year old at home and my son died in labor last May.  They would gasp, get sad or quiet, and either say, “well, I know this will work out.” (um, really, you do?) or proceed to tell me their life story, and how they suffered, a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, or any number of struggles themselves.

I mostly felt like I had good medical attention from doctors, at least for this country, but it is/was hard not to think that if I had received this level of monitoring with Sidney, he would still be alive.  I had a few mild ‘problems’, such as high fluid levels towards the end of pregnancy. When asking for what might cause it, my OB (who happens to be head of MFM) said, well, he may have just peed, or he could have a birth defect….um, don’t say that to me.  of course, I went crazy with that one for a while.  And then she commented that he would be a really big baby, and would have an abnormally large stomach, so I decided that I must have late onset gestational diabetes and be slating my son for a life being predisposed to stroke, diabetes or obesity.  And of course, there was the agony over deciding how to deliver.  Did I want a c-section, which would feel more under my control, or a v-bac, which would have easier recovery for me?  How should I weigh the different risks?  V-bac was considered overall safer for me/easier except for one SMALL thing, that the risk of death to the baby was higher because of uterine rupture.  I ended up having mild contractions start on their own, and when I was 4 cm dilated, the OB decided she would induce me to speed things along, and I just went with that.  On June 13th, I arrived at the hospital at 5 am, was admitted, and put on the monitor.  I ended up getting an epidural very early compared to my pregnancies with Eli and Sidney.  It helped me feel more distant from the birth, almost like I wasn’t even in labor.  I literally felt no pain–I could feel the contractions but they were not unpleasant.  The OB would not administer more than 5 mgs (?) of pitocin, and after just a bit she lowered me down to 3, since my contractions were so strong.  At around 1, she checked on me and told me I was fully dilated and that it was time to push.  It felt surreal–in 1.5 pushes, Silas was out.  He was quiet, and barely cried, which terrified me, but the OB insured me he was alive, and placed him as quickly as she could in my arms.  His stomach was not abnormally large.  He weighed 6 lbs, 8 ozs, and did not need the 3 month clothes she told me I should bring for my ‘giant’ baby.

And now we are home.  He is breastfeeding well, and so far somewhat of an easy nature, but I still think in terms of ‘ifs’.  If he gets to be one month old, if we make it to the end of the summer, etc.  I have trouble sleeping, watching him breathe in his bassinet next to our bed.  He also spits up a lot, and I get nervous he will choke on his spit up.  I have been telling myself that SIDS becomes a lot more common once the baby is one month old, so I have two more weeks of respite.  I may end up getting one of those breathing monitors that has an alarm, even though I know that pediatricians don’t recommend them.

I have somehow distanced myself again from Sidney’s death, and am somehow back in denial.  I am not in denial about Sidney himself.  He is such a present part of our lives, and is mentioned everyday, ranging from Eli explaining to our dinner guest that we always light a candle in memory of baby Sidney, to me kissing his picture good night every evening.  But in terms of his actual death, I have had to block it out.  It is too horrifying, too traumatic, something I can’t really believe that I survived.  Once in a while, my heart stops in my chest, and I imagine my husband calling my  mom to tell her that Sidney is dead, less than a half hour after I called her to tell her we were on the way to the hospital.  I imagine her heart stopping, her reaction, but I can’t repicture or replay my reactions to learning Sidney was dead.  It is just too traumatic.  But that said, Silas’ birth does not end my longing for Sidney.  A family member wrote to me, “I just knew everything would work out.”  But actually, everything didn’t work out (not to mention that there is no way you knew that).  While I am overjoyed to have Silas, and am so in love with him already, Sidney forever changed me, and will always be a part of our family, both present and missing.  I need to figure out a way to honor him, without neglecting Silas, who I will always have new pictures of, new stories about, when I don’t have them about his older brother (who is older but also never got to be as old as Silas now is).

I love all three of my sons, and will go back to measuring time by my bittersweet Tuesdays.

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Thirteen months

Dearest Sidney,

Today you would be 13 months old.  I have been thinking about how long I will write you monthly letters.  I have decided at least until you are two years old, and then who knows.  But that is how long we took monthly pictures of Eli, and how long we had planned to take monthly pictures of you.  So for now, that is how long I will write you these letters.

I miss you.  The weather is warm here, and people are spending more time outside.  Parks are full, families stroll down the streets in the evenings, pushing their children in strollers, laughing and talking, and pools are starting to open.  We filled out the registration to use our pool, listing family members.  I wanted to list you, but you aren’t here to need a pool pass (why they insist on infants/babies having pool passes actually makes little sense to me in the first place).  I want you to be here, delighting as you splash in the kiddie pool or go in the bigger pool with me or papa.

I am done teaching for the semester, and wrapping up a few projects that I am doing with some children in Baltimore schools.  In some ways, it feels like the city is falling apart.  The six year olds were telling me they had to run inside because someone had been shooting a gun outside their school.  So young, and guns are already something they are slowly getting used to.

And an eight month old was killed at a local daycare.  A worker called an ambulance and said the baby had stopped breathing.  It appeared to be SIDS.  But then they reviewed videos from the day care, and have now charged the worker with murder.  It’s horrible.  Since your death, I have heard so many tales of other babies and young children’s deaths.  I absorb them, collect them, think of them.  I am a different person than I was 13 months ago, before I really ‘knew’ that babies could die.  I am sorry that I wasn’t able to keep you alive on earth, but I keep you alive in our memories and our stories.  Eli talks about you, and we all miss you.

You will always be my dear second son.

I love you, Sidney Louis.

Love,
Mama

To Sidney, on his first birthday

Dearest Sidney,

What words can I say to honor you on this day?  Nothing seems adequate.  I literally have no idea how I made it a whole year without you here with me.  We all miss you so much.  In honor of the first anniversary of your birth, I asked friends and family to do something kind in your memory.  You have touched so many people.  Donations have been made to many different children’s organizations, planned parenthood, the Ronald McDonald House, and organizations to help other grieving mothers.  People sent us stones from around the country, and even some from other parts of the world, so that we would know they were thinking of you.  Candles have been lit, plants have been planted, stars have been adopted, and I hope that you know that your short life is causing so many good deeds.

But I would trade it all away in a second if I could have you back here with me, if I could be kissing your cheek, and singing Happy Birthday to you, as you stared in fascination at the candle I would have  placed in whatever low-sugar ‘cupcake’ like substance I had made you.  Instead, papa and I took the day off of work, and went on a hike.  I wanted to feel connected to nature, to be close to you.  We walked in the woods, away from the stresses and business of day-to-day life.  We saw so many butterflies, perhaps a sign from you that you are still with me, still nearby.  (I have enclosed a picture of butterflies mating, I think, although I am not quite sure how to interpret that sign).  20170504_122125.jpgAt one point, we reached a small overlook, and papa started crying.  He said, “I wish I could share this with Sidney.”  I hope that you know that I think of you constantly, and wish you were with us in all that we do. At the end of the day, after dinner, Eli, papa and I went to get ice cream, and I thought of you.  We told Eli that we were eating ice cream for your birthday.  He misses you too.  At the cemetery, Eli talked to you and told you that he would always be your big brother and you will always be his little brother.  He said that he will always love you, and that he misses you, and he hopes that you like all the stones we put on your grave.  On the way home, papa started singing, “Day is Done.”  He sang, “And if you take my hand, my son, all will be well when the day is done.”  He used to sing that song to Eli a lot.  I started crying.  You will never get to take my hand, nor I yours.  I try not to think of the ‘should haves’ and the ‘could haves’ and instead focus on what is.  But it is hard,  When what is is a world without you.

Please know that I love you.  Please know that if I could do anything to change this reality, and have you alive and in my arms, I would.  Please know that I am trying to be a  mother that you would be proud to have.  Please know that I will always be sorry.  And please know that you will forever be in my heart.  Tears drip down my cheeks as I write you this letter.

Love, always and forever,

Mama

sidney4bw

Some of the most ridiculous things people have said to me

It has been nearly a year since my precious little Sidney died.  I am still processing my thoughts and emotions as the day approaches.  But for now, I thought I would share a few of the most ridiculous things that people have said to me in the past year.  I have written about some of these in previous posts. In no particular order:

  1. This doesn’t happen to your demographic.
  2. It was really hard when my dog died.  I know how you feel.
  3. Some people would not understand why you buried your son.
  4. Can’t you just pretend it was a miscarriage?
  5. I wasn’t sure if you were going to just move on, but it seems clear that you aren’t.
  6. I would bet money in Vegas that this won’t happen again (said by the OB before my autopsy results were in)
  7. Maybe this was nature’s way.
  8. The university cannot allow you to grieve indefinitely (after 5 months)
  9. It forces me to acknowledge he was a real human (after looking at Sidney’s picture)
  10. I have been surprised by how long your grief lasted.
  11. You need to accept that you may only have one child.  Some people don’t even get that.
  12. I hope you are feeling better (in an email sent to me two days after Sidney died.  I don’t have a cold.  No I am not feeling better).
  13. Preschool teacher, who knows about Sidney’s death: I was wondering if anything was going on at home. Me: Eli’s brother is still dead.

I am sure there are more, but those are the ones that I can think of right now.  What are some of your ‘favorite’ things that people have said to you?

Eleven months

Dearest Sidney,

I miss you so much.  I would give anything to be able to kiss your soft cheek again, to breathe in your smell, everything about you.  But it would never be enough.  How would I ever be able to let you go?  I still don’t understand sometimes how I have even made it this long without you, how I got through those first months when I was operating in trauma mode, as if I were under attack, how I am learning to live without you, even though I will never accept that you are not here.

I wish that I had your 11 month picture to post.  Instead, when I arrived at the cemetery a few weeks ago, I saw that they had put your stone in.  I am including it here (with last name blocked out).  It is beautiful, in a tragic sort of way.  But it is nice, and I think it is a stone that you would be proud to have.  Sidney without last name

We were at a park on Sunday, and Eli asked if he was still a big brother.  I said yes, that he would always be a big brother.  Just like you will always be my second son.  Just like I will always want you and love you.  Nothing can ever change that.  Eli and I read the book ‘the invisible string’ sometimes, and we talk about how nothing can break the invisible string between a mother and her children.  My string is still firmly connected to you.

We are approaching the time last year when I was really starting to get ready to bring you home.  I had put a plan in place for colleagues to finish my classes if you were to have come early, and we started looking through Eli’s old baby clothes and washing them so that they would all be ready for you.  Passover also came later in the year last year, towards the end of April.  We went to the seder at a friends’ home, and everyone eagerly talked about your arrival.  Less than a week later, you were born.  This coming Monday night, we will all go back to seder at the same house, but you won’t be with us.  I miss you so much.

I am starting to think about what we should do on the year anniversary of your birth.  I have a few ideas.  I think I will ask everyone to do something kind for themselves or someone else, so that your existence will make the world a little bit better of a place.  And I may ask people to send me stones from special places so that I can put the stones on your grave, and know that people are thinking of you.  But how to mark the actual day?  Maybe we will go to the beach and set up some safe-for-the-environment flaming lanterns.  Maybe I will stay in bed and not get out.  Maybe I will visit the cemetery.  I don’t know.  Nothing feels quite right.  How could it, without you?

I love you, Sidney Louis.  I will always love you.  Nothing can ever change that.

Always and forever.

love,

momma

Ten months

Dearest Sidney,

It has been ten months and one day since I said goodbye to you.  I am sorry I didn’t write to you yesterday.  It is the first month since you were born that I haven’t been thinking about dates.  But I have been thinking about you.  I always think about you.  I always miss you, and I always love you.  Ten months is a long time.  I have been a grieving mother for ten months.

Papa is going to Seattle tomorrow.  He will be gone for a week.  I am a little overwhelmed to be back at work full time, and also have all the responsibilities of Eli to myself for a week.  But I keep thinking that I should be even more overwhelmed, that I should have my beautiful little ten month old, alongside my 4 year old.  I am so sorry you are not here.  I don’t know what your first word would have been.  I don’t know if you would be standing yet.  I will never get to know these things. I miss you so much.  I still look at your picture every night.  I kiss your picture, but I want to be kissing you, breathing in your sweet baby smell.

I went to the cemetery today to visit your grave.  I sat outside with you for a long time, feeling the cool breeze and missing you.  Then I came home.  Eli and papa were at a birthday party.  It would have been so much nicer to just take a walk with you in the carrier.  There are many days I still can’t believe you are gone.  May 4th does not seem that far away anymore.  Your birth day , and the day I had to give you back.

We have been interviewing for a new position in my department.  One of the candidate’s wive’s just had a baby three days before he flew across the country for his interview.  Another colleague’s wife just had her second son.  Babies are born healthy all the time.  You were healthy too.  But your heart had stopped.  No one knows why and I will never understand or accept it.

But I will always be your momma and I will always love you.

Love,

mama

Rants

I don’t have anything particularly insightful to say.  I have been missing Sidney more intensely this weekend, crying again at random times, longing to hold him in my arms, and thinking about his last few days.  He was kicking inside of me, and then somehow, slowly, he was not.  Eli has also been talking about Sidney more again.  We were driving to the grocery store, and he said, “We were very excited that baby Sidney was going to come.  But then one night, something bad happened….he died!” He says this in an overly dramatic voice (these lines are basically from the book “Something happened.”) He also kept telling me, “the happiest day of your life is when you got to meet me.  The saddest day of your life is when baby Sidney died.  At least one of your babies got to come.” Correct.  But that will never be okay.

People at work are bothering me.  I took a walk this morning in the hopes it would help me start off my work week in a better mood.  My Monday am walks usually calm me down, but today, for some reason, I just got more and more riled up.  I am tired of being judged, criticized, watched, ignored, and misunderstood (I understand that there are some contradictions in here).  We are interviewing for a new assistant professor, and my ‘mentor’ sent me an email after he looked at the schedule commenting that I had only signed up for a fifteen minute session with one of the candidates, and he doesn’t understand why, and I should have taken a 30 minute or a 45 minute session.  I responded that I chosen the fifteen minute one because I had also signed up to take the candidate to dinner (not to mention I will be at their one hour job talk, and the one hour discussion that followed).  But of course he didn’t notice that but instead was quick to judge.  he’s not my boss, and it’s not his job to stand over me, not to mention that if he is also going to tell me that I should be publishing more, then maybe he should be supportive of helping me make time to do that.  And then I sent out notes from the faculty senate meeting, and the chair said, btw, you should make sure you date your notes.  I know.  This is a very small thing, and he is right, I should, but how about they also comment on some of the positive things I am doing, instead of telling me everything I am doing wrong.  How about they comment about the suicidal student who told me that it meant a lot to her that I had noticed that she changed her hair, and she appreciated how supportive I was, and how open she could be with me, or the graduate students that I make extra time for as they try to process the scariness that is our world right now.  Those things don’t count, aren’t noticed, aren’t valued.  We are also interviewing potential post-doc candidates and in the write up on why we should hire one, the chair talked about all the potential collaborations he would have with people in the department, as an urban geographer.  But he didn’t mention me, even though I was hired as the urban geographer.  I am forgotten, replaceable, not worth anything, except when I forget to put the date on something.  I know I am being whiny, and I know that this is not really how things are, but I am just angry at everyone.  I am angry that Sidney is not here.  I am angry that this is how things turned out.  And I am angry at myself.  Angry at wasted opportunities, inability to get things done, inability to get to the hospital in time to save Sidney.  I think that I am particularly angry because I am afraid what they are saying is true.   I wish that I had a small pouch of poison darts and I could just throw a dart at anyone bothering me.  It wouldn’t kill them, just momentarily stun them, and get them to leave me alone (don’t worry.  I am not actually a violent person).  I am just tired of a lot of things, and clearly also have some issues with male authority figures.

I wish I had a new picture of Sidney to post, or could talk about something he was doing, but there is nothing new, no updates on him, his achievements, personality or funny things he should be doing.  Because to be as blunt as Eli, Sidney is dead.  And yes, even though it’s been 9.5 months, my heart is still broken.