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.




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.




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.



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.

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.