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.

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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

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.

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