Some choppy thoughts on disbelief and sickness.

I am back to having a lot of trouble believing Sidney is dead.  I look at his pictures every night before I go to sleep, and I have started flashing back again more regularly to arriving at the hospital in labor, and having some random doctor tell me, “Your son has passed.  Do you understand what I am saying?” The raw pain overall is not as consistently intense but it can still knock me down.  I think that the problem I am having is that in general, when I get anxious about something, in order to reassure myself, I tell myself, well, that is unlikely, or you are worrying over nothing, or X is not actually so bad, but there is a disconnect in my brain, because I think well if I am worrying over nothing, than Sidney must not be dead.  I don’t really know how to explain this, but all I know is that my heart is aching tonight, and I want my baby here in my arms.

Eli has a stomach bug, at least rational me thinks that is what he has. He’s actually never thrown up before this, other than baby spit up.  And he already seemed a bit better tonight, and even ate half a ginger snap, the first food he agreed to eat all day.  When I called the doctor she said that I did not need to bring him in, that there was just a bug going around.  But of course, my mind worries that I might be missing something, like I missed something with Sidney.  Earlier yesterday, Eli was riding on my husband’s shoulders and my husband walked him into a hanging sign by accident, and he smacked his head.  Eli cried, but he didn’t black out, bleed or actually even really get a bump.  But of course, when he threw up last night, I spent a lot of the very early am hours, reading about symptoms of head injuries, and wondering if something more serious could be going on.  Shortly after Sidney died, I went to a meeting of a group called Compassionate Friends, for anyone who has lost a child.  There was a father there whose 5 year old had died. He said that on a Tuesday she told him her stomach hurt, and then by that Thursday, she was dead (I don’t know of what.  I actually did not return to the group, because I wasn’t in a place to hear about all the horrible ways that children can and do die).  So I am sitting in the room next to Eli’s, listening for sounds of distress, mostly thinking he is fine, but still scared.  I tell myself, well, that is unlikely. He just has a normal stomach bug, and then I am back to disbelief, not grasping how Sidney could be dead after a healthy pregnancy.  I will never really understand it.

On an only peripherally related note, the Baltimore City schools are a mess.  On Wed, I was volunteering in a second grade classroom, and one of the girls threw up (which adds to my paranoia that I am somehow the one that got Eli sick, and am carrying some bacteria or virus unknowingly, like perhaps I did with Sidney).  No one was helping her, so I went over and rubbed her back and then walked her down to the ‘nurse’.  The nurse found her a pair of over-sized shorts to change into (it’s winter), and said she would call her mom to bring her pants, and then immediately sent her back to the classroom, not taking her temperature, giving her water or juice, or sending her home.  In my elementary school, if someone threw up, they were required to go home.  It might be because some kids don’t have parents who can take time off to get them at school, but it still seemed like a problem, and perhaps an explanation why the kids seem to get sick so frequently (and don’t get me started on the nightmare of an appointment to lead the department of edu, and how things will probably get even worse).  And also reminded me of a rather absurd thought that I had when ebola was in the news so much.  I remember thinking that if I had a child who got ebola, it would be so difficult not to physically comfort them or hug them when they were in need.  It made my heart physically ache at the time to imagine it, to have you child in pain, needing you, but not being able to embrace them or provide them any comfort.  When I have worked with kids in the past, even though I know I might get sick (but of course, we are talking about much much much milder sicknesses), I can’t just not comfort them when they need me, hence helping vomiting girl.  I have even gotten lice a few times, because I felt like I couldn’t not hug or play with the children who obviously had lice, but then let other kids sit on my lap, especially since the ones with lice were often the most neglected or in need of attention in the first place.

But somehow Sidney needed me and I didn’t realize.  He was suffering, and I didn’t save him.  And now my heart is broken.

And no, I don’t want to hear about all the people you know who are pregnant or giving birth.  And no, it is not okay to ask me if so and so is pregnant.  Why in the world would you think that makes sense?

Next week classes start, and I will be back at work full time.  In some ways, so similar to last January, but in other ways, so entirely different, a much worse version of my life before.  And I still somehow can’t believe Sidney is not here, that I am a mother of a dead son.  He has now been gone about the same time he was even here.

And it is Eli’s fourth birthday next Monday.  Something Sidney will never have.  I miss him.  I will never understand why he is not here.

Eight months

My dearest Sidney,

All is not as it should be.  You should be here.  I should be charting your milestones, and posting your elephant pictures.  You might even be crawling already, which if you were like Eli, would be an army crawl, as you sneakily crept across the room.

I miss you so much.  You will always be baby Sidney.  You will never get to be anything else.  Dr. Sidney, author Sidney, or even unemployed and living at home Sidney.  I won’t ever learn anything else about your personality, and that really is not okay with me.

We have been in Kentucky all week with grandpa and your aunt and uncle.  Tomorrow, the rest of daddy’s extended family is coming in for a memorial service for grandma.  I am going to have to make small talk with them, be the upbeat and supportive wife, since I am only indirect family.  I don’t want to.  I don’t want to talk to people who I don’t know very well, if I don’t have you in my arms, if I don’t have you to proudly present to them.

I have been longing to kiss your cheek, to hold you in my arms.  This past month, your brother has been talking about you a lot more.  He immediately connected your death to grandma’s, and started asking questions again.  Then I imagined you in the outfit we had picked out to bring you home from the hospital, the outfit we ended up burying you in.  I never saw you in that outfit.  My heart broke, imagining you in the ground, in your brown and white striped pajamas with the matching hat.

Today, the third fell on a Tuesday, the same night we found out you had died, and the fourth fell on a Wednesday, the early morning in which you were born.  Your last days and your birth have been replaying in my mind.  I can’t stop it.  It is so painful, but in many ways it is all I have left of you.

I have enclosed a card that was sent for you.  We were given fifty dollars to donate in your memory.  20170104_222245

2016 ended.

Later this month, I go back to work full time.  I start teaching again.  Teaching.  I will be so visible.  I should be preparing to leave you alone, and stressing over how I will be able to pump enough breast milk for you.  Instead, I have to go back to being visible, exposed, change my routine, but not get to come home to you.  I am very anxious.

I miss you so much.  Eli told me he feels said when he sees little boys with baby siblings.  Me too.  I love you.  I miss you.  I love you.  I miss you.

I don’t know what else to say other than that you are my beautiful second son.  I will love you always and forever, and I will always be your mama.

I love you,

Mama

 

Seven months

Dearest Sidney,

It has been seven months since I held you in my arms.  I cannot believe it has been so long.  The world doesn’t really make sense for me without you.  My Sidney bear finally arrived.  It is a beautiful bear, with a bow tie that has elephants on it, to symbolize the elephants we had bought for your monthly pictures, and with a firetruck on its tummy, because your brother wanted to name you fireman.  instagramcapture_547acbfe-697c-4f97-b9ba-79d9fda665e9

But no matter how cute the bear is, I don’t want a bear.  I want you.  I want to be able to hold you, to kiss you, to watch you grow and develop as the beautiful little boy that I know you would have been.  You would most likely be sitting by now, babbling away, your distinct personality already shining through.  I try not to think too much about what  milestones you would be getting to, but sometimes it is just too hard. Your brother misses you too.  He is gentle with the ‘Sidney bear’, just like I think he would have been with you. instagramcapture_e83226e4-0443-4574-9d31-477c8cc61200

Today, I went to a walk-in clinic.  I pinched a nerve in my neck and it was causing a radiating pain down my shoulder and arm–the pain wasn’t going away and I didn’t want to wait until tomorrow to get it looked at.  But now, whenever I go to doctors, my blood pressure shoots up, a small PTSD symptom from your death.  So I told the nurse to please take it again, that I have anxiety since you died.  Her eyes filled with tears, and she said she was so sorry.  She asked some questions about you.  I like being able to talk about you, but I wish I had a different story to tell.

We went to the play ground with your brother today, a playground built in memory of a six year old who was killed by a drunk driver when she was crossing the street.  So much death.  So much pain.

This has been a very hard month for our family.  More tragedy.  Grandma, daddy’s mom, joined you.  Just a few weeks ago, out of the blue, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  We changed our plans, and went to spend Thanksgiving with her and grandpa.  We brought Sidney bear but I wanted to bring you.  Grandma was supposed to meet with the oncologist Friday, but Wednesday night, she felt out of breath, so grandpa took her to the hospital, and an hour later, she was gone.  She died holding grandpa’s hand.  (I have a lot more I could say about this, but this is not my story to tell, and I want to be respectful to my husband and his family). But even in her death, grandma touched my heart in her love and respect for you.  In preparation, she wrote her own obituary.  And in that obituary, she wrote, she has one grandson, Sidney, who pre-deceased her.  She included you.  She loved you.  And now she is gone too.  We are in shock, and I am scared for daddy and for your brother.  Grandma loved you so much.  We all love you so much.

Eli has been more clingy lately.  How can he not, when you and grandma, out of the blue, both died within seven months.  He is scared.  I am scared.  I am so scared without you.

I love you so much.

Always and forever, my dearest son, always and forever.

Love,

your mama

Alternate reality

If someone had told me last year that  my baby would die at the end of a healthy pregnancy and Donald Trump would be elected president of the United States, I would not have believed it.  This just confirms the sense that I have had since May that I am living in an alternate reality.  Except that I know there is no going back to my other ‘reality’.  And that is scary.

I volunteered at an elementary school this morning, helping with the 2nd grade, 3rd grade and 5th grade art classes.  In each class, the children told me they were sad and scared, but here is what surprised me.  They asked if Donald Trump was really going to send them back to Africa, and told me he did not like black people.  One even asked, “He can’t bring back slavery, can he?”

This alternative reality sucks.

Six months

Dearest Sidney,

I miss you.  I cannot believe it’s been six months since I gave birth to you.  You were perfect to me then, and you are perfect to me now, except that you are not here in my arms. I love you unconditionally.  Yesterday, your daddy and I went and ordered your tombstone.  We put a tree of life on it, and it will have your full name, your birth date, and then it will say, ‘Beloved son and brother, always and forever.’ Your daddy tells Eli that he loves him always and forever, and whenever I visit you in the cemetery, I tell you I love you always and forever, and so we wanted that message to be written clearly across the stone that marks your grave.

I spent my birthday without you.  It was a sad day for me.  In the evening, I opened some presents from Eli and daddy.  One of them had a picture of a necklace that daddy is getting for me.  It is a locket with a tree on it.  It hasn’t come but once it comes, I want to engrave the line from the E.E. Cummings poem on the back, “I carry your heart.  I carry it in my heart.’ And then I want to put your picture inside so that I always have a physical reminder of you close to me.  You are so beautiful to me.  I ache to kiss your soft cheeks again, to hold you tightly in my arms.  You cannot know how much I long for you.  I still somehow cannot grasp how the world can go on without you here in it.

To mark six months without you, we will donate a small amount of money to a children’s organization in your name.  Something positive that comes from you having existed.  It is not a lot, but it is something.

Tonight, we will have shabbat dinner at friends’, and I will feel your absence.  I always feel your absence.  I am always aware that something is not as it should be.  Time may go on, but my longing and love for you will never change.

Please know how much you mean to me.  Please know how much I love you.  Please know how much I miss you.  And please know that you will always be a part of this family, my dear second son.

I love you always and forever.

Love,

your mama

sidney3bw

Stupid Halloween

I took Eli trick or treating tonight.  At the beginning, most of the people that came to the door were the age of grandparents, or the parents who had opted to be the ones handing out candy while their children went out trick or treating.  And I somehow managed not to see any babies.  But then we rang the bell of one of our neighbors, a woman who I don’t know well, but I occasionally would see out with her son in his stroller.  Trick or treat, Eli said.  Trick or treat, she said.  How are you?  Is your second son at home? she asked.  No, he died, I say.  Horrified look.  I am so sorry, she says.  Avoids eye contact for the next minute while Eli selects his candy and talks to her son.  Awkward.  Stupid Halloween.  We go home.  Home where my second son is not.

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I am not looking forward to it.  Nothing to celebrate.  A year older.  A year gone.  Sidney gone.  I will spend the am in meetings with students.  In the afternoon, I will go to therapy, come home, eat dinner.  This is not how it should be.

This weekend, my husband was out walking with Eli and they met an elderly woman who lives down the street.  She asked Eli if he had any brothers or sisters.  No, he said.  Then a second later.  I had baby Sidney, but he died.  Yes, my husband said, confirming that what Eli said was true.  I had wondered how he would answer that question when it arose.  He did a good job.  But I don’t want his answer to be true.  I don’t want this to be his reality any more than I want it to be mine.

The past few days Eli has been mentioning Sidney more, saying he is sad and that he wants him to come back.  Me too, my lovely little boy, me too.

I got an email from a student.  I hope you are enjoying your maternity leave, it read.  No, I am not.

I want a puppy.  I want its companionship.  I think it would be therapeutic.  It would give me something positive to focus on.  And it would guarantee that I was active, since I would have to walk it for a decent amount of time everyday.  My husband does not want one. 😦

My dad is obsessed with genealogy.  He has traced his family back hundreds of years, and often contacts or is contacted by other ‘relatives’ who are also obsessed with genealogy.  He put baby Sidney in our family tree.  That means other people will know he existed.  It means a lot to me.  His name in a permanent record.  At least there is that.

Emotional roller coaster

I have been on an emotional roller coaster these past few days.  One moment, I feel hopeful.  The next, crushed.  One moment, I think, I can get through this, I can see joy and life after Sidney’s death.  The next, I am lying in bed, wishing that I did not have to get out and face anything.  This unpredictability makes it hard to plan, hard to know how I am doing, and what I can say yes to or expect of myself.  Then again, I suppose the unpredictability of life is something that has always been there, and that I just denied until Sidney died, trying to pretend that I had some semblance of control over things, that I could make plans or daydream about the future.  Sometimes I think to myself that my certainty that by 36 weeks, it was a matter of when Sidney came, not if, made his loss all that much harder.  If only I had mentally prepared myself that he could be taken away, then it would have been easier.  If only I had not loved him already so much, imagined him in to every aspect of my life.  But I don’t really think that’s true.  I think that figuring out a way to still have hope despite the shittiness of our situation, the shittiness of the reality that many of the most important things in life (and death) cannot be controlled or predicted, is important. If I had not loved him and been hopeful for him, and then he died, I am imagine I would have regret–and maybe one day, all my hope and love for him when he was inside of me won’t be so painful to reflect on, I won’t think, ‘I was so stupid, so naive.’  So if anyone has some suggestions for how to figure out how to be hopeful after loss, then I am all ears. But even though it’s making it so much more painful now, I am so happy that I loved Sidney from the moment I found out he was growing inside of me, the moment I first saw him swimming around during an ultrasound, finding out he was a boy, telling Eli he was going to be a big brother, setting up our room to make space for him, calling my mom to tell her to drive down, that we were in labor and off to the hospital, even those moments of pure shock when I held my precious boy in my arms, and the moments after, when I kiss his picture good night every night, or visit him in the cemetery.  I have loved you, Sidney, every moment of your existence, and every moment since you left me. I hope to figure out how to live a life that would have made you proud to have me as your mama.wp_20161030_08_49_13_pro