Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas, when you're always missing one.

Christmas is all about family.  And when you're forever missing one, days like Christmas hurt.  Actually, seasons like Christmas hurt.

Three stockings hang on our mantle.  I think about how Lydie's will be empty on Christmas morning.

3 stockings and Lydie's tree

I hear my old favorite Mariah Carey's "All I want for Christmas is you," on the radio and I want to hurl. I change the channel, but in the stores, I can't get away from it.

It makes me angry now.  What I want is a moot point.

It's Benjamin's third Christmas and the first one where he has gotten into Santa.  I always thought I'd downplay the Santa thing, the lying to my kid thing.  But I find myself being caught up in the allure of it.  Santa made an early stop at our house to pick up Benji's "cee-cee" (pacifier/soother) and Ben hasn't napped since then.  I am kicking myself for not waiting until he was back at school to do that. In the middle of my maternity leave is not the time for the kid to stop napping.  No naps equal a badly behaved toddler, who if you recall, is already quite "spirited" and a stressed-out mom.

It's our second Christmas without Lydia.  Our second Christmas with one name missing on the presents under the tree.  Justin and I have talked about writing letters to our girl and placing them in her stocking.  It's a nice idea, but I'm not sure what I'd write besides, "I love you.  I miss you.  I wish you were here."

And it's our first Christmas with our rainbow Josephine.  I know she'll make the day brighter for me and my whole family.  I'm so very grateful to have her here, safely in my arms.

I think back to Christmas a year ago, when Lydie should have been less than two weeks old and instead had been dead for 7 weeks.  I cringe.  I am in a much better place now.  The grief is still there, as it will always be, but I am learning how to carry it.   Some days are better than others, but most days, I try to focus on the love.

This year, unlike last, there will be joy on Christmas Day.  But there will also be deep, deep sorrow.  If I've learned anything over the past year, it's how to feel those both at the same time.  In my happiest moments, I'm so deeply missing my daughter.  As Angela Miller explains, "No matter what, you are always missing.  No matter what, my heart will always ache for you.  No matter what, life will only be as good as it can possibly be, minus you." 

I guess like everything in my life now, it's complicated.  Christmas is complicated.  Life is complicated.

Thank you all for your friendship.   I wish all of you a peaceful Christmas surrounded by love.







Friday, December 18, 2015

My Christmas Baby and a(nother) Hospital Visit

One year ago today was Lydie's due date.  December 18th.  My Christmas baby.

It's just her due date, not the day she died, not even the day she would have been born.  If she had lived, it would be passing us by unnoticed today.

But when it feels like you're left with nothing, when the new normal feels like the old normal with a big fucking hole in the middle of it, these milestones and dates become so much more significant.

If it's even possible, I'm missing my girl more than usual today.



......................................................................................

Last night, I was feeding a fussy Josephine, who had just had her two-month vaccinations.  It had been tough to watch her get her first shots, wailing each time.  It was tough to know her fussy evening was a result of her not feeling well; it was tough to not be able to soothe my usually calm baby.

Justin and Ben were busy playing, a typical sight for an evening at our house.  And then I heard Ben's fall and his cries.  Also rather typical as Benjamin is pretty rough and tumble and usually bounces back after a hug and a kiss (and sometimes a bandaid).  And then I heard Justin's reaction and knew it wasn't typical afterall.

I rushed over to see a big gash on Ben's forehead, directly above his left eyebrow, and blood oozing everywhere.


This is similar to what happened this summer, when somehow his Aunt Laura (accidentally) nailed him in his face with a kayak on the beach at our cottage.  When I was pregnant with Bowie and terrified and this huge gash in my son's forehead played into all my fears and anxieties... and I was a complete mess.

This time I was more calm.  We all quickly piled in the car for the urgent care.  Checked in, and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally got called into triage and were told that yes, Ben needed stitches.  A nurse put numbing ointment and sent us back to the damn waiting room, where we waited and waited and waited.

Ben is planning to give his cee-cee to Santa.
Glad that hadn't happened yet.
Benjamin's name was finally called.  As a nurse held down his head, Justin held down his arms and torso, and I held down his legs, Ben screamed at the top of his lungs.  I cried too.  Four stitches in my boy's face was hard on this Mama's heart.

I know it's hard for any parent to see his or her child in pain.  But I think it feels even harder after losing one.

I just want to fix all their pains.  I want to fix Ben's pain, and Lydie's pain, and Josie's pain.  I don't want my kids to hurt.

During those hours of waiting, when I was feeding Josephine, Ben brought a book over to read to him.  And the first page took my breath away:

What I wouldn't give to hear my Lydia call, "Okay, Mom!"


I want to believe that Lydie is always with us.  I tell that to Ben and Josephine all the time.  But I have my doubts too.

Moments like that help convince me.

As Justin said, it wasn't Sarah or Jennifer or Elizabeth, all common girls' names.  It was Lydia.  Right there in the middle of the urgent care, with a gash in Ben's face.

..................................................................

So now my badass two-year-old son has a scar on his forehead from his last set of stitches and a new set of stitches a quarter inch away.  Awesome.

This mama's heart could use a break.



Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas Cards, written to a family of 5 that looks like a family of 4

I think I've always confused people on how to address cards to our family.  When Justin and I got married, I added his last name to mine, making what is called a "double-barrel" last name.  I explain it as "like it's hyphenated, but without the hyphen."  I didn't want to lose my name, my history, my family.  And adding Justin's last name was not really about Justin.  It was about the children we planned to have.  I wanted to share their name.  To quote my favorite band The Avett Brothers, "Always remember there is nothing worth sharing like the love that lets us share a name."  I wanted to be both, and so I am.

The biggest downside of this name is that no one gets it right.  The first time someone skipped my last name and called me only by Justin's - in a placecard at a wedding, I texted my sister in a fury.  I remember her response: "it's not an insult."

Five years later, I'm no longer insulted.  I know my name is difficult, and I always really appreciate the people who spend the time and energy to get it right.

So it's been interesting to see how my friends address cards to us.  I know it's not easy to write Justin's and my names together.  That's another downside of the double-barrel.

But this is the first year I have thrown Christmas cards in the trash.

It may be tough to know how to address cards to our family, but the ones that make no mention of Lydia are very hurtful to me.

My favorite cards are the ones that come addressed to all of us: Justin, Heather, Ben, Lydie, and Josie, or some variation.  I appreciate those cards so much.  I don't want to recycle even the envelopes, because I just want to stare at all our names in print together.  And it doesn't even bother me that my family name is not included, because even I know when too much is too much.

While I recognize that not everyone feels comfortable addressing a card to someone who has died, I am shocked by cards that make no mention of my middle daughter at all.  They read, "Dear Heather, Justin, Ben, and Josie: Merry Christmas."  I think, are you (fucking) kidding?  Do you know how hard Christmas is for parents whose child died?  (Clearly, the answer is no, they don't.)  Do you know our biggest fear is that people will forget our child?  (And again, apparently not).

I thought I'd feel better after promptly trashing (err, recycling) one of those cards.  But I didn't.   And so soon, I emailed the sender, and explained that Lydia is as much a part of our family as Benjamin and Josephine are and I find it very hurtful when she is not acknowledged.

Let me say that again: Lydia is just as much as part of our family as Benjamin and Josephine.

One friend explained it well and was much nicer than me, when posting on Facebook: "If you're sending a Christmas card and wondering whether to mention our son, please do.  Thoughts of him are always appreciated, ignoring his existence always hurts."

Ignoring her existence hurts.  It really hurts. It always hurts.

And in this season, which is already so difficult for grieving parents (Christmas is about a birth of a baby, for crying out loud) and families who are missing someone so intensely, those Christmas cards can cause so much pain.  I know if you're bothering to mail us a Christmas card, you have good intentions.  I know that.

It's just that a little note included like "Thinking of Lydie" goes a long, long way.  As I said in my last post, a little compassion goes a long way.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

One year, one month, and ten days (and one rainbow baby) later

Many of my triggers have shifted; many are the same.

For example, pregnancy announcements?  Still a trigger.  Especially when they are made after the first trimester and allude to a"safe" time in pregnancy.  You might think that Bowie's safe arrival may have changed that for me, but nope, not at all.  And similarly, pregnant women are still just as difficult.  Much of it is their naivety.  Many of them know all about what happened to Lydie, how we had no warning signs and she was perfectly healthy, and they still seem to believe it would never happen to them (and they are probably right, which is a whole separate issue).  In general, pregnancy announcements and pregnant women make me cringe and make me really, really uncomfortable.   Women who are pregnant after loss hoping their rainbow babies arrive safely excluded, obviously.

I polled a group of baby loss friends this morning; most of them are about five years out from their loss and all have rainbow babies.  I asked them if pregnancy announcements get easier, ever.  The resounding answer was no.

And for the record, a year later, I recognize that people cannot plan their families around my family's tragedy, but a little bit of compassion when making a pregnancy announcement goes a long, long way.

Talks of family planning or "completing the family" can send me into a spiral.   How nice for them.  Our family will never be complete.  Never, ever, ever.  It's an emptiness and a longing that is impossible to describe.

Another big trigger has always been families with their children close together, specifically of the older brother, younger sister variety.  That trigger remains.

I can, however, handle babies better these days.  The first baby I held after Lydie was Josephine, and I haven't held another.  But I can look at them again.  I can walk by the baby aisle in the store.  In fact, I can pick up diapers for my daughter without wanting to cry.  I even enjoy shopping for baby girl's clothes.  I am sure it is helped that my rainbow baby was a girl.  If Bowie was a boy, I think the baby girl's section would still make me cry.

But one-year-olds?  One-year-olds are so difficult to be around.

There's also some new triggers now that Bowie is here safely.

The pregnant woman is even more difficult when she's expecting her third child.  Why?  Because families with three children are a huge trigger for me.  I have three kids, but my three kids will never look like their three kids.  The unfairness of it all slaps me in the face.

My children will never meet each other.  Not in this lifetime.  My son will never know his sister except for all the kisses and raspberries he gave her in my belly.  My daughter will never know her sister, except for the brand new hand-me-downs.

And while "complete families" has always been a trigger, a new addition is sisters.  Sisters are tough. Josephine has a sister, an Irish twin sister.  She'll never have the kind of sister relationship she should have.  She just won't.  Some days I start to feel accepting of that, and then I see sisters out and about, and I hurt for both Lydie and Josie.

Yesterday, I told Justin that I felt I was handling my grief well.  That we're in the days between Lydie's "should be birthday" and her due date and we're approaching our third Christmas with Ben, our second without Lydie, and our first Christmas with Josie, and I still felt like I was generally handling my emotions well.  Which any BLM will tell you brings on a new layer of guilt.  When you don't cry as often anymore?  Guilt.  I must not miss or love my daughter enough; I haven't cried in a week.  Some times I miss the tears.

I feel differently today.  I feel like shit today.  The secondary losses feel huge today.  The worst loss is the loss of Lydie.  But I also miss my old life and the old me. My daughter's death caused this massive ripple effect through my life.  I've held my dead child in my arms, and I will never, ever be the same.

And for the record, Josephine's birth doesn't fix that.  It changes it, for sure, and she has brought so much light back into my life.  She has given me the chance to physically mother a daughter.  But I still ache for her sister.  Every single day.  Hell, every single moment.

I still ache.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Should be Would be Birthday

To quote Pink, "in a parallel universe, where nothing hurts and nothing breaks," today Lydia would turning one.

It should be her first birthday party.  It would be perfect, being a Saturday.

Most pregnant women don't know the date their baby will be born.  I did, or thought I did.  With my c-section scheduled for months and months before that date, there didn't seem to be any doubt about it.  Dr. B gave me the options of December 11th or 12th, and I chose the 12th.  Why?  Because Benjamin's birthday is 4/4 and I thought 4/4 and 12/12 was pretty damn cool.

I never imagined that instead we would be holding her memorial service.

This year, nothing's noted on December 12th on the calendar.  Not Lydie's birthday, not her death day, not even her due date.

Just the day she was supposed to be born.

I actually don't subscribe to this theory.  Not at all.  But I do like seeing Josephine wearing Lydia's name.

..........................................................................................................................................

This year, Justin was invited to a holiday party that some bigwig at his work throws yearly.  Holiday parties are full of small talk.  Small talk is full of triggers.  And only one or two people would even know about Lydia there.  But even though neither one of us particularly wanted to, we figured we should probably go.

And Oma Jo drove in just for the evening to babysit, since we wouldn't leave Josephine with anyone else.  (Thank you Oma Jo.)

On the ride there, Justin and I discussed how we'd answer the question, "How many kids do you have?"  It was inevitable, and we wanted to be on the same page.

We decided the answer was "three," and when the follow up question of "how old are they?" came, we would reply, "two-and-a-half, would be one, and two months."  If anyone caught on to the subtlety of the "would be," we'd explain more.

But a glass of wine in and I already butchered our response.  Instead of leaving it at "would be one," I added "but she died."

The woman quickly stammered, "I'm so sorry."  And never mentioned it again.

Which honestly, was okay.

The next time we were asked, the man told me I should speak with his wife.  She's a professor.  She teaches nursing.  And a labor and delivery course.

Soon I was chatting with this woman all about Lydia.  There I am describing the moment I found out my daughter was dead in the middle of a cocktail party.  She asked a lot of questions and we had been talking for about thirty minutes, when she said, "Well, sometimes we just don't understand the reason."

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"The reason.  You know, everything happens for a reason."

I started shaking my head profusely.  "No," I said.

"You don't believe everything happens for a reason?" She asked.

"No," I said.  "And you wouldn't either if your child's urn was on your mantle."

We debated it for another minute.   She told me, "Sometimes bad things happen and it takes me ten years to figure out why, but I always do."

I was aghast.  My boyfriend didn't dump me; my child died.  It wasn't just something "bad," it was tragic.

I found Justin and announced this lady made me need more wine.  And when I went to the bathroom upstairs to pump, I called my sister and told her, "You're never going to believe this!"

Last night, I was able to find the humor in the situation.  I just talked with this woman for thirty minutes about my dead daughter, and then she tells me that she died for a reason!?!  Are you fucking kidding me?

Today, I am insulted, and I am also a bit worried that this woman instructs nurses.  I would like that woman to read this article: Everything does not happen for a reason  As Tim Lawrence writes: That's the kind of bullshit that destroys lives.  And it's categorically untrue....  I'm not going to construct some delusional narrative fallacy for myself so that I can feel better about being alive.  This is why all the platitudes and fixes and posturing are so dangerous: in unleashing them upon those we claim to love, we deny them the right to grieve.

Besides that woman, it wasn't a terrible time.  It felt big to be out, without my youngest daughter and with my grief.




............................................................................................

Today, Lydie's little sister is two months old.  And today, she smiled at me for the first time.

It's a heavy grief day, but Josephine helps to lighten that load.


Caught one on camera!  Little sister with our Lydie Bear

........................................................................................................................................

Sometimes I am surprised how much I can miss someone I never actually got to know.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

This Too Shall Pass

My sister is a reporter, although I usually say "journalist," otherwise people think she's on tv.  (She is, but only once in a while).  She writes a weekly parenting column titled "Multitasking Moms and Dads," and my kids and I are often mentioned.  Back in August 2014, Laura wrote a whole column about how excited she was to be having a niece (feel free to click to read but this one is tough for me now).  In December 2014, she wrote about how that niece died just before she was born.  And this Thanksgiving, she wrote about how she is grateful for both of her nieces.  

Recently, she polled Facebook for fodder for another article: "What advice would you share with other parents?"

"Go to the bathroom before you leave the house.  The kids too," wrote our friend Kati.

"Wine," I responded.

"This too shall pass," wrote my cousin.

Her comment made me tear up.

Here's what I'm realizing: most stages do in fact pass.

But, when your child is dead, and she remains a perfect little baby in your memory, and she will never grow and never change - that will never pass.

My grief?  That will never pass.

The missing person at the Thanksgiving table?  That will never pass.

I wrote something snippy underneath her comment.

Then I went back and deleted it.
Not about you, or your dead baby, I reminded myself.   Not about bereaved parents, I reminded myself.  Most parents don't have a dead child, I reminded myself.  Usually this statement is true, I reminded myself. 

And I also reminded myself, no wonder everyone thinks you're so damn sensitive.  You are!

And my cousin's advice is in fact resonating with me these days.  Because no matter how scared I was that I would never have this, it's actually quite challenging to be home with a toddler and a newborn. (Or maybe she's an infant these days?  How long does the "newborn" stage last?  I digress...)

Josephine doesn't really sleep.  Not at night anyway.  She averages under an hour and fifteen minutes eating sessions, and that includes the middle of the night (and that's start to start!)  Last night she was up every hour.

So I don't really sleep.

And Benjamin?  Let's just say he's a head-strong two-and-a-half year old who has some head-strong two-and-a-half year old tantrums.  And he's still learning how to play by himself and wants his mother to constantly entertain him.

But I also feel like I can't - or shouldn't anyway- complain.

Not after losing one of my kids.  Not after having no tolerance for anyone who complains about their kids.  Not after being so scared for Bowie's life.  Not after meeting so many friends who are struggling to have living children of their own.  Not when this is what I have wanted for so long (of course, what I want is to be home with my three healthy, living children but I think that goes without saying).

Not when these two kids are here.  They are here.

Instead, I am trying to have patience with where we are.  Knowing that one day, Josephine will sleep through the night.  Knowing that one day, Benjamin will wipe his own bum.  And also, Josephine will not stop crying the moment I pick her up and will not fit perfectly into the crook of my arm, and Benjamin will not ask me to rub his back and will not ask questions like "Mom, will you help me do this by myself?"

Because these moments will pass.



Monday, November 23, 2015

Glow

About a year ago, Justin and I stumbled on Glow in the Woods.  It's a site for the "baby lost," full of discussion boards, blog rolls, advice such as how to stop lactation when there is no baby and how to plan a baby's funeral, and most importantly, regular contributors who write pieces.

Today, Justin becomes one of those regular contributors. 



  
I'm so proud that he has found his words.  

And I'm so proud that in this community where grieving fathers are often marginalized, my husband is one of the few men who has learned how to share his journey.  

I'm proud of you, Justin.  And I know Lydie is too.


You can read Justin's most recent piece, about searching for hope despite smashing eggs, here.



Saturday, November 21, 2015

Crossroads (On old friendships)

Now that the anxiety of Bowie's pregnancy is behind me and I've settled into somewhat of a rhythm as the mom of two living and one dead children, I'm starting to realize how many people I have cut out of my life in the past year.

Friends who had living babies.  Friends who said the wrong thing.  Friends who weren't particularly sensitive when announcing their pregnancies.

And friends who said nothing at all.

In most of these situations, it wasn't with intentionality that I cut out these friends.  I didn't set out to no longer have these people in my life.  It just kind of happened.  I was operating in survival mode for a long, long time.  A lot of that meant protecting myself from friends who had normal, seemingly carefree lives. Or friends who didn't think they had carefree lives, but compared to the death of a child, really seemed like it to me.

Some of these friends have reached out to me since Josephine's birth.  In some ways, that frustrates me.  You can't go radio silent during the hardest year of my life and then expect to come back in when a little bit of joy comes back into my life.  It also gives me the impression that these friends think I'm better now.

(And to clarify: I am better now that the most harrowing nine months of my life are behind me, now that Josephine is hiccuping in the swing next to me.  I am not, however, better in the way that Josephine fixes the loss of Lydia.  In many ways, the safe arrival of Josephine has made my grief even more acute.)

In other ways, I'm wondering if I should grab the chance of connection while I can.

I know it's not my friends' fault that all their children are here and healthy anymore than it's my fault that one of mine died.  I know I can't expect my friends to change their family planning based on my tragedy.  I even know that my friends were trying to help when they said hurtful things.  I know I can't always expect others' to predict what might be triggers for me.

I'm finding that I'm more willing to forgive the friends who said the wrong thing than I am willing to forgive the friends that said nothing at all.


Couldn't have described it better myself.  Thanks Buzzfeed.

Truth.

There's a few old good friends that have done exactly this.  They have sent cards and flowers and gifts in the days following my daughter's death.  When I was still in shock and numb and unable to leave my home.  They told me to call if I wanted to talk.

(Apparently, they did not recognize that one way my grief manifested itself was by being absolutely physically unable to talk on the telephone.)

And I have not heard from them since.

This shocks me.

A year later, some of them have reached out to offer their congratulations on Josephine's arrival.

So what now?  Where do we stand?  Do I let them go, know that if they couldn't stand with me in my hard days then I am better off without them?  Or do I recognize that sometimes people can't give you what you need, and I try to forgive them?

Case in point:

Martha.

We became friends in January of 2004.  After living and working together at a YMCA for months, we road-tripped from Colorado to Ohio, then flew to Hawaii to vacation and visit a Marine with whom I had an on-again off-again thing with for far too long.  It didn't last with the Marine, thank goodness, but I thought it did with Martha.  Four years later, hoping to heal my heart after a break up with another not-the-right-man, I jumped on a plane to Australia, and Martha and I had adventure after adventure.



I thought we would have seen each other again by now, 8 years later.  But it turns out Australia is a long way away when you have a full-time job and a husband and a mortgage and children.

Martha emailed right away after Lydie's death.  She told me she had no idea what it was like to lose a child.  But that she did know me and she did know how strong I am.  I cried.  (But I cried all day long back then).

She sent Christmas presents, and in response, I emailed her a photo of Ben unwrapping his book (about a wombat!) and a photo of her ornament hanging on Lydie's tree.

And since then, radio silence.

If she read this blog, she didn't let me know.  She liked some things on Facebook and Instagram but never commented.  In June, I emailed her and never heard back.

I wondered if she even knew I was pregnant with Bowie.

In the middle of the night recently, I thought about Martha.  I thought about how easy it would be to say, fuck it.

But instead, I tapped the button on my phone, opened up a new email, typed the subject line, "calling you out," and told her how I felt.  I told her that I've been shocked that when I needed support the most, she seems to have run in the opposite direction.  I told her that I never wanted extravagance.  I just wanted her to check on me.  I needed to feel like she cared, and I haven't felt that way.  That I'm not sure what I hope to accomplish by writing that email but I'm doing it anyway.  And then I hit send.

She wrote back immediately.  And here was her response:
I am so sorry you feel this way, I feel horrible that I have let you down as a friend, that was the furthest thing from what I wanted to do.
I know I am possibly the shittiest person in the world at communicating, and I will really try and work on that more. I think about you so often you can't even imagine. I have literally NO idea what you must've been going through in the last 12 months, and I guess I've been so afraid to say the wrong thing...so I've done the wrong thing & not said much at all. I feel from your posts etc that you were getting heaps of help from support groups & other mothers who had had stillborn babies (see I don't even know if that is the right say to put it??) that they obviously know what you are going through & know what to say and not to say that I feel like I wouldn't be of much help - and again please don't think I've been running in the opposite direction ...maybe I've just stepped to the side onto the pavement a little and let some expert angels swoop in and be the #1 team there for a while...but I'm definitely keeping an eye on what's going on from the sidewalk.  I've never left the sidewalk Heather.  I tried to read your blog but cried so much after the first few I could barely function...

I like the sidewalk analogy.

I don't know how to respond about this blog being too difficult to read.  Martha's not the first friend to say this to me.  And if it's too difficult to read, then imagine how difficult it must be to be the one living it.  (And so, I must say, if you're one of those people, I'd like you to try to find approximately 7 minutes a week to abide with me here).

Martha and I have always had an honest relationship and I'm glad I could be honest with her now.

Because I don't want to say fuck it.

I'm beginning to realize that I need my old friends.  Even though my fellow baby loss moms have been my lifelines, I don't want my only remaining friends to be the ones I met when I was 33 and my daughter died.  I would like to hang on to a few of the old ones too.

I'm beginning to realize that they didn't mean to cause me more pain.

I'm at a crossroads, and for the first time in a year, I'm going to try to make some effort to repair the friendships* I think might be worth saving.


* And yes, this goes for cousinships too.



________________________________

And on a separate note, if you're wondering what these friends should have done, I would tell you it would involve checking in regularly and often, even when I don't respond.  It would be remembering certain milestones and dates as well as recognizing that certain days like Mother's Day and my own birthday were particularly difficult for me.  It would be continuing to ask about my grief as the months went on.  It would be bringing up Lydie and how much she is loved and missed.  It would be asking about her garden or tree.  It would be restraining from the platitudes and never beginning sentences with "at least..."  It would be just abiding with me, that trite old expression of "being there," without expecting much in return.

"Empathy is feeling with people." -- watch more here.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Just when I let my guard down.

The other day, I took my kids to the library.  Getting out of the house is quite a feat these days, but I find Ben is better behaved outside of the house, and once we're there, it becomes worth it.

Let me preface this by stating I couldn't take Ben to story hour for a long, long time after Lydie's death.  I couldn't bear to sit next to normal moms, I couldn't stand all the happy families, I was afraid of seeing babies and siblings with the same age gap as Ben and Lydie.

I managed to take Ben a couple times over the summer, but it was hard on me.

Now on maternity leave, I've been trying again.

Ben clapped his hands and danced and sang, listened intently to stories, and counted to ten during story hour.  I held Josephine, and he'd glance back at us, grinning every so often.  Afterwards, he sat at a table with other kids, coloring, while I sat in the corner, with my nursing cover and my baby underneath.

And I felt like I was handling this two living, one dead kid thing.

Soon I told Benjamin it was time to go, but he noticed a new story hour beginning and begged to stay.  I explained to him that was for younger kids, and he begged anyway.

What the hell? I thought, thinking of how it bought me another 30 minutes of an entertained toddler.  We joined the masses of moms and kids, and sat about as far away from the exit as possible.

Ben sat Indian style (yeah, yeah, I know that's no longer PC) in front of me and I held Josephine in my arms.  The librarian asked me about my "new one" and asked me to introduce ourselves.  So I introduced Josie and Ben introduced himself as "Benjaben Johnston" (yeah, he thinks his full name is "Benjaben."  Cute, huh?) and told her he was two and a half.  I thought the stories and music would start next, but nooooo, the librarian proceeded to ask every mom to introduce her child and share where they are developmentally... and all were around the age of one.

So here, I am, with Benjamin listening intently and for once on his best behavior, and Josephine in my arms, and tons of people in the way of the exit.  And all these other women stating things like, "This is Ella.  She turned one last week and she just started walking!" and "This is Avery.  She'll be one in two weeks and she says about five words!"

That's right, all of these babies were around Lydia's age.

And I was trapped in a room with them.

I started to panic.  I debated what to do.  I texted one of my closest BLM friends.  She said, "Just when you let your guard down, huh?"

And in the end, I did nothing.  I looked out the window, I looked at my phone, I looked anywhere but at those one-year-olds, and I am sure I looked like a very bad mother.

The introductions lasted for 15 fucking minutes.

And the final song was one I listened to when I was pregnant with Lydie, imagined singing to her, and haven't been able to listen to since the day she died.  It's a kids' song, of course, and here are the lyrics:

I'm sitting here, I'm one day old
I'm sitting here, I'm two days old
I'm sitting here, I'm three days old
I'm sitting here, I'm four days old

One day, I'll be a year
Then I'll be two 
Then three then four

But as for now, I'm sitting here
I'm five days old 
And no days more

Fuck me.

This may be quite obvious, but all I could think about is how Lydie won't be one day old.  Not two days old, not three days.  And definitely not a year, not two, not three, not four.

I could barely breathe.

As soon as I got the kids loaded in the car, and shifted into drive, I started to cry.

And after we got home and I got Ben his dinosaur chicken nuggets for lunch, I called my mom.  And cried some more.

"Did you tell them about Lydie?" she asked.

No.  No, I didn't, and I usually tell everyone about Lydia.  But I didn't drop the dead baby bomb this time.

A friend of mine recently told me how much she hates the question "How many kids do you have?"

And here's the thing: no one even asks me that question.  No one asks me that question because they see me with my two-year-old son and my newborn daughter and they make assumptions.  They assume that these are my only two children.  They would never think there's another one, a dead one in between.

I know no one at that story hour was trying to hurt me.  No one realized my pain.  No one had any clue about my dead daughter.

And what was I supposed to say?  "This is Benjamin, he's two and a half.  This is Josephine, she's a month old.  I also have another daughter, about the same age as all the other babies here, but she's in an urn on our mantle"?

What was I supposed to say?

"Why didn't you leave?  Why did you put yourself through that?" my mom asked next.

Because I pictured Ben's tantrum, or perhaps worse, his refusal.  Because I didn't want to make a scene.  Because waiting it out seemed easiest at that point.

Because I'm a glutton for punishment?

And the worst part?

This is never going to end.

Next year, two-year-olds will be a trigger to me.  In four years, the kindergarteners will kill me.  And in fifteen years, it will be sixteen-year-olds.

I'll be doing this dance for the rest of my life.

But not at that story hour anymore.

My guard is back up.



* Thanks Kati, for being my support person through this nightmare... and for giving me the title of this post!




Sunday, November 8, 2015

First Birthday Recap

I could feel Lydie's birthday approaching for weeks.  No way to stop the calendar from marching forward.  The lead-in to it was so emotional.

But the day itself?  Not as bad as I thought it would be.

First, there was getting through the 5th.  As one friend called it "helliversary."  Yes.  

But -- a good friend came over, a friend who knows what it feels like to cremate your child.  Benjamin graced us with a long nap, Josephine graced us with cuddles, and the sunshine graced us with unseasonably warm weather.  Oh, and a bottle of Pinot Grigio graced us too.  We sat on my patio and talked.  I missed Lydie.  And I laughed quite a bit.

Thanks Jeanie.  
Then, the big day arrived.  We started the day with the presentation of the Cuddle Cot to St. Ann's Hospital.  I cried on the way there, listening to one of my Lydie songs, "If I Die Young" by the Band Perry.  But a "Happy birthday Lydia" cake and presents greeted us!  

Our amazing nurses, who delivered both Lydie and Josie, turned the Cuddle Cot presentation into a bit of a birthday party.  And I had told Lydie there would be no party!


Sharing a few words about stillbirth, our daughter, and the Cuddle Cot
Sixty-three friends, family members, and even complete strangers allowed us to to donate the Cuddle Cot to this hospital.  Thank you, thank you.
It felt appropriate, it felt right, to be at the place where Lydie was born.  I talked about how one year ago, I was in labor with her.  I cried when I said it is excruciatingly horrific to be in labor with a baby you know is not alive.  I spoke of our time with her, how she had big, flipper feet and a full head of her dad's hair.  I spoke of how we'll never get that time back.  Justin said how it is a testament to our nurses that we chose to return to St. Ann's for Josie's birth, how many parents would never walk through the doors of the same hospital again.  We spoke of how we wish there was never a need for Cuddle Cots, but the reality is that every 1 out of 160 pregnancies ends in a stillbirth.  And often, like in our situation, there are no risk factors and no warning signs.


Ben helps us open Lydie's birthday present
I told you these nurses are amazing.

Amanda and Beth, on the left, delivered both Lydie and Josie.  Christi, on the right, rocked and sang to Lydie as we said our goodbyes.

It was mostly a happy occasion, a reunion of sorts for all the people who met Lydia.

I wish there were more of you that met Lydia.  

A whole spread!


Add in Oma Jo, who also wanted to celebrate her granddaughter.  Plus, she loves our nurses too.



We came home, we watched the clock for 12:14 pm, and we lit our candle for Lydie.  And then we opened the many cards we had received.  



Thank you for the outpouring of love.

Soon after, I did this:

This was the point I reminded myself that I have birthed three babies. 

That's right; I got a tattoo.  If you know me, you know I'm NOT a tattoo person.  I also always thought my dad would kill me... but figured he'd let this one slide.

I began thinking about this soon after Lydia died.  A way to leave her mark physically on me.  A way to write on my body what is written in my soul. 

I decided on her name on my wrist soon after I got pregnant with Bowie... so then I waited.  I don't think they generally like to do tattoos on pregos.  Plus, you know, I had to make sure I only needed one tattoo.  

Although I felt like chickening out many times this week, I went through with it!

The result.

The tattoo artist told me tattoos are addicting, and mentioned several times my "next tattoo."  I told him unless I have another dead child, there will be no more tattoos. (Please let there be no more tattoos).


Make that $95 in alcohol, $5 in flowers.





We had left Oma Jo with a bottle of milk, Josie, and a sleeping Ben, so from there, Justin and I headed to buy balloons... and also $100 worth of alcohol.  Hard to reign it in at Trader Joe's on your dead daughter's first birthday.  I caught Justin eying these flowers, and though the man hasn't bought his wife flowers since their wedding day, I knew he was wanting to buy them for his daughter.  








We also came home to beautiful flowers from a friend.
Gorgeous.  Although Justin was not impressed at his flowers being outdone.  (Thank you Kati).
Oma Jo was debating driving home that evening or staying the night.  When she heard about the 100 bucks of alcohol, she quickly exclaimed, "I was thinking that I'll leave in the morning!"

Later, Benjamin colored a picture for his sister and Oma Jo wrote her granddaughter a note.  Justin and I had already written our letters.  We planned to tie them to the balloons... but did you know one piece of paper and some tape is enough to hold a helium balloon down?

Yeah, neither did we.
Josie holds her balloon for her big sister



Ready to send our balloons to Lydie.

A Happy Birthday balloon, a star balloon, and a 1 balloon.
So we just read our letters out loud to Lydie instead.  



"Where dat balloon going?" - Ben
"It's going to Lydie, in the stars." - Dad
"I go to Lydie too!" - Ben 

Happy birthday dear Lydie.  (And thank you Jeanie!)
I wasn't sure about doing the balloon release.  I know it's bad the environment, and I kind of like the environment.  But honestly, it was really beautiful, and it was such a nice moment for our family.

We came in, cracked open some of that alcohol, and enjoyed our evening as a family.  Uncle D showed up just in time for dinner (and the lighting of Lydie's candle) as he usually does, and after dinner, the six of us sang "Happy birthday" to Lydie.  (And I didn't even cry during that part!)

At the end of the evening, I let out some deep breaths.  The first birthday down, and it wasn't as bad as I anticipated.  For the most part, I felt like we managed to celebrate our little girl.

One year down, a lifetime to go.

We love you, Lydie.



Friday, November 6, 2015

Dear Lydie, on your first birthday

Dear Lydie,

Happy first birthday, my daughter.

In so many ways, I can't believe it's been a whole year since we last held you, kissed you, studied your face.

In other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago.  I no longer recognize the woman I was before those shared moments with you.  I no longer remember what my life was like before that day.

A few days ago, your brother opened the chest in our bedroom that holds all your belongings.  I froze for a second, debating how to react.  I didn't want to give him the impression that your things were off-limits, or that he shouldn't be curious about you.  But I also didn't want him to man-handle all of our most prized possessions, all of our things that connect us to you.

I held my breath as he pulled out a photo album, sat down on the carpet, and began to flip through it.

"Mom, Dad, Oma," he began, pointing us all out in the first photo.  You laid in my arms, but he didn't mention you yet.

He turned the page.

"Dat baby has a boo-boo," he said as he looked at you.

And I crumpled.

"Why dat baby have boo-boo, Mom?" he asked.

How do I explain to your 2 1/2 year old brother what I don't understand myself?

I told him, that's Lydie, that's your sister.  She died, and we love and miss her very much.

"My Bowie right there!" he continued, pointing to your sister in her bouncy seat.  "She no get hurt!"

I pulled him on to my lap as the tears rolled down my face.

And like I always do, I wished things were different.  I wished I could have kissed all your boo-boos and made them better.  I wished I could protected you the way mothers are meant to protect their children. I wished I could have fixed this for you, for all of us.

But as much as I've wanted to turn back time, I know there's no fixing this.

There's just learning how to carry it, and how to carry you.

Later, that day, we had company. We've had a lot of visitors lately, a lot of friends and family that want to oooh and ahhh over your little sister.  These moments are hard for me.  I find myself going out of my way to include you in the conversation, to make them remember.  And I wonder, if I have to work this hard to make people acknowledge you in one year, what is it going to be like in ten?

Our guest said to your brother, "You're a big brother now!  You have a little sister!"

Of course, I hastily responded, "Well, he already was a big brother!"

But I was so proud and grateful when your brother chimed in, "I have two sisters!"  Go Ben.  Thank goodness for Ben.

I worry that I'm going to be reminding others that we're a family of five for the rest of my life.

I realize that I can't expect people to see you the way I see you.  Other people don't see the space that is so very visible to me.

Your space is so very visible to me, Lydie.  The spot you were meant to be.

I've called your sister by your name multiple times now, and had it on the tip of my tongue many other times.  Initially, it made me feel guilty.  I am adamant that Josie is not a "replacement child" because you, my dear, are not replaceable.  And then I call her by your name.

But, I realized something.  That's what parents do.  They call their kids by the wrong names.  They mix them up.  And the pets too.  Oma Jo called me Jake on a regular basis when I was a kid.  Lydia and Josephine, Josephine and Lydia.  You are sisters.  You will get mixed up, you will get called by each other's names.   There's beauty behind that.  We are a family with three children.

You're now my middle child.  The middle child just like me.  I worked to make myself visible when I was growing up, and I'll work to make you visible too.

For the past year, I've read so much about "baby loss."  I "lost" my baby, just like hundreds of people do every day.

But you'd be one today, Lydie, and now I've lost my toddler too.

I wish I was baking a cake for your first birthday.  I would be putting the final touches on your birthday decorations and hanging a banner made of all your monthly photos.  Our family would all be gathered together for the first time since your brother's first birthday, instead of the way they did at your memorial.

There may be no party today, but we're still honoring you, Lydie.  Long ago, I told you I wanted to try to let go of the anger and resentment and instead live in a way that would make you proud.  It's hard.  It's really hard, but I'm trying.

Today, we're presenting the Cuddle Cot to St. Ann's Hospital in your honor.   We're returning to the  place we last held you.  We'll be surrounded by all the other people who got to meet you.  Your dad and I will get to talk about you and celebrate you.  And in your honor, we're giving people a gift that we didn't have, more time with their precious babies.  Sixty-two of our family members and friends, and even some complete strangers, donated money to make that happen.  You're making ripples through this world, even though you're not here.

I've struggled a lot this past year, Lydie.  It's been the hardest year of my life, and sometimes, knowing that I'll be carrying this grief for the rest of my life takes my breath away.

I'm still learning how to carry the grief, and how to carry you.

After all, it's only been a year.

I hope you're with us always, the way I imagine in my optimistic moments.  I hope you are with us when we light your candle every single night, crowded around the dinner table together.  "I love you, I miss you Lydie!" your brother shouts.  Pretty soon, Josephine will learn to say it too. I hope you can feel it when we look at the stars and say goodnight to you.  And I hope you're with us all those moments in between.

I hope you've found all these beautiful babies the way I've found their beautiful mothers, and I hope they've become your closest friends the way that they've become mine.

I hope you've never doubted my love for you.  I hope the times I'm able to laugh, you know that I love you just as much as those times I can only cry.  I hope you know I hold you in my laughter just as much as I hold you in my tears.

I hope you're at peace, wherever you are.  And I hope the time goes by so very quickly until I can kiss you again.  I'm going to cover you with kisses.

I'm one year further from you, but I'm one year closer too.

We'll try to celebrate you today, Lydie, and I'll try to make your birthday as happy as it can be without you here.  After all, it was one year ago that I held you and kissed you and told you over and over again how much I love you.

And that love exists in the present tense.

You are loved, you are loved, you are loved.

On your birthday and every day.

I love you, my Lydie Girl.
Mama



Thursday, November 5, 2015

November 5th

Today is November 5th.
One year since the worst day of my life.
One year ago, around 9:35 am, my life changed forever.
I had no idea how bad things really were though, at that moment.  The shock was protecting me from that.
Lydie was already dead before then, of course, but I didn't know it.
One year ago, I was living the stuff nightmares are made of.

Sometimes I wonder, one year later, how I did what I did.

I remember how my doctor was talking while looking for the baby's heartbeat.  I remember wishing she'd shut up, just until I heard it.  I remember the feeling of panic as we didn't find it.
I remember the pivotal moment of before and after where I knew, I knew, that my daughter had died.
I remember the silent Doppler.
I remember being ushered into the ultrasound room to confirm what we already knew.
I remember calling my husband, saying the words "there's no heartbeat."  I remember Dr. B taking the phone from me to talk to him some more.
I remember calling my mom, then my sister, telling them to come.  Come now.
I remember waiting while Dr. B held my hand, waiting for Justin to arrive.
I remember the tears in my doctor's eyes.  I remember her telling me it's not your fault, and I remember thinking, later, when I can comprehend this, I am going to think this is my fault.  That's why she's saying this.
I remember thinking I should be crying.  Why aren't I crying?
I remember it taking so long for Justin to arrive, but that moment he rushed in, his eyes wide and filled with tears, and tears finally, finally filled my own eyes.
I remember talking about our options.  C-section or vaginal birth?  How long to wait?  I remember looking down at my bulging bump and wondering if I was still considered pregnant when my baby was dead.
I remember calling my mom again on my drive home, then telling her I needed to go because I didn't trust myself to drive.
I remember walking in the door to my house and not knowing what to do.
I remember walking over to my neighbor friend's house.  I remember wanting to say the words out loud.  I remember she wasn't home and so I texted her instead.
I remember calling work to tell them I wouldn't be in.  Not today and not tomorrow.
I remember calling my best friend.  I remember she didn't answer so I texted her, and when she called back, I remember her wailing.  I remember saying calmly, "Sometimes these things happen."
I remember the phone ringing, and staring in disbelief as Ben's new school called me for the first time ever.  I remember thinking they were calling to tell me he was dead, that both my children were dead.  (He wasn't; he was merely constipated).
I remember Justin calling Dr. B, asking how soon I could be induced.
I remember sitting on the floor, with my back leaning against the couch, with Justin sitting next to me.  Staring out the glass door onto our patio, wondering what the hell to do.   I remember waiting for my family to arrive from all over.  I remember wanting them to arrive so I'd know what to do.
I remember my mom and sister walking in sobbing.  I remember the group hug.  I remember breaking down.
I remember my sister helping me pack my hospital bag.  I remember debating taking the camera, debating taking the blanket I had made for my baby.  I remember staring at the pile of baby things I had set aside, in total disbelief that I wouldn't be packing any of it.
I remember asking Justin: Do we still name her Lydia?  I remember thinking that Lydia was our name for our living daughter, not our dead daughter.  I remember we quickly decided this was Lydia.  Our Lydie.
I remember sitting down at my laptop to email close friends and family members.  I remember trying to find the words.  I remember writing that our daughter has no heartbeat and her name is Lydia Joanne.
I remember my phone ringing sporadically through out the day, those close friends and family members calling to offer words of support.  I remember being paralyzed as I watched the screen light up.
I remember a good friend, a mom of a friend, leaving me a teary voicemail explaining that she too had lost a baby.  I remember wondering how I didn't know.
I remember my family eating dinner, staring at them in disbelief that anyone could consume food.  I remember drinking a glass of wine, while staring at my corpse belly.
I remember leaving for the hospital early.
I remember the silence on the drive to the hospital.  I remember Justin hitting the curb as he turned into the hospital.  I remember closing my eyes and hoping it killed us.
I remember checking into the hospital, holding my belly.  I remember seeing the bassinet sitting there and I remember losing my shit at that moment.
I remember my doctor showing up, telling her how I felt the baby move.  I remember her doing another ultrasound to confirm she was dead.  I remember seeing the still heart on the ultrasound.  I remember her telling me the baby's bum was pushing against me in the amniotic fluid.
I remember my doctor telling me it's not my fault.
I remember the nurses checking me in, asking lots of mandatory questions.  I remember being asked: Have you fallen recently?   I remember thinking that's a terrible question to ask to a woman whose baby is dead.  I remember that question didn't help with the guilt.
I remember saying, no I haven't eaten or drank anything.  I remember lying about that glass of wine.
I remember the nurses asking how much I wanted to feel.  I remember having no idea.  I remember both wanting the physical pain and I remember wanting to be knocked completely out. I remember them telling me I could be on morphine because my baby was dead.
I remember being poked with needles, I remember the IV starting pitocin.  I remember the nurses being really kind to me.  I remember Justin climbing up on my bed and watching Netflix together in hopes that we could get our minds somewhere else for an hour.  I remember Justin being worried that the nurses would think less of us that we were watching tv at a time like this.
I remember my mom and Justin sleeping in pull out chairs next to my bed.  I remember the nurse walking in and asking if I wanted an epidural and I remember I didn't want to wake them up.
I remember laboring all night long.
I remember the chaplain coming to see us, the social worker.  I remember them asking if we planned to cremate or bury our daughter.  I remember that I had briefly thought about where my parents might be buried, I had never really thought about where I'd like to be buried, and I had definitely never thought about where my children would be buried.
I remember them asking if I'd like to hold her right away or if I'd like for her to be cleaned up first.  I remember having no idea.
I remember thinking that it's not right to have these conversations when you're in labor.
I remember my sister sitting on her laptop in the corner, shopping on Etsy for prints that said things like "I carried you for every second of your life and I will love you for every second of mine."  I remember thinking she was crazy that she thought that stuff could fix this.
I remember my dad coming to the hospital in the morning.  I remember him standing in the corner, with his hands in his pockets.  I remember how helpless he looked, how helpless I felt.
I remember it was gray and rainy.  I remember how appropriate the weather felt.
I remember asking the nurse to check me, feeling like Lydie might be coming soon.
I remember them asking if I could wait to push, telling me my doctor was on her way.
I remember telling them, she's coming now.
I remember pushing.
I remember screaming that I am a terrible mother.  I remember screaming I'm so sorry as I pushed out my perfect little girl into this world.  I remember 12:14 pm.
I remember the idiot hospital doctor announcing "There's something wrong with her cord."
I remember not caring what the fuck was wrong, I remember just wanting my daughter in my arms.
I remember how I couldn't stop crying as I held her.  How I couldn't stop crying as I examined how perfect she was.  I remember her full hear of dark hair and her big, flipper feet.  I remember her cherry red lips and her peeling skin.   I remember telling her over and over how much I love her and how sorry I am.

When this perfect baby girl's heart was still beating.






Saturday, October 31, 2015

This time last year.

We are days away from Lydia's first birthday.  Just 6 days away.

Which means, this time last year, my life was intact.

Justin and I took Benjamin the dragon trick-or-treating.  We talked about how Lydie would be with us next year, wondered what she would dress up as.  A neighbor gave me an extra piece of candy "for the baby."

Justin and I spent the weekend playing furniture Tetris, trying to figure out how to fit the glider and the changing table and the crib into such a small room.  We started to hang up the decor, including the "Lydia, you are my sunshine" print.

I continued collecting the perfect blue and green combinations to fill up my baby girl's closet.

We were counting down the days until she joined our family, thinking that these days with only Benjamin were numbered.

Most of all, I remember that I was really happy.

_______________________________________________________

I keep thinking about this time last year.

I'm trying to remember what it felt like to be that happy.  That innocent.

To not be completely jaded.

To believe that good things happened to good people.

To believe that I had some semblance of control over my life.  Control over my children.  Control over my body.

To believe that stupid platitude that things happen for a reason.

To feel comforted by statistics.

To be able to have normal conversations with old friends.

To be able to really smile for photos, to not feel like such a faker.

________________________________________________________

In my hard moments, I can't imagine I'll ever be truly happy again.

I'm in love with my son and my youngest daughter (and my husband, of course).

But there's this longing, this unfulfillment, this emptiness that resides within me.

There's this constant missing.

The tears have been coming so easily recently.




_____________________________

I noticed the other day that I have wrinkles.

I think the last year has aged me a million years.

_____________________________

Maybe I shouldn't write in the roughest moments.
Maybe I should wait for the tough times to pass.
Maybe I should wait until I get more sleep, until I feel less anxious.
Maybe I should wait until I am feeling more at peace.

I just can't stop thinking about this time last year.

________________________________________________

How do you celebrate the first birthday when your daughter died before she was born?

Do you decorate a cake?  Do you sing?

Do you look at photographs of her, make the blurry images in your mind sharp once more?

Do you look up at the stars and tell her how much you love her, and beg that she can hear you?

_____________________________________

How do you get through the one-year anniversary of the worst day of your life, the day you found out her heart had stopped beating?

I guess the answer to this question is:
The same way I have somehow gotten through the 360 days since then.

One moment at a time.

______________________________________

I just really miss my girl.

And I really miss the life I led until November 5, 2014.






Friday, October 23, 2015

On the complexities of now.

There's a fresh level of grief right now.  I am missing Lydia more fiercely than I have in a long time.   
I just can't help but notice the space where she should be.

I think I had been so focused on my fear and anxiety for Bowie that I couldn't concentrate on my grief for Lydie.  And now it's back with a vengeance.  

And I'm having all these "firsts" with Josie that I didn't get to have with Lydie.  

One of the toughest parts about this is that others don't seem to expect it.  Any one who is not in the loss community seems to think things should be better for us now.  That we should only be happy. I am really hoping that they don't think we are "fixed."  

But I wonder... because we have gotten cards in the mail congratulating Heather, Justin, and Ben but making no mention of Lydie.  And people who disappeared about a year ago are showing up now, making no mention of how broken we've still are.

It hurts when others don't recognize Lydia as part of our family.  

Don't get me wrong, I am happy.  I'm also more sad than I've been in a long time.  

__________________________________

I watch Benjamin with his littlest sister -- he is loving being able to act on his big brother responsibilities.  He has been better behaved than I've ever seen.  His favorite new activity is to sit next to Josephine and read to her (and he doesn't really need help either!  What a smarty-pants boy). 

"No pictures, Mom" - Ben

The result of Mom replying, "What if I show the picture to your girlfriends, can you smile for them?"


I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, but the most jealousy I have seen is when I was taking photos of Josie and he asked me to take his photo too.  And then he actually posed.  Which I have been trying to get him to do for the past year, so no complaining here.  

He's been attending school this week, and he happily declared to his teacher, "Bowie came out!" Every morning, he comes running in to our bedroom to see "my Bowie." He wants to kiss her all.the.time.   When his cousin wanted to hold her, he sat stoically with her on his lap, not moving a muscle, and not letting her anywhere near "my baby."  

My heart swells when I watch my son with my daughter.  And it also breaks into a million pieces.  Because this scene should look different.  There should be an almost-one year old girl toddling between the baby and the big boy.  

That space where she should be is so visible.

I can't help but wonder how Ben would have been with Lydie a year ago. 
As I watch him love on Josie, I can't help but think how ripped off he's gotten that he has missed this experience for the past year.  




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That doesn't even hit on the fact that I have two daughters, sister daughters, whose relationship will never look the way I want it to.  It will never look like the sister relationship that I have with my sister.  Which, besides my husband and my mom, is my strongest, most valued relationship.

Josephine holding Lydia's hand(print).  I sure wish this could look different.


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Maybe I'm finally starting to process all that I wasn't able to last week, because I'm crying multiple times a day right now.  

It's like the postpartum depression survey I took on the nurse's home visit: "Do you feel anxious and sad for no reason at all?"  How the hell do I answer that?  Do I feel anxious and sad? -- Yes.  For no reason?  -- No. I'd say I have a pretty good reason.  

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I've had several dreams in which both of my living children are taken away from me.  I start screaming "nooooo!" and wake up in a sweat (which to be fair, could totally be hormones).  

The anxiety has shifted, and it's better, but it's still there.  I know too much now and I no longer feel invincible.  I know quite a few families that have lost their babies to SIDS.  The other night, Justin and Josephine went off to hang out downstairs while I went to bed early.  When I woke up to a quiet house,  I instantly panicked.  I envisioned Justin falling asleep on the couch with Josie on his chest.   I frantically texted him (which is not the norm in our house but is much easier than getting out of bed when recovering from a c-section), and they were just fine... but my mind often jumps to the worst.  After the worst has happened to you, how could it not?

Most parents worry less about their second living child.  They have survived the newborn stage with their oldest, they know a bit more of what to expect, they don't get as worked up about every little thing because they understand each stage will pass.  

Me?  We only have an old-school monitor for Ben but I just ordered a video monitor to keep an eye on Josephine.  I always thought that alarms based on the baby's breathing patterns, like Snuzas and Angelcare Monitors, were completely over the top.  Now?  It's on my list of things to look into.  (Any suggestions, anyone?)

This will not be the case for me.

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And I know - I know - that my visions of my three children together are faulty at best.  I recognize that if Lydie were here, Josie likely wouldn't be.  When I go there, I feel like I have chosen one of my children over the other and I have to stop and remind myself: I didn't chose Josie over Lydie.  I didn't have a choice.  While I would never want Josephine to grow up thinking she was "Option B," as Sheryl Sandberg wrote  -- kicking the shit out of Option B -- I also think, clearly my first choice would be not to know this pain and grief and not to have my child's urn on my mantle.  

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A few friends have asked if Josephine looks at all like Lydia.  I appreciate the question, maybe because it acknowledges the big sister.  But it also makes me pause.  The moment Josephine was born, Dr. B announced that she looked like her big brother.  

So what about her big sister?  I'm not sure.  Josie's hair is a lot lighter; Lydie's hair was very dark - as dark as her dad's.  And Lydie's face was bruised, making it difficult to overlook the brusing to see what she might have looked like otherwise. 

But there have been moments where I catch a glimpse of Lydie in Josie.  
I think I hope for more of those moments.

I looked at photos of Lydie the other day, which I rarely do these days because I feel like the blurred image in my memory is gentler on me.  I looked for Josephine in Lydia, in Lydia in Josephine.  

I was left as a puddle of tears and snot.

I can look at the numbers.  Josie was two and a half pounds heavier than her sister, but oddly, half an inch shorter.  But of course, their gestational ages were different.  I can compare Josie's hands and feet to her sister's hand and foot prints, and of course I have.  I think proportionally, Lydie's hands and feet were bigger.

Josephine and Lydie Bear
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Last night, my Jo Bo (get it?) spit up projectile vomited all over me and my bed during an otherwise serene moment doing skin-to-skin.  I was horrified when I realized it reached Lydie's blanket.  The blanket I've never washed because it has traces of Lydie's blood on it and was wrapped all around Lydie the moment I was forced to say goodbye.

I almost vomited myself.

The rational side of me knows I've been sleeping with that blanket for close to a year now, and it probably really needs to be washed.  But how ironic right?  Little living sister spits up all over big dead sister's blanket.

Maybe I'll just see if I can spot clean it instead...

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All this emotional stuff doesn't touch on recovering from the c-section, postpartum hormones, and cluster feeding that is happening pretty much all night, every night.  I feel like I don't have a right to complain, because last time, I dealt with all of this (minus the c-section recovery) without a baby. And believe me, it's a much better situation to be exhausted from breastfeeding all night than to be exhausted because your baby is dead.  

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On a brighter note, I feel like I can think of the future for the first time in a year.  When Lydia died, I couldn't look at my calendar for months.  I had each week of gestation marked on there, her scheduled c-section, my maternity leave that never actually happened. 

I didn't look at a calendar for a solid three months because I couldn't bare the thought of a future without my daughter.  

Suddenly, I can think about Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas.  It will never stop being painful that we won't physically have Lydia with us.  But after lacking so much confidence throughout Bowie's pregnancy, now I can plan to have Josephine there.  And I know all the ways we will continue to honor Lydie and keep her with us.

I feel like I can breathe for the first time in a long time.


This made me laugh.  Grateful to have this one on the outside where I can see her!






 
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