Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Memory Box

A while ago, my uncle wrote Justin and me and volunteered to make a memory box to hold all our cherished items of Lydie's.  (I don't use that word, cherished, a lot, but when you have so few tangible items to represent a life, it seems appropriate.)  Of course, I told him, of course we'd love that.

He ended up making three: one for us, one for my cousin and his wife whose son was also stillborn, and one for my aunt and uncle whose son died, suddenly and tragically, at age 11.  My aunt and uncle got the biggest one, because you know, there's more tangible items when an 11-year-old dies than when a baby dies before she's even born.

It's been sitting in our bedroom for a few weeks now, empty.  We knew we needed to take the time to move Lydie's things to it, but we knew we needed more than time.  We needed the emotional capacity to handle it.

Lydie's things are all over the house.  Her "You are my Sunshine" print sits on our mantle, overlooking her urn and her name block.  Pictures of her feet are in the frame next to a picture of Benjamin at 3 months old.  A stained glass angel with an L shines through the kitchen window.  Her handprints and footprints are framed in the living room, with pages from the book Wherever You Go, My Love Will Find You framed on the wall above.  Lydie's things will stay all over the house, reminders of our daughter everywhere... but there's also some other things to go in her memory box.

This past weekend, Justin and I took the time and emotional space to sort through Lydie's things and to place them in her memory box.  I choked up at the cremation paperwork, reading Justin's signature giving permission to cremate our girl, the words "fetal death" and "probable cord accident" and "age 0."  I looked through her ultrasound photos, tried to see if I could see her in them.  I opened the box holding the hundreds of sympathy cards and quickly placed the lid back on.  I know those cards are there for when I need a good, long cry, but my emotional capacity was not that high.  Justin held up the packet of information from the funeral home, and said, "I hope we never need this again."  He asked what we should do with it.  I glanced at my belly.

This weekend felt big.  We rounded the corner from 19 weeks to 20 weeks in this pregnancy.  Which means we rounded the corner from miscarriage to stillbirth.  I hate that I think that way, but that seems to be my reality now.

Early on in this pregnancy, I told Justin, "If I have a miscarriage, we can try again.  If it's another stillbirth, I'm done."  And here we are.

On Saturday, I got it into my head that I hadn't felt Bowie move.  Feeling her movement is still sporadic at this point (stupid anterior placenta!) but I started worrying.  And the worrying built all morning and afternoon as I got no reassurance.  I thought about breaking out the Doppler.  Instead I drank some orange juice and laid on my side.  Nothing.  I thought more about the Doppler.  I've been avoiding using it, worried about the slippery slope of becoming addicted to it, worried what I would do if I couldn't find it, worried it would cause me more anxiety than comfort.  I pictured myself in the hospital when I couldn't find the heartbeat.  Stupid weekends, when my doctor's office isn't open.

I decided it was worth the gamble.  I broke out the Doppler.  I watched as the panic subsided from Justin's face when we heard that heart beat.  I jokingly asked him if I could just lay there for the next 4 months with the Doppler on my belly.

Eventually, he went out to mow the lawn, while I began to watch YouTube videos on home Dopplers and wonder if we used it wrong.  Maybe it was the placenta we heard, not the heartbeat?

It sucks to be constantly wondering if your baby has died, inside you.

So we tried the Doppler again.  And that was definitely Bowie's heartbeat.

It was just an anxiety-ridden day.  So the following day, when stacking Lydia's books and cards and photos in the memory box, I placed the funeral home information in there with them.  For a brief moment, I told myself, I'm pretty sure the funeral home will give you the information again if you have another child that dies.  But I couldn't tempt fate.  Into the memory box it went.

It was nice to sit with my husband and sort through our daughter's things.  It's a gorgeous box made just for Lydie with love, to keep her things close to us. (Thanks Uncle Ron!)  There were tears shed, but that's no surprise.

I think I will have a love/hate relationship with that box.  I hate that we have it; I love that we have it.  Every time I walk in and out of our bedroom, I will see that box, and usually, just knowing that it holds Lydia's things will be enough.  But every once in a while, when I have the emotional capacity, I can open it up and spend some time with my daughter.


  1. That box is BEAUTIFUL. I really wish I had something like that...I have a small box from the hospital that has everything from there, but then I just have a Tupperware with all the other stuff in it...I wish I was nicer.

    I haven't gone through mine in awhile though...I read those cards and that paperwork too, and I lose my shit. It's all right there on paper--what happened to Luke--and I always lose it. It's comforting to know it all just sits that box. I'm hopeful to never have to revisit paperwork like that anytime soon.

    It'll get easier to poke through most of it, but some of it will never be easy, I think. That's where I'm at, at least.

  2. What a thoughtful gesture of him - I love that box and love knowing someone made it from the heart. Cale's stuff sits in a tupperware bin under my bed.

    I remember having the same thought as you about pregnancy after loss - if I had a miscarriage (and I did after Finn) I thought I might be done (obviously wasn't), but if I had another stillbirth I KNEW I would be done. It's such a scary time. I'm glad the doppler brought you reassurance that day.

    I love how loved your little girl is.

  3. I have a grey cardboard box with Jack's things, so I love that you have something special and more beautiful to contain Lydie's things.
    And don't think you're the only one who thought of pregnancies in terms of miscarriage versus stillbirth, I remember that all too well <3


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