And typically, Justin, Benjamin, and I stay at our cottage for the rest of that week, for our "family vacation." (I put this in quotes because our family vacations don't look like other family vacations, mostly because we spend no money. But still, we're together for a week on a beach.)
This year was supposed to look different. Ben's third summer up at the cottage. Should have been Lydie's first. Last summer, with my Lydie belly, I pictured her crawling around on the deck after her big brother.
Instead, this summer looked an awful lot like last summer. Justin, Ben, and pregnant Heather.
But we all know that no matter what we look like from the outside, our family is a lot different than we were one year ago.
And I have no idea how to picture our family one year from now. In general, I try not to.
I was nervous to take a break from my weekly doctor's appointment, to be away from the ultrasound machine that proves Bowie's heart is still beating. Luckily, I had an MFM appointment on the day before we left, and of course, I booked my Dr. B appt as soon as possible upon our return. Still, I wondered: what if I don't feel much movement? What if I freak out? How will I know she's still alive?
|Bowie at 21 weeks. Ah-maze-ing ultrasound technology at the MFM.|
We road-tripped up to my Homeland, a bit more than a five hour drive, meeting my sister and her family at McDonald's along the way as we often manage to do. Within minutes of arriving at the cottage, we were on the beach. Which was relaxing and fun for about an hour. Until my sister got back from her kayak ride, and Benjamin jumped down to go help her with the kayak.
Ironically, at this point in time, I had my nephew AJ sitting on my lap, cuddling him with a towel to warm him up, feeding him a snack.
I hear Ben start screaming and next thing I know, Laura is carrying him towards me, apologizing profusely, while blood is spilling out of his head.
Somehow, Laura accidentally dropped the kayak on his face. Near his face? No idea. No idea what actually happened, but all I knew was that my two-year-old had a huge gash in the center of his forehead, right above his eyes.
"He needs stitches," I said, almost automatically.
No, no, everyone else said. Let's just see if it stops bleeding.
I carry him up the long flight of stairs, keeping my beach towel against the gash. I can barely make it to the top, I'm so out of breath, but the adrenaline gets me there.
I sit on the porch and rock and cuddle my boy, keeping the towel pressed over the gash. Justin gets him a "cee-cee" (aka soother aka pacifier) and he lays his head against my chest, sniffling. "I help! I help with kayak," he tells me.
"You were just trying to help, buddy?" I ask him. He nods.
We look at the cut. It's deep. It's in the center of his face. I don't want it to scar.
We debate butterfly bandages, skin glue, and then, like I first said, stitches.
We're in another country. I have no idea what my insurance will or won't cover. I don't even know where the hospital is, although my parents do. The thought of walking through the doors of a hospital make me want to vomit. Hello, PTSD.
As we make the decision to head to the ER, I hug my boy, and I let out a couple of sobs. I think it's pretty clear that my reaction is due to my anxiety I've developed since Lydie's sudden death.
My sister keeps apologizing, saying she didn't mean to. No shit, I told her, but clearly you weren't being careful. I also may have asked, "Why couldn't you drop the fucking kayak on your own kid's face?"
So, on the eve of my 34th birthday, we climb into the car to drive to the same hospital at which I was born.
My mom came with us, and I sat in the back, holding Ben's hand. I told him we were going to see a doctor about his boo-boo. I felt a bit better when he asked, "Dis boo-boo?" (pointing to a scrape on his knee) "Or dis boo-boo?" (pointing to the giant gash on his forehead).
Like any emergency room visit, we waited for a while to see a doctor, who immediately said, "Yep he needs stitches."
|Justin showing Ben how to squeeze his hand if it hurts, while the numbing gel is at work.|
|The nurse wrapping my baby up in a straightjacket. Or a burrito. Either way.|
Four stitches later and many tears from both the mom and the boy later, we were finally on our way. The final instructions from the doctor? To keep it dry for a week. Excellent start to our beach vacation, eh? And he also casually mentioned, he might get two black eyes next. At least that would make his aunt feel even guiltier, I joked.
|On the way back to the cottage from the hospital. The boy deserved as many donuts as he could eat. The look on his face shows he is well aware of this.|
(Also, by the way, my sister and I are fine. She didn't mean to hurt Ben, but she should have been more careful. She knows that. She's sorry. Although I did giggle a little when Ben was asked what happened to his face, and he answered, "Laura.")
Ben is a daredevil, and Justin and I always figured we would be taking him to the ER someday. But we did not see that coming on the beach that day. I guess that's how it happens, right?
|The sunset that night. I breathed in and out a lot and wrote and rewrote Lydie's name in the sand.|
|AJ wanting to match Ben, needed a band-aid on his face also.||Made me laugh.|
The next day was my birthday. Usually, a day full of family and the beach. This time, a day full of family and rain. And rain. And more rain. Cold rain. To bide the time, we went shopping and out to lunch (the cottage is REALLY small when stuck in there with 10 people, including 3 rowdy kids.)
This is not what I thought 34 would look like.
|My little tough guy, one day later.|
The following day was our tree dedication for Lydia at our family cemetery. I have way too many family members buried at this cemetery. Although we cremated Lydie and keep her with us at home, I am grateful that my aunts and uncles offered to purchase a tree and a plaque for her at this cemetery. And I'm grateful that they all came out in the rain and the cold to dedicate that tree.
|My uncle John, who is a Catholic deacon, leading the dedication|
I read this poem entitled Remember Me, by Margaret Mead:
To the living, I am gone.
To the sorrowful, I will never return.
To the angry, I was cheated,
But to the happy, I am at peace,
And to the faithful, I have never left.
I cannot be seen, but I can be heard.
So as you stand upon a shore, gazing at a beautiful sea - remember me.
As you look in awe at a mighty forest and its grand majesty - remember me.
As you look upon a flower and admire its simplicity - remember me.
the times we cried, the times we fought, the times we laughed.
For if you always think of me, I will never be gone.
I left out the crossed out part. It didn't fit for Lydie, unfortunately. That's the thing about a stillborn baby; all the "memories" are what you expect to have. Lydie and I didn't get to fight or laugh. But I liked this poem especially for a tree dedication, and especially so close to our cottage, where we do in fact stand upon a shore and gaze at a beautiful sea (or lake). And I don't think it will ever be hard to remember her.
|Watering the tree... not so much needed in the rain, but a symbolic gesture of nurturing Lydie and our love for her.|
|Closest to a complete family photo we will ever have.|
It's comforting to know that Lydia has another special spot. A place we will continue to visit. It's about twenty minutes away from our cottage, where we visit multiple times every summer, and right near many family member's houses. Justin said we'll picnic with Lydie's Tree every summer. I like that.
|The cousins dressed up for an early celebration of Canada Day|
|Thoughts of Lydie|
|To the bridge (Michigan on one side, Ontario on the other) to watch boats. And eat fries. And check my email/Instagram/Facebook.|
|And share cuddles.|
|Spent our evenings watching the sunset on the beach.|
|And scrawling Lydie's name in the sand.|
|Bowie on the beach|
Bowie gave me kicks at least a few times a day. Enough reassurance to keep my anxiety in check and not break out the Doppler. I'm grateful for that.
|Lining up trucks to make a choo-choo, obviously.|
|We visited Lydie's Tree again on a dryer morning.|
|Bowie at 22 weeks. With all 3 of my babes.|
|My boys on the beach.|
|The 23 bump shot, as we're saying goodbye to the cottage. Note Justin's holding Lydie's Stone.|
Typically, I visit the cottage at least a few times every summer, but we have no plans to go back again this summer. We're getting closer to viability for Bowie, and that scares me. More on that later.
8 months today. We love you, Lydie. And if this isn't glaringly obvious, we miss you so, so much.