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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Blog #7: Next

I had first dream about Alex last night. In almost two months, I haven’t dreamt of him once. Is that weird? For awhile, I was really mad about that because I thought that if I could hold him in my dreams, I wouldn’t miss him as much when I woke up. Maybe my mind was protecting my heart this whole time… When you wake up and realize he’s still gone, it starts to hurt all over again.

I dreamt that I had forgotten Baby Alex in his car seat when I was running errands. I noticed it a few days later and went nearly crazy trying to find him. When I finally did find him, his cheeks were stained with tears, but he was asleep and otherwise okay. I was thrilled. I sent happy emails to everyone rejoicing that “Baby Alex is back!” I woke up with a smile on my face. When I realized it was just a dream, my heart sank a little bit more.

I real life, I do keep looking for that moment of relief when I “find” him. That moment when I can finally breathe a sigh of relief and relax. 

I think about having more children. Is that wrong? Nothing could replace Alex, but I feel like our family is missing something. I still want Benjamin to have a sibling on earth for all the same reasons I did before we had Alex. I long for a time when I will feel life growing inside me again. I look for another miracle to bless our family, to prove that the curse of what has happened to us is over.

I’m not saying that there’s a plague on our house, but things are hard right now. If we had wonderful news of another baby on the way, it feels like the tide would turn and we could focus on life instead of death. I’m not trying to jump the gun on anything. I swear. At the very least, the promise of new life in our household gives me hope and gets me through some of the tougher days.

Benjamin still remembers Baby Alex. Not that he talks about him all day long, but he remembers him at prayer time. He absolutely beams when he sees Alex’s picture. We have one of the picture boards from the funeral hanging in Benjamin’s room. I like to think that Alex is looking down on his big brother every day- in more ways than one.

I kind of want to put Benjamin in a big brother shirt today. I don’t want him to forget that he is a big brother and that he can still be proud. I just don’t want to elicit confusion or pity from the people who might see him. Maybe he can wear it to bed or something.

I draw so much strength from Benjamin. Every day I spend with him is another 24 hours I cherish in my heart. In life there are no guarantees, so I record as many memories with him as possible. I’m not sure how other parents out there handle their loss when they don’t have a toddler running crazy to distract them… I’m not sure I would get out of bed.

I’m not sure what the future holds for our family. It’s been almost one year since I found out I was pregnant with Alex. I learned that I was pregnant when I was staying at my parent’s house for the death of my uncle. My mom lost all three of her siblings and her mother in just two years. News of my pregnancy with Alex was the one bright spot in all that sadness. Maybe that’s why Alex came to our family? To help us through a difficult time, and to help us focus on something positive?

Who knows what life will be like for us in one year from now. Maybe I’ll be pregnant, maybe I’ll be happier, maybe I’ll be skinny! Just kidding. There’s so much that’s unknown right now that thinking out that far overwhelms me. I am trying to focus on the things I do know:

I love my husband.

We have two amazing boys.

Benjamin was the first love of my life.

Alex was the second.

I will always love Alex, but my heart holds enough love for more.

Remembering Alex (#7): Combat— I wrote this 25 days after Alex died.

So I’m in therapy. I’ve gone twice now and I have another session this week. Is it weird that I look forward to going? It makes me feel like I’m actively doing something that will help me through all of this- something that will actually make me feel better. I don’t feel any better yet, but I’m sure I’ll feel better sometime in the next… century.

Not that our friends and family haven’t been great- they are. I just like the idea that someone is financially obligated to be there and listen to my rambling. More than that, I like the idea that a professional can help me work through things faster… I feel like I’m doing everything I can. I’m going to church, I’m going to therapy. Why don’t I feel any better?

The hardest part about dealing with Alex’s death is that every single day is a battle that I feel unprepared to fight.  Every day is just as hard as the last day, but in a different way.  The things that helped me get through the day yesterday don’t do anything to help me today. Each battle is different, and I’m not any better prepared in my war against grief.  One day I need grenades, the next a bow and arrow… tomorrow I might need chewing gum and a detonator. I have no idea what is coming.

I have people around me helping me to fight this battle- we are at war with grief and we arm ourselves with memories to help guide us through the fight. When sadness creeps in, we blast back with pictures and stories and prayer. We win the battle for the day, but the next day comes with a surprise attack. I am growing restless in my fox hole and I long for a truce. My dear enemy grief, if I agree to be sad for 23 hours a day, can I please have a single hour to myself each day? An hour where I can play with my child, or chat with my husband and not feel like I am going to collapse from injuries sustained in combat? Negotiations aren’t going well.

We took Benjamin to a water park over the holiday weekend- it was the same hotel we stayed at with Piggy just a month ago. It was impossible not to think of him as I remember sitting on the sidelines watching Ben and Benjamin play in the water.  Much as I wanted to go in the water with Alex, I couldn’t find a swim diaper small enough for him. Alex and I sat by the pool and cuddled, ignoring the world around us.

I long for that same feeling of contentment I had while holding Piggy. I cherished his hugs in a way I probably didn’t with Benjamin. I understood how quickly he was going to grow up and resist being held. We could sit for hours together and I could ignore the world passing us by. I don’t have that feeling anymore. I don’t have that feeling of sheer, in-the-moment, bliss you get holding a beautiful little baby.  

I look for him everywhere. That feeling I had when we were together. He’s not in his room- it smells familiar, but he’s not there. He’s not at his small grave underneath the tree. I don’t feel him while listening to his music, and I don’t feel him when looking at his pictures. Isn’t there some place I should be able to go to visit him? Isn’t there something that I should be able to do to enjoy and remember him?

I couldn’t sleep in the hotel- I kept tossing and turning, so I went to the bathroom and wrote some thoughts down on paper. I don’t remember writing all this, so I was surprised at what I found in the morning.

Midnight Ramblings

Everyday is harder than the day I thought it’d be,

In my sleep I hold my baby, when I wake up- it’s just me.

I wonder if he knew how much that he was loved,

I hope he sees it now as he looks down from heaven above.

He’ll never understand all my wishes, hopes and dreams,

Feel like I’m drowning everyday in useless tears and angry screams.

Nothing I say, nothing I do, can ever bring him back.

Want to focus on what our family has instead of what we lack.

No matter what we do, our lives are not the same.

Don’t know whether to smile or cry whenever I hear his name.

I pray that he knows how very loved he was,

His mommy’s still on earth sending love to him above.

I never will forget the way I held his head,

The way I kissed his cheek and tucked him sweetly into bed.

I laid him down to sleep- he never did awake,

I hope to understand why God chose my special child to take.

Because I have a child and a husband that I love, I get up every day and prepare myself for battle. I arm myself with memories, and shield myself from sadness with prayer and love. I don’t feel like I’m winning this war, and I don’t know when it will end.

Each time someone who doesn’t know asks, “how’s the baby?!?” it’s like a bomb has been dropped on my camp. When I get a bill in the mail for the ambulance ride to the hospital, it feels like I’ve been hit with grenades. Seeing the worst day of your life itemized into a bill is a midnight attack from the enemy I just wasn’t expecting.

I cry. I pray. I fight.

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Posted by on July 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Blog #6: Now

Some people are still calling. I love that. People worry about saying the wrong thing, or not wanting to make you sadder than you already are. Dude, I assure you, nothing could make me more sad than I already am. And the “wrong thing” to say, is when you don’t say anything and I think you don’t care, or have forgotten all about my beautiful boy.

Two conversations have changed my week. The first, was a conversation with my Pastor from childhood. What a special man he is. I am so lucky to have him in my life. We spent over an hour on the phone talking about the theology around what has happened. He told me the most profound thing I’ve heard to date.

Life is not a single event.

Alex didn’t die because of the angle I laid him down at, or because of where I laid him down, or when I laid him down. Like the basketball player who misses the final shot of the game at the buzzer and thinks he lost the game for the team. It doesn’t work that way. The game was lost by the hundreds and thousands of events that led up to that final shot. That person can only take responsibility for the final shot, not the entire game.

Alex is gone and I can’t take full responsibility for it. God is in all things and God was there when Alex died. Not for me to understand, but I take comfort in knowing that I am not the sole reason that Alex is gone.

The second conversation was with Alex’s pediatrician tonight. He called to check on our family, and to let us know that he has been following up with the pathologist’s office. Just like us, he hasn’t heard much of anything about what caused Alex to stop breathing. We are 99.9% sure it was SIDs, but we’re still waiting to hear.

He was so sincere, and what struck me most was that he apologized for not calling earlier. He said that he would have called three weeks earlier, but he didn’t have any news yet. He had been thinking of us, and waited to call until now, hoping to have more of an update. I would have hugged him over the phone if I could have. Three weeks ago?

I almost laughed out loud. Everybody and their brother was calling three weeks ago! It’s the few and the proud that still call to check on us now. The people that let you know with a hug and a smile that they’re still thinking of you… Or the rare person that says it with an ice cream bucket full of cookies.

We still muddle through the days and nights. The contrast between life now and what life would have been is hard. Things are calm with one child versus chaotic with two.

I get an email alert every few days, “Your three month old: what he’s doing now” and the lump in my throat gets a little bigger. For some reason my attempts to ‘unsubscribe’ aren’t working. I get regular updates on the milestones for my Baby Alex and it hurts. Weekly reminders of all the things he didn’t get to do here on earth.

Maybe he wants me to know what he’s doing. Maybe they’re more like status reports. He wants me to know that he’s smiling socially now, and that he may start to develop an attachment to a nuk, blanket or other transitional object.

Either way, I never forget how old he is, and I always know what he’s up to.

Remembering Alex (#6): If…Still — I wrote this 2.5 weeks after he died.

6-25-2011

“Work was fine.  Not sure why I thought it was going to be as hard as I thought.  I had wonderful people welcoming me back.  I had flowers and plants on my desk and chocolates and spinach dip in my fridge.  I had condolence cards on my keyboard and fresh kleenex on the bookshelf.  I am very well cared for: at work and at home.

The single thought that plagued me was the missing baby gift.  The week before Alex died, a baby gift was delivered to my office.  I had planned to pick it up later in the week, and then Alex died.  When I returned to work, there was no sign of it.  Did the sender come to re-claim it?  Did someone thoughtfully put it away?  Did everyone think it was best to put it out of sight?  My baby boy never got to open it.

Everything about the work day was fine.  Once your baby dies, there is nothing that could possibly make you feel worse.  Whether you’re at work, home, church or the grocery store, it’s all the same.  Even though some people avoid you, and others don’t make eye contact, you are at a point where none of it matters anyway.  The people that care are there- and that’s what you focus on.

We have been keeping busy.  We have so many people supporting us that it’s easy to fill the days with lunches, dinners, zoo time and play dates.  Nothing changes the circumstances.  As soon as your plans are over, you come back to the same quiet house, the same empty nursery.

I had a vision for our family.  As soon as week #20 hit, we knew that our baby was going to be a boy.  We even had his name picked out shortly after that… Once you know you’re going to have two boys, you have this picture of your life as a family of four.  How it will be, and what it will look like.  At 2.5 years apart, the boys will play, but hopefully not argue.  With two boys, you can re-use most of your clothes, except maybe the shoes because Benjamin has exceedingly thick feet… That vision will never come true.

I can’t help but think about what we would be doing if he were still here.  Would we have gone to the zoo today, or would I have likely complained that it’s too hard to find a place to nurse, and I would rather stay closer to home?  Would we cherish each moment with Benjamin the way we do now, or would we bicker about who was going to change his increasingly smelly diaper?

Alex didn’t even make it two months.  I wouldn’t be back at work yet- I would be spending my days cuddling my little piggy and planning play dates.  I’d be nursing and pumping and gladly still eating like a linebacker.  I wouldn’t have a stack of thank you cards from the funeral home to address and mail out. 

If he were here- I would feel guilty for not spending time with Benjamin and I would have twice as much laundry to sort and fold.  I would still be astounded at how quickly we go through diapers, and I would still never have a spit up cloth handy for the magic moment when Alex decided his stomach was full.

If my two boys were together- I would have to remind Benjamin not to scream so loudly during naptime, and I would still trip over the bouncy seat in the bathroom.  I never quite knew where to put it, but I knew that was the best place to put Alex when I wanted to take a shower.

If I still had my piggy here- my hair would be gross and I wouldn’t have gotten a chance to shower yet today.  I would have spit up on my shirt.  There would be even more laundry piling up in the basement.

If Alex were still with us- I wouldn’t run out of Kleenex every day and I would sleep better at night.  I would have a facebook page full of funny stories, and a camera full of adorable drool-y faces.

If I still had my baby here on earth- I would worry about him eating, not eating, sleeping, not sleeping, moving, not moving.  I would still log everything.  I would still coordinate outfits for both my boys and they would match more often than they didn’t.

If I could still cuddle Alex in my arms- I wouldn’t be very quick at returning phone calls.  Or emails.  I wouldn’t have time to make dinner.  We would be out of milk.

If I had both my boys in the car- I would ask Benjamin whether or not baby Alex was sleeping.  I would play the Brandenburg concertos for Alex on my iphone until he fell asleep.  I would get mad when Alex woke up as soon as we pulled into Target.

If I had Alex here- I would run out of wipes at the mall.  I would forget the bottles for my pump and my shirt would leak.  I would bring the wrong diapers and I still wouldn’t have a burp cloth for after he ate.  He would cry because he was tired, Benjamin would whine because Alex was crying and I still wouldn’t have taken a shower yet.

I am not a perfect mommy.  I forget things.  Every day.  I don’t have spare outfits in the diaper bag, and most of the time I eat the snack I packed for Benjamin.  Life was crazy and hectic and scattered with a toddler and a newborn.  The house was noisy and I never got a break.

Dear God, I never realized how good life could be.”

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Blog #5: Unsent

I’m late. No, not that kind of late… late with getting out all the thank you notes. We have this big stack of thank you cards from the funeral home that we need to address and send. I’m not always a fan of sending thank you cards, but I do like people to know how much we appreciated their gift, card, etc. For some reason, sending out thank you cards for Alex is especially hard.

Maybe it’s because of what it represents. I need to go through a list of addresses and again confirm that he’s gone and not coming back. Maybe it’s because I still never finished sending his birth announcements- so I can’t send out a “death announcement.” Maybe it’s because re-reading all the wonderful stories and letters we have received will be too much to handle at once. Mostly, I think I’m not ready to “get it over with.”

Alex’s death has reunited us with friends that were lost, introduced us to strangers we now cherish, and reinforced the love and friendship we share with friends and family, but hadn’t always taken the time to articulate before. As much as we mourn his loss, it has also brought unexpected blessings into our lives.

It’s sad to say, but Alex’s death was a bigger event in our life than his birth was. As much as we waited, and prayed for Alex’s arrival, his departure has brought more emotion, more attention and more prayers. I’m still processing all the wonderful love and support Alex’s death has brought into our lives. I’m still dealing with the pain. I’m still coping with the fact that his death has left a bigger mark on my heart than his birth.

Once all the thank you cards are out, it feels like we are “officially” done grieving our little boy. We can pack up all those sweet sentiments and file them away in his room. I guess I like the fact that there are things still undone.

Alex’s room looks like a yard sale. There are bouncy seats, car seats, swings, diapers, bottles and onesies galore. The mess reflects how quickly he left us, and how ill-prepared we were for his departure. There was nothing orderly, or planned about it. I’m still sorting through his things. Just like I’m sorting through my feelings.

I’m having a hard time articulating what these thank you cards represent. They represent closing a chapter to a book that should have had so many more pages to it. They represent turning a corner to go down a path I’m not ready to follow. They represent the end to an event I still haven’t accepted.

And I can’t quite express the gratitude we have for the kind words people have sent us, and the generous donations to his memorial fund. The poems that make me cry, and the books I have read more than once.

So the thank you cards sit in a heap on the chair. I pick them up every day, but I can’t bring myself to complete them. I appreciate all the wonderful things people have done for us, but I’m not ready to be thankful.

Remembering Alex (#5): One Too Many. This was written 2 weeks after Alex died.

“I am going to bite the bullet and go back to work tomorrow.  There are a few meetings, a few touchbases, etc.  Nothing real dramatic.  Honestly, just walking into the door could prove to be a challenge.  I just think about the first time I see people- how will it be?  How will I explain things?  How will I keep it together?  Will the heartbreak of what has happened be written all over my face?

It’s been two weeks since Alex died and I still think about him every minute of the day.  At any point in time I could cry for all the things we’ll never do and the life together we will never have.

Everything I see, everything I hear makes me think of Alex.

I was at the gym today and I saw three high school boys there working out.  They were obviously athletes staying in shape during the off-season.  As I saw these three kids, on the verge of adulthood, I thought about all of the things I’ll never know about Alex.  Was he going to be tall or short?  Lean or stocky?  A football player or a tennis star?  So many things I’ll never know about him.  So many questions unanswered.  To lose a baby is sad.  The realization that this baby will never grow into a man, let alone a toddler, is tragic.

Thinking about Alex is like drinking wine.  The first few thoughts are like sips of a good red- they warm your insides as soon as they hit your palette.  The next few thoughts go down quickly, and then they just start flooding in.  Soon you are literally drunk with grief… you can’t stop yourself from drinking in all the memories, and you can’t predict what you’ll do next.

You could be in public- dropping Benjamin off at daycare, or running to the post office.  Everyone else around you is functioning fine and you stagger around, trying to hide the fact that you are stumbling through life, intoxicated with emotion.  Will you fall to the floor in a heap, sobbing because he’s gone, or will you get loud and yell because you’re angry he’s not here anymore? 

Not that anyone expects you to act perfectly normal, but how do you explain this permanently altered state of being?  Where over-consumption of memories makes your thoughts fuzzy and your words come out slurred.  When you are this drunk with emotion, there is no sober.  You are wobbling through life, swayed by all the memories, or you are completely spent with an emotional hangover from the night before.

I think of all the people that are here with us.  It’s in the cards, emails and posts we get each day.  Warm words of support and encouragement that give us the strength to keep going… I know I’m not drinking alone.  I feel all the prayers that are being sent our way and I breathe a little easier, knowing that there are so many people here ready to steady me before I fall. 

I drink in all the memories of my little Piggy and I so appreciate all of the people that are there with me, savoring each drop.  The tonic we share isn’t sour or bitter because there is a community of us, aging the barrel and warming the liquid inside.  I pray that we will always have such good company because my beautiful boy gets better with time.”

 
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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Blog #4: Celebration

Today was Alex’s baptism. Or at least, the day that was scheduled to be his baptism. I didn’t even notice it until we were in church today. I saw a beautiful young couple, dressed up, with a sweet young baby in their arms. The baby was wearing a baptismal outfit- one of those scratchy, white, starched jumpers that makes babies really uncomfortable. As I was watching them, Ben reminded me that today was supposed to be Alex’s day.

How does the church handle that? We’ve never seen them do two baptisms on the same day. Is there a wait list? Did they call that other family and tell them that they’ve had a “cancellation?” Is it like a restaurant, where the church will try to slide another family in when they have an “opening?”

My heart feels heavy. I believe that Alex is already in Heaven- how lucky for him! To be with our Father so early in life makes him a very special boy. Why do I struggle to share in his celebration? Is it selfish to wish he were here on earth? I want the best for my children, so I try to force myself to be happy for my little baby’s good fortune.

We weren’t going to make Alex’s baptism as big of an affair as Benjamin’s. We didn’t feel like having a huge party, making food, cleaning up, getting out invitations. I think that’s common- you do everything too big for your first child, and then you have more realistic expectations for your subsequent children. Alex didn’t get a party at all.

I don’t begrudge the happiness and good fortune of other families. I still love to see babies and I still celebrate when others become parents. What has happened to our family is tragic, and the world needs more joy and celebration than sadness.

As I search for answers to things I don’t understand, I cling to the things I do know. If we get to celebrate a baptism again, it will be huge. If we get to celebrate a first birthday again, we will rent out the town! We will celebrate life at every possible juncture, big or small. And someday we will celebrate Alex’s early arrival to Heaven with shouts of Thanksgiving. One day. Just not today…

Remembering Alex (#4): The Fire Burns– this was written 2 weeks after Alex died.

“I need to go back to work sometime.  My maternity leave is over and I’m using vacation time now.  If I’m using vacation time, I feel like I should be sipping umbrella drinks on the beach somewhere, or at least having fun.

I’m not sure what has me most concerned about going back to work.  I think the hardest part for me is that I have tried to keep my mommy-self and my work-self very separate.  Not that I hide or deny the fact that I have children at work… I just don’t talk as much at work about my family or how much my kids really mean to me.  I’m not sure that endless anecdotes about how Benjamin loves to play kitchen is really deemed “professional.”

Going back to work means putting aside my grief for 10 hours a day to get my “game face” back on.  I’m not saying that I can’t do that- I just wonder if I can take it off when I get home.  If I build up a wall to get through the day without crying, will I still be able to mourn and grieve when I’m back in the security of our home?

Or worse, what if I’m a hot mess as soon as I hit the office?  When you work with hundreds of people, what will it be like when you greet each person the first time?  It seems like I shed tears the first time I see someone who knows.  We talk briefly about it and then the sadness passes.  I can’t do that a hundred times each day.

Going through the process of grieving Alex is like burning a fire.  Grief is a fire that burns, and we are each given a stack of firewood to burn through.  You need to burn through *all* your firewood to get through it.  You can burn through it fast, or burn through it slow.  Sometimes the fire is raging and hot, sometimes the fire is smoldering.  There is no right way to get through the pile of food.  Avoiding the fire makes it harder though.  The wood gets wet and moldy- it doesn’t burn the way it should.

As you’re burning through the firewood, burning through your grief, it’s interesting to see how other people react to the flames.

Some people ignore the fire, and don’t let you acknowledge it either.  They can watch you sit by the fire of your grief, and never mention it.  Even as the ashes float by, and the embers crackle and pop, they don’t discuss the fire burning in front of them.

Other people try to douse your fire with water.  It’s good intentioned, but the fire is meant to burn, not just smolder so that the smoke gets in your eyes.  The more water they throw on your fire, the harder it is to get the fire back once they leave.

Sometimes though, other people can help you burn through your fire… they’re there with fresh air and kindling.  They hunker down with you around the flames and keep you warm.  They also keep you safe to ensure that you don’t get too close to the fire to get burned.   Most important, they make sure the fire doesn’t consume you.  These special people let you burn the fire at your own pace.  They help when you want them to, and sometimes they just watch the flames with you.

The problem with this fire is that you can’t always control it- sometimes it’s a light in the night that is predicable and comfortable, keeping you warm.  Other times, it’s erratic and unpredictable like a wildfire.  Getting bigger than you want it to, and you worry that it’s going to harm those around you that you love.

Sometimes you want to tend to the fire yourself, considering each of the embers as they burn red and orange, poking at the coals as they turn gray and flaky.  Other times, you want someone else to stoke the fire enough to keep it going, and you just want to fall asleep next to the flames.

The fire of grief is unavoidable.  It’s critical to your survival and can’t be ignored.  You don’t know how much wood you have to burn through, but you’ll know once the pile is empty.  In the meantime, you keep throwing logs on the fire.

For me, talking about Alex is my way of burning through the fire.  I like to look at his pictures, tell stories about him and remember him exactly as he was.  Telling his story is my way of honoring his memory, not just mourning his death. 

To all the wonderful friends and family who have sent cards, letters, emails and Facebook messages: thank you for joining me by the fire.  You are keeping me warm, and I like the company.  As I spin stories about my sweet, perfect boy, you hold my hand by the campfire and keep me from getting too close to the flames.  Maybe someday I will return the favor to you, and sit by your campfire.  I promise- I’ll bring the marshmallows.”

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Blog #3: The Box

I can’t fix it. I can’t make it better. No matter what I try, Alex doesn’t get to come back to our family and it kills me. I plan and I solve problems. That’s what I do for a living and that’s what I do in life. The plan I had for our family has failed, and I don’t know how to solve that problem.

It’s always about Alex.  It has taken me a month to realize it, but everything is about Alex. I’m mad because of a traffic detour, and I’m annoyed because my password needs to be reset. I’m irritated that we’re out of milk, and I argue with Ben. I peel back the layers and it’s Alex. How could I have planned everything else so well, and not seen this coming? Shouldn’t there have been some sort of contingency plan, or disaster recovery scenario that covers this? The bottom has fallen out on our family and I did nothing to protect us.

I think about Alex all day. Every day. I miss him and I carry around my grief in a little box. I try to tuck my sadness into the box until I can open it at a more convenient time. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Every day I have a different shaped box that I carry with me. There are days when it’s big and unwieldy. The box is huge and can hold a lot of sadness, but it’s so big everyone can see how I struggle to carry it around. Other days, the box is compact and fits neatly in my pocket, unseen by others. The problem is that it doesn’t hold very much. I can’t go more than an hour before the box is full and I need to empty its contents.

Sometimes the box is wrapped in ribbon and bows. It’s beautiful when you open it- filled with sweet memories of happier times. When the box is pretty, I take my time to look through it and to examine the contents.

There are times when the box is dirty and misshapen. Like the contents are damaged inside. Those days there is nothing but gloom and sadness within. I try to hurry through the insides when the box brings nothing but sorrow.

There are times when the stupid box is spring-loaded. It pops open on its own when I least expect it. There contents look like they’ve literally blown up, and I struggle to sweep it all back together and out of sight.

But it’s not all bad. There are good times too. Like when people bring me their own box. They bring me sweet memory gifts wrapped in tissue, with fancy trimmings. They share happy thoughts of my little boy and sweet recollections of his time on earth. We pore over the contents of their box together. And instead of trying to hide my package of grief, it looks like we’re going to a party. We are bringing presents to a party for my little boy and we are so proud to share what’s inside.

I wrote this nine days after Alex died. I was apparently feeling more optimistic than I am tonight.

Remembering Alex (#3): Our Vacation Together

I am beside myself with gratitude as I read through all the cards, letters, facebook messages and wall posts we have received through this difficult time. Not only do we truly feel the love and support of so many, but we feel the healing power of all of our friends and family.

As much as I shed tears for Baby Alex, I shed tears for all the other parents out there who have shared in the loss of a child.  I have received countless stories from other parents who have endured terrible loss like we have. These parents are loving, inspiring and brave. Their words of wisdom bring hope that time and faith heal, and allow me to believe that our family will grow and blossom.

There is a fellowship I feel with these parents- those who have loved and lost. They understand the tragedy of losing a child and the pain of healing your family. I’ve received letters from complete strangers who have shared their stories, and have opened their hearts to our family. I am humbled by the love Baby Alex has brought to our lives from people we would not have known before him.

I spent some time today with a dear friend who knew and loved Baby Alex as much as I do.  As we were talking and remembering, I thought about the meaning of Baby Alex’s brief stay.

God needed Alex and took him back. My time with Alex was like a vacation- it was never meant to be permanent. During this vacation, we had the very best of times together. He was my miracle baby who slept 8 hours by the time he was 8 days old. Our times were spent together with fun and laughter. Our time with Alex allowed us to travel to a very special place; our family was meant to take this voyage.

When your trip is over and you return home, you aren’t the same person you were when you left. That’s the point. The journey was supposed to teach you something; it was supposed to help you grow in some way. The lesson isn’t always evident when you first get home, but the travel takes on more meaning as time passes.

Much like seeing shells from the beach, or hearing a certain song on the radio can bring back memories from your vacation, there are things everyday that remind me of Alex.  Some are sad, some are happy- but they’re all important. As time passes, the happy memories are etched a little deeper in my mind, and the sadness slowly starts to fade. I can see a pair of his socks in the laundry basket without losing my mind. I can go to sleep without clutching every blanket he ever held in his short life.

We aren’t meant to memorize the details of every trip we take in our lives. The point of the journey is to consider what the trip meant to us, and how it changed us. It’s okay if I can’t recall every last detail of his body- I remember the way his life touched my heart.

There are still sad moments and difficult times. We went to out to dinner tonight and I saw at least 5 babies on my way to the bathroom. My diaper bag feels surprisingly light when I pick it up, and my hands seem empty as I take only one child with me. 

But I think about the vacation I had with my beautiful boy, and it was a beautiful journey. Our days were filled with warmth and sunshine and our nights were filled with stars and love. As I look back on the pictures from our trip together, I smile and think about the postcards I would write him now, “Wish you were here…”

Everyone has struggles in life. I don’t for a second pretend that I’m the only person who has sadness. I just don’t want to be so self-absorbed with my own crap that I can’t look around and see when other people are hurting too.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Blog #2: Why a Blog?

I feel like I should answer the question that maybe no one has been brave enough to ask. Yes, I’ve been rambling on Facebook for a month now. A blog too? Why?

I want Alex’s memory to live on through the people that love him, and even the people who never got to meet him.

I want people to know how our family is doing. I have heard so much that people “don’t know what to say,” or “how to talk to us.” This way, I can talk to them.

I want to help other people- I feel like if I keep writing, and I make it through all this heartache, I could print this all out for someone as a “how-to” guide. Like, Grieving for Dummies or something. I could give it to parents who just lost a child and they would know that they weren’t alone.

I want people to know how I’m doing. Is that selfish? We’ve gotten letters and cards and hugs… people say they want to help- I don’t know if that’s just being polite. This way I can get everything out there for people to see in a risk-free way. People don’t have to read it. They don’t have to comment on it. If I try to tell someone in person, it might be uncomfortable; they might not want to hear all the sadness. This way, people are invited to be involved- if they join us great. If not, I don’t actually see the rejection.

More than anything, writing is the only thing I can do that makes me feel like all this grief is productive. I can sit and cry all night, and all I have left to show for it is a runny nose and a pile of used tissues. (Gross, I know.) I can scream about how mad I am, and I just get a sore throat. Writing produces something tangible. Something positive.

My grief counselor (sounds less crazy than therapist) isn’t on Facebook, but has read some of my posts. He thinks that all this writing could help other families that are hurting out there. He also thinks that these writings will be important for Benjamin to read when he is older- that it will help him understand who his brother was, and how his life enriched our family.

I love Alex. Nothing changes that- writing about him makes it feel like he’s more in the present than the past. That he contributes more than sadness to our family, and that his legacy lives on through those who read about him.

It will take me a little bit until my blog is caught up with my Facebook posts. So, here is something from the archives. I posted this about Alex one week after he died.

Remembering Alex: Part Two. Before I start, I should clarify why I’m doing this.  I have received so many heartfelt letters and notes about my first note Remembering Alex that I am genuinely touched that so many people have taken the time to read something that I thought were just the ramblings of a mom struck by grief.  The notes that have really inspired me are from other parents who have gone through similar loss… these notes talk about how my words have actually made them feel better.

I don’t pretend to be an author, but if I can share with others how this experience is affecting our family and if it helps others in a situation that is similar, it feels like Alex’s legacy will continue.  I love my little boy and it makes me feel better to think that his memory will extend beyond his two short months on earth.

So, I’ll keep putting thoughts out here.  I’m not trying to bum anybody out- but at least it answers that question, ‘How are you doing?’

The nights are the hardest.  It’s easy to get caught in the hustle and bustle of the day and for brief moments forget that you’re not holding your little baby.  Around 5pm is when I really notice that he’s gone.  I think it’s because the house is all of a sudden calmer than it used to be.  There was a certain cacophony in our house each night around dinner time as I had two boys (three if you count dad) all trying to get my attention to fill their tummies.  As you try to nurse, preheat the oven and cut vegetables at the same time, you feel very busy.

Things are quiet now.  Benjamin quietly picks out his favorite cup and plate, the microwave dings and no one cries from the swing in the living room to ensure he hasn’t been forgotten.  As we get through dinner, Benjamin hunkers down to watch his one show before bedtime.  Ben and I smile across the room as we “get ready to wiggle!” with the show we’ve heard a thousand times before.  There are no bottles to wash.

As I lead Benjamin upstairs for his bath and bedtime, I don’t run out of hands trying to carry up a baby, burp cloth and monitor as I hold Benjamin’s hand up the stairs.  Suddenly, two hands are enough again.  I don’t worry about a hungry Alex fussing from his room, as I try to bathe Benjamin at lightning speed to nurse Alex before he melts down.  Benjamin takes a leisurely bath and I go through the motions of playing with him in the tub.  The monitor is silent.

The truth is, my heart isn’t in it.  Not anymore.  Not the way it was before Alex died.  It’s only been one week and I still feel his presence in the house and I can smell him when I open the door to his room.  As Benjamin goes on with his life and laughs and cries at the same times he always has, I don’t have it in me to laugh and comfort him the way I used to.

No one said this was fair, but it’s not fair to Benjamin.  He deserves to have his mommy the way he always had, not this imposter mommy shell that looks the same, but doesn’t have the heart she used to.

I worry that not only have I lost Alex, but that I will lose Benjamin too.  Not in a literal way.  I worry that I will lose my relationship with Benjamin because I can’t get over the sadness that consumes me long enough to experience the sheer joy he used to bring.

Benjamin knows things are different.  It’s the way he has stopped asking about baby Alex.  It’s the way he starts to cry the minute something goes wrong.  It’s the ten minutes he spent in time out today for an infraction that wouldn’t have happened before.  He needs my attention and he senses that I’m not completely present with him.

I know we need to give it time.  As a family we are still healing and trying to make our way as a family of four, knowing that one of us is missing.  I thought that if I made sense of things rationally, it wouldn’t hurt as much.  It still hurts.  It’s not the same shocking pain I had last Thursday morning.  It’s a different kind of pain.  The dull ache that squeezes your chest, leaving you gasping for air, but too tired to breathe any deeper…

I don’t know what to do these days.  Stay busy?  Take time to grieve?  Look at pictures?  Put away the pictures?  No matter what I do, his memory follows me around.  Enough memories to bring me joy, but so many memories I can’t put them aside.”

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Blog #1: Remembering Alex

My name is Tammylynne and I am the mother of two beautiful little boys. Benjamin is 2.5 and lives here on earth. Alex lives in Heaven. He was only alive two months. This blog is dedicated to Alex’s memory and all the people who love him.

Before I start, I should clarify why I’m doing this.  I have received so many heartfelt letters and notes about my writings on Facebook that I am genuinely touched that so many people have taken the time to read something that I thought were just the ramblings of a mom struck by grief.  The notes that have really inspired me are from other parents who have gone through similar loss… these notes talk about how my words have actually made them feel better.

 I don’t pretend to be an author, but if I can share with others how this experience is affecting our family and if it helps others in a situation that is similar, it feels like Alex’s legacy will continue.  I love my little boy and it makes me feel better to think that his memory will extend beyond his two short months on earth.

So, I’ll keep putting thoughts out here.  I’m not trying to bum anybody out- but at least it answers that question, “How are you doing?”

Alex was born on April 11, 2011. He died on July 9, 2011. These words were spoken by me at his funeral:

“If you say that you believe in God’s will, you can’t pick and choose when you believe.  You can’t believe it’s his will when something good happens, and think it’s bad luck when something bad happens.  Alex is gone because it was God’s will.

I got to hold Alex for the last time yesterday.  We sat and talked and cried and snuggled for the very last time.  I said goodbye and thought about all the people he has in Heaven that were waiting for him.  Ben’s dad, my beautiful grandmother, my grandpas, my uncles, aunt and cousin Julie- all waiting to spoil him rotten in Heaven.  Maybe they got tired of only having old people up there.

Today is a day to celebrate life and to not focus on the tragedy of death.  If we can’t find the joy that Alex brought to our lives because we are so overcome with grief, then we are missing the point of his time with us.  Alex was brought to us as an angel on Earth.  He stayed as long as he could, we just couldn’t keep him.

There are so many thoughts that you consider when you lose a child and when you are in the process of accepting the fact that your child is gone.  So many open and unanswered questions-

Your body doesn’t stop making milk because your baby dies.  You swell up with milk to feed your baby and when you don’t have a baby anymore, you have pain in your chest and emptiness in your heart.  Real and figurative; what do you do with yourself when you don’t have a baby to nurse anymore?  The one link that you have left with your child- do you let it dry up, or do you want it to flow like the tears you have rolling down your face?

How do you tell your two year old child that his baby brother is gone?  This baby brother that you proudly told him all about as he was growing inside you…  Benjamin was so proud to be a big brother- is he still a big brother now, even though his little brother is gone?

I don’t know how you go on maternity leave from work and come back without a baby.  Are you still on maternity leave when you no longer have a baby to care for?

Are two months long enough to fill your heart with memories?  Will the memory of my dear, sweet boy fade each day?  Will I be able to remember all the tiniest details about him for the rest of my life?  How bath time wasn’t over until he peed in the tub? How his eyelashes were long like his brothers.  How milk would spill into his neck meat- and we would joke that it made my beautiful boy stinky.  How our pediatrician described him saying, “his eyes are bigger than his stomach.”

When we had Benjamin it was like we had started our family- and when we had Alex it was like our family was finally complete.  Two boys! We would proudly exclaim as we went on family trips.  We were so blessed and proud to have the smart, perfect family we had always dreamed of.  What are we now?  Are we a family of three, or four?  What does our family look like a year from now?  What if one parent wants to have another child and the other doesn’t?  How do you compromise about something like that?  You can’t have half a child.

While I readily accept and understand what a miracle life is, I didn’t realize how fragile it was.  You have a feeling of invincibility that extends to your children.  You don’t honestly expect that anything could ever come and hurt your perfect family- nothing could interrupt the charmed life that you live.  I never thought that I could lose a child.  I never thought I could lose a child this early.  How can you plan your child’s funeral before you have planned his baptism?

You’ve all come here to support us and share in our grief.  I can’t tell you how much that means to us.  To share in our sadness and pain, to cry with us and to suffer shows that Alex has touched your lives too.  More importantly it validates the feelings of loss we have.  It confirms that we’re justified to feel all the pain we have.  It doesn’t make our pain go away, but by sharing it with all of you, it makes that burden a little lighter.

I can’t go through life believing that Alex was taken from us without a reason.  There has to be some sort of lesson or symbolism to something so tragic.  I don’t know what that reason is now.  Maybe he was taken to make us better parents, to help us have a better marriage, or to just make us better people.  I know that going forward Alex has changed my heart.  I will pour out my sadness and grief today, but tomorrow I’ll only have room in my heart for love.  I will not have room for anger, jealousy, hurt, spite or other negative emotions that I may have had before.  I owe it to my special little boy to show him that I became a better person because I knew him.  I owe it to him to show him that he has made our lives richer, fuller, better.

I keep looking for reasons to be grateful.  Despite this great tragedy, we find reasons to be thankful to God.

I am grateful that I was home.  While performing CPR on your child’s lifeless body isn’t something I would wish upon anyone, I know that I would never find peace if this had happened when he was in the care of someone else.  We are blessed with caregivers in our lives that we trust implicitly, but as a mother you need to know that everything was done for your child.  In times of life and death, seeing is believing- you need to be a witness to ensure that everything possible was done to bring your child back to life.

I am grateful that Benjamin wasn’t home.  He was playing with his friends at daycare and didn’t have to witness his brother’s struggle for life.

I am grateful that Ben was at the hospital with me.  We were both there to see the heroic efforts of the doctors and nurses that tried so hard to bring him back to life.  We were both there to decide when Alex was gone.  We were both there to say our goodbyes.

I am grateful that we were joined by our priest and our pediatrician.  Two individuals with incredibly busy schedules raced to be at our side.  If for no other reason but to help us pray that our sweet little boy would be able to come home to his loving mommy and daddy.

I am grateful that we were able to share two glorious months with him.  There are so many families that lose their children before they meet them.  There are families who have only a few minutes with their children.  We were given the gift of two very special months.

I am grateful that we didn’t have to watch Alex suffer.  At Children’s hospital we were surrounded by families that watched their children battle terminal illnesses.  Alex never endured pain, and for that I am grateful.

I am grateful we had Benjamin first.  If Alex had been our first child, we never would have had the strength to go through pregnancy again.

I am grateful that Alex was baptized before he died.  He was baptized by the chaplain at the hospital, and I know that God heard our prayers that he would welcome Alex into his holy family.

When I left Alex Thursday morning at 9:30 he was asleep.  Breathing, happy and content.  When I returned an hour later he was gone.  I can’t make sense of how or why.  There are no circumstances that will ever make me feel better about that.  They don’t change the outcome.  He is gone. 

I was addressing birth announcements at the kitchen table when Alex stopped breathing upstairs.  I didn’t know.  I was so eager to celebrate his arrival with others.  I had no idea his departure would be so soon. 

I think about how I would have spent the last morning with him differently.  What would I have done differently if I had known that he was going to leave so suddenly?  I would have done exactly what we did that morning.  I nursed him, and we laid together and went to sleep.  He loved to nestle up close under my chin.  His favorite place was anywhere my warm breath could radiate over his sweet head.  I wouldn’t have changed our last morning together.

I wouldn’t change anything now.  I wouldn’t want to have never had him to avoid the pain I’m feeling now.  I wouldn’t have wanted to keep him longer, if it meant this pain could get even worse.  I wouldn’t change the brief interlude he spent in our lives.

As a perfectionist, you can always nitpick the things you wish you could change.  Changes about yourself, your life, everything.  Alex was the one thing in my life I couldn’t have imagined wanting to change.  He honestly was my perfect little baby.

I know you’re not supposed to compare your children, but Benjamin set the baseline for what I expected from Alex.  Alex was incredible in every possible way.  Alex only cried if he needed something.  He would cry if he was hungry or wet, but never cried the way most newborns do… crying was not his primary language.

Alex started sleeping well so quickly.  By two weeks old he was sleeping 6 hours at a stretch.  By three weeks, he was able to fall asleep on his own.  We would nurse, rock and pray and then he would fall asleep on his own.  One of my favorite memories is watching him on the video monitor.  Swaddled up like a baby burrito.  His dark eyes darting back and forth, not making a sound.  He would look around and drift into a blissful sleep on his own.  By 6 weeks he was sleeping 8, 9, 10 hours a night.  I can’t tell you how many mornings I would get up and just wait for him to awaken, eager to share my day with him.

Alex slept a lot, but when he was awake he was alert and engaged.  He would follow you with his eyes and try to make sense of what you were doing or saying.  He had the presence of a baby much older than only 2 months.  Because of this, we were blessed with a much more meaningful relationship than most parents with their 2 month old children.  Alex never fussed, was colicky or had reflux.  That meant that every moment with him was spent happy and joyful.  Never tired or frustrated as we paced the hallway at all hours of the night.  His great personality made him such an easy child to fall in love with and adore.

I can’t even begin to imagine what an amazing child he would have grown into.  As I was gathering things for the funeral home today- I didn’t know where to start.  At two months, he doesn’t have a favorite toy, or animal or blanket.  At two months, his favorite thing in the world is just his mommy.  And honestly I feel like I’m in that casket with him.

As adults I think we always feel compelled to learn something from tragedy.  We want an answer, or a moral.  We want to make sense of things, as if that will help make our pain go away.  My baby is gone because it is God’s will.  I don’t understand.  While I can celebrate his life, I can’t yet rejoice that he’s in Heaven.  I’m here with all of you, weeping.

All I know is that we need to love our children and celebrate each day with them.  We need to love our spouses, support our friends and enjoy our parents.  While life is a miracle, it’s also fragile. 

As I’m grateful for the time I had with Alex, and am happy you’re all here to celebrate his life with us, I’m unbelievably scared about what the future holds for us.  I am scared about living our life as a family without him.  I am scared about forgetting the details of my little boy as more time passes.  I am scared about living my life as a mother without both of my beloved boys.  I am most scared that the best parts of my heart and soul are going to be buried tomorrow with my sweet and beautiful boy.

I want to thank you all for your love, prayers and support.  I honestly don’t know what we could have possibly done in our lives to deserve so much love from so many of you.  Maybe that’s why Alex was taken from us.  Maybe another family wouldn’t have had the support they needed to get through all this.

I can’t imagine a time when my heart won’t ache for my baby.  I can’t imagine a time when I won’t long to hold him.  I can’t imagine a time when I can think about something else long enough to experience happiness again.  But we have faith in God and we need to move on.  We need to believe that Alex passed into our lives for a reason, and that his presence has was meaningful and special.  Please stay with us as we search for that meaning.  Not just today and tomorrow, but next week and next month and next year.  Please stay with us as we cope with our loss and search to find the special lesson Alex has brought to our lives.

I love my little Alex.  My perfect little baby.  My sweet little peanut.  My little piggy.  He’s not coming back and I miss him.”

I can’t promise that this blog will be upbeat and happy. I can promise it will be real. Thank you for reading. Thank you for keeping Alex’s memory alive.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2011 in Uncategorized