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Monthly Archives: August 2011

Blog #13: Circles

I am out of words. There is nothing left to describe what I’m feeling and thinking about Alex. It’s all been said before and the tape replays in my head day after day. It’s like I have this terrible cycle on repeat. I have sad moments, scattered with happy times and then brief stints where I am neutral. Neither sad, nor happy, just there. And it just keeps going.

I take two steps forward, and then two steps back. I’m always in motion, but not really getting anywhere. It’s disheartening, really.

You feel like things are on an up-swing for a little while. You are grateful and humble and strong in your faith. You think of your beautiful baby up in Heaven, and praise Him for taking your sweet child so early in life before he could know pain and sadness. You give thanks that your baby Alex got to Heaven so early in life.

Then you take your two steps back. You’re sad about all the things your family is missing without him. The stacks of diapers that will never be used. The freezer of breast milk that won’t be eaten. The matching outfits that will be only half worn. These dark times seem to un-do all the progress you’ve made toward healing.

You’re drowning in a sea of tears, barely keeping your head above water and grasping for breath. You’re trying to swim toward safe shores and you paddle until your arms tire from sheer exhaustion. You get your bearings and realize that you haven’t gone anywhere. You’ve been swimming in circles and don’t have anything to show for all your efforts.

It’s that way with Alex. I try to do so much to “get better,” to “move on” and to heal our family. In the end, there’s nothing you can do to force your way through all the emotions that are still left. If I run, walk or crawl, I’m not going to get there any faster. Where is “there?” A feeling of peace with what has happened. A place where I can miss Alex, but not go through this roller coaster of emotion every single day.

I want to just turn my head off. If I could stop the painful longing for Alex and the thoughts of missing him off, I feel like I could move on. The problem is that turning off the sad also turns off the happy. If I try to numb myself to everything going on around me, I miss out on all the joy Benjamin brings to our family. The way Benjamin has a slight stammer in his words, and the way he will repeat things he hears along the way. “You-you-you-you going to the store Mama? I-I-I-I not going to the store Mama? I going to ‘stay put’ here with Papa and you’ll be right back.”

“I miss you Mama. Papa made me dinner and I didn’t eat it. Papa said ‘forget this’ and threw it in the trash and took me to McDonald’s. I-I-I-I had ice cream, Mama.”

We weren’t a family until we had Benjamin. We felt complete when we had Alex. Now we’re in flux. No matter what you say, or what you do, he’s gone. I miss him.

Alex slept through the night so early in life. At only 10 days old, he was sleeping 8-9 hours a night. Isn’t that proof enough that he really was an angel on earth?

He had soft gray eyes that didn’t look dark brown like mommy’s or daddy’s. We thought his eyes would get darker as he got older, just like Benjamin’s did.

He had two cowlicks on the back of his head just like Benjamin. Early proof that he was destined to have rockin’ hair!

Alex loved to snuggle. He would nuzzle closely on your chest and let out a little sigh before falling asleep. He could sleep so easily I would joke in my head about how he was my crazy little narcoleptic.

He could nurse 24/7. I would have Ben give him a bottle around 6pm just so I could have a small break from his voracious appetite. He would chug a bottle like a frat boy shot-guns a beer. Then he would spit most of it up. It was awesome.

Alex was my perfect baby. There isn’t supposed to be perfection in parenthood, but I had two short months of sheer bliss. He was so special to me and so important to our family. We didn’t know how soon he was going to leave us.

I think of him in Heaven. I don’t know how old he is there. I don’t know if he walks, or has learned to crawl. All I know is that no journey I take here on earth will bring us back together.

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Posted by on August 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Blog #12: Darkness

Not everything is blog-worthy, right? There are things that are too sad, or too private to put out there for the general public… There are sad thoughts and dark places your mind goes that should probably just be left unspoken, I think…?

I don’t know anymore. I’m not an overly public person who likes to talk about anything and everything going on in my life. Since Alex’s death, it’s like I’m losing my boundaries- or my filter in life. The lines between what I discuss publicly and privately are getting blurred, but it’s not the worst thing in the world.

Exposing my vulnerabilities, sensitivities and insecurities has been liberating in a way that I hadn’t really expected. Not that people always view me as an entirely composed and capable person- that’s just the way I like to view me. Showing the chink in my armor has been okay, so I guess I will keep going.

Today we visit a darker place.

Not every day is a good day. As much as I am buoyed and inspired by the good days, I am scared about how my “progress” will be waylaid by the bad days.

I never get any time alone. I’m either at work or at home and I have plenty of company both places. When I finally get some time to myself, I feel like I can really let down my guard and let whatever emotions are bottled up completely wash over me. Dangerous.

There is still so much sadness inside pouring out of my heart and my body. It’s like that fountain that keeps flowing. With all the tears that have been shed, you would think that we would be getting closer to the end. But the pace of the flow tells me that we’re not even close.

My mind has kept my happy memories of Alex all penned up inside. I remember him intellectually, but don’t really feel what it was like when he was here. There are times when it comes back though. Remembering the soft scent of his hair after a bath, the tight clench of his hand around my finger, the soft rolls around his chubby little legs. Piece by piece, it’s coming back.

It’s not harder for me when these snippets come back, but it’s not any easier either. While it’s reassuring that these happy times and memories aren’t lost forever in the abyss that is my mind, it’s also a reminder of all we have lost.

Alex was a carbon copy of Benjamin. As I see Benjamin jumping and dancing and playing- I realize that I’ll never see Alex in the shadows, imitating his big brother. I’ll never see Benjamin pick his brother up to give him a hug, and I’ll never see Alex tell Benjamin how much he loves his big brother. My two beautiful boys will never again be together on earth. It hurts.

I go about my business and move on with my life. I feel like I’m getting better because I can do all the things I used to do before this happened. Then I realize that the true sign I’m getting better is that my memories of Alex are no longer hermetically sealed in the vault. They’re coming out and I get to process and acknowledge them one by one.

This part is harder though.

None of it is easy, but the “easier” part is when you’re in a fog and not really feeling the pain. Then the fog clears and the pain comes back, piercing and hot. Then things calm down a little and you settle into life. And then you see the pain all over again, working itself into your life, one memory at a time. How many stages are there?!?

There sure as hell aren’t five. Will I still be writing this thirty years from now explaining how stage 764 was a lot better than stage 382, but worse than stage 119?

There are things that move me; expressions grief and comfort. Today is was a lovely little poem shared by a friend:

A thousand words can’t bring you back, I know because I tried.

And neither can a thousand tears, I know because I’ve cried.

In memory of my baby.

There is so much sadness, so many grieving parents- it’s overwhelming.

I’m sure tomorrow will look better. Today is dark.

 

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Blog #11: Fearless

Sometimes it’s like it never happened. I think about Alex and it’s this terrible story that happened to someone we know, but it wasn’t us. It was this tragic story of a perfect, suburban family that lost a beautiful baby, but went on to have two more great kids. Not sure what that is… a Lifetime movie or something? A tale ripe for Oprah’s book club?

It’s not even about moving on anymore. It is what it is. The feeling of missing Alex is there. The hurt of not getting to hold him is there. Realizing that your family if different is no longer a shock. You’re back to the routines of your life like nothing ever happened.

The thank-you cards are going out. The dreaded task I couldn’t handle before is gradually being completed- 10 cards at a time. I’m running out of stamps and cards, but not out of energy yet. I am expressing gratitude to all the people who sent love, prayers and support during the worst time of our lives. It feels good. I can’t imagine how much lonelier this house would have felt without the commotion of visitors and the stream of cards and flowers and even frozen meals on dry ice.

A few more birth announcements have gone out too. Birth announcements that were addressed, but not mailed. It felt weird to send out birth announcements after Alex died, but I realized that sending them was yet another way I could honor his life. I am proud of this family. I want to show the ones we care about how beautiful our little Piggy was. So, the cards got mailed.

If people are weirded-out, confused or disturbed by it, I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to be morbid or wacky. I just wanted to make sure that people got to see how great my boys looked together. Two and a half hours at the photo studio were worth it- and won’t go to waste.

I feel like I’m looking all the demons of grief squarely in the eye and continuing about my business. My baby died. What else could be worse? If our family, and our marriage can handle that, doesn’t that mean that the rest of our lives will be okay? I hear a noise in the middle of the night and my heart doesn’t even skip a beat. A burglar? No worries. Our family has been rocked by tragedy and nothing else can possibly touch us.

Humble and fearless. A business leadership book describes this combination as the ideal executive. Someone who can handle any challenge with confidence and poise, but does it without arrogance. That’s where I aspire to be in life. I’m not made for crawling into bed, pulling up the covers and crying myself to sleep. I’m made to protect my family from grief and to bring joy back into our lives.

I don’t worry about what the future holds for us anymore. (Not that I don’t have a long list of preferences about how I want things to go… when I want things to happen, and the order in which they should happen…) I have got preferences galore. It’s just that I’m not idly waiting for the other shoe to drop in our lives. With prayers and faith we will survive. With the love and support of others, our family will thrive.

I know we’re not done yet. I could wake up tomorrow with nothing but sadness, wracked with grief and tears about our baby Alex who’s gone forever. But today, I’m strong. I’m pulling for our family with a divine confidence that we will be okay. I can be impatient to know what the future holds for us, but I’m not scared.

For today, that’s good enough for me.

 

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Blog #10: The Gap

Can grief make you superstitious? Call me crazy, but there is a toy in the toy room that will turn on randomly. It’s a fire truck that Benjamin got for Christmas from his Grandpa. I will be downstairs in the office writing, or maybe thinking about Alex, and it will go off. There’s nothing around it. I can’t explain it. It went off 4 times in the last 5 minutes, and then just now as I was typing this sentence. I like to think that it’s Alex’s way of letting me know that he’s thinking of me too.

I do believe that Alex is in Heaven. I believe that Heaven is better than life here on earth. Why can’t I be happy for him? Does that make me a selfish mother? Is it because he’s still supposed here with us? Everything we do these days is like a constant reminder of the fact that Alex isn’t here. We took Benjamin to State Fair and spent hours walking around. We couldn’t have done that with Piggy. For the first time this year there were ‘nursing stations’ scattered around the fairgrounds. No need for them now…

We went to Discovery World downtown, it’s kind of like a big aquarium. Had Piggy been there, he would have been asleep or eating. Benjamin would have gotten bored because I was always attending to his brother. Or maybe not. Maybe they would have really gotten along well by now. Benjamin could have made Alex laugh, and maybe Benjamin would have gotten to be very protective of Alex. Maybe he would want to be the only one who could wipe Alex’s mouth when he spit up. All things I’ll never know. 

Things aren’t right yet. I am on the look-out for signs or reassurance or validation that things will be okay for us, that we’ll make it through this and be better/ stronger… something. Am I looking for a sign from God or from the universe, or both? I don’t know. All I know is that I am growing impatient while waiting. I don’t like just being a spectator in my own life. I like knowing what will happen. I like being able to plan what we’ll be doing next.

Even grief isn’t on a timetable. I could be better tomorrow, or I could feel like crap for five years. I hate not knowing, and having so little control around all the stuff going on around me.

When you’re pregnant, there is a finite timetable with milestones and an end date. As your baby grows, there are certain things you expect: sitting up, crawling, walking, talking… all benchmarks you can watch for as your baby gets older. We don’t have that anymore. Our lives have taken an abrupt turn, and there was an event we never could have expected.

It’s not even fun to shop anymore. As soon as I knew I was having Alex, and that he was going to be a boy, I was off! I could find my two boys matching outfits, I could buy outfits for the holidays, I could even get them shirts that would match Daddy. Now it’s sad. I look at all the tiny outfits for sale and lament that I don’t have a baby to wear them.

I used to be able to shop with zero guilt for Benjamin because I knew everything I bought him would get double use. There was even an incentive to get him the really nice stuff, because I knew it would last. Now there’s no guarantee we’ll use it again. As I pack up the clothes he outgrows, it’s possible that those outfits will never again see the light of day. At least in this family.

I’m not saying Benjamin isn’t enough. I never take the time we have with him for granted, and I cherish all the joy he has brought to our lives. It’s just that Benjamin went from our only child to our oldest child and we have a gap in lives now.

This gap, this emptiness is everywhere. It’s in the double stroller that’s half empty, it’s in the nursery now vacant. It’s in the updated insurance cards I got in the mail with only 1 dependant. I don’t know what fills this gap. If it’s another child, three children, 4 dogs or a cow… Maybe the gap slowly seals itself with time. I don’t know. So I continue to impatiently wait.

For those who haven’t yet seen pictures of my Piggy:
http://www.onetruemedia.com/shared?p=e3555ac42f975cc3fb9903&skin_id=701&utm_source=otm&utm_medium=email

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Blog #9: One Year

Three simple words. Three simple words that used to fill me with pride. Three simple words that used to give me a universal topic to connect with strangers. Three simple words that would fill my heart with joy and bring an easy smile to my face. “How’s the baby?” Ouch.

I know that my life, and my reality aren’t everyone else’s. I am not deluded or self-important enough to think that everyone has the complete 411 on my life. I just find it hard to believe that there are *still* people that don’t know that Alex has died. Really? It’s the only thing in life that I know is real. How is it possible that the whole world doesn’t know?

It hurts. Not just having to answer the question, but having to explain it too. It’s the look of shock/ horror/ confusion on the person’s face who asked. They were just trying to be nice. They had remembered I was pregnant and now wanted to share in my joy. Sorry. No joy here. We’re all sold out.

I can go through an entire day on the verge of tears. When you’re on the brink of tears your head hurts- an ache that radiates through your temples and continues through the middle of your skull. Maybe it takes a lot of muscles to keep the tears back. I have no idea. My eyes glisten with fresh tears for my baby and my mind just sort of floats away.

It’s not like I’m completely fixated on him day and night. It’s just that the thought of him being gone never leaves my mind. I see families walking together through the airport and I melt. I see two toddler boys fighting, or laughing or hugging and I almost forget to breathe. Happy families, arguing siblings, it doesn’t matter. Any and every family distracts me as I pull my suitcase through the airport alone. No sippee cups or blankets here… just me.

How is it possible that the very presence of a family can hit me like a slap in the face? I compose myself from the last blow and then I see a family with three boys all holding hands and the sight practically levels me. I fight back tears and try to focus on my gate number. Where was I going? And does it even matter anyway?

I see people I haven’t seen in a year, and they don’t know anything. They don’t know that I was pregnant. They don’t know Alex died. They don’t know how complicated their question, “how have you been?” is. I meet another mother. A mother I knew under different circumstances from a different time in my life. P.A. Pre-Alex.

I tell her about Alex. I tell her about his short life on earth. I tell her how hard things are for me. She gets a far-off look in her eyes. Am I over-sharing? Am I that person at a cocktail party you just can’t shake off? She tells me that her son died six years ago. Oh. We’re members of that club that nobody wants to join. And membership lasts a lifetime.

I stop stammering on about Alex and take a deep breath. I don’t need to explain anymore because she gets it. I drill her with questions. How old was he? How is she doing now? How did she make it through? Do things go back to normal? Is her husband okay? What does she say to people? How is her family? Good grief, did I even remember to tell her that I am sorry for her loss?

I can’t help it. When I meet another member of the club, I’m so surprised. And so sad. As alone as I feel in all this, I don’t want to have this in common with other people. Because that means that other parents out there also have this emptiness. And it’s not fair.

When people first hear about Alex, if they know anybody who has lost a child, they typically tell me about it. They tell me who lost a child, and how old the child was. And any other details they can remember. I don’t know why people do it. I’m sure I do it too. You would think it would bother me, but it really is comforting. It’s comforting to know that other families make it through this. To know that life goes on. To know that with enough hope and love and prayer that our family can be healed.

Tomorrow is Alex’s four month birthday. Yesterday was the 2 month anniversary of his death. I’m not sure which of these dates will stay with me longer. The date of his birth, or the date of his death. Please tell me that I’ll eventually remember my sweet piggy’s life more than I remember the tragedy of his death.

The hard part is that I was pregnant longer than I got to keep Alex. I have all these pregnancy memories, and we are just at the one year anniversary of all of them. We found out we were pregnant one year ago today. I’ll go someplace for the first time since I was pregnant, and it’s emotional for me. I don’t know why. I just have too many happy memories of my pregnancy. Of the joyful hopefulness that accompanies carrying a new life inside… It hurts to remember those times. It’s like I have permanent pregnancy déjà vu or something.

Soon I will reach the one year anniversary of my first morning sickness, the one year anniversary of my first doctor appointment, the one year anniversary of my first ultrasound. It all hurts. I was 12 weeks pregnant with Alex the day of my birthday last year. I couldn’t think of a better possible present from God. He had granted me a healthy beating heart inside the day of my birthday.

What a difference a year makes. I didn’t know how much joy would be coming to us, and how much pain would soon follow. I didn’t know how much I would need my husband and my family and my friends and my God. I didn’t know.

I can’t help but think about what the future holds for us now. Time passes so quickly. Will this be a good year for us? Will we grow new life in our family? Will we keep our family the same and look for joy in other places? Will the pain of Alex’s death lessen a year from now? Will I look back with pride at how well our family is doing? Will things get worse?

I don’t know. I can’t predict anything in my life, but I hope that things do get better. I hope that in the near future, someone will ask me, “How’s the baby?” and I’ll have a much better answer.

 
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Posted by on August 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Blog #8: New

Is it really August? As I’ve been trudging through the last days, weeks, months, I’ve lost all perspective on time. It feels like years since I held Alex in my arms, and it also feels like I only had him for a few hours. In reality, I had Alex for 66 days on earth, and he’s been gone for 54 days now.

I’m not keeping a count of each day since he’s been gone… I just had to find a calendar to count because I feel like time is passing me by. I forgot a close friend’s birthday today. An event I would have planned for before, now comes and goes without fanfare. Sorry.

I spend all my energy remembering things and making decisions at work. When I get home, my head is full and I have nothing left inside. It’s not that ‘comfortably numb’ feeling I had right after Alex died, it’s different.

I feel like my head is an almost overflowing bucket of water. One more drop will spill the whole thing. There are days when I feel like I can’t handle one more drop. I go to bed and I start over fresh in the morning. When I get home from work though, the bucket is full and I feel like I’m over capacity in my mind.

Maybe it’s because it takes so much energy to not dwell on Alex all day long. I read spreadsheets and powerpoints and other documents. I participate in meetings. I answer emails and I throw away junk mail. It takes all of my effort to focus on the task at hand, and not drift away to thoughts of my missing little boy.

It’s like I need to put his picture on a milk carton or something. Missing: Alexander Cameron Jonas. DOB: 4/11/2011. Weight: 13 lb, 8 oz. Height: 24”. Hair: Black. Eyes: Gray. Suspected whereabouts: Heaven.

Intellectually, I can process the fact that he is gone. Emotionally, I struggle to think of anything else. How long will I keep looking for him? That’s a journey that won’t end well, so it’s best to avoid the trip completely.

I spent some time over lunch with a dear friend today. It was only about an hour, but it was an important 60 minutes. We caught up on five years worth of news and we also discussed my precious Alex.

We talked about the circumstances under which he died. About whether or not I was responsible for his death, about the extent God’s will plays a role in this whole series of events. In all reality, nothing new.

When I talked to Ben later, he asked me what we talked about- I said, “Alex” and I could read the look on his face. The expression so clearly asked, “Is there anything left to say?” I’m not sure. Do I repeat my self over and over when I talk about him? Am I writing the same things over and over in this blog? Does it seem like I copy and paste each time I write? Maybe.

Every time I talk about Alex and think about him, it all feels new to me. I feel fresh loss and regret and sadness each time I discuss him. Maybe there’s nothing new to be said, but it doesn’t feel old yet to me. It feels raw and bitter and new.

I’m ready for something new though. I’m ready for more laughter and happiness and joy. Does anyone have some spare joy to lend me?

We had fun over the weekend and Benjamin got to splash around with his favorite friends. We ate burgers and enjoyed the sun shining offLake Michigan. If I could bottle up those moments of happiness… I don’t know. Maybe the rest of the week would be easier.

We keep looking for the happiness and trudging through the lonely. And time passes us by.

Remembering Alex (#8): Surgery– This is the last note I posted on Facebook. I wrote it one month after Alex died.
7-10-2011 

30 days. Apparently that’s how long it takes to adjust to the new ‘normal.’ I’m back at work. I’ve been to the grocery store twice now. Laundry happens at more regular intervals. Not that I don’t think about Alex all the time, but our family has shifted into a different mode. We’re no longer in “survival” mode. We do the daily tasks of life every day- not just sporadically.

We’ve weathered the storm and we’re no longer draining our row boat with buckets. The clouds are moving along and the outline of the sun is discernable behind all the gray. We get up every morning and go through the motions of life. Our thoughts of Alex shift from the present, to the past.

Not that it’s easy. Every single day is a struggle- fraught with challenges we have never faced before. It’s different now though. We’ve learned to stare life square in the eye and just keep going.

We got a flier in the mail yesterday for gravestones. Junk mail for the bereaved? That’s a first. Marketing mailers that might have had me running for the Kleenex a week ago, are now less dramatic. I look through the options in the brochure with a shrug and a frown. I’m not sure the best way to commemorate Alex’s life on earth is with a granite headstone shaped like a teddy bear. I throw it all away. Maybe someday I’ll be ready to shop for that- not today.

When Alex died, it was like half of my heart was ripped out of my chest. The wound itself may have been sewn up, but it has not yet healed. I went through the first few weeks numb- still sad, but not really feeling all of the pain. As time as passed, the numbness wears off and the searing pain soaks in and radiates through the rest of your body.

Like coming home from surgery, we had things to aid our recovery. Flowers and cards and phone calls, casseroles and prayers all helped insulate us. Lots of people have checked in to see that we are on the mend. As special as all of that love is, you eventually have to heal on your own. The mailbox is empty, the flowers have died, and it’s just you.

Alex dying wasn’t a heart transplant. Part of me was taken, but wasn’t replaced. What is that? An amputation? I try to heal from this operation, I wonder if things will ever feel “good as new.” Can you go through something this traumatic and ever feel as good as you did before?

This first month without Alex has been hard- especially as we transition to life back in public again. The first time I went to Target after he died, I thought that people would be able to read the grief all over my face. That people would move aside for me in the aisles because I would look like as tragic as I felt. That first week out of house I felt like I was hobbled over in pain. Like I should have had emotional crutches to make it easier to walk, and I should have had a handicapped parking sticker because of what I was going through. I honestly felt that there should have been a special carpool lane for people like me, because the motions of life were such a struggle.

It is still hard, but I don’t feel like the grief is written all over my face. I think I can pass through the crowds without people spotting the pain coming from my chest. The wound is still there though. Despite the time that’s passed, it still bleeds. Sometimes at a trickle, unseen by others. Other times, it gushes blood, staining my shirt, alerting others to how much I’m still hurting.

I don’t know what I want from other people. I know I don’t want people to feel obligated to see how I’m doing. I cherish the support and friendship, but I don’t want to bring people down if I’m having a bad moment. I want to see people and talk to people and laugh. I just don’t want to hide if I need to cry.

People don’t treat me like I’m broken, but I need people to know I’m not all healed. I want hugs and high fives and fist bumps. Sometimes kisses too. I want permission to cry and permission to laugh. Sometimes at the very same time. I want people to acknowledge my pain, but I never expect them to share it. I can handle the sadness alone as long as I have the patience and laughter of others to keep me going.

There will be a time when Alex’s death will be a scar and not an open wound. There will be a time when I meet people in life who won’t know about this heartbreak, and won’t understand why the cry of a baby makes me pause, or why the name “Alex” can get me misty-eyed. Not yet.

Until then, we go through the motions of life, trying to recover. We get gas, pay bills and take out the trash. We sit in traffic, we clip coupons and we watch TV. There is no timeline that tells us how long it will take us to get better. I don’t know if things will ever be the same, but I know in this household, life does go on.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2011 in Uncategorized