Monthly Archives: April 2012

#38: Two Trips

Have you ever felt like you can’t be in two places at once? That’s how I feel right now. I’m bouncing between coping with Alex’s death and the excitement of Molly’s arrival. I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job with either one of them. There’s just too much conflicting emotion to work through.

I love Alex. I miss him. He’s not coming back. Can’t that just be the end of it? Not to sound callous or insensitive, but those are the facts. Why does my mind need to keep turning the grief over and over as if there is something new to discover? It’s the annoying telemarketer calls that interrupt when you aren’t expecting them. The day is going well; things look good, then an alarm goes off.

Alert! Alex died.

Yes, he’s gone. I miss him. No need to sounds the bells anymore…nothing has changed. Can’t we just accept that? It’s not that I’m stuck in my grief from Alex, I just didn’t expect to revisit it so frequently. My mind races to all the circumstances and feelings of loss around Alex. They’re unchanged. So why is my mind so insistent on bringing me back there?

Molly is coming shortly. Just over 4 weeks. May 29th. Time flies and she is well on the way. It’s close enough that we should start thinking about installing the car seats and buying a baby book. We’re on the cusp of welcoming this new blessing into our lives and the sheer joy that we should be soaring on is cut short. It’s not the “what-ifs” that I thought would paralyze me. It’s the timidity of the joy I feel.

It’s not the carefree, unabashed, all-out excitement that makes your heart burst while you’re waiting for your baby to arrive. It’s solemn. Calm. Unobtrusive. You could almost forget it’s there, waiting silently in the corner. Once you push all that grief out of the way, you see it in the shadows. The joy waiting for you to acknowledge it.

I feel like I need to “finish” with Alex before I can “start” with Molly. I know that’s not entirely possible, and may seem wrong to think that way. It’s just that nothing is changing with Alex. He’s in Heaven. I acknowledge it. I accept it. At times, I can even celebrate that. Why isn’t that enough? My sadness and grief around his departure are clouding the excitement around her arrival.

Before she even gets here, I’m already doubting whether or not she’s getting a mommy worthy of how wonderful she is bound to be. We’re not off to a great start.

It’s like I have this running checklist in my mind of things I need to do before she gets here. Diapers? Check. Onesies? Check. Stop mourning the loss of her brother so you’re not all lame and depressing when she gets here? That one’s a little harder to do.

There are plenty of families who have balanced grief and joy. I am so in awe of their strength and courage. I just don’t feel like I’m in the right place yet, and I only have 4 weeks to get there.

We took Benjamin on a big brother weekend to Madison this weekend. We stayed overnight in a hotel, went to the children’s museum, took him to Build a Bear… it was a nice time. You could almost forget that we had taken this journey as a family once before. At times, I think we are so lucky that Benjamin was only 2.5 when Alex died. He doesn’t really remember anything about it. Not that I don’t want him to have memories of his brother, I’m just not sure that I would have answers for all the questions he would ask.

“Mama, we had a big brother weekend when Baby Alex was born and he went to Heaven. Is Baby Molly going to go to Heaven too?”

“Mama, why did Baby Alex go to Heaven? Didn’t he want to live with us anymore? Will all my brothers and sisters go to Heaven instead of living with us?”

“Mama, why did you buy all that stuff for Baby Alex if he was never going to use it?”

I’ve come to realize that Molly is coming whether or not I’m done coping with Alex, and that’s really all there is to it. There is no “finishing” or “getting over” anything. It’s just coping. I can be normal or crazy or somewhere in between and I will deliver a baby on May 29th. That’s all.

I am preparing myself and our family for a journey we have taken before, a trip that had an unexpected detour. We wouldn’t have chosen the outcome, but we made it to an alternate destination. There are families who have taken this trip before, but I don’t think we can use their map as our guide. We need to find our own route, rely on our own instincts, figure out our own path.

I am eager to meet our little girl- I hope she knows how long our journey was to get her…


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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


#37: First Birthday

My chest is tight. I can’t breathe. My throat closes. I was okay all day and now all of a sudden, I’m not. Ben came home from work and it’s just the two of us in the house. Benjamin is still at daycare. It’s like all of those hard, random days after Alex died. The two of us in the house together. Sometimes talking, sometimes crying. The mood feels heavy.

I don’t know what has changed, or why, but I can’t shake this sadness that’s come over me. I’m sad for the little boy I don’t get to hold anymore. I’m aching to smell his sweet scent and I am longing to remember the times when he would nurse for what seemed like hours on end.

Nothig has really changed. Today is his birthday, tomorrow won’t be. Whether it’s today or tomorrow, he’s not coming back. Even Benjamin understands that. Ben told Benjamin this morning that it was Baby Alex’s birthday. Benjamin asked if Baby Alex was going to come back for his party. I told him no. Benjamin said, “yeah, he’s in Heaven with God forever.”

That is the simple answer. Why are there times when that statement seems more comforting than others? Alex is gone and there’s nothing that brings him back. There are times when his absence feels more real. There are times when his absence feels more pronounced… like a part of me is missing. Today is one of those times.

The world keeps going, despite my attempts to carve out a day just for Alex and for my memories. There are emails and phone calls and work things that need to be done. The time reserved for Alex comes to a halt, and his absence is as fresh as it was the morning he died.

How on earth did I even make it through this year? There are times when I am genuinely incredulous that I’ve survived every single day knowing that my sweet boy would never again be in my arms. How have I gotten out of bed each day knowing that no amount of prayers or tears could ever bring him back? I don’t know.

I’m sure tomorrow will be better, but this moment is painful. I feel him and smell him and miss him all over again. Not even the thought of his birthday party in Heaven fills the void when my arms are empty here in Earth.

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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Uncategorized


#36: Birthday Cakes

I recently went to our favorite bakery to order a couple cakes. Seems like a pretty uninteresting errand… except that neither of these cakes I would have expected to order a year ago. One cake was for an upcoming baby shower. After we had Alex, I was sure that we were done with adding babies to our family. What a wonderful surprise cake to celebrate! The other cake was the first birthday cake for Alex. Even deciding to order a cake was something I wrestled with.

How to you celebrate a birthday for a child that’s not here? A birthday celebrated in Heaven is not the same birthday as the birthdays celebrated here on earth… with balloons and streamers and games and toys. Can we even find it in our hearts to celebrate this birthday since we can’t hug him and hold him and watch him eat his very first dessert?

Flash forward- we decide to order a cake, and to have some close friends over to celebrate Alex’s birthday. I’m at the bakery and all I see are ridiculously happy, silly cake designs to mark a one-year birthday milestone. That’s so depressing. It’s one thing to reconcile yourself to the fact that your child won’t be there for pictures, or to blow out the candles. It’s another thing to have clowns, giraffes or Mickey Mouse mocking you from the cake for this somber, humble occasion.

At first I was frustrated, and then I started to tear up. What was I thinking? Was it naïve to think that I could honestly get a cake to celebrate this event that we were not really looking forward to? The saleslady misunderstood my emotion and tears. She said, “They grow up so fast, don’t they?” I swallowed the lump in my throat and whispered to her that my son was celebrating his first birthday in Heaven. She looked at me closely for a moment. Then, not missing a beat, she turned the pages to the baptismal cakes.

Lovely. Beautiful doves, soft, serene colors, sweet messages that said, “God Bless Baby” on them. Much better. No more garish balloons, streamers and loud primary colors. I breathed easier and slowly considered the options. A sweet dove at the top, light blues all over the cake frosting, wording that says, “God Bless Baby Alex on his first birthday.” Perfect.

In just two days, we will face Alex’s first birthday. I’m not even sure what to expect from this day. Will it pass like any other day, or will it haunt me, knowing that he isn’t there to celebrate this milestone like all children *should* experience? You would think that through this first year, I would have learned to stop thinking ahead so much… to stop anticipating what could or might be, and to just accept what happens as it comes. With faith that God will help us whenever and however we need Him.

There are times when the loss of Alex is more profound. The times when I can clearly picture how old he would be, or what he might be doing. I don’t remember exactly what babies at 4 months, or 7 months, 3 days are like… those dates pass with a little less notice. The one year mark is hard though. I know and remember exactly what that time was like for Benjamin. One year is great! It’s walking across the room, a little cautiously of course, but it’s toothy grins, smiles and chubby fingers that quickly gobble up cake. It’s hearing “mama” called from the crib and silly laughter when you tickle his tummy on the changing table. It’s this collection of memories we don’t get with Alex and an emptiness in our hearts where we had made space to store all those special times.

I’ll never again hear Benjamin say, “God bless you, baby Alex” in the car when we’re driving and Alex let out a loud sneeze.

I’ll never see Benjamin hold Alex’s hand as he helps him walk across the lawn to find Easter eggs.

I’ll never see Alex pound his little fists on the glass to go outside because he saw his big brother run out on the patio to play with his sidewalk chalk.

I’ll never see Benjamin trick Alex out of treats, toys or games, taking advantage of the fact that Alex is little and doesn’t completely understand yet.

I’ll never hear how Alex would have pronounced Benjamin’s name in his own baby-speak. Benjamin called himself “Ben-mitz” for several months. I have no idea what combination of sounds would have come from Alex’s mouth.

This first birthday hurts. In a way that stings as expected, but aches a little more than I’m used to. I can feel happy he’s in Heaven, but I don’t stop missing his presence here on Earth. Enjoy all the love and happiness that Heaven can offer you sweet Piggy; you have a whole family that misses you down here.

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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Uncategorized