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Author Archives: tammylynne22

About tammylynne22

Mother to Benjamin (born November 2008), Alex (born April 2011, died May 2011), Molly (born May 2012) and Emily (born August 2014). Happily married, working mother of three on Earth and one in Heaven.

#73: Seven Years

I forgot the birthday cake. Normally on Alex’s birthday we have a birthday cake and a little party. Nothing big, but something we celebrate as a family to remember our special boy.

We used to have a party with our friends on Alex’s birthday. Life got busy. People couldn’t make it, so we stopped doing a bigger event. This year, we aren’t even doing a cake.

Things are kind of winding down on how we mark this day. I don’t think it is bad. I just think that things have changed. I used to spend a lot of time anticipating this date; counting down, and trying to predict how I would handle it. I used to take the day off. Not this year. Big meetings at work. At a new job. I have a dinner tonight. No time for all the birthday pomp and circumstance. It feels… okay.

Thinking about Alex is still hard. I still miss him and he is still a part of our family. We remember him everyday at prayers. If we try to introduce our family without him, his name will still come up. We might be talking to someone we just met, and we will casually explain that we have 3 kids: Benjamin who is 9, Molly who is 5 and Emily who is 3. Immediately, without fail, one of the kids will interrupt us and say, “No! We have 4 kids. We have 2 boys and 2 girls. Not 3 kids!” It used to be just Benjamin who would correct us. Now either Molly or Benjamin will correct us. In another year or two, I think that Emily will join in too.

It is kind of ironic… two kids who never knew Alex jump in to defend him and make sure that we don’t leave him out when we talk about our family. I think that is good, and healthy. But I’m not sure.

I can still be sad about Alex, but trying to really dig deep into those feelings seems a little hollow. For every sad memory I have about losing Alex, I have dozens more happy moments of his siblings. Alex was born April 11, 2011 and he died June 9, 2011 from an unknown congenital heart defect. Miracle Molly was born May 29, 2012.

I tried to do the math in my head last night. I was up late thinking about today, and I was trying to remember… how long was it before I knew I was pregnant with Molly? I think I found out in October? So basically June 9 through October xx was sheer hell. Awful every single day. Hard to wake up. Hard to face the world. Hard to breathe.

And then on that magical day on October xx, the sun started to shine again and the whole world came back into focus. Maybe 100+ days of agony, but then years and years of gratitude? Molly was our first blessing. Then another loss, then our sweet Emily. Blessings upon blessings. An embarrassment of riches.

My personality is to hedge losses and optimize the best possible outcomes. I never expect perfect, but I try to create the most favorable scenario. Trading in 100+ days for years of joy? I can wrap my head around that. I do recognize that life doesn’t work like that. I know that God doesn’t work like that. But, it makes it easier for me to reconcile all that has happened in my mind.

I can still celebrate Alex’s birthday and his presence in our lives as a blessing. I hope that having him in our family has made us better parents, and better people. I am grateful for the 60 days he spent in our arms. *And* his absence will always be a part of me.

When Alex died, my heart shattered. It didn’t break into two parts. It exploded from the inside. But, I think that all those fragments have come back together. Each moment with Emily, Molly and Benjamin has helped to fuse those pieces together. I never thought that my heart would be whole again, but through the love of my children and the grace of God, I have a much stronger, more resilient heart.

Today is still sad. Somber, melancholy, bittersweet, whatever you want to call it. But, it’s no longer tragic. Maybe that’s why I don’t need to dress this day up with a cake and balloons. Hard to say. Either way, we say an extra prayer for our Angel Alex, and we blow out some metaphorical candles, hoping all his wishes come true.

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Posted by on April 11, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

#72: Six Years

Tomorrow marks 6 years since Alex died. Six years ago I put my sweet baby down for a nap, and a few hours later I was doing CPR, frantically calling 911.

Six years ago I was desperately wondering… If we would ever have more kids. If Benjamin would be an only child. If I could ever forgive myself. If I could ever forget the awful experience. If I would ever sleep soundly again. If I could imagine going back to work. If life would ever get back to normal. If I would ever feel joy again.

Time moves on. Life goes on. Hearts heal. Minds forget. God forgives.

I divide my life into two stages: before Alex died and after Alex died. Before Alex died, I don’t think I fully appreciated all the blessings we had in life. I loved our life, but I don’t think I truly cherished experiences and people the way I should have.

After Alex died, I went through a long stage where I was numb. I didn’t feel anything. There was no sound, no color. I felt like I saw the world in black and white and I heard everything around me as if I were underwater. Everything was muted and my role in life was passive and distant.

But time does heal. Colors came into focus. Sounds got louder. Pain came back. Joy surfaced in unexpected places.

I like to find meaning in things. I like to contemplate why things happen, and I like to understand how the world fits together. Our life is not a linear path with a singular destination. It is a series of detours and wrong turns. I hate that. I want things to be clean and tidy, without surprise. Getting us to the best possible destination with the most optimized route.

I like to think that these anniversaries with Alex mean something. Something worthwhile, something significant, something more than just a date on the calendar. When I pull back the layers though, there is nothing new under the sun.

While the event hasn’t changed, the perspective I bring to it has. I see the beauty in the time we had with Alex. I admire the resilience our family had going on with life. I appreciate how blessed we are to have our three beautiful children all arguing in the backseat. Yes, even our two year old finds a way to argue with her sister.

There is joy in life. There is peace in my heart. This time of year is painful, but I take solace in that there is another year of love and laughter in our future.

Sending you love and hugs my sweet boy- now and forever.

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

#71: Again

This time of year starts it. The first time you open up the windows in the house and the spring air streams through the house. When you drive home from work with the windows open for the very first time. You see the sun shining and the air is warm… it brings it all back.

It was like it was yesterday. My ankles are swollen, and my bladder is full. I’m craving grapefruit, and donuts and I know that he’s almost here. This time of year gives me that pregnant deja vu. That sharp pang when I remember everything I felt right before Alex was born.

April 11 will be 6 years. 6 years ago when he was born to us via planned c-section. We calmly drove to the hospital and knew we would be leaving with a baby. A little boy to complete our family. Benjamin was only 2.5, but he was primed and ready to become a big brother. We had been in training for months, so he understood all the benefits and responsibilities of being a big brother. If the baby wakes you up in the middle of the night? Stay in bed. If mommy is nursing the baby when you want to play? Wait your turn. If the baby is too little to eat ice cream and pizza? You can have his share!

6 years ago before we knew anything would ever go wrong.

Alex was born on April 11 and died in his sleep on June 9. We had two perfect months to enjoy him and celebrate our two boys together. Every year this anniversary is a painful milestone that doesn’t seem to get easier.

I can feel the emotion welling up inside. Like a force you can’t deny, but you just try to wait for the moment to pass. You’re on the verge of tears, which feels foreign. You’re so used to the reality of his death that it doesn’t stun you anymore. When the kids ask questions about Baby Alex in Heaven, you can answer them without sadness. You try to find a gentle explanation for everything, and you go on about your day. Packing lunches and checking homework. You acknowledge his absence without sadness. You can accept where things are in life.

Something about Springtime disrupts the equilibrium. As the world around me thaws and the sun comes out, there is a rebirth I’m expecting. My body is expecting this baby to come back to me and it hurts all over again.

Life is so busy. There are soccer practices and clothes to fold and books to read. There isn’t time to sit in solitude and pine for my little baby who’s gone. Maybe that’s what is always so striking about this time of year. There is an urgency to this grief that cuts through the everyday chaos. There is something about this time of year that won’t be ignored.

So I surrender. I accept the fact that there are times of day where the pain of missing him takes my breath away. There are unexpected moments where my eyes well with tears and I can’t remember what I was just doing. I have 6 years of data points that tell me that everything will be okay, but doesn’t take away the sharp pangs in my heart as I long to hold a baby who is no longer with us. I know this time will pass, but it doesn’t make the pain any less intense.

I hate being defenseless. I hate not having any control to how I feel or when I feel things. I don’t like this emptiness that washes over me, especially since I can’t stop it.

I don’t know how to make it better. I don’t know what I want or even what will make things more bearable. Do I want to be alone? Do I want to be with friends? Do I want to cry? Do I just want to laugh and forget? What I want is to be done. To have this time of year pass without pain and sadness.

I typically get a little birthday cake for Alex on his birthday. The kids blow out the candles and we sing. I don’t know if I have it in me today. Tomorrow might be better, but today I don’t see myself buying that cake in celebration. We love him, which is why is it hard to lose him all over again.

 

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

#70: Almost Five Years

I feel it in my body. My whole being knows. It starts the month of June and the clock ticks as we slowly creep to June 9th.

June 9th will be 5 years since Alex died. You can call it an Angel-versary, or something else, but it is the 5 year mark of the worst day of my life.
And it’s coming up quickly.
On most days at home, I am up to my neck in bathtime, books, packing lunches and finding missing shoes. There isn’t time to sit and think about the little duckling who is missing. As I pack up all the kids for a swim and buckle everyone in the car, I’m not thinking about the 4th booster seat that wouldn’t fit in the backseat.
This time of year though, the absence is noted. Palpable and fervent, it’s like an alarm ringing in my head. “Alex is gone!”
There is an urgency building inside of me. I don’t know where it comes from or what to do with it. There are only a few trusted souls that get to see it. I don’t hide it, but I think back to the time when Alex first left. When the loss was fresh and searing hot. The people who were here when I was confused and mute. In shock and in denial.
Everything builds. An ebb and flow throughout the day. Moments of longing, moments of hurt. Wistful thoughts about such a sweet little boy. Holding him in my arms. All the windows in the house open and a sweet June breeze blowing through the house.
Morning gurgles as the shine shone bright into your room. Noisy suckling as you ate too much and I looked on in amazement at how perfect you were. A very young Benjamin (just 2.5) talking to you like a trusted companion already. Benjamin stroking your face after you sneezed. “God Bless you Baby Alex.”
God did bless our Baby Alex. He called him home and watches over him every single day. He has sent us two blessings… Molly and Emily.
Adding two doesn’t replace one. The girls have a place in my heart that is special and their own. Alex has a place in my soul that may never quite heal.
You would think I would be used to this time of year. I have had 5 practice rounds, so I should know what to expect. Every year though, I am surprised. Surprised at all the events and activity that has happened since you left us. Silently sad that no amount of time really heals the pain or fixes the hurt.
We meet new people every day. People that don’t know about Alex and don’t know about our story. How do you explain it? An event that is so real to you, and defines who you are today… and it’s like a small footnote in your introduction to others.
It matters, but it isn’t current to everyone else.
The kids, our lives, they move on. My brain processes a little bit more slowly this time of year. There are the details of work and home, and there is a space dedicated to the void that is Alex.
He spends his days in Heaven, and his night in our hearts here on Earth.
 
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Posted by on June 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

#69: Fifth Birthday

Dear Alex,

Happy Birthday Buddy!

Just 5 years ago, you were born into the world. Into a family so eager to meet you. Benjamin was only 2.5 years old, but he was so excited and proud to be your big brother! I remember your birth more vividly than anyone else’s. I entered the OR so cold and scared. I knew what to expect, and I found the whole c-section process much scarier the second time around.

When you were born, I knew you wouldn’t be as big as your brother. I was relieved to hear that you were a healthy 7 lb, 6 oz. When I saw you placed on my chest, you were as perfect as I imagined you would be.

At that time, I didn’t know that God would call you home just 2 short months later. I didn’t know you would leave us so quickly. I didn’t know that remembering you would be a complicated endeavor. That bits and pieces of you would slip away from me with every passing year. Even closing my eyes, I struggle to remember how big your body was, what your hair smelled like, or the exact color of your eyes.

Although I don’t remember all the details, my relationship with you remains very special, baby. We had two perfect months together. You never got old enough to have a tantrum in the middle of Target. You never got old enough to throw your plate of food on the floor. You never got old enough to look at me with a half-bored expression when I asked how your day at school was.

I’ll never know what it feels like when you hug me back. I’ll never know what it sounds like when you say “Mama” as your first word. I’ll never know what it feels like when you crawl in bed with me unexpectedly in the middle of a rainstorm.

There is so much missing.

However. There is something simple and pure about being your mommy. Our relationship is never compromised by days of frustration, or moments of angst. I love you in a way that is simple and kind. The way you can love something that can’t really love you back- the way a child loves a teddy bear. My thoughts of you are simple and sweet. Tender thoughts of the time we spent together, a hazy collections of memories with just the two of us.

You don’t dominate my thoughts the way you once did. I’m happy to report that it’s because I’m so busy keeping up with your siblings. They bring such joy and purpose to my life. They make my heart expand and swell with affection. I love all of you bears, and I feel like I have a deeper, more complete love for all of you, now knowing what loss feels like. Benjamin is 7.5, Molly is almost 4 and Emily is 1.5. They carry on, not realizing you should be down here with them.

There is something special about the children you have after the death of a child. You know how hard it can be to lose a child. Your heart is hardened and weathered and bears the scars of having been through something incredibly difficult. Yet to open yourself up to the possibility of new life and new love is something very special. Once you know all the things that can go wrong, you love deeper and stronger instead of more cautiously. You cherish every moment because you know how quickly things can be taken away.

Life is full on chaos. There is bath time and soccer practice and spelling tests. I try to carve out a few minutes for just the two of us, but that proves nearly impossible.

I still love you Piggy. I love your sweet little satisfied noises after you were done eating. I love your round little tummy that got big after just a few weeks. I love how you transformed Benjamin from an only child into a big brother. It was a role that he cherished from the second you were born.

Although not every day, we think of you often. We remember you with our evening prayers and we hold you close in our hearts. We had a little birthday cake for you tonight and Benjamin and Molly blew out your candles.

You’ll always be special to us, Alex. You are the little brother that Benjamin will never have on Earth. You are the face I see in the shadows when all kids are wrestling together. Laughing and giggling, probably when they’re supposed to be getting ready for bed.

Enjoy your birthday in Heaven Alex. You have more company every year as we send up more beloved family members. You’re in our heads and our hearts. Especially on your very special fifth birthday.

Sending you all of my love,

Mommy

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

#68: Remember

I saw a pregnant woman in the airport this morning and we started chatting. She said that she was pregnant with her fourth child. I found myself saying, “we have four kids too!” Oops. Sometimes that slips out, and then I have to explain that there are only three kids still with us. Not exactly the type of story a pregnant mommy wants to hear. Sorry about that…

I don’t know why or when it happens, but there are times when I say I have four kids. I don’t forget that Alex was here, it is just that it is complicated. And sometimes you don’t need to burden a stranger with the complicated explanations of your life.

Fast forward almost five years from when Alex died. We are still here. The family is intact. It is all okay. Benjamin is 7 years old and he remains the best brother ever in the history of time. He is patient and kind. Indulgent even, as if he has the wisdom of someone so much older. He is tolerant of his sister Molly, who three and a half, and he is genuinely enamored with Emily, who is almost 18 months. He is the consummate big brother who will always protect and care for his sisters.

Molly is a spirited, crazy, noisy, personable, fun-loving bundle of energy. She is so animated and loud. A classic middle child, she finds ways to get your attention and she will not be ignored! Molly brings color and texture into an otherwise orderly life. She loves you unabashedly with an intensity that takes your breath away. She is confident and dynamic in a way that you can’t help but stand back and appreciate her for all of her dimensions.

Emily is our final baby. She is about 16 months old and weighs in at a hefty 17#. Such a tiny girl. She is sweet and kind. She loves to explore the house and climbing is her favorite hobby. The clutter or our daily life provides her with hours of amusement- no toys even necessary!

I think about the unique combination of these kids and I can’t help but wonder what it would be like if Alex had never left us. Would we even have had either of the girls? I remember being so entranced with the idea of “two boys,” that I don’t know we would have had more kids.

While I recognize that I don’t get to choose what happens to us in life, I can’t help but wonder if life is better or worse without Alex. If I could go back in time and undo losing him, would I do it? In all honesty, I don’t think I would change anything.

Yes, there was unbelievable sorrow and pain and days and nights of tears and sadness. But after that, there was the indescribable joy when we learned about baby Molly. And even later, there was the devastation of a miscarriage. Which was followed by the arrival of our #bonusjonas baby Emily.

Life is manic. You need the sadness to fully appreciate the beauty and joy of everything else. I know that I have had two blessings to help cushion the blow of losing Alex, but I think that is just proof of God’s grace.

We are blessed every single day. There are moments of messy chaos, interspersed with glimpses that are heart-achingly sweet, followed by a lot more dirty diapers and puke. And I have never felt so fortunate in my entire life.

There is never a moment when I will take my kids for granted. Never a moment when I will resent having to go check on them. Never a time when I will wish I didn’t have to do all the tasks related to mommyhood.

Because I remember.

I remember the silence of the house after Alex died. I remember the quiet of the house without a baby crying and cooing. I remember the empty moments without diapers to change and bottles to wash. I remember the pain of not having a baby to nurse and for all those reasons I cherish the chaos. I lean into the busy and I rejoice in the hectic. I am grateful for all the tasks of parenthood because every trip to the potty, every sippy cup that is filled, every book that is read is truly a blessing.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

#67: With Love

Tomorrow will be four years since Alex died. Four years since I held him in my arms. Four years since I nursed him to sleep. Four years since I nuzzled his little tummy. Four tears since he spit up on me after a feeding. Four years since he peed on me in the tub. Four years is a very long time.

In the last four years, I have delivered two healthy, beautiful baby girls. I have watched Benjamin grow from a toddler to a graduating kindergartener. I have changed jobs twice. I have done 4,366 loads of laundry. I have changed 1.2 million diapers. I have also thought about Alex more times than I can possibly count.

I have cried because he’s gone. I have cried because I can’t explain why he’s gone. I have cried with joy because he’s in heaven. I have cried silently, hidden behind false smiles and fake laughter. I have cried.

My grief has been manageable because I’ve had plenty of other things to keep me busy… Having two more babies, juggling work, family and friends can keep you busy 25+ hours a day. (No, that isn’t a typo… I really feel like I have 25 hours of things to do every single day.) I am grateful for all the joy that exists in life, but there will always be a part of me still holding onto Alex.

I think the hardest part now is that I’m not really sure where Alex belongs. He isn’t top of mind for me every single day like he was right after he died. Likewise, he isn’t a distant memory for me like a friend you’ve lost touch with, or a family pet who died years ago. There are times when his memory feels very, very present, which makes his absence even more painful. The memory of Alex is a transient thing that is unpredictable and sometimes unforgiving.

I don’t know how tomorrow will be, and I don’t know how to help anyone else understand. It is a day that marks a tragedy that once defined you. And now this day is a painful reminder of what you’ve lost. You appreciate what you have today, but you never fully forget what you lost yesterday.

I am probably more cynical than most people. I think about the glass half empty more than half full. I think about missed opportunities, suboptimal outcomes and imperfect circumstances. But when I turn over the events of Alex in my mind, I am blank. I think back and I don’t have a litany of regret. I don’t have a laundry list of things I would have done differently or better. My mind is empty. I try hard and squeeze my brain to try harder, and I come up with an empty canvas.

I guess this means that I loved him as well as I could have, knowing nothing about what would happen. I am grateful for our time together, and I mourn his loss now. The pain of losing a child is different every day. Tomorrow is an angel-versary day. A day to remember his life, but nothing will change how I feel about him.

God bless you baby Alex. We love you every day, and tomorrow we will say an extra prayer for you. We miss you and we will remember you always. With love.

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2015 in Uncategorized