The Nursery

The morning after S3 was born, after I stopped screaming and wailing, my husband and I started talking about future plans. Like there were things we could do immediately to ameriolate our sadness (newsflash: there weren’t). From my recovery room we planned that we would go home, buy a dog, convert the nursery into a playroom for S1 and S2, and try to conceive again in a year. We didnt end up doing any of those things.

We did look at dogs but disagreed on how big a dog to get.

As for the nursery, when we got home from the hospital I had my husband walk through all the rooms in our house and round up baby items and put them in the nursery and then close the door to the nursery before I’d go into the house. The swing in the living room, the bassinet in our bedroom, and the baby clothes in the dryer were all deposited there and the door was shut.

About a day later I decided to go into the nursery. My husband had placed the memory box we left the hospital with on a nightstand in the room. I opened it up and dared to open the envelope of pictures from the hospital photographer. I took one of S3 wrapped in a donated blanket and hat and took a seat in the glider. I cradled his picture in my arms and rocked him as tears trickled down my cheeks. I had envisioned this moment for months, but I had planned that our eyes would be gazing into one another’s. Instead he never opened his.

Eventually I left the room and shut the door. From then on, the nursery became off limits. We even taught the boys not to go in there.

About two months later I visited with the head of MFM for our local major University to go over all the test results. Since no cause of death was found, he urged me to try to conceive sooner rather than later because to wait too long, I could risk diminishing fertility. It didn’t take much convincing as I already had decided that I needed a baby in my empty arms ASAP. With the medical go ahead to try, it became priority number one and plans like changing the nursery into a playroom took a backseat. Why do anything to the nursery if hopefully a baby would be in there soon?

I never went back in. I literally did not enter the room until D1 came home from the hospital. It remained a strange place for a while. The day I went to bed and couldn’t feel S3 move we had bought and hung new art for the wall and a new crate to hold books. Was he already dead while we shopped for those items?

We switched the walls the crib and dresser were on and hung a print of the double rainbow from the day after D1 was born. My husband bought a ceramic rainbow from Target and put it on her dresser. There are so many emotions and menories about this room – moving into the house and setting it up for S1 but keeping it gender neutral so it could work for a little sister, moving S2 into it and then quickly back out of it to make room for S3, the things we bought to spruce it up for S3, the feelings of emptiness and dread when it sat empty when it should have been filled.

I felt so weird about it that we didn’t move D1 into the room until she was four months old and then we used it to store clothes, change diapers, and sleep. I would never use it for play.

But as she has grown, it’s made sense for us to spend more time there. It’s a space where I can keep things baby proof and toddler friendly, which is important since her big brothers are constantly creating hazards elsewhere in the house. I can sit on the glider and watch her pull things out of bins and play with her toy kitchen. She pulls books out of the crate for me to read to her.

Yesterday in between play, I gathered a few things that needed to go into the trash. I quickly shut the door and ran to the bathroom trash can. When I came back, D1 was standing on the other side of the door crying. I swept her up into my arms and as I stood up I got a glimpse of the whole nursery from the door and I said to D1 “what a happy room!”

I then recoiled a bit. I said the words because sometime in the past year they had become true. But they felt like a sudden betrayal, like the room could never be a happy room again, so what was wrong with me for even thinking that. Whenever I feel torn between grief and happiness I tell myself that my living children never asked for a sad mom and that me being sad probably isn’t what S3 would have wanted. So I keep moving forward and allow even the sad spaces to be happy ones again.

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I’m (Not) Very Special

I work two part-time jobs, one of which I’ve only been at for a few months but I have hated with a fiery passion. I figured I’d give it time for some settling in to happen but it just hasn’t happened. So I’ve started looking for a new job (see previous post) AND have started exploring options for starting my own business (see post before that).

I’ve been sweating having to tell work that I want out. I loathe confrontation and will do things like keep on working a job I can’t stand just to avoid an awkward conversation. After weeks or hemming and hawing today was finally the day to do it.

And my boss was like “okay” *chipper voice, smiley face.*

She didn’t act surprised, didn’t act sad. I was all prepared to have various versions of the “it’s not you, it’s me” conversation. Nada.

Then I went to go vote and ran into my OB in the polling line. Like my OB OB, the one I saw at least twice a week for months and then he delivered D1. Initially I walked by him and was just going to let him be but I figured I could again thank him for safely delivering my rainbow baby. Feels good to be thanked, right?

So I did and I kind of think he didn’t remember me. I was all “rainbow baby…one year ago…” but did not see a glimmer of recognition in his eyes.

I guess sometimes I think I’m a bigger deal than I am!

Unfair

I often need to tell the boys that life is unfair. Case in point S2 got a cookie in his goodie bag from his preschool Halloween party and he ate it in front of S1 who proceeded to have an epic meltdown. Each time I tell them I try to internalize the message for myself. I was once their age and remember having the same conversation with my parents if they dared go out for a Happy Meal with my brother and not me. Eventually I got the message, I think, I guess. But as an adult I still deeply struggle when life is unfair about the big things like life and death.

I’m starting this post while waiting to be interviewed for a job. I received an email a couple of days ago that someone with my skills was urgently needed because the position was suddenly vacated because someone was murdered in a hate crime/mass shooting (unfair situation #1). My parents weren’t available to babysit for the interview so I asked my friend who was recently widowed (unfair situation #2) if she was interested. When I got to her house there were some other cars in the driveway. A mutual acquaintance of ours was there with her kids – sons born the same months as S2 and S3 and daughter born the same month as D1. This lady and her family are my #1 trigger family and since we aren’t close I try to avoid seeing them. So I was again reminded that S3 and D1, in some alternate reality, could both be here with me if it wasn’t for unexplained stillbirth claiming my son’s life (unfair situation #3).

The drive to the interview sucked. I wanted to have a giant sob fest to acknowledge how terrible life can be. But I didn’t want to arrive with mascara running all over my face. But in general, I feel I have been better at coping with the idea that bad things can happen to good people. That bad things are a part of life and no one is immune.

The thing that I still struggle with is that there are those who are skating by unscathed by traumatic life events. Like it still feels utterly unfair that some people are running around all #blessed while life is taking a dump on others. I’ve been able to turn the “why me?” question into “why not me?” but still feel like “why not them too?” I really struggle to share in the joys of others unless they are a fellow member of the #unblessed crew. I’m guessing that’ll come…question mark?

I wish I had some great insight to share but I needed to vent out into the ether. I hate that life can be so sad. I wish we could all have our children outlive us, that we could all live to a old age and peacefully and painlessly die in our sleep. I think the fragility of life can add a sweetness and intentionality, a carpe diem, YOLO element that might be a necessary ingredient for the human condition. I clearly don’t have all of the answers. I’m just a human who continues to internalize the childhood lesson that life is unfair.

A Day In The Life

Husband is out of town and my life is cray cray.

6:50 Wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy.

Well, that is if Diddy wakes up to a baby’s cry and then brings the baby into bed for nursing and snuggles.

7:02 Hear the boys’ alarm go off. I didn’t set it so they must have. Run downstairs to start caffeinating in anticipation. They come downstairs, we argue over who gets to read Garfield first. D1 grouses about the three teeth that are coming in simultaneously. Ibuprofen stat.

7:30 Waffle Wednesday. Leggo my eggo. D1 gums a frozen one. I’m digging the minis because less stuff to cut.

8:00 Boys get dressed while I run upstairs to get dressed (unfortunately I don’t get to shower). Alexa play music by Kidz Bop Kidz. D1 bobs to the beat.

8:03 S1 refuses to get dressed, doesn’t want to go to school. Sad about bullies. Heart breaks 😦

8:34 Frantically run everyone to the bus stop a quarter mile away because the technical pick up time is 8:33 (supposedly). Bus comes at 8:44.

8:47 Remember we forgot to do the preschool homework. Cut out five items that start with A. We only have magazines about food. 2 avocados, 2 aprons, and an artichoke are selected.

9:06 Arrive at preschool. 6 minutes late ain’t bad. See the mom who is the worst. She has her own S1, S2, S3, and D1 who are the same ages as mine. But none dead. So everytime I see her I’m like I hate you bitch in my head. Because I’m a good person.

9:22 Fast and furious grocery shopping. I’m bringing dinner to my recently widowed friend today. I know from personal experience to purchase a disposable container so she doesn’t have to clean it and bring it back to me. Bereavement sucks. Buy a chocolate bar and eat it for breakfast (I didn’t have time to make waffles for myself).

9:55 Nap time. Assemble dinner, clean up waffle crumbs, do three days worth of dishes so my husband doesn’t find out how dirty things are when he’s gone.

10:30 Realize that the text message I got last night from the developer for building my potential start-up said see you tomorrow. That means today, not Thursday like I had written down. Call parents to see if they can watch D1.

11:00 Look for something professional to wear and decide to wear my typical work uniform but it’s wrinkled AF. Dust off iron to iron. Throw in a load of whites.

11:20 D1 is still asleep. Gently wake her up by walking into her room.

11:30 Back in the car. D1 loves music with a beat.

11:45 Drop off D1. Pee.

11:50 Arrive at building site. Text guy to say I’ve arrived. He texts back “I have you down for Thursday.”

12:05 Back to my parents’ house. D1 just had a bottle. My milk starts letting down. Teething baby won’t let me put her down so we eat lunch with her on my lap. Suddenly I feel something warm on my leg. She leaked out her diaper. I blot my pants with a baby wipe. It’s just a little pee, right?

1:19 Swing by home on the way to preschool pick up. Grab dinner for my friend, switch laundry to dryer, grab checkbook. Forgot clean pants for D1. Get in the car and my jam is on:

Good thing D1 doesn’t know what “what up I got a big cock” means yet.

1:27 Preschool pick-up. Class ends at 1:30 and yet S2 is the only kid left. Talk with the teacher about being the lead volunteer for the Halloween party (what was I thinking when I signed up for that) and paid next months tuition. Hit 5000 steps on my Fitbit.

2:00 Drop off dinner, explain heating instructions. Spend way too little time with my friend. Tell her that once her mom leaves I will come over Wednesdays after work to help her clean. I figure this is better than the generic “let me know if you need anything” prompt that is so hard for the bereaved to answer.

2:27 Arrive at orthodontist for S2. Since I’m type A and a bit extra I’m worried about how crowded his teeth are. Orthodontist recommends an appliance with head gear. We are too busy to start today. D1 still has no pants on.

3:15 Back home. My parents are waiting in the driveway. One will take S2 to speech, the other watches D1 and gets S1 off the bus. I get in one final nursing session before work. Manage to get milk all over my bra. New bra. Still no pants for D1.

3:57 I can’t believe I made it to work on time.

4:58 Co-worker gives me a slice of pizza and I inhale it.

6:38 Done with work a little early. Drive home and my parents are playing with the kids. S1 is creating his own books, S2 is doing S1’s old math workbooks from last year, and D1, well, she’s grumpy because teething. S1 says he had a good day, so hopefully he wasn’t bullied. I’m taking him to the doctor tomorrow anyway because he keeps on complaining that he feels sick, tired, and nauseated. I’m 99.94% sure it’s anxiety (yeah he totally takes after me in that department) but what if it’s the 0.06% and he has cancer or something. I’ve been the small percent before and I’m not immune from it happening again.

7:40 Bedtime for D1. It’s stressful without my husband home. I can hear the boys’ footsteps pattering about the house and I’m worried someone might be getting hurt. I wonder if I’m always going to fear for their safety so acutely. Will there be an age where I can trust them being out of my sight? Is the worry I’m experiencing normal or is it heightened by the knowledge of how utterly destroyed I felt in the wake of S3’s death and how much it would ruin me if I ever had to grieve another child?

8:30 Boys in bed. Piggie and Gerald. S2 is very tired and just wants to be held and not talk. He has always been the best cuddler. S1 and I talk about his day and cuddle. I fear that he won’t want to cuddle forever. My oldest, my OG baby. I want him to stay my sweet little boy.

9+ I’m in bed dinking around on my phone. My husband and I send flirty texts to each other. I reply to emails from S1’s teacher and guidance counselor. I ponder the six loads of laundry I have done in the past three days and haven’t put away and decide to let them stay in wrinkled heaps. I consider tidying downstairs. Too tired. I contemplate doing the next couch to 5k run. Nope. I’m spent.

Two plus years post loss. My son’s death still is like a drum beat pulsing through each day. I’m triggered daily. Be it a family that looks like mine should, boys with S3’s name, or two year olds. I wonder what it would be like if he was here. How would today have been different? Because of S3 I now feel comfortable with the bereaved. I actually feel more comfortable with the traumatized than with the “normals.” I worry. A lot. It’s hard to quantify how much more I worry but things like nerves about school causing butterflies in the stomach become OMG what if it’s cancer, let’s get it checked out. I take my living children to the doctor at the drop of a hat. The cuddles are sweet. So so sweet. I miss my baby and want my other kids to stay sweet and little. The beat goes on. I am changed and it changes everything.

Job

That’s Job as in Job from the Bible as opposed to Job as in a place where one works.

This may or may not get real. We shall see. (I hardly have time to post, let alone revise and edit.)

So we just got back from a small vacation. We drove across the state to make our way to the ocean. We frolicked in the waves. D1 hated the surf and sand but the boys loved it. It was one of those vacations where it was a lot of work as a parent but it was worth it to see the big smiles from the kids.

I had asked my husband several months prior if we could go to the beach for our summer vacation. It was a bit of a big ask because he’s not really into the beach with all of it’s stickiness, saltiness, pale person needs a ton of sunscreen to survive-i-ness. But it became priority after I read an article written by a pediatrician who works in hospice care. He asked the dying kids what they wished they had done more of (morbid, but this is that kind of blog) and a large percent wished they had gone to the beach more. Hence, beach. We needed to go to the beach.

My husband’s brother had recently moved en route to the beach so we visited them in their new home on our way back. And since my husband’s family is very religious, and since our visit included a Sunday, that meant it was the Sabbath, which meant it was time for church.

But I had not attended church since S3 died. I was too anxious, too scared, too angry at God, too uncertain if there is a God, and if so, if he’s the kind of guy that’s cool with babies dying, if he even deserves to be worshiped. So there’s that.

I thought about making up an excuse to stay back with D1. Naptime. Something like that. But I didn’t really want to ruffle any feathers or be away from the group so I went anyway. I readied myself. I figured I could go in like an anthropologist studying an unfamiliar group. In this way, I could detach from any messages that were painful to me personally.

Fortunately D1 did indeed fall asleep on the drive over to church. I decided to “take one for the team” and sit in the car while she finished off her nap. She had a solid nap and I ended up missing most of church but she woke up in time for adult Sunday school (of course we were staying for adult Sunday school, again, very religious in-laws).

We made our way to the class but my in-laws ended up having to go help with youth Sunday school so it was just me and my husband and D1. The first thing we noticed was the lesson was titled “Job.”

My husband turns to me and immediately says “you can leave if you want.”

I said “I think I’ll see where this goes.”

For those unfamiliar with the Book of Job, the TL:DR is that Job is this guy who had it all going on (healthy, great job, wife, lots of kids, and was super close to God to boot) and the devil and God placed bets on whether or not Job would still be faithful if he lost it all. And Job was faithful even through really shitty stuff.

The refreshing thing was that most of the people who commented (it was a small, conversation-driven type of class) said that they weren’t sure if they would be able to react the same way Job had. Even the teacher was like “I don’t know what I’d do if anything ever happened to my daughter.”

This one douche-y guy (I’m assuming he’s douche-y because his comment was super-douche-y) was like “There was this one couple that used to come to church but I don’t think they were really that strong in the Gospel. I think they didn’t have their own faith but relied too heavily on that of their parents. They became really angry with God when their child was being treated for leukemia and since then they have divorced and no longer go to church. What a shame.”

Ugh. His comment has been bugging me ever since. I didn’t say anything, but if I could go back in time and grow a larger pair of ovaries, I’d say something like:

When you go through something tragic, especially concerning pain, misery, death, etc, for your child, you can be angry at God. And those who haven’t been there are not allowed to judge. The fact that they divorced is beside the point. People in happy marriages do not divorce. And who knows why they don’t go to church. It isn’t your place to guess as to why. Perhaps it’s because they don’t want to associate with assholes like you.

After the class I talked to my husband about what he thought about it. He said that it’s his understanding that the story of Job is just that, a story. That there is no historical Job. That some guy wrote it suggesting that our faith should be able to endure any manner of hardship. My problem is that it’s easy for the author to say that faith should be able to transcend these hardships when he didn’t even experience them himself. In all, I’m fine with people using it as a motivation to endure in faith and to apply it to themselves. I have a huge problem with people using the story of Job as a means for judging others, like c’mon, love God, you don’t have it as bad at Job!

I like the title of the book on grief from the author Megan Devine – It’s OK That You’re Not OK. For me, the religious version of that is It’s OK That Your Faith Is Not OK.

It was a fun little experiment trying to attend church again. I’m still not ready and I don’t know if I’ll ever be. During one of my largest meltdowns after S3 died, I screamed at God “FUCK YOU! You need to come down here and apologize!” I guess I still want that apology.

Untitled

I like blogging. I really do. Things have been very busy. Since I last wrote, everyone in my family got the stomach flu, which in a way was great because it distracted me from a whole lot of sadness/frustration/anxiety. It distracted me from how my hair turned out not so good, which I only care about because I feel like I need everything in my life to turn out perfect from here on out, some sort of karmic restitution for enduring stillbirth. I guess I still care a bit about what people think of me too, like I want them to think, gee her son may be dead, but the rest of her live seems enviable. Hard to feel enviable with a head full of brassy highlights.

The stomach flu started off with D1 on S3’s birthday, so my anxiety over how she did took over the space I would have made for grieving my would-be two year old. I’m not sure if I feel like S3 continues to age. Is he 2 or is he perpetually a newborn? I grieve baby him and toddler him. And it’s weird because D1 herself is starting to straddle the baby/toddler divide. With them being only a year apart, she’s gradually becoming up to the same sort of things he would have been up to.

The stomach flu then hit S2, then me, then my husband, then finally S1. We all were better about 12 hours prior to S2 having a routine, minor surgery. But of course in my mind routine and minor don’t exist. Even small odds of an adverse outcome feels like, well it’s possible so of course it could happen to him. So I anticipated I’d have high anxiety leading up to the surgery date. Even my therapist thought I was nuts for scheduling it right after S3’s birthday. But I figured the sooner he has it, the sooner he could recover and get better so why put it off. Dealing with us all having the stomach flu was in a way the perfect distraction from my fears about the surgery. Fortunately it all went well.

Since my last post, I’ve starting moving on from one job to a new job. Lots of emotions about moving on from where I worked while pregnant with S3 and the support I received after his death. I’m now kind of working three jobs but each one day a week so it sounds worse than it is. Last week I worked my old job on Monday and my new job on Tuesday. My parents watch my kids while I work but they asked if I could find an alternative sitter for whenever I work two days in a row because they need a day to recover after having them all day. No problem. I have a good friend who used to nanny and she watched the kids a lot for me when my parents were out of town in the winter so I’d ask her.

I texted her a couple weeks ago and she said yes. We then planned to hang out at her place on Saturday and then she came to our place Sunday with her kids for dinner. Her husband was out of town for work. I then picked up D1 after work on Tuesday. They were sitting outside under a canopy, D1 smiled widely. They had a good day.

Wednesday morning my husband let me sleep in. When it was time for him to get ready for work he woke me up but told me he got an email in the middle of the night with really bad news in it. My friend’s husband was in an accident and died. The cops had come to tell her a couple hours after I had left.

My heart dropped.

No. No. No. No. No.

We went over. We brought food. We couldn’t fix it. No one can.

How can we help her carry her grief? I let her know that it’s okay to be angry. I let her know that I’m a safe person to talk to, to call at 3 AM.

Life is so fucking unfair.

A Hard Memory

When I was pregnant with S3 S1 was almost four so he had a pretty good grasp of the idea that a new baby would be soon joining our family. We then talked about it as a sure thibg, as one does when stillbirth and infant death are not on your radar. He knew where the new baby was going to be born and he would occasionally accompany me to doctors appointments.

Exactly two years ago S1 and S2 came with me to the hospital for what would be my last doctor’s appointment with S3. They got to hear the heartbeat (the last time I ever got to hear it too). It was a perfectly uneventful appointment.

A few days later I’m in the same hospital giving birth. As soon as S3 was born my parents brought the boys to the hospital. The memory that was triggered today was that my husband told me that when he saw S1 he ran up to him and was excitedly jumping up and down. He said to him “I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I get to meet our baby.” We hadn’t given My parents instructions to say anything to the boys. He had just inferred that mom and dad were gone away to the hospital where they said they’d go to have the baby so that must be why I’m here.

It’s so terrible to lose a baby. It’s so terrible to then have to tell a four year old and a two year old that the new baby is dead.