Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy Birthday to the twins

About this time a year ago tonight I was settling onto the couch in the only comfortable position I could lay in to watch my second-to-last episode of the final season of Desperate Housewives. I fell asleep towards the end and woke again an hour later to pee- for the millionth time of the day. When I settled back in it was only moments before I felt the big kick, followed by the fluid that let me know it was time to deliver the two precious humans who had been occupying my womb for just 35 weeks. I was scared- not just scared to deliver twins, but scared they wouldn't live. Scared of losing again, scared of holding another dead child in my arms and scared of feeling like I couldn't possibly take another breath again.

But they came, and it was stressful but it all worked out just fine. After 8 months on monitors, endless sleepless nights due to anxiety and 12 months later I am taking a break from baking and scrambling to get ready for their first birthday party tomorrow afternoon.

Today was not an easy day. Callie cried from five am until after two o'clock when her top tooth finally peeked through the gum. Meanwhile, Wendy was constantly attempting to climb on everything, including the wood stove and Ada was sneaking all the sugar in the house while I was busy caring for the other two in between trying to prepare for a party. And I cursed. And I was so frustrated because I couldn't get anything done and I messed up one of my icing colors. And then I cried. I cried because I realized that I didn't get to do this with Charlie.

Charlie is such a huge part of my life, but I never even got to celebrate his first birthday with him. It feels so strange to remember his imaginary party in my head- often times like it really happened- and then to realize that it was all just a dream of something I'd wished for.

One whole year. We've finally made it. When they were born I remember saying that I would finally be able to breathe after they turned one. And I am. And no matter how hard the day is, I am so happy to have these girls, so lucky to have them- and so grateful for every single day, even if it's filled with frustration.

Happy, Happy Birthday to my wonderful baby girls.

**please note that with two one year olds, editing is not really happening right now. I beg your forgiveness for my grammatical and spelling errors and in general the run on sentences.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Our Other Children

Adaline is three. She recently said to me, "Mommy, I will never forget the Day of Charlie." She doesn't remember everything, but she remembers enough that it will stick with her forever. She remembers riding in the truck and asking if he was okay. She remembers Mommy and Daddy "crying and crying over and over and again." She remembers the screaming and the sadness and that we went to live with Nanny. Sometimes she asks me , "Remember when we used to live at Nanny's house? Why did we not live at our house then?"

It's hard to hear the things she says sometimes. Sometimes I'm busy, and I don't want to think about Charlie right at the moment she wants to talk about him. Often she will ask to look at his pictures and she will say things like, "Please show me my brother. He is always my brother and I cant see him if you don't show me." And stopping in the middle of my day to walk her out to his grave site or look at pictures or talk about him often times breaks my heart in ways that I can't even explain to her. She, unlike us grown-ups, can't pick and choose what times she wants to grieve and when she doesn't. She doesn't understand that it's not a good time to start weeping and have the rest of my day thrown off by extreme sadness. She just wants to remember her little brother.

The worst is when she tells strangers at the store about her little brother. People "ooh" and "ahh" over the twins and then ask her how she likes being the big sister and she will say something like, "I've been a big sister forever. I have a Charlie too and Ill always be his big sister." And then people will say, "Oh, my, you have another one too?" Yes. Yes, I do. He's with Daddy. Or he's at home, or at my mom's or whatever. But now she's getting old enough to ask me why I said that. As we were walking away from someone yesterday she said, "Charlie's not with Daddy, Charlie's in his spot in the ground where his picture is." And the lady looked at me very confused. Smile big smiles- that's what I try and remind myself to keep from being this crazy lady with twins and a toddler weeping in the middle of the produce section at Kroger.

One of the things that has come up in conversation with my mom and my husband lately is how and when we are going to explain Charlie's death to the twins. We walk back to see his grave regularly, and even though they are only 8 months I know that at some point we will need to explain to them that he was their brother. And at some point that they are rainbow babies, born just shy of one year after him, conceived just 5 weeks after his passing. And how will they feel? What questions will they ask? Will they think things like, "If he hadn't died, I wouldn't ever have been born." Because it's true- we never would have tried to have another baby any time soon if we hadn't lost him.

Having kids is so awesome and amazing, and even though I've been at it for a few years now I still don't think Ill ever get used to the idea that your emotions can't always be kept where you want them because kids have questions. And I have to answer them, even if it's not a good time for me.

Friday, July 26, 2013

1309 Brighton Road

It's taken me a long time to go back remembering the house that had been there my entire life with any tiny sliver of fondness. It was the place where I spent my last day with my son, sure. But more than that it was the place where I lived with my Dad when I was young, where I got my first broken bone, where I made my first pie from scratch, where I learned how to make taffy and where I was allowed to stay up all night watching My So Called Life marathons that my parents would have never let me watch.

It had a perma-smell of moth balls, fried okra and salmon patties, roast beef in the crock pot and potpourri. And every now and then, if she felt fancy, that sprinkly stuff that you put on the carpet before vacuuming. It smelled like cherry pie, microwave-roasted peanuts in the shell, homemade biscuits, and the waffle iron. The yard always smelled like a mixture of roundup and roses. The carport reeked of motor oil and gasoline. This house had more smells than any home I have ever remembered living in.

In the warm months, it was hot and sticky because they were cheap and didnt believe in using air conditioning, even during the high summers in Alabama. So, all the windows were wide open and throughout the day you couldnt keep track of how many times you'd hear the squeaky spring sound as the screen door opened and the loud slam of it shutting. It was a lot of times.

In the cold winters of Alabama, it never really gets much below 40 degrees. But they kept the heat cranked. Along with this fake fireplace that supposedly let off heat but was really for looks. It hung on the wall in the den and had a metal screen in front of it with a plastic fire that had a rotating light inside. It kind of always smelled of burning plastic. But I would get so excited when they turned it on. The den is where they spent most of their time, in recliners, watching tv.

Their house was set up in a way that you could run around in circles, through the kitchen to the tiny bathroom, through their bedroom, to the hallway that went to all the other bedrooms, through the living room, and the back to the kitchen. We spent so much time in that kitchen. My Mimi was no Martha Stewart, but she knew the basics of how to make stuff and I can honestly say that before she died she'd brag like it was one of her life's greatest achievements about how she taught me to cook. And it was- she was proud of it. She passed away in the den of that house when my oldest daughter was just 6 weeks old. It was the first major family death of my life.

The outside of the house was olive green with maroon shutters and a black roof. It had a front yard that was to the left of the driveway. The driveway, where Daddy and I poured concrete to make it a little wider so that Mimi's red Chevette wouldnt kill the grass every time she pulled in. My little 4 year old handprints are still there, right next to my Dad's 22 year old handprints. The front of the house used to have a weeping willow until 1993 when they cut it down and planted red and yellow tulips and lillies in its spot. The front of the house, like any good southern home, was lined with bright pink azaleas and purple pansies. The side of the house was filled with baby pink knockout roses, dark purple calla lillies and pink buttercups. Oh, and of course, the boat and RV. I spent so many nights I sleeping in the RV as a kid. Papa was so proud that he finally had a real RV. The whole time my dad was growing up they had a modified Lay's potato chip truck. It smelled kind of like a mixture of the lake and moldy carpet.

The back yard held a red and white, rusty, polka-dotted swing set from my fathers childhood, where I played as a kid. The back porch was bright red and took up most of the yard. It was constantly littered with maple leaves and was the inspiration for the maple seeds (otherwise known as helicopters)  that are tattooed on the top of my feet. When you walked down the steep porch stairs and into the back yard you were right between two pecan trees, where we gathered pecans every other year. You couldnt walk out there barefoot because the ground was so filled with pecan shells, from the ones that we tossed aside because they were no good. The clothesline was just beyond it, and I remember all the times that Mimi ran out in the rain to get her clothes, barefoot, saying fake curse words the whole time because the pecan shells were digging into her feet. She'd come inside and say, "Jack, you've got to get a rake to those pecans. Ive tore my feet apart." And  he'd sit in his recliner flipping through all the channels on the tv and respond, "Or, you could wear shoes."

It's hard to remember that backyard so fondly and smile. That backyard is a place I can only return to in my memories. Not only because of Charlie's death, which does indeed prevent me from ever returning, but also because my grandfather has since sold the house. I have so many wonderful memories there. And as beautiful as all of those memories are, I keep waiting for it to stop being the back yard that I woke to find my son dead in. The pecans I stepped on while running to the truck to rush to the hospital. The house I spent our last day in. The calla lilles we dug up to take home. The the knockout roses I'd picked the day before to take to my grandmother's gravesite. I wish to return to it being a simple, innocent place where I grew up, where I learned to cook and how to sew and can fondly remember my grandparents without the my son's death casting a shadow upon the 28 years of memories I had there before he was born.

It was such a beautiful place to grow up, I wish I hadnt lost two of the people that I love the most there. But to  be honest, there is no good time or place for someone you love so much to die.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

April showers bring May flowers

April was awful, let me just start by saying that. It was filled with the memories of all the things we didn't do right, conversations of guilt, and fights with my husband that have escalated like none of our others.

All the growing and healing and self care I had done was just gone. We had so many hard things to get through: the memories of the days leading up to his death,  anniversary of us finding him not breathing, the anniversary of his burial, and remembering how all of it felt when it was actually happening. But worse was trying to process our grief and our progress, realizing that we are happy despite this terrible tragedy  and feeling like we were the people who had forgotten and moved on.

It's hard to be okay with the idea that we could be happy without him. There is an incredible amount of guilt knowing that we have, in some small ways, moved on. We were so wrapped up in how awful everything felt that we forgot to be partners, forgot to be good parents, and forgot about all the promises we made to ourselves about caring for one another.

For this past month, it hasnt been about progress- it's just been about making it through alive. It's just been one hellish day after another with that same feeling as last year, "When and how can I just get out of this?"

And then today this tulip bloomed, on the cracked earth above where he will forever lie, and my heart warmed to the idea of happiness once again.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

As I lay them down to sleep tonight....

Today the twins are the exact same age as Charlie was before his breath was stolen in the night.

Things will not go the same way twice, I tell myself.
Tomorrow is Ada's birthday and nothing can go wrong, I tell myself.

No monitors in the world will help me get through tonight without getting up time and time again to check. And that moment of hesitation before I realize that they are still breathing, still alive, is the part that gets me every time.

I flash back to those moments when I realized what was happening that morning. I can't do it all over again. I can't survive it twice, I just can't.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


Well, it finally happened. I always knew it would- I've been waiting for the panic to arise, and honestly I've been surprised at how calm Dave and I have been since the twins' birth.

I turned 29 on Friday. We made an impromptu trip to Louisville, spent all day at the science center and then went to dinner. It was our first dinner out as a five person family. We sat in a crescent shaped booth, and the babies were right next to me. Next to Dave. Next to each other.

I sat down, figured out the appetizer I wanted, looked around and momentarily forgot that they were there. That happens sometimes, and I always look around quickly for them and make sure they are still breathing. It's just my second nature. I saw Callie breathing. I put my hand on Wendy's chest, nothing.

Her face was cold. Her hands werent moving. Her eyes werent darting under her eyelids. Her face was so cold. And I panicked. My head was shaking, my mouth was saying words, "No, no no no no no no" that I couldnt hear. The whole restaurant stood still, I felt like a camera zoomed in and it was just my face looking at Charlie all over again. Blue streaks appeared, her jaw felt tight like when I tried to open his, I put my hands on her face and squeezed her cheeks, whispering, "no, no, no, not again. Not again."

And Dave took my hands and said, "Holly, she's fine. She's breathing." It all happened in a matter of seconds, I imagined something was wrong but it wasn't. I lost my shit. Out in public. I was sobbing, and people were staring. Adaline was hugging me, and Dave was looking at me like I was crazy. Because for just a moment, I was crazy.

Welcome to year 29. In the past 5 years I've gotten married, moved to a farm, had 4 children, buried one child, and seen both the best and the worst days of my life. And it's just part of life that the worst day sometimes overshadows everything else.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Appropriate Response

"We lost our son last April to SIDS," is something I have to say to people fairly often.

Well, I don't have to say it, but it's something I say a lot of times in response to "Oh, I bet Daddy wants a boy!" and "Are these your only three?" The appropriate response is, "Im sorry," "Wow, that must be really hard," or maybe even "I don't know what I would do." Because, honestly, no one knows what they would do if they lost a child.

It's so easy to think you know. In the past few months I've heard or read some responses that people think are appropriate that just really - mainly people eluding to killing themselves if anything like that happened to them. Don't you think I've thought of that? Contimplated it? Hell, even planned it down to the last detail and then beat myself up for ever thinking it would be okay to put my husband and daughter in that situation.

Don't say to me, "Oh, I'd jump off the bridge if something happened to my baby," because aside from the fact that suicide has been tempting enough, it makes me feel like you think I didn't love my son enough because I haven't killed myself in grief. Honestly, you don't know that you would jump off a bridge or have to be committed, or lose your mind, or any of the other things that people regularly say in response to hearing about child death.

How can I act normal? Because I have to. Because there isn't another option. I have three other children that need me to be normal, a husband that needs support just as much as I do, and a community that expects me to reach out if I need something instead of just spiraling inward to the point of mental breakdowns or suicide.

And because I choose to. Because while losing my baby is about the worst thing I can imagine, it would be so much worse for my family to lose me too. Life goes on- there are times when it doesn't feel like it, but it has, and it will continue to. The whole world doesn't stop every time a baby dies, regardless of how unfair that might seem to grieving mothers whose world has come to a complete standstill.

So next time you hear about someone losing a child, losing a parent, losing their dog- just don't tell them what you would do if it was you. Because it's not you.