Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Holiday Post

Thanksgiving was hard enough. There were moments throughout the day when I wondered what he would be eating, what he would be doing, what he would be getting in to. But all in all, I got through it. Just like I get through every other day- somehow. Focusing on what I do have, not what I don't.

When I was wrapping Adaline's Christmas presents yesterday, this great sense of loss came over me and filled my whole body. All the things I'd never get to do seemed to crash down upon me at once. Never wrapping a gift for Charlie. Never getting to see him play with a toy, never watching his face as he realizes something he wanted was under the tree, and the worst- never getting to spend all day on Christmas sitting around happy with all my children around me.

I've tried not to allow myself to fall into the whole, "you miss people around the holidays even more" mentality, but I think there is something about all the warmth and happiness that accentuates the darker side of our lives. It feels like we should grasp at every opportunity to be happy and to feel surrounded by the ones we love, but at the same time there is an incredible sense of guilt for being happy and focusing on our child that is alive. It may be that this is the first time. Every time a holiday comes up, or anything different happens in our lives, it's easy to think, "This would be Charlie's first _______." Hopefully next year will be easier.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Could I Get a Free Pass, Please?

One of the things that the loss of a child brings is this constant knowledge that you can't rely on some idea that everything's going to be alright. Because it just might not. I wake up sometimes to check on Ada breathing, and just assume she isn't going to be. When I hear sirens, there is just a part of me that expects it to be David in an ambulance. There's a huge part of me that just makes the assumption that more tragic and terrible things will happen to me.

I wish there was a way to get some kind of free pass for the rest of my life. I mean, I lost my kid, I really don't deserve to get breast cancer, right? No tragic car accidents, no miscarriages or child deaths, no hard shit to get through. I'd be able to calm down and feel a lot better if I had some kind of promise that I've already dealt with the hardest thing I'll ever have to deal with and that nothing will ever be this hard again.

We've been pretty lucky in life, I suppose. David and I have taken quite a few risks, and all in all there's only been one really bad thing that has happened. I just wish we could make some agreement with someone that if we just promised to live a very mundane, non-risky lifestyle then in return we would just be left alone and not have to deal with any more bullshit.

I wish for this free pass as we are getting closer to our new arrivals, and I worry about the worry that I will experience once they are here. Isn't that just dandy, worrying about how much you are going to worry? I hope to be able to eventually come to peace with the twins sleeping, but I don't see it happening anytime soon. Although this has been an incredibly stressful pregnancy, there is a feeling of protection as long as they are still living inside of me. I can't protect them once they are born- and I can only stay awake to watch them for so long before I'll have to sleep. It can't happen again, it just can't.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Six months, half a year, just yesterday and forever ago all at once

No matter how I look at it, it's just the same. It's only been so long since Charlie passed away and there is nothing I can do to rush the processes that we have to go through to heal, or probably better said- recover. Six months ago today, we woke up to our worst nightmare and while I can still relive every moment in slow motion in my head, at least I didnt wake up panicking to make sure my daughter was alive this morning.

I'm ready for this time period to be over. 2013 can't come and go fast enough for me, I just can't wait to get through this next year. I'm ready for the designers of infant clothing to come up with new stuff so I can stop running into people who have the same guitar jumper Charlie was wearing when he died, not to mention all the outfits he wore when he was here with us. I'm ready to stop jerking my head up every time I hear sirens and hoping nothing else has gone wrong. I'm ready to have holidays where I don't  think "this would be Charlie's first Halloween," and Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and New Year's, and his birthday. I'm just ready to move faster than time is allowing for- which I guess is probably to my benefit. There's just such a big part of me that wants to skip this whole part of my life and move on to being a fully functional person again.

We're coming to a close in this time of limbo in our lives. After spending months with my mom, we're getting ready to be back in our house 100% of the time, beginning the super-nesting period for the twins, preparing for my husband to come off of his medications, and making plans for next year so that he can be home a little more. Things are about to get really different, really fast- just after we finally got used to them being how they are right now. But I guess that is the whole point of trying to create something better than just a new normal, right? You have to keep moving forward, even when it's not comfortable. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Two for the Price of One"

I get this at least once a week. My belly has grown to the size where there is no question about whether I'm expecting and the questions about when I'm due are never ending: "How much longer do you have," "When are you due," "It looks like you don't have much longer to go," and various other unsolicited comments from every lady at the grocery store. When they find out it's twins they almost always reply the same thing, " Oh, you are so lucky- two for the price of one!"

And it feels like someone has punched me in the gut.

They don't know, and I'm not going to tell them, about Charlie. So I just let it roll off my back and join the other comments that  people make without realizing how much they sting: "Oh, Ill bet your husband wants a boy!," "Three girls! Are you going to try again for a boy?," "It's hard with two kids, I cant imagine going from one to three," "Oh, I bet Ada will be a good big sister" and etc.

The worst is when someone says this phrase to me who does know about Charlie's death. "Oh, you are so lucky, two for the price of one." Don't they understand what the "price of one" feels like to me? It's a hefty goddamn price. That it's not the same as when someone gets to have two babies, but only had to be pregnant one time? That I'd rather  be pregnant twice than to have babies that are at a higher risk for SIDS, for preterm labor, and about ten zillion other things?

And furthermore, I'd consider myself so far from "lucky" at this point.

But they don't think about it that way- it's not on their radar. People look at this situation and thing that it's just perfect that after losing Charlie, I would get pregnant with twins. And in some way, it is. My third pregnancy was supposed to make us a 5 person family, I was supposed to have three kids, not two. But now I'm supposed to have four kids, I have already had a boy, Ada has already been a good big sister, and I do know what life with two kids is like.

But you can't explain all of that to every lady at the grocery store, or even to your friends who are well meaning and just happy for you.

Charlie would be 8 months old today if he were still with us. We celebrated our 10 year anniversary last week, along with our halfway point in this pregnancy and it was happy. I will always miss him, and it felt like there was a huge part of our lives that was missing, but I am grateful for the twins and grateful to have my husband and daughter. Life is not great, but it could be so much worse than it is.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Still awake

It's 7am and I'm still awake. Adaline (2) has either a cold or allergies. When you combine that with molars coming in, it's not conducive to sleep. After we tried everything and everything all over again she is finally asleep, but I've found myself rattled with guilt and fear that I will wake up to the worst again if I fall asleep.

Earlier, as she was screaming and kicking and fighting everything we wanted to do, I put her in her bed in her own room. But when she got quiet, I went in and woke her up again. I was terrified that she would scream herself to sleep  and never wake up again. As I sit and watch her lungs move up and down and up and down my heart races and skips beats everytime her breath is delayed even for a moment.

In moments like this I know that I'm not parenting in the way that I would have if Charlie hadn't left us. I know that things would be different and I wouldnt live in fear that something else would happen to devastate our lives even further. This is one of the many situations that leads me back to that very day and being so unable to get rid of the moments, the exact memories of the 21 hours following his death. Everything from those first moments of finding him to falling asleep in my parent apartment 350 miles away from where I left him. It has this amazing ability to all flash before me so quickly, but I can feel every moment of it all at once.

And it's not conducive to sleep. I'd take good old allergies and molars any day.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Seven month old

My little one would be 7 months old today. It's so hard to believe when we lost him, he wasn't even 3 months old, and now he'd probably be sitting up, scooting around, playing with his big sister. I know a lot of kids the same age- tis the nature of playgroups and social circles where you're surrounded by people due to the fact that you have kids the same age.

I wonder what he would have been like, who he would have become by now. What faces he would make, and if he would say mama or dada first. What would his favorite toy have been and what would we have given him for his first taste of real food? I guess avocado...all babies love avocado.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Not the movie, or the song, but that's how many girls I will have in February. Three. Whew, it's a little overwhelming. A little relieving. Mostly just overwhelming.

I never imagined myself as a mom to a clan of girls. I'm not girly, and I don't like girl stuff. I have one girl, and she is awesome- so I guess we're doing something right. I'm happy that the babies are healthy and growing well, and even a little happy that there is no boy in there.

But, part of me really wanted another boy. Not that he could replace Charlie, but he would be more like David than like me. We knew we would be all done having kids- and now we don't feel that way. It feels weird to be wrong for the first time as well. I've always accurately guessed my children's sexes until now. I guess I thought I was a bit more intuitive than I actually am.

A big part of me is relieved not to have to use the clothes I was given for Charlie, not to have the same feelings I had when he was born, and to just do something completely different this time. I can just put everything away that belonged to him and not look at it for awhile. I don't have to go to the boy section of the store, where so many of the clothes he wore are now on the clearance rack and where so many of the clothes remind me of what he would be wearing right now if he were still with us.

I think it will be an adventure: me and my three girls. I'll shout, "Girls, time to come in!" out into the yard and say things like, "the girls and I are going to the store," and "when my girls were born, blahblahblah." It's going to take some getting used to, but it's going to be okay.

Maybe we'll just pay $6,000 for the sperm selection deal next time to make sure it's a boy.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The empty apartment

This weekend marks the four month anniversary of Charlie's passing, and it went unnoticed by everyone around me, including my husband (seemingly). We were helping to move my stepmom, who has be gracious enough to let us practically live with her, into another apartment, so everyone was distracted- everyone but me.

The apartment was comfortable- sparse, high ceilings, big windows, wood floors and in historic Old Louisville, the neighborhood David and I lived in before we decided to get married and have children. The slumlords always just slap a fresh coat of paint on everything before new tenants move in- including door hinges, window sills, and just about everything else. But the neighborhood has it's own meaning of "home" for us.

There was some part of me that was sad to see it go. I became an adult there, fell in love there, decided to get married there, and when it came time to go through something has tragic as grieving my child, I even returned to the old hood to do it.

As we were packing the last few items and I stood in the room where we landed the night Charlie died, the apartment where I must've spent countless nights awake crying and ridden with anxiety that if I slept I'd wake to find my daughter gone too, I looked around and felt a sense of closure. It was hard to leave the apartment, but in a way, it was like closing a very bad chapter in my life.

Old Louisville isn't our home, Springfield is our home- where our house is, where our life is, where our son is. It's been good to have this place to have space to grieve in a place where the walls wont look back at me forever, where I can say goodbye to the mirrors I looked into with tear stained cheeks and windows I looked out of wondering what would happen if I just fell. It was a great temporary grieving zone, but now it's time to go back to the real world.  Thanks mom :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Silence from the backseat

Yesterday I was driving down the narrow road to our house and I glanced back into the backseat and thought to myself, "Charlie sure has been awful quiet."

It was the first time in several weeks that I'd forgotten. The first time in quite awhile that it hit me like a ton of bricks in my belly that he was always going to be quiet. Always.

It was dark when I arrived home, and I just couldnt convince myself to walk back to his graveside and say hello. I buried him there to have constant contact with him, but it is so much easier said than done. Visiting is hard. It brings back all the pain of watching him be buried.

I want to think of him more often, but I usually find myself shaking my head back and forth so that I don't visualize the images I dont want to see. Almost every day I think of those moments walking him into the hospital, and there was a woman there as I crouched down on my knees who held me and cried with me. I remember her face, her smell, and can still hear the sound of her voice trying to comfort me in he worst time. Thank you mystery lady, whoever you are.

Things have been good. The twins are progressing well, and there have been no problems. We are getting the nursery set up, and I'm finally getting excited and attached to these babies. I'm fearful of what will happen after they are born, and if I will ever be able to sleep again, but for now, Im trying to let that be something I just don't stress about.

I remembered this, that I saw on a friend's facebook last year:

A wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband who loses a wife is called a widower. A child who loses his parents is called an orphan. But, there is no word for a parent who loses a child.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

I wonder how our memories will change over time. David and I holding hands walking back to Charlie's gravesite, city folk trying to park their cars on our land and scraping bottom, people smoking Camel Light cigarettes everywhere and Adaline running around like she was at the biggest party of her life.

Will I remember all the details of the day of Charlie's funeral and his burial 10 years from now? It seems like it. It seems like one of those moments, frozen in my head forever like getting my first chocolate dipped ice cream cone, the day I got my first kiss, or the day my Aunt Emmy died. At her funeral I was spinning and spinning in my dress because it twirled around. My dad hugged my mom. I was 4, they were divorced, and I'd never known them to touch. I remember the seat of the church pew was crushed red velvet, and the hymnals were black with gold letters and the flowers ontop of her casket were gladiolas. It must've been spring. We ate fried chicken afterwards and then my dad tried to make me take a nap, but I didn't want to so I pretended that the girls on my quilt were my friends and we chatted instead.

I wonder if I'll remember that at the end of the night sitting around the bonfire after burying him, humor divulged into talk about sausage roasting- and not the edible kind. I remember laying in the grass and looking at the stars and being mad at David for being able to laugh. I'm so glad he was able to laugh. Somebody had to. So many friends were there, so many people from all around our lives that hadn't come together like that in years. In a way, it was beautiful. Tragic, but so beautiful to see how many people were there for us.

Most all of those people are still around, and we are so blessed to have them in our lives. Many of them were people we have reconnected with after losing contact for years. Many of them are fairly new friends, but amazing nonetheless. Most of them are family by choice, not by blood.

Our blood family has been so amazing throughout this whole process. They have helped us out, watched Adaline, not said anything about how many nights we drank ourselves into oblivion because we didnt know what else to do, and have been a great emotional support network.

I buried my son three months ago today. All of his things are packed away in a nice little box, his autopsy report has come, all the thank you notes have been sent out, and it's over. It's all over on the outside, and the process of healing on the inside is in rapid progress. Things are moving along at quite a rapid pace, thankfully.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Three months down, the rest of my life to go

At this very moment, 7 pm, three months ago today I was standing around my aunt's kitchen island making chit chat with my mother-in-law and her best friend while pretending to nibble on some raw broccoli. My body had never felt as uncomfortable as it did that day. Charlie had been dead for almost 12 hours. My mother in law had driven down from Indiana to my hometown in Alabama to escort us back home to Kentucky. I remember the moment that she pulled up in the driveway and I realized that I would have to leave him in Alabama with the coroner while we went home to make arrangements. Back in my cousin's bedroom, now the guest room, with a white quilt that had little sewn circles on it that I fiddled with nervously.

Oh, life is so different than it was back then. Way back then, three months ago. It could be three decades ago to me some days, and some days just three hours. But if there is one thing I know, it is that life is drastically different than it was three months and one day ago. Also drastically different than three months ago to the moment. I'm not curled up in a fetal position fiddling with a quilt with sore eyeballs and and a frog in my throat, and the worst headache of my life.

For that matter, life is drastically different than it was two months ago, May 10th. I was menstruating and a hysterical mess. My cycle had finally returned after a year of absence, and aside from the emotional wreckage of losing a son, I was very unhappy about my physical being. I wouldn't have been in that condition if my son was alive. I'd have still been nursing. It just wasn't fair. It wasn't fair at all. I was rage-y and a complete wreck. There are still days that I want to throw things, days that I want to stomp my feet and shake my fists and scream to the top of my lungs, "It's not fair, goddammit, its just not fair!" but that isn't every day anymore. Just Tuesdays :)

I went to sleep last night remembering the very last night I fell asleep with Charlie. He was so beautiful.  I woke up this morning knowing it was July 10th, and from the moment I woke, I knew that it was the three month anniversary of Charlie's death. But I've thought about other things as well. I haven't left the house all day today, and I can't say I'm in any real condition to do so, but life is better than it was then. There is some hope that we will be a happy family again. That this event will not be who I am for the rest of my life. I won't just be "that lady whose son died." Part of me feels guilty for wanting more than that, but part of me knows that it's not healthy to focus so much on him that I miss out on everything else that is going on.

This is the first time the anniversary of his death has fallen on a Tuesday, the day of the week that he died. This also means that it will be the first Friday 13th since he passed away. We had to bury him that day, and while Im not superstitious about it, I know that for the rest of our lives every time it is Friday the 13th we won't watch scary movies or think it's cute. We will remember the scariest thing we ever went through. I'm such a nut for dates- I remember almost everyone's birthday and anniversary. It's just a habit, but it's one that I know won't go away. 

I'm sure that some of you (if anyone is even reading) noticed that I changed the blog up a bit. Originally, it was a temporary project assigned to me by my therapist. I think I'll keep it up- but I needed something a bit more personal.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


I changed the name of the blog.

We went for our first ultrasound appointment today and found out that there are two babies, not one, growing in my belly. David said to me, "This is perfect. Well, as perfect as it can be."

Nothing will ever be perfect, someone will always be missing, and no matter how many babies are in my belly none of them are Charlie. And they never will be. But, we can strive to get as close to perfect as life can be. It will never be as perfect as we once thought, but it might just get close.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Today is the day- Day seventy-five

Charlie existed outside my womb for 75 days, and today marks 75 days since the day he left us- he's been gone just as long as he was here. It's the only day like this that there will ever be, because from tomorrow morning on I will know that he has been gone longer than he was ever here. I'm so sad, I miss him so much. But all day I've tried to remember happy times.

 Happy times when I was pregnant with him, happy times with him here with us, happy times since he has passed, and the all the happy times to come.

When David found out he was a boy, he was ecstatic. He had acted like he didn't care, but he really did.
My labor was so fast with him, and after he was born and Dave was holding him I heard one of the nurses ask, "What's his name?" and the proud dad answered (without consulting me) "Charlie. His name is Charlie."

I remember this fantastic day with the two kids in Louisville. We went to see David at work, and he took a break and met us for coffee. He held one kid on each knee, and he looked so happy. Later that day I went to Whole Foods with the kids and had Ada in the cart and Charlie in my Boba on my chest, nursing. It was one of our only beautiful, peaceful, two child days.

On one of his last days we spent the whole day together while Dave and Ada were out at a historical fashion show. It was amazing. He was such a happy, smiley, easy going baby.

When Charlie passed, things were awful- dark, terrifying, and I really didn't think I could make it through the wait period to find out what happened. The day the autopsy report arrived was both terribly sad and a little relieving. Mixed into all of those feelings was a tiny bit of pride for the way they described him, "Barrel chested, "wearing a skull and crossbones onesie," and "had dirty fingernails." That was my boy. Love him.

Adaline misses her brother. She asked about him a lot in the beginning, but it's really become more distant for her lately. It's hard to explain what happened to a two year old. We told her that Charlie was in her heart. To which she replied, "Open my heart up so I can see Charlie." Smiles and tears ensued.

She does still walk around and "nurses Charlie" with her teddy bear. I miss her getting to be a big sister.

So, on this seventy fifth day, I still miss him. The pain is still very much there, but is much less raw than it once was. Life is moving forward, and while I know that one day the time we spent with him will be so small in comparison to the time we've spent doing everything else, I know that no matter how many days pass by I will always miss my son and he will always hold a space in my heart like no one else ever will.
There is no greater heartbreak. He was the one that got away. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My first hospital visit

My very dear friend had a baby the other day. We were pregnant together, she is Adaline's godmother, she introduced me to my husband. I am so happy for her, and I greatly anticipated the birth of her daughter. I couldn't wait to meet her. And she is beautiful. Gorgeous. Tiny, small, breathing creature. It wasn't hard to hold her- it was amazing to feel such tiny life in my arms again. My friend looked so beautiful and at peace and I am so happy for her and her partner.

The hospital on the other hand, was a nightmare. Thankfully, Charlie didn't die here in Kentucky and I never have a reason to go back into that hospital again. But, most hospitals are the same and being back in one was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I had prepared myself for seeing the new baby, for being asked if I wanted to hold her, for watching her nurse and smelling that infant smell and hearing those tiny cries. I hadn't prepared myself for the building.

The pattern on the floor tile was almost identical to the pattern of the ER where Charlie was pronounced dead. Stethoscopes hanging from doctor's necks that couldn't detect my son's heartbeat. Styrofoam coffee cups and people sitting in waiting rooms and nurses with clipboards. The smell. The anti-bacterial hand gel everywhere that makes your hands kind of sticky and makes you wish you hadn't used it.

Blue scrubs. White scrubs. Nurses with teddy bears on their scrubs. Little pink plastic pitchers full of ice water, and a million other things that make every hospital the same. But mainly it was the smell.

I felt out of my element. Why had I come alone? Why couldn't I find the right entrance? How hard could this really be?

I sat for a while in the waiting room to try and dry my tears and let the puffiness around my eyes go down so that when I went to see the precious little new baby her parents wouldn't think it was her that was making me sad. I stared at the short blue carpet with the black square patterns on it and remembered being in that small waiting room with David, feeling like we were being ripped apart from the inside.

And I took a deep breath and went upstairs. Whew, I made it up to the maternity ward. I was okay. I could go in and see the baby. And I did, and like I said before, she is amazing.

One more thing checked off my list, and thankfully for a happy occasion.

Bra shopping,doctor's visits, and the general public

Let me start out by saying this- I detest bra shopping. It is only second to swimsuit shopping in my list of things I hate to shop for. So, imagine starting my day out knowing that I had to shop for both a new bra and a swimsuit in the same day.  I loaded Adaline up in her stroller and went into Dillards. It was so easy. Not one, but two swimsuits- both fit me and looked halfway decent. And I found a super cute bra that I was almost 100% sure would fit- all in under an hour. Most amazing shopping trip ever. Until it happened.

I've been waiting for someone who likes to ask questions to enter into my life, someone to make me just absolutely lose my shit in public. Insert little old lady who works in the bra section. I head to the dressing room and she begins to play with Ada, calling her "he" over and over again. When she asked when "his" birthday was I replied, "She turned two in March." To which she replied, "Oh, does she have a brother?"

Who asks that? And why? I stumbled and mumbled around my words not knowing what to say and finally decided on, "No, no she doesn't have a brother." The bra fit perfectly. It was $38.00 and I wanted to buy two, but they didn't have another one in that style that was my size. The sales woman tried to sell me eleventybillion other styles of bras and I finally just told her that I was expecting another baby and that I anticipated an increase in cup size so I wasn't planning to make another purchase.

"Oh, well, maybe you'll get a boy this time." Yes. maybe I will. This time. And maybe he will live this time. Two swimsuits, one bra, and one panic attack in the parking lot. Not bad for $150.00.

People just don't know. It's not like they are out to get me, or hurt me, but they just don't know. Even though I feel like I'm walking around with a huge sign on my head that reads, "Hey, be careful. I'm barely holding it together here," I'm actually not wearing that sign. No one can see it. I'm beginning to prepare for a pregnancy full of these comments once I start showing.
"Oh, a little brother for her."
"Oh, just wait till you have two- you'll have your hands full."
"She's going to be such a good big sister."

I had to go to get an official pregnancy test this week. Amongst the slew of boxes I've never had to check before were:
Have you been pregnant in the last 18 months? Yes.
Have you ever had a miscarriage, stillbirth, or an infant death? Yes.
Have you suffered from depression in the past 12 months? Yes.
Have you had thoughts of harming yourself in the past 12 months? Yes.
Have you taken medication for anxiety/depression in the past 12 months? Yes. 

That nurse must've thought I was batshit crazy. She said, "So it looks here like you've had a recent miscarriage." Huh? No. I told her about Charlie and she cried and had to leave the room. She was pregnant. She came back moments later saying she was having some hormonal problems- bullshit. It's okay to cry. My baby died sleeping and you are scared it could happen to you too. It's  normal to be afraid. Somehow, I left that interaction feeling guilty for scaring her. Poor nurse.

The general public has become so much easier to deal with in the past month, but there are lines yet to be crossed and I haven't run into many nosy people. I know that when I begin to show the boundary lines widen by lengths and bounds. People feel like they can say anything to a pregnant woman, and that doesn't change because of the invisible sign on my head that I think should warn them that I am fragile.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Two very long, very short months

It's been two months since that tragic morning when I awoke in a nightmare that I have yet to escape. Two months since I've held my sweet bug, nursed him, sang to him, or blew raspberries into his bellybutton. Two months since his sister has seen him. Two months since I've heard the screams from deep within both my husband and me.

Some days I still snap my head up when I hear the cat meow because it sounds like Charlie crying and some days it feels like I've never had another child except for Adaline. There are days where I rush frantically to my computer to find an image of his sweet face because the only one in my mind at the moment is his blue streaked cheeks and I need to see that smile to make it go away. There are times when I can smell him and see him so clearly, and then hours will go by where he feels like a beautiful dream and I can't wait to go back to sleep so that I can see him and be with him again.

I fear the future, and long for it at the same time. I hate every day that I spend without him and the fact that the days keep coming and going is a testament to the fact that life goes on without him- an unfair truth that no mother wants to admit. Our children are our world, and it's hard to know that the world doesn't need your child in order for it to keep on turning and existing like it did before your child and after your child. I feel guilty for getting further from the pain, further from the idea of him being here with me. But I long for the distance between his death and our life. I want to look back at this whole experience and smile about how lucky I was to get to spend such an amazing 10 weeks with a perfect, wonderful little boy.

That will never happen- and I know it. Like everything bad that happens to us, we just can't wait for it to be over. Nightmares, bad trips, terrible jobs, physical pain: these things almost always come to an end. They are over at some point. I think I'm coming to the realization that no matter how many months come between me and that terrible, terrible day the missing him and having an inherent sadness inside of us will never just be over.

I remember my husband wanting to see him before the funeral. I didn't want to, but I knew David needed me to be there with him, so I did. After the initial shock of seeing his body, careful examination of him, and some deep, guttural crying, we sat there. Just sat there with him and hung out, like he was just sleeping. It was so peaceful, just looking over at him every now and then and seeing him was the last comfort he brought us. He was there, we were in the same room. We never wanted it to end, and burying him was so hard. Burying him made it clear that we'd never have that moment again- he'd never just be across the room sleeping. He was in the ground. Gone away from me forever.

I've come a long way in the past two months- since the morning that I woke up in my worst nightmare,since the day we saw him after my family and friends dressed his little body and presented him to us, since that beautiful sunny day when we buried him and my fingers where intertwined with the grass and dirt as I kneeled on the ground scream-whispering, "Not my baby, not my baby."

It's been a long two months. But after 10 counseling sessions, multiple drunken nights, multiple panic attacks, several late night chats with friends, two short weeks on anti depressants (which got me out of a funk, but I have now stopped them for personal reasons), I can say to you that I am ok.

I can go into a grocery store- even ones like Whole Foods where there are tons of mamas wearing their babies and even some nursing, I can hold babies, I can eat food, I can drive my car, I can parent my child without help most of the time, I can cook meals without burning everything, and I can think about what I might need to do tomorrow. I can do most of this without falling apart- most of the time.

I give myself a little bit of time to grieve my son everyday. Just a little bit- to look at his pictures, think of him, smell his spit up covered blanket, or just hold him in my thoughts for a moment- the happy him. He was amazing, and I got to have him for a little bit. I do have to say, it is better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Moving forward with hope

The past few posts have been things that I have written over the past few months, and I've posted them here in case anyone stumbles across this blog and needs to know the backstory to make sense of the current postings.

First of all, I'd like to make sure that everyone (mainly myself) understands that this blog is primarily for me. My therapist said it would be good for me. I'm not seeing her anymore, but I'm still taking some of her advice. I do believe that writing will help keep me from internalizing my emotions, mainly the ones that are very difficult to talk about with my husband and other people who loved my son. I am hoping to have a place to think, ponder, and vent my emotions without any expecting any sort of particular emotional response other than for people to be kind, gentle, and considerate of the fact that I am a newly grieving mother.

That being said, I also started this blog for other parents who have lost their kids. Whether it be a pregnancy loss, people who have given birth to sleeping babies, parents who have lost babies to SIDS or some other infant death, or anyone who has lost a child- we all process loss differently, but no loss is greater than another.

After Charlie died, my husband David and I went to support groups, I sought out support online, and I talked to people who had lost loved ones, It seemed like everywhere I turned I saw the same thing: people hurting, but not healing. It wasn't inspiring for me to go to support groups with people who had been going for 5 years and still couldn't deal with life. I know that most people who go to support groups are there because they need to be there, and most of the time the people who are healing aren't going anymore, but oh, if there was just one mother there who could have told me that the crazy would end, it would have been so helpful. It terrified me to think that it was never, ever going to stop. That the crazy would never go away.

And I mean crazy. Like crazy, crazy. Not ,"Oh, Im so crazy," but the kind of crazy where you have thoughts like, "I wonder if Im really here right now, or if Im on some special drugs in a hospital somewhere and Im hallucinating all of this." Crazy like wanting to steal babies from the grocery store. Crazy like visualizing myself dead or how I could kill myself multiple times a day, and getting lost walking in the neighborhood I lived in for 6 years, and thinking that my food was made of bugs, and walking around running into walls because visually I was somewhere else entirely. Having regular thoughts about wanting to dig my baby up out of the ground with my fingernails and being able to smell the dirt. But mainly, I felt like I was in a movie all day everyday.

Sometimes I would even think to myself (while I was watching this movie that I was in), "that poor girl, I dont know what I would do if something happened to one of my kids." And sometimes it took me 20-30 minutes before I would allow the thought to occur: that was my kid.

I was literally out of my mind. Thankfully, I have amazing family and friends to keep my safe and take care of my daughter.

And then one day, I woke up and was ok. Not great, not happy, not even really alright, but ok. Making it. I suddenly came to the realization that I would live through this, that I would move on from this, that it wouldnt be the rest of my existence- that the pain would eventually become more distant. Dont get me wrong, Im still crazy.  But I'm better than I was before, and I hope that some other grieving parents can take that from this blog. Hopefully it will be a place where I can eventually share a story of healing.
Healing-not forgetting, but moving forward with hope.

We can only keep them so safe


No matter how many cloth diapers you use, no matter how long you breastfeed, no matter how little sunscreen you put on your kid, even if we never microwave our kid's food in plastic, our actions can only keep us so safe.

It's been repeating in my head over and over again for 2 months: Why didn't I know? How did I not hear? How did I not feel it in my body?
I remember reading something about how when you sleep close to your kids, your heart regulates to theirs and if your child stops breathing in the middle of the night: BAM- you'd wake up. You'd know, your his mother. You have a connection, of course you would "feel" it.
Not true. All bullshit.

Was it the beers I had hours before I nursed him? Was it the bugspray we used the morning before when the campsite was ridden with mosquitoes? Was it because I had strep b and didnt get enough antibiotics? Was it because I took antibiotics? Was it because of how much time he had spent in his carseat that day because we were traveling? Was it because of the tent, even though we had the moonroof off because I was paranoid about carbon monoxide poisoning? Was it something I ate? Was it all the diet cokes I drank? Was it because I had mentioned in passing to a friend that you can't live in fear that your child is going to die, you've got to give yourself a break every now and again? Was it because I was so cavalier about my parenting that I needed to be taught a lesson? Was it that one vaccine he had? Was it his little cold from last week?
No, no, no, no,no, no,no, and no the autopsy report and coroner assure me. No, it was nothing you did. You couldn't have done anything to assure he would live.
"Some babies just stop breathing," they say, as if that's a legitimate explanation of why my son's breath was stolen in the middle of the night.

I remember when a friend of my mother-in-law's lost her grandson to SIDS (but what was later found to be pneumonia, I believe) while napping. My heart broke for them, we had children almost exactly the same age. DH and I can recall exactly what we said when we found out, "I wonder if they breastfed." "I wonder if they were in the same room", I wonder if he was vaccinated", "I wonder if they smoked or drank.", I wonder, wonder, wonder....
You know, code for "Oh, we do things the right way so this will never happen to us"

And we've all thought it, especially as new parents. We've hought that the way we are choosing to parent somehow keeps our children safe, or makes us better parents, or lowers our risks for this or that. And to some extent, it does. To some extent.

But you can wake up in the morning to your worst nightmare coming true. Everything you've ever been anxious about crashing down all at once. The ultimate feeling of failure- that you have killed your baby because surely, surely, there was something you could have done differently that would have saved his life. I know there wasnt. I know it in my heart, but my brain races so fast trying to think of all the missteps of the days leading up to Charlie's death.

And the day goes by in my head over and over again. And none of the attachment parenting I did kept him alive. It's so hard to go back to thinking any of it matters anymore. So hard to care about any of the things I'm supposed to believe in, because no matter what I can't babywear him back to life. I can't assure that this next baby stays alive by breastmilk, cloth diapers, and avoiding dairy. I can't guarantee that something wont happen to Adaline because I practice gentle discipline or because she eats all organic food. It doesnt work that way. Sometimes, you are dealt the worst hand- regardless of how safe you tried to keep them, or how much you tried to do everything "right". So what is the point of all this work if you can't guarantee anything- can't even guarantee that things will be the same in the morning as they are when I go to bed at night?

How it all happened


It was his first, his only, camping trip.
After Adaline was born, we had so many problems with her, at least I thought they were problems at the time. She wouldn't latch and we had to feed her via syringe and with a spoon. I had to pump nonstop. She had what is considered to be "colic". Whatever- she wasn't an easy baby.

Charlie was easy. Easy-peasy. He latched 4 minutes after birth, nursed like a champ, was super healthy, gained 9 lbs in the 11 weeks he was alive, and slept like a baby (by the way, this is now what I consider to be one of the worst phrases ever.). As in, he slept 6-8 hours a night. I didn't know babies came like that. My life was almost perfect. My toddler was potty training and sleeping through the night and my infant was amazingly easy and slept better than my toddler. Life was so good.

My grandmother died right after Ada was born. It was the most traumatic event of my life at the time. We were so close, she was the mother I never had. My grandfather quickly remarried- just six months after Mimi's death and none of us were too happy about it. He moved to Tupelo and my cousin rented the house from him. My cousin finally moved out last year, and my grandfather has decided to rent the house to someone else outside the family. He decided to tell us this just two weeks before the new person was to move in.

So, on April 8, when Charlie was just 10 weeks and 3 days old, I made the decision to travel to Alabama to collect our family heirlooms from the house that I grew up in. The house that was about to be ripped out from under me. It was important for me to go, to say goodbye to the residence among other things. Oh, if only I could remake that decision. Maybe this would have never happened.
We drove from Louisville to south of Nashville on the afternoon of Easter Sunday. Adaline had an Easter egg hunt that morning and Charlie sat quietly in the stroller and soaked up the sun and was happy as could be. He sat snug in his Moby Wrap as we walked about and looked for eggs and I grumbled about my mother in law's  plastic eggs and wished I had stood my ground and insisted on the beet dyed eggs I really wanted to make and hide with her. So trivial.

We arrived at a state park early evening on Easter and after setting up camp, we went for a stroll along the river. Adaline played in a field of yellow flowers and we went to see an old mill. She kissed Charlie, and for the very first time said, "I love you my Charlie"- something she continues to repeat even now. David and I were the epitome of the happy family we hadn't even strived for. David watched the kids for a little while, I went running, and the we went to the playground and Ada went down "her wee" (the slide) about 20 times. It was the last perfect day.

We woke the next morning and drove to Birmingham, my hometown. As soon as we arrived, both kiddos were fussy and miserable- which we chalked up to heat and travel stress. We went to my grandmother's house and packed everything into the truck. Afterwards, we went out to eat and walked around. Charlie fussed the whole day, so unlike him. Since we'd be camping the night before, we decided to set up our tent in my grandparents backyard. It was so hard for me to want to sleep in the house, knowing she had died there and knowing that it was about to be the end of an era of my life. I felt like every single thing I did that day was the last time I'd ever do it. The house, that was the symbol of stability of my childhood was about to disappear.

We put Charlie to bed in the tent with us. He was on a changing pad, swaddled in a Miracle Blanket, in appropriate clothing, no blankets near him, and with the moonroof of the tent open. Safe as could be, right? There were so many nights that he slept right next to us, with blankets and pillows in our bed. But not that night. I was worried about being in a tent, so I had him separate from the rest of us.

When David woke up he cuddled with Adaline. He looked at me and thought about how beautiful I looked as I was waking up. He was on vacation, waking up to his perfect family outside in lovely weather. Until he sat up and saw Charlie. I'll never forget that moment. That scream. That fear in his eyes. I followed his gaze and when my eyes hit my son it felt like a ton of bricks landed on my heart. He was blue and stripey. He wasnt moving or breathing. I picked him up screaming and trying to breath life into him as Dave ushered us all out of the tent and into the truck. We didnt put Ada in a carseat. We didnt drive on the road. We drove in the emergency lane the whole way, honking the horn and screaming and crying. Ada just kept asking, "Is Charlie ok?" over and over again. He was so cold. So lifeless, so blue, and nothing I did mattered. I did chest compressions, I did cpr, I prayed, I shook him, I listened to his little heart hoping for a beat and- nothing. Nothing changed the nightmare I was in. I shook myself to try and wake up. It was the longest 9 minutes of my life. He was gone when we got there, and had been for several hours.

I handed my baby to the man behind the computer at the ER. He was trying to manage Charlie as he was typing very fast on the computer, and almost dropped him. One more brick for my heart. He immediately took him away and I could hear over the hospital intercom "Code blue to ER" over and over. Doctors were running down the hallways and we were sent to wait in a tiny room with a chaplain that was not great at being sensitive. The carpet was brown with black squares that looked like 3d objects through my tears. The nurse came to take us back to see him and David wanted to know why. We were told it would be better for us to see in the longrun. We walked into a large room with at least 20 doctors in it. Some of them were holding hands. Some were crying. Most were looking at us like they knew it was about to be the end of our world, and the head doctor explained that they were all still there so that when we look back on this moment we will know how many people tried to save our baby's life. And then they asked me if it was ok for them to stop trying. We said goodbye to Charlie, said we loved him. Dave crouched down on the hospital room floor and screamed a gutteral scream like nothing If ever heard before. I was in complete shock. I wish I'd spent more time with him to say goodbye, but I just wanted to lay down and die.

He was gone. All gone. The onslaught of detectives, social workers, chaplains, and nurses to follow was a lot to handle. My grandfather had been detained in his home, without even knowing why we had left. Our vehicle was taken from us for investigation purposes and we were drug to the homicide department- the homicide department- 2 hours after I lost my child. The whole day I kept shaking myself to try and wake up. It was the worst day of my life, but sometimes it didnt even feel real. I wanted to kill myself and take my daughter to playgroup all at the same time. I couldnt understand the concept of how much my life was about to change, so I just wanted to pretend that it had never happened.

Oh, but it happen. And life sure does fucking suck. a lot. And I still can't wake up from this nightmare. Thankfully, I have an amazing community of support and family and friends that have taken such good care of us. The autopsy report (which they did without my permission) showed no cause of death. They guaranteed that he didn't suffocate, and that he had no internal organ damage, and hadnt been abused within the first few days. We had to wait for the full report until this week, and after a full autopsy with tox reports and the whole nine yards, they still have no answers. Undetermined death- SIDS.

Im a big, huge mess. Life will go on, we'll have other kids, we'll get back to a routine, we will be ok- but for now, it sure does suck more than anything ever has. I hate this life. It's not fair, and this wasnt supposed to be how it happened for me. Or for anyone. Little babies shouldn't just up and die for no reason. It's just not right. Just not fair. Just not okay.

                    This is my Charlie, three days before he left this world. He was 10 weeks, 2 days when this photo was taken. I spent the whole day alone with him for the first time because my daughter was in a historical fashion show.

Charles Hartford Zoller
January 26, 2012- April 10, 2012

He is in the wind, in the trees, in the ground, and somewhere over the ocean.

Charlie's Birth Story


This is pretty graphic, but read on if you like:

On Thursday, January 26 I had menstrual- like cramps all throughout the day. I had spent almost three weeks with prodromal labor that included an unnecessary trip to the hospital and having to make arrangements for Adaline, my 22 month old. Dr. Farrell and I decided it would be best to go ahead and strip my membranes after many sleepless nights. I had bloody show around 3:00 pm and the cramping was all in my lower back for the rest of the afternoon. It seemed to me that the cramps were just side effect of my membranes being stripped. I wanted comfort food, so Ada and I made fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

My belly begin to tighten and the cramps begin to feel lower and more horizontal. I began to time the contractions at 8:00 pm and they were 4-5 minutes apart, 30 seconds long, and pretty weak. David and I started cleaning up the house, but without much hope since we had already scrambled to tidy and make arrangements before and been disappointed. As the contractions got stronger, I decided I wanted to get in the shower and let the hot water beat on my back while David finished cleaning up and called his mother. The timing had sped to 2-3 minutes apart, 45 seconds long, and much stronger. At this point, we started to believe that it was real labor. David would push on my hips during the contractions or I would lean on him. I couldnt stand unsupported any longer. I drank a bunch of water and took a half a pill of Dramamine to minimize the nausea. I was so nauseous when I was in labor with Adaline that I wouldn’t even allow David to touch me.

We finally decided that it time to go, and that David's mom could just meet us at the hospital because I was afraid to wait another hour for her to arrive at our house to watch Ada. We piled in the car around 9:40 and Ada quickly fell asleep. I got on my hands and knees with the front seat laid all the way back and tried to hum through each contraction to keep my mouth loose and keep from screaming and waking her up. I had come to a very serious place, unable to speak during contractions feeling very much in my own head. At one point, I had to ask David to pull over because I was feeling claustrophobic and afraid I would become nauseous. I stood on the side of the road through a few contractions. It was sprinkling on me and the water felt so good on my face. When I got back in the car I remembered that I had a cup of ice and I begun to chew on it to cool off.

We arrived at the hospital around 10:15. The drive took longer in the rain and since I had to get out. I checked in through the ER, and they made me ride in a wheelchair upstairs. Since I couldn't sit comfortably, I was anxious and had to sit on my knees. The nurse didn't seem to be in as much of a hurry to get me upstairs as I was. Once in our room, David immediately began to fill the birth pool while the nurses got me set up with an IV for my Group B Strep. I'd asked for an exam when I arrived, but it took them about 10 minutes to get to it. I was dilated at 8 cm. The antibiotics were portable, so I was standing in the birth pool as it was filling. The hot water felt really good on my feet.

As soon as the antibiotics were done, I was free from the machine and I lowered my whole body into the now full birth pool. I immediately felt a pop, like a balloon had burst under water. My waters had broken and the pool was full of slimy liquid. I stood through a few more contractions and Adaline was sitting on the floor next to me being very quiet and saying “Mama, ok?” David eventually had to pick her up and held her on his shoulders while she squirmed around on him and he was trying to help me.

David was standing behind me holding my hips or letting me lean all my weight on him. He begin to tell me that the baby would be here so soon and that we were almost there. I thought he was just reading lines out of the book we brought, The Birth Partner, from the page “verbal support.” As it turned out, he had heard the nurses talking on the phone with the doctor and knew that they all thought the baby was about to come. They had pushed in the cart with the scissors to cut the cord and set everything up for the baby to be arriving any minute. At this point, I thought I had at least 4 hours left of intense contractions.

I asked David to find out where his mother was because I wanted him to be able to be hands free and able to push on my hips together. He called her, and she was in the parking lot. After a couple more contractions standing in the birth pool, he ran Ada out the the waiting room. As soon as he got back I told him that I needed to use the bathroom. I knew I had been having the urge to push, but was afraid that I would start pushing too early as I had done in my first labor. I decided that if I could just go to the bathroom to relieve some of the pressure it would be better. I sat down and pulled out some toilet paper. It came out one measly little sheet at a time. I yelled for David to come and get toilet paper out but by the time he got into the bathroom and I had pushed once, I realized that I didnt need toilet paper. I needed him to get me off the toilet and move me to the bed because I could feel the baby crowning.

There was no time, so David called for the nurses (who were in the room) and he lifted my hips up off the toilet and forward. The nurses came in and helped hold my legs up. Charlie was born with the next push, at 10:54, with me in mid air, blue and with his cord wrapped all around him. David held him as they quickly untangled the cord and cut it off. David handed me the baby and he pinked up immediately and latched on very quickly. I held him there for a minute and then handed him to David as one of the nurses helped me to the bed. David took off his shirt and laid with Charlie on the chair skin to skin while I was delivering my placenta and being stitched. I had a small first degree tear that required three stitches. We measured and weighed him at 7 lbs even, 20 inches, and with a 14 inch head circumference. His head was much smaller than his sister's.
The two weeks of practice labor prepared my body for the short, three hour labor I had. Charles Hartford Zoller was born with just two pushes, less than 3 hours after my first contraction, only 35 minutes after arriving at the hospital, just 6 minutes after grandma had arrived to care for my toddler, and before the doctor could make it to the hospital. If we had waited for David's mom to come to our house to get to the hospital, he would have been born in the car. We are thankful to have had a healthy pregnancy, a quick labor and pleasant hospital stay, and a happy, healthy new baby.