Monday, September 29, 2008
About a week and a half after Diane died, Craig's brother and one of Diane's sons Rick (not Craig's best friend) were running in Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN. Shortly after we lost Curtis but before Diane died, Craig's brother told us he would like to dedicate his run in Curtis' memory.
Grandma's Marathon is a big deal, with rooms reserved months and month in advance. Diane and her husband had been planning on going to see their son run so she had worked on getting us a hotel room. Prices were astronomically high so we decided to share a room with Craig's friend Jer.
Then Diane died, and the world came crashing down around all of us. Again. We decided to go ahead and go to the marathon. Diane's son, Rick, was still going to run. Craig's brother was running. So on a very rainy night in June, we headed the 2 hours north. We could barely see the road on most of the drive up. Jer was driving and by the time we got to the hotel, it was late, and we were all exhausted. Somehow, we ended up watching a local cable access show called "Average Guys". It was two middle age men who "talked" sports. In their basement. Like Sports Center. Except, without the knowledgeable anchors and clips and, well, flash. It was ridiculously funny without meaning to be. The three of us laughed hysterically at this show. In fact, we still talk about it all the time.
The next morning was the marathon. We had to walk quite a few miles to the finish line. I was just over 2 and half weeks post partum at this point. I had tore pretty bad and was hurting and bleeding heavily by the time we got to the finish line. We waited patiently for Craig's brother to pass by us. He had made a tank top that had Curtis' picture and "Running in Memory of Curtis 5.31.2006" on it. He told us later people had cheered him on saying "Go for Curtis!" quite a few times during the race. It really meant a lot to us.
After the race was over, a group of us went out for pizza. I remember sitting at this table, ordering some pizza, everyone chatting and just wanting to sink into the ground. I was so sick of everything being normal. I wanted to stand up and scream to the packed restaurant "MY SON DIED! WHY DON'T YOU PEOPLE CARE? HOW CAN YOU KEEP LIVING YOUR LIFE WHEN MY SON DIED?" Even my husband, just chattering away, making his jokes, he seemed so normal. I knew he wasn't. I knew he was dying inside. I knew he missed Curtis just as much as I did. I knew he wished like hell we were sitting home with our 3 week old son marveling at baby spit up. But on the outside of everyone we looked like any other normal group from that weekend. However, we weren't. We had just lost our son. Our in laws just lost a grandson, nephew, and dear friend. Our friends just had lost their mom. We were a shattered and broken bunch. Ordering pizza. Because life ticks on.
I couldn't walk back to the hotel, I was very sore and aching. My brother in law, who had just run the race, offered to drive me back to the hotel. There is a big party atmosphere after the marathon and everyone else wanted to partake in it. I was in desperate need of a nap and alone time. I couldn't pretend anymore. I was broken. I didn't want to hang out in some bars or party tent with hundreds of people. No small talk. I just wanted to be broken. All by myself.
I immediately sunk onto the hotel bed and closed my eyes. Images of Curtis flashed through my head and I tried so hard to remember what it felt like to hold him. I fell into a deep sleep.
Later, I woke up and wandered the hotel looking for something to eat. There was an indoor water park that had a snack bar. I ordered a hamburger and watched the kids play. There was a dad, of course, with 2 sons. He was picking up each one and throwing them into one of the pool areas. They were screeching and laughing. "Again, Dad!" could be heard throughout the water park area.
Dads and sons. Gets me every time.
I took my sad burger back to the room and ate it in front of the TV. Throughout the night, Craig kept calling to check in on me. Was I okay. Should he come back to the room. Yes. No. One thing everyone tells you: men and women grieve differently. It was true. I think Craig found comfort in fun, routine activities. Stuff we would have done had we never had a child. Where I found comfort in being alone and not having to put on a brave face. I wanted him to have fun. And honestly, it felt good being by myself but some where far from home.
I remember changing into short to wear to bed, sitting on my bed, just running my fingers over my teddy bear tattoo. "Curtis Roger 5.31.2006" Over and over I touched it. He was real. I have the tattoo to prove it. Even though I often wonder what the hell happened. Was it imagined? Did it really happen? The tattoo reminds me of how real it all was and is. Then and now. So, I sit and looked at my tattoo. And missed my little baby boy.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I know on my last deviation post, I waxed a nice poetic thing about baby showers and how glad I am I had one. And, I truly am. It was the only baby shower I had. I didn't have one for our daughter. (Well, that is not true. I had a surprise dinner with a few friends about 5 months after she was born. I cherish this VERY MUCH). It was the only shower I had with family and the whole kit and caboodle.
But, I am also over 2 years out from my loss and I can look back on these things with a better view. I do understand that. And I want people to know that wherever you are with your grief, it is okay. It is okay to be angry you had a baby shower. That is okay.
I was talking to my mom on the phone last night and the topic came 'round to Curtis. We were talking about baby showers (a friend of hers told her "that is why you shouldn't have a shower before the baby is born. And we launched into the conversation on why I am happy we had one.)
She had the horrible task of doing things with his clothes. I made a post awhile back about "running" into some of his things. At this point, she has 95% of them gone. She is holding a garage sale with my grandma this week, and I guess the few items she had left, she put out. A very pregnant woman came up and started going through them. My mom had to walk away when she came up to buy them. She said the woman was beaming, so excited at the finds of these Brand! New! Clothes! So cute.
Choked up, she tells me: "I don't know why, but that little blue dinosaur hooded sweatshirt and pants, they just make me ache."
"That was one of the first things I bought for him when I found out he was a boy. "
"Maybe that is why. It is so cute."
Through my tears I tell her, "I am kind of mad it is one of the last things to go. That is one of the cutest things we had!"
She laughs through her own tears and says "If you had seen the look on this woman's face, sweetie, you would understand why it was the last one left. It was like it was meant for her. Because she cherished that outfit. She was so excited about it, showing it to her mom. She had that innocent glow. Ya know?"
Even though we were crying, even though I would give anything to have dressed my son in that outfit (it was REALLY cute) it does help. It does help to know that at least some of his stuff went to people who adored it as much as I did.
After Curtis was stillborn, I had a few friends who were having boys around the time. I sent them a few of his items, with a note that it wasn't suppose to be sad, it was suppose to be hopeful and I was happy for them. I never heard much from these people about these things. Just a standard "thanks for the ______" thank you note. It hurt. It really did. It took a lot for me to send stuff away in the first months after our loss, and I was expecting a bit more. Maybe people thought it was creepy. But I went to his room, picked out things, packaged it up, and mailed it. All the time sobbing. So, when it was met with a cold reception, I didn't do it again. It hurt my feelings. I wanted people to understand that took a lot for me to do that. I wanted them to cherish the things I had bought for my baby boy and ended up sending away.
So, in a way, even though this woman doesn't know the story behind this cute outfit, and may wonder why in the world this outfit was never worn, at least she will enjoy it and take hundreds of pictures of her newborn son in it and never ever know the true story.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Part 11 Back to the real world.
The night of Diane's funeral was a difficult one. Craig had went back with the family to their house and I had went home. I couldn't handle anymore people. I was spent. I was exhausted.
Craig said he would be home in the evening sometime. As the minutes, and hours, ticked by I got more and more worried. I paced the floor. I held my cell phone in my hand at all time. I would be able to reach him on his phone, and he told me he would be leaving soon, but never did. I tried to get some sleep but I couldn't stand to be away from him. Every time I closed my eyes, I would imagine the worst. Any car that passed the house, I was sure it was a police officer coming to tell me some horrible news. I was just convinced he was never coming home. As the night wore on, I became increasingly more agitated and worried. Later on, I would learn, he had spent the night talking with his friend and, in true guy fashion, drowning their sorrows in beer.
I now know how important that time was. Jer and Craig were able to escape together and be with someone with a shared horrible loss. They were able to talk and laugh and talk. They probably had their first "deep" conversation in their 25 year friendship.
But to me, at the time, I just felt abandoned and lonely. I was angry and hurt. It was a hard thing to feel. We had just lost our son, this was small peanuts compared to that. But I was still angry at my husband for hurting my feelings, like I had been at other times in our relationship. I remember him asking me the next day if it was really that big of a deal. After everything we had been through, couldn't we just not argue? I told him just because our son died doesn't mean he escapes me getting angry with him.
It was just another thing we had to adjust to. We easily got through it, and like I stated, I do now understand what happened that night and I am glad he had the chance to spend that time with his friend. But, life does get in the way of grief. And just because you are grieving does not mean everyday annoyances aren't going to get on your nerves.
Craig returned to work a few days later and the life started to ease back into a routine. I had spoken to my work and decided to come back in early July. I had been planning to be transferred to a different location (close to home) after Curtis was born. I was excited to cut down my 120 mile a day round trip commute out. I was convinced they were going to make me return to my old location once I didn't have the baby as an "excuse" as why I needed to be close. I found out later, that wasn't the case and I was grateful. I did not want to return to the location where I spent so much of my time pregnant and spending time with the people who shared my pregnancy daily. I needed fresh new clients and a fresh new area.
So, I had 4 weeks. 4 weeks where Craig would leave everyday and I would stay home. Those days are a blur of nothing. I rarely left the house. I would force myself on one small errand each day. That may be something as simple as driving the 2 blocks to the post office. I mostly spent a lot of time online. Research stillbirth. Posting on a message board. Sitting on the couch and dreaming about being pregnant again.
Trying to figure out what the hell had just happened. What happened to my life? Had I _really_ been pregnant? Had I really given birth? If so, where was my proof?? Every other woman who spends 9 months pregnant gets her baby.
It felt like a gigantic game of pretend. For 9 months, everyone around me indulged in my little game and one day, they all stopped. Back to the real world. No more pretending.
It was something, and is something, I struggle with everyday.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I saw this post on a message board from a woman:
So, I was on a message board and saw a thread on "When should I have my baby shower?"Bless her and hope she remains ignorant. (you know what I mean)And someone's response, "You should make sure to have it by 30 weeks because you don't know what will happen!"My response, in my head, "You shouldn't have one until they are here because you REALLY don't know what will happen."And I can't say it out loud because it would be perceived as mean, cruel, terrible, etc etc etc.I see it as realistic.
This made me think.
Recently, I have come to terms with Curtis' shower and nursery and shopping for him and planning for his life. As much as it SUCKED to have planned for his life and face all of that "stuff" after his death, I am glad I had it all. Sure, there are plenty of times I am very bitter about it.
But, there is some good with it all.
It was the one time he was celebrated. It was the one time everyone was happy when it was something surrounding him. So as much as it sucks he died at 40 weeks, I have wonderful memories of his baby shower and I am glad I had it and I am glad I shopped and planned for him. I am glad I did an entire nursery. So, even though we lost him at 40 weeks and I had to dismantle that nursery and pack away little clothes he never got to wear, at least I got a shower.
At least there was a time people acknowledged and were happy about something surrounding him.
Because after his death, that wasn't the case.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Tattoos, and Funerals
Late Friday night, Craig and I decided to drive back to Red Wing. We still had our hotel room reservation and we still really wanted to get away. We knew Diane's funeral wasn't going to be for a few days and there wouldn't be much for us to do at home the next day. My mother in law told us to go, she knew how badly we needed it. So, at about midnight, we drove the 2 hours south. We were exhausted, but it felt good to lay in bed together. We needed a break from people and we were heading into another people full event.
We just couldn't believe the way things were happening. We had cancelled our tattoo appointment the day before but had rescheduled for the next day. We arrived at Spirit Garden's (that was her name, I guess ) tattoo shop early afternoon and settled in for our tattoos. I have such fun memories of this event. I think it was one of the first times I felt like things would be okay again some day. Never the same, never ever the same. And no time soon. But, hearing Craig joke in his typical manner made me feel "at home."
He was the first up in Spirit's chair. She got to work on the cute teddy bear holding a blue flower on his left uper arm. After she was done, she asked him to look in the mirror and tell her what he thought. He took one look at it and said "Well, it is nice, but it is backwards." A look of horror came over her face, until she realized he was joking. He was looking at in the mirror. She laughed, I laughed and to this day that memory is one of my strongest in the days after his death.
After we both got our tattoos, we both were obsessed with looking at them in the mirror. I was (and am) extremely proud of my tattoo for Curtis. Like I had stated before, Craig is the exact opposite of a tattoo guy. No way he would have ever gotten a tattoo, much less a tattoo of a teddy bear.
But Curtis. That Curtis. He changed us. He forever made us people we never thought we would be.
We spent the rest of Saturday together. We ate at a Chinese restaurant, we gambled in the casino and we talked. We knew this was our one shot. This was the one day that we had together before we were thrust back into the real world. Not just Diane's funeral, but Craig was going to need to return to work. We stopped at Target for ointment for our tattoos, and I wandered into the book section. I picked up Marley and Me, a book about a maniac dog. I read the book jacket. It mentioned how the dog helped the couple after they suffered a pregnancy loss. My eyes welled with tears and I bought the book. I knew sometime I would be strong enough to read it.
On Sunday, we made out way back home and went over with Diane's family. There were tons of people, preparing for the funeral. We had many people come us, hug us, tell us how sorry they were. We were saying the same thing back.
One thing that really sticks out in my head this day is listening to Diane's husband speak. I was sitting at the kitchen table, and he was talking to a cousin of Diane's who was going to do the eulogy. Steve started telling their story. How they met, when they decided to get married, he told about the birth of their 4 boys. He started talking about how in between sons three and four, they suffered a miscarriage. How sad that time was. I remember tears just pouring out of my eyes, thinking about their loss. How hard that must have been on Diane. Up until this point, I had been on autopilot. I hadn't cried much, I was just done with all emotion. But that moment brought it all back.
On Monday, Craig went to work and we met at the funeral home later for visitation. I had thrown on some maternity clothes. I knew I needed to wear the outfit I had worn to Curtis' funeral to Diane's. It was the only thing that fit. So I put on these maternity clothes that didn't fit and felt uncomfortable.
Which is exactly how I felt at her visitation and funeral.
I think the visitation was the worst of the two. Everyone knew what had happened to us, but since we had a small service, no one had seen us. We had swarms of people around us, telling us how sorry they were, how bad they felt. A friend of my mother in law's grabbed my face and expressed her sadness. I didn't want to be rude, but I wanted nothing more than to yank my face away. The visitation allowed more time for talking like this, I felt like too much attention was focused on us. That probably isn't true, but with the amount of people coming up to us, I felt like we were standing out.
This wasn't Curtis' funeral. This was Diane's. I didn't want to talk to people. I didn't want their sympathy. I wanted to be left alone. I nodded politely, and said thank you. I tried not to get separate from Craig as he was better at handling the situation than I was.
At the funeral the next day, Craig was a pall bearer so he needed to sit up front and I was sitting in a pew with my sister in law and a friend. I remember them sobbing into their Kleenex and once again, I felt nothing. Watching Diane's husband and 4 boys, with their arms all around each other, looking at her body one last time before they closed the casket? Nothing.
I was empty. I knew it was a horrible loss. I knew it was unfair. But at this point, nothing seemed to phase me. My brain had shut off emotion. It was the only way I could survive.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Another Loss Part 9
In the days and weeks following Curtis's death I used to lay beside Craig and fight sleep. I am one of the "lucky" ones that can usually sleep pretty well even when tragedy strikes. The doctor prescribed me some sleeping pills, but I never took them. In fact, the only reason I ended up taking a few Tylenol PMs was because I was trying to force myself to stay awake when I needed sleep.
I was terrified if I closed my eyes, when I would wake up, the love of my life would be gone.
Because, let's face it, that is what happened to Curtis. A baby that is to be stillborn usually dies at night, while the mother sleeps and her blood pressure drops. There are other factors involved, of course, but that is the likely time frame and something I learned a few days after losing Curtis.
If Curtis could just die while I was sleeping, so could Craig. So I would lay next to him, listening to him breathe. He usually has a slight snore so if that ever stopped, I was leaning across him, laying my hand on his chest and feeling the rise and fall.
When life changes so suddenly it is normal to feel this way. But I didn't know what normal was. Honestly, my life had been pretty peachy keen when it came to death. Only great grandparents well into their 80s had died. I had a grandfather die when I was 3, but I didn't remember that. I had a friend in high school die, but she wasn't anyone I had been close to since years before her death and honestly, it didn't effect me that much.
So Curtis was my first taste of the unfairness death brings.
Diane was my second.
We drove towards my in laws from Red Wing, trying to piece this all together. What had happened? How is this possible? Craig's cell phone kept ringing. His brother had been the first to hear. Working for the city, he had a co-worker who was a police officer who knew our family was friends with her family. They figured it was her heart.
This is going to sound purely selfish, but it felt so unfair. Craig and I were trying to spend a few days together away from home before he had to go back to work. We needed an espcape from everyone and we ended up back into another hellish situation. We knew how horrible it was to think this, but it just felt so unfair. We had enough going on. This situation alone would have been horrible enough.
Craig went over to be with the family. His best friend Jer, one of Diane's son's, was on a business trip and hadn't even been notified yet. They couldn't get a hold of him. He was to be flying that night and Craig offered to pick him up at the airport.
I spent the afternoon at my in laws house with one of my sister in laws and my father in law. I remember speaking out loud about my fear that Craig would die while I slept. My father in law kept saying that would never happen. But in situations like that, it is obvious how it can happen all too suddenly.
The day passed. My mother in law was at a loss. She was the last person to see Diane alive. They had been out late, at the casino. Diane had dropped my mother in law off late that night, gotten home, and died while getting ready for bed shortly after. Her husband didn't find her until closer to afternoon. They always slept in separate beds due to his snoring, and when Diane had been at the casino late, she always slept in. I remember my mother in law calling, sobbing hysterically. Repeatedly saying "I cannot believe this. I just can't." In the span of 10 days she lost her grandson and her best friend. The friend who was getting her out of the house, the friend who would help her through her grandson's death. Life is brutally unfair.
Craig and another friend went to pick up Jer at the airport. He had heard at this point. On some lay over, in some grimy airport, he heard that his mother had died. He knew it was bad by the sound of his brother's voice. He was expecting his uncle, or his grandma, or heck, even his dad. But not his mom. Not the mom who he had seen 3 days prior at some big family gathering.
At the doors near baggage claim, Craig and their friend waited. Jer came through the double doors. He took one look at Craig and said "Well, I guess she wanted to go hold Curtis."
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Part 8, After the Service and the few days following
After the short service, people were invited back to my parent's house for a meal.
One of the things I forgot to mention in my previous entry was the my uncle, from Hawaii, had flown in for the service. I just remembered, once again, being baffled by this. I had to keep reminding myself that my son died. It was a Big Deal. I know he had come to support my dad, his brother. It was something that meant a lot to us.
It was a beautiful, early summer day. People chatted on the back patio, chomping on fruit and sandwiches my mom's friends had made. I remember sitting on the love seat, next to my grandfather, and him hold my hand. It was a sweet gesture. I remember sitting outside with a few friends of mine and talking about another friend's recent trip to Mexico to meet her now in-laws. I remember my mother in law joking about how far away we lived. I remember changing into different clothes later in the day, in my parent's gust room. I remember leaning against Craig, him wrapping his arms around me, and I remember sobbing into his chest.
I don't remember much else.
We came home later that evening to a very quiet house. We had stuff strewn every where. We decided to sit down and open all of the cards we had been given lately. Letters poured out of so many. Heartfelt, heart broken words, people were just aching for us.
I read each one with almost...numbness. It was all kind, it was all sweet, I knew it would mean so much to me at some point. But when I read it at the time I just thought "oh, that is nice." And pushed it aside. In the months, and years, following, I would read their words, find comfort, and sob. But at that point feelings had started to turn off. My brain couldn't handle the overload anymore. It was too much. I think that is why so often people say others forget or they feel abandoned. Because at the time of the loss, the love and support is all immediate. And it is almost too much. As time moves forward and you are able to process thing and truly grieve, others have stopped the outpouring. You often need it more 6 months down the road then you do 3 days into the process.
That night, we were just sitting in the living room. This air of "what do you we do know?" hanging over us. Craig started pacing across the living room floor. "Let's go to a movie. Do you want to go to a movie?"
A movie? Hell no! I wanted to be tending to my screaming baby.
There was nothing we really wanted to see, but picked out anyway. A comedy. A movie called RV with Robin Williams. It had gotten horrible reviews, but we didn't care. We went, we watched. We tried to lose ourselves in the movie. We didn't, but it felt nice to do a normal, routine activity.
There was a scene in the movie, where a father and son are playing catch.
I burst into tears.
Craig rubbed my hand. Father and son stuff...that still gets to me to this day.
The next following days, things are a blur. We went to a BBQ at my aunt's house while my uncle was still in town. My cousin sat down with me and wanted all the gory details. How we found out. What delivery was like. What I was feeling. Grateful to talk, I poured it all out. Every last thing.
Craig took the next week off, as planned when the baby would come. We didn't leave each other's side on Monday and Tuesday unless it was to shower. On Wednesday, his brothers and dad came over and they went to play 18 holes of golf. It was the first time we were apart and I went out to dinner with my parent's. For my mom's birthday. It was a somber dinner. I was on autopilot so much of this time.
One of the days, I called Curtis' daycare. They were expecting a phone call the beginning of June so they could start preparing to take him on in August. The poor woman on the phone who answered was on the receiving end of my first out loud explanation of what happened. I stated my name, said they were expecting my son to start in August, but he had been stillborn a few days ago. So wouldn't be in their care. It was a stupid thing to say, but it was one of the first times I spoke it out loud to someone who didn't know my story. Since this time, I have gotten very good at explaining it to people. But then, I just stuttered and stumbled my way through it. She stuttered and stumbled her way through saying she was sorry, and she would pass on the message, she hung up on me even before I could thank her.
Craig had the task of calling our insurance company. We had some extra disability pay that we were entitled to when I gave birth. We had the form that had been filled out and needed to call to get some type of ID number. The woman was chattering away on the phone with him.
"Oh! Your wife gave birth! Great. Boy or girl?"
"Boy." He answered. Softly. Matter of factly.
"That is just great! Congrats! When?"
"I suppose you are having all those sleepless nights. Woohoo. I do not miss those! Not at all."
"Well, he actually ended up stillborn."
The woman rushed through the rest of the case and got him off of the phone quickly. The same thing happened to me when I called to make a follow up call with my doctor.
"Oh! A post delivery check! Congrats. When was he born? Babies are such blessings. Are you getting any sleep?"
Then the "Oh. I am so sorry."
Honestly, couldn't they flag my chart or something?
The upcoming weekend, Craig and I decided to go on a little trip away. Craig would be heading back to work and I would be alone at home. We wanted to spend a little time together and just try to relax. I had come to Craig and said that I wanted to get a tattoo in Curtis' memory. I had a tattoo already and I thought maybe I could add his birth date and name to it. Craig, who is the last person on Earth you would expect to get a tattoo, looked at me and said "I want to get one too."
We decided on our little trip we would find a tattoo shop and pick out tattoos in honor of our little boy. We were so excited. We left on a Friday morning and drove the 2 hours south. We approached the little town of Red Wing, MN and found "Spirit Garden's Tattoo" shop. We walked in and started to look at designs. I was almost giddy at this point. I had so badly wanted this, I wanted something permanent to say "Yes, he is my son. Yes, he was alive. Yes, he matters."
Teddy bears had started to play a significance in our memory of Curtis. His urn was a teddy bear, and he had been posed with a tiny teddy bear at the hospital. Craig picked out a sweet little teddy bear holding a flower design. He asked me my opinion and I loved it. It was done, we would both get this sweet tattoo.
We made an appointment to come back later in the day and get the tattoos. We decided at this point to go see if we could check into our hotel when Craig's phone rang.
I clearly remember him answering and looked in shock. He turned into an empty parking lot and said "what?" I started thinking it was his Gram. She is 90 years old. In good health, but obviously something serious was wrong.
Craig turned, horror in his eyes and said "Diane died."
I was confused. The only Diane I knew was in her 50s. We had just seen her a few days prior at Curtis's funeral. She had never been sick. She was Craig's best friend's moms. She was my mother in law's best friend. She went us to Vegas the previous year. There must be some mistake.
"We need to go back home."
I offered to drive. Craig looked like he was going through hell, for a second time. We switched places.
And started the drive back home towards the second saddest event we had to live through, ten days apart from the first.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
The Service, Part 7
The night before the service, Craig and I sat down to fill out his memory book. The hospital had given it to us. It asked us questions like "Would I have had a nickname?" "What would we have done at Christmas?" "What color was my hair going to be?" It was heartbreaking creating a fake life for our very real son. But at the same time, it was nice to sit through and do this with my husband. There was a section to write letters to our baby boy. To this day, what my husband wrote is one of the most touching and most heartbreaking things I have ever read. We wanted this book on display at his funeral. I wanted everyone to read what Craig had written.
We headed into Saturday, the day of his funeral, without ever hearing from the priest. I had picked out a few readings I wanted read and a poem I wanted to read. It was going to be a small service, so I wasn't overly concerned about never having talked to the priest. I should have been, but, regrets will get you no matter what, right?
The service was around noon. I don't remember the exact time. How weird is that? I remember having to be at the funeral home early to set up our cherished items. Craig and I woke up, got dressed, packed the few bags of stuff in the car, and stopped at a gas station. While standing in line to buy ourselves a couple of caffeinated beverages (not a lot of sleep was being had) I noticed the early edition of the Sunday paper.
"Should we get one?" I asked
"Do you want one?"
"You don't ever buy the paper."
I looked at him, and looked away.
"His obituary will be in this paper."
We bought the paper.
We get the funeral home and lug in the bags of stuff. My parents had brought that hand made cradle and it was in front of the little room where his service would be held. My mom had her photo album she had made and 2 framed pictures. An 8x10 of Curtis and a 5x7 of the three of us. I started unpacking the bags we had brought when I realized a crucial one was missing. The one with the outfits we had picked out. The one with his teddy bear blanket.
"Craig!" I cried out, in desperation. "It isn't here, all of his stuff, it is at home." All of a sudden it was like it was crashing all down on me.
We had been on "go" since the minute we found out he was gone. Must call people. Must deliver. Must spend time with him. Must get pictures. Must go home. Must plan the funeral. Must have the funeral. All of a sudden I knew it was coming to an end. Everything I could do for Curtis would be over soon and I would be left with myself to grieve. Having things to do for him took away the time to sit and think. And I had forgotten something.
Craig raced home and grabbed the extra bag we had forgotten. We had so many things on display. Ultrasound photos. An angel figurine my aunt had sent. Flowers that had been arriving non stop at my door step and at the funeral home. His cradle. The handmade quilt. The book we wrote. Pictures, the photo album, and....the temporary urn that houses his ashes.
Of course, in typical fashion, the teddy bear urn we had ordered was on back order. We were given a temporary huge brass urn that was about as ugly as they come. I didn't care, I had bigger fish to fry, but it was just typical of the way things were going for us.
People started to arrive. You can feel the awkwardness. They never knew Curtis like we knew Curtis. I wanted people to look at the items. I encouraged them to read our letters to him. I let them cling to me and sob. I asked my mom to ask people NOT to hug me. I was in a ton of pain. My milk had come in and I was just aching when anyone slightly brushed against me. So having people cling to me and cry was not something I found comfort in. I wanted nothing more than to shove them back, but figured that may not be appropriate behavior at my son's funeral. So I let them cling to me and popped a few more Advil.
I remember Craig's gram hugging me, crying, saying "It shouldn't be like this." I remember my grandma telling me we could try again. And, one image burned into my memory is Craig's "second mom" Diane, whom he had known his whole life, reaching up, touching his face, and saying "Oh sweetie," Our son's funeral was the last day we would ever see her alive. The next time would be at her funeral a shocking 10 days later.
There were people at his service that I was just baffled by. I am not close with my some of my aunts and uncles, yet they attended. I remember thinking "I said close friends and close family. Why in the world are people I see MAYBE once a year here and I don't have others here who I see weekly?" That was, and still is, frustrating for me. I understand they are family, but some of them didn't even talk to me at my son's funeral. Craig has a family large extended family and some close relatives were not invited. It is a point of contention with me. Looking back, if I had to do it over, we would have had a large service, open to anyone.
One of my aunts pressed a gift into my hand. My cousin clung to me and cried. She told me she didn't usually think baby boys were cute, but Curtis' pictures, he was cute. I stood awkwardly with my friends. Craig and I watched as two friends of ours that had met and dated after our wedding saw each other for the first time since breaking up. Craig and I actually joked to see eachother that they hooked up at our wedding, maybe they would get back together at our son's funeral. Yes, a tasteless joke, but laughter really got us through a lot of these moments.
We were getting close to the time the service was going to start and the priest wasn't there yet. I flagged down Colin to ask him what was going on. He had no idea and would call over the church. I told him it was okay, I had a few things I could read and would do it myself. He said he would check. The priest showed right at noon. I threw a few readings at him as the service was about to start.
The guy was disaster. If it hadn't been Curtis' funeral it would have been comical. I cannot believe this guy is a public speaker for a living. He stammered his way through a few bible passages he had picked out. The beautiful readings I picked out that flowed so beautifully, he stammered through. He forgot my name a handful of times. At one point he said "Craig and .... " turned his head to look at the table with Curtis' ashes on display, trying desperately to see my name somewhere. Someone shouted out my name from the audience.
Finally, the torture of him speaking was over and I stood up to read a poem I had found. I heard someone gasp from the room. I know they couldn't believe I was getting up to speak.
What was funny was that morning while setting up for the service I had mentioned to my mom I had a poem I wanted to read.
"You mean someone else will read it."
"Sweetie, someone else will read it."
"Mom. He is my son. I am reading the damn poem!"
She shut her mouth after that one.
I know it is hard for others to imagine, but he was MY son. I spent 9 months with him. I made him, I grew him, and reading this poem was the only thing I had left.
Craig and I held hands and walked up to the front. I know my voice was shaking, but I barely shed a tear. I told everyone not to feel too sorry for us. Because we would do it all over again to hold our son. It was worth it. Every moment of heartbreak was worth it. Because we had a baby boy. No matter where he was, he was forever with us.
The end of the poem I read sticks with me in my darkest moments to this day:
"We are richer by far
To have held you a moment
Then to have never held you
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Preparing for the service Part 6
The day before Curtis' service, a Friday, was a big blur.
My doctor called in the morning to check on me. It was a nice gesture, but my doctor has zero bedside manner. He stumbled through asking me if I was okay, asking me if we were going to have a service (and I was horrified at the thought he might show up. I must have said a few times it was family only) and I could just sense he was trying to hurry up and get me off the phone. Despite the fact that he called me.
We were anxious to see the pictures the hospital took and left a few messages for Mary Beth to find out what had happened to them. She had said she would get them developed Thursday, but we hadn't heard anything about them. Something weird with my cell phone happened because it ended up she had called and left a few messages, but my phone didn't register them until much later. She had dropped the pictures at the funeral home and when we found that out we raced to go see them.
I remember feeling so nervous to see the pictures. Colin handed them to us and happily told us "some of the pictures are really cute!" It was a nice sentiment, but in saying that I somehow expected the pictures to be more....I don't know. Soft. More living baby like.
When I first looked at the photos, my immediate thought was "He does not look like I remember him." My heart sank. I remember a sweet, sleeping face. Not that blue/red tint. I remembered soft little lips, not the red hue that is typical of stillborns. I didn't remember all the extra skin on his hands. But, of course, I never SAW his hands.
Craig remembered something he had read in one of the books, someone suggested turning the pictures into black and white to help soften the color. We decided to drive to Target and do just that. I remember standing at the photo kiosk, struggling with trying to scan the pictures in to convert them. I could get them scanned, but couldn't figure out the color conversion. Curtis' face was up on the big screen. The photo place was busy and one assistant seemed highly annoyed we were taking so long. We asked for help, we just wanted someone to tell us, but the other assistant walked over. I covered the screen with my hands and told her that they were sensitive pictures. That it was a baby who was gone. She gently smiled and said that was okay. She showed us quickly how to convert them to black and white. When she walked away, Craig noticed she had tears in her eyes.
The one assistant, the one who had seemed annoyed by us, had softened considerably. When our pictures printed and we walked up to pay for them, she told us he was really cute and only charged us a few dollars.
My parents were helping to put together a small photo album and had asked for some pictures. We drove over to their place with our now black and white photos of Curtis. My mom had printed a large amount of pictures we had taken with our camera that day. My dad had uploaded everything to a CD to give to us and my in laws. In his haste, and quite frankly lack of knowledge, he uploaded every last picture on my memory card on to the CD. So when he put it in the computer to show us, pictures of my baby showers, Curtis' bedroom, and me 35 weeks pregnant flashed on the screen before pictures of Curtis showed. I had to look away. It hurt too much to see the baby shower cake which exclaimed "I'm On My Way!" with rubber duckies on it. It hurt too much to see my gigantic stomach. And it hurt to see his bright, cheerful room. All just waiting for a little baby.
Craig and I were in desperate need of clothes to wear to his service. We walked into JC Penny's and wandered up and down the aisles trying to decide what clothes to wear to our son's service. My body was only a few days post partum so I felt comfortable in nothing. I bought the first shirt and skirt combo that fit. I made sure not to pick out black, even though I wanted to. I clearly remember Craig standing in the dressing room with me and I started to cry. I leaned into his chest and sobbed "We should be picking out clothes for his baptism, not his funeral." I said it loudly. I wanted everyone around me to know. I wanted them to know the hell I was going through. As they spent their Friday doing some summer shopping, I wanted them to know I was in hell. I wanted their sympathy. It is weird to admit that, but it is true.
In a weird twist to the day, the funeral home called us and said they couldn't get ahold of my doctor to sign the certificate allowing them to cremate Curtis' body. It was his day off and he wasn't in the clinic.
Because this is exactly the hassle we needed.
We tried to call the clinic to see if another OB could do it, but no one in the clinic could even find my chart so no other OB could do it. It was a huge, huge headache. We were practically minutes away from not getting the certificate signed due to the timing of the cremation place. Luckily, I remembered my doctor had called earlier in the day from his home and his number was stored into my phone's memory. I made Craig call him to ask him what we could do to get this done. He was able to run to the funeral home and sign the certificate with minutes to spare. Never once apologizing for dropping the ball (He was suppose to sing the certificate in the hospital we had learned). And, most likely, taking my chart home with him. Which is illegal. (It wasn't the first time they couldn't find my chart. A nurse told me he often took charts home with him. In fact, at one of my last appointments the doctor I had to see for that one couldn't find the chart. The previous appointment I had monitoring for low movement and heart decels. Makes you wonder the what ifs. What if that doctor had seen something in my chart that showed her the impending issue? What my doctor had obviously missed?)
At home that night, Craig and I stood outside of Curtis' door. We wanted to bring some special items with us. The outfits we picked out when we found out he was a boy. The quilt Craig's cousin had made. A teddy bear blanket a friend had picked out. To bring these special items with, we had to go in his room.
"I'm going in," I said to Craig.
I opened the door, and the bright colors greeted me. Sunlight streamed in the room. I saw where my parents had tossed everything in their haste to make our living areas less baby centered. But, at the heart of it all, was his room. The room he was only ever in while inside of me. I allowed myself a minute to take it all in. It still all smelled so new. So untouched. I didn't allow myself to cry. Not now, not in this room. Despite the heartache, this room was my happy place. The room I was so excited to create for him.
I quickly gathered the items we had decided to bring and walked out.
But I shut the door behind me.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
I don't remember the drive home, but I do remember walking in the door. We were greeted by a very eager puppy. She wiggled, and jumped, and spun in circles over and over. I knelt down, very slowly, sat on the floor and let her climb all over and lick me. It felt good. It felt like coming home.
We had gotten her in December of 05. I was about 4 months pregnant and everyone thought I was crazy to get a puppy in the dead of winter AND with a new baby on the way. People told me I wouldn't have time for her when the baby would be born. That my priorities would shift. That she wouldn't get any attention. She would get lonely and be destructive.
Needless to say, they were wrong. Very wrong.
My parents had stopped over the night before to let her out. They offered to take her back to their place since we would be gone over night. As selfish as it was, I said no. Even though it meant she would be locked up in our kitchen, I wanted to come home to her. I wanted the puppy licks. Coming home to an empty silent house would have been too much too handle.
I had asked my parents to remove the major baby items from the living room. The boppy, the swing, and whatever else I had left laying about. I didn't expect them to go through my cupboards or anything, but I just wanted things tossed into the nursery.
What ached the most? The handmade, family heirloom cradle was noticeably gone. My grandfather made it about 10 years earlier and gave it to my mom to loan to each of her grandchildren to sleep in. My brother's three kids had all used it. Curtis was to be the fourth. It had been in our living room. I remember the day my mom brought it over. She took a picture of Craig and I standing next to the cradle. She said "I can put these pictures side by side. You and Craig and the empty cradle. And then you, Craig, and the baby in the cradle."
Talk about a haunting statement. I wonder what ever happened to that picture? I never saw it.
Craig and I fell into our normal "at home" routine. I sat down at my computer to check my email and message boards. I have tons of online friends and communities I belong to. I wanted to post, I wanted to tell people I was okay, I wanted their words of comfort. I wanted them to know my anger and hurt....but I wanted them to know my son. Craig made a few phone calls, letting people know we were home.
While I was posting online and sending out email when Craig's phone rang.
It was the funeral home.
They asked to meet with us to go over our wishes and thoughts.
Good lord. I could barely spell my own name at this point. We were so exhausted. We agreed to a later afternoon meeting.
We decided to try to take a nap before meeting with the funeral home. One of the things I remember most about the first few days, heck week, after losing Curtis was Craig and I glued to each other's sides. He went into the kitchen, so did I. One of us woke up, we stayed by the other's side until the other woke up.
We laid down in the bed together. Tears falling from both of our eyes. I used to lay in bed and not be able to see down to the bedpost. Now that my stomach was deflated, I could see it again. Out of habit, I rubbed my hand over my stomach. If felt squishy and flabby, where it used to feel hard and firm. I jerked it away and started to sob.
We fell into a restless sleep.
Our parents wanted to come to the funeral home with us. We still hadn't discussed what we were going to do. In Craig's Catholic family the norm is a viewing of the body, full burial, cemetery plot, the whole nine yards.
I knew Craig and I were not prepared, financially or emotionally, to decide where Curtis' resting place would be...forever. The only thing I knew for sure was wherever he ended up, I wanted to be next to him sometime in the future. I didn't want to decide that right that second. I knew we couldn't afford 3 cemetery plots. Craig and I had never even discussed OUR wishes in the event of our deaths.
When we were getting dressed, an idea came to me. I wanted Curtis to come home with us. It wasn't the way we had wanted, but I couldn't stand him buried away from me.
I approached Craig with my idea. We have Curtis cremated and his ashes come home with us. Then, we take a small amount of those ashes up to Craig's family cabin and spread them on the lake shore. The rest of the ashes stay home with us. Then, in the future when we die, Curtis is placed with us. Wherever that may be. Whether we are buried or cremated.
The cabin idea was what sealed it for Craig. His family had owned that property for 30 years. Every summer as a boy, and now adult, he was up there numerous times. He liked the idea of sharing that with Curtis. Of having a piece of him at the place that meant so much to him.
Our in laws had mentioned "Baby Land" at local cemeteries. Rows and rows of babies all placed together at the cemetery. While I think the idea is sweet, I didn't want Curtis away from us. Our in laws were used to having a place to visit their loved one after they died. We solved this problem later, but I stuck firm to wanting his ashes home with us. I know they were just worried that having his ashes would make it hard on us. When, in fact, the thought of it gave me great comfort.
My parents drove us to the funeral home. I remember getting out of the car and my dad a step or two ahead. I was lingering, waiting for Craig to catch up and my dad reached back for my hand and I hesitated. My mom quickly said to him "She wants to hold hands with her husband." My dad's face fell, and he nodded. My heart broke for him. He didn't know how to comfort his daughter. His extending his hand wasn't meant as a replacement for my husband, it was just a dad trying to comfort his daughter.
We met a young man named Colin. He couldn't have been more than 24. I wanted to ask him how in the world was he in the funeral home business. I was fairly sure he was an intern of some sort as he stumbled his way through helping us. He was never unprofessional, and he did look completely comfortable helping us, but his choice of words and almost....happy....way of dealing with us was a little odd.
We sat down and he asked what we were thinking. I took a deep breath and explained to our families what we were thinking. Cremation. Small, close family and friends service, ashes home with us, spreading some at the lake. Everyone nodded, eyes being dabbed. "I...I ...we....just need him home. "
With Colin's help, we came up with a small obituary. This is another regret. He gave us one that we modeled Curtis' after. Now, I wish it had more details. I wish it had said how much we loved him. I wish it said I was pregnant 40 weeks.
Only living people get obituaries. This was one of the few pieces of evidence that I would have that Curtis was a living human being. And I mucked it up.
We agreed to a small service on Saturday. I had stated close friends and family. So, essentially, Curtis' funeral was invitation only. Colin encouraged us to bring music we like, he encouraged us to bring special items of his. He said the ashes could be on display.
Craig looked confused. I realized he thought there would be a viewing. He didn't fully understand that cremation is instead of a viewing. I touched his arm and shook my head no. My heart ached. I thought he knew when we said goodbye to him in the hospital, that was the last time. With the way Craig had been a part of funerals in the past, there had always been a viewing. He had assumed that with Curtis. Craig nodded. To this day, the look on his face haunts me. He looked stunned, but agreed. For me.
Colin pulled out a catalogue and wanted us to pick out an urn. He said there wasn't much for children and we were welcomed to pick an adult one though it may be very big. He flipped to the back page and showed us the 4 urns we had to pick from. Two were very girly. One was a blue box with an angel boy engraved on it. One was a teddy bear. I looked at the prices. The blue box one was $150, the teddy bear was $500. I pointed to the blue box one, despite the fact I didn't really like it.
Money had been tight for Craig and I. We were deeply in debt and struggling to make ends meet. I felt guilty for wanting the $500 urn. Craig shook his head and said he really wanted the teddy bear one.
I couldn't help but sob. Here I was, so concerned about the prices. I didn't even realize how I had been planning on dropping $1,000 a month in daycare, and I felt guilty about spending $500 on my son's urn. I agreed to the teddy bear. In a weird way, I was excited about that urn.
We didn't have a priest local and Colin said he could arrange someone to come and say a few words, if we liked. We agreed, thankful for not having to go through the work of it ourselves. He said he would make a few phone calls and we should expect the priest to be calling us within the next day.
We left the funeral home and my parents dropped us off, hugged us, and left. They were drained. I have no idea how it feels to be them, they were grieving their grandchild, but they also ached so much for us.
I saw something sitting outside our front door and went to look. There, all over our front patio, were 4 or 5 flower deliveries.
"Why in the world are people sending us flowers?" I wondered to myself. I was truly baffled.
Then it hit me. People send flowers when someone had died. I was still in shock.
My son had died. People send flowers when someone has died.
My son was dead.
Monday, September 1, 2008
After we sent Curtis away, we were left in that hospital room. They brought us a tray of food, I hadn't eaten at all that day. I picked at the bread on the sandwich, ate the ice cream, and we began to pour over the materials that had been left in the room.
The materials I was so digusted by, I found comfort in. I clearly remember Craig reading a passage out of one of the books that talked about how, after you lose a baby, you see babies everywhere.
We tried to turn on the TV, but it wasn't working. We asked the nurse about it and she couldn't fix it, but asked us if we would mind moving rooms. We went ahead and moved. I couldn't stand the thought of a silent room. I had a silent baby today. I wanted the comforting background noise of a TV. I wasn't expecting much sleep to be had, so I wanted something to watch as well. We got settled into another room.
I remember laying in the bed, pulling out my cell phone and starting to text people. "He was born at 5:31pm. He looked so much like Craig. They think it was a cord accident." Craig sat in the chair next to me, but I remember little of this time together. Both stuck in quiet reflection, reading articles on how 80% of couples who lose a child divorce. Lovely.
We decided to turn off the lights and try to get some sleep. The nurse asked me to please buzz her if I woke up in the middle of the night because they had to take my blood pressure.
I didn't sleep. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine the following days. The following months. Everything I had expected my life to be after giving birth, it wouldn't be. I expected sleepless nights. I expected baby smiles. I expected hard time adjusting to parenthood. I expected me exasperated with my husband. I never went into parenthood expecting perfection and how wonderful it would all be. I had enough mom friends to know the truth. But, despite knowing the down side, I was well aware of the upside and I was okay with all of it. I was ready to take on the good AND the bad.
Around midnight I buzzed the nurse to come in and take my blood pressure.
She said she was glad I buzzed, because, well there was an influx of women in the midst of labor, and we were still in a delivery room and another mom coming in to give birth....and would I mind moving off the floor? I would still be an maternity ward patient but...
Kim and Mary Beth were long gone at this point. They were the only nurses okay at taking care of pregnancy and infant loss patients. This woman clearly was not versed in their comforting language and their thoughtfulness.
I said it was fine. This time we had a longer hike down the hall. I was grasping the gown behind my back and shuffling down the hall, past the other delivery rooms. I was in a bit of pain, and moving slowly. All of a sudden I heard it. Wooop. Wooop. Wooop. Loud. Clear. And strong. A baby's heartbeat.
"I hear a heartbeat."
The nurse stammered. "I am so sorry, I should have closed the door."
"No, it is okay. I just, well, my son didn't have a heartbeat."
She doesn't say anything.
We get to a much smaller room, but a room with two beds. Craig is able to lay down. I lay in the other bed and look around the room. On the wall there is a whiteboard. It says something like "No Me without You!" It is an information board all about the mom and baby.
My board remains empty.
I had wanted to go home. The doctor said I could have gone home immediately after delivery if I wanted. I think Craig was scared. I was bleeding a lot, I was in pain, I just had been through emotional hell....he probably was afraid I would flip out. So he prefered that we stay at the hospital where he had help keeping an eye on me. He didn't say that of course. My parents and his thought it was a good idea as well. Just to make sure I was healing okay after childbirth.
At 6am, I was ready to get the hell out. I hadn't slept much. I know I got a few hours here and there through the night, but at 6am, I decided I wanted to go home. Even if it meant going home without my son. Going home to his nursery and baby swing and his laundry still in the dryer.
We alerted the nurses we were ready to go, but it was a painfully slow process. There was lab work to be done, and nurses to meet with. The lab nurse had tears in her eyes when she walked in. She told us she had lost her son a few years ago, he was 21. We made the appropriate "oh I am sorry" comments. But it felt hollow. We didn't care about her loss. We cared about ours. Looking back, I appreciate her reaching out to us.
A social worker comes in and helps us fill out of information for our Certificate of Birth Resulting in Stillbirth. She is nervous about it because it is a new law they had just passed and it was her first time doing one and she was afraid she would mess up. Well, she did, but we were able to get it fixed later. She too, lost a child, she tells us. A 14 year old daughter.
Kim, our nurse who delivered Curtis (because let's face it, a doctor who comes in for the last push does not count) comes to go over my discharge papers. She looks exhausted. I had been looking forward to seeing her again, she was so kind the previous day, but now she can barely look at us. I wonder if she was hoping we would be gone so she didn't have to be confronted with us again. We were emotionally draining people. She probably wanted to get back to her happy patients and happy families. I am sure it isn't easy going through a stillbirth with patients. Who knows what it was like for her to go home at the end of the day, being a part of something like she had been a part of with us.
Finally, they allow us to leave. Craig is instructed to go get the car and meet us out front. Kim tells me "I will call the funeral home and they will get his body."
Chills run up and down my spine.
"I...I ....uh, last night. When we had the nurse take him away. I thought he went to funeral home already."
She looks at me.
"I just...he was alone all night."
She is quiet.
"It's okay, I just didn't know he was still here, in the hospital. I thought, I mean, I thought he was gone." My heart is aching. I hated the thought of us in the same building together and us not with him. We had chose to send him away, but I thought he would be sent to the funeral home. Not alone in some morgue. It felt like I had abandoned him.
I climb in the wheelchair they insist upon and she pushes me to the elevator. We go down to the front, and out where Craig is waiting with the car.
The carseat installed in the back.
I take my flowers and bag. I climb slowly in the front. I thank Kim. Despite her quietness this morning, she had been a God send through Curtis' birth. She came in on her day off, she held our hand, she was one of the select few who would ever get to meet Curtis. While brushing away tears, I tell her she is good at her job. I thank her again.
I shut the car door and we go home. Without our son.