Monday, May 25, 2009

I am finding it hard to believe it is May. I am finding it hard to believe it is almost the end of May and this weekend Craig, Claudia, and myself will go away for the weekend again to remember our baby boy and spend time as a family.

I have to admit, this month has rocked me to the core. And it took me by surprise. Mother's Day, which I thought wouldn't be that bad, was. I am constantly crying on my way home from work, before I pick up Claudia. I am having restless dreams and often wake at night.

Why? WHY this year? A friend once told me the 3s were hard.... 3rd week, 3rd month, 3rd year... maybe that was it?

Honestly, last year wasn't that hard. Because of her. Last year, Claudia was just over 6 months old on Curtis' 2nd birthday. We were very much in the 'every day we have you is a day we didn't have you last year' kind of world. There wasn't much time for grief. We were still in a lot of euphoria. That doesn't mean we didn't cry and talked about him: we did. We pulled out pictures and the DVD of pictures we made. We took Claudia to Build A Bear and made her a "Curtis Bear". (A tradition we plan to do every year for his birthday with her and any other child who decides to join our family...). We went to the Angel of Hope statue and visited his bricks. We did grieve...but I didn't spend the weeks and days leading up to his birthday in this...overwhelming sadness.

People hear we lost a son 3 years ago and they think "oh, that's too bad..." but they don't see what I see. I see a 3 year old, blond hair boy, with a bad hair colic and a dimple. Traits of his father. I see a kid asserting his independence, a kid I am trying to get to clean up his toys. A kid who would maybe want a Superman theme birthday or Wall E or whatever the hot thing is for three year old boys....but I am not sure what that is because I don't have a three year old. We would be debating if he should go to preschool in the fall or if he wasn't ready. We would be working on potty training, maybe his grandpa would take him to a ballgame, just the two of them.

Most people just see that little baby. Most of the time, I do too. But I know. I know he should be 3.

So, this year is hard. I have more time to think this year, more time to grieve. More time to wonder all the should haves and could have beens...the things people tell you not to linger on , but us loss parents. We do. We linger.

Because, lingering is a way of remembering. I remember. I grieve. This month is hard, these weeks and days have been overwhelming. Because I miss the baby boy I carried for 9 months and only got to hold for 4 hours. I miss the baby boy, but I miss the three year old I never met. The three year old he never had a chance to grow into.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Our Story, Part 25

Curtis' Birthday

(left off just having a 6w6d u/s with our 2nd pregnancy after losing Curtis).

The discussion on "what to do" was rampant in our house. We knew we were DONE with the doctor who delivered Curtis. We knew we needed to find a new doctor. Part of me did not want to jump through hoops until I was in the 2nd trimester (14 weeks). I had a doctor's appointment set up with my current OB for 12 weeks. That was 5 weeks away. We decided we would make decisions at the time we could hear the heartbeat on the doppler. Then we would make the decisions that could get a child, a living child, in our arms.

So, we waited.

And told no one I was pregnant.

Each day was _hard_. I had no way of knowing if things were progressing. I had no way of knowing if that little heart was still thumping away. I knew women, I know women, who have lost babies at every single stage of pregnancy. There was no 'magic' time for me to get through, except birth.

On top of it all? We were rapidly approaching Curtis' first birthday. We didn't want to tell anyone until May had passed. We wanted, and needed, to make May about Curtis.

So, while Curtis' soon-to-be sibling grew inside of me, we prepared to celebrate the end of our first year without him. I don't mean celebrate in a bad way, but we had made it. We had made it a full year. We got through each holiday, each moment together. We grieved Curtis, we loved Curtis and we prepared for the inevitable host of emotions that would come with his birthday.

Craig put together a slide show of two of my favorite songs remembering Curtis. It showed me pregnant at 35 weeks, showed his room I had taken pictures of after we had put the finishing touches on it. It showed his shower cake. (Ironically saying "I'm On My Way") showed us with tear stained faces holding his little body. It showed him cuddled with his teddy bear. It showed his feet, being held by our nurse Kim. It showed his funeral. It showed his urn and us at the lake the day we spread his ashes. It showed the first memorial walk we attended with our "Team Curtis" tshirts. And on and on and on....

We packed a lot of celebrating, and grieving, into that year.

Our support group held a little birthday party for Curtis. We did a balloon release, we brought treats, we showed our video. It was a beautiful thing.

Craig and I decided we needed to get away for his birthday. His birthday landed on a Thursday so we took that day and the following Friday off. I researched various resorts and hotels in areas of Minnesota and surrounding states. We settled on the ski area of Lutsen, MN. It wasn't ski season so the prices for condos was cheap. We could get a one bedroom with a jacuzzi, something we could never afford normally.

The days leading up to Curtis' birthday were hard. Being pregnant was taking it's toll enough, dealing with his birthday about sent me over the edge.

Cards started to pour in, a lot of my friends from online communities remembered my little boy and sent us something. A wonderful woman sent us 2 plaques remembering Curtis.

We drove up to Lutsen on Curtis' actual birthday. I was up early, sitting on the couch when Craig woke up. He walked over and the first thing he said? 'Happy Birthday, Curtis."

It was the only time I cried all day.

We stopped at my parent's to drop off the dog, made idle conversation about nothing, and they handed us a card. We stopped at Craig's parents briefly for some reason. They, too, handed us a few cards. We were making polite chit chat and I found myself anxious. I wanted to be alone with Craig. I wanted out of the confines of having to make chit chat with people while my heart felt like it was going to burst.

We then drove to the Angel of Hope statue where Curtis has 3 bricks remembering him. We laid a white flower on his bricks and 2 flowers for friends of mine who had lost their children around the time we lost Curtis.

Then, we made our way to the lake. It wasn't on the direct path to our resort, but we wanted to go to where we spread Curtis' ashes the past summer. It was another beautiful day. We sat on the dock and talked about our little boy, talked about the day we spread his ashes. We took pictures of ourselves in the spot where his ashes had been spread. We set the self timer and took a silly picture of us laying on the dock together.

We were only there for about 30 minutes, but it was enough. We got in the car and started driving to our final destination.

We were actually in the car at 5:31pm, the time Curtis was born. I took a picture of the clock.

We arrived at our resort early in the evening. We were thrilled with what we found. A beautiful view of the mountain area, a private deck, and comfortable amenities. We sat on the couch together and opened the cards people had given us. Craig had written me a card with the sweetest, most heartfelt words. He spoke about how he knew how hard it had been on me, I had carried Curtis and given birth to him...he spoke of how proud he was of our boy and what he may be doing now if he had been born alive. I still read the card on a regular basis.

We spent the first evening enjoying our surroundings. Heading into town to buy a frozen pizza... swimming in the outdoor/indoor pool, watching the TV. Later in the evening, as we decided to start a fire in our fire place, I noticed the mantle above the fireplace had an inscription carved into the wood.

It said 'Rekindle Your Heart".

Friday, May 8, 2009

Mother's Day Part II.

I am feeling less bitter today about it. We will see what happens on Sunday, but today I was at work and something happened.

I work with children with autism. I have for 10 years and I love the field. I love the kids. Many of the kids I work with don't respond well to their parents or families. They give little in the way of 'love' to mom and dad. They are attached to mom and dad, yes, but with their needs the parents often don't get some connection parents of typical children get.

We do a highly individualized therapy and it allows for little time to make flower pots or hand molds. A lot of our kids are older and have our services as opposed to school. A lot of our kids maybe have parents who have been laid off or dads who are not involved or other family situations where mom would possibly be ignored on Sunday. I had completely forgot about Mother's Day until about 3:45, 15 minutes before I was to leave. I wanted to 'give' these moms something from their kids. I instructed all the staff working to hurry up and have each of the kids make the moms a card. A lot of our kids cannot draw or hate to do so, so we helped them out.

I can relate, in a way, to some of these parents. They are grieving, hard core, for the way they thought their life was going to be. They gave birth to this perfect baby....and somehow their life turned into something they weren't expecting. They grieve for the dreams they had for their child, and they grieve for the way they thought their life was going to be.

So, I hope they take a look at those little cards we rushed together, and smile. Knowing that we know how much they love their children and that we are thinking about them.

I guess because I don't enjoy Mother's Day doesn't mean I don't want others to not enjoy it. That probably is 3 years (almost...) of perspective talking.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

So, I feel like I should blog about Mother's Day.

It is this weekend...and, I realllly couldn't care less about the holiday.

In 2006, I wasn't feeling well. I was close to 38 weeks pregnant and chose to stay home while Craig went to his parents for the day. No one, except my dad, acknowledged me, as a mom to be.

The following year, I was barely pregnant with Claudia. Weird. Pregnant over both holidays, with no baby in my arms. My husband gave me a 'I Love My Son' charm and that was so touching. We were not invited to a family gathering on my side (I stumbled on it when I went to drop a present for my mom. No one would even look at me. Yeah, it hurt. Whatever the 'reasons' for it. It hurt.)

Now, Mother's Day makes me feel _blah_. That is the best way I can describe it. _Blah_. Just... empty.

Last year, I had one request for Craig. I wanted a card, from Claudia, that said "To Mommy." That was it. I didn't want a bunch of other cards about what a good mom I was and all that jazz.

It is hard to want to celebrate a day when one of your children isn't here to celebrate it with. Plain and simple.

Well, last year, I was invited to Mother's Day gatherings! I got a bunch of cards from people. What did they say? "Happy FIRST Mother's Day."

Like hell it was! Those card infuriated me to no end. This was my second Mother's Day.

Those cards were just a reminder that people don't get it. Don't get that I was pregnant for 9 months, gave birth, held my son, and then held a funeral. Because he wasn't running around, I apparently wasn't granted the title of a 'mother' until I had a child who screamed at birth.

That is why I don't like Mother's Day. It is just another reminder one of my children is dead and the world forgets how a day, like Mother's Day, is extremely painful.

Now, as our daughter gets older...and makes me handmade cards or a flower pot in preschool, that will be all I want. I don't want anyone who is not my child decreeing my status as a mother.

But, for the most part, I just want to ignore the day. Yeah, lots of negativity.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Last Sunday, Craig and I volunteered at the infant loss conference held by our local organization. Honestly, it is probably one of the only conferences out there like it. There were people who had flown in from Scotland to attend. So yeah, a big deal.

I blogged about attending the conference two years ago. It was on the cusp of Curtis' 1st birthday and we were just weeks from finding out I was pregnant with Claudia.

This year, we decided to volunteer. I guess I felt like I had learned everything at the previous conference and wanted to help out. Craig was assigned various tasks around the conference and I was assigned to be a room monitor while speakers were giving their presentation.

The first session I was monitoring was the one the founder was giving. It was to medical caregivers on how to give the best practice in the time of a loss. What is funny is my nurse who delivered Curtis was attending and was in the room. A couple of times I wanted to shout out "yeah! My nurses did that!" in agreement with the speaker. I decided that would be rude, but I did nod along with so many of the things they spoke about doing for patients in the time of loss. Like a card for the first birthday. Lock of the hair. Pictures. Holding the patients hand and explaining what exactly the baby may or may not look like to prepare the patient.

During the speech, the presenter showed a video she puts together when she attends a stillbirth. It is an amazing compilation of pictures and video shots, set to music. Everyone in the room cried and cried while watching it. It is something like that where I kick myself. See, we had a video camera with us that day. When we attended my 40 week appointment, I had my bags packed. Camera, video camera, pacifiers, diapers... I knew I wanted pictures, but remember thinking I didn't want video. Now, now I regret that. I would love to have video of me holding him... to see it 'live' like that. Sure, I have pictures, but I want to see me looking at my son, I want video shots of that moment.

Then, during the speech, I found out that in the state of Minnesota is it COMPLETELY LEGAL that a family takes their baby home. there are some hoops and paperwork you fill out, there is something that you contact the funeral home before leaving with the baby and they are aware of coming to pick up that baby. But you can. You can drive your baby home. You can bring your baby to the room you prepared for them. You can lay him in his crib and take pictures of him laying in the bedding you picked out for him. You can rock him in the rocking chair. You CAN TAKE HIM HOME.

I sobbed. I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

After watching the movie Losing Layla and watching that family bring their daughter home and bathe her and hold her in her room ...all I have longed for was a moment like that. How jealous I was! Now, to find out that was an option? Just about did me in. I would have done that! I would have brought him home if I had known.

A few hours later, I realized I probably wouldn't have. I was so scared. I never even unwrapped him. I couldn't muster up the courage to ask a nurse to wrap him in a different blanket. The minute his little body started to change (about 4 hours after I had him) we had the nurse take him away. But then the next morning, I was heartbroken to find out he had been in the morgue all night when I thought he was already at the funeral home.

Would I have honestly brought him home? I don't know. I don't think so. But I like to think had I known then, what I know now...I would have. I would have wrapped him in the fuzzy blue blanket with basketballs and baseballs, put him in his car seat and brought him home.

Even if only for 10 minutes.

Because all I ever wanted was to bring him home with us.