There are nights when I look at my sleeping kids, and all I can think, over and over again, is “please don’t die.”
I had a dream last night that my oldest had died. He was back as a ghost. We played, but he couldn’t talk. And I knew at somepoint he would leave.
A child his in our state was murdered in an act of road rage this week. I try to avoid such news but it has been everywhere. The low level panic from reading about that is wearing me thin. I can’t help but see my child in these stories. I know it is someone’s little girl. And there is nothing that makes me different from them other Han time and place. I know how easy it is for life to change in an instant.
So to my kids, tonight, please don’t die.
I never understood the trend in the loss community to equate our children with butterflies. But this summer, during an exceptionally hard week, a yellow butterfly came to visit our back yard every day. I had rarely seen a butterfly. I now see them all the time. As the seasons change and it gets cold, I will miss seeing them everywhere.
Yesterday at the Walk of Remembrance they did a butterfly release. Owen really wanted to hold a butterfly. He kept not having any luck, but then Dan pointed out one that had landed on me. Owen managed to hold it, and when it flew away, it came back to me. It flew away and then landed back in me three times. It was probably on me for five minutes. I can’t explain it, but I was very emotional when it finally flew away.
Tomorrow is Noah’s birthday. I love and miss you sweet boy. 💙💙💙
It is often said that you didn’t just lose a baby, you lost the toddler, child, teen and adult they would have been. Their first steps, first word, first day of school. Graduation, wedding, children they might have had. And I will think of all of those things when we get to each “he would have…” Kids the age Noah would have been I have already watched have their first words, first steps.
But we also lost the lives we would have had. I can not imagine a single aspect of our lives that wouldn’t have been different had he lived.
Owen plays every week at the park with a little boy just 2.5 months younger than Noah would have been if he had been healthy and made it to term. I get this glimpse of the big brother he could have been to Noah.
Most kids don’t know or think much about death. But we talk about death a lot. He heard me say “oh no” the other day. Nothing catastrophic had happened. But his first response? “Who died?”
I don’t want to go into all the people I might be closer to if Noah hadn’t died. Whether due to something they said, did, or didn’t, or just because of different beliefs, or circumstances of dates. I have just as many if not more people that I wouldn’t be as close to without our losses. Whether we met through loss, or just became closer through the common bond.
Our whole lives are different. I can’t even tell you all the ways. I can’t see all the “what might have been.” But we see glimpses sometimes.
If you see me in October I am near frantic. My todo list is spilling out the door, and I over commit to everything.
I’ll tell you it’s all necessary. It’s the way the calendar is. But the truth is I create the busy. I won’t let you take something off my plate, because then I might have to stop. Have to think. Have to feel.
I fill my days with commitments to organizations, to my kids, to elaborate meal plans, to crochet and memorial projects. Because I can’t stop. October hurts to much to look at.
Elizabeth Stone said “Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” Part of my heart is gone.
October is a month of triggers. Reliving every day. From the 1st with what we thought was a “good” ultrasound to the 2nd where we got the call. The crashing bad news of the 8th and 9th. The last moments of the 16th, 17th, 18th. The final goodbye on the 19th. Picking up his ashes on the 23rd. All month I know where I was when.
So I keep busy. Go through with the trappings. Try not to think to much. Because sitting in that space again is scary. It’s overwhelming.
Someday I may be able to slow down. To sit with this month. But for now I keep busy. Because it’s too much.
My biggest regret is that we didn’t have a memorial service for Noah. I was so overwhelmed I didn’t know where to begin. And, I didn’t think anyone would come. I was still worried that people would be “uncomfortable.” Because what death isn’t uncomfortable? And no one knew him like we did. What could people say? There were no memories to share.
We had just moved here. I had been on bedrest as much as not since we got here. And all our family was far away. I still wonder who if anyone would have come. It was so hard to have the world keep turning for everyone else while I was stuck. It would have been nice to have people take the time to just sit with us. To acknowledge that he was here, and than gone, and that he was worth grieving. I think part of me was afraid that I would be more hurt by people not coming, so it was easier to just not.
On his first birthday I was feeling this regret acutely. I considered having one then, but the timing just didn’t seem right. We did get a stone for our garden for him, and we had a balloon release with friends. This year, we are doing something more private, but we are also doing a random acts of kindness drive. I would love if on his birthday, in addition to people sharing what they are doing in his memory, people would share how he has effected them. How they reacted when they heard the news. What thoughts and feelings they’ve had then or since.
Since starting preschool when I was newly pregnant with Sam, Owen has been asked to bring in a family picture three times. I never know what to send. There is no complete family picture. The closest I can get is one like this, that includes Noah’s Molly Bear.
Owen was asked to decorate this lead with his family picture. So he wrote everyone’s names, including Noah’s. He always includes Noah.
When we were on a trip this summer, Owen met a lot of new people, or people he hadn’t seen in awhile. They would inevitably ask him “How do you like being a big brother?” Owen developed a standard response – “Our first baby died. Noah died.”
Not something anyone was expecting. But I think that was the 3 year old way of saying that he was a big brother before Sam. Of insisting that Noah counted too.
Noah is always a part of our family. You may not be able to see him, but he is with us, in our thoughts and our hearts always.
What do I want to get out of this month?
1) I want people to recognize that I have 3 boys, not 2.
2) I want to spend this difficult month remembering and celebrating Noah.
3) I want to share him with the world and help other families going through loss.
With Owen, Noah, and Sam we got the joy of telling friends and family that I was pregnant. It is such a happy thing. You are excited, they are excited for you. It feels like the first real celebration in that baby’s life.
In April of last year, I had my first IUI. Two weeks later, I took a test. It said Pregnant. I quickly sent a picture of it to two close friends, and called Dan to tell him the amazing news. That night, I got to see my friends at a potluck. They were so excited, and we were all so happy.
The next day, I got the call that my blood test numbers were not what they should be, and it didn’t look good. Just like that the celebrating was done. It was another week before we lost Baby M. We never got to see him, we barely knew he was there. But he brought us so much happiness, even if it was just for one day.
Last year I shared the books that we read with our Sunshine Owen to help explain the death of his brother.
This year I wanted to share the book we have for my Rainbow Sam. We have the book “Someone Came Before You” it is the companion to “We were going to have a baby, but we had an angel instead“. It helps explain the loss of a baby before the one you are reading to. Sam doesn’t understand yet, but someday he will, and this book will help.
I can’t get my picture to upload. You can check out my FB for it if you want.
There are a lot of “what not to say” lists. And I think I’ve heard them all and then some. People don’t know what to say. I think the best advice I can give is to validate their grief. One of my favorite loss quotes is “It hurts because it matters.”
A month after Noah was born I had two friends tell me exactly the same thing, almost word for word. It still sticks out in my mind as the single best thing anyone said. They said “You are my family, so he is my family. And I am so sad that I didn’t get to meet him.” That one thing said so much. It allowed space for my grief. It said that Noah, that his life, that he as a person mattered.
At a time when so many people said nothing, never mentioned his name, never included him in a count of my children. Their grandchildren, nephews, what have you. They said he mattered. And that they were grieving with me. And isn’t that what empathy is?