I Remember…

I remember the day I found out we were expecting Silas, and the overwhelming joy and gratitude I felt after such a long journey to get him.

I remember feeling grateful for morning sickness because my baby was growing each day.

I remember worrying that everything would be ok because I was already so in love with our baby and couldn’t fathom losing him.

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I remember how easy it was to change my diet due to gestational diabetes because his health was my number one concern.

I remember praying for his health and safety.

I remember how quickly he came into our lives with a 3.5 hour labor and how I worried I would deliver him in the car on our way to the hospital.  We made it…20 minutes before he was born!

I remember asking if he was ok because he didn’t cry right away, and the relief I felt when he did fill up his lungs so he could announce his arrival.

I remember holding him and thinking, “I waited SO LONG for you.”

I remember the fear when the doctor came to tell us he was in the NICU.  I barely knew him, but couldn’t bear to lose him.

I remember the gratitude when they assured me he’d be ok and how my heart broke for the parents of the other babies in the NICU who had such a long road ahead.

I remember watching Lily and Milo examine their brother with such wonder and amazement.  They, also, immediately fell in love with him.

Meeting Silas

I remember bringing him home.

I remember loving being a mom of three.

Three

I remember breastfeeding my baby.

I remember being glad to have the opportunity to change his diapers.

I remember the way it felt to hold him: in my arms, against my heart, with his head against my cheek.

Snuggles with Silas

I remember how my heart would break when he cried.

And how he calmed when I sang “Close to You” to him.

I remember the day my world stopped spinning.

I flashback to the hallway in the doctor’s office.

I remember praying for God to save his life.  Begging, pleading to keep him there with me.  Wanting to bargain with God for his life, knowing I had absolutely nothing to offer in return that would be worthy of my child’s life.

I remember the fear.

I remember the update: that he was not breathing on his own and his heart had stopped beating.

I remember wailing from the deepest, darkest part of my soul.

I remember praying even harder.

I remember the painful truth that I was not in control.

I remember the doctor’s red, tear-filled eyes as she knelt before me and told me the worst words I’ve ever heard.

I remember kissing my baby, crying, “My baby, my baby, my baby…please come back to me,” as I rocked him back and forth.  I think I rocked him because it hurt too much to sit still.

I remember heaven feeling so very close and knew I would be there with him one day.

I remember wondering how my heart could still be beating when I felt like I was dying.

I remember my children holding their brother.  Lily’s red eyes, devastated, her lower lip, quivering.  Milo, touching Silas’ ear, telling us he moved because he could not understand that Silas was gone when he was right there..

I remember my husband, my rock, holding our baby, needing a moment with just him.

I remember sinking to the floor because I could not stand.

I remember God catching every piece of my shattered heart.

I remember asking, “Why?” I am still waiting for an answer…but am not expecting one this side of heaven.

I remember feeling as if I were walking on unsteady ground as we left the doctor’s office without our baby.

I remember looking at my husband as we drove away in our truck, telling him we have to stay together forever in spite of this, and how he looked at my like I was crazy to think this could pull us apart.  I remember thinking he must really love me.

I remember looking up at the sky asking, “Where did you go?”

I remember dreading going home because it was no longer complete.

I remember walking into our house, seeing him everywhere.  Sitting on the couch, staring straight ahead, tears endlessly falling from my eyes, feeling the weight of him in my arms.

I remember Milo waking the next morning and asking me, “Mommy, where’s your baby?”

I remember explaining death to my children. How Silas wasn’t here anymore because his spirit, the part of him that makes up how he feels and what he likes and loves, left his body because his heart couldn’t beat anymore.

I remember feeling like a zombie, like a stranger in this world.  When did the world become such a cruel place?

I remember the nausea that accompanied the grief.

I remember seeing all of his clothes, his bouncy seat, his diaper bag…all of them rendered meaningless for the future. I hated to see them. I hated to pack them away.

I remember waking from the flashback nightmares to see his empty co-sleeper by our bed…my nightmare was real.

I remember wrapping myself in his afghan.

I remember the rush of help and support by acquaintances, friends, and family, and the gratitude I felt.  I will never forget those kindnesses then and the ones who still extend that kindness today, two years later.

I remember being offered so many hugs, crying on shoulders, being held up by those who offered comfort.

I remember what felt surreal: donating his heart valves, picking out his grave-site, planning his funeral, burying my baby.

Funeral

I remember and cherish the gifts people gave to us in remembrance of his life.

Silas' Pocket Quilt

I remember the unfairness…it still feels so unfair.

I remember the comfort people give to me when they speak of Silas…whether it be a memory of his life, or the aftermath of his death.

I remember the isolation of loss…even in a room full of people. And I remember the friends who reached out to let me know I was not alone.

I remember every mother who came to me to say that the trials and frustrations of motherhood melted away when she thought of Silas and me and how everything can change in the blink of an eye.

I am forever affected by the new perspective Silas has brought to my life.

I remember watching my children grieve, and grieve with them still today.

His death created a dividing line in my life: Before he died. After he died. All memories fall on either side of that line.

I remember hurting every single moment and how long and painful the healing process is.

But, when these things overwhelm me, I remember why it hurts so much…I remember the love. The love that makes this loss so cruel–that love is the beautiful part of life. And it is worth the cruelty, even though it is a wound that will never heal in this lifetime.

Fear

As my friend and I were talking about how we often fear for the health and safety of our children, I told her that after losing Silas, I was terrified that a normal, ordinary moment would turn into the worst moment of my life…again.  Now, I could usually talk myself through these fears and differentiate between which were rational and which were irrational.  But, the logical approach still couldn’t ease my fears because we lost Silas out of nowhere, unexpectedly, in a controlled medical environment with all the equipment needed to stabilize his life.

I knew trusting in God was the answer.  I tried.  I didn’t want to hand everything over to Him, think I could block out my fears and become ignorant to the situations that need attention and quick action should one happen to us.  But, the hyper-vigilance the fear created was exhausting and I didn’t have the stamina to stand guard every moment of every day.  I was in constant “fight or flight” mode and no one’s nervous system should be taxed like that.

Finally, I asked God to give me peace in the moments that were fine, but to allow me to know with absolute certainty when something was a true emergency.  I started to be able to trust and hand over the fear knowing that He would help me in those times.

So often, I wonder what I would’ve done if we’d been at home when Silas slipped away.  Would I have had him in my arms like I did at the doctor’s office that day, or would I have looked at him in his bouncy seat and seen my worst fear?  Would I have been helping one of my other children and been unaware that he was leaving us?  When would I have known it was necessary to call 911, because, when I handed him to our doctor that day, he was still breathing, but something just didn’t feel right.  I didn’t know he was dying, and that  alone causes me fear of possible emergency situations.

For months and months I wished I had taken Silas out to the doctor just moments sooner, thinking I had dropped the ball, that I had missed the window of time in which he could have been saved.  I felt like I had failed him because I lack medical training.  Tonight, as I was thinking back on these thoughts, I wished that before that day, I had known to ask God to help me to recognize a true emergency.

But then, I felt a peaceful reassurance as He said to my heart:

But you did recognize and know something wasn’t right.  Not only did I show you that, but I placed you in the doctor’s office that day.  

I have always felt as though God held us in the palm of His hand and protected us by placing us in the office that day.  Many friends have said we couldn’t have been in a better place or in more capable hands at that time and that they were so grateful we were there that day.  Being there allowed us to have every reassurance that everything that could’ve been done for Silas was done.  It assuaged a small piece of the unfounded guilt I felt.  I knew that Silas had been taken home by his Heavenly Father.  I just didn’t know why.

Tonight, I saw that providence had not only placed us in the doctor’s care that day, but that God was also answering a prayer that I would ask of Him in the future, for He helped me recognize the need for help while providing that help for us.

I still fear for the lives of my children.  I constantly have to hand that fear back over to God.  But, my trust in God is growing…


Silas in the NICU

A Grieving Mother’s Perspective

We all have bad days.  I did before losing Silas.  I still do after losing him.  However, my perspective has forever changed since losing Silas.

The things that triggered my bad days before are still frustrating, but there is a generous dose of thankfulness because I get to face those trials with my husband and two of our children.

I have avoided writing on this subject because it may seem critical of others and their complaints or concerns.  I had many of the same gripes before our loss.  I looked at how hard my life seemed in comparison to the lives of my friends and wished we could have better financial stability in the midst of union layoffs, that we could have my mother-in-law here to help watch the kids for appointments I had as she was so eager to do before she passed away, that my children be better nappers like my friends’ kids were, or that my husband would cook dinner once in a while or even initiate eating out so I could take a break from the mundane.

Social media can be incredibly helpful in times of grief because so many people can reach out to you and be present with you in your grief by offering words of compassion and words of encouragement.  However, as a grieving parent, there are many challenges the social media world presents.  It is often used as a platform for venting about the frustrations one faces.  There are the posts seeking attention through complaints and the posts seeking martyrdom status.  I suppose one could label my posts as ones authored by a martyr.

My biggest complaint with the venting posts is the lack of reflection.  Sure, vent about it, say it out loud, get it off your chest.  But, let that come full circle and see how blessed you are, even in those struggles.

Before I lost Silas, when my then three year old would throw a fit, I would feel defeated in my parenting skills and I would want to complain, thinking my child was the only one ever to be born with a thick skull and a healthy dose of stubbornness.  Hardly, I know!  I was emotionally and physically drained at the end of every day and I felt like the most ineffective parent in the world.  I was sick of the temper tantrum and the constant redirections.  Would he ever get it?  Now, when I face moments like those, frustrated to the gills, threatening yet another consequence, my heart softens and I think, “I am so grateful I get to do this for you…that I get the opportunity to help you grow and learn.”  And I thank God.  For the hard times!  Something I never really did with much sincerity before my perspective shifted.

So much of the time, we thank God for the blessings He has given us, and it is not until we come through the storms in life that we can finally see how He has blessed us even when we felt so alone.  I’m so grateful that I now see the blessings He has given me right in the middle of the “parenting storm.”

Finding the right perspective has always been a huge key for me throughout my life.  I remember being pregnant with Lily, who was due in September, and thinking it was so incredibly hot!  The summer heat zapped what little energy I had in the third trimester.  But, I would think of my grandmothers who were pregnant all summer with some of their children and marvel that they could survive without the luxury of air-conditioning.  Silly, I know, but it would give me the fortitude to power through.  I also realize there are so many women who would gladly endure any pregnancy discomfort just to be blessed with a child.  I felt that way when waiting and waiting for Silas to join our family.

God blessed me with the most beautiful perspective when I had Silas.  We tried for nearly a year to conceive him.  I began to think it would never happen.  I so desired another child to add to our family.  When we finally found out we were being blessed with another child, I was so incredibly grateful.  Those long months of trying and disappointment really made me consider that we might only have two children instead of the four we had planned.  My perspective caused me to love my third child like he was the last child I would ever have.  I sure hope he isn’t the last child we add to our family.

When Silas was born and in the NICU, the nurses offered to feed him so I could get some rest, but I always declined.  I never wanted to relinquish any of the time I had with him.  I knew I was in for long, sleepless nights…and because of the NICU schedule, they were even longer and more sleepless than with my other two.  But, I was so grateful to get to do all of those things for him.  I didn’t feel the haze of new motherhood like before because I was so incredibly aware of the gift I’d been given and I wanted to soak up every single moment with my baby boy.  Diaper changes were an honor.  My husband didn’t even get the chance to change one for a few weeks!

Silas

For months, I had friends and mothers come to me and tell me of how their perspectives had changed since our loss.  One friend told me she often thought of me as she was up at night feeding her little boy.  While it hurt because I was the one with empty arms at night, I loved hearing of how Silas was continuing to bless others by showing them where the true importance in life lies.  I know many are still affected by his death, but as time moves on and the shock of losing him isn’t as fresh, people fall back into their old routines and the same old problems move to the forefront again.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, when things are difficult, take a deep breath, place your feet in my shoes and look through my eyes when your teething baby has kept you up all night.  I wish I would’ve had that chance.  Instead, for months, I was plagued with the nightmare of losing my baby. Look through my heart when you announce you are expecting again.  Before losing Silas, and even after my miscarriage, I felt pregnancy announcements could only bring joy.  Now, they are a reminder of something I desire so badly, yet have been denied so far this last year.  They also bring back the hurt of waiting so long for Silas, yet losing him so quickly and it causes me to wonder why some are so easily blessed while I feel so forgotten in the midst of this cruel storm.

When my children want to watch the same movie over again for the 100th time, I roll my eyes, but then I wonder, what would Silas love to watch over and over?

When my mountain of laundry seems so big, I wish it were bigger.

When I vacuum and sweep, I wish it could be because I was making sure my toddler wouldn’t eat what might lying on the floor.

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A lot of the seemingly insignificant things become very significant when you don’t get the chance to realize them.

A lot of the frustrations in life melt away when you think you may not have this moment again.

Perspective.

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Blessed By Silas Winston Rondomanski

One year ago, August 17th, we said goodbye to our son for the second and final time.

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Our friends and family surrounded us as we faced the second hardest day of our life.  The outpouring of love and support given to our family at this time was truly amazing, and I am forever grateful.  I am grateful that we were not the only ones standing there brokenhearted.  My heart was touched by the love shown for Silas and for us.  We were not alone in our grief, and we still aren’t.

I still don’t understand why one so precious had to leave so quickly, so suddenly, but I do know this:  The hearts that shattered the day he died bonded the broken pieces together in love and sorrow for our family.  People are capable of great love and compassion in times of tragedy, and it is one way in which beauty can rise from the ashes.

In the days leading up to his funeral, God brought to mind the blessings Silas had brought to my life.  I couldn’t believe I could see the good in the midst of intense grief.  Each blessing proved to me that the pain of losing him was worth the blessing of having him, and my love for Silas grew even more.

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As our friends and family came through the visitation line during the hour before Silas’ funeral, I could see the pain and grief in their eyes and in their tears.  They tried to keep their tears at bay for my sake, but how can you when you see a mother and father standing there without their child?  They were absolutely devastated for us.  I just had to share why we were so blessed to be Silas’ parents.  Their tears gave me the courage to stand and speak for my baby. Below is the video of my words for my baby boy.

 

New life and new life in heaven

In the days approaching the anniversary of the day I wish had never happened, I realized that even though I wish with all my heart that Silas were here with us, a happy 13 month old boy, I have grown accustomed to carrying him in my heart. My arms still ache, but my heart is forever overflowing with love.

i carry your heart with me

I began journaling after I lost Silas. It helped me make sense of the sea of emotions I was discovering. I had never know such devastating loss before. I’ve chosen to share the following journal entry from last September because I often wonder what heaven is like. That is where my future with my son is. We are all moving forward in this life, but some of us are also moving toward reuniting with those who left us too soon, or those we never got to meet. Death has lost its sting. I have begun to realize my future does hold having Silas again. Lily always reminds us, too, that we will be with the baby we never got to meet, as well.

 

September 4, 2013

When they told me my baby’s heart had stopped beating, I felt so much pain. It was like I was giving birth to him all over again. My heart and soul were torn from my whole being. My body tensed and wrenched just as it did in labor. The intensity was incomprehensible. I could hardly breathe.

As I reflected on this moment, I wondered why his passing from this life was so similar to his coming into this life. I began to think there was a deeper complexity to God’s plan when Eve sinned and God said woman would suffer during childbirth.

Natural childbirth is excruciatingly painful. That pain faded quickly as I heard my baby cry and as he was placed in my arms. Joy replaced pain as he entered my life. When he left my life, intense pain filled my body. But, I wonder if it was followed with joy in heaven as he entered his new life.

Silas, six weeks old

This is the last photograph I took of Silas. He was exactly six weeks old here, and we lost him two days later.

 

You can read the story of how we lost our little man here.

***I purchased the above necklace from StampedbyDesign to remind me I always carry Silas in my heart. 

Finding Joy In June

So many emotions have hit me in the days leading up to Silas’ birthday, June 25th. In the first weeks of June, I felt so much joy, remembering the season of last year and the excitement his anticipated arrival was bringing. I thought June would be so terribly hard, but was surprised to feel that the good was in the forefront…that the beautiful memories were so vibrant.

But, those memories were muddled because as a mother approaches her child’s first birthday, she usually looks at him, an almost one year old, and thinks, where did the time go? How can you be so big already? Was it really a whole year ago?

I have no comparisons to make with last year. My son is not here. But, even amidst the pain the separation brings, there is no denying the fact that he brought me great joy.

As I reflected on last year, I thought of how innocent I was in my joy. Would I have ever wanted to know the way it all would go?

No. Absolutely not.

I loved him wholly and completely every minute, never wishing a second away, for I knew it would pass in the blink of an eye. I would never trade that pure, innocent love for knowledge that, while it may have eased some of the trauma, would have caused those days to be bittersweet and fearful. I have no regrets in how we spent our time with Silas, and that is why we didn’t need to know.

Last year, I never could have dreamed we would be standing here today without our little Silas in our arms.

In the last few days, the heartache has been creeping in on the joy. I easily cry at the thought of him. I feel like all the months of healing are unraveling, but I’m sure this is normal…just a path to another layer of healing that will come with the passing of the storm of surviving his birthday without him.

I’m in uncharted territory, and feel very vulnerable because of the emotions that have been flooding my soul. How am I supposed to survive Silas’ birthday without him?

How is a mother supposed to feel as her son’s birthday approaches and he’s not here?

I feel devastated that my baby is not here.

I feel haunted by what could have been and what never will be.

I feel heartache because so much time has passed since I last held him.

I feel numb because I’m afraid of the hurt.

I feel confused because this is not the way it’s supposed to be.

I feel broken because my dreams for him have been torn away, but yet, there are still some I want to fulfill in his honor.

Most of all:
I feel joy because he blessed my life.
I feel love that reaches across the distance.

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The Day God Gave Me More Than I Could Handle

The old adage “God will never give you more than you can handle” is 100% false.  It needs revision.  I would change it to say, “When God gives you more than you can handle, He will not leave you alone, for He will be your guide and your strength.”

The day God gave me more than I could handle was the day my son, Silas, died.

     Funeral collagePhoto Credit: Joanie Glandon

We were at a routine doctor’s appointment on Thursday, August 8, 2013. He was six-weeks old and our doctor was keeping close tabs on him because of his breastmilk jaundice, which had almost completely healed that day. He was also struggling to gain weight because of acid reflux and we were going to make a plan to help him, but we never got that far.

Silas cried that day, and when he calmed, I tried to feed him like the doctor had asked, but he didn’t respond to latch on, nor did he try to turn away like he often did when he didn’t want to eat. I couldn’t tell if he’d tired himself from crying or if something was wrong. He was still breathing, but I couldn’t rouse him from his lethargic state. I took him out to the doctor thinking that later we’d all be laughing at my overly cautious concern, but later, there were only tears.

For more of what happened from then on, visit my post at That Day: The Worst Day of My Life. My intention today is not to walk back through that heart-wrenching memory, but rather to share how I survived something I never thought I could.

When I took my still son in my arms, I thought I could physically disintegrate from the pain that filled my whole being. I wailed with only one tear rolling down my cheek. I shattered into a million pieces, at the very least.

I prayed for God to allow me leave Silas in peace for my anguish was too much to bear and I needed to leave my son with all the love I could give him.

“In my distress I called to The Lord; I called out to my God. From His temple He heard my voice; my cry came to his ears.”
2 Samuel 22:7

God answered one of my prayers that day. In the moments that followed, my wailing calmed, and the tears began to flow unceasingly as I was allowed to know and understand that Silas was okay and he was at peace. Grief and sorrow remained in my heart, but there was peace.

My heart and mind are often brought back to those moments in the doctor’s office. In my reflections of that day, I have realized that when my heart shattered that day, God’s hand caught every single piece of my broken heart.

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters.”
2 Samuel 22:17

God does give us more than we can handle, but we are not alone, for He holds us in His loving hand and gives us strength when we have none.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10

In the days following my son’s death, the Lord did not leave me. He brought to mind so many blessings which had been given to me in my time with Silas. The blessings were so special and so beautiful that I couldn’t help but give thanks that Silas was given to me, if only for a little time, and that eased a portion of my grief.

“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”
1 Peter 1:6

A few months ago, I wrote about moving forward in this life, and how I know we are not immune to future tragedy. Our family hopes to be blessed with another child to love, but I always seem to couple that prayer with the disclaimer that I want to be able to keep my child for my whole life.

Even though I have opened my heart to the opportunity of loving more children in our family, I have realized that I often subconsciously try to direct God in how He can bless my life. I have placed limitations on Him because I want to protect my heart from more grief and sorrow, but having Silas has taught me that the blessings He gives us are worth the pain and sorrow caused when they are taken away.

I will not tell God what I can and cannot handle because I could miss out on the sweetest blessings. The reason I can do this is because I can trust God to be there when I am given more than I can handle.

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“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Psalm 34:18

 

Photo Credits: Joanie Glandon