Christmas will be different this year…

…for we expected to share it with Silas.

I guess I feel detached. Especially in this holiday season. We are a happy family, even in the midst of our sorrow, but our hearts are raw because we are missing someone. The holidays are a time for drawing close to those you cherish most, and I cannot do that with the one for whom my heart aches.

I feel defeated in this season of love and joy. The time of year in which even Scrooge can find happiness, I am left wanting, aching, and feeling incomplete. I am not in the joyful part of my journey yet. I feel it will come with time. Right now is my season of mourning for what has been lost, and also my season of hope for the future. All of the holiday merriment that currently seems to envelop every aspect of our lives is overwhelming. I feel as though I will be viewed as one who takes the good times for granted. I am not. I am just trying to figure out how to enjoy the love and good tidings in the midst of my heartache. This year I will slow down and embrace all of these feelings and allow my heart to grieve and heal.

Last year was full of the expectation of the happiness Silas would bring to our lives.  I wish I were back in those happy moments.  We announced Silas’ upcoming arrival last Christmas:

Christmas stockingsIMG_0594I look back at this photo from 2012 and feel it is more complete than a photo from this year will ever be for even though you cannot see Silas, he is there, our beating hearts so close together.

This year and every year after, I carry him in my heart.

The sparkle and glitter are different this year. There is no anticipation. There is no excitement. My heart is searching, exactly for what, I do not know. I look up and see the dark blue sky with twinkling stars, feel the cold, fresh air, smell the fireplaces warming loving homes, and there is a halo of loving reverence as I hold dear in my heart loved ones on earth and loved ones in heaven.

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That day: The worst day of my life.

I started writing this five weeks after my Silas left my arms. I abandoned it only partially finished. When I thought I could finally record what happened that day, I realized I couldn’t go back there in such depth because I was finally at a point in which the tragic events were not running through my head continuously like a movie reel repeating the same scene over and over.

In dealing with the lingering trauma and shock of our sudden loss, I have come back to finish our story of this day. I feel it is necessary since the span of time that creates the gap between the present and the memories causes it to feel so distant, and at times I am shocked when I realize this is my reality. We often think things too good to be true, but the opposite is also very real–this is too terrible to be true. I’ve been told this is very common with sudden loss.

I’m leaving this writing as it is, and you will see that the timeframe changes as I have written it in pieces, but even though it says five weeks ago, six weeks ago, four months ago, it is a writing of what happened on one specific date–August 8, 2013. This account is raw, and it leaves me feeling vulnerable, but I have found writing and sharing to be very cathartic on this journey through my grief.

The Worst Day of My Life

{Five weeks ago} 7:30pm, I sat in a catatonic like state with tears pouring down my face. Holding my hands out in front of me, I would wonder how it could possibly be true that my baby wasn’t actually there while I could see him so vividly in my mind. Devastation. I cried from the depths of my soul, “My baby — I just don’t understand.”

{Five weeks ago} my day started normally. We had a playdate with our friends. My friend brought breakfast and lunch stuff and busied herself in my kitchen while I got to snuggle my little boy. I am so grateful that I had Cheryl over that day because it gave me more time with Silas since she was attending to the kids’ needs. I remember stealing some precious moments just looking at his beautiful face and smiling back at him hoping he could see the love for him in my eyes. God knew this would comfort me.

{Five weeks ago} I loaded up my kids in the car and we went to Silas’ doctor’s appointment. He had lost a couple of ounces and was put on reflux meds and the doctor wanted to check him to make sure he was doing ok. She had been keeping close tabs on him since he had prolonged “breastmilk jaundice.” He was checked by the pediatrician and we were talking about how he’d turned a corner since his jaundice was almost gone. I told her that I thought the reflux meds were helping him because he nursed right after he had spit up, which was something he had been unable to do before that, I assume because the reflux caused him to burn with discomfort.

I also told her that I thought he was starting to nurse more since the jaundice sleepiness was waning. Next, we were going to talk about getting him to gain weight. She asked me to stay and nurse him so we could get an “after” weight to see how much milk he was getting. She turned off the lights and told me to get him undressed to keep him cooler and more awake to eat well. He had started fussing before she left the room and I told her that he had cried for about four minutes as if in pain during the night, and she said at six weeks of age colic can start to heighten.

He continued fussing and started crying in what I thought was a pain cry, just like the night before. I tried calming him, shushing him, walking with him, and I sang his favorite song “(They Long to Be) Close to You” by the Carpenters. He usually calmed when I sang it to him. I sang it a lot while I was pregnant, and I think he recognized it. But, it didn’t calm his crying. During those five minutes of crying, I had to scold Milo twice since he was flicking the light on and off and opening and closing the door and just bouncing back and forth like three year olds can do. I hate that I had to scold Milo during those last moments, but I did so in a rational way, and I was trying to set up a calmer environment for Silas’ sake, though it took a while to shake the guilt.

{Five weeks ago} my baby stopped crying and I tried to nurse him. He was doing that little breathing hiccup thing babies do after they cry hard. He didn’t attempt to nurse and he didn’t try to push away as he usually did when he didn’t want to eat. He started to feel oddly limp and cold. I held him out in front of me and watched his breathing. One of his eyes was wandering toward the outside and it seemed odd since he was usually inclined to go cross-eyed as most babies do.

I laid him on the table and examined him for odd behavior. “Silas, baby, are you ok?” Something wasn’t right to me, but he was breathing and I was so confused. I thought, if I’m crazy, I’m crazy, but I’m taking him out to the doctor. “Dr. Peterson, something’s not right…” She took him immediately. He was breathing when I handed him over to her. She started working on him and telling the nurses to get a pulse oxygen level on him. 60.

“Silas?” My voice broke with the fear that was filling my heart. I began preparing myself for the inevitable ambulance ride to the hospital. I told the secretary to call Christopher and get him up there right away and I ran back to my baby.

{Six weeks ago} I went back into the room, and touched Silas’ hand, “Silas, Mommy’s here.” The nurse is firmly patting his foot trying to get a response. Pulse oxygen level: 40.

My heart is sinking. This is not the way it’s supposed to be going. I start to feel weak. I lean against the wall for support and rake my hands through my hair and pull, just to try to stay conscious. The nurses bring a rolling chair to me and say, “I know you don’t think you need to sit down, but you do.” I don’t know when the Lee’s Summit paramedics arrived, nor when the Children’s Mercy Transport team arrived. I am told the LS paramedics were there within a few minutes of calling. I had no idea they were being called, but I did realize Children’s was.

I remember seeing the stretcher in the hallway. I’m sitting in the chair on the opposite side of the hallway. I’m waiting to sprint to the ambulance with my baby, but they’re not bringing him out yet. I hear Lily and Milo giggling with a nurse in the examination room in which we had been before I took Silas to Dr. Peterson. I’m relieved they are ok, but I realize I need someone there to take care of my kids so I can leave with Silas.

I look at my phone and see my friend, Tori, had texted me asking how Sy’s reflux appointment went. I write back, “Pray. He’s unresponsive. Put in on FB.” I try calling my mom. Can’t get through because she’s in training and not in the building. I call my sister Brittany and tell her to get Mom here ASAP. Christopher arrives around this time.

Dr. Peterson has let the emergency teams take over. They keep bringing some kind of medicine to him in the room. I hear one man say, “Silas.” I say, “My baby. Why are they saying his name? Is he ok?” The nurse tells me they are trying to elicit a response from him and saying his name can help. I try talking to him also, even though I’m outside the door. I just want him to know I’m there, even though I won’t let myself get in the way of the paramedics.

My heart is filling with dread. I know it’s taking too long. The secretary reminds me to breathe. My heart is sinking. I am shaking. I start to feel like I am underwater. I tell them if I pass out to not worry about me, it happens, and I’ll be ok. Don’t take your attention from him. They bring warm blankets from the office next door.

I tell them I need an update. I need to know how my baby is. I will never forget the scribe, a very tall man in his late 40s/early 50s. He looks at me and unemotionally says, “His heart has stopped beating and he’s not breathing on his own.”

I literally feel like I am having Silas all over again. My body wrenches as it did when I was laboring six weeks and two days prior to this day. The emotional pain is excruciating and incomprehensible all at once. I wail, “My baby, my baby, my baby.” The nurse reminds me to breathe because my wailing for my baby continues until it seems as though every breath of oxygen has been squeezed from my body.

I breathe deeply, consciously, and say, “I will get it together. I have to be strong for him.” I look up and beg God, “Please.” My heart is pleading for his life. Even though I don’t believe we should bargain, I think of something I can give God in exchange for Silas’ life. I can’t offer something that I may not be able to follow through with perfectly because this is too utterly important. I know I will fail my promise to God at some point. I have nothing to offer Him that is equal to my baby’s life. I have absolutely nothing. I know He knows this. I just say, “Please.”

Dr. Peterson comes out and kneels in front of me as I am sitting in the chair. I see the redness from tears in her eyes. She tells me he’s too sick. They’ve been working on him for 45 minutes. My mind registers this information. I know it’s been too long. He won’t be ok. I think I said, “Noooo.” I tell them I need to see my baby.

I recklessly rush into the room. The staff follows me with a chair in which I sit as they hand me my baby. They try to wrap him in a blanket for me, but I tell them no. I need my baby so close to me. I am wailing. I bring his head up to my cheek. He feels so cold. When I pull him close, he makes a gurgling sound. “He made a noise,” I say. My mind tells me it’s just the air they were pushing into his lungs and he is not coming back to me. I sit there wailing, “My baby, my baby, my baby,” with only one tear running down my cheek.

{Four months ago} My sister has since told me I said, “My baby. Come back to me.” I vaguely remember saying that. In that room I am holding him close, still wishing for a miracle, begging him to come back to me, kissing his head, while rocking back and forth because the pain is so intense. It hurts so badly.

I kick the examination table in front of me. I am in agony. I am inconsolable. I am distraught. This is not the kind of mother I am. I am a mother who always tries to soothe her children with a calm and peaceful presence. I know I am not scaring my baby in my anguish, but I pray, “Lord, let me leave my baby in peace,” for peaceful love is the center of my relationship with my son, for it is how we began, and only fitting that it is how we should depart.

And God gave me the desire of my heart. In the following moments, my wails lessened, and I was given an understanding and a knowledge that my baby was not there anymore and that he was at peace. In that moment, heaven felt so very real, so very close, and so very attainable. I picture Christopher’s mother rushing to fold him in her arms. Then the tears began endlessly falling from my eyes.

I tell Christopher I want my sister to come into the room next for I think she can handle being with me because she works in labor and delivery and witnesses loss from time to time. I look up from my baby cradled in my arms, tears streaming down my face, and see her red, bloodshot eyes, and I say, “My baby, I just don’t understand.” It’s as if my eyes are asking her “Why?” She shakes her head, “I don’t know.”

I ask if she wants to hold him and she nods her head. After Brittany gives him her final snuggles, he is back in my arms, and I ask her if she will ask our mom to come in. I don’t know if my mother can bear to come in to see him like this. My mother comes in and hugs Silas and me as I cradle him in my arms. I can barely look at her because I know her eyes mirror the same hurt and questions in my own.

I ask if the paramedics can remove the intubation tube and the IV line so the kids can come see him, but they cannot remove them because we have requested an autopsy. Christopher brings in Lily and Milo. I want them to see him because I know death is a mystery, especially to children. I am sitting on the exam table holding him, and Christopher lifts Lily to sit next to me and Milo next to her.

We ask them if they want to hold him. I will never forget looking into my daughter’s red, teary eyes and seeing her chin quiver as she nods her head and holds out her arms. We tell them that his heart is not beating and he is not breathing anymore because he got so sick, but we are questioning…what happened to our baby??

When Lily shifts him in her arms, Milo says, “Look, he’s moving.” We explain that Silas didn’t move, but Lily’s movement made it look like he moved. My heart shatters as Milo reaches out to wiggle Silas’ ear and says, “Look, Mommy. He’s moving.” He so wants him to be alive.

Me, too.

Milo holds his brother for the last time. Then Christopher asks to hold him and say goodbye to him. I hand him over, knowing it is the final time I will see him. As I move toward the door, I turn back around and place his the fingers of his right hand over my finger, wishing he could grasp my finger, and I kiss his tiny hand.

In my reflections of these moments, I know that when my heart shattered that day, the Lord caught every piece, and I accepted the comfort He offered. It was during the time in which I held my baby boy that I first felt God’s spirit with me presently, even though I’ve believed in Him my whole life. Before losing Silas, I did not think I had enough faith to survive losing a child. In the truest place of my broken, vulnerable heart, I knew God was there.

I can still see all of this in my mind. For weeks, it was on a constant reel in my mind, an unrelenting nightmare, leaving me tormented. As time has passed, the memory is not as intrusive, and I don’t see the whole event, only little snapshots at a time.

It hasn’t been on the forefront of my mind as often. But, this last week has been so difficult. Sometimes it seems as if it had to have been a dream, but I know it’s not. I think, did that really happen? My broken heart and empty arms tell me the answer. I have been told this is common for those who have suffered sudden losses.

Now I am realizing there is more to the healing of the tragedy of losing my son…haunting me is the emotional trauma that day has caused. The trauma and shock of my sudden loss of Silas seem incomprehensible at times. When a memory flashes in my mind and brings me back to my last moments with Silas, I am trying to take the time to figure out the emotions that are rising to the surface. It is very difficult, for these memories will come at times during which I am unable to stop and reflect.

I’m starting to push them aside, but I don’t want to bury these feelings. My mind tells me I need to reflect and understand the depth of the emotions in order to fully heal. On the opposite side, I don’t want to circle the trauma of that day in a way that will not allow me to move forward, but I don’t think that is happening.

Since the emotional shock has been so staggering lately, I thought sharing our trauma might help with my healing journey. There will be more to share as I continue to analyze the layers of emotions of the first days of his absence. Our psyches really do go into crisis mode, and going into shock protected me during that time, for the entire trauma would’ve been too much to handle in those moments, but now, I need to understand these feelings.

Time is a strange thing…The time that lapses stretches the space between the last time I held him and the present. As my life has moved forward, the routine of caring for my baby has been replaced with our new routines. Because of the time that has passed since the change in our routine, I no longer expect that I should be taking care of his needs, but rather, I wish he were here so I could be taking care of his needs.

The memories of my days with him seem to be a bittersweet reverie. With the passing of time, the excruciating memories are not as prevalent, but rather tender memories of Silas and how much I devoted my time and heart to him are forefront in my mind and heart. Thoughts of how he inspires me in my life are leading me daily, amidst my sadness and sorrow. But, through the passing days I often think, “My baby…come back to me.”

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