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.

Edited

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.

Advertisements

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.”

edited

How do you help a grieving friend?

I just don’t know. Everyone is different.

What I do know is that my friends and family were and are amazing.

No one knows what a friend will need in deep grief. Each day is a mystery, even to the grieving. There is no solace to be had in the words of others. Solace is something only found by the one who is grieving, and often it is fleeting. But, friends can sit and listen. It has been in those times, when people sat and listened to my thoughts, that I have been able to come to understand the whirlwind of emotions I have been feeling. With that understanding have I been able to know some peace.

In the early days of my grief, my friends would come and sit with me. They would wait for me to speak. They would weep with me.

In the stillness, their hearts seemed to say,

“My world has stopped spinning with yours.”

 

Isn’t it curious how the world stops spinning with the birth of your child and also with the death of your child? I wish I didn’t know the latter.

My friends would ask what they could do for me.

Their offers were genuine. Their offers were appreciated. They understood that their actions couldn’t fix what had happened, but their actions could lessen the load I was bearing by taking some of my responsibilities. They gave me time to grieve, and that was an immeasurable gift. I knew they would not have been offended if I had turned away help, for they told me it was not about them…it was about my family and me. I was so broken, and for the first time in my life, I knew it was OK to lean on others for support, with no expectation of reciprocation.

In the early days, normal things seemed impossible to do.

The meals brought to us ensured my family wouldn’t starve while I felt detached from my body and all I had known. I greatly appreciated those who shopped for the items we needed because I didn’t think I could make it through a store without breaking down, and I felt as though everyone would stare at me wondering, “What’s her problem?” even if I wasn’t crying. It was also difficult for me to go to a store where my last memory was of him there with me. It is so painful to step into a room and see your baby everywhere, and nowhere all at once.

My children’s pediatrician would call me every other day.

She would say, “I want to ask how you’re doing, but I know the answer, and I can’t even imagine. What can I do for you?” I appreciated her heartfelt question and how she rejected the trite inquiry of my feelings. Even today, when the receptionist called to confirm my daughter’s well check visit, he asked, “Is there anything we can do for you today?” because they know our first appointment back to the doctor will be difficult.

As time passes…

Even though words cannot fix the tragedy, every time someone shares his or her compassion, my shattered heart heals a little, and I know I am not alone in my sadness.  Now that my little man has been gone from my life for three and a half months, I so appreciate it when people talk about him, when they tell me they are still thinking of me. I know it is still early, but I never want him to be forgotten. I love talking about him. I may cry, but I’m not upset to be crying when I talk about him.

I hope that in the future people will continue to be comfortable with my grief, for it will last a lifetime.

How could it not?

It hurts to be separated from one so deeply loved.

IMG_2020