Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Baby It's Cold Outside - 12/12/12

Sweet Otis,

I miss you more than ever these wintery days, these cold nights.  We have our christmas tree up in the bedroom where your photograph normally sits, so tonight as I moved your photograph to a different place, I stopped, and looked closely.  I looked at your eyelashes, your eyebrows, your lips, your nose. The fuzz on your face.  Your pudgy perfect fingers.  I caressed the photograph, trying my damnedest yet again to cuddle you and not just your image. I stroked the photo, wishing it was your cheeks I was stroking instead. I remember the way my heart swelled with love the moment I saw you, Otis. It still sometimes catches me by surprise, how the wind can just be totally and completely taken out of my sails, in one brief blink of an eye like it was tonight.

My beautiful boy, I miss you so much. I love you forever and ever, to the moon and back.


Thursday, July 26, 2012


I look at Otis's picture as I lie here in bed, and I realize that Owen finally looks older than Otis.  For so long, because Otis was such a big, handsome baby with a full head of hair, he really looked the part of Owen's big brother, in every way.  I could look at the two of them, Owen lying there next to a photograph of Otis, and Otis still somehow would look older. Even though he only lived to be 36 hours old.  Even with Owen pushing 10 months, Otis still somehow looked older.  

But now, I look at Otis's picture, and he looks like a little baby.  A tiny, fragile, baby. A newborn. He never looked like a newborn to me, even the nurses remarked on it.  I even thought it was a bit of a gift, I got to really see what he looked like, he wasn't a generic newborn wrinkly squishy baby.  He was Otis.  A head full of hair.  A big 11 pound baby with chubby legs and long fingers. But now, I look at his pictures, and my god, (this sounds so obvious), he was so small.  A baby.

And Owen is no longer a little baby.  He is a strong, sturdy, BIG and healthy baby boy....just the other day I was buying puffs at the grocery store and saw that the container said "Organic Puffs for Toddlers" and I was like, "But where are the BABY puffs?" and then it hit me that the "toddler" puffs were the right ones.  That Owen is transitioning into "toddler."

It blows my mind.  He plays with toys marked "12M+"  He wears 18-24 month clothes.  When he was born, I looked at tags that said things like "12 months" or "1 year and up" and it seemed so very very very far off, and, in reality, I wasn't even sure we'd ever get there.  And now here we are.  And now, he sleeps in a room down the hall, in a crib, and when we returned from our trip to Wisconsin we decided we didn't want to reconnect the video/sound monitor, so now he sleeps without us even watching him.  I never thought I'd get to the place of security and comfort I have in his sticking around with us, and yet, here I am.

And at the same time, I panic about a lot of things.  Our friend broke his leg the other day in a freak accident.  He had to call out to his wife, and she had to find him in a remote corner of their property, and stay with him while she waited for the ambulance to arrive.  I asked her if she is able to maintain calm in those situations, or if she catastrophizes it. "Oh no, I pretty much can be totally in that mode of, 'this is just a break, we'll get to the hospital, it'll be ok," she told me. "I just didn't want the kids to come out and see us...."

Meanwhile, my dog hurt his back the other night and was whimpering and having trouble jumping up and wasn't begging for food (the number one sign that something is VERY WRONG with him.)  I made E take him to the emergency vet at 11pm.  I was certain it was cancer. Or that he had eaten rat poison.  That he wasn't going to come back home.

It's like there is no "in between."  I cannot imagine having to take Owen to the emergency room and not having it be some horrible life threatening catastrophe.  (I am pretty certain though, that at some point, we will have to go to an ER, and, please please please, let him come home alive.)  We have been blessed that he has not been sick since birth, with the exception of those 3 months of excruciating colic (but that's not "sick" per se) and one day of a fever (that went away as quickly as it showed up.)

E and I were talking tonight about a third baby (no I'm not pregnant).  About how scared he is, even in considering another pregnancy, another child.  That we got SO lucky with Owen.  He is strong, happy, and (finally, knock wood, please please please don't jinx it) sleeping peacefully (almost) through the night.  He's really a pretty easy baby these days.  But the worry.  Is there space in my heart, in my head, to accommodate the worry for another child?

I feel entirely confident in the ability of the heart to stretch to accommodate the ginormous amount of love that a child generates - time and time again.  I now know that my heart can stretch to infinity and beyond to hold the love I have for my Os.  And I know my heart could stretch to love another.  I would love for it to do so. But I don't know if my head could handle any more fear.  It's not like we are making any decisions or even serious discussions about any of this.  To be fair, we are leaving it up to fate, for the most part.  My body doesn't seem to have any interest in ovulating right now, so it's all pretty much a moot point anyhow.

. . .

I stare at Otis's photo. I lie here in bed.  His brother fast asleep down the hallway from here.  My two boys, my heart longing, stretching, bursting for them both.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Right Where I Am: Year Two: 20 months, 11 days, 4.5 hours

As I commented to Angie on FB when she posted about doing this project again, writing this "Right Where I Am" post feels incredibly daunting tonight.  I fear that it may rip me wide open.  (As I added in my comment, "maybe that's what needs to happen.")

20 months, 11 days, 4 and 1/2 hours since my boy left this world.

Most days, I still can't believe it.

I was recently thinking of getting a tattoo across my inner arm:  "He was here.  And then, he wasn't."

That is the refrain that echos through my mind on my dark days, in my dark moments.  It's this paradox. This riddle of sorts that my brains tries to puzzle out and solve.  How is it so, he was here, and then, he wasn't?

Now granted, there are far fewer of those exceptionally dark moments, or at least there is more space between them these days.  For a few reasons, I suppose.

The first reason, joy of joys, is my second born son, Owen.  The most beautiful 8 month old that I have ever known.  He fills my days with laughter, with smiles, with tears of joy, of gratitude, of fulfillment.  And he keeps me busy.  And the only bad part about that (well, other than the constant state of disarray of my personal hygiene and home) is that it often keeps me from Otis.

My cousin (not technically my cousin, but close enough for lack of a better term, a family friend that I've known since I was a child and cousin to my cousins) came over yesterday.  Her son Henry died and was born just before Owen came into the world in September 2011.  We were talking, and I mentioned how it's hard that I can't tend to my grief in quite the same way that I used to.  I used to keep fresh flowers on Otis's table, next to his photograph, and also on the dresser by his ashes.  I kept them constantly refreshed.  I planted so much last year, rosebushes, daffodils, tulips, trees - and tended to them constantly.  It was my way of mothering my firstborn son.  And now, the rosebushes need to be trimmed.  The daffodils and tulips came up again this year, but amidst many weeds they were hard to see.  Our favorite Otis tree needs to be repotted or put in the ground, but we haven't been able to find time to get to it.

I miss having the time to light candles, to cry uncontrollably for as long as I need to, to scream in the shower, to cut flowers, to stare at his photographs.  I miss the tenderness that E and I shared in our grief.

Some days it feels like I'm running from my grief again.  That if I stopped to actually touch it, think about it, feel it - I would collapse under the enormity of it.

Having Owen here has brought an entirely new dimension to my understanding of what we lost when Otis died.  It makes it so incredibly much harder.  Every smile, every giggle, every milestone that Owen meets is one that we missed from Otis.  Every "first" is a first that we should have done with Otis.  The way my heart continues to stretch and grow in the enormity of love I feel for Owen - it kills me that I don't get to have that same stretch for Otis.  I wrote it a while back - Owen grows and surprises and is ever changing.  As is my love for him.  Otis is frozen in time.  Forever a newborn.  Forever in that striped jammie set the hospital put him in.  Forever with his head full of hair combed just so.  With his arm draped across his body just so.  The photographs have now almost become more real than he ever was.  My love for him is still fierce, still all encompassing, and, sure, it grows and changes and evolves - but HE doesn't.  And this kills me.

I had a nightmare last night.  I lost Owen.  He didn't die - I actually LOST him.  Like, misplaced him.  I could hear him crying, I knew he needed me, I knew someone was taking him, but I couldn't find where or who.  I was screaming for him.  It was terrifying.  I don't overtly fear his death anymore, but clearly my subconscious does.

Reading babyloss blogs and Glow the last few nights has really put a hole in my heart in a way that it didn't used to do.  All these new names, all these stories that seem to keep repeating themselves, with a new cast of characters - it's devastating.  Too much for me to stomach right now.

So it's interesting.  In many ways I would say OF COURSE I am "better" here at 20 months than I was last year at 8 months.  My day to day operations do not shout out "MY SON DIED!" (Though I do find ways to weave it into almost every conversation I have with the moms I have met since Owen's birth, and I usually do it rather early in our meetings, as well.  I must share him, you must know him.)  I work part time, I raise Owen, I do not cry daily, probably not even weekly, I laugh, I dance, I giggle, I function.

But, this idea that "of course" I'm better, I can't say it with much conviction.  Last year at this time I was pregnant, full of hope and dreams (and a healthy shot of fear, too, sure) for this new little boy that was going to grace our world just a week after his big brother's first birthday.  I think I deluded myself into thinking (even though I logically knew otherwise and had also heard from enough blms on "the other side of the rainbow" that it wasn't going to magically make it all better) that somehow having a living baby to bring home would change it significantly.

And it has, yes.  And it hasn't.

It's like my life has split yet again.  There is now the me that operates as Owen's mama - full of love, fierce protective instincts, joy, even, dare I say it, a sense of peace.  And then there is the me that is hidden away in a drawer, along with a lock of the finest, most lush, beautiful brown baby hair that I will ever touch.  In a box, tied with a bow, along with prints of handprints and footprints that are so big you wouldn't believe they came from a newborn.  (I was unable to take Owen's hand and footprints when he was born because doing so reminded me too much of Otis.  It felt like a betrayal to take them of my living, breathing baby - when that is all Otis could give me, and Owen will be giving me mementos for (hopefully) many many many years to come.)  I have yet to be able to reconcile these two mamas into one.  Then again, Owen has just started sleeping at night and allowing me some time to myself before I go to bed, so perhaps as I settle into that time I may begin to reconnect with the parts of me that have been hidden for the eight months that Owen has been here.

I miss him.  I wish he were here.

Nothing has changed.  Everything has changed.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mother's Day

To all of you, I wish you peace this coming Mother's Day.

I miss being more active in the babyloss community, I hate that my browser doesn't support my commenting on more blogs. I've figured out that I can only comment when the comments are in a new window. If it's the same window as the blog post, it won't let me comment.  I don't know why. I don't even know if any of you still read along here (save for those of you who comment) but I think of you all regularly.  Lots of babies being born right now, more coming soon...you are all in my thoughts so often.  Whether you realize it or not, you are still such a lifeline - keeping me sane as I navigate the confusing world of parenting two babies but only watching one grow.

Monday, April 16, 2012

rainbow 4.16.12

As I sit here typing, a rainbow falls across the keyboard - coming from the light beaming through the prism that hangs in our window.

As I sit here typing, my beautiful rainbow boy is desperately trying to get himself to sleep in his crib for his morning nap. (This is HARD.  Sleep training SUCKS, no matter how gentle the methods are, as our pediatrician said, "It kind of all comes down to some crying, unfortunately.")

As I sit here typing, so many of you, my dearest BLM friend,s are awaiting the births of your rainbow babies, and I wait almost as impatiently as all of you, desperate to meet these oh-so-wanted, oh-so-loved little brothers and sisters.

I listened to a podcast with Anne Lamott the other day as Owen and I were out walking.  She wrote Operating Instructions (a must-read for all new mothers, I think) and has a new book out, Some Assembly Required (which I have yet to read).  She is one of my favorite authors and I loved so much of what she had to say about parenting and, now, grandparenting.  I highly recommend you go check out the podcast link and listen to it if you have a moment.  It's not directly related to the grief aspects of parenting after loss but I still found there to be many nuggets of wisdom in there.  It also inspired me to want to write more to Owen (Operating Instructions was written as a journal to her son, and he calls it "the greatest gift he's received") I haven't done a decent job of documenting the first half of his first year of life, and it's passing so quickly and I can barely remember that he hasn't always been just as he is today.

For example, my mom was over yesterday, and remarked on how he was passing a toy so adeptly from hand to hand (and pausing to put it in his mouth, of course).  "Well, of course," was my response (or something of that sort...) And she reminded me that it was not that long ago that he could barely hold on to a toy.  It seems like a vague and distant memory.

Similarly, the days of colic and crying fussy baby seem like such a vague and distant memory.  We are just now getting a handle on the sleep issues, yes, but the inexplicable crying has long gone.  The fussy no matter what we do has long gone.  He is such a cheerful little guy, it's a little confusing to remember that he hasn't always been that way.

So I'm going to attempt a project of sorts, writing him a note at least once a week (start small, I vote) and track what he's doing, loving, working on during that week.  Tell him what we did, blah blah blah.

I can't decide if I want to post these letters here or not.  It's easy, and it's a familiar way for me to write.  But at the same time, I kind of want to keep them all as separate word documents on my hard drive, and I'm just not efficient or organized enough to type it in word and then come to blogger and repost it. (I know that sounds crazy lazy, but for some reason typing on a word document feels quite different than typing into the blogger text box.)  And of course, this is Otis's space, first and foremost.

But there is no delineation anymore, really.  Otis's space, Owen's space.  They both fill my heart.  They both fill our home.  They are incredibly separate, my two sons, and yet they are so intertwined I can't untangle them.  Owen is now growing into sizes of clothing that we never even had for Otis.  New purchases, new gifts, no more hand-me-downs from his big brother.  The playthings in our home are no longer the ones we planned to use with Otis, as Owen has outgrown so many of them.  Even his infant seat is likely not going to be used much longer.  We are talking about moving Owen's crib out of our bedroom and into his own room, which requires a rearrangement of that room (currently my office/Owen's "playroom").  We are finally nesting, setting up a nursery for a baby that is almost 7 months old.

In many ways, I feel like my feet are finally getting under me again.  The ground is feeling a lot more stable.  I trust and believe that this beautiful boy is going to stay with us, grow with us, challenge us and teach us...Setting up his room seems to be a tangible sign of that belief.  Finally.

And as things with Owen settle into a calmer place, I realize this has created more room for me to remember Otis, for me to grieve him, and also for me to honor him.  I was finally able to get out to his garden patch and pull weeds this weekend.  I feel inspired to do some planting again for him.

It is so strange, for lack of a better word, to have a son that will forever be a newborn, and to have another son that is growing in leaps and bounds every minute.  It still boggles my mind, and breaks my heart.  My words to Otis are repetitive, stagnant almost: "I miss you. I miss you.  I miss you. I want you. I want you.  I want you.  I love you. I love you. I love you.  I miss you.  I love you.  I want you.  I miss you. I miss you. I wish you were here." (repeat ad infinitum)  My words to Owen are ever changing, reflecting the crazy trajectory of both his learning curve and growth, and my own. Underneath both sets of words is the same ferocious love that a mama has for her babies, of course.  But somehow that's not much consolation today...

Monday, March 19, 2012

6 months

My dear sweet Owen,

6 months old today, dear one.  You bring me more joy than I ever imagined possible.  Your smiles and squeals fill my heart and stretch it out exponentially.  Being your mama is worth every minute of missed sleep, every ounce of spit up, every missed shower and all the stretch marks.  It's worth all the tears and all the stress and all the worry.

The days are long, the months are whizzing past.  I've already started romanticizing the early days of sleeping on the big chair in the bedroom with a tiny little jellybean of a boy in my arms.  I look at the clothes we brought you home from the hospital in and my eyes fill with tears - such a tiny little being you were.  You are a big boy now, a "big, fat, baby!" as your cousin proclaimed the other day with glee.  (Nevermind those growth charts that say you're small for your age or you're in the low percentiles.  Bah!)

Last week our family suffered another great loss, your GG, my grandmother, who passed away after 98 years on this planet.  She was so well loved, and I'm so happy she got to meet you.  You know, I was never certain that she really understood who you were, and after the loss of your brother, I wasn't sure if she allowed herself to fully believe you were here.  (Lord knows it was hard for me to believe you were actually here, I don't blame her one bit, especially as her memory was failing her so much in these last months.)  But.  Owen.  My sweet, sweet boy.  When GG went into the hospital last Saturday night, she was almost already gone.  Her heart was failing, her kidneys were failing, her blood pressure and pulse were both extraordinarily low.  She was not lucid.  My mom and brother were there by her side, and she was mostly making babbling noises or little moans.  But around 5 in the morning, as clear as can be, she started spelling your name.  "O. W.  E.  N.  Owen."  She said it four or five times, my mom said.  It was the only thing she said that night that they could understand.  Her last intelligible words.  If there was ever a doubt as to whether she knew you were here, that doubt is now gone, little boy.

I'd like to think that she's now cradling your brother, spelling out his name, O. T. I. S. and singing him lullabies and covering his body with kisses and holding him in that warm lap of hers.  We both know that doesn't really match my idea of what happens after someone dies, but I still have allowed myself the fantasy more than a few times in the last week.

When Papa came in to tell me that GG was in the hospital, you and I were asleep, and amidst all my sadness, all my fear, all my grief, all I could do was hold you.  You were in bed with me, and I just couldn't let go and put you back in your crib that night.  You snuggled close all night, and you kept me safe.  Yes, you read that right.  You kept me safe.  Thank you, sweet boy.

Baby boy, please stick around, please keep growing, keep delighting us all with your beauty.  (And if you want to start sleeping just a few more hours in a row, or napping in your crib for longer than 45 minutes, well, that would be just dandy as well.)
All my love,

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Deep Breath

The boy is napping.

I am so madly in love with him, it's mindboggling.  We are (finally?) settling into some semblance of routine and I feel like I'm breathing again, for the first time in so very very very long.

And yet I miss his brother with every breath. Sharply, softly, and everything in between.  It sneaks up on me, and then again his absence has become such a part of my very existence I don't know how it could possibly still surprise me.