Friday, February 27, 2015

Lyn E. Sturdevant, Jr.

On Benjamin's third birthday, we said goodbye to a man our family was so lucky to call (great) Papa. He was kind, intelligent, and had a huge heart. He was always a tight hugger, engaging, and someone you knew would enjoy hearing about all of the adventures you were on. 

He and (great) Gramie were married 68 glorious years and had five kids of their own. And then the grandchildren and great grandchildren in abundance.

We last saw Papa at Thanksgiving in Pennsylvania. He was growing weaker, but his mind was so strong and he even played a number of hands in poker (and won one!). He was a World War II Vet that served in the South Pacific and often had stories to tell. He was an esteemed engineer and world traveler. He and Gramie visited every continent and spent time in many, many countries together. He definitely made marriage, fatherhood and life count. He had lots of love to give. He was 93 when he passed away.

We're so grateful to have had all the years we did, and I'm so grateful to have known Papa for about 8 years of my own life. Papa is loved. Papa is missed. And Papa is now holding our Andrew. There are few people I consider honored to be caring for our precious boy, but Papa is definitely on that list. 

Meeting Ben. Meeting Claire. Family. Four generations at ages 0 (Ben), 30 (Dad), 60 (Grandpa), 90 (Great Papa)
It's also very apparent my children are extremely bald individuals as babies. But Papa? A full head of hair at 93.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

When I Wore It Last

not hiding the mom belly. don't care.
My husband's birthday falls eight days after Andrew's birthday. We had intentions to celebrate early (because the baby was coming and we'd be so busy!) using a Groupon at this fun fondue restaurant downtown. We figured it would be awhile before we'd get out to the city and have that nice of a date night for months.

We had a reservation for Sunday evening, December 5, 2010.

It's rather obvious, now, that we didn't make that dinner reservation.

After coming home with an empty carseat, we didn't know what else to do but reschedule that dinner reservation and celebrate Andrew's dad for being born anyway. We couldn't find anything else more important to do.

I was swollen, bleeding, and we were defeated. I wore this sweater for the first ever to that dinner date. I felt so ashamed for having a dead son and failing him. That my body failed him. I wanted to hide all parts of myself that resembled being a woman and especially a woman who was ever pregnant. I remember having a hard time finding something to wear. It had to fit the full criteria of being something: I did not wear while pregnant with him, fit over my swollen belly and didn't look horrible, and was not maternity branded. I hated the thought of wearing anything I'd worn while happily pregnant while in mourning and it took me a long time to be okay with that during Benjamin's pregnancy. Luckily, I borrowed most of the maternity wear while pregnant with Andrew, so they were returned to rightful owners as soon as I could get them out of my house. Not fast enough.

I was left with very little to chose from, so grabbed up this sweater and put it on. Maybe it was grief, but I hated the way it looked on me.

We had fondue. Some of the worst I'd ever had and I remember the very popular restaurant being packed, the dust that was stuck to the lampshade and fake flowers that decorated the poorly lit (romantic?) place. I remember the corner we stood while waiting for our table to open up and how I didn't feel like casually ordering a drink at the bar, though do remember drinking wine with dinner... because WHY NOT? I wondered how all those people could be celebrating and having Christmas get-togethers. I kind of thought they all knew what just happened to us and how I felt like my entire body was exposed. It was really cold outside, but part of me wonders if my grief made it feel colder. We valet parked. We rarely valet park.

I remember thinking it would be a terrible sweater to wear if I were a breastfeeding mom. And it is. One of the worst. Claire is down to three feedings in a day and I never feed her in public anymore, because she is fed around sleeping times. I picked that sweater up today and put it on. It felt just as wrong today as it did that evening. I wore it all day.

It's the last time I'll wear that sweater. I'll donate to the local consignment shop that supports programs that help victims of domestic abuse. Someone will buy it for $2 and wear it, having no clue how much emotion was underneath those fibers at one point. I'm glad to see it disappear.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Letters to Andrew

Dear Andrew,

I cannot get the memory of sitting in our car after finding out you were a boy out of my head these days. It had nothing to do with gender, and still doesn't. It's all about the person you were that made your identity known to us in that moment. We fell in love, so in love. We're still in love.

I was writing an email to someone named Andrea the other day and could not prevent myself, even while being very conscious, from slipping and writing your name instead. One letter off and something I'm so familiar typing. Your name. Not so much in manuscript, but typing, often. I loved making that mistake. 

No matter the distance and no matter the amount of time we had with you those short 38.5 weeks, you are always missed. Every last inch of you is missed and even the (many more) inches you would be now. The words you would be speaking, the food you would be enjoying, the birthday party theme you'd choose and Halloween costume you would select. All missed.

Your brother saw a picture of your little feet this morning and immediately said, "Those feet are Andrew's." You may have never been introduced, but the missing is not an ounce less. In fact, it's grows with each sibling we've added to the family, one more person missing your daily presence.

Mom, Dad and your younger siblings, Benjamin & Claire miss you.

Love (Abundantly),

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Naptime Scare

Claire's Friday nap brought me a big grief scare. These don't happen much with Claire, but we used to have daily scares with Benjamin. If he were to fall asleep in his carseat, he looked dead. I can't tell you how many times we pulled over the car to jerk him so we could see if he would flinch. If we had a false alarm from the AngelCare (hooray for the double sensor pad fix!), we were practically brainstorming his obituary. It was pretty horrible and quite neurotic. Sadly, we couldn't do anything to fix our fears. We were re-wired that way on December 5, 2010. 

I burst into her room at 4:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon after staring at her on the Dropcam and seeing no movement as her brother spent the better half of thirty minutes yelling loudly, slamming doors and playing around upstairs. Classifying my kids, Benjamin is the heavier sleeper and she's the lighter. She is almost always awake by 3:30 p.m. and nearly always because of the noises from her big brother. Friday, she wasn't even flinching and this noise-making session went on for 1/2 hour. I ran into my room to grab the AngelCare parent unit before I made the decision to storm her door, but it wasn't charged. I was convinced I had forgotten to turn it on or it had malfunctioned. 

Instead of heading downstairs for the second unit, I had to get in there. I ran in and immediately rolled her over. She was on her stomach in the same position she was when I left the room at 1:00 p.m. I knew that from the Dropcam. I immediately felt warmth, but didn't trust it. Finally, she moved. She was zonked. But alive. Of course she was alive. She is 13 months and the majority of babies who make it this far are alive. Then she cried the cry of a baby who was pretty pissed I'd just woken her up from a deep sleep.

But that PTSD? Came right back in like it had never left. 

I put the most recent story of SIDS I've been editing for Faces of Loss to blame for this one. Sometimes I just can't shake the fears that are clearly still harboring in my bones from losing Andrew. There's nothing I can change, and yet, I spent the greater part of an hour after that literally shaking. 

And smothering my kids with kisses. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Sibling Jealousy

I thought we would've been at the peak of jealousy before now. Even somewhat over it. But as it turns out, the jealousy appears to just be at the beginning.

Benjamin spent roughly 25% of his waking hours this weekend throwing temper tantrums. Despite this, we still managed breakfast at the donut shop, a fun S.T.E.M. program for dads and their preschoolers at Benjamin's school, his first Spanish class and a dinner at our favorite restaurant.

Somehow. And really, he was good for all of these events. It was the before/after and transitions that made the weekend more hellish. Fighting for independence is at an all time high with the almost-three-year-old.

I wish I were exaggerating about the meltdowns. One of them even went so far that Benjamin opened both garage doors and ran out in the wet (snow melted) garage and started throwing things off the shelves, without shoes. If you know this kid, you know he hates getting anything on him that is messy. His socks were soaked with dirt and muck and he didn't care. Tantrums are out-of-body and completely irrational. To make matters even more fun, our neighbor saw him escapades, making us thoroughly embarrassed.

The majority of the tantrums happened at home. He's incredibly destructive, so he's now banished to his bedroom where all of his toys have been removed except for stuffed animals and some books on very high shelves. He's made dents in the walls, broken wall socket covers and nearly pulled pictures off the walls (thankfully they are slightly too high for reach).

It's exhausting. He's like Jekyll and Hyde. One minute he is hitting and kicking and flailing and the next minute, he is hugging you, giggling and telling you how much he loves you.

With Claire, he's intentionally mean the majority of the time. It's now to the point where I cannot be out of the room if they both are in it together. I must be present at all times, because even if she is by herself in the corner, he will manage to find something she has that he needs and lays the smack down. She whimpers in fear when he comes near her. It's really quite sad. He randomly walks over and hits her, quite often, and for no apparent reason. She then cries and we console her and then he gets jealous she is getting our attention and acts out again. It's a vicious cycle that pleases no one.
Literally seconds before/after
I know that he is learning that the world doesn't revolve around him, but it doesn't make it any less obnoxious. I know he's just two (three in two weeks!), but honestly. It's making some days really unpleasant.

And the big problem is, this is a two-way street. Claire is easily just as jealous of Benjamin. When she sees me reading him a book, she immediately crawls over and fights for front and center attention and screams like someone is wronging her in the worst way. The poor toddler never gets the quantity of books read to him that he was so accustomed to before she was so mobile and assertive.

In a short time, they will both be way more grown and (hopefully) use other forms of communication to express their interests than screaming (and hitting and biting and kicking) that is currently favored. I keep telling myself that. And even then, with all the unpleasantness that comes with having two small kiddos vying for your attention with overboard jealousy, there are far worse alternatives. Alternatives like, not having them here at all. That bit is never, ever lost to me.

I've personally published over 50 stories on Faces of Loss in the last two weeks. They are heart-wrenching. I have a story as well, but now I know the inner feelings of 50 more families who lost at least one child each after we lost Andrew. I bet they all wish their kids were screaming and biting and kicking. Anything is better than the silence.