Wednesday, December 10, 2014

We Remember, 2014

This is our fifth Christmas since becoming pregnant with Andrew. All five of which he was not here to celebrate with us. Each year I struggle with decorations. Even though we have two children in our house (judging by the looks of the messes they make at the very least!), it's still difficult to hang the stockings (four or five? where? which location will make us the least sad?), buy the tree and find a location (same place as when we arrived home from the hospital in 2010? no thanks.), and go about the whole holiday cheer business. I'm still not there completely. I'm not sure I'll ever be. There will probably never be an Elf in our house and I'm pretty content with that.

Each year we attend a remembrance ceremony held about a block from the hospital all three of our children were born. It's put on by the hospital's SHARE program and is free, funded by the hospital and volunteers. There are cookies and punch at the end, baked by the staff in Labor & Delivery.

This is our "favorite" (odd to favorite a remembrance ceremony?) one to attend and one we like keeping as a tradition for our family, especially during the Christmas season. It is also nice that it's the same week of Andrew's birthday each year. It's specifically for families who have lost children, so it almost feels like a group of comrades coming together who fully understand the magnitude of this type of grief. It's really wonderful and really heartbreaking as the numbers continue to grow.

The sanctuary is full of hundreds of families. Some are childless. Some lost children days, weeks or months before, and some are like us and have lived through this for years now. There are babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, parents, grandparents, family members and friends all sitting in pews listening to the church choir sing and SHARE organizers speak the names of our children, hand us the lighter to ignite our candle and stand near the tree we hang our ornaments.

They open the mic and some people go up to share poems or speak about their experiences and love for their children. One woman spoke about approaching her daughter's first birthday on January 7th, just a week before Claire was born. I could probably tell you what I was doing that day (itching in the OB office, flipping out). In the end, I did birth a live child, and she did not.

One man spoke of this being a tradition for his family each year. In tears, he spoke about how other family members might forget, but it's important they keep their son's memory alive and attend these ceremonies with his people-- us-- other broken families. He thanked his wife publicly for making this important to their family, because he is important and being open about your grief and sadness is important.

Another woman spoke of this being her 14th year at this ceremony and it being a tradition for her family as well; how the grief is easier now, but that it still makes her sad.

Claire spent the majority of the time crawling up to the front of the sanctuary and trying to get her little hands on those shiny ornaments. I pulled her back each time, knowing there were people sitting there, hoping they would have a child accompanying them to future ceremonies. How they wish that were them right now. We've been that family. Claire found a toddler boy and spent her time entertaining him by handing him a Chapstick and then giggling, over and over again. That same mom and son were there the year prior and sat behind us-- they are missing their firstborn son that bears the same name as ours. It's really a comradery. It's not quite the same as my group of blogging friends that dragged me through that whole first year and still are there supporting, but it was nice to see familiar faces, shed similar tears, and nod with the understanding that only a family who has lost a child can really comprehend.
Wearing her rainbow hat, made by the grandma of a good BLM friend of ours who also lost her daughter..
Benjamin first wore this hat along with 14 other rainbows at our first babyloss get together here in Chicago.
Benjamin was practicing his terrible two stage of fun by tantruming in the car for the first 20 minutes of the ceremony. These can last upwards of 2-3 hours lately, so I didn't think they would be coming inside. But, miraculously there was an apology given and they arrived in the sanctuary just as the names were being read. We walked as a family of four to hang an ornament for our five. I lit the candle and Benjamin hung the ornament for Andrew on the tree. That moment was really special {except after he walked down the aisle saying, "I all done...we go now...get cookies."}
No photos from the ceremony of our middle child, but here he is all dressed dapper after nap in his collared shirt and sweater.
(because he refuses to wear any jackets at all and therefore I must dress him in the warmest clothes possible!)
I knew there were families there that saw our family of four (one boy! one girl! jackpot!) and thought to themselves that we were the lucky ones. We may have lost, but look what we have now. We have hope. And, we do. We truly feel thankful for the squealing little girl who was literally crawling through the pews under peoples' legs during the ceremony and the boy who was thrashing himself in his carseat because I don't even remember why (and neither did he). That first year after losing Andrew, we attended, quite pregnant with our rainbow baby. We saw the families around us with children and hoped that would be us. We even talked about the hope we had to bring our future children there each year to celebrate the life of our firstborn and keep his memory alive in the midst of the present-buying, cookie-exhanging, Santa-picture-taking madness.

Here we are. Hope has arrived. May there be many more (other peoples' rainbow children) in that sanctuary next year and years to come.
Made an apple pie yesterday with initials of December babies we miss, just because. Grief baking and eating + apples that needed to be eaten = humble pie for sure.


Caroline said... [Reply to comment]

I love what that man said and it's so true. These are the things that keep their memories alive - a reminder that they mattered and still do, four or fourteen or forty years from now.

Laura Jane said... [Reply to comment]

You know what's crazy? It's hard to believe there were people who were attending this ceremony a DECADE before Andrew (or Jack.. etc.) were born. A decade of grieving.. And yet next year is five years and so soon enough that will be us. Oh man.

I'm glad the middle child pulled his shit together and let you attend the ceremony. <3

Sarah said... [Reply to comment]

That quote from B is cracking me up. "I all done ... Get cookies."

It's such a quivering line to walk, having both the feeling that life has been incredibly unfair but also the knowledge that we are so lucky to have these healthy kids. Sometimes when I'm feeling sorry for myself, I remember that there are families that haven't gotten their rainbow babies, and if I want my house to be even noisier and messier, well, at least it is noisy and messy.

As for the Elf, you never know when some grandparent might send your child one in the mail. Ours arrived three days ago. Sigh.

Amelia said... [Reply to comment]

We will survive December. We will survive December.