Showing posts with label Baby Andrew. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Baby Andrew. Show all posts

Thursday, July 10, 2014

New Blog Header

My incredible friend Alli changed my header for me a few years ago... but since then I've had two more kids and feel like I look nothing like the girl in the snuggie anymore. I'm sprouting gray hairs, no longer claim to be in my 20s and living a very mom life.

It's also been 3.5 years since Andrew died. While I grieve him openly, freely and often, I don't have as much to say about my grief or how it's changing at this stage. Sure, we have two more kids and we're very busy ensuring they become acceptable members of society, but Andrew is not lost. I think about him every single day. The pain is still very real and the tears still flow.

Just today there was a boy at the playhouse named Andrew. He was three, of course, and spelling his name aloud as he was writing on one of those Magna-Doodle things. Every time he wrote a letter, he would repeat the last ones and describe how it is written. A-N-D ..."tall line and big belly"... A-N-D-R ... "tall line, small belly, and little line" and just kept going on and on. He was so proud that he was sharing his name with everyone in the room.

I could've vomited.

But yes, this post is about the new header. My friend Kari recently wrote a blog post about designing her own blog header and it sort of lit a fire under my behind. I knew I could do it and I've done similar pieces of design before, but never paid much attention to the blog header. Honestly, I was nervous about how to incorporate my whole family and that's why it sat the same for so long. I wanted Andrew represented on here even though I don't write about grief for every post. He's still our son and part of our daily lives and will always be part of our family. We still can't stomach taking professional family photos because of how hard it still is to imagine Andrew not being a part of the pictures.

I didn't want people who visit this blog to assume I've moved on or don't want to share Andrew anymore. It's just never going to be that way. I wanted to represent him in a photo with my other two, but struggled with how to make that happen. I could use a picture of his name in the sand. His urn. A candle with his name. But none of these seemed to be enough to represent that he really was our flesh and blood and really did exist. I have photo proof. Just not any interest in showing them to the masses who would not necessarily find those photos in loving spirit. I protect him and the little bits of him I still have. I just needed people who visited this blog to know that our family lost someone very important and that he will never be shamed or forgotten. That this blog is different than just a mom blog. When writing about my living children, my firstborn is never far from my mind.

With that, the new header. For his fourth birthday, I plan to have Dana pencil sketch his beautiful face. I may switch the header to his sketch eventually, but I really like how this one turned out.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Putting on the Brakes

I find myself savoring the smallness that Claire is right now. And it's wonderful. She's already doubled her birth weight and looks like a full-on baby right now. No newborn. She's rolling over, alert, cooing and just insanely beautiful. I'm not going to lie... I thought having two beautiful babies prior to her meant I would birth only a face a mother could love, but we didn't. She's stunning. And maybe it's a mother's bias. I'll wear those blinders any day.

I am guilty of not savoring it all with Benjamin. I spent the majority of his babyhood being terrified something would happen to him. The other half was spent trying to speed things up to what Andrew would've been like and things he would've been doing. Not intentionally, but grief does that sort of thing. I was eager to get him out of his bucket seat and into a convertible carseat. I was eager for him to eat table food. I was eager to be done with breastfeeding and eager for him to crawl and walk and be independent because those were all things I knew Andrew would've well mastered by then.

It's not that I wanted Benjamin to be Andrew (though thankful I was able to experience another boy at all), it's just that my mind never fully reset the idea of not having a child who should be three-and-a-half-years old now. I just always internally expected to be a part of that other group of moms who I see at the parks with their preschoolers now and have full conversations about what they are making for dinner and what they learned in school that day. I think it's finally starting to settle and we're seeing Benjamin as a two-year old who is amazing and learning and saying new things everyday. The person he is.

Just today I asked him if he wanted to go to the playhouse after dropping Dad's car at the shop and he said, "Yes I do." He speaks so well now. He also told his Dad the other day when asked if he wanted to potty-train yet, "No Daddy, No(t) yet."

I feel saddened that I wanted so badly to speed things up and be ahead where we belonged with Andrew. I feel like I missed some of the wonder and excitement. Just last night we were looking back at old pictures and videos from Benjamin's first year in Elliot's phone. I was absolutely amazed that he looked the way he did in some photos. Yes, I remember. It wasn't all that long ago, but time is a thief. Well, so is grief. It robs you of so much if you're not careful to take it all in. And even then, it's easy to forget with the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Claire is giving us another shot at this babyhood business. And it's awesome. Well, the 2:30 a.m. wakeup call this morning and the 4:30 one and the 5:45 one and the 7:15 one... well those aren't wonderful. But to have the chance to see her beautiful face and to know she is all ours and needs us? It's beyond the most glorious thing we've ever experienced. I just wish we weren't so terrified with Benjamin and confused in our grief timeline that we let some of that slip right through our fingers like quicksand.

She can stay in that bucket seat a little while longer.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Big Brother, Little Sister

When Benjamin was born, he was gifted with a little brother shirt. I took some photos and he wore it a few times and then it was over. It's not like I could have him wear it in public without the questionable stares and confused looks from strangers because I don't have the older sibling with me. Ever.

Benjamin and Claire were just gifted two new shirts-- one that says big brother and one that says little sister. These statements are in and of themselves, totally true. Benjamin is definitely Claire's big brother. And she is definitely the little sister. Everyone and anyone who sees my children would be able to identify with this reality.
First picture = marshmallow bribe. Second picture = uncertain. Third picture: Claire meltdown and brother holding her hand to calm her.
I love that there is a big brother/little sister relationship in our house. It's all I've ever known. I was a little sister and had a big brother. My husband is a big brother and had a little sister. And here we are representing the next generation with the same number count-- except not really.

It's obvious to anyone who knows me above a casual acquaintance level that I've had three children. That Benjamin is not just the big brother, but is also the little brother. And that Claire is not only the little sister but is a little sister to two big brothers. Obviously I mourn the loss of that extra t-shirt in so many ways. And yet I know that there probably wouldn't be a little sister at all if the big big brother were alive. But I can't get over that extra t-shirt and how it should be here. I was burned by seeing these shirts out in public after Andrew died and even after Benjamin was born. I wanted so badly to boast such numbers (two kids!), but I literally didn't have the number of carseats to show for it. It broke my heart. It was definitely a grief trigger.

I love that I can be proud of Benjamin and Claire and that they are both alive and able to wear their big brother and little sister shirts. These days are fleeting and they are both growing rapidly. How is Benjamin 24 months old? Preschool is seriously around the corner! The days left for them to proudly sport their love for one another in t-shirt form (even if they are totally unaware) will be long gone and they will soon be pestering one another like brothers and sisters do. But oh, to wonder... what our lives would be like if the four bedrooms upstairs were all filled and there were three t-shirts to hang in three closets representing my three kids.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

= Five

My mother-in-law was a math teacher. She's taught middle and high school math, but has spent most of her career as a guidance counselor. Though, she's never really lost her love of numbers. Once a (math) teacher, always a (math) teacher.

When my in-laws were visiting and meeting Claire over Valentine's weekend, she announced that our family number is five. I caught on that Andrew's birthday is the 5th immediately... but the others took some explaining.

My birthday is the 10th
My husband's birthday is the 13th

Together:
1+0+1+3 = 5

Andrew's birthday is the 5th

= 5

Benjamin's birthday is the 23rd

2+3=5

Claire's birthday is the 14th

1+4=5

Last week, I overheard my husband telling Benjamin that his favorite number is 6. In the 8 years of us being together, I never knew that. Then he asked what my favorite number is... I told him I don't have one.

While I think it's very cool that we have some mathematical connections as a family, I do struggle with five being my favorite number. A family number, okay. I can stand behind that because I love the connection of us all being weaved together in a web. My favorite number would've been four. If the doctors had the same intuition for Andrew as they did for Claire and pulled him out before it was too late.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Fourth Tearful Christmas

You'd think having a 22-month old during Christmas would do the trick to rid me of the grief that plagues me every single holiday... and really everyday. But it hasn't. For the most part, I spent the time leading up to Christmas busy researching, purchasing, wrapping, shipping, etc. I spent time in the post office and directing most of my energy to the toddler running about me. I actually enjoyed buying gifts for people this year because each one was well thought and something I knew they would like. I've been well distracted and for that, I'm grateful. On days where we're not off to the children's museum, playhouse or storytime and distractions are at a minimum, I struggle the most. Today is one of those days.

I didn't do the decorating this year. I sat at my computer while my amazing husband worked around me to make our home look festive. I didn't participate. I haven't participated since the day before Andrew died. I want Benjamin to have a childhood filled with wonder and excitement, but I just have a hard time getting in the spirit around this time of year. His birthday was just 20 days ago. Another one passes on and another one we're left in longing for what should be.

I laid awake from 2:30-5:00 this morning with pregnancy insomnia, battling the fear I have of Andrew and Benjamin's little sister not making it out alive. I thought about how it was already Christmas morning and what that means to most families. I just don't feel the magic. Benjamin still doesn't understand Christmas or Santa or the decorations. All he understands is that the Advent house has a treat for him everyday. He wasn't very interested in opening presents.

I'm tired of being pregnant and fearful. I've done so well up until this week and now it's finally hitting me that we have less than 5 weeks to go until my induction and we're uncertain if we'll be bringing this baby home in a carseat or in something much, much smaller. I have some new complications that are plaguing me and having me rethink Andrew's death and if what I'm experiencing now is what may have also contributed to his demise.

I desperately want a normal birth experience and to bring a baby home without the worry. I fear that our induction date is too late that we'll end up with another stillborn baby. I fear that an earlier induction date will send us back to the NICU. I fear Benjamin may never realize what it's like to have a living sibling. I fear so much.

This is our fourth Christmas in this house. In Illinois. And it has never, ever felt right because our first one was robbed of all the magic by losing him. I sat in our formal living room alone after all the gifts and festivities this morning and just cried. I wished for the tree to be gone. I'm ready for December to end. With so many things to be thankful for, I'm sobbing because I miss what should be so, so much.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Andrew's 2013 Ornament

Tonight is the annual remembrance ceremony for babies gone too soon in our local area. Each year we go and hang Andrew's ornament for the year and they speak his name. It hangs on the tree that is then displayed at the hospital I delivered my boys and will deliver their little sister in the new year. I only wish his ornament would still be hung when I'm checked in for a hopefully happy and uneventful induction. The dates will be too far apart, so that won't happen. But what a lovely thought.

We weren't able to attend last year, though we did attend another ceremony in his honor. But this year, I'm happy we're back to the tradition of remembering our firstborn with hundreds (yep) of other families also missing their babies who passed on too soon. It's a very different remembrance ceremony. We'll see parents, siblings, grandparents, and all kinds of other supporters who either lost their own baby or love a family who did. It's really quite special... and totally heartbreaking. But if there is one single place I feel totally at home each year, it's in a room full of these other people. Especially during the holiday season.

This year, I couldn't decide what I wanted to do for Andrew's ornament. Many of my babyloss friends had an ornament exchange/secret Santa, but I was too late for the signup. Next year, I hope to be a part and use that special ornament as his 2014 addition. This year, I chose to get very brave and follow in the footsteps of one of my friends by creating an ornament of his things. I was originally going to add things in a clear bulb ornament that reminded me of him, but I really wanted something more. I was anxious about it, but I made the decision to spend naptime on his birthday last Thursday cutting the clothes he wore and a special outfit we bought that I just had sitting in the closet for the last three years waiting for him. It just never did feel right dressing Benjamin in that outfit. It was very much chosen with Andrew in mind and so special to us. Surprisingly, cutting the only clothes he ever wore was not as terrible as I imagined. I think it was because I wanted to make it so beautiful and worthy of displaying in his honor that I allowed myself to carry through. Also, my friend brought up a great point that while the pieces of clothing would remain whole and in a box, they would only be infrequently seen when I opened the box. This way, I can see pieces of him for an entire month displayed on our tree during the month of his birth.

He wore everything in this photo except that beautiful sweater outfit we picked out just for him. Not to share with siblings or to hang in a closet for three years. The blue ribbon on the right came from one of my baby showers. All of the items on the left were worn or touched by him. Baptismal gown (with ribbons & angel cut off that I used in ornament to tie swatches of clothing in a roll, hat, hospital blanket, blue outfit that says "Thank Heaven for Little Boys"-- breaks my heart, pants and booties). I did not choose any of those outfits and assume that all but the blanket are specifically for babies who die. I'll never ask. I don't think it matters that I know.
The card is in his box of things but thought I'd include his cute footprint. The pom from the hat above, swatch from his blanket with the ring they had him holding in many of our NILMDTS photos (symbolism?), the blue outfit with an airplane, a piece of the baptismal gown with an angel that was attached to it... all wrapped in either ribbon from my baby shower or the ribbon off the baptismal gown.
I stuck the piece of the beautiful sweater outfit in the ornament before photographing. I couldn't get it out... so pretend it's in that last picture. :)
I wrapped a piece of the blue ribbon around the top of the ornament and attached the little angel bead and "A" they had with the little gold ring from the hospital. I am assuming this was a gift from another babyloss mom or sweet citizen.
Finally, I added an "a" from the letters I used to create a sign above his crib that spelled out his name. The capital letters were gone, but I used the lowercase "a" and attached it to the cardstock paper I also used in the frame above his crib along with smaller confetti-like pieces for the bottom of the ornament (not visible).
I won't be bringing this ornament tonight, but the ornament we had made on Etsy last year that we could not bring to the ceremony. I just can't bring this one. I fear something happening to it and never receiving it back. The ornaments are returned at the ceremony the following year. However, this one is currently being displayed on our tree and will be forevermore.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

On The Night You Were Born...

...The moon smiled with such wonder
That the stars peeked in to see you
And the night wind whispered,
"Life will never be the same."
 
He was born at 9:04 p.m. Tonight, at 9:04, I was taking a hot shower. I wasn't laying in a hospital bed vomiting, shaking and welcoming my son into the world silently like I did three years ago. It was much more pleasant this evening. The smell of his candle (apparently discontinued, of course)--dubbed as such because it was given to me during my pregnancy with him and has a very babylike smell-- permeated the air. 
 
Today wasn't nearly as kind. Before noon, I'd sobbed at least a handful of times. Ray and I chatted about how it's crazy that even three years later, it's horrible how raw your grief can still feel at times. It might be just a day, but it's the anniversary of the worst day of our lives.
 
Of course we still miss him. Of course we wonder what our lives would be like with an intelligent three-year-old roaming our house. Of course we wonder what he would be eating for lunch and what his favorite toy would be. But the sad truth and reality is that we never knew and will never know a single answer.
 
We went about our day and I took Benjamin to storytime between sobfests. Surprinsingly, I held it together at 2-3 year old storytime. We had a drive-thru lunch because that's all I could muster. Naptime arrived and I made Andrew's 2013 ornament out of pieces of clothing he had worn. I thought that would do me in, but really, I was okay with it. I was mostly composed because I wanted to make something worthy of displaying in his honor. I look forward to hanging his four ornaments on the tree this year. Christmas trees, while beautiful and innocent in nature, still mock me. Never will we have a tree in the same place we did on that cold December morning we arrived back home with empty arms and a bag of mementos. The tree has a whole new room and will never be purchased before his birthday.
 
In between cutting pieces of the only clothing he had ever worn, I read countless texts messages and emails from some incredibly thoughtful people who still remember he lived and existed. I was honored and completely humbled by people who remembered. It's really one day a year that I fully experience the impact my lifeless son had on so many people.
 
I took Benjamin to the playhouse down the street after naptime and we went to dinner at one of our favorite local, kid-friendly burger places that has toys and books for kids to play with. We know Andrew would've liked that place. Benjamin sure does. We arrived back home to the fanciest of Whole Foods cupcakes I purchased yesterday and Benjamin attempted to burn himself while I blew out the candles. My three-year-old would've been elated to do so himself, I'm sure.
 
A traditional evening of books, toys and all things Benjamin and off to bath and bed for Andrew's little brother. The fourth December 5th we've experienced without our firstborn son alive. And the numbers keep adding.
 
Because there has never been anyone like you... ever in the world.
For never before in story or rhyme
{not even once upon a time}
Has the world ever known a you, my friend,
And it never will... not ever again.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Middle Name

Claire has a middle name already.

Andrew and Benjamin share my father-in-law's first name, Steven, as their middle name. I love that the name was carried through my boys to connect them. This being a girl and our last child, we are choosing a name from my family's side. If this baby were a third boy, his name would have been Charlie John-- Charlie as a "C" name we like and John as my father's first name.

But being that this baby is a girl, we are still choosing from my family's side. Believe it or not, my great grandmother is still alive at 98-years-old and has a beautiful spirit. She's always laughing and smiling. Her name is Madeline Mae. While we love both names, our daughter will carry her middle name as well.

Claire Mae.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A is for Andrew, B is for Benjamin and C is for...

Wordle: Claire

The Wilsons are adding a final child to our clan this winter. Exactly four months from today, I am due with our only daughter and last child. I will never be pregnant again after February 11, 2014 and that couldn't make me more excited for this winter to arrive. Yes, Chicago winter. Bring it.

We've discussed at great length about adding more children to our family. We birthed two beautiful boys and only have one here to raise. He's a dream. A total bad boy at times and definitely mischievous, but such a salve that we needed so desperately. And he's nearly 20 months now if you can believe it! While we're thankful Andrew's little brother is in our lives, we know he loves other children. It's hard having lost our firstborn and having a second son but still being parents with only one child in our home. It just seems like Benjamin should have someone else, of course. Our family will always feel that way about Andrew missing. When Benjamin was born, I wanted him to have a sibling even more knowing we should have two here now. And because of our desire to give him that, we are pregnant once more. Fourth pregnancy, third child and only daughter.

Because this is our last child, I don't have any qualms about discussing names and details, mostly because there's nothing left after this. If this baby comes home with us as we hope (in a carseat, to clarify... ugh), we're 100% done. If something happens, we won't be able to handle the additional grief and still be the parents Benjamin needs, so we will not try again and therefore will be 100% done. The thought of losing two of our children brings me to my knees. Nothing is ever guaranteed and we know that.

Long before Andrew was even found to be a boy back on our second wedding anniversary in 2010, we had chosen a girl name. If Andrew had been a girl, he would've been Claire. If Benjamin had been a girl, he would've been Claire. And now that I'm really pregnant with a girl, she is Claire! I love that this name has been constant in our decision for all three of our babies. Not to mention, we love the A-B-C ritual of naming our children. Right after Benjamin's birth, my friend Brooke sent us a book to commemorate the birth of our new baby boy and also remember our first boy.


Each of the first three pages of this book prints the name of each of our children. The book is A My Name is Andrew and the first page is about a boy named Andrew who lives in Augusta. The second page is a girl named Becca who has a brother, Benjamin. The third page is about a girl named Claire who lives in Connecticut. It's an alliterative book, as you might have gathered, but still awesome that all three of our their names are on the first three pages.

Since this has been one of the least sarcastic posts ever on this blog, I must end with a little extra edge. Compliments of my friend Caroline who is also due with her second rainbow this winter... I wanted to add what we were chatting about during our brainstorming session about when I'd "out" myself on the ol' blog.

"C' is for Claire but also stands for caution --  we are still so scared. Also, be cautious of any silly things you might say regarding the assurance this baby is coming home in that carseat, because "C" also stands for crazy town and I might just go there.

All in good fun, of course, but really, it's another pregnancy and another mixed bag of emotions, exhaustion, and grieving our firstborn who would probably love to know he has two siblings who will also always wonder and grieve the brother he would've been. A great one-- I'm sure.

Here's to another 4 months of anxiety and hope. And burning those maternity clothes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

98 Days. Gulp.

I read on a blog today that we're under the 100 day mark until Christmas. Which means we're close to 2014. Which means we are even closer to a certain beloved boy's 3rd should-be-awesome-but-it's-gonna-suck birthday.

I won't carry on about the cool things he'd be doing, saying, or bringing home from preschool. Okay, maybe that was enough.

Dang.

I'm never ready for the seasons to change because that means we'll be at another candlelight vigil {just like my friend Brooke commented about yesterday} instead of excitedly pulling out the Christmas ornaments and decorating the tree. We'll still do that, but it still stings. We decorated our tree and home hours before delivering Andrew. Then we got to come home to all that festive crap, making the holiday sting even more painful. Not that I wanted him to die ever, but I sure wouldn't have chosen a December doomsday.

We had to turn down a Christmas party already because it landed on the dreaded 5th and of course that day is not a day to party it up for our family. We'll have a sensible dinner at the same local restaurant we went to last year and a dessert in honor of our firstborn. We'll attend the remembrance ceremony, light a candle and hang an ornament on the multiple trees they provide at the local ceremony for our dead children.

Gulp.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Mom Squads

It's no surprise to anyone that I've struggled with my identity ever since Andrew died.

I knew that I was a wife, daughter, and friend above all things. His death didn't define who I was, though it sure changed how I felt about existing in the world. The world didn't see me as a mom. Hell, I didn't see myself as a mom all that much either. I definitely was/am, but it was pretty hard to confirm those facts when you are still only caring for yourself, even after buying all that baby crap and gestating for nearly 39 weeks. I wanted everyone in the grocery store or passing by me on the street to know. But they didn't.

We visit parks everyday. Some days, we even make it to 4 parks! Benjamin just thrives around other children. No joke, if I see kids at the park across the street, I make a b-line for it. I don't know how to explain it to other people because they often see him in public settings that provide gobs of stimulation, but this boy is a full-fledged tantrum-throwing toddler. He was having one continuous meltdown this morning until I opened that car door. He basically sprinted, jumped into his carseat and off we were to a (faraway) park.

He's a whole different child when being fully engaged. And to most parents, he's pretty freaking pleasant. They don't know home-bound Benjamin. I fear winter.

We usually see an independent mom or two with their kiddos at our local parks. There are about 7 parks we visit within walking distance from our house on a regular basis. He's even well known by other kids and their parents. Ray was riding his bike with Benjamin through the "big red park" the other day and passed a family. Ray heard them say, "Hey, there goes Benjamin!" The kid is a little bit famous in our 'burb.

I don't mind talking with the others parents at the park. We usually get on about preschools and various other activities their kids are involved in-- almost always with parents whose kids are quite a bit older than Benjamin. It's fine with him that the kids are older, because he seems to have little interest in kids his age. But the big kids who will talk to him and faun all over him? Baby crack. Where these parents of 1.5 year olds are, I have no idea. Benjamin has to be out and about.

Despite feeling like a different kind of parent always, I still manage to be honest about our story and engage with the other adults. It's when we're at parks with mommy groups that I can't handle. I find a corner bench to sit on and practice breathing exercises. I have no desire to engage, introduce myself, make new friends... or any of that. Maybe if the mommy group was for parents of just one kid, but they never are. They're always toting around their double strollers, toddlers and babies.

And it makes me uneasy. This happened yesterday and I hermit-crabbed my way into a hole and only approached the scene when Benjamin was getting himself into a predicament. My subdivision even has a mommy group. They advertise in the monthly bulletin (yes, it's pretty much perfect little suburbia) about the mommy group on facebook. Perfect excuse to avoid-- I don't do facebook.

There's a fine line between avoiding those groups because they're a grief trigger for me and knowing what's best for my son. Even before Andrew died, I never pictured myself involved in these mommy groups. They didn't seem like my style. I'm more rogue and less rule-driven, or at least that's how I've always viewed my outlook. Tantrums aside, little brother's growing up pretty well... mommy group attendee or not.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Right Where I Am: 2 years, 7 months, 24 days

I planned to write this a long time ago. But somehow I never got around to it and while my thoughts are constant, my writing is not.

We're closer to 3 years without Andrew than we are two. Or one. Though, my memories of the day I met my firstborn are still quite vivid in my mind. I'll admit, I have to look at his photos to perfectly remember his cute nose and beautiful lashes sometimes, but the memories of what it felt like to hold him for that short time are still so vivid. The rush of sadness and love is still so memorable.

We were at Costco yesterday and Benjamin managed to find a little girl and her two brothers. They were eating at the food court and the 4-year old boys got up to walk somewhere. The dad called their names to get their attention and it caused Ray and I to look at one another with our jaws dropped. The twins boys were Andrew and Benjamin. So that's what it's like to have siblings that are both alive and with the same names you carefully chose for your own children.

It still makes me infinitely sad that I cannot introduce my Andrew in person (or let him introduce himself!). And it makes me sad that Benjamin will never know his "big" brother, who ironically is and will always be much smaller than he. The sting of losing Andrew is still sharp and I'm still angry about it. My friend commented recently to me that although Benjamin never met his brother, the firstborn, he acts as a second-child. He's more cautious, curious, subdued and observant.

At this stage, I boldly proclaim that I birthed two beautiful boys when other moms at the park ask about how many children I've had. I'm far past the stage of caring about making others sad or disappointing them with news. I am proud to be a mother of two boys and will stop at nothing less than to honestly share our story. It helps me honor Andrew and it forces others to face the reality of loss and that it's perfectly normal to be transparent about sadness in our society.

It still opens up doors. I still meet other moms who lost children and go on to share about their losses when I open up about my own. My mentality stands that if my reality of loss is uncomfortable for them, we don't need to carry on as friends.

One of our new friends we met at storytime has been dealt a rough road of multiple miscarriages and complications related. We were at the zoo recently and she asked if I'd ever attended a grief group, because she recently attended one and found it helpful. I talked through all the reasons I never did, and then explained how blogging and our recent BLM meetup is daily therapy for me. That in the earliest days, I had support from all over the globe at my fingertips and not just on the last Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. It made me wish she and all of the other loss moms out there had the same support I feel so lucky to have.

I am so grateful for the support. While I don't blog about grief daily based on lack of time (surely not lack of thoughts!), I'm still living and tearfully remembering all we've come through over these last 2 years, 7 months, and 24 bloody days.

Right Where I Am at 6 months
Right Where I Am at 1.5 years

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Celebrating the Fourth

Our town has a cool festival every year and we were so excited to take Benjamin for the second year in a row! {That's luck and we're thankful a million times over.} We parked at a nearby parking lot and were shuttled in by a school bus. First school bus experience for the kiddo. He loved it, despite his serious look in the photo below.
Loving the bounce house (2nd time in one, and he was definitely standing a bunch!) and characters he saw.
We took a break in the middle of the festival to visit our water park that was located across the street. We go about 4-5 times a week and this was Benjamin's first time in the sand pit. He loved it, of course.
The festival is unique because it has about 15-20 hot air balloons that you can actually ride, depending on the weather. A month before we were engaged, in May of 2007, we took a hot air balloon ride over Temecula, CA, dropping us down into orange groves to pick oranges... and then had champagne afterwards. That same champagne (Wilson Creek Winery) was served at our wedding for the toast. It also helps we're Wilsons... the namesake didn't hurt the choice.

While we don't care to go inside the hot air balloon again (you're stuffed like sardines!), it was a cool experience and being around hot air balloons takes us back to that special weekend. And did I mention the guy who was to propose with a fancy engagement ring the following month gifted me with diamond earrings, also princess cut? Said he was testing out the shape to make sure I liked it. And I've been rocking the same on my hand ever since June 15, 2007. And I wear those earrings every single day.

Let's take a trip down memory lane... shall we?
We look 17. But really, 24. Proof that grief ages you FAST. Any Californians know the band sweatshirt I'm wearing?
Helping the balloon process & packed in like sardines (see?). How romantic. Hah!
Orange groves they dropped us into (we picked 3 oranges!), halo above the clouds...happy couple (still happy).
Wearing my new sparkly diamonds, but a bit hard to see with the hair...
So needless to say, we kind of like hot air balloons. And it's kind of cool that they're like 2 miles from our house at this festival every year for a little nostalgia and exploring. We hope Benjamin is just as adventurous.
We're definitely those parents to keep our kids up late to watch fireworks. Life's too short to worry about missing sleep. And, he slept in until 10:15 the next morning. Which means, so did we. They probably would've kept him awake anyway...
A little flashback from last year. That balloon is called the "Andy" balloon, and obviously that's really special to us. Benjamin was just 4 months last year in front of the Andy balloon and this year he's 16 crazy toddler months and in front of the same balloon. I asked the owners about the Andy character, as I was sad to see it gone. They told us it had a long life and over time, the balloon must be replaced. The majority of the bottom half was replaced, and the Andy character went along with it. While sad to see it go, they still call it the Andy balloon and announce it as such. I hope they come every year so I can take a balloon picture of my boys in front of it to honor and remember our very own Andy.
Impressive that the husband still has (and wears) that hat, right? I've told you before, but he loses hats like they're disposable! (Wrote that post 6 months to the day before Andrew died. I hate the 5th. Of every month.)

But the 4th? It's all good.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Watering Hole Conversations

We spent an hour at the waterpark this afternoon. I like Benjamin having access to both water and other children on a regular basis. This seems to meet the criteria pretty swimmingly {so funny}.

A little boy walked up and kept asking if I saw him make a HUGE SPLASH {motions with hands and splashes me every time with great effort} and each of the three times, I told him I did and was quite exuberant in my response.

When asked why Benjamin was not going down the fish waterslide in the tot area, I commented to said child that he was too small. He said, "Well he has a big head!" {obviously that renders someone quite capable of waterslides apparently}. In his defense, Benjamin insisted on climbing the steps and peering down the slide while the other children pushed him aside to make their moves. And also, he does have a big head. Touche, kid, touche.

...

A bit later, a mom with a very cute Lululemon bikini {they make those? noted.} was catching her little boy at the bottom of the same fish slide. This kid just kept going in circles. Up the stairs, down the slide backwards and into his mom's arms. He was blond and about 2.5. You know where I'm going with this.

The mom saw that Benjamin was interested and asked if I wanted to let him go and that she would be there to catch him. I stood at the top of the slide {no longer than 5 feet} and she moved closer to catch him. I let him go and she caught my gleeful little tot. When done, I commented that her son will be quite worn out after going around and around on this slide dozens of times. Something about naptime and getting him good and tired was muttered, and then she told her son Drew to say hello to Benjamin.

Knife to the heart. Never gets old {or comfortable} seeing these beautiful blond boys with my boy's name. I'm not one of those moms who can say it warms her heart to meet a cute child with her should-be alive son's name. Not this mama.

...

We had to take a breather. Left the tot area and Benjamin found himself a 4-year old girl to attach himself to after trying unsuccessfully to befriend a few other children much older than himself. And by befriend, I mean trying to climb on their lounge chair. The little girl's mom approached and we discovered both of our sons shared the same name, Benjamin. She then asked if we had more children and I told her about Andrew. She apologized.

Sometimes I wonder if they are apologizing because they are sorry about our sadness, or sorry because they asked the question.

Then later our kids found one another again and she commented how Benjamin was a small 15-month old.

The small comment. Somehow that comment makes me feel small.

Just another day at the ol' watering hole. We were there 55 minutes and I'd had enough. Remind me why I go out in public again?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chicago Rainbow Weekend 2013

This past weekend was monumental.

I had expectations for the weekend meeting of 13 of my friends (only 3 of which I'd met before) and their rainbow babies. Those expectations were shattered.

It was better than I could've ever imagined.

To an outsider, I assume the idea of 14 women (3 husbands) and 14 children, all who have the common bond of dead children would be royally depressing. A group you'd hope to avoid running into because our faces represent whole families of children who are missing for no acceptable reason. I'm sure we represent what every other person on the planet hopes they will never become-- a parent who has buried a child.

And I guess that's true. Before losing Andrew, I would probably have gone out of my way to avoid that sort of thing. On second thought, I would've ignored the thought of such a group meeting because I was invincible. Had it all together and knew it would never happen to me. Why would it? Life was good.

Our group represents a bunch of women, men and children that are intelligent, attractive (yes!), fun, interesting, unique, and bereaved. We're different in so many ways, but the people we've become over the last few years since losing our children is what bonds us.

I've spent the last 2.5 years (yes, Andrew's 1/2 birthday was just a week ago) pouring my emotions out to writing as a way of therapy. Others took to their keyboards and did the same. We supported one another with words and that meant we did not feel entirely alone. Like we were not on the island of grief alone. And that someone, somewhere was crying similar tears of sadness over losing out on the life of a child they fully envisioned would be coming home with them and staying for good.

This past weekend, my house in the suburbs of Chicago was home base for what we coined the BLM Get Together 2013. Or Rainbow Weekend. We were central-ish being in the Midwest. In total, 31 people filled my home over the course of a few days with every single one of us missing at least one beloved child. We each had our rainbow in tow-- the child born after the sadness of losing a child-- the light after our storms. Our storms are never over and our children never forgotten. In fact, they are remembered and recognized even more because we have their siblings to hold and love.

This weekend.

We laughed. We cried. We did both at the same time. We ate. We took photos. We picnicked. We stayed up late hours chatting. We smiled.

It felt therapeutic. This whole weekend was just what our souls needed. After 2.5 long years of feeling isolated and suffocating in my own skin, I felt a huge release this weekend.

Sure, it was mayhem. With that many children ranging from 7 months - 2 years, you can imagine what kind of crazy my house looked, felt and sounded like this weekend.

But honestly? We wanted it to be crazier. Instead of 14 children, there should have been 29 of them wreaking havoc on everything they could find. Sure, we wouldn't know one another and this whole meeting would be null and void. But tell our hearts that. They aren't rational.

Our beautiful rainbow babies in hats knitted by a grandma missing her granddaughter, Elizabeth. Incredible and emotional for us all. Lots of Kleenex.
Mamas and their rainbow babies
Families from all over: Missouri, California, Washington, New Jersey, Alabama, Texas, Illinois, Canada, Minnesota, Tennessee (and many others were in our hearts and thoughts as they were unable to come).

These families and many others who could not attend this weekend were part of a large camaraderie we created through blogging. I know blogging gets a bad wrap as being self-indulgent drivel. However, without this bit of communication, I'm not quite sure where I would be today in my grief. It's still misery. It's still horrible to wake up every single morning knowing that I will never see my son again. Blogging has become a way to connect with others in a way I never imagined would be necessary in my life. That picture is important proof that these women and their beautiful rainbows have changed my life for the better.

Misery loves company. Maybe. Okay, yes it does.

But Lord. I'm just so happy I found these "miserable" people when I did and that I got to hug and cry with each one of them this weekend. I'm only sad it's over.
Candles lit and wish paper sent in honor of our babies and those who could not be present to light candles for their children.
Other recaps from the weekend written by Brooke, Melissa, Tiffany, Natasha and Keleen.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Spring Scents

I've been really busy, you guys. I'm really trying to finish up this dresser and it's taking all of my naptime to get it done, which means we've been living off frozen food. Don't judge me.

Unrelated, the last few days I've been thinking about how my house smells. Okay, weird. I get it.

We've lived in this house just over 3 years now. When we moved in, I remember walking in to a new scent. It felt like new and that's just what it was (Well, to us. Our house is older than we are.).

Eventually, it became a regular scent and one I associated with us. It was the comfort of home and one we added to over time with new soaps, cleaning, plants, paint, etc.

However, with the weather changing and Chicago seeing temps between 70-80 degree (!), that scent has returned. It smells like it did when we moved in and when I was newly pregnant with Andrew. We've all heard about the sense of smell being among the strongest to connect us with memories. Being pregnant with Andrew, my sense of smell was immensely heightened-- even more than my pregnancy with Benjamin.

Winter was over and spring was in full bloom when we moved in. I fully believe that seasons cause your home to smell differently. I don't know if it's because of the temperature outside and how the sun hits down, but it smells different in the spring. Not just because of pollen in the air and flowers blooming. 

This new home smell makes me think of being pregnant with Andrew so much. 

I miss everything about spring three years ago.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Black and White

You'll never see one of those photos on Instagram posted by me. And I'll never have another one printed.

We have a large canvas print from our wedding in black and white that I love, but that was before. Before is okay, but this is after. Like two sides of a coin and definitely different people within us.

Before all things I knew were good all of a sudden turned upside-down, black and white photos were modern chic. They had edge to them and provided a sense of mystery to photos that left you wondering.

What color is that shirt?
Is that tulip white or yellow?
What color eyes do they have?

Your brain is left to the intriguing mystery and fantasy that the colors could be anything you want.

Andrew's photos were in black and white. For obvious reasons. And as much as I cherish/adore/love/hoard them, it saddens me that they are black and white. They're gorgeous. Taken by a professional photographer and touched up in probably so many places that it makes you wonder what the real baby looked like. Well, except us. We know exactly what that gorgeous baby looked like.

They do look like him, except the color. Of course the color. It's as though the obvious choice to print in black and white helps conceal imperfect skin coloring... but more vividly adds the mystery of the unknown about a baby sadly unknown. And it's hard to forget the notion that things are quite black and white when it comes to the reality of loss. That things are not colorful or cheery. They're black, white, gray, permanent. Their lack of color somehow symbolizes the permanence of losing him.

In June, he would be blowing out the candles on his half-birthday cake. A boy standing tall at the age of 2.5 years. What a joy that would be to see the boy he should become. At well over 2 years after losing him, it still brings me to my knees. Maybe not so often, but still painfully so.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Worst One to Date

And I'm not talking about the weather. Well, that did have something to do with it.

I spent a week with my parents recently and Benjamin slept in a pack 'n' play. Without the Snuza or Angelcare monitor. Just a noise monitor when I was out of the room. We shared a room for sleeping which I don't necessarily recommend if you're a paranoid mom with a kid who rolls around approximately 3,498 times each night. But you know what? Those movements always let me know he's okay, so I am okay with losing sleep.

We came back home and resumed our Angelcare monitoring, as we've been doing since we transitioned him to the crib at 3.5 months. He'll be 14 months this week.

Just two nights ago, my husband mentioned (after a few repeated false alarms) that he might be okay with cutting off the movement monitor and just sticking with sound (of which we turn off anyway because we can hear him just fine in the next room over).

And then it was yesterday. The day of crazy flooding in my town. A town they featured on the news multiple times. My town is very small. It's a huge suburb, sure, but the town itself is not huge. Flooding all over the place and devastation everywhere. We were lucky, but still didn't escape losing sleep over what could have been much more disastrous. If we were not up at crazy hours mitigating the situation, we may have been in way more trouble.

In the midst of it all, I noticed the Angelcare monitor hangy ball (technical term... or pendulum if you want to get all bourgy on me) was gone. Disappeared. Well, so had part of the numbers indicating the temperature in his room. We have two monitors but this one seems to hate us. In that moment, my heart started beating rapidly, despite understanding that even though the display is malfunctioning that the monitor itself was still working.

It was 8:30 a.m. at this point and we were handling buckets and slamming things nonstop to prevent our basement from going under, yet our very light sleeping baby was still not awake from the racket. Worst storm in 16 years. A 24-hour period of nonstop thunderstorms brought down nearly 7 inches on our region and 8 inches is the record of monthly rainfall ever. We nearly got that in one day. To say this was insane is not sugar-coating. People were in boats and swimming in the park across the street, people. I think that Chicago hates us.

My wonderful husband told me that he'd go upstairs with me to check on him. I knew he told me that because we were both afraid that we'd come face-to-face with another tragedy. Seeing another one of our children slip through our fingers. I told him not to come with me because his feet were gross from trudging around outside in the sloshing mud.

I walked in and saw a baby sleeping on his belly, passed out. I can't use the term out cold nonchalantly anymore because omg, I know what it's like to have a child literally out cold. I've touched and held his cold skin. I looked at his face, shook him and saw that his eyes were open and looked glazed. While I never did see Andrew's eyes, I know that people often pass with their eyes open. Or at least that's how television portrays things.

No response. Limp. I shook him some more and then grabbed him. His head went limp and finally he looked at me lethargically and waved.

He waved. He does love to wave.

Then I knew he was alive, but you guys. After 12 hours of sleep, or even 2 hours, this kid usually pops right up from deep sleep and stands in his crib like he's in basic training or something at the sound or sight of any noise or light. Hence the blackout shades.

I know that the crazy storm and our insane lack of sleep contributed to my freakout, but this has to be my worst PTSD moment to date.

I think I'll keep the Angelcare monitor on him until he graduates high school.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Letters to Andrew {6}

The day we arrived home empty-handed from the hospital after losing Andrew, we immediately re-booked our flights from California to Florida instead. Our California trip was scheduled for a post-baby shower and to introduce Andrew to all of our friends and family. With no baby to bring, we chose to change our itinerary altogether and booked a cruise to the Bahamas. It wasn't meant to be a vacation and we didn't look forward to it. We were far too sad to look forward to anything. I couldn't even manage to understand how I'd make it another day, let alone look forward to a trip we'd take a few months from that date.

This time, we set out for the islands again, but this time a bit further into the West Indies. Somehow, I feel connected to Andrew when we travel to that region, because he was so close to me then. He was still so fresh in my mind and it was days and not years since I'd held him for the one and only time.

On one of the days we spent on St. Kitts, we took a taxi to Cockleshell Beach at the Southern tip of the island, looking on to Nevis, the sister island and other half of the small country. The entire beach was pretty desolate as there were no cruise ships docked that day. There were other families with their children playing in the calm waters and people dining at the two restaurants. We took walks up and down the narrow shoreline and spent the time on shaded beach chairs with the only sound coming from the crashing waves and a rooster that couldn't seem to figure out his place in life.

I felt an overwhelming need to see his name in the sand, so I wrote it. A few times, actually. The waves wanted to wash it away and I needed to see it.


Beloved Andrew,

I don't shower what's left of you with kisses quite as much as I did in the earlier days of missing you. I don't cry as much... though just typing that has reduced me to big alligator tears. It upsets your brother to see me crying, so it's a good thing he's napping right now. The magnitude of losing you still catches me by surprise when I think of just how much we lost on that dreary day in December. 

I read an article this week about a celebrity who had a late miscarriage and was deeply saddened by the loss. There were comments from ignorant strangers that made me so angry. They didn't understand that an entire life and all of the plans that came with that precious life were gone. It's been a long time since I felt injustice and anger about losing you. Those feelings came right back up when I read about others trivializing that baby's life.

When we were in St. Kitts with your little brother this past weekend, I couldn't stop thinking about you. There were many children at our resort. Many that were about the age you would be now. My heart will always wonder and ache for the boy and man you should become.

We arrived back in Chicago to cold, just as we did when you died and after that Bahamas trip we took because you died. The winter chill stings my soul and mocks us with its presence. 

We miss you. There's nothing more to say about it, but I'll keep saying it. It can never quantify how much, as the words are just not powerful enough. I love you. 

Love, 
Mom

Monday, February 11, 2013

Grief Lit.

I don't know about the rest of you babyloss friends out there, but when your baby died, did tons of literature, books & articles start flooding your way?

Not that there's anything wrong with that and honestly, I think it's so encouraging that those who care most about you send not only their condolences, but anything they can that they think might keep you treading water. Because that's all we were doing for a very, very long time after Andrew died. Treading water. Sending literature, cards, plants, or whatever means you're acknowledging our loss and sadness. That it's not being trivialized. As much as I felt suffocated by the full mailbox of sad cards and flower deliveries, I felt so thankful that Andrew was recognized at all to a sea of people who had never even seen his face (which is beautiful, by the way).

We sent the plants and flowers away with a friend who works at a nursing home. The people appreciated them there and were willing to see that they were cared for. We would've just let them shrivel up and die... which felt like such a strong metaphor for how we were feeling when our son really did die. We didn't need to watch other things die around us because we were in no shape to care for them. So they went.

But the literature.

I'd venture to say that I read one of the books in the entire pile. It's a children's book and I lost my mind reading it... but felt it was such a good description of grief. Other than that, I didn't even crack open the covers. I hid them away, embarrassed that I needed to own such titles. I didn't want anyone telling me how to grieve or giving me advice on something so crippling and unforgiving. I didn't want someone telling me it would be okay eventually or that I needed to move on and this was how to do it. I did read two books, but mostly just memoirs of those who had babies die before me. I craved that literature, as I wanted to know I wasn't alone. But a psychiatrist's point of view about how to handle the worst thing conceivable? I wanted nothing to do with those words.

All I wanted to do was talk with babyloss friends, cry, and try like hell to get pregnant again so I could mask some of that sadness in the form of a sibling. While having B is much more than that now, it definitely felt like the best salve I could have to ease the pain. And it has... but just like a salve, it only masks the pain a bit. It doesn't eliminate the pain.

Yesterday during B's nap, we were cleaning the utility room in our basement. I swear those pictures are on my list, but travel and a special birthday celebration are taking precedence. I cleaned through all my teaching supplies to consolidate and eliminate some of the stuff I know will be valueless in a few years when I finally head back to the classroom. We organized our camping and hiking supplies, and made room for our tools and other things that belong in basement utility rooms... like dust-collecting tennis rackets.

I came across Andrew's bag. It's a Trader Joe's bag that our friends brought to the hospital full of snacks and goodies the day after Andrew was born. I can't bring myself to use the re-usable bag, as it most definitely feels like Andrew's bag. Yet, it's such a cheap representation of his life and value. But I just don't know where to keep his things. The things he wore in the hospital. The only things he ever wore. The trinkets people sent us and keepsakes, his footprints, certificates of sad things... and the literature. The grief literature that just seemed to pile and pile when we opened our mailbox during the weeks and months after he died.

I only now might be able to crack open the covers of some of them, but I don't know if that's healthy. I'm an experienced griever now, and I do believe my words could very well be written on those pages. I fear the words will open wounds that are salved over and maybe even present more anger than I continue to harbor about losing our perfect firstborn.

Do these books remain on my shelves? What about Andrew's things? Where do those go? They were in the nursery until Benjamin was born, and then we moved them to the basement because we didn't know where else they should go. I moved them from the basement utility room to the basement bedroom closet yesterday because it seemed like a warmer environment for the only things Andrew ever touched. I don't know that I value them a ton, but it seems like I should or at least separate them from dusty tennis rackets and the hot water heater.

...

I received an email from another babyloss mother, Sarah, over at Land of Abe. She lost her daughter Genevieve in 2011 and wrote an article about how stillbirth and grief are currently represented in our society. It was published over at the New York Times parenting blog yesterday. There are some wonderful comments of those who have both lost and acknowledge. It's a lovely read that's raw and true to what most of us parents who live beyond our babies want-- for grief to be handled better in our society and for stillbirth and {insert how your child died here} to be researched so other families might be spared from the reality of such devastating losses. Head on over there and join the discussion, if you will.