Marshmallow Fluff

I wrote a post on grief and mourning and then decided not to share those words today after all.

Then I picked a portion of something I wrote in my journal and decided not to share that either.

Then I chose a quote by Mary Shelley. Did you know she lost her one year old and her 3 year old? No wonder she wrote about monsters.

Anyway, I decided against every well thought out caption for this photo, because when I look at it, all I can think about are the comments that will flood in about how adorable and chubby he is.

Yes, he is adorable and chubby. But not this chubby. This wasn’t just precious baby chub, earned by a good latch, a suckling babe, and impressive milk supply.

This was water weight that he carried because his body wasn’t functioning well enough to flush it out. The day before this, he weighed 7lbs. In this moment, he weighed 9lbs.

He eventually was able to clear out the water weight, but I look at this photo and can’t help but feel jealous. Jealous and sad.

Jealous of these tubes that nourished my son, when it should’ve been me. I should’ve been able to take the credit for his chubbiness- for real, chunky rolls that would eventually appear instead of this artificial marshmallow fluff that appeared overnight and would vanish the next day.

And sad, that he couldn’t fully heal so I could bring him home to continue our breastfeeding relationship, to help him grow with nothing but my own body.

So, here we are. No pretty, edited words to express where I’m at today. Just the incoherent ramblings of a grieving mother. Or to put it more eloquently, word vomit.

Naptime

Dear Sterling,

It’s naptime now. Ever is sleeping in her crib. Oliver is having trouble falling asleep. I lay beside him in his bed, stroking his dark hair, amazed at how much he resembles you.

Oliver rolls his Lego Spiderman between his hands. I wonder if you would’ve liked Spiderman and Lego too.

Oliver points out the light that makes its way past blackout curtains and illuminates an empty spot on the floor. A void where your crib would’ve gone. The crib isn’t here and neither are you. My heart breaks a little more.

Oliver sees through my strong exterior and places his hand on my face, sensing the shift in my mood. He runs his fingers through my hair and tells me it’s beautiful.

“I like purple,” he says. I wonder if you would’ve liked it too and what kinds of things you would’ve said to melt me the same way Ollie does.

I tell Oliver to close his eyes and think of the best day and maybe he will go there in his dreams. He closes his eyes.

“The beach,” he says, eyes still closed with a smile on his face.

I wonder if I’m the only one who spends every second thinking of you. The thought makes me sad.

“The beach,” he says again, his smile widening, “…and we could pick up Sterling from heaven and take him with us.”

We are always thinking of you, darling baby.

Grace

I recieved this question from another loss mama: how do you manage the bad days with kids?

As I heated store bought soup for dinner, I realized the answer to that question.

Grace.

Grace to the people around you, but especially, give grace to yourself. Shower yourself with grace. Bathe in it. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Grace for me yesterday was serving pre-made, store bought soup for dinner. It was accepting help when it was offered. It was neglecting the laundry to soak up snuggles and using paper plates so I didn’t have to worry about dishes. It was wearing pajamas all day and watching way too much TV with my living kids.

Then, it was throwing every ounce of guilt out the window, because this is grief. This is survival. I’m not the mom I used to be and for now, that’s okay. We’ll find a little more normalcy with each day that passes.

And don’t worry- your children will give you all the grace you need from them too.

Vitamin Sea

Darling boy,

You were near today.

Perhaps there’s something about the ocean that makes everyone feel a little closer to heaven.

You were there in the sound of the other children’s laughter, as it danced through the salty air.

I saw you in Oliver, as he stretched out his arms like wings and ran across the sea kissed sand. I had a vision of you doing the same on streets of gold.

You were with us today. These places where your presence is so undeniably strong, these are the places I never want to leave.

02.15.2020

Your First Bath

Not exactly how I always pictured it would be, but I’ll take it.

You were so swollen because your poor, little kidneys weren’t doing well. And then somehow, something in you started healing because you started peeing. You peed all over your nurse. It was so funny.

This is one of the most bittersweet photos I have in my camera roll. Some days, I see this and it cracks me up. Other days, it kills me.

I remember how much hope we had in this moment and how it all came crashing down a few hours later when we learned you were in a coma. It just depends on how I see the world that day.

Today, its a good day or at least, this moment is a good moment. I wish you were here so I could give you a proper bath, but I’m happy I had the chance to bathe you at all.

I love you, darling Sterling.

Mommy Minus One

I felt ready to come back to our mommy group today. Honestly, if I didn’t, I would have honored that and stayed home.

It’s important that we, as grieving parents, honor every emotion and every feeling as it comes up. This is a healthy way to mourn, by showing ourselves grace and giving ourselves the space to mourn when we want, the way we want. (Don’t worry. I have plenty of unhealthy grieving habits too.)

I was excited to see my mama friends today. But when I pulled into the parking lot, the weight of our reality hit me so hard.

Wait a minute. I’m supposed to be unloading 5 kids right now. I’m supposed to be wrapping a 2 month old baby Sterling up to my body before heading in.

I wept into a napkin from the glove compartment, as my 3 oldest kids unbuckled their seatbelts and crowded around me.

“I’m sorry, guys” was all that would come out in a whisper. They all laid their hands on me and my oldest and very wise 6 year old, Cadence, rested her head on my shoulder.

“It’s okay to cry about Sterling,” she assured. We sat here for almost 20 minutes, before I pulled myself together and dropped the kids off to their classes.

Then I got to my table and I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing as I hugged the other mamas.

I’m supposed to be introducing him to my friends today. And instead, I arrive empty handed.

I did end up having a great time. I enjoyed being around friendly, familiar faces.

But loss just hovers over every little thing we do. Life will never be the same for any of us. And as sad as this is, I still wouldn’t change it. I would willingly choose every second of pain, every moment of heartache, every tear that is shed to have Sterling for the 6 days he lived.

Time Doesn’t Heal – 2 months down

“Time heals,” they say. Well, they’re wrong.

I keep waiting to feel a tiny bit better, for time to make it a bit easier. But the further away we get from December, the more it hurts.

62 days since I held you, since I last kissed your face.

Right now, it feels impossible to survive, like I will literally die from a broken heart.

Sometimes, I can wrap these words up in hope. Wrap this grief up in a neat little package and tie it with a bow, with the promise of heaven. I know we’re one day closer to heaven. I get it. And I’m grateful for it.

But there are moments when the darkness swallows me whole and the best I can do is just to feel. To give myself a break from searching for silver linings and just allow myself to hurt. So, I’ll sit here in this grief until I’m ready. And when I am, I will muster up every bit of strength I have and crawl back into the light.

2 months since I kissed you goodbye and I am hurting more than ever.

I love you, sweet boy.

Questions.

Today has been a rough one.

Sometimes, I just want to pour out all my feelings, but it’s hard and scary. I don’t know, at this point, what’s too much too share. I don’t want to make anyone sad or come across like I’m fishing for pity. That’s just not my heart, not my intent.

However, I would be doing the baby loss community a disservice if I only shared the beautiful, without the horrible, grief stricken moments. I think of the other baby loss families who have found our story. It wouldn’t be fair if I only shared encouraging words and left out all the heart wrenching, painful moments. That would be isolating.

So here’s where I’m at today- I’m angry. I’m confused. How is this my life? Why did Sterling have a spontaneous mutation that caused his disorder?

Just the shittiest luck. A total freak situation. But why? Why do people have deadly random mutations at all? Why couldn’t the doctors figure it out in time to save him?

I have so many questions that won’t be answered this side of heaven and I’m learning how to be okay with that. But for now, I’m not okay. 

💔

Magic

Sweet boy,

Last night, I dreamed of you. You were alive.

I remember you being sick but you were alive and well enough to be home with us. Your Mimi (my mom) came over to help me gather up all the kids and take you to a doctor’s appointment.

We were already behind schedule, but I decided to nurse you before we left, even though we would be running a few minutes late. I vividly remember this, almost as if it really happened.

You latched on to the right, while warm breast milk leaked out of the left and ran down my side, soaking my shirt. When you were full, I handed you to Mimi and laughed as I went to change my shirt before running out the door.

And then I woke up.

If this would’ve been real, I would’ve taken this moment for granted. But not having you here makes me appreciate the mundane and sometimes chaotic moments with my living children more than ever before.

Just another gift you’ve left behind, my darling son. Thank you for the ability to see the magic in little every day moments.

Not All Babies Graduate

Let me tell you, there is nothing more strange and awkward than taking pictures of your baby in the hospital. At least, this was my experience. 

I’m not talking about the adorable milestone and NICU graduate photos. I mean the baby-might-not-make-it-through-the-night, let-me-capture-one-more-moment-while-I-still-can photos.

One moment was more horrifying than the next.  One moment, it would look like things were improving and the next, it would all come crashing down. But with every new phase, we took pictures, even the ones that were hard to take. 

People tend to judge what they don’t understand and to some, it seems odd that we would be taking pictures of or sharing these rough moments. I don’t write this to make anyone feel bad or uncomfortable, but in the hopes that I can help more people understand.

For 5 of the 6 days of my son’s life, he was hooked up to hospital machines and yes, it can be hard to look at. But if you look past the tubes and tape, you’ll see my beautiful baby boy. The hope is that every baby will make it out of the NICU/PICU. For some of us, thats not the case.

As hard as it was to take pictures, I’m so glad we did. This was his life. This is his story.

Go easy on us grieving mamas. We would give anything to be sharing perfectly composed photos of healthy little babies in our homes next to letter boards, but sometimes, that’s not the way the story goes. Sometimes, this is all we have.