Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I also tackled Claudia's photo album. I had it completed through October but needed the last month of her first year done.
It is a red and white album that I just love. It says "Watch me grow" on the front of it. It has openings for photos on the cover that looks like leaves and a little caterpillar on it. It is one of those albums that holds both vertical and horizontal photos on the same page.
I didn't buy it for her. I bought it for Curtis.
It was one of those purchases I was SO excited about it. I got it the week before he was born at Target and was so proud of it. In fact, I frickin' took a picture of it and posted it to an online message board I was on during my pregnancy with him. I couldn't wait to fill it up. Even after his death I showed it to my mom. "Look, isn't this cute?" She just looked at me strangely.
It was one of the things, after his death, that drove me nuts. I would flip through that empty photo album and look at the mocking "Watch me grow!" on the front of it and wanted to light it on fire.
After I had Claudia, I searched in vain for another photo album I loved as much as that one. I couldn't find one. I wanted one to last her her entire first year (which, let's face it, is a TON of pictures). I wanted horizontal and vertical album...
I had this huge debate with myself for weeks. Use it or don't use it. I loved the album. But I bought it for him. But I also bought the crib and bookshelf and dresser for him and was using it for her. But I would reuse those things for the next child anyway. I wouldn't reuse a photo album.
There is a difference. He isn't alive. He never used the album to begin with so it isn't second hand like furniture would be, which is normal. The album wasn't technically used....
Ugh. In the end, the love of the photo album won out.
What a stupid thing I worried about for weeks. How stupid to even have a blog post about a photo album.
But this is my life. Focusing on stupid little things like a photo album that was bought for him but became hers. This is my life. That album has 300 photos of her first year of life. Every time I look at it, I know it was meant for him. Though, I love flipping through the pages and "watching her grow."
I just wish stupid things didn't haunt me. It is just a photo album! But it is tied to him.
In the end, I am glad I used it.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
1) The next our story post is going to be dealing with my miscarriage. That is something I still haven't wrapped my head around. That is going to be tough to write about. While the miscarriage wasn't the same as losing Curtis, it was about losing hope. I really haven't written much about the miscarriage, it was over before it really started, but the "over" part was a month process that effected me physically.
2) Curtis would be two and a half this Christmas. The magic, the sparkle...it would all be there. I have had to make a conscious decision to enjoy Christmas. I have a child now and I have every reason in the world to enjoy Christmas. But I never, ever, ever get rid of that "dark place' at the back of my mind. Telling me I should have a little boy running down the stairs on Christmas morning. I constantly picture him. A picture of the 3 of us? I see a blond haired boy next to Craig. A blue eyed boy walking between us at the mall. Him holding our hands and us doing "One....two....THREE" and lifting him up by his arms and swinging him.
Constantly. The image of what is suppose to be is forever haunting me.
3) With that, I am going to wish you Merry Christmas. We only get so many Christmases in our lives....so I am lucky I am at a place where I can enjoy it again, despite everything. This is my life now. I have her. For that, I am taking comfort.
I read something recently...."For nine months, I held a piece of heaven. Now, heaven holds a part of me."
While my faith is wavering (which is a post for another day....) I do like that sentiment. It gives me a small amount of comfort on a time I should still be holding my piece(s) of heaven.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Late in October of 2006, Craig and I made the decision to do something different for Christmas. I had been so looking forward to Christmas when I was pregnant. Christmas of 2005, I went a little nuts buying things on clearance related to Christmas and a baby. We didn't know the gender at that time, so I bought girl Christmas things and boy Christmas things. A little baby Santa suit. (Hey, everything was 75% off....).
I knew damn well all of that stuff was still sitting on a shelf in his bedroom while his ashes were on a shelf in my living room.
A self professed Christmas freak, I needed to skip it. I couldn't handle the thought of sitting with our families and forcing a smile. We have a lot of kids on each side and...well, damn it. It was suppose to be our turn. Our Christmas to have a child. The previous Christmas my parents had given us a "parents to be ornament". My mother in law had given me a book about being a first time mom and an Oh Baby tshirt. My parents gave us a video camera....
There was no way I was going to be able to fake my way through Christmas. Craig and I decided to take a trip, but we needed to make it inexpensive. It had to be short, he had just started a new job after all....so, that was that. Vegas was booked.
It did not go over well with our families. Overall, they were understanding, but for their own reasons they wanted us there. When, for obvious reasons that was the last place we wanted to be.
We needed Christmas to be different. In booking the trip to Vegas and looking at shows to attend, I began to look forward to Christmas. To get away with my husband. It wasn't going to me watching all of my nieces and nephews rip open their presents, it was going to be us eating, playing the slots, and relaxing.
It was exactly what we needed. I refused to set foot into a mall or Target or anywhere Christmas "threw up" for the entire month of December. I did shop for our nieces and nephews, but thanks to the Internet, it was easy. We donated money instead of buying gifts for the adults and asked people to do the same, but no one did. I didn't put up my Christmas decorations. I did end up putting up a small, artificial tree. Mainly because my mom had given us a Curtis ornament at the Angel of Hope ceremony a few weeks prior, and I wanted to hang it up. It became known as our memory tree, all ornaments for Curtis. We hung up that "Parents to be" ornament.
We left early on Christmas eve, and arrived in Vegas early in the day. Most of the trip is a blur of slot machines, funny comedy shows, and eating out. Christmas day I woke up and....it didn't feel like Christmas. Which is exactly what I wanted. Christmas night we went to a showing of Mamma Mia. Everything felt fine. It felt good. A friend who lives in California drove up to meet up with us.
The day before we left, sitting in a Chinese restaurant, Craig and I looked at each other and both of our eyes filled with tears.
"I cannot believe this. How can this be?"
"I don't know. I miss him so much."
We talked, and we talked, and we talked. We talked about our little boy and the weird turn our lives had taken. We talked until our tears stopped and we started joking about the weirdos crying, in Vegas, in front of our sweet 'n sour chicken.
While Vegas did not erase our grief, I have to say, it did make Christmas a heck of a lot easier. I still think our families have no clue how much we needed that trip. The next Christmas....well, Claudia was with us by then and life became much different. Always tears, always someone missing.... but Christmas 2006 will forever be our Christmas. The year we did what we needed to do to get through another day.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Last year on our card I included the verbage "and Curtis, who we hold in our hearts" at the bottom above three pictures of our new little family and our names.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
A few weeks into September 2006, I came home to find Craig sitting in our loft. He was at his desk, which he never sat at, on the computer, and a pencil in his mouth. He gave me a quick smile and said "How is your stress level today?"
Not exactly the way you want to be greeted when your life has already been shattered.
"Just give it to me." I responded.
"Well, my boss called me into the office. In the next few weeks I will be laid off."
I took a deep breath. This thing would normally send me into a tailspin. I should be freaking out about money and debt and mortgage, but I didn't have it in me. This wasn't completely unexpected. Craig worked for a home builder and the market was starting to take a turn. And as computer guy he was going to be the first to go. Plus, we had a head's up.
Craig got to work on his resume and applying for jobs. Two weeks later, he was laid off. Was paid a week severance, his vacation, and came home.
Craig worked hard, studied the newest applications and coding (that is some computer stuff I guess!). He got a few interviews quickly and took a job just a week after he was laid off. We were cautiously happy, he wasn't thrilled about the company, but heck: it was a job. It was a pay cut, but it was a job. We felt like he had to keep looking but still take this chance.
His first day on the job was also his first night at a new bowling league. He had stopped bowling with a group of lifelong friends the previous season as the bowling league disbanded. Joining in with an old coworker, he took a chance on a new league.
He came home that Monday night, came up to bed and took one look at me and said "I want my old job back and my old friends back."
It broke my heart. Everything had drastically changed for us. We went from the couple who seemed to have it all, to grieving parents, to losing loved ones, to losing jobs....everything had changed.
Craig always seemed to handle it all much better than myself. Where I am high strung, high emotion, he is even. So for him to actually admit how bad it sucked just made me more pissed off at our situation.
His job continued to suck. He came home and said "A monkey could do what I am doing." Not exactly good for the ego.
Craig had gotten another interview at a much more desirable company a week later. It was a company he had wanted to work at for awhile, a company with a future. He went in for an interview on a Tuesday and was told he would hear within the next few days.
But noon on Wednesday he couldn't stand the anticipation and called. They didn't outright say he had the job but they would be returning his call later in the day.
He came home defeated because they never called back. I was crushed for him, but kept reminding him his interview was just the day before. It was around 8pm at night when he was on the phone with a friend. Someone tried to beep in, but he didn't recognize the number so ignored it.
When he checked the voicemail, and realized it was the HR rep, he hurried out the garage to take the call.
Yes, the garage. He said he couldn't stand the pressure of having me in the same room.
I couldn't stand the pressure of him out in the garage so I went up to our room.
He was gone for a long time. Was that a good thing? Was he on the phone talking salary? Was he upset in the garage, not wanting to come in and tell me the sad news?
I finally heard him make his way up the steps. From the doorway in our room, I saw a hand first, giving a thumbs up.
I jumped up and screamed. He had a HUGE grin on his face. We even drank some champagne that night. I think it was the first time we had truly felt joy since losing Curtis. We needed this so badly. I remember calling my mom to tell her the good news and she burst into tears. I know she was happy for Craig and his new job, but I know it was more that we were excited about something again. That something GOOD had happened for us in the wake of so much.
The job gave us a piece of happiness back. That good things can happen to us again. He started his new job the beginning of October that year and we agree getting laid off was the best thing for him, it pushed him to find a new, much better job. He has been there over two years now and is well liked and very valued.
So, in October 2006 he started a new job and that gave us hope. And with that hope, we started talking about trying again. Trying to get back some more joy. Trying to bring a child, a living child, in this world.
Monday, December 8, 2008
The Memorial Walk.
The year we lost Curtis, 2006, I connected with the Missing Grace organization. My first real event was a 5K Walk/Run they do to raise money for this non profit. Over the years, I have gotten to know the founder well, and they were the ones who put me in touch with doctors who got Claudia here. I truly believe without them, we would have lost Claudia as well. That story will be told in the future, but cord issues can and do repeat. Claudia had a cord issue, the same one that took her brother's life.
So, in August of 2006, I found out about this 5K and contacted our friends and family to see if they wanted to participate. Our parents said yes, some of our siblings joined in and agreed to sign up.
I got the crazy idea I was going to make tshirts that said "Team Curtis" on them. On every one's tshirt I would put things like "Curtis' dad" on the front. I found a picture of Curtis to use.
I designed (and I do use that term loosely) the iron transfers. I went to the store and bought a stack of tshirts. I spent on Saturday night carefully printing everything out and ironing the tshirts. Because I am not talented in the ways of iron transfers, they were less than perfect. A few I had to redo (because I accidentally ironed on the words wrong and it said stuff like "Curtis Team" as opposed to "Team Curtis".
I spent hours, ironing each shirt, and crying as I finished each one. Each shirt was a reflection of something I could "do" for Curtis. I could not parent him like normal people parent. There was nothing for me to do for him. So this. This I could do.
I hadn't even told our families I was making these shirts. One day, a few days before the walk, I just got in my car and delivered the shirts. I was practically shaking when I handed them to people.
What if they thought it was stupid? What if they didn't want to wear them? I wondered all of this out loud to Craig. "Oh. They will wear them. They will have no choice." I almost threw them all away. I didn't want my feelings hurt. I didn't want all of my hard work, all of my parenting of Curtis looked at with disdain.
My sister in law held out the shirt I made for her son and gasped "I cannot WAIT to put this on him."
I can still see her face, her expression in my head. Those few words and her genuine joy in receiving that shirt still mean the world to me.
So, on a chilly day in September, we did the 1st walk as Team Curtis. It was a small crowd that year, their first year with the walk and all. I can say that in comparison because the future years have doubled in size each year. We were the only ones to wear team tshirts and therefore, got a lot of attention for them. The foundation even put pictures of our shirts on their advertising for the event for the following year and pictures up on their website.
In fact, in May of 2007, we were at our support group and I said something about Curtis and a couple new to the group said "Curtis? Of Team Curtis? We saw your shirts!"
I think I just got my 15 minutes of fame.
It felt amazing.
And, at the walk in 2007 and 2008, tons of teams made tshirts. But we were the first. We were the original. A lot of people get "fancy" ones made. Professional printing. Beautiful artwork.
Not me. I continue to make new ones for every member of our team each year. It is one of the very few things I can do for Curtis each year. So, I continue to iron (and continue to have to redo) shirts every year. Each year I cry. Each year I step back and take pictures of each shirt. Even though they don't change from year to year, they are just as important to me as they were back then.
At the end of the walk in 2006, we did a balloon release and I buried my head into Craig's shoulder and sobbed. Sobbed that everyone wore their shirts and were proud. Sobbed because I even had to be at an event like this to begin with... and because I missed my baby boy.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Nine months. I was pregnant for NINE MONTHS. That is a really long time to think about something, and prepare for something. I did everything a pregnant woman, an educated, smart, pregnant woman does. I took my prenatal. I went to every doctor's appointment. I ate decent foods. I took a child birth class. (Okay. We skipped the second day. But it was seriously that boring.) My husband came with to every single doctor's appointment. We prepared a cute little nursery and bought newborn diapers. Happily married. College degree. Families who adore and love us. Families that were so excited about another grandchild.
For nine months we prepared and it was just....gone. In an instant. No time to prepare. Just....gone. How do you undo that in your mind?
I sit here and still think, two and a half years later "what the frick just happened here?"
I did go to therapy, starting in March of 2007. Right around the time I got pregnant with our daughter.
It didn't help. I am not trying to be mean, my therapist was very kind...but I had the feeling she just wanted to see me get my happy ending. She was so interested in my pregnancy and getting me through the end, she did little to help my anxiety, did little to help my guilt (which I got so much of I am running out of room to store it) and did little to help my grief. She just liked my story. The heartbreak of losing Curtis....trying again and miscarrying (which I will blog about in a "our story post" in the future) and then getting pregnant with our daughter. Then, the harrowing pregnancy, the complications we had with her heart and low fluid at 20 weeks. Meeting with the research doctors, the nightly monitoring .... she loved it all. She wanted the celebration and for us to go on our merry way.
Once again, I am not trying to rip on her, because she was kind. And let's admit: I enjoy talking about Curtis and telling our story. I like the attention surrounding him. Even if I am paying for it every 3rd week.
But therapy did little to actually help.
But when I think about it, I have to admit nothing is going to make me feel less guilty about losing him. I believe, hell I *know* it could have been prevented. I know I could have pushed harder, I knew I should and I chose not to. I chose to ignore what was going on inside of me. No matter how many people tell me it was not my fault (I know I didn't do it on purpose. I get that.) I will never let go of the roll I played in Curtis' death. Never.
So, while I think therapy can be helpful, I think in my case, it isn't. Because my guilt and my grief are ways of coping. Sounds odd, but it is true. How I cope is by knowing I could have prevented it and apologizing to Curtis for not doing more. I am sorry my mistakes assisted in his death. I am sorry I did not educate myself on kick counts, which would have saved his life. (See my kick counts post for more info). I am sorry that I worked so hard to get our daughter here and I didn't put the effort into him.
My guilt gets me through. Because if I didn't feel guilty...what would I have? A "well, it just happened" thinking? I can't do that. It isn't me. I am his mom. Moms feel guilty for the things they didn't do. They can't do. Didn't have the knowledge to do to make their child's lives better. Moms feel guilty.
So, while some days it still seems so surreal, I know he was in real. I have the stretch marks I wear on the outside and on the inside, a heavy heart full of guilt.
Curtis and his loss are all too real.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
One of Craig's brothers has 2 girls, very close in age. They are 8 and 7.
The next child, from another brother is a boy, who is 3.
Then there is our daughter, and another baby, a girl, 9 months younger than her.
Can you see it? Can you see that gap? 2 girls, close in age, sisters even...and playmates. Then there is our daughter, and the newest baby in the family. Bound to grow up and be playmates. Both girls, only 9 months apart.
But, look. Look at the lone boy there. Right in the middle. Age 3. No boys to play with. No one similar in age. But there should be. Curtis should be smack dab in the middle with him. It just makes me sick every time we are together and he is chasing after the older girls, trying to get them to play. Or trying to play with our daughter, who is much too young to be anything but confused by his approaches.
When we announced we were pregnant with Curtis, my mother in law went on and on how wonderful it would be for the two of them to have each other.
That, obviously, didn't happen.
When my sister in law got pregnant with her daughter, my mother in law went on and on about how wonderful it would be for the two girls to have each other.
That did happen.
But that gap, it makes me ache.
On my side, we don't have that gap. My brother has 4 kids, and the youngest would have been about 2 years older than Curtis. So they would have been close and would have played together I am sure... But there isn't that obvious gender and age segregation.
Times like this, where family gatherings happen quite often (heck, on Craig's side they happen a ton normally) it is just hard. It is hard to listen to people say how great it is our daughter has a cousin so close in age. It is hard to watch my nephew play by himself. It is hard not to picture a little blond boy toddling behind him...
It is hard not to be angry and bitter. And angry some more.
I am in an angry place today.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I lost my grandpa when I was 3, so I don't remember that. And then....nothing. There was a high shool classmate who died when we were 16 or 17. We had been sort of friends in junior high and drifted apart in high school. I am a bit ashamed to say her death didn't register much on my radar, though I did feel bad about the situation (she had been sick) at the time. There was a pen pal of mine who died in a tragic accident when I was in high school as well. But, once again, I was removed enough from her that the death didn't alter my daily world. And until death changes your day to day exsistance, it is hard to say it effected you on a deep level.
Curtis was my first real taste of how unfair and cruel life can be. He was the first person taken from me. Of course, with Curtis' death came all kinds of things. His delivery. Only ever holding him dead. Other people not realizing how real he was (because he was never real to them).
Curtis' death changed my day to day world. In a way, I am still waiting for things to get back to normal.
Sitting at the funeral today I ached for the people whose day to day lives have been rocked to the core. I know how painful it all is and how they will never be the same. How they will wait and hope for the day where the pain goes away, and it won't. They will learn to live with it, they will learn to live with the new normal, but they will still wish for the day to come that things will be normal again.
I miss him, I miss everything I never had with him. I will continue to wait. Wait to feel whole, wait to get back to normal. Just like the family who lost their mom. They wait. I wait.
For something that will never come. Because death forever changes everything.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I know some people probably think I went "all out" for her party because of losing Curtis. Which isn't true. I went all out, because that is what I do. I love this kind of stuff. I loved celebrating her birthday. It is such a big deal. It was her first one! I know she won't remember, but pictures will tell her the story, and I will remember. I did it because it was fun for me.
(And all out really isn't that much. Cute, printed invitations, a rented party room -which was only $15 an hour so not expensive- some cute napkins to match her theme, some balloons, pizzas and cupcakes... but to some people this is "all out.")
Sadly, my poor sis-in-law got a phone call during the party that her mom had passed out suddenly and to come quick. She left without a scene and I had no idea that she and my brother in law were even gone until much later. My aches for her, as she lost her mom unexpectedly that day. And I am honored she is my family because she didn't want to cause a scene and trump our long awaited party.
There is a little girl from Minnesota who suffered a traumtic accident in a pool. I won't go into the details, but she fought, hard, for her life and passed away about 9 months later. Her parents have 3 other little girls. I saw an interview with them recently and they said "We will never say we have 3 girls. We have 4. One is just waiting for us." I loved that this was broadcast. I loved that they said this. So often people get uncomfortable when they ask how many kids I have and I say 2. One who passed away who would be two and a half and a daughter who is one. I do not say it to make them uncomfortable. I say it because it makes me comfortable. I cannot live with myself if I do not acknowledge all of my children.
I know I am jumping trains of thought...but I do have a point. By mentioning Curtis the day of her birthday party, my mom with her simple comment included my son. My sister in law, with her quiet leaving of the party let us shine for a moment. That is all I could have asked for that day, our daughter to have the spotlight, and our son remembered. We have two children. Equally loved.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Spreading his ashes
We had been planning on taking Curtis' ashes a few hours north to Craig's family cabin but hadn't done it yet. We wanted to be alone up there when we did it. We knew no family was up there that weekend.
We took turns posing with the urn. Smiles on our faces. I look at the photos and I do see true smiles. We were not faking it, we were smiling. We took pictures of the beautiful lake, the calm water.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
There is a variety of reasons for it. The main two reasons are as follows...
1) The next entry is about the day we spread his ashes. It is a day that has been shared with very few people. We took pictures and shared those....but the emotions of that day are something only Craig and I know and feel. I have been wanting to write about that day for, well, years. Everytime I start, I get major writer's block and end up writing something like "We spread his ashes. We cried. The End." Not exactly the emotions I want to convey.
2) We are approaching, rapidly, my daughter's 1st birthday. I am so stinkin' happy I have a birthday party to plan. I have given way too much thought to this party (and money. Even though it is just close friends and family I seem to be on a spending spree.). I am thrilled to have a daughter to plan this stuff for, no doubt about that. But, even happiness gets confusing. Had Curtis been born alive and we had been able to have a first birthday party for him I doubt I would have been THIS excited. Sure, it would have been fun, but I am practically bursting about this. So, guilt gets thrown in the mix. I try to convince myself I would have been THIS excited for his birthday, but I know I wouldn't have. I would have taken a first birthday for granted. I mean, when you are 40 weeks pregnant, it is a given you will celebrate a first birthday. But because it is _not_ a given to me anymore I have become THIS excited. (Yeah, I am talking in circles).
So, I have been avoiding my blog. Been avoiding talking about Curtis. Because I just want to focus on the happiness and ignore the guilt and anger and more guilt I feel.
I have a feeling, the night of her birthday party I am going collapse in a mix of utter happiness and sheer grief.
Friday, October 24, 2008
I struggle with my Faith in all of this, that is a different post for a different day. I know some people feel this is the way my life was suppose to go. That this all happened for a reason...and I don't really believe that. Because while I can point out 101 wonderful things that happened in the wake of his death I never believe that is WHY he died...but, taking me out of the equation: why was HIS life taken? Why was he given such a brief time? Why did he have to suffer and die inside of me as his life source got cut off? What reason is good enough that he didn't get to life his life? What did he have to "learn"? He was a tiny baby who needed his mommy and daddy. The one time he needed me, I couldn't save him. Even though I had the tools to do so. It wasn't on purpose and I know that. That is what gets me through the day....
Yes, I have a lot of unresolved guilt and I know I always will.
Ugh, I don't even know where I am going with this post. Some days I have great perspective on everything we lost and moving through it all and other days or moments, I don't.
Tonight; I am sad for everything he missed. His first ice cream cone. His first baseball game. Pumpkin patch trips. Getting the present you wanted SO BADLY for Christmas. First kisses. First concerts. First dates. Getting a new puppy... all of the things that make life so much fun.
I am sad for him he didn't get any of this. I am sad for us, but right now, I am more sad for him.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
We are winding down our "happy year". Craig likes to say "2006 was our sad year. 2007 was our anxiety filled year and 2008 is our happy year."
He would say this when anyone would inquire when I was going to get pregnant again, when I was "going to give Claudia a sibling". That comment is beyond rude, by the way. She has a sibling. Not in the traditional sense, of course. But to us: she has a sibling. Yes, she is raised as an "only" right now, but to us, she forever has a sibling. I remember when our day care provider said something to me about Claudia acting like a 'typical first born' that comment was like a knife in my stomach. Twisted. Twice. Just because, for me, she wasn't a first born. I gave birth twice. I know she doesn't realize this....and I don't hold any ill will about it, it is just one of those comments that leaves me shaking. Because...well, because she isn't a first born. And it is sad she acts like a first born.
Ha, okay, Sorry for the tangent.
So, this year is winding down, Halloween is in a few weeks and that is the last big "holiday" that is a first for us. Then in November, it is her birthday. Which, of course, is huge.
I have so many reflections on the first year of her life that I will save after her first birthday. And I do know that our 'happy year' isn't going anywhere. It will continue. It is more...normal now. Each holiday will still be special. Sure, it is not the first we have celebrated with her, but regardless in a child's eyes each year is new, each year is fun.
Last Sunday, we went to a remembrance service at the hospital where I had Curtis. It was a nice service, I got up and read a few of my writings about him and her. I am too lazy to link it up right now, but they have been posted on here. It always catches me off guard how much I still ache. I guess because life has continued, the pain is always there but more constant dull ache as opposed to the sharp, hard to breathe, moments of the past. So standing up in front of everyone, reading something about him, it may as well have been June of 2006 when I couldn't even function.
So, while 2008 really has been a happy year, we have so much to be happy for and nothing can ever erase the joy we have felt. And nothing can erase the pain we have felt. I am seeing, more and more, how those two go hand in hand for us. They always will. You cannot celebrate her without remembering him. The two are forever linked. Our family will never be together as it should be. In celebrating with her, we have to remember and grieve him. That is just the way our family is now.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Taking him home
When we had Curtis' service, his urn was on back order. Figured. They asked us at the service if we wanted to take the "loaner" urn home with us and trade it back in when the teddy bear urn came in. Or they could hold the ashes until the urn came in and give us a call.
For some reason, I couldn't take home the loaner urn. For one, it was ugly. This huge, brass colored thing with a gigantic cross on it. It was a far cry from the cute teddy bear sitting on alphabet blocks. I just didn't want that thing in my house. It wasn't comforting, it was scary. It didn't make me think fondly of my son, it made me angry.
So, we waited for his ashes.
In the mean time, on a random Thursday, I went out to get the mail and saw an envelope from the hospital. Thinking it was some kind of sympathy card from the nurses, I opened it up and out tumbled a picture of Curtis.
I suddenly remembered being in the hospital that day and them stating the professional organization that does the newborn photos offered to take a free set of pictures. It is the only photo we have with his hat off. They clearly touched up the photo as his head his nice and round and doesn't have the ridge I remember. They sent me a few 5x7s in color and black and white and a few wallet size. I was so damn excited about this "long lost" photo I had forgotten about. I called Craig right away. "We got a new picture! We got a new picture!"
He left work early and raced home to see it.
He realized half way into his drive he should be racing home to see his son, not a picture of him. It was a somber moment as I greeted him at the door with the last new picture we ever had of our baby. He held it in his hands and looked down at this photo. Tears filled both of our eyes.
In the weeks that followed, we anxiously wondered where in the world our son's urn was. We called Colin and he said it would be in soon. We were anxious to bring him home.
Finally, we got the call the urn was in. I wasn't back to work quite yet, and I told Craig I could pick the ashes up. He hesitated and said "I want to go with you." We met at the funeral home one late summer afternoon to finally take Curtis home.
Colin handed us the cute urn and I turned it over in my hands. Finally holding Curtis again. I looked at the urn and it struck me this was it. This was my son. This was his ashes. This was the only thing I had.
We walked out to the cars and looked at each other. We had two cars, but both of us wanted to take him home with us. Craig finally opened the backseat to my car and said "He should ride in the back seat." He carefully put the urn in the car and shut the door. He walked slowly to his car, as tears ran down my face.
I got in the front seat, started the car, and drove us home.
It wasn't the way I had wanted, it wasn't the way I had intended, but Curtis was coming home with us. Craig and I walked in the house together. Craig took the urn out of my hands and carefully placed it on Curtis' shelf in the curio cabinet, next to his photos and next to the small teddy bear he was posed with in the hospital. He carefully shut the door to the curio cabinet and I turned on the light so it was shining down on his urn.
Later that night, as we were heading upstairs to go to bed, Craig shut off the light in the curio cabinet. I asked why, as I liked the light shining on him at all times. Craig looked at me, looked at the urn and said "Well, I just...he can't sleep with the light on."
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Craig and I 12 days apart, his birthday the end of June, my the beginning of July. Our birthdays were rapidly approaching.
The hospital had a support group every 4th Thursday of the month. Even though that landed on Craig's birthday, we agreed it would be wonderful for us to go. They required reserving the spot, which I did online. I didn't want to call the number. I didn't want to call some random secretary on the phone and say "Yes. I would like to attend one of your support groups. The one for people with dead babies. Thanks."
The day of the support group, I received a call from the social worker saying we were the only people to state they were coming. We were still welcome to, but....she trailed off. I got it. I understood. No point in wasting her day. I said, it was fine. She asked what happened and I briefly stated it. She launched into some social worker type stuff about grief and I cut her off.
"I get it. I have a social work degree too. I know exactly what you are going to say. Have you been through a loss?"
"Well, no. But..."
"No, I know what you are going to say. I have had all that training too. I was just hoping for some help, to meet other couples. I am fine. I have women online I talk to for support. I have support like crazy, I just wanted something for my husband. He doesn't have the support I do. "
And I hung up.
What I stated was 100% correct. I had (have) an amazing group of women online that I met during my wedding planning and pregnancy with Curtis. When we lost him, they all felt it too. A lot of them pregnant around the time I was. I then found a grief board where women with stillbirths came together and posted. I truly felt like I had support. But I knew Craig and I needed something as a couple.
So I was pissed. Here we stuck our necks out, and it felt like our heads got chopped off.
Honestly, I think Craig was glad. We spent his 31st birthday at a restaurant, drinking beer, and watching baseball. The way he would have originally liked.
It would be a long time before I involved us in a support group. And it was worth the wait. It was the group and the organization that helped get my daughter here alive and well.
With my birthday looming, so was my return to work. I became extremely nervous. I had become accustomed to my nice little cocoon of sitting in my house, cuddling with my dog, and chatting online. I preferred it. I enjoyed it. The only person I had to please was myself. Money wasn't an issue. Some wonderful, generous, person at my work donated me all of their sick time. I actually returned to work with a week of time off left. Who can take 5 weeks off and have that happen? I never was able to find out who did that, but I am forever grateful.
Craig's grandmother's birthday is the day after mine. She was turning 90 that year and plans had been in the works for 6 months of a huge 90th birthday bash. Relatives were coming in from out of state. A huge catered lunch had been planned. It was suppose to be a fun filled weekend of Craig's cousins and extended family.
This side of the family wasn't around when I was pregnant. They lived out of state. We didn't hear from them after our loss. Curtis was merely a blip on their radar before they came out. That made a few things that happened that weekend so difficult.
Like one of Craig's cousins sitting down next to me and talking with my sister in law. (My sister in law has young daughters and the cousin had older children). The cousin starts going on about kids and how each stage is fun, how as they grow up and become their own people she falls more and more in love with her children. Each stage she loves because each stage shows her how she made the right choice becoming a mom.
Another one of Craig's cousins saying they went through something similar. A miscarriage early in a pregnancy. Not that miscarriages aren't hard (as you will see in a future post) but it is different than a 40 week stillbirth. Trust me.
Then that same night they were putting together poster board of pictures, one of which was all the great grand kid pictures. One cousin's wife gets exasperated and says "Dang it! We need more great grand kids. We don't have enough pictures."
I have to walk out of the house that time.
Another time during the weekend, my sister in law was talking to me about special needs children and said "I think that would be the worst thing that could ever happen to a parent."
Yeah? Really? Try having your kid die.
I work with special needs kids. Do I think for a second the parents have it easy? No. I see the grief and heartache these parents go through. I do not know what it is like to live with it. But I do see the parent's eyes light up when their child says I love you. I see their eyes light up when their non vocal child laughs for the first time. I think those moments count a lot.
So, as I am standing outside, Craig comes out. He wraps his arms around me and we just stand there.
We should have a 4 week old. We shouldn't even be at this house, this time of night. It would be too hard with a tiny baby. We start talking how awesome it would have been to have an "excuse" like that to get out of family functions.
I tell him what our sister in law said about kids with special needs. Craig cocks his head, looks at me and says "Heck, I would take a kid with three eyes! I mean, I would take him to the doctor a lot...."
Craig. He can always make me laugh even at one of my worst moments. Even when I don't want to laugh. Even when it annoys me.
So, on my 31st birthday, I spent the day at a Mass and at a party for Craig's grandma. It was hard. Not that it was my birthday, but that I should have a baby boy in my arms. I should have dressed him in the plaid overalls and white button up shirt I had already picked out for the party. I should be exhausted for very different reasons.
Later that night, one of Craig's cousins, a few sheets to the wind, started asking about Curtis. Grateful to talk, the story tumbled out of us. He was 6lbs, 10oz. Looked like a sleeping baby. 100% normal. Nothing was wrong with him. Craig's nose. Totally. She held our hands, sobbed, and said over and over how sorry she was. How she didn't realize before. She talked to our father in law, and stated the same thing to him. To this day, she remains one of my favorites. For taking the time to learn about Curtis, to asking about him during the weekend. For letting us share him.
We drove home late that night. As we pulled into our driveway, there was Happy Birthday sign outside our little yard. My parents. Flowers on the counter. It was very sweet. They were trying to go to extra lengths to make the day something to remember.
We came in, and Craig gave me my birthday present. Emerald stone butterfly necklace and earrings. Emeralds being Curtis' birthstone. I ran my finger over the pretty stones with a sad smile. They were beautiful. Exactly what I would have picked out for myself.
Monday, September 29, 2008
About a week and a half after Diane died, Craig's brother and one of Diane's sons Rick (not Craig's best friend) were running in Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN. Shortly after we lost Curtis but before Diane died, Craig's brother told us he would like to dedicate his run in Curtis' memory.
Grandma's Marathon is a big deal, with rooms reserved months and month in advance. Diane and her husband had been planning on going to see their son run so she had worked on getting us a hotel room. Prices were astronomically high so we decided to share a room with Craig's friend Jer.
Then Diane died, and the world came crashing down around all of us. Again. We decided to go ahead and go to the marathon. Diane's son, Rick, was still going to run. Craig's brother was running. So on a very rainy night in June, we headed the 2 hours north. We could barely see the road on most of the drive up. Jer was driving and by the time we got to the hotel, it was late, and we were all exhausted. Somehow, we ended up watching a local cable access show called "Average Guys". It was two middle age men who "talked" sports. In their basement. Like Sports Center. Except, without the knowledgeable anchors and clips and, well, flash. It was ridiculously funny without meaning to be. The three of us laughed hysterically at this show. In fact, we still talk about it all the time.
The next morning was the marathon. We had to walk quite a few miles to the finish line. I was just over 2 and half weeks post partum at this point. I had tore pretty bad and was hurting and bleeding heavily by the time we got to the finish line. We waited patiently for Craig's brother to pass by us. He had made a tank top that had Curtis' picture and "Running in Memory of Curtis 5.31.2006" on it. He told us later people had cheered him on saying "Go for Curtis!" quite a few times during the race. It really meant a lot to us.
After the race was over, a group of us went out for pizza. I remember sitting at this table, ordering some pizza, everyone chatting and just wanting to sink into the ground. I was so sick of everything being normal. I wanted to stand up and scream to the packed restaurant "MY SON DIED! WHY DON'T YOU PEOPLE CARE? HOW CAN YOU KEEP LIVING YOUR LIFE WHEN MY SON DIED?" Even my husband, just chattering away, making his jokes, he seemed so normal. I knew he wasn't. I knew he was dying inside. I knew he missed Curtis just as much as I did. I knew he wished like hell we were sitting home with our 3 week old son marveling at baby spit up. But on the outside of everyone we looked like any other normal group from that weekend. However, we weren't. We had just lost our son. Our in laws just lost a grandson, nephew, and dear friend. Our friends just had lost their mom. We were a shattered and broken bunch. Ordering pizza. Because life ticks on.
I couldn't walk back to the hotel, I was very sore and aching. My brother in law, who had just run the race, offered to drive me back to the hotel. There is a big party atmosphere after the marathon and everyone else wanted to partake in it. I was in desperate need of a nap and alone time. I couldn't pretend anymore. I was broken. I didn't want to hang out in some bars or party tent with hundreds of people. No small talk. I just wanted to be broken. All by myself.
I immediately sunk onto the hotel bed and closed my eyes. Images of Curtis flashed through my head and I tried so hard to remember what it felt like to hold him. I fell into a deep sleep.
Later, I woke up and wandered the hotel looking for something to eat. There was an indoor water park that had a snack bar. I ordered a hamburger and watched the kids play. There was a dad, of course, with 2 sons. He was picking up each one and throwing them into one of the pool areas. They were screeching and laughing. "Again, Dad!" could be heard throughout the water park area.
Dads and sons. Gets me every time.
I took my sad burger back to the room and ate it in front of the TV. Throughout the night, Craig kept calling to check in on me. Was I okay. Should he come back to the room. Yes. No. One thing everyone tells you: men and women grieve differently. It was true. I think Craig found comfort in fun, routine activities. Stuff we would have done had we never had a child. Where I found comfort in being alone and not having to put on a brave face. I wanted him to have fun. And honestly, it felt good being by myself but some where far from home.
I remember changing into short to wear to bed, sitting on my bed, just running my fingers over my teddy bear tattoo. "Curtis Roger 5.31.2006" Over and over I touched it. He was real. I have the tattoo to prove it. Even though I often wonder what the hell happened. Was it imagined? Did it really happen? The tattoo reminds me of how real it all was and is. Then and now. So, I sit and looked at my tattoo. And missed my little baby boy.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
I know on my last deviation post, I waxed a nice poetic thing about baby showers and how glad I am I had one. And, I truly am. It was the only baby shower I had. I didn't have one for our daughter. (Well, that is not true. I had a surprise dinner with a few friends about 5 months after she was born. I cherish this VERY MUCH). It was the only shower I had with family and the whole kit and caboodle.
But, I am also over 2 years out from my loss and I can look back on these things with a better view. I do understand that. And I want people to know that wherever you are with your grief, it is okay. It is okay to be angry you had a baby shower. That is okay.
I was talking to my mom on the phone last night and the topic came 'round to Curtis. We were talking about baby showers (a friend of hers told her "that is why you shouldn't have a shower before the baby is born. And we launched into the conversation on why I am happy we had one.)
She had the horrible task of doing things with his clothes. I made a post awhile back about "running" into some of his things. At this point, she has 95% of them gone. She is holding a garage sale with my grandma this week, and I guess the few items she had left, she put out. A very pregnant woman came up and started going through them. My mom had to walk away when she came up to buy them. She said the woman was beaming, so excited at the finds of these Brand! New! Clothes! So cute.
Choked up, she tells me: "I don't know why, but that little blue dinosaur hooded sweatshirt and pants, they just make me ache."
"That was one of the first things I bought for him when I found out he was a boy. "
"Maybe that is why. It is so cute."
Through my tears I tell her, "I am kind of mad it is one of the last things to go. That is one of the cutest things we had!"
She laughs through her own tears and says "If you had seen the look on this woman's face, sweetie, you would understand why it was the last one left. It was like it was meant for her. Because she cherished that outfit. She was so excited about it, showing it to her mom. She had that innocent glow. Ya know?"
Even though we were crying, even though I would give anything to have dressed my son in that outfit (it was REALLY cute) it does help. It does help to know that at least some of his stuff went to people who adored it as much as I did.
After Curtis was stillborn, I had a few friends who were having boys around the time. I sent them a few of his items, with a note that it wasn't suppose to be sad, it was suppose to be hopeful and I was happy for them. I never heard much from these people about these things. Just a standard "thanks for the ______" thank you note. It hurt. It really did. It took a lot for me to send stuff away in the first months after our loss, and I was expecting a bit more. Maybe people thought it was creepy. But I went to his room, picked out things, packaged it up, and mailed it. All the time sobbing. So, when it was met with a cold reception, I didn't do it again. It hurt my feelings. I wanted people to understand that took a lot for me to do that. I wanted them to cherish the things I had bought for my baby boy and ended up sending away.
So, in a way, even though this woman doesn't know the story behind this cute outfit, and may wonder why in the world this outfit was never worn, at least she will enjoy it and take hundreds of pictures of her newborn son in it and never ever know the true story.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Part 11 Back to the real world.
The night of Diane's funeral was a difficult one. Craig had went back with the family to their house and I had went home. I couldn't handle anymore people. I was spent. I was exhausted.
Craig said he would be home in the evening sometime. As the minutes, and hours, ticked by I got more and more worried. I paced the floor. I held my cell phone in my hand at all time. I would be able to reach him on his phone, and he told me he would be leaving soon, but never did. I tried to get some sleep but I couldn't stand to be away from him. Every time I closed my eyes, I would imagine the worst. Any car that passed the house, I was sure it was a police officer coming to tell me some horrible news. I was just convinced he was never coming home. As the night wore on, I became increasingly more agitated and worried. Later on, I would learn, he had spent the night talking with his friend and, in true guy fashion, drowning their sorrows in beer.
I now know how important that time was. Jer and Craig were able to escape together and be with someone with a shared horrible loss. They were able to talk and laugh and talk. They probably had their first "deep" conversation in their 25 year friendship.
But to me, at the time, I just felt abandoned and lonely. I was angry and hurt. It was a hard thing to feel. We had just lost our son, this was small peanuts compared to that. But I was still angry at my husband for hurting my feelings, like I had been at other times in our relationship. I remember him asking me the next day if it was really that big of a deal. After everything we had been through, couldn't we just not argue? I told him just because our son died doesn't mean he escapes me getting angry with him.
It was just another thing we had to adjust to. We easily got through it, and like I stated, I do now understand what happened that night and I am glad he had the chance to spend that time with his friend. But, life does get in the way of grief. And just because you are grieving does not mean everyday annoyances aren't going to get on your nerves.
Craig returned to work a few days later and the life started to ease back into a routine. I had spoken to my work and decided to come back in early July. I had been planning to be transferred to a different location (close to home) after Curtis was born. I was excited to cut down my 120 mile a day round trip commute out. I was convinced they were going to make me return to my old location once I didn't have the baby as an "excuse" as why I needed to be close. I found out later, that wasn't the case and I was grateful. I did not want to return to the location where I spent so much of my time pregnant and spending time with the people who shared my pregnancy daily. I needed fresh new clients and a fresh new area.
So, I had 4 weeks. 4 weeks where Craig would leave everyday and I would stay home. Those days are a blur of nothing. I rarely left the house. I would force myself on one small errand each day. That may be something as simple as driving the 2 blocks to the post office. I mostly spent a lot of time online. Research stillbirth. Posting on a message board. Sitting on the couch and dreaming about being pregnant again.
Trying to figure out what the hell had just happened. What happened to my life? Had I _really_ been pregnant? Had I really given birth? If so, where was my proof?? Every other woman who spends 9 months pregnant gets her baby.
It felt like a gigantic game of pretend. For 9 months, everyone around me indulged in my little game and one day, they all stopped. Back to the real world. No more pretending.
It was something, and is something, I struggle with everyday.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I saw this post on a message board from a woman:
So, I was on a message board and saw a thread on "When should I have my baby shower?"Bless her and hope she remains ignorant. (you know what I mean)And someone's response, "You should make sure to have it by 30 weeks because you don't know what will happen!"My response, in my head, "You shouldn't have one until they are here because you REALLY don't know what will happen."And I can't say it out loud because it would be perceived as mean, cruel, terrible, etc etc etc.I see it as realistic.
This made me think.
Recently, I have come to terms with Curtis' shower and nursery and shopping for him and planning for his life. As much as it SUCKED to have planned for his life and face all of that "stuff" after his death, I am glad I had it all. Sure, there are plenty of times I am very bitter about it.
But, there is some good with it all.
It was the one time he was celebrated. It was the one time everyone was happy when it was something surrounding him. So as much as it sucks he died at 40 weeks, I have wonderful memories of his baby shower and I am glad I had it and I am glad I shopped and planned for him. I am glad I did an entire nursery. So, even though we lost him at 40 weeks and I had to dismantle that nursery and pack away little clothes he never got to wear, at least I got a shower.
At least there was a time people acknowledged and were happy about something surrounding him.
Because after his death, that wasn't the case.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Tattoos, and Funerals
Late Friday night, Craig and I decided to drive back to Red Wing. We still had our hotel room reservation and we still really wanted to get away. We knew Diane's funeral wasn't going to be for a few days and there wouldn't be much for us to do at home the next day. My mother in law told us to go, she knew how badly we needed it. So, at about midnight, we drove the 2 hours south. We were exhausted, but it felt good to lay in bed together. We needed a break from people and we were heading into another people full event.
We just couldn't believe the way things were happening. We had cancelled our tattoo appointment the day before but had rescheduled for the next day. We arrived at Spirit Garden's (that was her name, I guess ) tattoo shop early afternoon and settled in for our tattoos. I have such fun memories of this event. I think it was one of the first times I felt like things would be okay again some day. Never the same, never ever the same. And no time soon. But, hearing Craig joke in his typical manner made me feel "at home."
He was the first up in Spirit's chair. She got to work on the cute teddy bear holding a blue flower on his left uper arm. After she was done, she asked him to look in the mirror and tell her what he thought. He took one look at it and said "Well, it is nice, but it is backwards." A look of horror came over her face, until she realized he was joking. He was looking at in the mirror. She laughed, I laughed and to this day that memory is one of my strongest in the days after his death.
After we both got our tattoos, we both were obsessed with looking at them in the mirror. I was (and am) extremely proud of my tattoo for Curtis. Like I had stated before, Craig is the exact opposite of a tattoo guy. No way he would have ever gotten a tattoo, much less a tattoo of a teddy bear.
But Curtis. That Curtis. He changed us. He forever made us people we never thought we would be.
We spent the rest of Saturday together. We ate at a Chinese restaurant, we gambled in the casino and we talked. We knew this was our one shot. This was the one day that we had together before we were thrust back into the real world. Not just Diane's funeral, but Craig was going to need to return to work. We stopped at Target for ointment for our tattoos, and I wandered into the book section. I picked up Marley and Me, a book about a maniac dog. I read the book jacket. It mentioned how the dog helped the couple after they suffered a pregnancy loss. My eyes welled with tears and I bought the book. I knew sometime I would be strong enough to read it.
On Sunday, we made out way back home and went over with Diane's family. There were tons of people, preparing for the funeral. We had many people come us, hug us, tell us how sorry they were. We were saying the same thing back.
One thing that really sticks out in my head this day is listening to Diane's husband speak. I was sitting at the kitchen table, and he was talking to a cousin of Diane's who was going to do the eulogy. Steve started telling their story. How they met, when they decided to get married, he told about the birth of their 4 boys. He started talking about how in between sons three and four, they suffered a miscarriage. How sad that time was. I remember tears just pouring out of my eyes, thinking about their loss. How hard that must have been on Diane. Up until this point, I had been on autopilot. I hadn't cried much, I was just done with all emotion. But that moment brought it all back.
On Monday, Craig went to work and we met at the funeral home later for visitation. I had thrown on some maternity clothes. I knew I needed to wear the outfit I had worn to Curtis' funeral to Diane's. It was the only thing that fit. So I put on these maternity clothes that didn't fit and felt uncomfortable.
Which is exactly how I felt at her visitation and funeral.
I think the visitation was the worst of the two. Everyone knew what had happened to us, but since we had a small service, no one had seen us. We had swarms of people around us, telling us how sorry they were, how bad they felt. A friend of my mother in law's grabbed my face and expressed her sadness. I didn't want to be rude, but I wanted nothing more than to yank my face away. The visitation allowed more time for talking like this, I felt like too much attention was focused on us. That probably isn't true, but with the amount of people coming up to us, I felt like we were standing out.
This wasn't Curtis' funeral. This was Diane's. I didn't want to talk to people. I didn't want their sympathy. I wanted to be left alone. I nodded politely, and said thank you. I tried not to get separate from Craig as he was better at handling the situation than I was.
At the funeral the next day, Craig was a pall bearer so he needed to sit up front and I was sitting in a pew with my sister in law and a friend. I remember them sobbing into their Kleenex and once again, I felt nothing. Watching Diane's husband and 4 boys, with their arms all around each other, looking at her body one last time before they closed the casket? Nothing.
I was empty. I knew it was a horrible loss. I knew it was unfair. But at this point, nothing seemed to phase me. My brain had shut off emotion. It was the only way I could survive.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Another Loss Part 9
In the days and weeks following Curtis's death I used to lay beside Craig and fight sleep. I am one of the "lucky" ones that can usually sleep pretty well even when tragedy strikes. The doctor prescribed me some sleeping pills, but I never took them. In fact, the only reason I ended up taking a few Tylenol PMs was because I was trying to force myself to stay awake when I needed sleep.
I was terrified if I closed my eyes, when I would wake up, the love of my life would be gone.
Because, let's face it, that is what happened to Curtis. A baby that is to be stillborn usually dies at night, while the mother sleeps and her blood pressure drops. There are other factors involved, of course, but that is the likely time frame and something I learned a few days after losing Curtis.
If Curtis could just die while I was sleeping, so could Craig. So I would lay next to him, listening to him breathe. He usually has a slight snore so if that ever stopped, I was leaning across him, laying my hand on his chest and feeling the rise and fall.
When life changes so suddenly it is normal to feel this way. But I didn't know what normal was. Honestly, my life had been pretty peachy keen when it came to death. Only great grandparents well into their 80s had died. I had a grandfather die when I was 3, but I didn't remember that. I had a friend in high school die, but she wasn't anyone I had been close to since years before her death and honestly, it didn't effect me that much.
So Curtis was my first taste of the unfairness death brings.
Diane was my second.
We drove towards my in laws from Red Wing, trying to piece this all together. What had happened? How is this possible? Craig's cell phone kept ringing. His brother had been the first to hear. Working for the city, he had a co-worker who was a police officer who knew our family was friends with her family. They figured it was her heart.
This is going to sound purely selfish, but it felt so unfair. Craig and I were trying to spend a few days together away from home before he had to go back to work. We needed an espcape from everyone and we ended up back into another hellish situation. We knew how horrible it was to think this, but it just felt so unfair. We had enough going on. This situation alone would have been horrible enough.
Craig went over to be with the family. His best friend Jer, one of Diane's son's, was on a business trip and hadn't even been notified yet. They couldn't get a hold of him. He was to be flying that night and Craig offered to pick him up at the airport.
I spent the afternoon at my in laws house with one of my sister in laws and my father in law. I remember speaking out loud about my fear that Craig would die while I slept. My father in law kept saying that would never happen. But in situations like that, it is obvious how it can happen all too suddenly.
The day passed. My mother in law was at a loss. She was the last person to see Diane alive. They had been out late, at the casino. Diane had dropped my mother in law off late that night, gotten home, and died while getting ready for bed shortly after. Her husband didn't find her until closer to afternoon. They always slept in separate beds due to his snoring, and when Diane had been at the casino late, she always slept in. I remember my mother in law calling, sobbing hysterically. Repeatedly saying "I cannot believe this. I just can't." In the span of 10 days she lost her grandson and her best friend. The friend who was getting her out of the house, the friend who would help her through her grandson's death. Life is brutally unfair.
Craig and another friend went to pick up Jer at the airport. He had heard at this point. On some lay over, in some grimy airport, he heard that his mother had died. He knew it was bad by the sound of his brother's voice. He was expecting his uncle, or his grandma, or heck, even his dad. But not his mom. Not the mom who he had seen 3 days prior at some big family gathering.
At the doors near baggage claim, Craig and their friend waited. Jer came through the double doors. He took one look at Craig and said "Well, I guess she wanted to go hold Curtis."
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Part 8, After the Service and the few days following
After the short service, people were invited back to my parent's house for a meal.
One of the things I forgot to mention in my previous entry was the my uncle, from Hawaii, had flown in for the service. I just remembered, once again, being baffled by this. I had to keep reminding myself that my son died. It was a Big Deal. I know he had come to support my dad, his brother. It was something that meant a lot to us.
It was a beautiful, early summer day. People chatted on the back patio, chomping on fruit and sandwiches my mom's friends had made. I remember sitting on the love seat, next to my grandfather, and him hold my hand. It was a sweet gesture. I remember sitting outside with a few friends of mine and talking about another friend's recent trip to Mexico to meet her now in-laws. I remember my mother in law joking about how far away we lived. I remember changing into different clothes later in the day, in my parent's gust room. I remember leaning against Craig, him wrapping his arms around me, and I remember sobbing into his chest.
I don't remember much else.
We came home later that evening to a very quiet house. We had stuff strewn every where. We decided to sit down and open all of the cards we had been given lately. Letters poured out of so many. Heartfelt, heart broken words, people were just aching for us.
I read each one with almost...numbness. It was all kind, it was all sweet, I knew it would mean so much to me at some point. But when I read it at the time I just thought "oh, that is nice." And pushed it aside. In the months, and years, following, I would read their words, find comfort, and sob. But at that point feelings had started to turn off. My brain couldn't handle the overload anymore. It was too much. I think that is why so often people say others forget or they feel abandoned. Because at the time of the loss, the love and support is all immediate. And it is almost too much. As time moves forward and you are able to process thing and truly grieve, others have stopped the outpouring. You often need it more 6 months down the road then you do 3 days into the process.
That night, we were just sitting in the living room. This air of "what do you we do know?" hanging over us. Craig started pacing across the living room floor. "Let's go to a movie. Do you want to go to a movie?"
A movie? Hell no! I wanted to be tending to my screaming baby.
There was nothing we really wanted to see, but picked out anyway. A comedy. A movie called RV with Robin Williams. It had gotten horrible reviews, but we didn't care. We went, we watched. We tried to lose ourselves in the movie. We didn't, but it felt nice to do a normal, routine activity.
There was a scene in the movie, where a father and son are playing catch.
I burst into tears.
Craig rubbed my hand. Father and son stuff...that still gets to me to this day.
The next following days, things are a blur. We went to a BBQ at my aunt's house while my uncle was still in town. My cousin sat down with me and wanted all the gory details. How we found out. What delivery was like. What I was feeling. Grateful to talk, I poured it all out. Every last thing.
Craig took the next week off, as planned when the baby would come. We didn't leave each other's side on Monday and Tuesday unless it was to shower. On Wednesday, his brothers and dad came over and they went to play 18 holes of golf. It was the first time we were apart and I went out to dinner with my parent's. For my mom's birthday. It was a somber dinner. I was on autopilot so much of this time.
One of the days, I called Curtis' daycare. They were expecting a phone call the beginning of June so they could start preparing to take him on in August. The poor woman on the phone who answered was on the receiving end of my first out loud explanation of what happened. I stated my name, said they were expecting my son to start in August, but he had been stillborn a few days ago. So wouldn't be in their care. It was a stupid thing to say, but it was one of the first times I spoke it out loud to someone who didn't know my story. Since this time, I have gotten very good at explaining it to people. But then, I just stuttered and stumbled my way through it. She stuttered and stumbled her way through saying she was sorry, and she would pass on the message, she hung up on me even before I could thank her.
Craig had the task of calling our insurance company. We had some extra disability pay that we were entitled to when I gave birth. We had the form that had been filled out and needed to call to get some type of ID number. The woman was chattering away on the phone with him.
"Oh! Your wife gave birth! Great. Boy or girl?"
"Boy." He answered. Softly. Matter of factly.
"That is just great! Congrats! When?"
"I suppose you are having all those sleepless nights. Woohoo. I do not miss those! Not at all."
"Well, he actually ended up stillborn."
The woman rushed through the rest of the case and got him off of the phone quickly. The same thing happened to me when I called to make a follow up call with my doctor.
"Oh! A post delivery check! Congrats. When was he born? Babies are such blessings. Are you getting any sleep?"
Then the "Oh. I am so sorry."
Honestly, couldn't they flag my chart or something?
The upcoming weekend, Craig and I decided to go on a little trip away. Craig would be heading back to work and I would be alone at home. We wanted to spend a little time together and just try to relax. I had come to Craig and said that I wanted to get a tattoo in Curtis' memory. I had a tattoo already and I thought maybe I could add his birth date and name to it. Craig, who is the last person on Earth you would expect to get a tattoo, looked at me and said "I want to get one too."
We decided on our little trip we would find a tattoo shop and pick out tattoos in honor of our little boy. We were so excited. We left on a Friday morning and drove the 2 hours south. We approached the little town of Red Wing, MN and found "Spirit Garden's Tattoo" shop. We walked in and started to look at designs. I was almost giddy at this point. I had so badly wanted this, I wanted something permanent to say "Yes, he is my son. Yes, he was alive. Yes, he matters."
Teddy bears had started to play a significance in our memory of Curtis. His urn was a teddy bear, and he had been posed with a tiny teddy bear at the hospital. Craig picked out a sweet little teddy bear holding a flower design. He asked me my opinion and I loved it. It was done, we would both get this sweet tattoo.
We made an appointment to come back later in the day and get the tattoos. We decided at this point to go see if we could check into our hotel when Craig's phone rang.
I clearly remember him answering and looked in shock. He turned into an empty parking lot and said "what?" I started thinking it was his Gram. She is 90 years old. In good health, but obviously something serious was wrong.
Craig turned, horror in his eyes and said "Diane died."
I was confused. The only Diane I knew was in her 50s. We had just seen her a few days prior at Curtis's funeral. She had never been sick. She was Craig's best friend's moms. She was my mother in law's best friend. She went us to Vegas the previous year. There must be some mistake.
"We need to go back home."
I offered to drive. Craig looked like he was going through hell, for a second time. We switched places.
And started the drive back home towards the second saddest event we had to live through, ten days apart from the first.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
The Service, Part 7
The night before the service, Craig and I sat down to fill out his memory book. The hospital had given it to us. It asked us questions like "Would I have had a nickname?" "What would we have done at Christmas?" "What color was my hair going to be?" It was heartbreaking creating a fake life for our very real son. But at the same time, it was nice to sit through and do this with my husband. There was a section to write letters to our baby boy. To this day, what my husband wrote is one of the most touching and most heartbreaking things I have ever read. We wanted this book on display at his funeral. I wanted everyone to read what Craig had written.
We headed into Saturday, the day of his funeral, without ever hearing from the priest. I had picked out a few readings I wanted read and a poem I wanted to read. It was going to be a small service, so I wasn't overly concerned about never having talked to the priest. I should have been, but, regrets will get you no matter what, right?
The service was around noon. I don't remember the exact time. How weird is that? I remember having to be at the funeral home early to set up our cherished items. Craig and I woke up, got dressed, packed the few bags of stuff in the car, and stopped at a gas station. While standing in line to buy ourselves a couple of caffeinated beverages (not a lot of sleep was being had) I noticed the early edition of the Sunday paper.
"Should we get one?" I asked
"Do you want one?"
"You don't ever buy the paper."
I looked at him, and looked away.
"His obituary will be in this paper."
We bought the paper.
We get the funeral home and lug in the bags of stuff. My parents had brought that hand made cradle and it was in front of the little room where his service would be held. My mom had her photo album she had made and 2 framed pictures. An 8x10 of Curtis and a 5x7 of the three of us. I started unpacking the bags we had brought when I realized a crucial one was missing. The one with the outfits we had picked out. The one with his teddy bear blanket.
"Craig!" I cried out, in desperation. "It isn't here, all of his stuff, it is at home." All of a sudden it was like it was crashing all down on me.
We had been on "go" since the minute we found out he was gone. Must call people. Must deliver. Must spend time with him. Must get pictures. Must go home. Must plan the funeral. Must have the funeral. All of a sudden I knew it was coming to an end. Everything I could do for Curtis would be over soon and I would be left with myself to grieve. Having things to do for him took away the time to sit and think. And I had forgotten something.
Craig raced home and grabbed the extra bag we had forgotten. We had so many things on display. Ultrasound photos. An angel figurine my aunt had sent. Flowers that had been arriving non stop at my door step and at the funeral home. His cradle. The handmade quilt. The book we wrote. Pictures, the photo album, and....the temporary urn that houses his ashes.
Of course, in typical fashion, the teddy bear urn we had ordered was on back order. We were given a temporary huge brass urn that was about as ugly as they come. I didn't care, I had bigger fish to fry, but it was just typical of the way things were going for us.
People started to arrive. You can feel the awkwardness. They never knew Curtis like we knew Curtis. I wanted people to look at the items. I encouraged them to read our letters to him. I let them cling to me and sob. I asked my mom to ask people NOT to hug me. I was in a ton of pain. My milk had come in and I was just aching when anyone slightly brushed against me. So having people cling to me and cry was not something I found comfort in. I wanted nothing more than to shove them back, but figured that may not be appropriate behavior at my son's funeral. So I let them cling to me and popped a few more Advil.
I remember Craig's gram hugging me, crying, saying "It shouldn't be like this." I remember my grandma telling me we could try again. And, one image burned into my memory is Craig's "second mom" Diane, whom he had known his whole life, reaching up, touching his face, and saying "Oh sweetie," Our son's funeral was the last day we would ever see her alive. The next time would be at her funeral a shocking 10 days later.
There were people at his service that I was just baffled by. I am not close with my some of my aunts and uncles, yet they attended. I remember thinking "I said close friends and close family. Why in the world are people I see MAYBE once a year here and I don't have others here who I see weekly?" That was, and still is, frustrating for me. I understand they are family, but some of them didn't even talk to me at my son's funeral. Craig has a family large extended family and some close relatives were not invited. It is a point of contention with me. Looking back, if I had to do it over, we would have had a large service, open to anyone.
One of my aunts pressed a gift into my hand. My cousin clung to me and cried. She told me she didn't usually think baby boys were cute, but Curtis' pictures, he was cute. I stood awkwardly with my friends. Craig and I watched as two friends of ours that had met and dated after our wedding saw each other for the first time since breaking up. Craig and I actually joked to see eachother that they hooked up at our wedding, maybe they would get back together at our son's funeral. Yes, a tasteless joke, but laughter really got us through a lot of these moments.
We were getting close to the time the service was going to start and the priest wasn't there yet. I flagged down Colin to ask him what was going on. He had no idea and would call over the church. I told him it was okay, I had a few things I could read and would do it myself. He said he would check. The priest showed right at noon. I threw a few readings at him as the service was about to start.
The guy was disaster. If it hadn't been Curtis' funeral it would have been comical. I cannot believe this guy is a public speaker for a living. He stammered his way through a few bible passages he had picked out. The beautiful readings I picked out that flowed so beautifully, he stammered through. He forgot my name a handful of times. At one point he said "Craig and .... " turned his head to look at the table with Curtis' ashes on display, trying desperately to see my name somewhere. Someone shouted out my name from the audience.
Finally, the torture of him speaking was over and I stood up to read a poem I had found. I heard someone gasp from the room. I know they couldn't believe I was getting up to speak.
What was funny was that morning while setting up for the service I had mentioned to my mom I had a poem I wanted to read.
"You mean someone else will read it."
"Sweetie, someone else will read it."
"Mom. He is my son. I am reading the damn poem!"
She shut her mouth after that one.
I know it is hard for others to imagine, but he was MY son. I spent 9 months with him. I made him, I grew him, and reading this poem was the only thing I had left.
Craig and I held hands and walked up to the front. I know my voice was shaking, but I barely shed a tear. I told everyone not to feel too sorry for us. Because we would do it all over again to hold our son. It was worth it. Every moment of heartbreak was worth it. Because we had a baby boy. No matter where he was, he was forever with us.
The end of the poem I read sticks with me in my darkest moments to this day:
"We are richer by far
To have held you a moment
Then to have never held you