Saturday, December 31, 2011


So can I admit that I loved diapers? Really.

It started with a short lived attempt with Emily, but turned into a serious effort with Perry as money became tight. My first set was left over from Emily, but the diapers that started it all were a gift from the cloth obsessed Mommas in my Sunday school class. My favorite was a little cow diaper and soon I found that I started looking forward to changing him. It turned a chore into something kind of fun, we each had our favorites. Emily loved a monkey diaper with pink hearts (never assume the Chinese definition of gender neutral really applies), Dad was partial to the cow, and I sort of alternated between the cow and a giraffe print. This was a blessing as the little guy could easily go through 18-20 diapers a day.

I bought legwarmers to coordinate with his shirts and diapers, and my Mom was about to start on a pair of monster pants to go over his fluffy butt as winter approached. She was already cranking out warmer legwarmers designed specially for his long legs. I remember sitting in a chair with Perry playing on the floor as I stuffed his diapers for the next day.

When Perry died my husband was crushed they didn't let him change him. I can remember the shock and horror that morning as I went to open the drier and his diapers were all there waiting to be stuffed and worn. It hit me then that my life had changed horribly. Where was the little boy who cooed and smiled at me as I changed him?

When he was dressed for the last time we put him in his pumpkin hat, his favorite gymboree teddy overalls, and his camping button up shirt. My Mom had just finished a new pair of leggings for him, and we put these along with the monkey diaper on. I guess I had put so many of my favorite things in the bag for the funeral home that day I couldn't part with the cow or giraffe diaper. I wanted them.

When I go into Emily's room the diaper changing pad is still on her dresser, left the same as that day. The airplane and chimes I hung above are still there.... So many memories of him gurgling, smiling, kicking, as his free legs would deliberately kick the cloth diaper basket off the dresser. I remembered thinking about moving it at one point, but he seemed to be genuinely happy when he kicked the basket off. So I left it there and picked it up.... almost every time.

I worked on teaching him I love you in sign language while he laid there, and we often spent a long time afterwards 'talking' together and watching the baby in the mirror. Emily would join us.

How strange that such a routine act could be so important?

When I came home from the church after the ladies had cleaned our house, the diapers were put away in the wetbag and placed in the closet. At first it was disorienting, I wanted them. They were Perry's. I found them a little while later and noticed someone had neatly stacked them inside, sorting the inserts from the diapers. Neatly and with respect, not throw haphazardly inside. I thought that it might have been done by some of the hands of those women who had celebrated his impending birth, they had maybe been some who had given him the diapers. I wondered what they had thought as they put them in stacks. Did they feel sadness as they remembered him, or did they cry as they remembered there own children at this stage and contemplated the simple miracle of survival that we take for granted today?

There are simple tasks that we do everyday for our families. Maybe ones we dread. But they are blessings to our families and ourselves. You do not know what simple things in your life are blessings until your life is irreversibly altered. And you find yourself yearning to do them.                                    

Friday, December 30, 2011

Pain scale

Can I admit that I do not want to see a year in which my son does not exist on this earth?

Today the anger is subsiding and I am slipping back into sadness.

On the locker next to me is a newborn baby, sleeping quietly. This picture greeted me the first time I came to station 2 post Perry. The Father was in the class I arranged and was due to go except that I went home the day before to find my son dead in his father's arms. He has four healthy beautiful little girls. My pictures are inside my locker. Perry's will never be replaced to make room for more recent pictures. He is stalled there in my locker; he will never draw crayon creations for me that will make me smile as I open the door to begin a new shift at work.

I lite a candle at Perry's grave on the way home so I do not have to feel like I am going home to a place without him. The wind makes a whistling sound as it caresses his lantern and I struggle to keep the wind from blowing it out.

Today Emily wants out, she doesn't always want to leave the car. She runs to his grave at full speed. She is concerned about a dead palm frond from the newest grave and picks it up to give it back to 'the grandmother'. The workers have already removed her flowers for the trash, I am glad Perry's are at least in our compost bin. The leaves are brown and dead, the wind scatters them from her hand and all but one are carried to Perry and catch on the uneven grass above his small grave.

I tell him I love him. Does he hear? Does the wind carry my whispers to him in heaven or does God let him look in on us sometimes? I find myself crying in safe places, telling him how badly I want him back.

I read all these posts on facebook about how the past does not control our actions. I do not know if they are aimed at me, but they fly past like the dead leaves on an angry wind. It is easy for people to be theoretical when they have not lost a child.

We still control them, but EVERYTHING is affected.

I had my Psychologist tell me that the loss of a wrecked car or a job was the same to that person as the loss of my child is to me. That is theoretical stuff. Things that fall down like the flimsy material they are made of when reality hits them.

He cannot help me.

In EMS people that are having panic attacks almost always rate things a 10. They are in a form of crisis, but the truth is that you know it is really bad when another patient rates at a 7. Because in their mind, there can be worse as they are experiencing something they would have thought as a ten earlier is happening now. These folks are the one who are having heart attacks. A wise Paramedic does not treat the two the same, he treats them individually for what they are even if both are subjected to the same 'pain' scale. Sure he or she follows the protocal, but we know. The 7 needs a closer eye. You set things out, work a little quicker on the way to the hospital. The 10 may get the EKG while still sitting at their desk and when the screen is normal, they are transported nonemergency.

It's perspective. My perspective has changed. Some concerns seem silly, some thoughts simplistic.

I went to perhaps the most depressing funeral ever. The man believed in God but his funeral was held in a funeral home instead of a chapel. Not one cross or religious symbol was there. The preacher was ok, but when his daughter stood up to speak she said we could honor his memory by digging deeper and she wondered aloud how they would live without him. The irony was that she wasn't digging deeper. To her this was the end. There was no cross visible from his grave.

But can I admit that I am just as sad? I keep reading that we do grieve as others grieve, and while this is true, I still do not hold my baby. I know where he is, but 'different' grief is no easier at times.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Irritants (for womanfolk mostly)

So I am going to be honest. My sadness the last few days has given way to waves of irritation. Some nonsense, some well directed. It is like a moving creepy crawly mass under my skin that is ready to explode into anger. I directed it first to a very naive, puritanical Mom who was insulted that a Mom might dare to breastfeed in front of her child and flash a little unintentional skin. Her post after mine stating I wished I'd spent less time in stalls went something like: I don't want to explain to my son that we say not to show our bodies but then see someone nursing. Can I just say the honey badger came out... she'd posted this before and you know what, I thought she was wackadoodle to begin with, but posting again after my post was saying "I really don't care about the quality of the short life of your child... heaven forbid I should be UNCOMFORTABLE". Well it's pretty freakin uncomfortable to sit on a cold smelly toilet. What will she do next? Put bras on cows to avoid exposing her pure son to mammory glands?

Now I am not an advocate to exposing ones goodies, and use a nursing cover when brave enough (or rather did... this tense stuff pisses me off too!!), but folks if a Mom is trying to be discrete and a little hand pulls aside a cover, it is not the end of the world. While I don't have the guts, women in 100 degree weather who expertly take care of business but do not use a cover that holds heat in... really, that's worth you wrath? Can't you get mad at the millions of people on this earth that do horrible mean, lewd things and leave Mommas alone?

So more than a little angrily I posted back that there is no shame in feeding your child and that I wish I would have the luxury of explaining things to my son.

It ticked me off, because even when I would hit the comfy restroom in the mall at one of the nicer department stores, and sit in an actual chair with a nursing cover, I still got 'the look'. Once from a woman with a boy who looked about the age the poster listed her son as 7/8 years (in a woman's restroom). I moved into the stall for a bit and Perry started screaming (babies sense when things get tense with Mom).

I'm done with hiding, done with it! If I have another child I will never hide like I am doing something perverted. Nursing rooms, nursing covers, ok... but toilets never again.

Ok so don't throw a pearl before swine. I get it. But what would bottle fed mommas do if someone proposed that they could only feed on a toilet? Millions of mothers for centuries have nursed in public, even in church. Sometimes 'progress' is regression.

It's a sore spot because it is something I still should be doing. Something I could have done better. Something that only a mother can do for her child.

Now this irritation I have to try very hard to keep in check. Is it anger from Perry's death? Whacked out hormones recovering from my sons death, the abrupt end of nursing and just now normalizing? I don't know. I want to scream, shout angrily, jump on packing bubbles (Emily and I did this about a week ago and it was actually sort of theraputic, released some tensions and left us in a welcome fit of giggles), break a mason wall with a sledgehammer... Something.

But can I admit that this anger is actually a welcome release from the totality of the sadness or the fog of numbness? A relief to rant angrily instead of crying quietly?

I am so tired.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


In thinking of my life as a tapestry, I can remember a large piece of artwork I saw as a child. My parents would go to these kennel club meetings that were held in either a blind or deaf school in Alamogordo, New Mexico. It was rather large and hung on the wall. It was a landscape and I think bits and pieces of things like feathers were woven in. If you looked at only a small piece, it might look very ugly and full of nonsense, but as a whole it was beautiful and I would just stare at it.

I think of Perry as silk threads, a shiny time in my life... perhaps he is a pool of water or a shimmering green field. If you know silk, it slubs easily, although there is no natural fabric that compares. The oddity of silk is that though it shines as man made fabric sometimes will, it is actually not cold like artificial threads and will gather your own body heat on a cold day. My daughter is soft mohair, she is strong, but brings pleasure, a warm feeling. She would make the hills and mountains of my life, a very vibrant green hue. And my husband is wool, it is scratchy sometimes, but keeps you warm even in the wettest gale. Combined with a silk undershirt it can be your favorite, and although it forms piles it is reliable. When crafted by loving hands, wool shelters you even when you leave the safety of your home. My Mother and all the people I love form the rest of the landscape, even the animals leave feathers or bits of shell that make the work richer.

When a child dies, you feel as if your tapestry has been torn. I have recently realized that as the weaver, God can repair it and work it into the design, even if another hand tore his work. Our life never really leaves the loom until we are through here. Even when we are through, this life work remains. Hands may continue to touch it, people look back and study it.

I think of our soul as the loom. We choose how large, we shape ourselves. Some work with pot holders because they choose not to make the loom larger, and others form works so vast it is hard for me to comprehend the machinery that made it.

When this work is done, we begin again. I can't really describe what that work is like then, I do not know. The people that formed the threads of our life are there again... this time instead of a small field or tiny pond I would like to think that God will allow me to form a large ocean with Perry's threads. The ocean wraps around this spherical work that is no longer square with a top and a bottom. I don't understand how it works, this new weaving, but we just have to have faith that the shuttle will fly again.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The weaving?

The house seems empty without Perry. The floor is barren without his baby armada, the silence deafening, when there should be cries, giggles, nonsense noises, and the beginnings of words. A baby sitting up proudly or beginning to pull up on our legs. I should hear him rustling in the pack in play as I get home, we should be getting his own crib in his own room any day now.

Emily is too quiet as she plays with her coloring book, instead of chattering to her brother as she works beside him.

I realize I have these dreams, where I think I see Perry and it turns into a nightmare of him being dead, then I wake, my heart beating frantically as my mind realizes even in sleep that the horrible truth is real. Chris and Emily do the same, and when they do, I reach out and touch them until they settle back to sleep. Emily is starting to sleep in her own bed for part of the night on occasion, I say part of the night because so far she has always woken up crying and joins us in our bed after the second time. But the completely sleepless nights are becoming fewer, the wakings less.

Can I admit that the worst part of this is that I wish I could remember the happy dreaming of Perry before the illusion shatters? Why am I only left with the angry fragments of death? Why can't God use my dreams to pull the veil between us thin so I can see him beyond the translucence? Is that too much to ask?

The parts that make me the angriest is when my mind tries to put the situation in a context it understands, this meaning that because Perry is not here, to default to the time before him. It is frustrating because it tricks me into normalcy. I forget the loss for a short while, then I see something and it hits me. It is made worse because the grief of missing and the anger of forgetting my child existed is a toxic combination more potent together than each effect added up separately.

But then sometimes for just a brief second, I remember Perry and I am happy. The grief usually hits in a wave after, but it is nice that even for a brief while the joy I felt with my family is recaptured.

I was in Northcrest, and as luck would have it, on the nursery floor. The elevators are by the viewing area. I stopped and stared for a while, the pain stinging again. I could see a father rocking, a little form under a warmer... The wanting pain. (There are different forms just as there are different forms of love).

My husband wrapped his arm around me and I could only hear a few of his quiet words... "Someday... again."

How to finish up this family journey? What is our future? Even our decisions make no matter in the storm of fate or 'God's plan'. We can try to decide, but nothing is guaranteed.

God grant me happiness again someday, whether in this little fractured family that remains or a new weaving.

I know your hands are working, tying our family tapestry onto the lomb again. Loosen the threads tightened by his death, tie these new strings to the ugly ends dangling. New threads woven in below the shimmering silk of Perry's life. Tied to the jagged threads that were torn crudely as he left us, the fabric snagging angrily.  Maybe different material, but perhaps something still beautiful in the ruggedness that contrasts with his delicate threads as the shuttle flies rapidly. Or if it is to remain as it is, fixing the fraying threads to keep this creation from unraveling, so that we can use it again.

God make us whole.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Burn Wounds

I recently read an article about the huge tole grief takes on your body. It caught my attention because it talked about the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in KY. It was a disaster everyone in the fire service studies, and makes you become almost a vigilante on fire inspections... I had interviewed a survivor when I was pregnant with my first child.

The gist of the article was that Doctors wondered why serious burn victims had very different healing rates. Some victims lingered in hospitals for years after the disaster. The difference, among those who had lost loved ones, was how they grieved. If they dealt with the grief, talked about it, talked about their loved ones, they healed faster. Those that withdrew and refused to talk did not heal as quickly or perhaps died.

I have come to the conclusion that people who lose children are like burn victims. The healing can take years, and in the beginning, almost anything that touches you hurts. Even things that you would take joy in.

There are spots in your soul that feel dead, these are the worst damaged. Just as skin that is completely damaged won't hurt. The painful areas aren't always the most damaged, there is still feeling there. As you heal and the nerves come back, things may be more painful in the short term.

I had wondered, if I were to have another child, could I deal with the pain and the hurt that would be brought up? Would I lose the joy of that individual in the loss of his/her brother as I wondered what he would look like a similar stages or would I catch myself crying at the first scent of this new child when I so badly missed Perry's?

It has come to me that these areas hurt because they still work. I still have the capacity to love. It may not be with the naive ease of the masses, but with the strength of a Mother who takes no moment for granted. Who will see diaper changes and crying as blessings, and smiles/giggles as divine gifts.

This experience of being badly burned has taught me that there are three levels of concern for others that humans operate on.

Level 1) I am the most important, you feelings only matter in that you either uplift or pull me down. It is where the immature operate or those with large, immediate positive or negative events. This is common sometimes in the two extremes: those that are experiencing the happiest and the worst times in life. Ironic, but true. Did you ever notice someone suffering when you were delirously in love, perhaps on the eve of your wedding or when you held your firstborn child? Likewise pain can bring you to this spot. I try not to operate here, but sometimes I slip.

Level 2) I am going to care for you as I would like to be treated. Would what I say to you hurt you if you said it to me?

Level 3) I am going to care for you as you need it. Knowing what I do of your life and watching your body language, will this hurt you? Will it hurt you if I do not say this? If it wll be painful, but necessary, is what I am about to say in the right spirit, the right time, and am I really the right person to say it? Think long and hard if it is necessary or if there is some hidden urge in you to hurt this person. Be honest with yourself. Most people aren't.

What things do/ should we look for? 1)times when you can accept or reject someone (the engagement period, high school when kids are looking for acceptance), 2) loss of a close family member, 3)Infertility/miscarriage (there is a missing of someone you do not know), 4) Divorce,  5) job lay offs/firing, and 6) potential terminal illness of self or family. This is just a small smattering, but I have to say that most times we completely miss the ball. You need to learn to read body language. Sometimes stop talking and look at the person. They may be smiling, but are there tears? How are they standing? What do their eyes say?

Most people operate on level 2 at least some of the time. Unfortunately it is very rare for people to operate on level 3. It takes a large burn for many to realize that your actions need to be tailored for individuals. But how do we know what will hurt or not? Ask. Realize that sometimes things may sting, but that it is not alwas bad in itself. Once you know someone else is in it for long haul, you do not reject the person for a few stings, because you know there is caring underlying it. Operating on level 3 also teaches you to value and appreciate what you do have... grouching about children, spouses, or any number of things is not as appealing. I knew this instictively before Perry, but I breathe it now.

People make the mistake of thinking they operate independently. Very few things we do are neutral. Most are for good or bad if we evaluate our interactions. You can be used as the hand of God or the Devil. Take this literally if you believe, figuratively if you don't... but realize if you wanted to do the most damage and couldn't, you would settle for make good people neutral.

So these are some of the things I have learned. I pray you can learn them through me without bandaging your own wounds. These are the gifts I receive from Perry.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Celebrating the birth of a child...

Have you ever really listened to Christmas Music? What a bittersweet time for any parent who has lost a little one.

Here in the midst of Christmas Eve, the first time in our main church, I sat watching the Christmas Eve service. I couldn't help but thinking that the last time I had been here was to say goodbye to Perry. The last time I held him was here.

I felt like there had to be some message for me here. Something special in the midst of this. There were two candlelight services, and we chose the earliest. The young infants were out in mass along with many who did not normally attend church. For some I think it was almost a study in the origins of Christmas and not actually worship.

Where in this tangled service, with multiple crying infants, was my message? I zoned out some of the music, but then I felt the need to tune into a classic I had sang many times before.

Away In a Manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.
I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven, to live with Thee there

It hit me that 'all the dear children in thy tender care', could very well mean all the children and infants who have died. 1885 and the surrounding era were brutal times for infants. The first part celebrates the gift of Christmas, but then is very akin to the simple "Now I lay me down to sleep" prayer. I think we assume that the author is talking about living children in his care the ones to be fitted for Heaven, but I think he is saying 'bless the children in your care and help us to become who we need to be to join you there." It switches from them to us terminology, and I do not think this is chance.

So here is my message. Here is where my child is. He is not left out. He has already received his Christmas gift.

This season is as much for parents who are missing a child as it is for the children around us, if not more. Who could comfort a parent more?

I find myself looking for kindred spirits, and they are out there. Not as many in this day, so many of you are blessed by technology. I find myself getting comfort sometimes from the past, from our church family who has gone before.

Saturday, December 24, 2011


This morning I went to visit Perry briefly before going home. I originally had the shift off, but turned it in for somebody else to celebrate with their family because I don't really want to. Today is just a stinging sensation, can't put up stockings, don't want to wrap presents. Don't want it to be Perry's first Christmas because he is gone. I am actually a bit sad the church down the road isn't having a Christmas Eve Service. It would be nice to go spend part of the Holiday with Perry in a sense. I had it in my mind that I wanted to attend Church there that night, and light a little candle for Perry before we went in so we would all have them. They have invited us there before, and while I do not want to attend full time, it would be nice to go sometimes. Put money in the plate so this little church can afford to pay someone to mow and tend the churchyard, keep the lights on in the building.
I can't explain why, but it is incredibly comforting to think that there is a church by Perry. I guess it is explainable, when you are standing at his little spot and look up with blurry eyes, you can see the cross in the bricks. He isn't there, in a strange way he is in the church when the body of Christ meets. It isn't a cemetary, it is still part of the church grounds. There is something nice about the fact that the potential for Perry began as we were joined in a little chapel and his body is by one now.

I really do think that in some ways we have things surrounding death wrong these days. We take the churchyards away and turn them into cemetaries away from churches. We have impersonal hands caring for the bodies of our loved ones... from the funeral homes, to the hands/machines that bury them, to the years following in the cemetary. Even to the point of removing loved ones from their homes to die in a strange place. We have removed it as a part of living. It would not be as hard for people to grieve and keep the eternal perspective if we still had the churchyards. If we saw the church as we grieved. But we replace this space with more parking spots.

I have been to many churches that put glass windows to keep reminding Christians that they are a part of this earth. Perhaps we still have our stained glass windows because we have tucked away an inevitable (uncomfortable for many) part of life, even though the glass is crystal clear.

We send people to the mission fields, but do not always go into the nursing homes or hospice centers. Do we lose people to Christ because we have sanitized life from death in our own churches?

I have thought about this, and when I am ready I might start visiting nursing homes with Emily. I have met some incredible people on calls to nursing homes, maybe it is time to become friends with a few? Visit them in a place where visitors can sometimes be far between? I think I just need a little more healing time before I can do this, but it is a thought. At worst you gave someone a friendship that needed one. I also need to figure out how Emily will react, but she has no bad memories associated with nursing homes. She might even find new friends who would actually appreciate her artwork.

Perry was loved from conception to now. He was surrounded by people that cared every moment of his life, and even for most of the time after he had left. I knew the nurse in the hospital that listened to his heartbeat minutes before he was born. I knew the Sherrif's deputies, paramedics that arrived the day he died. Within minutes people from our fire departments and church were there. Our neighbor down the road works at the funeral home. His memorial was at our main church campus where he had been at the fall festival only a brief while before. He was buried by the men in and that surround our family. He is a short way away. He is not out of sight and forgotten, has never been.

The trick in the coming days, weeks, years is to keep him in our memories while letting go of the pain. Keeping him in the window of our minds as we continue to live, until one day we walk through the door to him. He is too sweet a blessing to turn into only pain. We owe him that much.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Life Gifts

It has begun to strike me that everything in our lives is a gift, and that nothing is really yours. You are entrusted with things by God. You do not achieve things on your own, you can't even fully keep your children safe by yourself. Your money is not yours. Your children are not your own. They are simply entrusted to you.

Even your life is not your own.

We are like three year olds. How many times have you given a child something, only to be met by a shaking head when you ask for a small piece? Perhaps that is like us and God.

Perry is/was a wonderful gift, shaped by loving hands and placed in our family. He was exactly what we needed, laid back and happy, where Emily was more vivacious and demanding. They were so different, but so complimentary. They liked spending time together. Emily coloring happily or playing with little people on the floor and Perry propping his body up on his arms (or slobbering on a little people animal or person). Emily would often lay with her foot touching some part of his body while she played busily by his leap frog toy, or would climb in her bed and wrap her arm around them as they watched mobiles. The worst part of all this was that I had a hard time convincing her she couldn't lay on him like she did Mommy and Daddy, that he was more fragile. But she learned, and figured out ways to express her love physically without hurting him. They were Yin and Yang.

But knowing all this does not make things any easier. A perfect gift for us, shaped by our creator, is bound to be missed. We naturally want to live long lives and enjoy each gift to the maximum extent.

That said, nothing is fully in our control. How do we learn to live with this? I struggle with this today, and I pray a lot and talk to God. I think he understands, I love my Daughter and remember her times of extreme generosity and caring even when she stubbornly clings to a single marshmallow in her lucky charms. How can any loving Father, be any different?

I read a sad post by a woman who did not feel that the bible told her where her child is. I personally think it is obvious, it comes in understanding relationships. Is our God not our Father? Has he not been our Father since he created us in the womb? If a husband caressed his wife's pregnant belly, why would our God (who we are created in his image) not do the same? If he has known "saints" in the womb, why not every child? Do you love any one child less? I tend to believe that we see God through others when the best of their characteristics shine through. There are so many references to God getting angry when Pagans sacrificed their infants, 'the innocents'. If he can love a Pagan's child, he loves ours no less. And if he loves them, why would he not gather them in his arms? Every parent understands what a child is capable of. He would not punish a child because they are not capable of making/expressing complex decisions any more than we would spank a five month old for breaking something we left in their reach. He would not punish a child because the parents did not baptise him/her.

So I am trying to remember this Christmas that Perry is home. That this house that saw his creation and his death is a very temporary structure, a way point on our journey. But please remember that I am still very much a three year old. I still want him with us.
Perry and I. Not my best picture, but I wasn't intending on being in the pictures. I was just holding Perry. I am glad Joey took it anyway.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


So here we go. Initially after all this happened I did not want to go away. Now I think we are all so tired, that we need to and it is really not much of an option. I think about what I want to do, it will probably involve a big boat where cell coverage is minimal.

It is not that unusual, a lot of families do about a month after losing a child. We will have soldiered through about three months at the point we are able to get away, almost an entire season. You are so worn your body needs it. Your mind is sluggish. Exhausted from sleepless nights, the stress of firsts, and the loss of the innocence of living (the belief that the bad can not happen has forever fled and now you see the dangers).You look at what is left and the family has to figure out how to fit together the pieces, like a vase with crucial pieces missing. The result is still ugly. Still not what was intended or achieved for a little while. But maybe it can function, no longer some pretty masterpiece to be admired, but a simple vessel that can hold dandelions.

Up to this point, my husband and I have traded turns visiting Perry's 'hideout' (Emily terminology here) and lighting a candle every day. I think of leaving the candle as a way to leave the porch light on, although I know that one day it will be me and not Perry coming home. To tell Perry I am thinking of him. Chris admitted that to him it has a different meaning, he is trying to 'keep him warm'. These things make no sense to you, I hope. But grieving rarely makes sense.

What this means is that we are willing to let ago a little. I think we will still ask friends to light it for us, but we can leave.

For his entire existance we never left him, except for that horrible time when we were given no choice. To leave is admitting that while we may carry him in our hearts, we recognize the physical bond has been broken... This is a hard horrible truth.

This cruise will be different. We fully expected to have a lot of time to take him with us, and like Emily we intended to get him his passport. Not because of a particular trip, but in the belief that wonderful places awaited us together. We had every expectation that we would be able to introduce him to other countries, see history alive, and watch him delight in new tastes and sights.


To be able to dress him in little tuxedos on formal night until he left us one day in one. With a new bride, a new family forming to expand the branches of our family. And then, if we were lucky, they would join us again with another child in tow.

This time I am not sure I want to be seated with other families. I want to spend my energy glueing our family together, not avoiding emotional bombs dropped by unsuspecting strangers. I am not sure everything will seem as shiny or lush. The scrutiny of passengers that loudly state they wouldn't take their children will seem harsher, and more ugly. Before it was an affront to a polite little girl who said 'thank you' to the ice cream lady, now it will seem thoughtlessly cruel.

But we need the sun. We need the gentle nudging to tell us that we survive. That this a different, but new day. That we are forging a different family, much as the newly weds will be.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Shrapnel

Today was a sweats and T shirt day. When I get up out of bed, just to do it and I don't really care. I am sure people were thinking about the slideshows of people in Walmart. The sweats were about 5 sizes too large. I personally have always wondered if sometimes these were people who were depressed or sick. And to be honest, I would not be surprised to show up in one with some witty (brainless) remark underneath. Something people would laugh at on their desktop, feeling amused at this freak show of humanity.

We had a pretty bad night in the Williams household. We didn't all settle into bed until past midnight. The bed shook all night, with silent sobs and nightmares of Emily. I held her several times until she calmed. We tossed, our limbs a jumbled mass of the remenants of our family. I checked her pedal pulses several times, and startled out of sleep once until I felt the warm moisture of her breath in the hair that lay close to her mouth. This is the wake that follows after the plowing mass of denial. The reality you have to learn to live with if you ever hope to function normally.

After I finally woke up, I searched a bit on the computer and called my Mom to come rescue me out of bed. I have started doing this on my worst days when I feel inertia setting in. Emily will usually run to greet her at the door... I can't tell whether this is just exhaustion from the night before, or grief, or grief's close friend, depression. It is too soon to tell yet. The Holidays are emotionally taxing from the perspective of a person in the midst of grief labor. (And it is labor because there is nothing easy about it, and you are plain tired.)The rest of the time you can sort of pace yourself, but I was quickly thrown into the holidays just as the shock was wearing off. Holidays come at you with a frantic pace of parties and events. And when religion is kept out of it, the whole secular world focuses on the ideal image of a whole family. This is a battlefield for the emotionally wounded to wind through. And we don't always make it through undamaged.

There are a few thoughts on my mind lately.

The first comes back to what Perry would look like as a child or young man. What will he look like when I see him again? I found this website:
and I have to admit I am tempted. Apparently many parents that have lost a child have this same question, there is even a discount for the service through compassionate friends. But the total is still something like $100, and unfortunately my priority is Perry's stone. So this will have to wait.

The second thought on my mind is Santa. Emily desperately wants to see him. I have had three oppurtunities that I have dodged. Today there was a short line, and I started to take her towards him. I stopped. In line, every child was in a pumpkin seat or stroller. They were all there for their first pictures with Santa. I wound up distracting Emily with a huge heart ballon that benefitted missions. Everywhere in the mall are babie's first Christmas stockings, ornaments, and clothing. I rushed through JC Penny, pulling along Emily who was saying she didn't want to see Santa tomorrow, tears dropping from my face. I am sure it was quite a scene.

I feel pretty weak and fragile. Christmas parties are filled with landmines of casual converstaion focused around children. Even in places where they ought to know, with people who have sent plants, cards, or attended the funeral, they are complaining about hauling around pumkin seats and diaper bags... My God if I could only lug him around again!!! I try to skip the kids/ages question by asking what they do for fun, only to wind up with a parent saying how they were sad because they wished they could go on cruise sans children... "How about I trade you that ability?" I am thinking. But I smile and say I understand. But I don't.

How horribly twisted that everyone forgets so quickly. He is dead less than a month and they have forgotten. He does not exist. And these people had seen him alive, breathing, strapped to my chest in a carrier. And as I sit thinking the worst is over, another woman comes up and she just keeps going on... I am going to have a hard time getting to know this woman in the future, it struck me as at best, poor situational awareness, and at worst as someone so self absorbed I did not want to get to know her. I am going to have to pray a bit on this one. Once again, I guess I should be thankful she DOESN'T HAVE A CLUE. Her child was breathing that night at a sitter or family member's.

Please, talking about your kids is ok, I'll be a bit sad but that is normal. Complaining around someone who has lost a child is, well, incredibly insensitive. And here's a thought... if you know and a friend starts grouching in earshot, say "Well, I used to say stuff like that but I recognize that it is really a blessing. There are lots of parents who would trade their lives to give their children life again." Awkward, maybe. But real awkwardness is standing in line with one child and leaving. You can't stand horse bawling in front of strangers who will not get that there is someone missing on Santa's lap.

And just so you know, I have explained the situation to my Mom and she is taking Emily to see Santa. I had seriously considered getting a picture of Emily holding Perry's picture on Santa's lap, but I just don't know.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Today it is hitting me a little harder that Perry is not here. The numbness is wearing off, although I still find  myself standing confused in stores or at the house.

After my Grandfather died, Bryce Hatton, my Mom, Emily, Perry, and I watched home videos of him at my Mom's house. There was Grandpa and Grandma Peggy, young with small children. I marveled at their youth. In large clips, Grandpa is playing baseball. He is playing baseball with the men he works with in the Navy at some sort of function, and he is playing it in adult leagues.

Perry was propped upright in my lap and he is not complaining, watching the faded colors and people flickering across the screen. He has never seen his Grandpa in person, but with the miracles of film he is watching him now. I think he is wearing his new green sweater that his Grandma had just completed for him. The days are getting colder and she has finished it just in time.

My Grandpa died while I was pregnant with Perry, just around the last snow fall in Nebraska. Before he went, they called all of us in the family and we each made our way up to see him and say goodbye. That last visit, my Grandma Sharon wanted to make Perry a baby blanket,and Grandpa remarked that we could give them the envelope because Sharon wouldn't tell and he wouldn't be there a lot longer. He knew if it was a boy, he would be called Perry Bryce. At our last visit before we left town that day, I gave Sharon the envelope. I had already told him that although we didn't get to spend a lot of time together because my Dad was in the military, that I knew he loved me. That seemed to be what he needed to hear from me. My Mom didn't really seem to know what to say, but they talked about their time in Cuba and how happy they were then. We said goodbye, Grandpa wan't the type for a lot of fuss, and walked out the hospital bedroom door.

So now, watching the videos of him in Cuba, with my Mom as a bubbling curly blonde around 5 years old with gaps of missing teeth, we were quiet. I could see my Mom smiling at different points.

I always knew that Grandpa liked baseball, but it never hit me just how much until I saw this young man hitting the ball and running around bases furiously, his legs pumping. He seemed confident in himself. He slid easily, as if it were reflex.

I am not the most athletic, but at that moment, I thought if this man was my Grandfather, Perry just might have a shot. My husband doesn't play baseball, and my Lt. had once said that the best players always had a parent who practiced with them. That usually the ones who weren't as good, were sort of stuck there because parents thought they ought to, but no one could help at home. Well I didn't know how to play, and Chris didn't, but that same Lt. had tried to show me how to throw. I told myself when it came time I would learn how to, just so I could help him. And I figured that with enough guys like Lt. Hood and Steve Failor around the fire department, they would probably be more than willing to help brush up his techniques if he were really interested and we brought him down on shift.

I liked the thought. The idea of a game connecting men that were seperated by 3 generations was comforting. Two men that I loved.

Today we had a fire department flag football game and we came down on the rescue and engine to heckle. It allowed me to forget a bit. They were fairly good natured, although competitive about it, and some had brought their sons. As I watched them, I grew quiet. It burned to watch one of the firefighters playing with his dark haired son. I knew how much he loved him. I had seen them throwing baseballs together before.

After Perry died, the first dream my husband had was of Grandpa in his house in Nebraska. He was holding Perry on his lap. He looked at my son's face and said "He has Japanese eyes". My husband shook all this off, because he told me Grandpa wouldn't say that. But I know Grandpa did. He was of that generation, the one that categorized, even without malice. The generation that fought world war II. He was dying of lung cancer after years in damage control and shipyards, after cleaning up a radiation spill during his time in the military.

Grandpa had been so proud of his time in the military. He was a proud navy vet, a member of the legion. He loved the flag, even to the point of considering firebombing a hippie head shop that had a pair of pants made out of a flag in the window.

At one visit Grandpa had been studying me, and made the comment that in another generation you probably wouldn't be able to see the Japanese. He said that the shape of my eyes and my thick black eyelashes were just about all that remained. He told me they were 'mankiller' eyes.

Perry's eyes were blue like his Father, but the shape were mine. The dark black eyelashes that were almost too pretty for a little boy are mine as well.

I don't know, but when Emily says Grandpa is holding Perry in Heaven, she may be right.

I stold this from my cousin Tracy's blog. My Grandpa Bryce is in the back, and my Mom is the cutie to the left, the little blonde. Grandma Peggy is in the center, My Aunt Micky on the right and Aunt Kathy on Grandma's lap.

And this is Grandma, Emily, and Perry, I think on the day we watched the videos? With Perry's green sweater on. The guy was so tall, his tummy showed in a lot of his little outfits.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Moments that take your breath away

The last few days have been a bit of a mixed bag. I am starting to get more sleep and I am starting to eat again, but there are times that things hit me and I feel like it is everything I can do just to breathe.

My standard response for "How are you doing?", is that "I am doing". I am just not big on lying, and this is a way to be honest without a lot else. I was in the elevator with Dr. Belehar on my way up for my blood draw, and this question popped up. "What do you mean you are just doing?". There really aren't that many women on the fire department, I am the only on the line these days, so I thought he already knew, but apparently not. I saw his wheels turning and the way he asked it, I knew he was thinking he needed to put some sort of flag on me and discuss the issue with the safety officer at the fire department.

"Mr, Belehar, my son died a month ago." He quieted down.

The physical was difficult this year. It started with the questionnaire on family history and had a part where you list all of your children and then it asks if they are deceased, at what age, and what from. I just stopped and stared. I should have remembered this from last year, but it brought me instantly back down to the dips that I call the abyss. I cried as I filled it out, I put his full name, how old he was when he died (4 months, almost 5), and stared at the cause of death. I finally put, awaiting autopsy results.My writing was shaky, like a 90 year old woman's. Afterwards I went into the women's locker room, sat on the floor in front of the sink and bawled silently.

The rest of the questionnaire looked like an ink bomb had gone off. Loss of appetite, dizziness, shaking, hair loss, cold intolerance, difficulty sleeping, heart palpitations? These are just a few I checked. They will think I am a nutcase, I thought. But then, when you are at your lowest any number of health problems take the opportunity to rear, and I wanted to know as best I could that everything was ok. I feel a responsibility towards my daughter and husband to stick around as long as I can. I love my son, and I will not say that there are not days that I wished I was with him, but I will have eternity with him. I do not want to leave yet, just want him here with me. I need to make sure my daughter grows up to be the young lady she has the potential to be and that my husband will live to see better days. I want to make sure their lives are rich and that I am around for more of my daughter's firsts.

I went in for the appointment and they asked who I wanted to see. I said the female (I do not know her name, but all the guys like her). I do not know that Belehar will know what to say to me based on his earlier response, and is likely to set me off at the weight question. Technically I am not ideal by the charts, never have been since I was 13. Some I am sure is extra fluff, but some is muscle.  Right now I weigh as much as I did about 5 years ago. It is not the right way to go about it. But he will feel obligated to tell me I am overweight or some such thing, as he always does. I will lose it, he will feel awkward... let's just avoid it.

The nurse practitioner came in, she set her chart down, looked at me. Her eyes were shiny with moisture. And we both started crying. We talked, tears streaming, together for about 5 or 10 minutes. I am not upset, in a way it was nice. I got to talk about Perry, what a great fun little boy he was, and it was nice to know that she cared about him on some level. I let her know some of the demons and she just listened. She told me I was perfectly normal for what had happened, but that she would carefully review all the results.

The next day I was off duty with my Mom and Christmas shopping. Besides the other things I had wanted to buy Perry, there was one toy I really wanted. He would have been too young to use it until about 6 more months, but I knew I was going to get it anyway. It was a special little people play set, available only at Target. It was a pirate ship, complete with a parrot, benevolent looking swashbucklers with chubby cheeks and eye patches or dew rags, and a cannon that actually shot a little ball. I saw it while looking around the website and had almost bought it right then and there for Perry.

While looking at princess stuff with Emily, and Justin Beiber DVD's for Sheila, I noticed a large display at the end of the isle. There it was. I stopped and pressed the parrot to hear it squawk. I cried and kept crying as I went towards the check out, passing the baby isle with all the jumparoos and little clothing.

We were all exhausted, and Emily was sound asleep as I pulled into the cemetery. I lit a little candle, and drove towards my empty house with the two small pumpkins on the porch.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lessons Learned (was Things that Push my Buttons)

People say and do the most thoughtless things. Not necessarily mean things, or even things that hurt me or others. Just short sighted or meaningless. Here is my list of things I have learned and the events that inspired them.

1) Always gauge what you say.

My husband was visiting Perry to light a candle. Someone from a funeral home was there working and struck up a conversation.

"Is that your son?" he asked. I think by this time people are getting used to us being regular visitors.

"Yes, Perry is my 5 month old son".

"Are you in your 30's?"


"Well my son is your age and back when he was a baby they talked about crib death. And I always told my Wife that was just foolish nonsense (safety precautions)..."

My husband just walked away.

2) The internet will outlast your intelligence and attention span, striking out when least expected.

Looking up infant death or Angel Care Monitor (at one point we had had this on Emily's registry) on babycenter, I was trying to find information. A thread from the July 2011 birthclub popped up. The title looked interesting and I think it started with a woman asking for advice from other Moms. The answer from the majority... "Don't worry. SIDS or accidental infant death doesn't really happen, it is really the result of parents who murder their infants". What the ?!!! The sad thing is that there is another Mommy whose blog I follow who had an infant die that was on that particular birthclub. These women probably make multiple safety mistakes everyday and they are just the lucky ones. We all do, we try and there are still things we do not forsee. You do the best you can with the resources at the moment, try to gauge risk/benefit and you can still come up short. And how about the poor women that do EVERYTHING 'right' only to find their infants are no longer with them in the morning? Even in cases where SIDS or infant death has struck twice in the same family, in 87% of the cases (after intensive investigations) the parents are innocent.

At first I was about to post back, but then I thought, "These women are so naive, they have no clue... May they always be as insensitive because nothing short of something happening to their child will change their minds."

3) If something happens that you will not remember or it will not matter in 5 or 10 years, it is a minor thing. You can recover. I hear so many young ladies crying at the scene of accidents because they have crumpled the car. You  lose a job, you can find another one. Your house burns down and everyone is out, small potatos.

4) You can not be island. Everyone everywhere needs people, they also need something bigger than themselves. If you avoid people because of the pain, you miss out on the richest blessings of life. If you avoid trying again because you have had one loss, you will miss out on blessings you cannot imagine, sometimes given to you in ways you never expected.

5) If you have an oppurtunity to react in anger, step back and consider patience. The other day at the Y, I waited for 30 minutes for a weight machine. I eventually got on and when I rested inbetween sets my mind would wander. I didn't waste too much time, from my perspective, but I do not know. I do not always function on all cylinders, putting foot in front of foot is a victory. I overheard a man talking to his wife, saying "she's taking too much time, just sitting there". Now the urge was there to explode but I backed off. They had no idea. Whenever you get impatient, realize that you never know what is going on in that person's life. They did not know I had lost my son. The people I passed on the interstate 'that day' after pulling over into the other lane to let them through just minutes before, were probably confused at the aggressive driver. They did not know that my life had changed sometime in the night or early morning and in betwen the time they passed me and I passed them, I had just found it out. If you still cannot restrain your tongue, tell yourself to stop and look at their face. If they look upset, don't add to whatever is there, use your tongue to ask if they need help.

6) Always kiss your children goodnight and tell them you love them.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gregory's Pooh Bear

We are trying to celebrate Christmas with Perry. Trying to strike a balance between recognizing the very real loss of Perry's first Christmas and celebrating the message of Christ, that we believe we will see him again. And somewhere mixed up in all of this is that we have a 3 year old who very much believes in the magic of Christmas and is concerned about details that almost no child her age is. "Does Santa bring presents to heaven? Are there presents in heaven?"

We replaced Perry's Christmas tree today. We bought a small decorative one that turned out only to be cold hardy to 45 degrees, and I have removed it out of pity for the small struggling plant. It is sitting in my kitchen window in recovery, with a brand new fertilizer stick .Emily picked out a sapling, and we are hoping that this one will have a long life and be one that we can overwinter in the greenhouse once Christmas is over. There are so many transient things I need as much permanence as possible. Thinking that this little tree might be hardy enough to serve Perry again next year is a nice thought, something to take care of for him that fills the void in a small way.

Friends, this seems a strange thing to say, but if you really want to show a parent that you care about their family, leave something small at the grave of their child. It feels as if the world has forgotten, but when someone left a small white cross I knew at least one person did not. I do not know who did it, but it made me happy. Much nicer than saying 'I am thinking of you', it meant "I really am, and I am thinking of your child too".

We also bought a baby's first Christmas ornament for Perry, it is Pooh sleeping. Emily had become fascinated by the nearby grave of Gregory, who was about the same age as Perry and has a Winnie the Pooh at his feet. She finds it better that "Perry's hideout" is by Pooh and by other small babies and children. I think she has almost adopted Gregory as someone else to visit when we go. When we have time and she wants to stay longer, she touches the lambs on the oldest tiny stones. I think it has the same effect on me, in that our family does not feel so alone in this journey. Other babies, other families have traveled this road, some around the turn of the century. I wonder what we will do for Perry's headstone. I know I want some sort of a statue, I know I want it to be something that people will recognize that the little boy was cared about. That hopefully will convey it enough that when we are gone, maybe others will grow to care about this little boy they never knew and try to take care of the site. Maybe another Mother, Father, or little girl will visit him and find something they can relate to.

So many of these babies were loved, so many families took comfort in the idea of a loving God who holds their children. So many parents faced the loss of their future. Next to Gregory's stone is a little baseball that is weathered by time. Some other Father wanted to teach his son to throw a ball. There is a small teddy bear statue, they wanted to continue to give him gifts. There are hands holding a cherub, they believe he is held by God.

I met Gregory's Father. He hobbled up to the front during visitation, his leg in a cast. He said he couldn't cook, and he handed me an envelope filled with gift cards. He explained his son was buried at the feet of his grandparents. I told him my daughter loved Gregory's pooh, and I couldn't tell if he was sad or happy. Someone else knew of his son, knew his name. You see, we will never come across parents whose sons are in cub scouts or in little league with our children. This is the only 'club' they will have, the little graves in a small church cemetary out in the country.

Tonight I am going to a candle light ceremony. My loss is so new that we missed the deadline for his picture to be in the slideshow, we had no clue such a group met back then. I am bringing a picture and the gnon.

Before we left the cemetary, Emily sat down on a stone and asked if the person buried here was in heaven. I told Emily I thought she was, but unlike babies and children that die, adults must decide to go to heaven. Emily then clenched her arms about her, in the universal toddler sign if defiance. "I am not going to heaven!". I explained that heaven is a beautiful place and that we might only have to go there when our bodies wear out. She said she didn't care, she wanted to stay here a long time. I hope that Emily has her wish, that she will stay here until she is an old lady surrounded by many generations that love her. I hope when the time comes she will be secure and not as afraid as the little three year old girl today.

As we left, caretakers came to add soil to Perry's grave. It will not be long before we are able, and have to make, the final decisions for our son. To pick his gravestone and place it carefully on top for those other mothers. It is my prayer that these future mothers may not need our comfort, that perhaps it might just be a reminder to never take time for granted with even the youngest that we love. We know to spend time with the Grandmothers and Grandfathers, but we forget as an extended family to look a little deeper at the baby in his parents' arms. We assume we have many years to get to know these little ones. We often take them for granted.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Belated Birthday Gift

I admit, my Birthday was a bit depressing. I didn't want gifts. I knew what I wanted.

I wrote the poem the next day. After I finished, I ran 3 miles to beat it out of me. When I run, when I am tired, I can close my eyes and just be. My heart rate steadies, and I can think or think nothing. The pounding of my feet (I am no ballerina) voices the same mantra over and over, the words change depending on what I need that particular day.

After I was finished I lay on the weight bench and let my body stretch.

My husband called me.

After looking on his cell phone different times and finding nothing, he found what I had wanted. It isn't a perfect gift, but as near to it as is possible.

These were the pictures that I had been so badly wanting.

And this:

I am not in this one, because I am taking it from the bed. This is the biggest smile I have ever seen on my daughter.

And finally:

This was taken the day of the Vanderbilt game. Perry is in his/my favorite outfit (how cool is it to a baby that something to play or chew on, the teddy, is right there). I also put his leggings on and somehow managed to convince him to keep his shoes on to make an appearance in polite society. When I first saw this, the message above it was from Tricia and I think she said she was was covering our family in prayer. We were at the Vandy game with Tricia's family. I do not think this is some random sort of luck.

So thank everyone for your prayers. You may feel like they are small, but they are a very concrete gift to us these days. I still do not have an easy heart regarding what is God's plan, and I do not think God causes bad things to happen to his people. I will have a lot of questions, but I believe that he still loves us.

After I finished crying, I felt a little lighter. I ate well, and I slept the whole night. I was happy. I have regained a little bit of my Son.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stretch Marks

Silver lines,
remind me of the time you were mine.
The churning within and building excitement
I felt your kicks and quiet movements.
The knowing month when it was our secret
and nobody else could feel you.
As most, I sometimes wondered
how my body looked
as I stared at the mirror.
Other women buy lotions.
They have surgery to remove the pouch.
But I will not.
As time goes on the milky scent
of you on your little button up shirt
fades slowly into nothing.
Your things can be taken.
But these lines, the pouch
you nestled safely within
are still here.
They will be here with me,
reminders that can not be stolen,
until I need them no longer.
And you are with me.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Things I do not regret, life rules

I have been pretty hard on myself, but then it is absolutely understandable. How do you not dissect it? I read in a book that parents feel guilty because on some strange level they think if they could figure out what went wrong, that they can somehow rewind the tape and bring their child back.

This is incredibly tough. So I am trying to avoid guilt that is there without a cause.

Here are my few rules to make life easier on me:

1) If you would do something if Perry was here, you are not dishonoring him by still doing it.
Eating, Drinking, Work, Church, Living.

2) By laughing or smiling, you are doing what Perry would want you to do. When I was crying, Perry smiled at me the day before he died. He seemed a bit confused and befuddled and broke out in a smile. I had to smile back, it was forced but how could any mother not? I think this is what he would do now.

3) If you have to do something that doesn't make sense to others/ or makes them uncomfortable to survive it is ok. This includes having Emily hold a picture of her brother on special occassions for a family picture, sending out Christmas cards with him in it, including Perry in the answer for "How many kids do you have?".

4) It is ok to avoid occasions that will make you sad beyond normal, but it is not ok to check out on relationships. So for example, if you can't make a baby shower, that is ok. Not sending a note with an explaination and a present is not.

These rules are somewhat essential to me. About a month has passed since Perry died and it seems like a day. The world is going on. Christmas is not waiting because we do not want it to come.

In contrast, I guess there are some things that I do not regret as a parent. These include:

1) Letting Perry taste ice cream. You aren't supposed to give whole milk for a year. I can remember that it was a hot day late in the summer/ early fall. I was sitting on our front porch with Perry in my lap and we were looking out across our property. He seemed to be staring intently at the spoon and was trying to figure the concept out. I put a small bit on the spoon and touched it to his tongue. His tongue pushed it out, his reflex still based on nursing, but he seemed to attack the spoon, so I gave him another small taste. If I could only choose one food out of everything on earth to taste (if it were the only chance I had), ice cream just might be it.

2) Not following the cry it out concept. It only took about 15 minutes to rock him to sleep every night. Even after he was asleep, I continued to rock him for a while. He felt good in my arms. There were a few times I put him down and his little eyes would open, and even though he wasn't making a fuss, I'd rock him again. I am glad I held him as much as I did.

3) Nursing. I agree that formula is not poison. But I loved how he nestled against me even after he was through. He obviously found it comforting.

4) Baby wearing. Besides freeing my hands from a stroller, it allowed him next to my heart. He would often fall asleep, and I think it made our bond that much stronger. It allowed him to see more things than he would have in a stroller or pumkin seat. It also allowed me to still do things with my daughter and hold her hand, so she wasn't really jealous of Perry. I think the lack of jealousy allowed her to develope a strong bond with her brother.

5) Taking him places even if it would have been easier to call in Grandparent support (or the nursery) and go without him. He went to a Vandy football game, the pool, retirement parties, the zoo, Sunday School class, and a trip in Uncle David's plane to St Louis. These are memories I wouldn't have had, and they allow you to discover things about your child. Some of my best memories with Emily were a result of this policy, taking her on cruises has been fun (when many suggested it was a waste) and to see different broadway style shows (the kid loves performances and claps enthusiatically). I just wish Perry had been old enough to go with us at least once. I wonder if he would have taken after Emily in this regard. I think in a few years the two would have been little fish in the pool or on beaches and I can imagine Emily trying to explain how you are supposed to be quiet during a performance and clap afterwards. She would have been a great teacher and friend to him.

6) Buying him the gnon and giving it to him early (also know as not saving everything special for 'special' occasions). I bought the gnon because I realized he was starting to teethe and I was paranoid about buying a Sophie the Giraffe (had read in some reviews about babies choking on her legs). It squeaked shrilly, looked a bit odd, but the little guy loved it. It was the only toy I bought specially for him, and while I was thinking about saving it for Christmas, I did not. This toy would wake Dad up in the morning and was starting to go many places with him.

7) Going all natural without medication. I seem to generally take more numbing stuff to get the job done/ or it kicks in later than the average woman. This led to a big dose in the epidural with Emily, resulting in a longer recovery time. His birth was totally different than Emily's and unlike Emily where they took her away almost immediately for four hours and didn't give her back, Perry got to bond with me almost immediately. Granted I did bond with Emily, just seemed a bit more delayed as when they returned her she didn't even look like the same baby and it threw me for a bit of a loop. Knowing the short time I had with him, 4 extra hours and 2 days quicker bonding was worth it.

I just wished I had more time. I wished we could have at least gone through the holiday season with him, instead of just a couple 'second tier days'. His sister was sick on the fourth of July (even though I dressed him up in a fourth of July shirt with a blue star diaper), so in reality all he had was Halloween. I rescued his little pumpkin from the compost heap and it will sit on our porch until it goes bad.

It is my birthday and to be blunt it was not what I would have wanted, not how I had pictured it. When I had Perry, I had set up to take the shift off before Christmas. My birthday is always what I think of as sort of the start of the Christmas Holiday for us. So facing the Christmas Holiday without him is hard, it was supposed to be his first Christmas. We should have been at Brentwood getting his first picture on Santa's lap right now and letting his big sister open his first present from Santa for him. We should have been looking forward to that shift off and watching him stare at the Christmas tree lights as he played on the floor. He should have been sitting up in his highchair while Christmas music played and I fed him his first spoon of solid food. The house should be filled with the sounds of the Charlie Brown Christmas sound track, and he should be on my chest covered in flour as Emily and I make Christmas Cookies as an excuse to eat most of the dough.

But he is not. The house is quiet except for my typing.

And now I can't convince myself to do much of anything.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mothering Without Your Child

I think the thing most people do not really get is that when your child dies, the parent-child bond is not severed, it is just missing a person. I read somewhere than parents of a minor child who die are 2X as likely as parents not missing a child to die in the next 15 years, and that parents of infants (stillbirth to one year) were 4X as likely as their peers. Now I am not wanting to off myself, I love my Daughter and Husband and if life has taught me anything, it is that suicide is absolutely incredibly cruel to the people you would like to hurt the least: the ones who actually love you. I bring this up just to make the point that it is an incredibly strong bond, when your child is not with you it tries to eat at your soul and your body. That infants are no easier to lose. My hair is still falling out, I am turning greyer day by day, and my body physically aches. It is a very spirtual/physical bond. My milk has just about dried up, but around 8pm it still reacts to a child who is no longer here, just as it did when I was seperated at the firehall. I could almost get a watch and tell my husband when he was hungry, even though I was 60 miles away.

When a child dies you have failed. All the decisions you have made carefully about cloth diapering, breast feeding, circumsion or not, delayed cord cutting, baby wearing, pediatrician.... all these were in vain. I chose to birth him without medication because I heard babies were more alert and complications were less. After an incredibly intense birth, he lifted his head on my chest to look at me. He had a great color and his clear eyes met mine. I agonized over the smallest details like detergent choices. What did these matter? He might have had a slightly runny nose one day in his life, he never battled diaper rash, and he grew incredibly strong.... and yet he is dead. An infant is the least capable of taking care of himself, and I failed him.

The problem with an infant bond from my perspective is that it is still there as strong as ever. It isn't severed... I never expected anything back from him; While I can't receive anything back from him I still give. The smiles and the love I felt from him, the excited squak, those were all bonuses. I do not cease to feel for him because I do not receive feedback. The giving is lighting a candle on his grave, spending hours making albums online of all of his pictures, and that feeling that is always just beneath your sternum and radiates to your stomache in waves when the reality of the loss hits you.

I want to hold him, I want to teach him, I want to give things to him. There was a knitted monkey hat and an owl sleep sack that I really wanted to buy for him. One was in my cart several times on amazon, the other was one that I wanted custom made... and it has recently appeared on Zulily, down to the colors I wanted. Around when Perry died, there were two babies that entered into the lives of our friends or our family. I wanted to buy them sleep slacks. Here the owl reared his head again, and I stared at it a long time. I just couldn't order it for another baby. I couldn't push the confirm button. I later had my husband take the helm on the project, and we found two sleep sacks that I still liked. That in all honesty, were probably better picks for those children. One was a princess sleep sack for my SIL Laura (LAWRA) who recently found out that after years of heartbreak they were finally going to get a foster baby that they have a good chance of adopting. They found out right before going to Disneyland, and they are total Disney nuts... we picked out a pink princess sack. It is strange in that I can't give away Perry's things, I do not want another baby in them.... but if I had another baby that would be ok, they would have worn them anyway. I find myself seriously considering buying them although my son will never wear them. In my mind, they are his already. If I had another child, they are simply wearing his things, family clothing is passed down all the time. Is it strange that I want to order these things? Is it a leap of faith or a sheer act of lunacy? Or maybe just the act of a grieving Mother that loves her little boy.

I am sad to admit that I finally unsubsribed from Perry's birth club and his email updates. I cried for about an hour after doing this. The decision was made not because I didn't want them, it was because the pain of reading them is too raw. He will never have a tooth or eat solid foods, the closest he came was the time I slipped him a tiny spoon of icecream against the advice of every parenting book out there. He will not need a highchair... toys appropriate for his age group at Christmas just make that burning wave lap at my belly as I cry. I want to slap parents who talk about crying it out and cosleeping or any number of topics that hit a nerve.

How do I learn to parent a child who is no longer here? That is not a topic on his birthclub that anyone wants to talk about.

Someone once said:

A person that loses a partner is called a widow. A child who loses a parent is called an orphan. But there is no word to describe a parent that loses a child because the loss is like no other.

In a way this quote hits it on the head, but it is also terribly wrong.

The reason there is no word for a mother who has lost her child is because you do not need one. A Mother or Father who has lost their child keeps loving, they are still a Mother and a Father. It is just the rest of the world that refuses to see that.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What to say today... I guess my youngest is on my mind. I am constantly wondering how she is doing, what she is thinking, should I get her help or will it just make it worst? This was not on my priority of things to teach a three year old:

Brush Teeth
Introducing Yourself and Greeting Others
Holding Hands in Parking Lots and Crossings
Good and Bad Strangers
Saying Sorry

and oh yah, Death.

We'd been working on God and Jesus, and I was putting off the Holy Spirit (looking for some ideas on that one still). I was teaching her to pray.

It started:
Dear Heavenly Father in Heaven

Then we added the thank you part. To a toddler this was a wonderful hodge podge of ideas. It started out thank you for everything you have given us, we love you very much. She was thankful at different and concurrent times for Mommy, Sleeping Beauty, Daddy, Perry/ Baby, Elmo, Abby, Sally, Shroeder, Cinderella, Marcy Sally, Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Mike, and Aunt LAWRA.
Then we moved on to please forgive me for: having an accident in the bed, spilling my drink, being mean to the dogs. I often had to explain that she didn't have to apologize for things she didn't mean to do (how different than us as adults who look for excuses to not face our sins for what they are).
Next came the requests: Please keep X, Y, Z safe. Our names rolled through this, and keep Mom safe at work was a big priority to her.
And then,
We love you very much in Jesus's (or your name) we pray,

These days she is thankful for Perry and we ask him to say we love him, hello, watch over, or hold baby. These days we try to ask for safety, but I think we are both a bit shaky in this regard. Our prayers weren't answered once... it is hard at times to pray. Afterwards, she lays curled up in my arms with my lips brushing her hair and we often cry, somedays just me and other days Emily. She says "I want Baby back" if she crys, and when I cry "We all miss Perry." Then she'll get quiet. She asks if there are bottles in Heaven, and gets very upset when people suggest that maybe he has a grown up body now... "No, Perry is a Baby!!!". She goes through the list of people who hold baby (GG and Grampa Hatton), and believes Andy the Pug sits next to him like he used to with her, just happy to have his body in contact with her. Andy was never overbearing, just sat next tro her on the floor in quiet companionship, happy. She wasn't much older than Perry when he died, but she stuck on this idea. This is what Heaven is like to her, and I have to admit it really doesn't sound all that bad.

Sometimes I think that in Heaven, with eternity stretching before, time has a different meaning. To Perry is it just a blink of the eye after watching new colors and lights before we are with him? I often think, if given a choice to have him alive and still grow up, but with a different family who would teach him to know God, would I do it? And the answer is yes. Then that voice whispers "What better parent than God?". I cry out angrily at God for taking him and not giving him back to me, and the answer is "I will but not in your time." I am not sure if I am crazy and grieving, and I want to believe these things, but sometimes my heart quiets and the pain isn't there for a moment. I have angry prayers with God these days when it is just me and Him, but far from a lightning bolt hitting me, I feel like it is ok to do this...

But back to Emily.

She has been getting excited for Christmas. She thrilled at the Brentwood City Tree, and excitedly shows me Christmas presents. We talk about how the presents are in honor of the baby Jesus, but she still asks about Santa and the North Pole. Last shift while I was at work she was watching the Polar Express. My husband said she started sobbing and when Chris asked her why, she said "Perry won't get to open his Christmas presents". Chris told me this story and it struck me two different ways. The first was that the only time I have seen this Movie was at the YMCA when I was pregnant with Perry. I had had two miscarriages, and I was just off the truck and thankful to be entering the second trimester. I felt lighter watching this movie, he was my Christmas gift. It didn't make me sad at all to remember that part, I was happy. The Christmas lights were beautiful to me that year. The second was in a wave, my heart broke for her.

Today I got a call from Chris. Chris and Emily were in a minor accident on the way to surprise me at work, just outside Brentwood. At first he was going to get a friend to bring him to the station as I would be in night drills and he would take my car home. In the background I heard a frantic voice calling for me, the something wrong voice, and I knew I had to go.

It didn't take me long to get there, we were all back at the station in a short time. But when I arrived and I threaded my way back to the truck, I went inside and my heart stopped. She sat in her car seat quivering, her jaw and hands shaking. She wasn't cold, but I closed the cracked window and held her hands, moved the hair out of her face with a gentle finger as I tucked it behind her ear. She was frantic about the truck. I told her it was ok, as long as they were both ok. I took her to my vehicle, snapped her in the carseat. As she looked around, she asked about the lights. I explained that different colors mean different things and explained about blue being police and mostly red being fire. "Mommy," she said, "sometimes I am afraid of police."

This is a new one that has cropped up this month. Before she saw police as the friends of firefighters who kept Mommy safe from cars and bad people, and who Mommy would take care of in turn if they needed help. They were the few "Good Strangers" to go to if you needed help. One of her favorite friends is Kristen King, who is always ready to bribe with goldfish or ritz bitz in Thomas the train cups. She has seen Kristen in uniform.

It first came as we were riding in traffic and saw a police vehicle about a week ago. I had asked her why and she said "When Perry..." and couldn't finish it. So I knew now. The truck was just a focal point. Here was the first time she had been surrounded by police cars and ambulances since the day my Mom rushed to our house to take her away at the two sentance phone call. "Perry is dead. Emily needs you."

And I understood. The vehicles that had comforted me as part of my world at work (that I had taken Emily to see at her visits to Brentwood so she would not be afraid if she needed them), the Ambulances and Patrol Cars now had a different meaning for her. They have a different meaning to me too. I am not really sure why she focuses in on police officers, was there something about that day that struck her more? I don't know.

Once at the station, waiting for everyone to get back, Emily and I laid on the floor and played with puppets. She wanted to wait for my "firefighter friends" and she greeted them with excitement. Like a thirteen year old greeting Justin Beiber, they were superstars. Everything had been laid aside.

It is hard to know what to do. At what point do you take a child to counseling, one who grieves like a strange hybred of 3 and 9 years old/some adults according to the grieving charts? How do you find a counselor who is a Christian and specializes in childhood grief? Is there something else I should do? Would the counseling help or cripple her?

And I wondered, what do I teach her now?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

One of my favorite memories.

This explains itself. Perry loves his big Sister Emily. Perry loved being held and this required the use of carriers and slings. But he loved his Big Sister and would stop crying if she sat next to him or played near him in the same room. I always tried to include Emily with Perry and they liked to watch the mobile together with either Yes Jesus loves me or the lullabye playing. People react differently when they grieve. Some people hold onto things and others want them put away. Emily insisted this was her mobile (we left it on a chain above her bed and would switch out music boxes or the dangles), but she 'shared' with 'Baby'. After Perry died she asked me to take it down, I couldn't reach the top. She ripped it out of the ceiling before Dad could get to it.
She was very rarely jealous of Perry (maybe one time?), and many times you would catch us all on the same recliner. When I was pregnant, she would ask me to make more room and I would put the foot part out so she could lay beside me. When I nursed Perry this was often a request, or sometimes we would all stuff in together and just rock. Many times I would have to ask Dad to step in to help carry the dynamic duo to their own beds. When I was pregnant was constantly rubbing my Tummy and talking to baby in this chair. She has started rubbing my tummy again and I think this is her way of 'touching' baby again. To her it represents that he is still very real, just seperated from us by some barrier.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One Month, worst memory

The following is my worst memories, but with the details omitted. I feel I owe you one of my best memories, so hopefully tomorrow I can figure out how to make facebook or google download a video in less than 24 hours. I tried it, but it didn't work.

I realized today that depending on how you count it, either today or the next Sunday will be a month. It seems like only a day.

Yesterday was the first day since then that I ate three meals. The first night I hit 5 1/2 hours without a sleeping pill (I have only taken 4 pills total, and I kept thinking I needed to learn to sleep without, but no luck until now). I didn't have any night terrors, either.

I guess you have to understand that there are two factors to consider. The grief is here, there is no getting around it. Then there is something else. I don't know how to put a name to it, the best thing I can think of is post traumatic stress syndrome? It is the reason I changed the ringer on my phone, why I hate the 24.5 mile marker on I24, why I found myself shaking a bit as I got into the Explorer to go home the first day after shift. I know I have seen many things in my career that would make many men and women not in emergency services to go into counseling. I have blocked a person from cameras on the scene of a fire fatality, washed down a road avoiding a teddy bear, talked to a man we lost as I waited for other responders... he had helped my husband get our car unstuck out of my backyard just a few days before he hit the tree that killed him. So many others... and the details are bad, but I will leave those out for you. I know that these were all people, parents, and children. But I have never been on an infant fatality call. Never my own son. I read an article that said Paramedics were there when I arrived that day. That is not true. My house is 12 minutes away from the nearest ambulance if you drive nonemergency. I was only about 4 or 5 away from the house when I got the call. The dispatchers argued with my husband for several minutes after I convinced him to call 911, before he could finally speak coherently enough to explain that it was the right address, but we lived just over the line in Cheatham County. He hung up shortly before I walked in. I was there,with my Daughter lying on the ground crying, still holding the rooster coasters that she had been pretending were a book as she waited for me by the door before Daddy screamed.

It bothers me that she saw everything. It bothers me that I could only do a few chest compressions, I couldn't make myself acess him or give him breaths. I didn't want to know what I instinctively knew from what I saw, from the 'slide show' of all the past medical calls of those we could not save. It bothers me that no one put him on the moniter. Not because I think it could have helped, but because I needed to see that flat line and to have someone else tell me he was gone long before... To tell me that none of my skills could have saved him if I could have used them. That no paramedic skill, nothing a trained staff of an Emergency room could have.

 I couldn't do CPR on my own son.

But if I had done CPR I know it wouldn't have changed anything. As it was, they let us hold him. It was the last time he was still 'ours' although I know that in reality he was no longer in that tiny shell. From then on we were told the timeline and what we could and could not do. If I had started a futile attempt at CPR, they would have had to continue, he might have been rushed to the hospital to no avail, we might not have been able to hold him.

My husband couldn't let go, he wailed and begged to change his diaper. I have never doubted the extreme love my husband has for our children, not before and not in that moment. My heart broke for him as I realized what he what he was feeling, what I was feeling. After giving him more time, he looked at me, told me he could not give him up to them. I held out my arms and he handed him to the only person he would let take him. I held him for a bit and it burned my insides. The smiling baby had fled, had flickered out sometime in the night. I told the paramedic that waited with a white coarse blanket that I knew he was only a shell, but that he was my son. To please tell them to treat Perry gently because he was all that remained of him on this earth.

And I let him go.

The others were people, some I have worked on in the Pleasant View/ Henrietta community I knew. But I could forget as the faces quickly blurred in the bad memories. Allow the dump valve in my brain to open. It is not cold, just a way I can keep caring without being destroyed as a responder. A merciful gift. I still hold little old ladies' hands in the ambulance because I can do this.

But he was MY Son. He was Perry. I cannot forget. I had washed that face with my own hands, I had kissed his cheek minutes after his birth, and nuzzled the incredibly soft skin on his neck. I had watched his toes curl around my fingers as I lovingly touched his tiny feet. Loved him as his lips puckered in and out as he dreamed on my chest.

That is the second part. The part I try not to rob me of the memories that I love.

So that is my worst memory.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Picture Treasures

There are so few pictures I have created new ones by scavenging busy images for tidbits of Perry. Here is a scene mentioned in 'firsts'. the Public Safety Day memory that had me bawling in the back seat of the engine at the Kroger Parking lot. But now that I have pictures it is a little balm. Here you will see Perry and Chris in varous poses, including "Potato Sack Perry Pose". He actually dug it, it was a new view of his world. In these pictures he is watching Sally and I perform, sometimes intently.

My husband regretted that many of the pictures of him holding Perry revolved around Perry on his lap, usually with a computer in them. He is haunted that he didn't make the Fall Festival on Holloween. But here is one that Chris made to make me happy. He traveled 45 minutes with a toddler and infant in tow just for me. And to be honest, it was probably just as interesting to Perry as Holloween. Sometimes as parents we focus on making memories that we think are important, but do not always get that sometimes our kid's favorite memories are the ones we make everyday. So for Daddy....

And here are a few with big Sister, Emily. She is pouting a bit because I did not choose her for the show. It's a little like "Where's Waldo", but that's ok.

So there's a little into my brain today. Now go make memories with your family :)