Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Odd Paths

I lay awake a week ago, staring up at the ceiling without a pillow.

It was an odd experiment of sorts. We are often told as EMS providers that if a patient is serious, take away the pillow to open up the airway. So I wondered, why do we have them at all? Would I even miss them?

The horrible thing about losing a child is that you learn about other children, some even older than your own, that die from no known cause or simply because they fell asleep with their face in the pillow or a rumpled up blanket (at least that is the assumption).

Some nights I sleep well, other nights not so much. I watch the soothing flicker of light from Paiden's motion monitor, and then other thoughts tear at me. I tiptoe through the dark house into Emily's room. I feel for her breath, and pull the hair matted down with the dampness of air from her lungs from her face. I reposition her head, and sometimes I take away the pillow completely. There are times I really struggle with having anything in her bed at all. She is no longer a preschooler and yet I still worry.

I hate pillows and blankets around children. I guess the blankets because of Perry and the pillows from other deaths related to babies and children. I fight back a near panic feeling when I see babies sleeping on pillows or toddlers with only limbs sticking out of parents. It always feels like the parents are unknowingly playing a deadly game of Russian roulette. Is your child vulnerable? Like an unseen bullet a parent will never know. Some of us may have loaded guns- will the child roll over and shift? I feel like I am caught in this moment looking at the pictures on Facebook. We can only assume that the child has woken up and either the gun wasn't loaded or the hammer didn't strike the chamber with the bullet this time. I struggle with the urge to message- will they think I need help or am I letting a child die because I am too afraid of being labeled abnormal to say something?

They have research now that says that both the SIDs infants and many of the babies that die in 'unsafe environments' have brain stem abnormalities. The abnormality in the 'unsafe environment' is a bit of a douzer (the safe environment infants are as mysterious as ever). We contemplate this among loss Moms, wondering about toddlers lost. Perhaps a few of the rare toddlers that die are from similar causes after parents become lax ( a vulnerable child rebreathing around pillows and blankets). I feel that many babies do outgrow the vulnerability, but it still made me think. We heat our houses- is it really necessary to have blankets and pillows? If there is no real benefit, do children need them? Children have large noggins, and pillows under a head actually take the airway out of proper alignment.

In any case, Paiden will probably sleep in footed jammies until he enters Kindergarten. His bed will probably be bare for most of that time. And I guess I am ok with that.

I catch myself wondering if I trade Emily's pillow pet in for a travel pillow, the kind that resembles a half eaten donut.

Our Microwave Society

Sometimes I work through things a step at time, but other things (logical or not), will always seem to have a negative connotation for me. At times I look in the mirror and see all the grey or the way my eyes are set in a sad way now and I realize that I am irrevocably changed. I'll never see things the same again- I see the images that make me smile with the transparent scene of what should have been overlaid. At times I feel like something is out of focus when I am dealing with other people, and it is really hard to tell if there is something completely wrong with me or if the situation or person is twisted.

In the end I have discovered that while my perspective has changed, at times there is more than just that. It is a bit of relief really, because I am so used to feeling like I am a stranger in a strange land. You begin to wonder if it is only the matter of you being wrong somehow and out of place. It is sort of nice to realize that perhaps a little of the distortion is from the way that something or someone you are viewing is warped, and maybe, just maybe, this new fragile being is ok in her own way.

I recently had a really nice visit. And it was a complete relief because it meant that I could exist somehow without being torn to shreds. It meant that maybe among a fairly normal set of people that didn't have superhuman powers of empathy, I could exist and just be. I didn't feel like my emotional skin was being singed with branding irons. I'm not saying they were average people, on the contrary they were very nice. But they didn't have magic mind reading powers and they hadn't lost children that I know of. I guess maybe the norm now is not nice (or rather just focused on the self).

I guess you really have to step back from a lot of interaction to dissect things. In a society where we no longer teach children to open the doors for the elderly, pregnant women, men or women with their arms full, or parents holding an infant, why is it surprising that we should see a general lack of restraint where it comes to people with invisible needs? We aren't taught to look at other people, we are taught to think about how everything makes us feel, about our rights, about what is owed to us. I sometimes feel like we live in an emotional hierarchy of needs where most people haven't gone beyond the stage of a three year old.

I remember watching my Mom, who walks with a limp, holding my son at the door to our family life center. Two large teenagers bustled past her. It stuck out to me only because of the place, I guess a bit of a sad statement in itself.

I find myself so used to busy people rushing to cut in line, that when someone is kind and offers to let me go first it comes as a surprise. The young boy who holds the door is a novelty. The mother who passes along her five dollars at a consignment sale in an act of random kindness blows me away. And the kind looking gentleman who stands up at a table simply because a woman has entered the room is a bit of a shock (especially since I have only seen this done three times in my life and it makes me feel like quite the lady). I have become convinced that this disappearing civility is the lubrication that holds together a diverse society and we are losing it.

There used to be conventions, even with grief. There was a grieving period, which even if ambitiously short, at least acknowledged loss and didn't expect normal behavior or appearances at social functions instantly. If I am honest, I wish I could wear all black and send a silent signal to handle with a little care when I am having a bad day. However, we live in a microwave society- if the oven is slow, slap it in the white box; if you are sad you must not be going to the right therapist. Manners or conventions just get in the way with this direct new world order. It is as if we have railed so much against the injustices of the past that we have thrown away what was right with it as well.

I think the grieving get lost in this microwave society. Perhaps you can not always avoid hurting someone who has been mauled emotionally, but maybe we are hurt a lot more than we should be. And we aren't doing it wrong. We are simply surviving the unimaginable the best way that we are capable of.

Friday, December 6, 2013


One thing I have developed an appreciation for is timing. How the slightest shift of a detail can cause a death or in many cases render a message incorrect or destructive.

I was watching a Christian Author who wrote about child rearing talk on the TV. She talked about how tragic it is that you do everything right sometimes as a parent and the child makes wrong decisions. She further went on to talk about the things good Christian parents should pray for---- of course one of these was physical safety. She didn't cover what to do if that didn't turn out either. She just seemed to believe that it is all a matter of praying with faith in that regard.

I tuned her out.

There are thousands of books on Christian parenting.

What I need sometimes is Christian parenting through or with grief. Something not refined for audiences that don't include the grieving. Something real. Something raw. Someone who cries out to God for delivery. Someone to talk to about what parenting a child who isn't here looks like, what it feels like.

There is another Christian Writer that I respect, and his blips around this time of year that link to his website talk about length of life. I clicked on it, and the website froze. I tried multiple times with the same results.

And I stopped.

Because sometimes the message isn't right if it isn't the right time. Perhaps what was spot on for millions of religious people in the US isn't meant for me... maybe not now, maybe not ever.