In the past week we’ve spent a lot of time with our families. Some of the time was really nice, some more difficult. My sister has 2 daughters, Chris’ brother has 3, and his sister has 1. Seeing the girls is nice. It always is. They are all very smart, kind, beautiful girls. Spending time with them, even before Rylan passed away, has always given me that “motherly” feeling. You may know it. It’s that little beacon of light inside you that flickers when they run over and hug you. When they look up at you with that sweet innocence in their eyes and say “I love you” or “I missed you.” When they get restless and hop up on your lap–you can’t escape that kids shampoo scent in their hair as you kiss the top of their head. All of the little things that makes you think to yourself, “I want this with my own child someday.” I’ve always dreamed about my own children but thought that I’d have to change my lifestyle first in order to have them. Working 10-12 hour days with a 45 minute commute can make you think that having kids is out of the question. Then one day I realized–if you take a look at your past you will see that you adjust to whatever life throws at you. If you make 30K per year than that is what will dictate how you live, where you live, and how you make it work. If you miraculously start making 100K a year, you will adjust your lifestyle to fit that. Maybe you drive a faster car. Maybe you buy a home if you’ve always rented. And, as scary as it is, if you later lose that high-paying job you may feel insecure at first, but you will also adjust to that change. So, one day I decided that I wanted children–and although I was unsure how it would work in my current occupation I would just go for it. I’d stop dreaming about what others around me had–I would finally let go of my fears and let life adjust for my family along the way. I did give it a little push, though. I traded in my speedy little Mini Cooper for a Ford Escape with 4-doors and enough room to fit a car seat, stroller, a husband, and 2 crazy dogs. We cleaned out our spare room to make space for our addition. I emptied out the coffee mug cabinet in the kitchen to make room for bottles and formula. I tried to pay off some credit cards to open up my cash flow for diapers and other child necessities. Sometimes I think that my “push” is where I made the mistake. I started to make adjustments before allowing life to naturally take it’s course. I tried to steer it where I wanted it to go. I think that I wanted to be prepared for once, rather than behind the eight ball, scrambling at the last minute to pull things together. Plus, I just wanted things to be perfect for our son. Now, I sit here not behind the eight ball but rather in the corner pocket, under it. Trapped. I feel like planning makes no sense these days. What’s the point of planning what we want when life is just going to follow it’s own plan for us? It’s almost as if planning is just something we’ve made up over time to make us feel like we actually have control. We don’t. At least that’s one thing I’ve taken away from this experience. If I wasn’t so powerless in my life I’d be pushing my son’s stroller down the block rather than words on a computer screen. But life has brought me here nonetheless. I wish it hadn’t every second. I wish I didn’t have to be afraid of so many things these days.
Family gatherings, for one. Like last Friday when I looked over at my husband holding Katie on his lap, gazing at the fireworks in the distance. There I sat, alone and watching them in such a sweet embrace. At first it made me feel warm inside. It only took a moment before I had to hold back the tears. I couldn’t help but wish that he could’ve been holding our son and having that moment as a daddy rather than an uncle. Then I saw his eyes welling up. It crushed me because at that moment I think he felt the very same way I did. When the finale was over, I had to leave the table and asked him to follow me outside. As we sat on a bench in front of the restaurant I cried and held onto Chris for support as strangers passed by. When the tears subsided I felt better. And I felt bad. Better because my husband was able to squeeze the sad feeling away with his love. Bad that I had asked him to comfort me when he wasn’t feeling his best either. I will tell you that it’s not easy to be someones strength when you feel weak yourself.
I hate that I have to walk away from social situations to have a “moment.” I hate that sometimes those “moments” are witnessed by people I don’t know. Sometimes its harder when its people I do know. The hardest part is collecting myself afterwards. Because you have to pull your shit together enough to seamlessly jump back into the social situation you just scooted away from (if you were lucky enough to scoot before the waterworks start in the first place).
Sorry to digress… back to a few things that scare me. I wish I didn’t have to be afraid of seeing a couple that I consider to be our very good friends. The ones that had been following our journey to parenthood, as they anticipated their baby girl. I feel that life pulled us closer just to push us apart. I’m pretty hurt and angry about that. I don’t want to lose my friends but I don’t know how to see them when their precious gift will be a constant reminder of what we’ve lost. Every time their baby celebrates her birthday I will be thinking of my son and how he should also be turning 1… 2… 16… 21… forever. What originally sounded so great–that our lives were following such a parallel course now just feels so cruel. Their baby is an important part of their life–like so many people these days, getting pregnant wasn’t easy for them. I’m so glad that there were no major complications during their pregnancy and that their baby is home with them now, safe and sound. It’s very difficult to be so happy for them and so envious of what they have at the same time. Just 2 weeks before her delivery I remember telling my friend that I was so happy for them. And I remembered how afraid I was to tell my friend the news when I initially found out that I was pregnant. Up until that point I knew that they were still trying (after many years) and I had gotten pregnant without so much as checking the calendar. I was relieved and excited when she revealed that they were also pregnant. But now I look at our situation with such irony. I felt so lucky to have been blessed with a baby easily when I knew they had such a struggle in the beginning. I had no idea that we were in for a struggle ourselves. My friends and their baby girl are a reminder of our pregnancy, our son, his short life, and our giant loss. Their pure joy mirrors our deep devastation. I don’t want to feel that way. Part of me wants to go and visit them. To support their family, to be a good friend. Part of me wants to hold their baby girl. The part that aches to feel like a mom. The part that wants to be a friend. But I know I can’t handle it. I’m afraid that I might close my eyes for just a moment and imagine holding my Rylan. I just don’t think I can bear it. Because I know what will happen when I open my eyes. He will still be gone. And I’ll never know again how it feels to hold him close to my heart. If I saw my friends, even without their baby, I imagine I will just be thinking of Rylan the entire time. I hope that somewhere down the road it will be easier. Mostly because I miss my friends.
I don’t want to be afraid of my emotions. They almost have a life of their own these days. My feelings whether sad, angry, or otherwise can be exaggerated and wash over me like a tsunami. Calm and serene one second, an unexpected, uncontrollable force the next. Sometimes it’s just a feeling of anxiety that sweeps over me. Keeping it down is tough. I know it’s unhealthy to restrain your feelings but most times it’s just not the time or place. And other times you can’t hold them back no matter where you are. I hate that I have to hold them back as much as I hate that there is almost no place I can go that feels “safe” anymore. Safe from heartache. Safe from worries. My husband and I went to dinner with my parents last night. We went to a restaurant located in a fairly large shopping area. To our surprise they had live music in the courtyard situated among the shops. A bunch of people from the community had brought their camping chairs and blankets and were out enjoying the beautiful weather. Sounds like a great event to stumble on, right? I wish I could answer that question with a “yes.” I felt unprepared for such an event and it wasn’t because I didn’t have a spare blanket in the back of my car (I always do). It was because I had not mentally prepared myself for all of the happy families we’d watch as we waited to be buzzed for our table. There were so many families there. So many babies and little kids. Grandmothers dancing hand-in-hand with their grandkids. A son sitting on his dad’s shoulders. Dads and moms pushing strollers and holding their baby girls and boys. An infant boy in torn jeans, laying in the grass looking up at the sky. I couldn’t help but wish that was my family. That my parents could be the grandparents they wanted to be for our child. I could see it in my mom’s eyes–trying to push back her tears so she wouldn’t upset or hurt us. But I hurt anyway. I wished that I was holding our baby boy, rocking him along to the music. Or that Chris was holding him, singing him the lyrics to that horrible Springsteen cover. Again, it just felt so wrong. It took everything I had not to cry right there–in front of a crowd of people. I feel so robbed of what everyone else appears to have. I felt lonely and lost in a sea of families whose babies don’t die. I thought, “I wonder what that feels like.”
That just barely scratches the surface of things I’m afraid of these days. So, I’ll go back to what I started talking about before I veered off track. Life–and how you find ways to adjust. Right now I’m trying to follow the path that my life has taken. I want to resist it, but life just keeps pushing me forward. Making little adjustments every day without me even knowing it. I hope that one day I will wake up and feel like this dark cloud over my heart has lifted, even if just a little. Until then, I will continue to get up every day. I will do my best to pick my head up when I can. I will love my family and live for Rylan. Maybe his life and death were meant to steer us in a new direction. You won’t catch me planning our next move… I’ll just be waiting to see where he takes us.