Tag Archives: stillbirth

Reflection

There are things you can guarantee when it comes to the grieving process. There will be some good days and some that are bad. There will be days that you feel like, despite the heartache, your life will be okay–that you’re doing fine considering the circumstances. Than there will be others where you can barely stand up and when not living may sound like a good alternative to life as you know it today–even if deep down you know that you don’t want to die. I would guess that the lowest moments are simply (or not-so-simply) fueled by the want to be with our children. The need to be parents. The want to hold our children close to our heart like all of the people around us who can cradle their babies in real life. We feel that staying here to endure the unspeakable pain of losing our children is much worse than leaving this Earth to be with our babies immediately. I know that my husband and I have both traveled across this spectrum of grief. If you’ve stumbled onto my blog (and are still reading) I’m sure that you know what I’m talking about. One of the things I’ve learned from this experience is that we all have life lines that accompany us on this uncertain journey. I believe that everyone has at least one thing or one person that motivates them to keep going. It may be your husband or wife–maybe that you know how much their survival depends on you being here. It may be the love you have for your parents–that they would be devastated if they lost their child–something we can understand all too well. Maybe it’s your little angel baby–that as much as you want to be with them, you also want people here to know how much you loved them–how much you still do even though they’re gone. Maybe you want to do something to honor them. I believe that’s a big one–considering how many blogs I’ve seen and the number of parents who are compelled to tell their own stories. I want to task you to take note of what you consider to be your life line(s). Don’t lose sight of them because they will be your guiding light through this terrible thing that has happened to you. And, that it is possible over time for that one thing, or one person to become two, maybe three, or more. A snowball effect, but in a good way.

My life line has, most importantly, been my husband. I don’t think I’d be here today if he hadn’t been by my side from the beginning. I live to make him happy, to see him smile. I want to make it through this experience with him–to witness our relationship become stronger and to become better people–happier people. To become more satisfied with the life we lead–as individuals and together. Our parents are definitely up there on the list. I know that the thought of losing them is scary and can only imagine how they would feel losing us. To some it might be silly, but our dogs are big for me. I love them and feel a motherly responsibility to take care of them. Rylan is, of course, a big motivator. He is the reason that I sit here typing–telling his story. Our story. My story. With hopes of helping other people enduring the same loss. The people who read this are also on my list, then. See what I mean about a snowball effect? My list grows well beyond the above as my days move on. I admit that when things are darkest it’s hard to see beyond the sadness. I guess I’m asking you to hold onto your life line(s) when things get hard. I can’t promise that you’ll be absolved of your pain. I’m certainly not there and don’t really feel like there will ever be a time that I feel 100% okay. But I’m still here. I’m making it through. And, so will you. If you’ve read previous posts you may already know that many times I write when I’m feeling pretty low. I guess that’s why I wanted to write today. Today is a good day for me. I wanted you to see that for every couple crappy days you experience you will also have good ones. You will have days to reflect on the obstacles you’ve overcome. Even small ones are important. Don’t lose sight of how far you’ve come (even if it’s only been 1 week).

Thank you for reading and for giving me another reason to go on.

What defines you?

in·som·ni·a [in-som-nee-uh]: (noun) inability to obtain sufficient sleep, especially when chronic; difficulty in falling or staying asleep; sleeplessness.

It’s Friday, August 15, 2013. 2:15 a.m.

Nearly 14 weeks since we lost our son. That’s 97 days to be exact. Funny how it hurts like it was yesterday.

I had trouble sleeping shortly into my pregnancy with Ry. Since his death I’ve experienced even less Z’s, with the exception of days that end with a pill. Needless to say, I ran out of Benadryl 2 days ago. A good explanation for why I’m sitting in front of this computer again, tears streaming down my face, soaking my lap. The stark, white canvas stares back at me like a mirror. I know it sounds dramatic, but it’s true. I feel empty. As if a huge part of myself died along with my son. Despite the sadness that being awake triggers, I’m not sure that I’d rather be sleeping. I mean, I’d love to avoid the weight that I’ll be dragging under my baby blues tomorrow, but sleep doesn’t always guarantee peace anymore. When I manage to fall into a deep enough sleep to generate dreams, they often manifest the feelings I have surrounding our loss. I’ve had some that place me in a hospital bed at a moment where someone is telling me that I’ve lost my baby. Other times I’m forced to uncomfortably tell someone that my son died. Either way I awake with such a feeling of sorrow in my heart that I’m almost reliving our loss. The times when I wake up at that exact moment, it nearly takes my breath away and leaves me feeling like someone is sitting on my chest. Not a very fun way to start your day. As much as I want to get rest there is a fear attached to sleeping as much as being awake.

fear [feer]: (noun) a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.

I’m afraid of everything now. I’m afraid to leave my house. To watch television. To take a walk in the neighborhood. To go to the park. To go to work. To eat at a restaurant. To get pregnant again. I’m afraid of being away from my husband for too long or too far. Of losing another loved one. To have a conversation with someone I know. To have a conversation with a stranger. Of being asked the question, “do you have kids?” Of losing my job. Of working in advertising forever. Of never being able to have my own, living child. Of sadness hurting my marriage. Of social events. Of money problems. That I’ll forget the few memories I have with my son. To see someone who doesn’t know what happened to us. To see someone who does know. Of Christmas–and every other holiday. To see my friend and hold her baby. Of becoming detached from friends and family. Of hurting the people I care about. Of being hurt by the people I care about. Of never losing this feeling of devastation that follows me everywhere. Of going into Rylan’s room. Of hearing a sad song. Of hearing the “Hungry Caterpillar” story or seeing the book (the theme for Ry’s room and my shower). Of saying something that will offend someone who reads my blog. Of watching the world have babies around me. I fear that in some way I caused my son’s death. I’m afraid it could happen again. I’m afraid that my husband will never be completely happy again.

re·la·tion·ships [ri-ley-shuhn-ship]: (noun) an emotional attachment between individuals

Relationships are what gets you through tough times, no doubt. Spouses, parents, siblings, friends, pets… anything you can find comfort in, as far as I’m concerned. For me, it’s my husband. The person who is as close to my loss as I am. We may have had slightly different experiences and may grieve differently–at the end of a day we may not always be on the same page as far as how we’re feeling–but we are certainly in the same chapter of the same book. I look forward to the days when we’re together and his love keeps me going. I can’t say enough about what his hugs do for me at the end of a day. What his hand in mine can spark in my heart. I can’t say enough about how much I love him.

Then there’s our parents. My husband and I are very lucky to have such great role models, and at the same time the best of friends. We never have to question how much they care, how much they love us, or whether they’ll be there when we need them. They always lend an ear, shoulder, hug, and home when we need it. I know it must hurt them to lose a grandchild and also be so powerless to help their own children at the same time–I know they would do anything to make things right for us if they could. They mean the world to us. They’re a big reason why we want so badly to be parents, ourselves. To try to be as good as they are.

Siblings. I’ll admit that they can drive you crazy. Most siblings couldn’t be more different. I’m happy to say that my sister and I have recently spent more time together. She was a great help in getting my home ready for Rylan’s service and has since checked in on me and Chris. Her and I have had our differences growing up, like any sisters, but I know that she will always be there. She protected me from nasty girls in high school and now struggles that she can’t protect me from this. It’s funny how the most horrible situations bring people closer together-even if gradually.

Our friends. They’ve been understanding with our feelings. Our decisions. Some came to the hospital to see and hold Ry. For that we will always be grateful. Some of them helped with the service. Some talk me to work in the morning, or back home at night. Some give us space. Some are here when we call them. Good friends are hard to come by… when you find one do your best to hang onto them. You never know when you’ll need them (or when they’ll need you).

Animals. Need I say more? Anyone who has had a pet (and loved them) will know that a bond is formed immediately. I look forward to seeing my crazy dogs every day. They can be such a comfort in life–especially in hard times. Sometimes they’re more perceptive than people when it comes to your feelings. And, they’ll never say something insensitive. If you’re experiencing any loss and feel alone, the best advice I can give you is to get a pet. It’s the perfect relationship–truly unconditional love. They give you a reason to get out of bed everyday (to eat, to go out) and maybe even to exercise. All good for healing. They kiss your cheeks when you cry and will curl up with you in the middle of the day to watch a movie when you can’t bear to go outside. Chris and I both agree that our pups, Sam and Nacho, although a handful, have been wonderful and crucial to our everyday survival.

For now I must go try to sleep. It’s almost 4 a.m. I’ll try to continue this post tomorrow, if I can. Thank you for stopping by… having people read my words and relate to them in any way means the world to me. It helps fill in a tiny bit of that emptiness I spoke of above. So thank you.

Monday, Monday.

I’d like to say that it’s getting easier. It’s not really. At some moments I actually think the days are getting harder. Even writing this blog has gotten more difficult. Some days I’m just at a loss for words. No sentence I formulate can really capture the way I feel inside. The people around me interpret my pain to only be the initial loss of my son–what happened the exact day that we found out he was gone. The further we move on from that day, the more they expect me to be “better.” As if I’ve fallen off a bike and scraped my leg or come down with a cold and just need a few days to heal. What they don’t realize is that every day that goes on without my son feels like the worst day of my life. Every time someone musters up the courage to ask how I’m doing I want to scream or cry. I know it sounds crazy, but I almost become resentful of the person who is caring enough to ask–because they put me in a position where I feel I can’t be honest. I have to hold back who I really am right now and how I truly feel. I think that they are hoping for the “on the surface” answer. I say “okay” or “hanging in there” because I don’t know what else to say. Some people, most people, don’t want the truth. They want to hear that I’m good, that I’m healing. If I head down the dark road of how I really feel I could say something that might tarnish the beautiful world that they live in–the world that is made up of their complete home–where they have the privilege of beginning and ending every day with their families. Where they get to read books to their children and kiss them goodnight. Not like me. My days begin and end with a picture of my son in a frame situated on my bedroom shelf. Some days I gaze at that photo of Rylan’s beautiful face and wonder if he was ever real. If my pregnancy was a dream. I struggle to remember how it felt to run my fingertips across his soft cheeks. I dream about what it would have been like to rock him to sleep. I think about what his cries might have sounded like–what the life in his eyes might have looked like beaming at me in the morning. I think about these things and more every single day. Sometimes they are comforting. A lot of times they make me full of sorrow. Other times just angry–so hurt that this is our reality. It doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t feel fair. How can you be expected to move through your days like everything is so-called normal when your life couldn’t feel more upside down? I feel like this loss has ruined so many things for us. I feel like we’re so alone in our lives. So different from the rest of the world. So different from our friends and family. So different from our former selves.

I started back at work last week. For the month of August I’m working a shorter schedule–3, than 4 days a week. The first day back was okay. The morning was spent catching up with people I hadn’t seen, giving the “on the surface” answers I spoke of above. The rest of the day I worked on a rush concept, presented that afternoon. At the end of the day my boss said something to the effect of, “you did good, you made it through your first day,” with a big smile on her face. I wanted to cry. I think she thought that because she didn’t see me in tears at my desk that it went well. The truth is, it was extremely difficult–from having to congratulate someone on their pregnancy to gazing at the “baby” folder of my son’s ultrasound images on my computer desktop. I just kept it to myself. I have to give her credit as she tried to make my first day nice–she left a balloon and flower arrangement on my desk and drew a “welcome back” sign on the blackboard. It’s hard because even the nicest gestures are difficult.  The sign was on the very same board that a few months ago listed names of our baby pool–a gamble on which day Rylan was to arrive. I wished my return warranted “baby boy” balloons, exchanges with people about my new mom experiences, and photos of my sweet baby. Instead, I never even spoke his name out loud. The next day I came in I was tasked to work on another rush project to be presented to the client the following day in my absence. By Friday I made changes to the same job again, quickly, for client approval. Despite the stress of rush jobs I managed to leave close to on-time every day and was able to make our counseling session mid-week. Yesterday was my fourth day back. Some additional rush projects, a meeting, a last minute job at the end of the day, needed for a meeting first thing today. I left at 7:15 pm, even though I did not complete the job. I felt bad that I couldn’t finish it but knew that I did more than I could handle. I should’ve left at 5:30 pm as my husband needed me at home. I feel awful about that. I needed him, too. I blasted music and cried the entire way home until I was back with Chris. Something must have been in the air yesterday because it was a tough day for both of us (“tough” being an understatement). I felt obligated to stay. If it was up to me I would of left before the day was half over. Work and it’s expectations are a lot to handle, as I knew they would be. Surviving the environment proves to be a daily challenge for me. I continue to forget my headphones which I think will become my most cherished accessory in the months to come. Without them I’ve been tortured by the conversations between co-workers only a few steps from my desk. On all sides I must listen to people discuss their children… babies on the way and pregnancy woes… how amazing someone looks after the birth of her son a few weeks ago… family vacations… weekend activities… sporting events and first days of school… a daughter’s cute, curly hair… “Picture People” photos of cute little boys… how someone’s kids just won’t sleep through the night… the list goes on and on and on and on. It’s so hard to have to cope with our loss on it’s own–then add all of the family reminders that surround us on a daily basis. Then throw in work. Work is almost unbearable. Because with work you don’t have the luxury of fleeing the scene like you can do in other instances. I mean, if I got up every time I needed a breather or a good, hard cry I’d never be at my desk. I often want to call my husband during the day but worry that it will make me even more homesick. Plus, I don’t feel like a short conversation will be enough to sustain us until we’re back together. I also don’t want to cause him additional sadness or give him any more reasons to worry about me, as I know he already does. It was so difficult to be at work when I knew he needed me this week. And the drive home to get to him made 45 minutes feel like 45 hours. I worry about transitioning to full time (plus overtime) again. I’m afraid that we can’t do it. Part of what got me through yesterday was knowing that we’d be home together today. I also worry about the growing expectations with regard to my role at work. I just don’t feel that I can handle the stress of my job anymore. I tried to explain this to my husband last night–that I start my days with anxiety and sadness that could just about fill a glass to the top–any type of stress added to it may just cause it to spill over. I need my job. I’m just afraid that I can’t do it to the capacity that I use to, or that others will expect me to live up to moving forward. Again, I wish I could run away. From work. From people. From our home sometimes. From adult responsibilities. I just want to protect us from the world, find a place that feels safe, and stay there. Trouble is, I don’t think that place exists.

Life’s little (and big) adjustments.

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.

Where was God?

When life knocks you on your ass, do you ever feel like it just keeps kicking you while you’re down? Sometimes I just want to throw up my hands and say “I give up.” It feels like every week we’ve had something to “handle,” on top of the obvious. When you are grieving even the smallest things can creep up and feel bigger than mountains. I hate when people say, “God only gives you as much as you can handle” or “just remember, tough times will only make you stronger.” What if I don’t want to be stronger? I thought that I was strong already. What if God was wrong this time? What if I can’t handle this? What if I just don’t want to? I know that I may lose some people on this one, but I need to say it. I’ve been on some blogs where people say that they’ve gotten through their loss with God’s help and that God had a good reason for taking their child. Well, I just can’t get behind that, at least not right now. I don’t know that someone could ever provide me with a reason for Rylan’s death that I could understand or agree with–and I will never understand why any parent must be given such a wonderful gift just to have it taken away, and so quickly.

I’ve honestly been in circles about how I feel about God over the years. When I was younger I attended church with my mom, dad, and sister. I was really too young to retain much about religion by the time my parents divorced and we stopped going regularly. It didn’t stop me from believing in God–I just don’t have in-depth knowledge about the Bible the way other people do. I do feel like I’ve struggled with faith over the years–at least in the sense that God will always look out for and protect us. I think it’s mostly because I’ve always had a lot of “why” questions for God. I feel like my parents have struggled a lot. I witnessed conflict between my mother and father, and eventually their divorce. It made my whole family sad and it took a long time for everyone to heal. My mom eventually remarried. My step-father is a great guy who has also had his share of loss. His wife, 10-year-old son, and young daughter were in a car accident before we met; his wife and son died, his daughter was left with a brain injury that effected her ability to talk and walk. I lived with my mom and stepdad for most of my life and helped to take care of my step-sister, Jocelyn. My parents have always been such hard workers, balancing their jobs with taking care of us–and in Jocelyn’s case it was a lot more care than the average child. I prayed a lot as a kid. For my parents to have it easier sometime. For Jocelyn to get better–for her to call her father “daddy” again–even just once. It seemed like he endured so much that I just wanted a miracle to happen for him. Maybe it was silly for me to think that God would or could even change those things. But, I wanted to believe it. In any case, we grew older and Jocelyn passed away at 21 years of age. I had a hard time dealing with the loss and can only imagine how my parents felt–so hard to care for someone for so long and then one day, they’re gone. It’s like you lose your purpose. That’s how I feel about Rylan and I only cared for him for 9 months. Maybe God doesn’t have to “give” us what we pray for–although, aren’t most prayers about something we want? I never prayed for material things or other silly requests. But I guess you can say that I’ve often prayed for very big things. I guess you can’t expect God to grant everyone a miracle. The reason I’m telling you all of this is because being pregnant strengthened my faith. I felt so blessed–God gave us such a precious gift. One that I would cherish and protect for years to come. A gift that I felt would finally fulfill my true purpose in life–to be a mother–and to share parenthood with my husband. It sparked an interest in me to find a church that my husband and I related to. One to attend more regularly. One that we could eventually raise our son in–where he would be christened with God’s love. I was excited about that. And, I thought that my parents faith was going to strengthen through Rylan’s birth, as well. I use to pray to God every night before dinner with my husband (during our pregnancy). I’d thank him for the blessing that was our beautiful son, kicking around in my belly. I’d thank him for looking after my friends and family and for keeping us safe and healthy. I’d ask him to keep looking out for us and to guide us where he saw fit. And, it made me feel so good.

Fast forward to May 12, 2013. The day that everything changed. I’ve never prayed more than I did that night. Even before we arrived at the hospital I prayed to God from home. I was scared about delivery from the beginning. I asked him to look after us, to keep us safe. I told him that I was excited to meet our little man and that we’d always do our best as parents. Soon after our arrival at the hospital, the doctors told us he was gone. After my epidural set in and the severe pain subsided I focused. Focused on God. I prayed over and over to him to change our fate. I prayed over and over for a miracle. The kind you see in those books about people surviving horrific accidents. The stories you read about people who have died, gone to heaven, met God, and came back to tell the story. I prayed for God to give Ry his heartbeat back. To restore life in his tiny lungs. I actually believed, up until the second Rylan entered the world, that God would come through and answer my prayers this time. Well, he didn’t. I can’t explain how hard it was to swallow that reality. My hope of hearing Rylan’s cries that day were crushed, along with my hope for life. If I put my faith in God’s plan for my family, than why did he lead us here? I wish I hadn’t asked God to guide us where he saw fit. If he had a hand in bringing us to such devastation than I’m not sure I want to follow his plan for my life. Because I don’t want a life for Chris and I that doesn’t include Rylan.

When I believed in God more than I ever had in my whole life, he abandoned us. At least that’s how I feel in my heart. I know that it’s easy to trust God and have faith when things in your life are positive. If you can still have faith when the chips are down than you are a true believer, right? What if you believe in God but lose your faith in him? Can you be sure that it will ever be restored? It took a long time for me to get to a place where I felt I had given my world over to God–with open arms. I feel like he gave it back to me. And, it’s not even the world I knew before. It’s tarnished now. Everything feels different. I carry sadness with me all of the time. I feel like a piece of my soul has vanished and I don’t know where to begin to look for it. I feel like when you’re born you possess this beautiful innocence, with no concerns, no expectations for life. Untouched by the world around you. Over the years it’s difficult to sustain that purity. I feel like I’ve completely lost the innocence I had left–through one tragedy. For the first time I can’t grab that silver lining that helps us through hard times. People say, “you may never get over the loss of your son, but down the road you’ll feel better, things will get easier.” I’ve lost loved ones before. They’re right, time does ease pain in most cases. I’ve witnessed it first hand. But this feels different for me than my previous losses. This has so many other feelings attached to it. So many physical and emotional hardships to bear. I want to see the light at the end of the tunnel so badly. I want to believe what people say. But for now I just don’t want to hear it. I hope that someday I will be able to reassure readers who feel the same way, that time does heal your broken heart. That putting the pieces of your life back together after a trauma like losing your child is achievable. That hope and your baby aren’t gone forever. Because that’s what I wish someone (who’s been through the same thing) would say to me right now.

Rylan’s poem.

Service cards were given out at the funeral home on the day of Rylan’s wake. It took me some time to figure out what to have printed on them until I found the below poem. I want to share it with you–if you have experienced the loss of your own son(s) or daughter(s) you may be able to relate. I think it’s a beautiful piece of writing. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Sweet Dreams Our Angel
Fly away my angel,
Spread your wings and fly.
Take the beauty of your soul,
and share it with the sky.
 
Take the warmth within your heart,
and put the sun to shame.
The glow of summer’s sunlight,
will never be the same.
 
Take the strength within your soul,
from your heart, the tenderness there.
Behold the majesty of the sky,
its beauty does not compare.
 
Take the splendor of the stars,
that twinkle in the sky.
It fades in the matchless sparkle,
of the beauty there in your eyes.
 
Fly away my angel,
for I have set you free.
I will wait here patiently,
until you fly back to me.

What’s keeping you?

It’s 2:00 am. Another night where I’ve kept my husband up with me watching bad TV until almost midnight. I feel even worse about that knowing that he has to work in the morning. For the past two hours I’ve surfed the web for random sources of entertainment, searched new books on my kindle, read two “stillborn stories,” and played a silly game on my phone. Then I turned off the electronic devices and placed them on my nightstand. Our counselor says it’s not good to increase your brain activity with those things before bedtime but I just don’t know what else to do. When I lay down in bed my mind just goes haywire. I slowly feel my anxiety increase as the minutes count down to sunrise. Watching the hours inch toward daylight adds to the pressure in my head that I should be asleep. That just leads to more restlessness. The real kicker is that I need a sleep aid of some kind every night. I hate taking medicine. I don’t want to take something that encourages me to sleep my day away. But I know that I can’t get to sleep without one. That sucks. Most days I try to get to bed before midnight so I can take a Benadryl–which does a pretty good job of helping me get to and stay asleep through the night. I feel it’s better than other meds which can have long term effects on your body over time–like stomach bleeding–and that’s the last thing I need right now. Initially, I tried Tylenol PM. I still take it occasionally–usually a half of a pill just to help me fall asleep. That’s what I did tonight. As you can see, it was a failed attempt.

So, what keeps me up? A lot of things. Work. Money. Vacation. The seasons. Holidays. Then there’s the one that hangs over all of the others–that my precious baby is gone.

Work. I have to go back. It scares the hell out of me. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to handle the stress and pressure of my job anymore. I consider myself a diligent worker. Someone who cares about the quality of work I produce. I want to do a good job for me, my co-workers, and my family. I think that my current state may hold me back from the capacity of work I normally do. I have a very demanding job. I wish I could say that I’m a doctor who saves lives every day, but I don’t. I work in advertising and the hours and deadlines are challenging. I’ve always struggled to find a balance between personal and work life. I drive 45 minutes each way to work and typically end my work day between 6 and 8:00 pm. I spend my evenings trying to jam in as much quality time as possible with my husband, dogs, and family, when our schedules align. I don’t know that I will be able to keep those hours anymore. I’m mentally tired these days. I’m afraid of being far away from Chris–far enough that if I need him, or if he needs me, we won’t be there for each other. My husband works from home on most days and I’m afraid he’ll have too much time to think when it’s not busy. I don’t want him to feel alone and sad as a result. I don’t want us to feel abandoned by each other. If he calls and I’m in a meeting I may not be able to answer and talk when he needs me. That sucks, because in my heart he is my true priority. If I’m busy on a deadline with no time for breaks, how will I take pause when I need to get away and just be sad? I’m afraid that I won’t care about our unappreciative clients and their crazy requests. I’m worried that work “emergencies” will feel so trivial compared to the enormous tragedy that has occurred in my life. How can I keep those feelings a secret? I work in a very open environment. The layout is basically one room lined with short-walled cubicles. It’s hard to escape the noise and chaos on a busy day. I’m worried how I will react when hearing other people’s conversations–about their families, mostly. I just found out that a new girl started in my absence and just had a baby boy. The girl who sits diagonal to me recently announced her pregnancy to the agency and is around 4 months along. It’s easy to be happy for them and want to wish them congratulations, but I know there is a part of me who will be crying inside–and maybe even on the outside. I just want my baby boy. I worry that I will think of my own pregnancy when people ask her how she’s feeling. I’ll have to attend her shower and hold back the tears. How will I escape the feeling that everyone is looking at me as they give her gifts and well wishes? I wouldn’t want to make anyone else feel bad–after all, they should be able to enjoy it the way I did. I’m as afraid of the people who approach me with kind thoughts and sad eyes as I am of the people who act like nothing has happened. It’s easier to care for yourself and avoid tough experiences when you have the freedom to do what you want. I’m afraid of the limitations that being at work will add to an already difficult situation. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to leave work early enough to make our counseling sessions, which is far from my job. I feel those sessions, along with the evening walks my husband and I take, are so important to my healing. I really don’t want to compromise them. I wanted to go back to work gradually. I asked my boss if I could do three days a week through the rest of the year, knowing it was a long shot. She said it’s not possible, that they need the staff and I would, obviously, take a pay cut. Although a 3-day schedule may prove good for my head, I don’t think I’d be able to swing it financially. So, I’ll be thinking of a new plan to throw in front of my boss this week. All I know is that I should be returning in the first week of August. I’m sure that in some ways it will be good for me. I also want to plan something special–a small vacation, perhaps–for our 5th wedding anniversary. I’m not sure how that will go over with work now that I’ve been gone so long.

Vacation and money. Shortly after we lost Rylan I wanted to run. Immediately. Anywhere. Mostly to my favorite place, Maui. I also threw around the idea of going somewhere special for our anniversary which is on September 6th. I’ve looked at everything from Sedona spas and the Grand Canyon to Hawaii and Delaware. I don’t know if I can go in September since I’ll just be getting back to work, but I at least need to ask for a day or two. I don’t know if I’ll have the money to go anywhere right now, anyway. We’ve had a lot to take care of in the financial department in the past few months. I just want to do something to mark our marriage. After all, our love is what’s getting us through every day.

Seasons and holidays. I’m afraid of the seasons changing. I believe that the summer months have helped me through these tough days, even if just a little. To be honest, I’m allergic to winter time. At least, it feels that way. Once the weather is cold and it’s time to trade flip-flops for down jackets a part of my body shuts down. My hair is limp and staticky. My skin is pale and dry. My heart eventually feels like it slumps into some kind of sad state that only blue skies and sun can cure. I feel that way even in a normal year–a year when I’m not dealing with a huge loss. I am terrified that once the leaves blow off of the trees and we’re left with dead branches it will be harder to fight off depression. When we’re cooped up indoors day after day the hurt in my heart will linger more at the surface. It’s nice having sunshine, evening walks, and butterflies. I’m not sure where winter will leave me this time. I don’t want to be stuck inside with my devastation. And, of course we can’t forget the holidays. I pictured this year as being our first Christmas as parents, laying with our son on the couch listening to music and watching the tree lights twinkle as a family. Buying that cheesy “Babies First Christmas” ornament. Dressing Ry up in a sweet holiday outfit and showing off our beautiful son to relatives and friends. Without him, I’m not sure I’ll feel okay to be with family and friends. It will be hard to watch all of the other families with their children and not reflect on our loss. If I sit here with tears in my eyes as I think ahead, how will I be when the real festivities arrive?

My sweet baby boy. Some days I just can’t handle his absence. It breaks my heart. I can only describe it as a type of “separation anxiety.” It’s just so unnatural that he’s not here with Chris and I. I don’t want to go along with the hand we’ve been dealt anymore. I want to swim against the tide that’s pushing us further and further from the life we came so close to having. As painful as it was, I want to go back to the hospital room–the time when I held him in my arms. Even if he wasn’t completely there, he was still there. More importantly, we were there–together. The way it’s suppose to be. Not like this. I just want to go back there and stay for eternity. I don’t spend much time in the nursery these days. What brought me comfort before feels different now. It’s not like I can’t open the door or go in there without shedding tears, because I can. I just don’t want to go in there now. Most of the time it just feels like I’m throwing salt in a wound. For awhile I placed flowers from our garden in a vase on his dresser on a weekly basis. Not so much anymore. As much as I did those things for Ry, a big part of me did those things for me, too. The marker for his grave is now in place. It has a flower and butterfly design on it and includes a vase for flowers. His final resting place is right under a tree and is beside my sisters grave. I hope that she’s watching over him for us. I think about him every day. I hope that he knows that. I hope he can see and hear his dad and I when we tell him we love him. I hope he can feel love when we think of him too.

I hate it when I feel the way I did tonight. And, it always happens in the middle of the night–when I can’t sleep and the rest of the world is in a silent slumber. Here I am. It’s 4:30 am now and I’m still typing away. I was hoping the bright light of the monitor would be enough to make my eyes drowsy. No such luck. I think I’m going to take the other half of that pill now. I thank you for stopping by to hear the string of thoughts balling up in my head. If you’d like to get anything off of your chest, I’d be glad to hear what’s keeping you, too.

What if I don’t want to pick myself up today?

It’s been almost two months. Sometimes it feels like we received the news yesterday. Sometimes it feels like more time has passed. No matter which it happens to be on a particular day, all I know is, it hurts. I find it hard to explain how I feel. It’s a hollow sadness deep inside me that even Webster can’t define. I don’t cry all day. I don’t know if it’s because sometimes the “well is dry,” so-to-speak, or because enough time has elapsed that I can be sad without sobbing every hour. It’s not like I feel any better about what has happened. Time just keeps moving ahead whether we’re ready to move with it or not. Shouldn’t the world stop to acknowledge when traumatic things happen to us? I wish it was as easy as pressing the pause button on some oversized remote for life. Maybe all of those technology guru’s can put their brains together for good and create an app for that… yeah, I know, I won’t hold my breath. Some say that life is full of disappointment, but this goes beyond that. I think that losing your baby is the most traumatic thing that can happen to someone in their lifetime. When you find out that you’re having a child you begin making plans and setting expectations for your future, almost immediately–some are small, some large. Nine to ten months is a long time. It’s full of changes, adjustments, and preparation both physically and mentally for both mom- and dad-to-be. And the same goes for the people in your circle. I feel like we we’re all driving down the road together with my husband in the passenger seat and me at the wheel–with everyone following behind us. We saw our future ahead and within reach. All of the sudden, without warning, I lost control. The car did a complete 180 and began to drive on its own. The brakes don’t work and I can’t turn around no matter how much I pull at the wheel. Our expected future fades in the rearview every day. I know it’s a horrible metaphor, that I’m even stretching a bit, but it does sum up how I feel about our loss. I thought we were going to have our baby that night and start our new journey together as a family for years to come. I thought that we were in control to a point–that as long as we had appreciation for what we were given, if we had faith in our future, the family we wanted was attainable.

I tried to be a good wife and mom–to protect our future. I followed the doctor’s rules. I never missed an appointment. I ate the right things to keep him strong, to keep me healthy. I took those crazy, big vitamins. I even choked down yogurt for the first few months (bleh). I tried to be prepared. We made a nice room. I read up on the latest crib, stroller, and car seat safety before tagging items for our registry. I washed his clothes in special detergent in case he might have allergies like his daddy. I made sure that we had two kinds of bottles and formula in our cupboard in case he didn’t take to breastfeeding. Diapers were ready and waiting next to at least three kinds of rash cream. All of the preparation in the world could never have prepared me for where we stand now. How do you go from picking out the perfect crib and bedding one day to choosing your baby’s final resting place the next? How am I suppose to accept my empty belly now that our baby is not here in my arms to hold? How am I suppose to reassure my husband that things are going to be okay when I’m on shaky ground? I want to act out like a child sometimes, kicking and screaming with my fists to the floor, hoping that someone will “give me my way.” That someone will give us back our son. Our future. I wanted so many things for us, to do so many things together. I want to see my baby’s eyes looking up at me while I hold him. I want to hear him cry. To hear him breathe. I want to dress him in that blue surf sweatshirt his daddy picked out for him. I want to rock him to sleep. I want to smell his baby face while I kiss his forehead. To teach him how to swim. To read him books at bedtime. To see him laugh and smile. To watch him clap along to his daddy’s guitar. To play with him as he splashes around at bath time. To introduce him to the feeling of cool sand between his tiny toes at the beach. I want to tell him I love him when I know he’s listening. I want to watch him play in the backyard with Sam and Nacho, and most of all with his dad. I want to draw and color with him. I want to hear his voice one day–for him to call us “mom” and “dad”. I want to watch and help him grow into a good man.

I wish we would have had the chance to save Rylan. I wish we could have changed our fate. I have to live every day knowing that I was the only one who could’ve known that something was wrong and didn’t pick up on it. It kills me to know that my baby could have been hurting or struggling and I never even knew. Even worse, it’s hard to know that my body could be responsible in some way for his death. I often feel like I failed Rylan and my husband. Even our family, sometimes. I have to keep telling myself that thoughts like that are irrational–because I know that I would have done anything to protect Ry and Chris had I known–but it’s not always easy to be rational when you’re sad. All I know is that I would have given my own life to save his–and to save Chris from this experience. I hope that means that I am a good mom and wife in some way.

Most days I feel lazy, or, just plain crazy. I don’t know which way is up and I definitely need someone to mark me with a big “fragile” sticker before shipping me out to my next social event. But, I keep getting up every morning and try to stay busy. Maybe I just try to stay distracted. Mostly I look forward to when my husband isn’t working so we can hang out. Our time together has been my saving grace. I gain such comfort by being in his presence. Part of that is because we have endured a similar experience, that we’ve shared a loss that only one another can understand. But, it’s also because we love each other so much. We have our moments like anyone else, but at the end of the day we truly care about each other. It feels good to be so sure of something in such uncertain times. I’m so glad that I listened years ago when my parents said that I should marry my best friend. I still get that excited feeling inside when we hold hands or he leans in for a kiss. When we get into those giddy moods together he makes me laugh so hard that my cheeks hurt. I’ve cherished those moments over the years. Now, I live for those moments. I guess that’s what makes this situation even more frustrating. In my heart I always knew that we would be good parents. I looked forward to sharing the great love that we have for each other with our child. I hoped that we could be a good example so that someday, hopefully, he could meet some lucky girl and have a relationship as good as ours. I don’t know how much babies retain while in the womb, but I hope that he got to know his mom and dad a little during our time together. I hope that he felt the love we have for each other and for him. I hope that it surrounded him and protected him when he passed away–the way that his daddy’s love surrounded me that night to get me through. The way it continues to light my way.

How do I feel?

Gosh, where do I start?! Depends on the day, the hour–maybe “minute” would be more accurate. I feel like I have a rubber band ball bouncing around inside of me. I know that probably sounds silly, but it’s true. Rubber band balls begin with a core… for me, that’s made up of our experience… the second we lost Rylan. Then wrapped around that core you have all of these rubber bands that get stretched around it. Some are skinny, some are wide. They are made up of so many different colors. For me, those bands represent the hundreds of feelings that are stirring inside of me. They are all balled up in one big, chaotic bunch. If you’re someone like me than you will agree that anything can bring one of those emotions to the surface. A person, a place, a thing…it’s as quick and as simple as hitting a switch. It can often make you think you’re crazy. But rest assured, mom or dad… you are not crazy. I don’t think that any “normal” human being will ever be prepared for the difficulties that parents have to endure following the loss of their child. And, I’m not talking about the initial difficulties like saying goodbye, leaving the hospital, and arranging funeral services. I’m talking about the days that follow. The months and years that follow. I’m talking about what happens when the services are over, and people–friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors, go home. Those people, for the most part, share your loss and sadness initially and even become a part of your experience to an extent. They sympathize and try to help out as best they can but at some point, pretty quickly, they move on with their lives. I mean, I get it, they have to move forward with their lives. Each individual has their own set of responsibilities and priorities to tend to in life. They can’t very well sit beside you holding your hand and being sad forever. Plus, being around sadness and loss sucks. It’s uncomfortable. It’s a complete downer. Most people can’t even handle being involved in the initial experience. But here’s what I’m trying to get at–people like my husband and I can’t step away from the loss of our child. We are living that loss every day. We weren’t given a choice. We can’t outrun it. It will be there whether we’re at home, twenty steps from his empty crib or sunbathing far off on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. And, if you’re anything like me, there are daily reminders of our loss all around us. The ironic part is that those reminders are the people, places, and objects that once made our hearts pound with excitement and joy. It’s excruciating. You can’t go anywhere or do anything without being reminded of babies, parents, or families. You watch your siblings with their children and wonder why you can’t have the same thing. That’s super difficult because you would never wish this experience on anyone else, certainly not your family. It’s just that you want what they have so badly. Advertising is the worst. Once you’ve signed up for your baby registry you can bet that your home mailbox (and email) will flood with diaper coupons and formula samples forever. The Babycenter app on your iPhone that once helped you eagerly count down the days to parenthood is now haunting your email inbox with tips for “fun with your new baby” that you’ll never need. You flip on the television and see families splattered across most commercials and almost every sitcom. If you feel that those things are harmful to your health please disconnect the cable for a month before any holiday, especially Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Better yet, just cancel it altogether–there’s always some stupid holiday to celebrate. Then there’s outdoor advertising. I’ll admit that I exceeded the speed limit (significantly) once, just to save my husband from noticing the image of a father holding his baby adhered to a local billboard. I couldn’t believe it when I drove beside a truck on the jersey expressway that featured a group of doctors standing beside a mother holding her newborn. The luck. And music. Music can be enough of a trigger on it’s own. You can flip on Pandora and hear an ad for Babies-R-Us, a local hospital maternity ward, or a new TV show about fathers. Trust me, I’ve heard them all and now pay $3.99 a month to avoid them. Don’t even think about picking up an “US Weekly” for a light-hearted read while you’re sitting under the dryer at the hair salon. Take my word for it–the words “pregnant”, “mom,” and “dad” are on every other page, usually associated with people that are less than role models. It will only raise the perpetual question that you ask yourself every day–”Why me? Why us?” Witnessing people like Snookie or Kim Kardashion wear their children like accessories is angering. But it goes beyond famous people and shameless product promotions. It can be just every day activities. You can look out your window in the neighborhood across the street and see a mom pushing her baby in a stroller or a dad biking beside his son. Going out to a restaurant can spark a range of emotions–you either boil inside at the sight of a parent ignoring their infant child or hold back the tears at the sight of a mom and dad smiling and cooing at their newborn. It’s impossible to avoid these things but you can try to limit the amount of tough experiences you encounter in one day. And, know that it’s okay to do that. Like I said before, outside of your significant other (hopefully), most people in your life have already stepped off of the sad train. They don’t feel the same way or understand your pain the way you do. Just remember that you know what is okay and healthy for you and how much you can handle. It’s okay to test the waters sometimes but don’t rush into situations that will harm your healing. If your family and friends love you they will accept your decisions. They may not understand how you feel, but they will accept it. Believe me, I’m no expert–I’m just here to share my personal feelings and experiences with you. When people ask how we’re doing I always say “hanging in there.” Grief is a gradual process with no right or wrong way, and no determined length of time for feeling better. My husband and I wake up every morning and get out of bed. I think that is a huge accomplishment. If you can do anything beyond that, than give yourself a gold star… you deserve it! I feel like my husband and I are different people than we were before. Some of the things that use to bring us joy or feel familiar feel different now–and I think that’s okay. I say, just keep trying until you find things that make you feel good or happy. If you can do it together, that’s even better. The grief counselor that we found said something I’d like to share–she said something to the effect of, “Grieving is a process that changes often, even daily. What makes you happy or feels right today may not feel the same tomorrow or next week. That’s okay.” I think that is a great insight. She also said that doing activities that use both the left and right side of your brain are good for toning down the sadness or anxiety you may feel. I think she’s right. My husband and I have tried a lot of things (even before she said that) to help us along this bumpy road. Some of the most enjoyable have been: taking an evening walk together (evening is good because less people are out and it can be very peaceful), swimming (great exercise and perfect for these hot summer days), coloring (yes, in a kids coloring book–it’s a no pressure activity, a little funny, and you end up with something nice to place in your baby’s room), seeing a movie (tip: just make sure it’s not a family movie), and mini-golf (again, evenings are great to avoid crowds–and many courses also have batting cages, which are a great way to unload your emotions). Well, that’s all I’ve got for tonight. Please come back soon…

Saying goodbye

How do you say goodbye to your child? Well, I will tell you that it’s extremely difficult when you feel like you’ve only just met. That and it felt like we had to say goodbye more than once. The first time was at the hospital and was, by far, the hardest for me. I was so afraid of that moment. I would have stayed in that hospital room forever if it meant that the three of us could’ve stayed together. But I knew that was not reality. We were lucky to have more time with Ry than most parents with stillborn babies do. And, while we had him with us we knew that his appearance was beginning to change. The time to say goodbye was growing near.

There are so many questions and decisions that need to be made when your baby is stillborn. Decisions that require near-immediate answers. Decisions that reflect the good of your child can be hard enough when you are a parent and your child is living. When your child dies, it is even harder. You don’t even have the time to process the loss of your baby, your future as a family, before you need to act. Do you want to have anyone present during the birth? Do you want to see your baby? Hold him? Do you want family to come into the room after and see or hold the baby? Do you want the professional photographer to take photos of him? Of you with your baby? How long do you want to keep him with you? How long do you plan to stay at the hospital? Should you ask anyone to visit the hospital? Then they ask you what your plan is moving forward. Did you pick a funeral home? Do you have their information? Wow. Talk about difficult. Then for the questions that followed after we left the hospital. Are you ready to go home? Do we want to stay with our parents for a few days? Should we have a wake? When? A burial or cremation? A burial. Then where? Do we want a service? Where? With who? What will he wear? Do we want to place anything else in with him? Where do the flowers come from? What should they look like? What about the words on the card that people can take at the funeral home? Should we find a nice poem? Which one? Should we play music? Do we have a pastor or priest at the wake or service? Who? What about after the service? Catered food? What kind and how much? The list goes on and on. Well, below you will find out how my husband and I answered those questions and how we made it through that first week or so.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Chris and I decided to see Rylan. To hold him. To share him with some of the special people in our lives. We took photos and so did the hospital photographer. I’m so glad to have those things now. We kept him with us for about a day and a half. Like I said before, we had a great deal of support from friends and family during our hospital stay and in preparation for the wake and service. My husband and I were terrified to leave Rylan at the hospital, and the word morgue in the same sentence as my baby’s name was horrifying. In the past few years we’ve gotten to know our friend’s brother-in-law, Bobby, through various get-togethers and events. Thank God for him. He is partial owner in a local funeral home and agreed to take care of Rylan for us, and ensured that we could have the services we wanted for him. Bobby personally came to the hospital to take Rylan so that he would never have to go to the morgue and so we wouldn’t have to leave him behind. I don’t know if my husband or I could have done it any other way. He came when we were ready. Our parents were able to hold him one last time. Then Chris and I held him together, once more. We kissed his forehead. We said, “I’ll always love you.” Then, after switching his knit hat out for another one, my husband handed him over to Bobby. I’d be lying to you if I said that was easy to do or to watch, but I will say that handing him to a good person, someone we trusted to take care of him, made it easier than it could have been. My husband and I cried and held each other once he was gone. I was so afraid to leave the hospital after that. After all, we came to the hospital knowing that we would be leaving different people. We were going to be parents, embarking on a new life as three. But we were wrong. We came as two and were going to leave as two. It was heartbreaking. My husband and I both had tears in our eyes as we waited for my dad to bring the car around to pick us up. While I waited with the kind nurse who tried comforting me during this tough transition, my husband stopped in the gift shop to pick up a (very large) stuffed animal that he’d eyed up during our stay. When he brought it over to where I was sitting he apologized for spending so much money on this big, stuffed lion. He said that is just made him feel connected to Rylan. I remember telling him that he could of bought a human being at that gift shop for a million dollars and brought them home if I knew it would make him feel better. We got into my car and my dad drove us home. I can’t thank him enough for taking the baby’s car seat out before we had to make that drive.

We made it home. We walked in the front door to a living room filled with some of the gifts from our shower. The pack-and-play and stroller that Chris and I had put together (just recently) was right there, ready to be used. Our parents stayed for a little bit to make sure that we were okay before leaving. Chris and I decided that the first thing we would do after returning home would be to visit Rylan’s room–together. I thought that his room would be the most difficult place to see in the house. It’s funny, but his room was the one place I felt at peace in the beginning. Maybe it’s because it made me feel close to him.

The whole week that followed is a blur. I remember my husband saying, “just when I think that I’ve made it through the hardest part of this experience, the next thing I have to do seems even harder.” I felt the same way. We decided to have a wake at the funeral home, open to anyone to come see us and/or pay their respects to our son. We worked with a great florist who followed our suggestions beyond our expectations. She created arrangements that were bright and colorful and incorporated child-like elements like stuffed animals, beach pails, and trucks. One thing that most people don’t know is that babies are too small for typical caskets. They are actually placed in these little white boxes. It was really hard to see that box. It was hard to know that our baby boy was in there, just that tiny. In order to make his final resting place more comfortable we had Ry wrapped in a super-soft baby blanket. We included letters we had written to him, photos of our family, and some other things that were special to us. Knowing he had those things made us feel better. We draped two yellow blankets over the small box at the wake and service. We also had two photos printed and framed by a good friend so that we could share our beautiful son with everyone. You could say that Chris and I were on autopilot those days. The wake was nice but I feel that those rituals are really for other people. It is so nice to know that people care for us and for Rylan… but it was also hard because we spent that evening on our feet for hours, consoling the people who visited. So many people have told us that were such strong individuals–but I think in these situations you just don’t have a choice. We had to keep going in order to do the best for our son and to honor him the way we had hoped. It was a way to actively be his parents.

Rylan’s service was very unique. My husband had suggested that we have it at our home. It made sense. And, it would be so nice to have him come home, even if just for an hour or so. For three days before, some of our friends and family spent time trying to get our house in order. They cleaned. They emptied out rooms. They brought food. They brought chairs. They went shopping so that I’d have something to wear. They cut grass and cleaned up the landscape. They even tried to do laundry. They bought groceries, down to table linens and plasticware. We would have never been able to pull that all together without them. It was amazing. We invited close friends and immediate family to the service. We sat in neatly-aligned fold-out chairs in our dining room and front living room. They were arranged to face two windows which opened up to my husbands beautifully-landscaped backyard. Rylan was placed at the front of the room among his flowers. My friend’s dad is a pastor and agreed to conduct the service. He did such a good job. I feel that he really helped to honor our son that day and to support us with his words. In the background you could hear our DMB lullaby CD, the one my friend had given us at the shower just a month before. It was a nice service and everyone came up to say goodbye to Rylan at the end. They filtered outside and gave us a moment alone. It was a dreary day outside with the sky giving all indications that it could rain at any moment. It was because of that fact that I felt even more special when the sun had shone in the window over Ry, just as Chris and I said our goodbye. I like to think that Rylan was saying goodbye to us at that moment, in his own way. Chris carried Rylan out to the car. Boy, that was hard to watch as a mother and wife. There are so many things that I wish I could protect my husband from having to do in his life. That is definitely one.

We got into our cars and followed like a parade to the cemetery which is very close to our home. I wish I could stop time the way we were able to stop traffic for us that day. We regrouped at Rylan’s final resting spot, under a tree and beside my sister’s grave (that story is for another time). The pastor said a few words and we took turns leaving a rose beside our son. Now for the best part of the ceremony. We wanted to do something really special for Rylan and thought that a butterfly release would be great. It was beyond great. A close friend of mine ordered the butterflies for us, including a special box of them for my husband and I to release together. We all stood in a circle and let them go. It was amazing watching them–some of them even hung around in the surrounding grass–and my favorite was one who flew up and sat on a leaf in the tree above Rylan. I felt comforted knowing that one of the butterflies would look after him once we left. Now, every time I see a butterfly, especially a monarch, I think of him. But I guess you could say that every time I breathe I think of Rylan.

After the ceremony we headed back to the house for food and drinks. Our favorite pizza place catered and gave it all to us as a gift. The owner and one of his staff even came to the wake and sent us flowers. We always felt that they were more like friends. It’s amazing to see who shows up for you in your most difficult days. We will never forget all of the things that people have done for us-and that they continue to do. I’m still trying to get my act together enough to send thank you cards. I did buy some–I guess that’s a first step.

The aches and pains during pregnancy were tough. The week that followed also took its toll. Since then I’ve spent a lot of time resting. My job has been very supportive in my taking time off for awhile, to which I’m so thankful. I feel awful that my husband was only able to stay out of work for two weeks. It really only seems like one when you factor in the first week of goodbyes. I know that I can’t stay out of work forever which is difficult. At some point I have to go back to my “normal” way of life. But I don’t feel like the person I was before Rylan died. I can’t even remember who I was before I got pregnant. I think the same goes for Chris. I feel like him and I are back at square one. That we are slowly redefining who we are as we cope with this unbelievable loss. It’s not easy. More than anything I don’t want to lose “us” in all of this… so far we’ve done a great job of leaning on each other. I think it’s so important to run toward your partner when things get difficult. I’m so glad he feels the same way.

Well, that brings us to now. In telling our story so far, I know that I’ve left out a lot of the feelings inside and a lot of experiences that have occurred between then and now. If I included those things, this post would be more of a novel than it already is. I think you’ve had enough to take in for one day. So let’s just promise to keep meeting back here… and I’ll keep sharing for you.