Saturday, May 27, 2017

Two Years


Baby boy, today is your birthday. Somehow two years have come and gone. I sat with a friend the other day who asked me - doesn't it feel like it's been ten years and only five seconds all in one? I thought I'd be better this time around. I thought I'd have more peace. I thought having lived this loss after one full year and now a second would have given my heart more resolve on this day.

I thought wrong.

I've avoided my emotions for a while now. I've felt them building, the anxiety that can come with it, but I wanted to stay in the happy and not go to the place where the pain that you're not here is too overwhelming to bear sometimes. In this second year, I've talked about you more freely. I have smiled through the pain when I say I have one in Heaven and one at home. I can speak about loss now without tears every single time. I can smile when I say your name. But when I'm alone with my thoughts, or look long enough at your sister in my arms, the emotions I've tried to shut out begin to catch up to me. The life we didn't get to live and the memories we didn't get to create consume me.

Up until October 15, 2016, I only imagined all the things in life we've missed without you here. But starting at 5:08 am when Hadley was born and every minute since, I have learned just how much of the ordinary, everyday life we lost without you here.  I didn't know just how fulfilling the exhaustion of parenting was, just how much love can be felt from a neck nuzzle or smile, and just how much the little hugs or tugs of the finger can mean. I knew what we didn't have but I didn't know the depth of how much it hurt not to have it, until I did have it. I look at her and if I look long enough, it rips at my heart that I never got to look into your eyes. She loves to stare at us before breaking into a smile and it is adorable. Sometimes as she stares, I can't help but wonder what is going through her mind as she looks back at me, and then I think about how you never got to see me, your Mommy. You heard me, as you grew in my belly but you never saw me. I watch your Daddy with her and I get choked up often because he's just so good at it. He's an amazing Daddy and he should have had his son to be that to as well.

I avoided it for a long period of time because there was only so much my heart could endure, but I have allowed myself to see little ones around your age. We see them often now, especially as your sister has started daycare and we see kids of all ages. Whenever I pass a little one in the 2's class, it gives me pause every time. I wonder who you'd look like. Your sister is your Daddy's carbon copy, and you looked like me when you were born, but would you still? How would you and Hadley interact right now? What would you love to play with? I received my first pieces of art work from Hadley and decided to hang it along the new staircase and grow it into the playroom. I wonder how many pictures you would have drawn for us, how many Hudson originals I'd have already hung.

Every night before Hadley goes to bed, I sit with all my loves in my lap - Hadley, Georgie and the Hudson bunny. We rock together, we read stories, we snuggle. Sometimes Mommy cries. I wish you were here with us to make our family whole. I wish our lives had been able to experience your smile and laughter these two years. I want it all back, everything that was stolen from us two years ago when your heart stopped. All of it, I want it, I miss it. My mother's heart will never stop yearning for that life with you here too.

Today I don't want to get out of bed. Today I want to shut everything out. I want to cry until I can't cry anymore - which there are always more tears, I've learned. Yesterday I honored you in a special way. Next week we continue to honor you by furthering your legacy at your memorial golf tournament. But right now? Right now I just want you. I hear them playing in the other room and would give anything to walk in there to see Daddy, Georgie, and both our babies - my two year old and my 7 month old, with a birthday breakfast and balloons. We'd be starting our Hudson Day, your second birthday. I imagine you and see you with brown curls that maybe we'd have let grow out a little bit. I see you with my blue eyes but your Daddy's smile, that matches your sister's. Hadley smiles at you and you make her laugh. You make noises at each other and I raise an eyebrow thinking it's started, your own little language you keep from us. If only I could have five minutes of that on this day. Instead I'll close my eyes, cry the tears and live that scene in my mind. Over and over. I'll allow the warmth it creates in my heart to carry me through today when all I have are the memories of holding you when you were born, then twelve hours later, kissing you goodbye and watching as you were taken in a strangers arms until the door closed and you were gone.

We made you a birthday card and will tie it to a birthday balloon to send you in heaven. We'll have a cake for you that a special friend made for us to have in your honor. We will visit you at the church, and go on a walk trying to enjoy the outdoors where the sunbeams are like your smile, and the breeze in the air is like you playing all around us. I'll hold Hadley a little closer, I'll snuggle Georgie a little longer, I'll love your Daddy a little harder.

My heart breaks all over again on tough days like today, but it beats on. Happy Hudson Day, baby boy.

I love you with everything I have, always.


Friday, May 26, 2017

This Side of Heaven

Two years ago today started like any other, but it was unknowingly the first day of our new life as bereaved parents. It has been 731 days since life as we knew it for 30 years was altered and we were shaken to our core upon hearing the words that our baby at 32 weeks and 6 days didn't have a heartbeat. It was the day we learned that our precious Hudson had already left us and would not be born into this world for us to love him, raise him and parent him in our arms. The way it should have been and is for most. Instead, we would give birth to his silence, to the sound of our cries, and say a goodbye that no parent ever should. Instead of the life we dreamed of as a family, we carry him in our hearts as we live on without him and only the idea of what should have been.

Loss parents have different milestone days that resonate, we may call them different things. I call today, the day we learned he had passed, Hudson's Heaven Day, and tomorrow, the day we gave birth, his Birthday. I honestly don't know which day is more difficult.

Two years ago I entered this hospital completely unsuspecting that I'd be leaving 24 hours later without our baby. Though I've been back here again many times since, it was a different kind of experience to walk through those same doors again, just like I did two years ago. While my answer to these hard milestones has been to escape, to be "vacation us" instead of loom in the "everyday us" where he is noticeably absent the most, this time on his Heaven Day we get to see his legacy in action. Today we did the official celebration and Cuddle Cot dedication to Baylor University Medical Center, the place that holds our only memories of the time spent with our son in our arms and where we brought his sister, a representation of so much joy and hope, into the world as well.

While we never want this Cuddle Cot to be used, the sad reality is that it will be. During this month, I've been introduced to or made aware of six families of stillbirth that have occurred in May alone. Six babies gone to soon. Six parents whose lives will never be the same. In addition to this Cuddle Cot, the funds given to Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas by the One Wing Foundation have gone to provide aid for families who cannot afford proper burial arrangements for their stillborn baby or NICU infant, and to create a renovated private space in Labor and Delivery for families giving birth but will either never hear their babies cry, or they will have a short time together before that baby takes its last breath.

Guys, this just isn't the way life is meant to go, but sometimes it does. There is not a rhyme or reason. Not a divine plan when someone's child dies. It is not the natural circle of life.You may feel differently, I did before this happened to me. Now, I believe that sometimes the terrible-awful happens. It just does. While we can't change it, we can provide for it. We can be the community that catches those parents in loving arms, without platitudes, when they have faced the most difficult obstacle of burying their baby. It is a wound that may reopen from time to time, and one that doesn't ever really heal. Because that's child loss.

I know it's ugly and unflattering sometimes. I know it's not what people want to see because it's sad. I know that every time I post about it, someone cringes. But he's my child, just like Hadley is. He will be recognized too. I may not have cute pictures of him covered in food, smiling in the bathtub or grabbing his toes - because those were robbed from me when his heart stopped. This is what I have for him. This is how I parent him - my son who should be turning two tomorrow.

Waking up two years ago on May 26, it was any other day until it wasn't, and our path changed for good. As difficult as this road has been, can be, and will continue to be at times, I take solace in continuing to parent my son in any way that I can, and One Wing Foundation is that way. I felt him in my heart, the love and support in the room through the incredible Baylor staff, I see him in her eyes sometimes - the eyes I never got to look into.

Happy Heaven Day sweet boy. You got there before us and we know we will see you again on the other side.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The House That Built Me

"A house is built with boards and beams, a home is built with love and dreams." 
First house photo taken the week we moved in, June 2014

I remember the first time we saw it. We drove down a tree-lined street to this little blue-grey house with a front porch and a white porch swing. It donned an American flag and the blooms of a crabapple tree finished the craftsman style ideal. The house, built in 1922, was well kept and maintained its character with gorgeous original hardwoods, glass door knobs, clawfoot tub and 10 ft ceilings throughout. As we walked through, we both ditched the check list we had in our minds of our "perfect house" because truth be told, this was far from our idea of perfect and it didn't have our shared top three musts. However, it had something that none of the 20+ houses we had seen by that point had. This one had the feeling of home. 

It may have only been three years for us, but we lived a significant chapter of our lives in this little house. It was our first house together as a married couple. We painted walls, slowly finding new pieces of furniture to fill the rooms. We planted new bushes and flowers in those flower beds with our own hands. We rocked on that front porch swing countless times. We renovated and saw our ideas come to life. We adopted a dog and gave him a loving home. We celebrated anniversaries, birthdays, hosted holidays and various dinners. We found out we were pregnant in that house, twice. We dreamed a life for those babies in that house. It was where we returned home to, with broken hearts and bare arms when our first baby died. It became my sanctuary when I couldn't bring myself to face the outside world. It is where we prepared for our second baby's arrival and emotionally brought her home to. Those hardwood floors have soaked up countless tears. If those walls could talk it would tell many stories of a combination of our love and pain, deeply absorbed within them.

We don't need to move but there has been an itch. An itch for change. That little house felt even smaller once Hadley arrived, but we were content. However, as I scrolled through neighborhood listings with a friend, I saw it. I remember the house from when we were looking for our current house and loved it then. Looking at it again, it felt like us the minute I laid eyes on the pictures. When we were able to get in to see it, I walked through with Hadley in my arms. I saw us there. The birthday parties, the holiday gatherings, the space for the larger table to set. I stood in that kitchen, envisioning a busy morning scene of getting ready for work, packing snacks and lunch - lined up on the island ready to go. I could see the patio doors open with my husband on the grill, me cooking in the kitchen, Hadley and hopefully future babies playing somewhere in between. I saw the Christmas tree next to the mantle with stockings hung, the family snuggled by the fire in the fireplace. I saw the traditions we will continue and new ones we will start. We fell in love with it and decided to go for it - and now here we are. Proud owners of our new family home, sellers of our first family home.

Over the weekend, I took some time to walk through and pause in each room, taking them in before we started to pack them up and they will no longer be the way we have had them. We've done a lot to the house to make it ours, but the room I will miss most is the nursery. It is a beautiful space, in many ways, that has so much sentiment tied to it. I've written before about how the first time walked the house, we identified that room as the nursery. I thought it would be the kitchen, but its the nursery that I will remember most about that house. We put in the contract that we are taking Hadley's chandelier with us so she can have a piece of her old room in her new room - a symbol of the room that was meant for both our babies. Before there were pink lines, there was the vision of who would occupy that room. I didn't know the road we'd take to get there. We always saw that house as our starter home and we'd hope to have two babies there, then we'd probably outgrow it. I guess you can say that's where we are now, though different than we thought it would look.

What gives me a great amount of peace and comfort to this process is that I feel like, if Hudson were here, we would be doing this right now, moving to this house. The timing became right for us to do this now, and I think it would have been right now if both our babies were here too - part of me wonders if that is where the itch came from, an inherent feeling that we'd be doing this anyway. As Parents of Loss, we do have our own parallel universe that we picture our other child/children in. I find that it can be painful sometimes when what is happening in our reality doesn't mesh with what would be going on if the parallel life was our reality. But when big life events happen and you feel they would be happening with or without the missing person, it's healing to the heart and soul. In that world, we are moving our almost 7 month old and almost 2 year old to a new house that will become our family home for quite some time. In our reality, we are doing the same but with our almost 2 year old as a memory of what could have been.

It is emotionally difficult to close the door, both literally and figuratively, on that little blue-grey house on Woodlawn. It would be hard even if we hadn't lost our first born, if we weren't leaving the only house he "experienced" but I know that adds to the connectivity. The time we made this house our home the most was when we were pregnant with him and preparing it with him in mind. Not just the renovation work but the things we bought to get ready for our growing family. I cried uncontrollably when it was agreed on in our selling contract that we'd leave our washer and dryer. The washer and dryer we bought with a gift card my in laws gave us for Christmas because we had just told them we were expecting Hudson and they told us we'd need a good new washer and dryer for that baby. I realized it is only a washer and dryer, but they carry a large amount of sentiment! The washer and dryer set revolved around him.

The 30,000 foot view regarding this move is that it feels like we are leaving a piece of us behind, but I remind myself that this is another part of our story as a family. It is a chapter of our book that we continue writing. While it was the only home that Hudson "experienced", I look forward to weaving him into our new family home blueprint. I envision creating a special corner in the new game room where I can maybe utilize some of his nursery decor that I've kept packed away in hopes to use again. It's a corner where his rocker will go with Hadley's books and toys. A place for her to play, hopefully with future siblings, some day. We have left our mark on our first family home, it will be a special place to us always. Come this weekend, I'll sit in our house for the last time with it empty, the way I did when I first entered it. Three years ago it I was in this empty space with the excitement of what the future holds. This time it is with tears, recounting the precious memories made there and how it went from a house to a home. We'll close and lock that door for the last time. Goodbye sweet little blue-grey house on Woodlawn. Hello to what our future holds for our family in our new home just ten blocks away.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

To My Daughter on Her First Day of Daycare


Today you are six months, 2 weeks and 2 days. For the last 198 days, you have been the crux of our every everything. I spent thirteen weeks with you and day by day you learned your basic needs. I watched you take in the world around you, become more alert, learn to recognize people and other objects. I watched you transform from a newborn to an infant. I saw your smiles, heard your first giggle, listened as you found your voice, and discovered different textures. I watched as you began to focus your gaze on our faces, rather than look beyond them. I held you as you cried, and soothed you to become calm. When it was time for me to return to work, your Daddy took over and he stayed home to take care of his sweet baby girl - the first person in his office to take advantage of this new benefit that I am so thankful he is given.

He has heard those little giggles turn into belly laughs. He's taught you how to enjoy tummy time and roll over, how to jump in your jumparoo, to sit on your own like a big girl, and turn the pages of a book. Your little voice has changed and you call out now, you sing to us, you babble on and on. He has watched you become this precocious, energetic, happy baby girl. Every day he took you on walks and swung with you on the porch swing. In his last week of leave with you, you started stretching out your arms big and wide, he would do the same and lift you to him for the game he calls Big Hugs. You've started reaching for our faces, touching our cheeks, and giving us kisses.

I treasure every minute of every day I was home with you, and more so, I treasure the special time your Daddy got to have home with you. I hope when you grow up and if you become a Mommy someday, you will have plenty of time home with your babies without having to compromise your income, job responsibilities, or career aspirations. I hope you can have it all with cessation. I hope that all working mommies won't have to have a choice between spending those needed months (yes, it is months) with their baby, or being able to financially contribute to the household to provide what is needed for their families. I wish that a true maternity leave would be available for working moms, one that is representative of the beauty and importance of bringing a new life into the world, while indicative of what it entails to ensure the proper health and connectivity needed for a mother and a child. I hope that all Daddies will have the ability to take paternity leave and bond with their babies, taking care of them, being part of this very important time of growth and development as well, further solidifying a true partnership with their spouse in this joint venture called parenthood. I was fortunate to have 13 weeks with you, then when my time ended, your Daddy was able to spend 15 weeks with you - but this is not necessarily the norm and that's a shame.

Today is a new step for us as a family. Today I do the hardest thing I've had to do during your 198 days. Today I hand you over to someone we've never met, in a place you don't know, and trust them with your care. I wish I could explain it to you in a way you'd understand, and reassure you that everything will be okay, that we will be back for you. You've become used to Mommy being gone but you were in your own house with Daddy responding to your needs. Now everything is changing for you. My heart aches and it hurts that you are now going to be out of our daily care. That I won't be able to come home at lunch to see you and nurse you. That Daddy won't be there to make things better when you cry. It was a painful, long road to get you into this world - it is hard to put that trust in someone else to take care of you as well as we would. Will you find the comfort that you need when you cry? Will you know they love and care for you too? I'll miss those pictures and videos of what you are doing that get me through the day. I'm afraid to miss more of your firsts, for someone else to get those.

But can I tell you something? I'm also really excited for you.

These six months we've watched all these wonderful things take place with you. We've also watched as you've interacted with others. How you light up and have intrigue, especially with other little ones. You are going to love being around others your age and your teachers, learning from them, taking the world in. This is going to be so wonderful for you and honestly, it will be better developmentally than what we could do with you at home. You are going to thrive and it's important for us to let you. We want to give you this experience.

I want you to know that there is no greater job that either your Daddy or I have than being your parents. That's why, as your parents, we go to work every day - that is what is best for our family. The truth of the matter is, I love what I do, the job I have, the career I've built - I personally need that time to contribute to society and to our family. Even more so, I love what I get to come home to when that day at the office is done and be your Daddy's wife, and your Mommy. We work hard for you, to provide for you, to set an example for you. Every day, we aim to better ourselves as professionals in the careers we've worked hard to have in order to lay that foundation for you, so that you may blaze your own trail someday. You are going to have friends whose mommies or daddies don't go into an office every day and that is just as wonderful. That is what works best for their family, that is how they show their love to their littles. It doesn't mean we love you any less, or that they love theirs any less. We are all doing what is best for our own families, because each family is different with no two the same. You are going to do great things baby girl, you can do whatever you want to do. You can be a stay at home mom, you can be a work from home mom, you can be a go to the office mom, you can work part-time, you can work full-time. You can have a career, be a wife, be a mom - do them separately or all at the same time. You can take the world by storm and we are your biggest cheerleaders.

Whenever we pack you up in the car and we drop you off at daycare, know that during those nine hours we are away, it is because we love you as much as we do. You are our motivation, our inspiration, and we know you are thriving where you are. Although I cried today leaving you, handing you over to people we didn't know, it's not something I would change given the choice right now. They were so comforting, told us we could call whenever we needed, come by whenever we wanted. In my heart I feel like I should have already done this, the first day at daycare thing, with your brother. If he were here, Hudson would have been in the classroom across the hall. I think that made more tears flow and the experience that much harder. As I met other parents at pick up time, I wondered if our paths would have crossed already, if we would have been doing life together as parents but instead we meet now for the first time? While he's not next door to be there if you need him, he is always with you. When we picked you up for the day, before you realized we were there, we saw that you were happy - you were so happy - and that made us happy.

We love you Hadley Jane. We want to make you proud, and for you to know that you always make us proud. Everything we do is out of love for you.