Last February, my mom came out to visit and we tried to organize Henry's room. After he died, I didn't want to see baby stuff everywhere I looked, so we had piled everything into his room. She agreed to help me get it organized and get stuff put away.
Day 1, we sorted clothes by size and put them in drawers or plastic bins. I pulled an outfit here or there that particularly reminded me of Henry. It wasn't so bad, not as hard as I thought it would be.
Day 2, we pulled everything else out of the closet—toys, Bumbo seat, baby rocker, mobile, play mat, exersaucer, stuffed animals, more clothes, diaper bags . . . I left the room to get something and coming back in it hit me. I looked at the room full of stuff, all of those things we got for Henry, all of those things he had not had a chance to use, and I broke. I sobbed and sobbed on my bed clutching his yellow blanket.
Eventually, we managed to get everything back in the closet or the dresser or bins under the crib. And in the months that followed, I found I could go in and out of that room and it usually didn't bother me.
Shortly before Kathleen was born, I went into the nursery to get some fabric out of the closet. I bent down to get it and looked up at the row of blue clothes hanging above me. The clothes Henry never wore. Would it be better to have a boy and finally be able to use those things or a girl and not have to? Would it matter? I didn't cry that day, but I looked at that row of clothes for a long, long time and left the room quietly weary.
So I should have been prepared today when my mom and sister came to visit and we tackled the room again. Kathleen hasn't been sleeping in there, but I want to be able to change her and rock her in there at night. I wanted to put away the clothes she has outgrown and know where the clothes she will be growing into soon are.
We sorted and piled and piled and piled. A mountain of blue clothes, most still with tags. All these things Henry never wore. I remember people giving us things for 3-6 months, 6-9 months, 9-12 months, or bigger. "It will be too big for him now," they'd say. "Oh, we expect him to keep growing," I'd reply. Of course we did. I never imagined that 3-6 months would be spent in the hospital, that he'd never get to 6-9, 9-12, or bigger.
We organized the clothes by size, pulling out the ones I thought I might use for Kathleen. We pulled out toys and books, bigger diapers and a changing pad. Then we packed all the blue away for now. Such a big box of it.
The last thing I looked through was a small bin. It contained two blankets from the NICU; 5 outfits that make me think of Henry; a couple of toys that I pulled back out for Kathleen; his caterpillar toy that I couldn't bring myself to use again yet and a caterpillar blanket he had in the hospital; a bear, a onesie, and two burp clothes with his name on them; the hats that fit him for the first few months; stuffed animals he had in the hospital; and the teddy bear wearing a Children's Hospital t-shirt that I bought him as a going home gift, a reminder of where he lived for three months.
Too much. I folded over the bin, tiny knit hat in hand.
I remember his tiny head in those hats, the smile on his face as he looked at the caterpillar, how happy I was shopping for that bear knowing we were finally going home, how he looked like a little old man in my favorite of the outfits. And he's gone. Gone.
And I miss him so much.