Sunday, November 8, 2009

Drained and Refilling

Yesterday, Brian and I spent the day in Boston for Children's program for bereaved parents. I knew it would be an exhausting day, but I underestimated how completely and utterly drained I would feel. I ran into the burrito place across the street from the hospital to get us a snack for the road home and found I could hardly stand.
It was hard being back there. The program itself was not at the main hospital, but in a building down the street. But we were there passing the same streets and buildings I walked by so many times during the fall of 2007. We were stuck in traffic on Huntington where we sat in a snowstorm trying to get back to the hospital as Henry's oxygen ran low after we were discharged into a snowstorm. We waited for a light in front of the building where I waited in my parents car when the nurse called to find out where we were because Henry "wasn't doing well" the night he almost died. We were back in this place where Henry got three months of life he might not have had otherwise, where he got a chance at many more months and years, this place where I worried and waited, this place were he and I lived for three months with Brian visiting as much as he could. Two years ago I had been living in Boston with Henry for almost two months with no sense of when we might go home. This was where we were yesterday, even though I did not walk through the door of the hospital, enter the barren garden, or ride the elevator to the 8th floor. 

There were familiar faces: the psychologist from the floor who had known Henry and checked in on me periodically, one of the women from the center for families who had renewed my key card every morning so that I could have my little room to sleep in each night, a couple from our grief group, one of the facilitators from that group. It is always so odd to go to events at the hospital now a happy-sad reunion of sorts. I'm glad to see these people I know and yet the reason for gathering is not a happy one at all.

We spent the day talking about our children. Brian and I were on a parent panel. I was glad to have a chance to tell our story, Henry's story. The speaking to a group, which I usually hate, was not an issue, but what to say, where to start. I'm not sure what I finally did say— a little about what happened to Henry, a little about losing my first baby and figuring out what being a mom meant after that, a little about where I am now . . .

Much of the day was spent talking with other parents in small groups, our group was made up of people who had lost infants. We shared stories and pictures, how we dealt with different situations, the horrible things people had said, the wonderful things people had done.

It is hard but necessary to go back there, hard but necessary to listen to these stories that are unique but sound so familiar. I went to this program because I needed to take time out, to pause to think about Henry and this journey we're on. I went because I think going back from time to time is part of this process for me.

At the end of the day, we went to my sisters and picked up Kathleen. Hugs and kisses for my girl, glowing reports of the day she had had with her nana and grampy and aunt and cousin. We got her ready for bed and bundled her in the car. We got home around 7:30 and it felt like the middle of the night. I was in bed by 9:30, unheard of around here, but my mind was shutting down, my body demanded that I do nothing else. I was fully drained.
So today, I refill and replenish. Eight and a half hours of sleep (6.5 + 2) did wonders. I worked my body in ways that felt good—a long run, raking leaves. I treated myself to banana bread with chocolate chips. I soaked up sunshine on an unseasonably warm November day. And I reveled in baby giggles as Kathleen played in my leaf piles. I'm still tired, but slowly restoring myself


  1. I'm glad you were there to talk to parents and share your story. I get those invitations to go to the memorial service at that hospital, but I can't go . . . I just can't go. When DH and I have to drive there, I beg that there will be no reason or mistake that takes us to among the streets and past the building where we said "goodbye."

  2. We went to the memorial service there the first year—it happened to fall on Henry's birthday. I wasn't sure if that's how I wanted to spend his birthday, but I didn't know what else I wanted to do. In the end, we planted a tree for him during the day and drove to Boston in the evening and it felt right.

    I almost didn't do the support group we did through Children's because I couldn't imagine going back to the hospital. The fact that I didn't actually have to go into the building helped sway the balance for me, but yes, just driving those streets is hard. For me, I feel the need to do it now and again, but then, we didn't say goodbye there. I don't know if that makes a difference.

  3. Sara, you did a beautiful thing by returning to be there for other parents, and of course for yourselves. So glad today brought replenishment too.

  4. Going back there was a brave and generous thing. So glad you have some restoration time after all of that.

  5. It must have been so difficult to go back to the hospital. I've been back to a memorial service and once to the ward and I found both experiences quite frightening. I certainly couldn't face the 'parent rooms'.

    I'm glad that it was a restoring experience and that you had a chance to talk about your Henry. I'm sure you gave much support to the other parents in your group too.