Saturday, April 30, 2011

Swirling back

As we sat last night in our big powder blue and tan bathroom with the steam swirling around us like fog settling, making it everything just a little indistinct and rather damp, I slipped back into my memory. You would think that Kathleen waking coughing, gasping and raspy breathed in the middle of the night would send me spiraling back to Henry. I'd expect it to be a trigger, setting of a flurry of overgrown fear, but it didn't. I went back much farther than Henry. As the steam filled the air, I was no long holding my little one on my lap; I was the little one, three maybe or four. Smelling the moist heat, hearing the water beating down behind the shower curtain, I was sitting on my mom's lap in a tiny pink bathroom, that like the one I was actually was just of the kitchen, far from the bedrooms.

I got croup a lot as a kid. When I heard Kathleen's cough on Thursday morning I knew exactly what it was. I remember the curious reverberating feeling of the cough ending in a wheeziness. I remember the smell of the steamy bathroom. I remember the thrill of being outside on my swing late at night, long after bedtime, the sky clear and dark, the stars cold and bright. I haven't taken Kathleen outside yet, but we've taken steam breaks three time now. She starts out crying and coughing on my lap and we read Little Bear stories  until her cough loosens and her breathing improves. I turn off the shower and we read one more story as the heat slowly begins to dissipate and the moisture begins to settle. Then back to bed.

Last night, after we steamed her she kept coughing off and on. I thought I'd have to take her down again. Elizabeth has a cold and a cough that kept waking her up last night. At 2:21 A.M. I sat in the rocking chair in Kathleen's room listening to her breathe and cough and nursing Elizabeth. In the nightlight's glow, I could see Kathleen scrunched down at the bottom of her bed. I watched her moving restlessly and waited to see if she would wake up or cry out again. I rocked and rocked with Elizabeth's squirming finally settling near me. I was awake and exhausted. I didn't like the sounds of Kathleen's cough, but I wasn't panicked. I wasn't anxious. I didn't think of the ER or ambulances or ventilators or oxygen. She was sick and uncomfortable and all I thought was that I wanted her—both of them—to feel better.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


I never saw much of Henry in Kathleen. Sometimes other people would tell me they saw a similarity. I was gratified, somehow, that other people made that connection between my children, even if I didn't see it myself.

I see something of Henry's smile in Elizabeth, though, something around the eyes. It makes me happy.

I love her smile simply because it is so big and happy, but I love it too because it reminds me of Henry.

I love it because it links two of my babies together.

I love it because it brings a little Henry into my day when he was starting to seem faded and far, far away.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maybe the moon

Maybe it's because of the full moon last week
or Elizabeth's week of 4:30 A.M., up for the day, wake ups
or too much sugar and caffeine
or hormones.

Maybe it's the approach of May
or the growing pile of things that I'll never use for another baby
or the birthday parties
or a new season, another season without him.

Maybe it's just time for the wall to crack a little again
to breakdown
to let go a little more
to let the tears to flow again.

This past week, sadness has descended like the darkness, settling slowly over me as evening falls. It comes untriggered. It comes for no reason.

The sadness just comes and sits with me. It doesn't bring pictures or say remember when. It just sits with me and pokes a bit at some anxiety. It won't let me sleep, not right away anyway.

I haven't fallen into despair or been bowled over by grief. I've had some lovely, sweet, sunlight and laughter days. But at night, at night sadness come to keep me company. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bye, bye baby group

Today was my last day with Elizabeth at baby group. She'll age out before we are able to get there again. Four months next week.

The woman who runs the group has been asking people how they've changed since their first visit to the group. How have I changed since I first went with Elizabeth? I'm more confident, more adept (mostly) at managing the needs of two children. I'm sleeping more, getting out of the house more. That wasn't my first thought though.

How have you changed since you first came to the group?

My mind went back almost four years to a very different me, to a me who just wanted to be a "normal" mom. I was there with Henry and his oxygen and my fears of surgery and my lists of appointments. I was there with my anger that my baby was born sick and taken away from me before I held him. I was there, clinging to shreds of normalcy and what I expected, feeling all the while like an outsider.

How have you changed since you first came to the group? 

I've learned that having a sick baby isn't the worst thing. I've learned that rather than being strong I'd rather not be tested. I've learned what it is to say goodbye to your baby forever.

I went back with Kathleen. I was awkward, unsure how to talk about Henry, about his life or death. I went back seeking normal again. I was there with a healthy baby, but I was mired deep in grief there at the beginning of year two without Henry.

How have you changed since you first came to the group? 

I've learned how to talk about all my children to people who might never know I have a baby who died. I've learned how to let that be part of my story.

I went back with Elizabeth to have a little focused time with her. I went because I needed to go back to see how far I've come. I needed to see if I could be around other mothers more easily now.

How have you changed since you first came to the group? 
Three and a half years after I first came to the group, I'm relaxing a little into my role. I'm getting used to meeting the needs of two little ones and holding and talking about the one who isn't here. I'm happier and sadder. My heart has a hole that will never fully heal and yet it is so full. 

As I left, today, I thanked Maria for encouraging me and making a safe place for me to talk about Henry, especially when I went with Kathleen and was fumbling and figuring out how to do it. I left feeling good about doing this with all my babies, marveling that Elizabeth will be four months old next week, smiling in the sunshine on the first real spring day we've had.

I drove by the cemetery. My baby is there. I have a baby who died.

That still catches me off guard sometimes.