If you’re stumbling on this blog because of my story in Spark: A Creative Anthology, there are a few things you should know.
First, I tend to blog more when I’m upset about something. As a result, my recent posts paint an unfair picture of me as a rather bitter and resentful person. Obviously I’m still grieving Christian’s death, but my day-to-day life is pretty mundane. I don’t actually sit around sobbing, shouting, or otherwise suffering. My grief has become a part of me that I can deal with most of the time. Of course, there are incredibly painful moments, but those are nicely spaced out so I’m not overwhelmed. They just happen to be the times when I have something to say, so it ends up here. I promise, though, I’m doing well. I feel plenty of joy and happiness and sometimes even boredom along with the grief.
Second, my oldest brother, Brian, is the genius behind Spark. He had the idea several months ago of using my posts about Christian in Volume III, and he did all the editing that made the story worthy of publishing. It’s beautiful! I think of it as one of the wonderful things that has resulted from Christian’s death.
Third, I started a blog in 2005. It’s still here, deep down in the archives. Don’t feel tempted to go back that far. I was much younger, much less mature, and a much less interesting person than I am now. I’ll summarize the last 9 years for you: Jarom and I dated, got engaged, got married, had Evan, had June, graduated (Jarom with a law degree, I with a bachelor’s degree), bought a house, got a dog, lost Christian. Somewhere in there I also read a lot of books.
Fourth, I really want to help other families who have lost a baby. If you know someone whose baby has died or will die, please send them here! Keep this blog in the back of your mind, because eventually, you or a friend will run into someone else facing the loss of their child. And you can tell them about my blog, that there is a person ready and willing to talk about the experience and listen with real sympathy. Please let me help.
Fifth, a list of four things just didn’t seem long enough. I don’t have much to say for a fifth item. On Monday I rearranged our bedroom furniture (again). I get restless every so often, and I need a big change. My options are usually to rearrange furniture, make a big purchase, go on a road trip, have another kid, get a haircut, or go crazy. Most of those weren’t possible this time, though – I’ve already made a few big purchases this year, I just got back from a road trip, having another kid is really not an option at the moment, and I love my long hair. Oh, and going crazy just isn’t fun. So I got rid of our big desk (I used it for a work space, but I’m not doing any art for a while) and cleared out the clutter that always ends up in our room. Now the bed is made and there are very few things in here – just what I wanted.
Sixth, I thought of one more thing. Isn’t Jarom the hero of the story? He is incredible. This is my favorite picture from our day in the hospital.
Once upon a time, someone did something nice for me.
It was this past April. The person was Amy, the volunteer bereavement coordinator at the hospital where we had Christian. The thing was putting together the memento box I so dearly love.
The box changed a lot of things for me – first and foremost, it gave me direction and purpose. I wanted to help make these boxes for others when I felt ready.
Yesterday I was having a very emotional day. Good feelings and sad feelings. Mostly I felt like I wanted to start helping. I do so much better when I help. So I called Amy. She told me its a very nice idea, but she has pretty much everything she needs and she rarely gets called in to make a box, so she wasn’t sure what I could do. Suggestion #1 was to make tiny baby gowns, much tinier than the one Christian wore. There are lots of people who donate diapers and hats and blankets, but Amy said the majority of the babies she helps with are born between 16 and 18 weeks gestation. They’re about the length of your hand, and it’s hard to sew something so little.
Suggestion #2 was that I contact the Timpanogos hospital. Amy had offered to provide her services there a while ago, but the nurses said they took care of everything and maybe she could just give them her supplies. She declined, since many of the blankets and clothes are made by families who lost babies at the Payson hospital (where Christian was born) and are intended for other families at the same hospital. But, Amy said, they might be ready for someone now.
So I called Timpanogos. The labor and delivery nurse said they actually had an infant death this morning and were just talking about how nice it would be to have someone there to help, since usually the nurses and techs take care of things. Suggestion #3 was that I get in touch with Angel Watch, the group they call when there’s an emergency situation.
I got ahold of Carolyn, the director of Angel Watch. She’s based more in Salt Lake and gave me suggestion #4: that I call Heather, who heads up the Utah Valley branch of Angel watch and who also oversees a group called Common Bonds that meets once a month in Provo. I’d heard of Common Bonds, and we actually went to one event – the day before Mother’s Day, they had a brunch and balloon release. I put my name on the email list but never heard anything from them.
Heather was very nice but told me apologetically that they have two full-time employees who take care of things in the hospital, and they don’t allow volunteers to go. Suggestion #5 was that I make a blanket to donate.
These are all good things. Making blankets and diapers and gowns – all helpful. All kind. All thoughtful.
But allow me to be bitter for a moment. What made the box special for me was that it was put together by a mom who’d experienced the loss of her baby. She joined me in my suffering. She took pictures of Christian and made casts of his hands and feet. Regardless of who made the gown and blanket that Christian wore, Amy was the one who was physically present and who used her experience to provide a meaningful gift.
I’m not saying this well. Basically, anyone can make a blanket. It doesn’t matter if you’ve ever lost a baby or not. And a nurse could have done all the things Amy did. But they were meaningful because Amy did them. She knew what I was going through. She knew how important that box would be.
So I find myself more than a little heartbroken that there’s no way for me to accomplish what Amy did. It isn’t a matter of recognition or praise I want for my efforts – it’s the idea of joining another family in their suffering, because it will mean more from me than from a nurse who’s never lost a baby. It’s the role I can fill. It’s what I can offer.
And I’m sad that no one wants to accept my offer.
To be overly dramatic, I feel like I’ve lost my meaning now.
Do you know what time of year it is? Here, it’s The Week When The Leaves All Fall Off The Chestnut Tree At Once. If you’ve been to our house, you know how enormous the tree is. It has a lot of leaves. And they’re currently all scattered beautifully on our lawn.
Okay, in a way it is beautiful, and I like the idea of just letting them be. Who decided it’s better to have carefully maintained green grass than to let nature go how it goes? I know, I know, social norms dictate that I take care of the landscaping and keep the yard tidy. So I realize that right now, it just looks messy – not carefree and autumn-y.
But aside from the hours of raking involved in getting the lawn cleared, here’s the real reason I’m leaving the leaves: it brings back painful memories.
Last year, the leaves dutifully fell down in the first week of November. Then it snowed, pretty immediately after. I couldn’t really rake when the yard was covered in a few inches of snow. And we left for our Thanksgiving family reunion in Southern California before the snow melted. Once we got back, of course, the snow was gone and our yard looked painfully embarrassingly unkempt. All those leaves!
But by the following week we had sunny weather again, so I got out the rake, bundled up the kids, and spent about 3 hours clearing the leaves.
The problem: it was just a few days after I’d found out I was pregnant. I was more tired than usual, so the fact that I buckled down and raked for hours was noteworthy.
When I think about that afternoon, it feels heartbreakingly naive and innocent. I was excited for a new baby. I was impressed with myself for doing yard work. I had no idea what anguish the coming months would hold.
I thought by this fall, I’d have a baby at home. I’d talk Jarom into raking the leaves because I’d be inside, bouncing a little one or pulling my hair out because the baby just wouldn’t go to sleep.
It seems like I did well in the time between my due date (early August) and the six-month mark of Christian’s death (late October). These days, though, I can’t help but think of what things were like this time last year – so full of hope and excitement. I miss that. I’m sad it ended so tragically. And I don’t want to rake my leaves.