With Christian’s birthday two weeks away, I’ve been thinking a lot about the short time we had with him. One of my fears is that my memories of the day of his birth and death will fade. It isn’t possible to remember everything in detail, so I have reflected on the memories that stand out.
I remember how miserable I was physically. I hadn’t slept, I wasn’t allowed to eat, I had an intense headache, it was (understandably) a very long labor, for a while it looked like I would need an emergency C-section, and I was exhausted. In looking back I feel like my physical state had a huge impact on my emotional reaction once Christian was born. For better or worse, the sheer exhaustion dampened my emotions. When I think about the hours between his birth and going home, it seems like I was numb. Maybe part of that is the way the memories have changed over the years – in the photos we have of that evening, I am expressionless. I don’t remember strong emotions.
But at the same time, I do remember the mounting terror of not hearing Christian’s heartbeat. I can imagine the nurses’ faces as they tried to filter out my own heartbeat to find his.
And I remember the agony of waiting for the nurses to put him in my arms. The two longest moments of my life have been (1) when Christian was born, and he lay on the hospital bed; and (2) when Ramona was born with the cord around her neck, and the nurses took her from my arms to try getting her to breath. Those two memories are inextricably linked in my mind. I know that in reality, it was probably only 20 seconds before the nurse handed Christian to me, but it felt like a terribly long lifetime.
I remember one of the nurses giving me the stethoscope later in the evening to listen to Christian’s fading heartbeat. I couldn’t hear it. The nurse could, and Jarom could, but not me. I was probably too numb at the time to feel guilt. I certainly feel it now.
With intense feeling, I remember giving Christian, wrapped in a lovingly made blanket, to the nurse when we were ready to leave. I feel the anxiety and despair of handing him over, knowing I would never hold him again. I wish a hundred times I could go back to the moment before he left my arms. I can’t say for sure if I watched the nurse walk down the hallway or if I’ve invented the memory, but I can picture her walking out of the room, quietly carrying him downstairs to the morgue.
I have good memories, too. Tender ones. I remember my parents and in-laws spending what must have been, for them, an overwhelmingly difficult and long day with us in the hospital. I remember my dad giving me a massage to ease my headache. I remember my mom standing at the side of the bed, rubbing my arm. I remember her helping me take out my earrings when it looked like I might need a C-section, and later put them back in. I remember my mother- and father-in-law holding Christian with such love.
I remember my doctor sitting, almost reverently, after he delivered Christian, while we blessed and washed our son. He called me a few days later to express his condolences again and to ask how the funeral service was. I have sent a Christmas card to his office every year since.
Despite my misery and ungratefulness at the time, I remember the nurses who did everything in their power to help me. They followed the birth plan I brought with me. They cared for me even when I was rude to them. They stayed past the end of their shifts when my labor dragged on. One of the nurses was assigned to me when Ramona was born, and she remembered Christian. That is all I could ask for.
And I remember the bereavement volunteer who stayed with us. Her own son had died years before in a very similar situation. It wasn’t that she set her own feelings aside, but she used her experience to help guide me through mine. I have never felt so much that someone was joining me in my sorrow rather than watching from the outside. She knew what I was feeling, and she let me feel that grief without trying to cheer me up or distract me or minimize my agony. I have shared this particular memory with only a few people: when she was packing up her things to leave, as the nurses were preparing my discharge paperwork, she asked if there was anything else I needed. I shook my head, and with a slight catch in her voice, she gently said, “You just want him back, right?” She knew the pain. She voiced it. I will never forget how meaningful that was to me.
I remember the friends and family who spent all day cleaning my house, who took Evan and June so we could focus on Christian, who brought meals and flowers and love. I remember the neighbor who showed up at my house unannounced about a week later – probably knowing that I would have said “Thanks, but I’m fine” if she had offered to help first. She started a load of laundry, put dinner in the oven, visited with me, and then took Evan and June for the rest of the afternoon. I use this as an example every time someone asks how they can help a friend whose baby has passed away.
I remember one of Jarom’s law school professors coming to the funeral. Nothing had been announced at the school – it was about a year after Jarom graduated – but she had seen the notice in the newspaper. It has always made me feel like there is an extensive network of people who care about this sorrow of ours. We aren’t alone in remembering.
That is what I ask you to do – remember with me.
Doubleplusgood Day. April 24. Do something nice. It doesn’t have to be big. But please tell me your good deed so I can record it in my little book of beautiful things that are done to help remember Christian.
New to my story? Start here.
Fair warning, this is a poorly written collection of about 4 blog posts I’ve thought about recently, and because I’m an adult (really! I have kids and a mortgage and I think midnight is late!) I’m not even going to go back and edit for clarity, or typos. Take that!
Alright. First is this idea about how being willing to try new things is better than…not being willing. See, no editing! It’s a virtue to be brave and adventurous and to seek out new things (new worlds, new civilizations). This is not a virtue I possess so naturally I was considering how to argue that it isn’t necessarily such an amazing trait. Or, at the very least, it isn’t necessarily such a flaw to dislike trying new things. I already have a lengthy mental list of my flaws, ranging from minor to “Why on earth does anyone ever voluntarily interact with me,” and if I can knock one of the list, cool. Because I really am not one to go new places, eat new foods, meet new people, try new…anything. What do you think? Character flaw or just personality?
Next, there was some real issue I wanted to write about but it’s drifting around the edges of my memory like slow motion dandelion fluff. I remember feeling hesitant to bring it up as it was a somewhat divisive subject, but it wasn’t politics or religion. Hmm.
Well, moving on. We’re coming up on my 5 least favorite weeks of the year – between the time we got Christian’s diagnosis to the day he was born/died. To counteract how lousy these weeks make me feel, Jarom and I host Doubleplusgood Day, where we ask friends, family, and strangers to do an act of service in Christian’s honor. You probably already knew that. This year I want to make it big. Maybe I’ll tell a local news station about it? Doubtful, but one year I might. I do want to get a lot of people involved this year – so now’s a good time to start telling your friends about it. April 24. If you’re in Utah county, you can even come by my house and get a free cookie in exchange for telling me about your good deed. Last year for my doubleplusgood deed, I took cookies to the labor & delivery nurses at the hospital where we had Christian. Terrible idea, since it was the first time I’d been back, and I was pregnant and emotional. Now that I have Ramona, I’m a lot more willing to go to the labor & delivery floor, so I might take cookies to the nurses every year as part of my deed. Everyone likes free cookies.
Here’s my oversharing for today. In February 2013 I started taking Zoloft for anxiety. My doctor increased my dosage after I found out Christian was going to die, and wow I’m glad because the depression after Christian was already overwhelming. But the Zoloft also made me gain weight, and keep gaining weight. Then finally I was pregnant with Ramona and gained a lot more weight. In the first month after she was born, I went down 25 lbs (I had gone up 55 lbs during pregnancy, which was actually typical for me). And then stalled. I’m not motivated enough to do real things like eat better or exercise, so I can’t complain too much about not losing weight, right? I switched from Zoloft to Wellbutrin a few months ago, and even though I’m still not trying to change any of my habits, I’ve been losing weight. Slowly. Now I’m 17 lbs from my pre-Ramona weight, which is still 25 lbs over my pre-Christian weight. One of these days I might start caring enough to make use of our exercise bike, or take the dog on walks, or walk to the park with June and Ramona. I definitely won’t stop eating the foods I love – I want my life to be happy and full of the joy that baked goods bring. But I’m feeling encouraged by the Wellbutrin-induced weight loss.
Lastly, I’m currently listening to the audio book of The Runaway Jury, my favorite John Grisham novel. I would love to serve on a jury, but Jarom says that as a lawyer’s wife I never will. BOO.
Since they shut down Google Reader, I don’t really read blogs anymore, which also diminishes my motivation to write blog posts. Curse you, Google! (shakes fist)
That being said, here are several things that have happened since I last blogged, in no particular order:
1. We had a new baby. Her name is Ramona and she has strawberry-blonde (or, as Evan calls it, mango-colored) hair. At some point I’ll write about her birth and stuff like that but, for now, Ramona is here and that’s what I have to say on the matter.
2. We were planning to take the train to California for Christmas, but the cost of the rooms on the train (with a new baby, we realllllly needed one) plus a hotel room plus plus plus . . . we ended up just staying here for the holidays. June got a dress-up box full of very frilly skirts and tiaras and wands and bracelets. (I am not trying to over-the-top reinforce gender roles; it’s also ok if skirts and tiaras are what June likes. That’s the beauty of feminism.) Evan got a robot frilled lizard (frilly things for everyone, apparently) and the promise of starting parkour lessons with his best friend.
3. Evan started parkour lessons today! I went in to fill out a waiver (which I DID read thoroughly before signing) and June was so entranced by the gymnastics classes that we stayed the whole hour, even though I had Ramona with me and would have liked to go home and feed her someplace comfy like my couch. Evan had SO MUCH FUN. It was adorable to watch him. He’s by far the smallest in the class. He couldn’t stop talking about how great parkour lessons are – so I think it was a success as a present. Jarom got a Fitbit (I have one too!) and a smoker (with the caveat that he is required to learn how to make really good ribs). My big gift is a trip to visit my sister-in-law, with just Ramona, no other kids – for a whole week!
4. My sister-in-law moved to Washington :( and after seeing pictures of her house and giant, giant, giant foresty yard I’m working on a plan to get us moved out there too.
5. June is very reluctant to start kindergarten this fall. I’m not sure what her deal is, although she’s offered excuses like “I’ll miss you too much” and “I want to go to the ivy school instead of Evan’s school.” Last year a Montessori preschool opened up in a cute yellow house covered in ivy down the street from us, and I guess I mentioned something about it to June. I was pregnant at the time, so I don’t take much responsibility for how rational I was being.
6. I can’t describe how much June loved watching the gymnastics, tumbling, and cheerleading classes at the parkour place. She begged me to let her start gymnastics. I said first she’d have to stop fussing about kindergarten, but that confused her and she thought I meant she had to start kindergarten first. I don’t know, June, we’re in the middle of a huge building with tons of kids doing incredibly dangerous things and it’s loud and I’m having lots of anxiety and can we talk about this later?
7. I switched my anxiety medication about a month ago and while there’s been a lot of rough patches with the transition, the best part is that I no longer feel exhausted all the time. I can make it through the day without a nap, I can get out of bed in the morning, and I want to paint. That’s a big and wonderful change.
8. Next month Evan will turn 7. Over the past 3 years, since we bought our house, there have been lots of room swaps. Sometimes Evan is in the bigger bedroom, sometimes he’s in the littler bedroom, sometimes he and June share the bigger bedroom. But I finally put my foot down and said NO MORE SHARING (not long before #9 happened). Evan was initially excited to have the “cozy” little room but it wasn’t long before he had very hurt feelings about it. We hadn’t moved everything out of the room from it being a storage room/Ramona’s eventual room, so there wasn’t a ton of space for his things. A few weeks ago Jarom helped clear it out and we started letting Evan have the dog sleep with him. For Evan’s birthday, we’re going to get a loft bed, move out the rest of the storage things, put up some posters, maaaaaaaybe paint a wall or two, actually organize the little closet in a way that’s useful for Evan, and put his desk under the loft bed. All in secret while he’s away for the night! I hope he loves it.
9. In a terrible bedtime drama mishap, June gouged a big chunk out of the bridge of her nose. I took her to the ER for stitches. I’m crossing my fingers that the scar fades, because it looks quite Frankenstein-y at the moment. How shallow of me is that?
10. Also, Evan broke his arm when Ramona was about 2 weeks old. That was another fun ER trip. It’s healed now, though.
11. Ramona laughed once when Jarom was tickling her, a week or two before Christmas; she laughed at her reflection in the mirror twice last week. Otherwise she makes this face that ought to be accompanied by peals of laughter, but she’s silent. Come on, Ramona! JUST LAUGH! She’s ridiculously easygoing, everyone loves her, she sleeps through the night, and I feel like we hit the jackpot here.
12. I didn’t blog when we hit 2.5 years since Christian was born/died. Partly I was caught up with a beautiful new baby, partly I didn’t want to force it on everyone, and partly – like I said before – I just don’t blog anymore. But I did note the day, and, while I wasn’t as sad as I’ve been in the past, it was still hard to think of what Christian would have been like at Ramona’s age. Or as a rambunctious two-and-a-half-year-old. What would he think of Ramona?
13. We didn’t get any family pictures done last year. :( I wanted to wait until Ramona was born, but then Evan broke his arm, and June busted up her nose, and Ramona was really jaundiced. In another shallow move, I’m waiting until we’re all a little nicer looking (and that includes my extra chub – I mean, comfy padding – from the past 3 years).
What have you been up to since the beginning of the school year?
New books: 8 ( 3,313 pages )
Charlie Holmberg, The Paper Magician
A.G. Riddle, The Atlantis Gene
Tim Westover, Auraria
Jhumpa Lahiri, The Namesake
John Scalzi, Lock In
Stephen King, 11-22-63
Ernest Cline, Ready Player One
Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven