Our Blessings

Sunday, November 29, 2015

raw truth revisited

When I was in my deepest grief, I would write all the time.  Sometimes I would spend hours writing long entries, pouring out my broken heart, and sometimes I would just write one-liners which I called "raw truths."  Some of the really heartbreakingly memorable ones still haunt me, such as "there's a memory box in our bassinet" and "why the f**k are we planning a funeral?"  At the time I didn't block out the swear words: they were my raw, true feelings and I needed to get them out (although it was John who said that particular one).

I still have that deep grief, but it is so much more easily processed and healed by my many blessings in life, namely my two living children.  That by no means indicates that these children have replaced her; they just reminded me that there can still be joy in life amidst such a devastating loss.

I was already an anxious person before Kathlyn died.  I am a worrier by nature.  I think I was destined to worry endlessly about my children, as everyone does.  But some of my worries were going to be completely unfounded and difficult for the people around me to reassure me about them.  I believe it was already going to be this way.... and then my child died.  My first child, my healthy child, before I even got the chance to be a doting and worrying mother, I had to bear the burden of being a grieving one.  I never had a fighting chance to be a normal, easy-going kind of worrier about my children!  I know many of my worries are extreme and ridiculous... but MY CHILD DIED.  I don't really feel the need to apologize anymore.  I am going to worry.  And I've earned it.

Alex has been having a hard time sleeping lately.  He resists his naps, he resists his crib, and he's such a light sleeper.  If he falls asleep in the car, he wakes up if someone talks too loud. (Four year old sister next to him = quintessential loud person.)  He wakes if the radio turns off, if the car stops, if the car gives that annoying ding ding ding if the headlights are on or if my keys are in the ignition and the door opens.  He wakes up if the garage door opens or closes.  Transferring to or from crib/carseat/lap/absolutely anywhere --- very unlikely to go smoothly! If he's asleep in my bed with me, if I adjust my position or heaven forbid, get up to go to the bathroom.. he wakes.  All these frustrating things about parenthood I am so thankful to have the luxury of suffering.  I wanted this, I waited for this, and I welcome this.  I would much rather have this terribly light sleeper than to not have him at all.  He has earned the names "grumpy pants", "Mr. No Nap" and many others.

Last evening, after having no nap (shocking!), he fell asleep early (for him) on my lap on the couch.  I spent some time just sitting with him and letting him sleep because #1, he's my baby and I love to snuggle him :)   And #2, because I was afraid if I put him in his crib, he would simply just wake up again and I'd have to start over with the bedtime process.  Mommy wants to rest too!  As John was getting off the couch to go to bed, I asked him to move Alex to his crib, as he usually has more success with the transfer than I do.  It worked!  He was so tired, he went straight into the crib with no fuss.  When I went to bed, I didn't even check on either of my children!  Glory had gotten up once already to use the bathroom, and sometimes simply just hearing me tiptoe on the creaky floor towards his room will cause Alex to wake.  I assumed John had turned Alex's monitor on: it measures movement (including breathing) and alarms if 15 seconds passes with no movement.  Which by the way, was a safety feature, a crutch, a reassuring piece of baby equipment I purchased when I was pregnant with Kathlyn BEFORE I had even lost a child.  Worriers love reassurance.  Certainly it's not fool-proof, it's not even reccommended by the AAP to prevent SIDS, but it always helped me sleep easier knowing that I would be alerted if my baby stopped moving.

Every morning between 5 and 9, Glory comes to our bed and sleeps with us for the rest of the morning.  This has always been how it is for her: I used to come home from work and bring her to my bed to nurse her so I could sleep for a few hours after being up all night.  Usually Alex wakes up at some point during that time as well.  Usually when I've worked, he hears me come home and cries to get up.  If I'm not working, I usually hear him stir once in the night earlier than that, and usually I ignore it and he will settle back down.  Last night, he never stirred.  He never cried or made any noise.  He was so tired!  When John left to go work at the church this morning, he didn't wake then either.  It had been 9 hours straight at that point.  Great!  He's finally getting some solid sleep that he so desperately needs.  I went back to sleep in my bed and as always, Glory was next to me.  Another hour passed.  I woke up thinking, is he ok in there?  I went back to sleep, another hour passed.  11 hours... this is SO unusual, and only getting more and more unsettling for me.  At 11 and a half hours straight with absolutely no noise from my son, there was really only one answer:  he must be dead.

I was avoiding getting up to check on him because I really did not want this news.  I did not want to have to grieve like that again.  I did not want to have to call my husband AGAIN to tell him our child has died.   Yes, it's true.  It's the raw truth: this is where the brain of a chronic lifetime worrier who has already lost a child goes:  they must be dead.  It happens when someone we love goes any length of time not answering their phone or is later arriving home than usual.  And I'm not even going to scratch the surface to what it's like being married to a police officer on top of all this.

I got out of bed (the whole two feet of the king sized bed left for me after my daughter has snuggled in "the middle" next to me).  I walked halfway down our long hall, and it creaked.  Back to regular form, Alex heard this very low decibel of noise.  He popped immediately up in his crib and as I rounded the corner into his doorway, he reached up high and said "Mama!"  What music to my ears, what a sight for sore eyes.  I wonder how much longer he would have slept if he had a different, non-worrying mother or didn't have a dead older sibling.  I would like to believe that he wouldn't trade me, HIS MAMA, for the world.  Or for another hour of sleep.

So it all turned out ok.  He wasn't dead.  My heart can relax for the moment, but I will continue to worry.  I have read too many blogs detailing the first part of this story: the normal daily process for someone's children, how their day was going business as usual but that one day, something is slightly amiss, and it turns out, the child was found dead under a pillow, or tangled in the bumpers of their crib, hanging in the window blinds, or face down in a puddle in the backyard.  These worst nightmares are reality for some parents.

I do my best not to live life just assuming all these worse-case scenarios are happening right under my feet.  They certainly do happen, perhaps more often than people even want to imagine, and with just one-too-many unexpected losses, I can't seem to help myself.  I know the best solution is just to lay my burden down in prayer, and to find comfort in other places like writing it out and with the support of family and friends.

Thank you for reading.