The Way I See It

I see things. Everyday. Sometimes several times a day, and sometimes they wake me up in absolute terror and heartbreak. I see things I’ve seen before. Things I can’t un-see. They are burned into my retina and into my memories.

I see the nervous look on Tera’s face as she tells me she hasn’t felt the baby move for a while. I tell her I’m sure it’s ok, just eat some sugar and I’ll put Nolan to bed. I see the phone number pop up on my phone. It’s the doctor calling back and telling us to go to the hospital. I see the worried, but not scared look, now on Tera’s face. I see the harried and rushed look my mom has when she gets to our house to stay with Nolan. I see the pitch black night as we get in the car to go.

I see the lights on the road changing from red to green and the way Tera looks at me nervous and a little irritated as I watch the lights change on the ross-streets knowing that I won’t have to touch the brakes. Then there is the bright lights of the hospital. We are there. I see the valet guy in blue grab the keys as we hurry inside. The elevator to the maternity floor. The button…there’s only one.

The desk in front of us where the woman checks us in quickly. She’s a lefty and deftly puts the wristband on Tera. They were expecting us and everything is ready.

The room. There’s a window with the blinds open to the dark night outside and the lights of the city are visible. Tera lays down and nurses swarm. One nurse gets the monitor out. It was blue with Nolan, this time it’s pink. Not sure if that means anything, must just be different at different hospitals. She squirts gallons of that blue ultrasound goop onto Tera and starts looking. She starts on the left. She moves it up. She moves it down. She’s looking worried. Tera isn’t. She looks panicked and says she’ll get ultrasound into the room.

The ultrasound shows us our baby. He’s still breach. But that flicker isn’t there. I’ve seen enough ultrasounds to know what I should be seeing and I’m not.

I see Tera’s eyes scream, her face break, her body slump.

Through my own blurry eyes I see utter pain and agony and confusion and instant sorrow.

Another room. I curl up on the small bed with Tera and see her body heaving with constant sobs. I see the doors open frequently and a flurry of activity. Computer screens with questionnaires being asked and answered and filled out. The white collar as a  chaplain comes in but it’s not the right time. We ask him to go.

I see needles being shoved into my wife’s arms. I see her eyes numb to the pain and numb to the noise of the hustle and bustle going on around us. I see it all. I see everyone that comes in treating my wife the way she needs to be treated; gently and with great care.

I see the white board with all of the medical information on it. And next to my name is Nolan’s with a little heart.

Another chaplain. This time at the right time. I see his comfortable walking shoes, he must be on his feet a lot. The kind look in his eyes as he tells us he can’t answer why bad things happen to good people.

I see piles of paperwork we have to fill out, to figure out. The words on it are still unfathomable to me. Cremation, burial, autopsy. I shouldn’t be seeing any of these words, but ten months later I still am.

I see Tera so badly needing rest but it just isn’t coming.

A stream of people. Doctors and nurses that except for one I couldn’t tell you their names, but I could pick them out of a crowd if I needed to. I don’t know what any of them said. I know they all said it with a tear in their eye and such empathy for Tera.

I see the thermostat. I keep making it colder. Tera needs in colder. I see her face flushed. I see the numbers lower and lower.

I finally see Tera’s eyes close. She’s asleep and I can rest too. I see the door open and the one nurse I remember brings me a blanket. The one act of giving aimed at me.

The hallway. I see it more than I see anything else. The walk to the opposite end past endless closed doors filled with happy people. The walk past the nurses station where everyone, overtime lowers their eyes and pretends not to see me. They think I don’t notice. I do. The freezer full of dozens of flavors of popsicles that Tera desperately craves, and the walk back to the only door on the floor with the picture of a leaf with a raindrop on it. I had never seen this image, but I know what it means.

It’s time. I see the room fill up with those same doctors and nurses. Tera is sick with fear and too many popsicles. Scrubs are thrown at me. Everything is happening around me but I’m not included. An outside observer with a huge stake in what’s happening. I see the gurney rolling down the hall so fast I can’t keep up, and they aren’t waiting for me. The door closes and slams into my shoulder. It should hurt, but I’m running on adrenaline and I’m already in too much pain to notice.

Then it’s the operating room.

Tera is thrown from the gurney to the operating table. Her arms out like she’s on a cross. Even more people. More bright lights. More chaos. I see one nurse shove me to the side. I don’t know what she says. I see Tera in terror as everything is happening to her. My wife, my everything, moves further and further away from me as I’m shoved into the furthest recesses of the room. I’m a part of what’s happening, but apart from it.

Finally that same nurse that gave me the blanket brings me to Tera’s side. We lock eyes and are both so afraid.

More chaos.

Then he’s born. That flash of pink. He’s taken so fast to the scale, to learn anything they can about why he died. He’s pulled away, then brought to us as we’re whisked back to our room.

These visions haunt me. I never said “I saw” in this rambling, stream of consciousness post because I still see it. Every day. None of it happened to me, but I watched it all happen through tear-filled eyes and with a clouded mind.

I don’t know if everything happened the way I see it. But it’s what I see every. Damn. Day.

Conflict

New Year’s Eve has rarely meant much to me. It’s the start of a new year, but it doesn’t change anything other than the number on the calendar. And I thought this year might go by with the same lack of fanfare. I thought it would just be a turn of the calendar page. I thought the holidays were already mercifully over and that this would basically be another day.

I thought wrong. Very wrong.

2018 brought us so much pain, heartbreak and utter agony. It brought a loss we never expected and a crushing weight on my chest that 9 months later keeps me up some nights. It brought a new level of anxiety that I never expected and certainly wasn’t prepared for. It brought a new understanding of the fragility of life and that everything can change in a heartbeat. It brought about a new me that I’m just starting to get to know.

2018 brought so much hurt that I fully expected the change in the calendar to feel like a release, and quite possibly a relief.

I thought wrong. Very wrong.

And that’s because 2018 brought me my son, my Simon. It brought me the only chance I would ever have to hold him, to kiss his nose, to take in how truly perfect he was. It brought a love I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and a love that will make the world a better place.

We thought the last time we celebrated New Year’s Day that it was the year we’d bring home our second son, and I guess it was, but we brought him home in an urn rather than a carseat. So who knows what 2019 will bring.

One thing I am so terrified that it is bringing is distance from Simon. With every day that passes it’s been another day that I don’t have my son with me. And the new page on the calendar is a glaring example showing me a year that I won’t have my son with me. The idea that time just keeps ticking and the world just keeps moving forward is so painful when that means it’s all moving without Simon.

I’ll always and always carry him in my heart. I am so broken that it’s a new year and the first one that I don’t have him to hold in my arms.

The Phenomenon of Excuses

The purpose of this post is NOT to scare anyone away from talking to us. That already happens too much. The purpose is to simply help anyone who wants to talk to us know a little more about what’s going on in our heads. We hear often that people don’t know what to say. I hope this helps.

So an interesting phenomenon has become very apparent to us in the eight months since Simon died. And it’s a frustrating, unfair phenomenon. It’s the phenomenon of excuses.

I’m not talking about us making excuses to avoid parties or other events, though that has happened. I’m not even talking about the excuses others have made to not see the Debbie Downers whose baby died, though I’m certain that has happened as well.

I’m talking about excuses for comments, words, behaviors. Those comments that sting, words that dismiss us or Simon, behaviors that confuse us and make us feel like we are unwanted.

The crazy thing is that the excuses for all of these things don’t even come from the offending person. That would be a bit more palatable. At least then we would have a chance to understand why they do, say (or don’t say) what they did.

But that’s not who makes the excuses.

The excuses come from, well, virtually everyone else.

We confide in someone that this thing someone else said hurt and what is the most common response? “Well I’m sure that’s not what he meant by that.” Or “It was probably meant to be a joke” or even “you shouldn’t take it personally, she just doesn’t think before she speaks.” Yes, I’ve heard some (or all) of these. And these excuses put us in a tough spot.

They put us in a position that we are forced to understand and empathize with a person who said or did something that shows an utter lack of understanding or empathy for us. We get chastised for taking things “the wrong way” but the person who said it doesn’t have to explain the wrong thing they said.

It’s pretty shitty to have to give everyone else the benefit of the doubt when we are the ones deeply hurt by a comment that, even if it wasn’t meant to cut, it did.

She wasn’t thinking about how it would come out? Think about it.

He’s just like that? Grow, evolve as a person.

Don’t take it personally? Not so easy when every nerve ending is on the surface and things I don’t even expect to hurt really do.

We read a book to Nolan called The Rabbit Listened. Nolan loves it. In the book, a kid is sad, and a rabbit sits next to him and simply listens. He doesn’t offer advice or criticism. He just listens. It’s really hard to confide what we are feeling to anyone. What we are looking for when we do is to listen. Let us tell you why it hurt. Let us tell you how something crushed us. Listen, and be there for us.

That’s what we need. We don’t need excuses.

Sunday Dinner

We have always wanted our Sunday dinners to be family time. A time when we make sure all of us are around the table eating together, talking and enjoying each other’s company. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Tonight it was frozen pizza.

Sunday dinner has become something else in our home. It’s still a night we gather together and eat together. It’s still a night we all enjoy each other’s company. But no matter what we do, for the rest of our lives, there will be an empty seat.

We have our family dinner with me, Tera and Nolan. And instead of having Simon sitting with us, we have a candle.

It’s a tradition we started VERY shortly after our son died. To light a candle in his perfect shattered votive. It’s a tradition that I am so glad we started and so glad we do. It allows us a dinner with Simon, and it is a time to think of him together as a family. And I’m so angry that instead of him, we have a candle.

Tonight as I sat down, it was already burning. I looked at it, and I lost it. I couldn’t stop crying. It was anger and denial and depression and a whole lot of other feelings that don’t fit the “stages of grief” that everyone seems to think you go through and get better. It was uncontrollable.

And while I was bawling, Nolan said that “when Simon gets here, he’ll sit on my lap!” He was so earnest and so proud of himself for offering up his lap. He had a big smile. And I had to tell him (as I could barely talk) that Simon isn’t coming home. That his little brother’s body stopped working and that he died. That he won’t, in fact, get to dress up as firefighters for Halloween with his brother. That his brother won’t be in the carseat next to him as we drive to the cabin. That his brother won’t get to play with him in the tub on Sunday night bath-nights.

Instead we have a candle. A fucking candle.

 

An Empathetic Child

Tonight was a guys night. Tera is out for sushi with a friend, so what does that mean? Ice cream. And not just any ice cream. Little Man ice cream. (Why not big man ice cream, was Nolan’s question.) The long line, the beautiful just-barely-fall evening, the two-and-a-half year old that everyone else said was being such a good boy waiting like he did. It was a picture-perfect evening.

See? Perfect.

We laughed and joked. We ate ice cream. Nolan wanted chocolate, in a cone. After we finished, he played on the slide. He was nothing short of amazing tonight.

And that continued when we made it back to the car.

We were about to get back in and our little guy said something that I will never forget. He looked up at me with the most earnest, loving look I think I’ve ever seen and said “I wish Simon was at ice cream with us.”

Needless to say the tears started immediately.

I said I wish he was with us too. It was a great guys night at ice cream, but having Simon with us would have made it even better.

Nolan climbed into his car seat (by himself,now that he’s bigger) and again, he blew my mind. “Simon would sit there in his car seat and I sit here in my car seat, and we laugh.”

I wanted to make sure I heard him right,so I asked him to repeat himself. He said “I want Simon in his car seat right there and we laugh.”

Waterworks.

They wouldn’t stop.

What seemed like 20 minutes pass, it was probably 2 minutes, before I could put the car in drive and head home. The whole time we sat there waiting,Nolan asked my if I was sad. What I missed. I said I miss Simon. Nolan said he doesn’t, but he wishes Simon was here. Me too, Nolan. Me too.

Tera and I have been talking a lot about how to raise an empathetic kid. One that understands emotion. One that understands how having his little brother around would make his life, our lives, more complete.

I don’t know what we’ve done. I couldn’t write a book giving anyone else advice. I sometimes feel like there are some people who were born with the “empathy chip”, as I call it, and some who weren’t.

Nolan has it. He might even have an extra one.

Doing the Dishes

When Tera was pregnant with Nolan, we decided we needed to pick jobs. We would both change diapers and we’d rotate who’s turn it was to wake up in the middle of the night, but some jobs (for obvious reasons) were not possible for me to do. So I picked some others that would be all me.

One was dishes.

I’ve never minded washing dishes, and Tera hates it. Easy choice. And a lot of dishes, as it turns out. I did my research on best practices, how often to sterilize the bottles, and weeks before Nolan was born, I started boiling bottles. From that moment on, I washed dishes every night. Sometimes it seemed like I was doing it all night. It was the job I took on, and I did it well.

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Another job that became mine was the emergency runner. We need diapers late at night? I’m on it. Formula won’t last through tomorrow? Got it. A nose sucker at 11pm because Nolan had a cold and wasn’t sleeping? I’ll be back soon. I knew the baby aisles of every grocery store, Target and Walgreens in the metro area. It was another job that was mine, and I did it well. And often.

As Simon’s due date drew nearer, I geared up. I refreshed my memory on bottle sanitization. I made a pact with myself to always have enough gas in the car to get to and from Safeway without having to stop.

I wasn’t “as ready as I can be” like you hear all people say as they are expecting a child. I was just ready.

A few weeks ago, we realized we didn’t need all of the “grass” we had on the counter. We were able to pare down the drying racks and we now have one small rack. Plenty for Nolan’s cups. I put the rest of it in the crawl space.

As I trudged under the house, I sobbed. The grass I was putting away should be full right now. Of freshly washed bottles, and nipples, and pump parts. It should be in high demand, not gathering dust.

A few days ago, we ran out of milk. Nolan needs his milk the moment he wakes up, and we didn’t have a drop. So I made an emergency run. And when I got to Safeway, I was halfway to the building from the parking lot, and I turned around. I went back to my car, and I cried.

I wasn’t making a midnight trip to make sure Simon had diapers. And I would never make that trip.

My jobs, the ones I chose and was so ready for were taken from me. I’m not the all night dishwasher, and I’m not the emergency runner.

I was beyond ready to take on those tasks again and to do absolutely anything and everything I needed to do to care for my son. And now I’m still ready. I’m just not sure what for.

Reaching Out, or Not

I’ve learned a lot about grief since Simon died. Buying an urn for the son you never got to bring home is a nearly impossible task that you have no choice but to do days after losing him. Grief messes with your body’s ability to function physically. When you have a toddler at home, you have no choice but to power on and function anyway. Grief is utterly exhausting.

And grief is isolating.

It keeps you locked up in your home, your bubble. It needs the calm, the peace, the space. And it is scary to invite someone in.

It takes a lot of work, even now, 5 months later, to be around people. At work, I have no choice. I am around people all day, and it is exhausting. To keep up the charade that I am feeling ok. To talk, and listen, and retain what needs to be retained. To be creative, and for me the most difficult thing is to be organized. My brain is a jumble most of the time. Thoughts, fears, should haves and could haves. There’s a lot that demands attention.

I say all of that to say this. Odds are good I’m not calling you. I don’t have the energy and I don’t often have the inclination to sit and chat. Or at least I don’t have that when I am the one picking up the phone. I need your help in that. WE need your help. Your calls, your out of the blue “check-in” texts. Your contact. It’s not that I don’t want or need it, I just can’t typically initiate it.

And another thing.

Tera, and I live in this new world. This world of grief that I wish no one had to live in. But we do. Every damn day. A call or a text looks to us like an acknowledgement that you, too are ready to climb down the hole and join us.

We are (almost) always ready to talk. About how we’re doing, how Nolan is doing, about Simon. But we aren’t going to drag you kicking and screaming into the hole with us.

Imagine if you will. You’re at a family BBQ have a great time, drinking some beers and playing yard games. Your phone rings. It’s me, so naturally you answer, wondering if I need anything or whatever. I start to unload about my terrible day and the awful (or not awful) thing that happened that made me think of Simon and break down.

That’s a pretty shitty thing for me to do right? To mess up your perfectly lovely day to dump all over you? I think it is. Truly.

But if you’re ready to ask me those questions and you really care about the answers, I’d love for you to call, text, etc. I’d love to talk about Simon and how we are all doing.

With anyone that wants to listen.