My first- born son would have had his 15th (!!) birthday earlier this month, and while it has definitely gotten easier over the years, sometimes it just suddenly hits me & I have to have a good cry. Seems tonight is that time for me. I didn't cry on his birthday, or on his death day this year, but tonight, as I was getting ready for bed, I suddenly felt the need to go pull down the album and look at old pictures and cry about my loss. It really helps to be able to talk or write about it, too. I know that many of you have experienced similar losses, and I am grateful for the forum here to vent without feeling guilty for bringing others down or feeling awkward and out of place. This turned into a very long rambling out of order story of my son's death. I really don't expect anyone to read it all, but if you think it might help you get through your grief, by all means, read away.
It is somewhat strange to think back to the time right after Alex passed, and to be able to remember with an oddly detached clarity the feelings that were so raw and all-consuming. It is like watching a movie, where you can feel empathy with the main character, but it is not your life. And the actual events are all a blur. I only remember odd snippets of the funeral: that it was cold, an old lady told me that I was young enough to have another child, that I was surprised when my college roommate was there. I know there was a long drive out to the cemetery, but I absolutely don't remember anything about it. People told me later that the police and sheriff stopped all traffic at every intersection we passed, because my husband and in-laws were law-enforcement. I remember that my husband's entire fraternity showed up at the funeral. These are random things that I rarely think of, and really have no connection to anything in my current life at all. But I'm thinking of them now, at 3 am, for some reason.
I remember when he died, of course. Just before was the second time I'd left him since they allowed me in the NICU. Both times were ordered by the doctors, I think. At that point, everybody knew we were just waiting. It hadn't occurred to me, I don't think. Or it hadn't sunk in, I guess. I know that I knew, because my husband told me that he wasn't going to live. I have no memory of the words that he used to tell me, but I do remember the visceral feelings, the shock, and the pain. I think I slept for a short time right before they called me back into the NICU. I hadn't slept in .... days ... I had labored for 40 hours, then had a c-section, and then I'd been in the NICU for 16 hours. I remember that a nurse turned the lights on and told me they needed me in the NICU. I had left Alex with my mother and mother-in-law. The first and only time either of them got to hold him. I remember the sense of urgency. The wonderful people at the hospital had procured a rolling reclining chair (I have no idea what the story on that was, but it was wonderful, because I could just stay in it rather than be moved). They put me in the chair and we flew down the hallway. I think the lights were dimmed when we arrived. My mom was holding him, and she gave him to me. They- I don't remember who- maybe my mom said that his heart rate was dropping and that they thought it would be soon. I think there were people around me, but other than my husband and mom, I don't know who. I just held Alex. And then he stopped breathing. His heart stopped beating, and I just held him and cried. I have no idea how long I sat there. Time really didn't exist to me- it hadn't for about 50 hours, but it seemed to really freeze up when I was in that room. At some point, I put his body on a warming table. I think we dressed him.Which seems odd now. I'm not sure why we did that, but someone must have suggested it, and so that's what we did. I just realized... that I don't remember leaving that room. I have absolutely no recollection of turning away from him, or of returning to my room. I guess part of me never did.
I do remember being so alone afterwards. For a really long time. My husband wasn't allowed in my tiny hospital bed, nor would he have fit, but I remember needing him to hold me, and wanting to have physical contact so badly that it actually hurt. For weeks, or maybe months afterward, my arms literally ached- a physical pain, because they were supposed to be holding my baby. I had a picture of my husband holding our son, and I put it in a sheet protector and kept it with me always. I would stare at that picture for hours, and cry. I cried so much it felt like a lake would form in our tiny apartment. Eventually, it got so that I was able to go short periods without crying, and then longer and longer ones. I was able to get a job a few months later, but not a moment went by that I wasn't thinking of Alex. I think that probably lasted a year or more, before I would have short periods, when I was busy, especially, when I actually wouldn't think about him. Slowly, that amount of time lengthened, until I had another baby, 6 years later. I thought of Alex more while I was pregnant, of course. And the stupid f*!king midwives used Alex's death to force me into a repeat c-section, but my next baby was born kicking and screaming. He's 8 now, and we have a 3 year-old as well. They know about their older brother in Heaven, and I sometime think that he might be watching us.
Now, I rarely cry about Alex. Honestly, I don't think about him every day, or even every week. I do still divide my life into "before" or "after", and I feel a strong connection to other people who have lost a child. I do think that I am emotionally less reactive than I used to be. I don't make close attachments very easily, and I think it probably hindered my ability to attach to my other two children, especially at first. Of course, in other ways, it has made my attachment to them stronger. I will always love Alex, of course. I miss him, and I wonder what he would be like if he had lived.
That which does not kill us makes us stronger. I believe this is true. I also believe that experiencing loss can help put life into perspective. My motto, after Alex passed and I began to move on, was "Cry me a river... then build a bridge and get over it!" I really think that sums it up.