Today’s the day for more guilt

The guilt is real, folks. And it’s rearing it’s ugly head at this very inconvenient time.

We all struggle, in one way or another, especially now. This weird Covid-19, “rona” thing happening is affecting us all. We’re all on high anxiety, antsy, when is this going to end mode and it’s manifesting in each of us in such different ways.

Some of us feel the anxiety part more than anything else. I’m raising my hand. I’ve learned over the last few years that my anxiety likes to show in more physical ways. Sometimes I feel like I want to take deep breaths, sometimes I can’t sit still, sometimes I feel like I need to take a break from wearing my glasses (this one is weird, but it happens. Why does it happen? I have no idea). Sometimes my anxiey is a result of feeling like I need to cry, a way to release the anxiety. So I’ll have a good cry and my anxiety slowly settles down. The unknown of this new covid life combined with having anxiety to begin with, is making for some interesting times.

For others, and I’ll raise my hand for this one as well, the antsy bugs are at an all time high. I never realized how much driving to and from work, or being able to shop at Target whenever I wanted was such a stress reliever. Freedom at it’s finest.

So here is where the guilt comes in, at this very inconvenient time.

I am a mother who has lost a child, I think we all know this by now. My first born child who was, and still is, my world. He is a part of my every day life, whether it’s thoughts, stories, or tears. I would do ANYTHING to have the situation changed, to have him growing up with his brother, to have him with me. I yearn to be stuck in this quarantine life with both of my boys, four of us with nowhere to go, nowhere to be except with each other.

That will never happen.

So, when the moments come (the MANY moments throughout these “new normal” days) when I am working on my computer, now at home on my kitchen table, and Quinlan’s little brother comes up to me, blabbering away in his baby talk with a “mama” thrown in for cuteness, and I have to say “I love you, but please go play” the guilt I feel is REAL. I should be squeezing him and kissing him every second of every day because the fear of losing another child is also real. And when I can’t because of work, or chores, or whatever else comes with being and adult, it breaks my heart.

*Please know that I fully understand this comes with being a mom to any and all children, I am not minimizing that fact. I only know this type of guilt so it’s what I’m able to speak about.*

I was talking to a new friend about this issue, a friend who was brought into my life because she also lost her child, and she brought up a very relevant point. She said that it’s almost like we are expected to love our living children even more because we have experienced the loss of another child. But then in thinking about that, who is saying that we are “expected” to be doing this? Society, friends, family, other’s in the loss community? Nope. It is us, the loss mom’s who are putting extreme pressure on ourselves. We feel like we have to devote every single second of our lives to our living children, and more importantly, not complain because we are so incredibly lucky to have children that we can kiss and hug whenever we want. And yes, I do feel beyond lucky, and feel like I have been saved by our youngest child. But damn, that’s a lot of pressure to put on ourselves.

So, while it’s easier said than done, we need to not feel that guilt. We have to know that we are going to have the frustrations just like every mom, the moments (many, many moments) where saying “I love you, but leave me alone” is necessary. No guilt!

Maybe it’s because we have the love for our living child combined with the love for our child who has passed built up inside of us. Yet our day to day lives only allow us to be able to share that love with our living children, to hug, kiss and squeeze as much as entirely possible. As a result, they get it all when that love was designed to be shared with all of your children. That is one of the incredibly messed up parts of having lost a child.

Or maybe it’s because this is such an unnatural situation to be in, that no one really knows how we are supposed to live our day to day lives. So there is guilt, there are kisses, there is lots of pressure, and lots and lots of love.

💚Mama Bear

Today’s the day to remember that was me

So, there have been moments lately where I have read about a mom who lost her child and think “that is so unimaginable”. Or hear about a child who has been in the hospital for a prolonged period of time and say to myself “that poor baby, and his poor parents”.

But then I remember, that was me. That is me. My husband and I are those parents.

It’s a seriously surreal feeling. It’s a completely different world I once lived in. I can’t say that I’m too sure I was actually fully present during that time in my life. I was so focused on taking care of Quinlan that I’m not sure I actually soaked it all in (nor do I believe it’s humanly possible to do so in such a traumatic situation). I was so concentrated on learning all I could from the doctors, nurses and therapists in order for Quinlan to survive. Hearing about these families going through the same thing as we went through sometimes seems so foreign to me, while also seems so incredibly familiar. I could see a child laying in an ICU bed space and know (or at least have an idea) what that tube is for, what those machines do, and how he or she is doing based on the numbers on the monitors. I could still hear the alarm and automatically jump up to check what their numbers show. I still know the fear the parents feel every moment. Maybe this feeling of disconnect is my body’s way of protecting myself because if I truly did feel it all, all the time, I would not be able to continue on and live the rest of my life.

I recently realized that August is the same age now that Quinlan was when he was finally diagnosed with having the Brat1 mutation. These last 15 months with August have gone by so fast, it’s almost impossible to think that in this same exact time frame, we went through all we did with Q. Again, such a different world that was.

When Quinlan was August’s age, he had spent 300 days admitted to the hospital. August has spent zero.

Three years ago this weekend, Bear and I spent two nights away at a hotel in Kennebunkport to “get away” from the fact that our two year old son had just passed away (there’s no getting away from that, as you know or can imagine). This weekend was spent chasing after August at the playground and watching him giggle as he went down the slide.

Could these two weekends be any different? It’s like two different peoples lives.

And saying all this now brings on the guilt. The guilt of wondering if I was a different mom to Quinlan than I am now to August. Does feeling as though that life is so foreign take away all that we went through? Am I more or less a mom to one over the other because these journeys have been so incredibly different?

I feel like I’ve lived such an out-of-body experience, yet that same experience has changed me, so how out-of-body could it really have been?

That was me then and this is me now. I’m still working on introducing them to each other.

💚Mama Bear

Today’s the day for not so alone time

I’ve recently thought of a way to describe a teeny tiny piece of the grief we deal with from child loss. It may make sense or it may sound totally bizarre. To be honest, it almost doesn’t make sense to me, while at the same time makes me say “YES! That’s it”.

Being a mom, you need alone time. We all know this. You need time to step away for a few minutes, know your child is being well taken care of (by your husband, family member, friend, trusted babysitter, whoever), and turn your mind off for a bit. It’s not a bad thing, it’s a needed thing.

I’m going to preface the rest of this post by saying that as moms (and dads) we are always going to have our kids on our minds. That goes without saying. The alone time I’m going to talk about (and the switching our minds off) is the necessary alone time that is needed to stay sane while raising a kid, while never actually forgetting you have a kid, duh (I hope this makes sense).

Let me continue.

Think about taking a trip to Target, by yourself. You can shop for what YOU want to shop for. You have no one else pulling you in different directions rushing you out of the store. Yes, you may glance through the kids section to see if anything catches your eye for your little one to purchase, but it’s because YOU want to and not because something caught a little ones eye and they “have to have it”. You will then continue on your way to look for a new purse you really don’t need, or a book you’ve heard is good (in the hopes of having additional alone time to actually read it).

Going to the nail salon. Yes! The best afternoon! Stop at Starbucks, grab yourself your favorite hot beverage, sit down and get pampered while sipping on your HOT (decaf, if you’re like me) white chocolate mocha, sure add the whip, and not having to reheat it twelve times throughout the day because you keep forgetting it’s there while you’re doing 67 other things. Your mind is officially switched off for the next 50 minutes and you can just be.

When you’ve lost a child, it’s like you can never go to Target by yourself, or get pampered while drinking your Starbucks. You can’t ever switch your mind to off.

You may try as best you can but it doesn’t happen. It’s like it CAN’T happen.

You ALWAYS have your mind switched on.

By this I mean, for example, your trip to Target. You walk in, alone, perusing the aisles. Taking some alone time to reset for a bit. And then you see the shirt that your little one who has passed away wore in that picture you love. You see the book about siblings and you are reminded, yet again, that your living child will never get to meet his brother. You see another mom out with her baby and remember all the trips you got to take with your little one to Target before he was too sick to leave the house, before he was attached to wires and machines for the rest of his life.

You go to the nail salon and think about the nail color you had on in your favorite picture of you two together. You are transported back to two days after his passing when you needed to get out of the house and why not get a manicure, and pray they did not ask how many children you have.

There is no off switch for grieving a child. There is no stepping away knowing your child is in good hands.

There just isn’t.

We are always shopping with one of our children with us. Always concerned about their well being to the Nth degree.

It is ALWAYS there. We are ALWAYS on.

And we wonder why grief is so exhausting?

💚Mama Bear

Today’s the day I settle for Mickey and Batman

Something else to add to the oh so confusing world of being a Vilomah (if you haven’t heard the word, I recommend looking it up, but not in a dictionary because it’s not there yet. It’s a heavy word but so necessary in society. I’ll get more into that later…and by later I mean another blog post, I’ll leave you in suspense).

This something else to add is the fact that I am still mothering two children. Sounds crazy because, well, one of them isn’t here, and yet, I’m still mothering him. I’m the mother of two boys who hold equal spots in my heart, my soul, my brain, and my world.

This fact holds true all year round but especially right now, during the holidays.

Here is a perfect example:

Fortunately for us, Baby Bear is still young enough to be more excited about the boxes than he will the actual gift when they come Christmas morning. Taking advantage of this opportunity, we will be wrapping up a box of diapers, his already used toys, and a package of diaper wipes. He’ll be as content as ever, and know no different. (And because I’m not a total grinch, yes, I did buy him a couple new things and will fill his stocking – possibly with more wipes, but again, he’s 1, he won’t know the difference). So in the midst of collecting things for him (both old and new), and the rest of our family (don’t worry, they all get new) I’ve been doing a decent amount of shopping, aka a decent amount of trips to Target. During one of my first holiday shopping trips to Target, I noticed these cute little stockings with initials on them. Stockings in our family are just as important as the gifts, and even more special. We all have hand made stockings (except Baby Bear, but we’re working on that #secondchildproblems) and the hope that Santa fills each one with a toothbrush, Lifesavers book, and chocolate coins is still there. These little stockings I wanted to buy would purely be for decoration. Something with each of our initials to hang together as a family. So, I start looking through the bin. Found the L, the J, a couple of A’s, another J in a different pattern, a green AND a red L….no Q. Next trip to Target I look again. Same issue. Not a single Q. Clearly I’m not purchasing these little stockings without a Q. It wouldn’t be right. Every time I go to Target I’m still looking for a Q, and still nothing (including a late night shopping excursion with the bf, still no Q’s even at 10pm). At this point, I’m passed the point of finding these little stockings to hang as our family of four (and a bit annoyed they don’t have a single Q. They have X, Y and Z, but no Q). Alas, I’ve moved on. I then notice they have a little Mickey Mouse stocking (30% off, I might add) and Baby Bear is currently obsessed with Mickey Mouse. So, I pick that up. I can’t just get him a stocking though, I need one for Quinlan as well. Him being the Superhero he was, I grab him a Batman stocking to hang next to Mickey. Stocking purchase complete but not fully what I was hoping for.

Yes, I could have bought the L, J and A, but that’s not my family. My family is four parts and the Q is and always will be included.

From the jewelry I wear (my two rings, one with the August birthstone and one with December’s, and the necklace with a flower for each of the boys) to the birthdays we celebrate to family pictures we take. He is included.

I am thinking about him, worrying about him, loving him every second of every day, just like I do with Baby Bear. My two sons.

It’s confusing to all (including myself) because how do you mother one child who’s here and one child who’s in heaven? It’s a very split feeling. You want to be in both places at once. Holding both of them together, but knowing that will never happen. Wanting to make sure you’re sharing enough memories about one, while still making enough memories with the other.

Oh this journey is so f’d up.

So, if you’re reading this and thinking I sound a bit nutty, oh well, you can think that (because yes, I can be a bit nutty at times). But in this situation, it’s my new normal and it’s how it has to be, as confusing and f’d up as it is.

And as a side note, I do want to again say how thankful we are for everyone’s love and positive thoughts over the last few years. It’s not easy but it could be a lot harder without your genuine support.

Happy Holidays!

J, L, Q, A

💚Mama Bear