Love until later,
Send forth the troops 10/20/2015
Oh, today. Crazy, crazy day. My day goes like this: Wake up at 5:30 a.m. First thoughts: OK, I got this. Go through morning routine. Next thoughts: OK, I can do this. Not the worst day. I got this. Read Facebook. OK, I can’t do this anymore. Start nudging Batman. “Wake up, I’ve been alone too long.” Hugs and love. Phew. Close one. Step outside.
So there’s that. Thank you for my morning. I’m lucky enough to have another. Made it almost to work. Actually, I made it down the street and turned left. It was waiting for the one stoplight I have in my commute that got me. Why? Down time. Ugh. Drive some more. Realized I have mastered the art of sobbing silently until just before the tears fall, so they dry back up and no one ever knows. Made it to work. Pretty sure I zoned out half the day. Caught myself twice in the classroom, and several more times before I lost any eye moisture in front of these people I don’t know. I kept realizing it, too. I don’t know them. They don’t know me. I have been blessed to work with a great group of ladies, but for some reason I am shy on the feels. Keep it in makes more sense. Don’t let them know you’re vulnerable, Heidi! God forbid…
They asked me throughout the day how I was. They were great. Those who didn’t know what to say said nothing. Those who also didn’t know what to say but felt they needed to do something would nudge or poke or hug or catch me alone and just say, “Sup?” It couldn’t have been better. I only felt mildly idiotic when I was asked about my bracelet and had to explain it’s Madeline’s hair which I put in a tube, sealed with another tube, and several bandaids in Madeline’s favorite characters. I wear it on my wrist every year on these days, and usually wear my t-shirt which screams “Madeline’s Mommy” across my back and has her tiny dates on the front. I wear in support, but not today. Today, I knew I’d be standing alone, and it would be too much to explain to too many newbs.
Kidlet sat in my classroom first thing, eating her rice krispie treat she sneaked early from her lunch box. I swear I make them delicious, but her tooth fell out, nonetheless. It was her first loss at school, and she was stoked to get a tooth shaped box from the health aide. I love a first on a day that feels like lasts.
And the day rolled on, and the pictures rolled in. My army went to the cemetery because I no longer live nearby. How much do my friends and family love me? Holy Pete, so much. My army fought the battle for me. Or with me, from afar. They carried my load and they went in and they gave what they could. And I love them. And those who couldn’t go thought of this sweet little girl, killed by one of the very people she loved the most in the world. And I squeezed my living kids a little tighter, and I hugged them a little longer. And I told them I feel blue. Because I do. And it’s OK. Tomorrow won’t be so blue, I know that much.
I arrived home to this from my sister and brother in law and nephew…
Which was unexpected and lovely. My sister asked about my day and I told her it sucked in some ways but not really because of “this”, so at least there’s that. My army checks in because they know that sometimes I just need that breath of familiarity. I need to know I’m not alone. It feels the army grows, but the ring of people who directly knew her feels so very small. The whole army is precious to me. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t pick most of you out of a line up, but I absolutely know you’re there.
I sit and take off my bracelet so I can type. I imagine her the way she was, because the future doesn’t exist where she is concerned. I remember her hair. Those curls. Those blue eyes my children are all blessed with. I try so hard to remember her smell, but it’s been lost. I try so very hard to remember those arms wrapped around my neck, or the feel of her tiny body in my arms. I can’t. I try to remember the sound of her voice, but save for a few rare videos, my memory doesn’t stretch that far back anymore. I sadly say these things, and simultaneously march forward knowing it is OK and it is probably normal, though no one ever admits any of it. I sadly march when she cannot, and yet I march because I am strong and I live for me and I live for her and I live for Kidlet and I live for The Big Awesome and I live for Batman and I live for my inner ring and I live for my army. I live fully. So did she.
I am so grateful tonight. I am grateful for such a full life, both mine and hers.
You are my #1 girl. My free, innocent, perfect little girl. I love you to the moon and back again.
Love until later,
This is Me. 10/19/2015
I’m thinking of the years’ newest readers. I’ve been on hiatus from writing, but not necessarily from doing. I feel as though I am an open book. I was reading recently about people who create two or more different social media accounts. One is real and one is what they hide behind. It’s what they want to be. I have an extremely difficult time relating to that, as I feel I am very open. What you see is what you get. However, I am learning that is not the case. I can’t work into conversation a lot of things about me. And in a world where one prefers to define oneself, here I go:
I am tactile. What you think of as “soft” leaves me scratching furiously. Music speaks to me, but I rarely know the words to an entire song. I prefer creative hearing over regular listening, but I get you. My passion is art. It changes to the extent that I flit between the type of art faster than you can keep up. I study people and judge you all. Just kidding about that last part. Maybe. I wonder if I will ever be able to turn off the need to constantly assess everyone I meet. I think deep and research often so that I know my shit. I prefer a fun atmosphere. I cannot stand how we are all so self absorbed, and yet I sit here in my own tiny world thinking only of what races through my brain this night. I relate to you. All of you. I have humor. I was born into it and know not life without it. I like to wear black. Always. I try hard to add not black to my wardrobe, but it’s only for you that I do so. So many canvases are blank and white. I am a canvas. Adding-constantly adding. I have fun with my hair and with my clothes and with my sandals and even my fingernails. I like unique but not in a “look at me!” sort of way. I believe in something bigger than me, and that you are it. I love my family. I have children. A lot. I had 4 healthy births and I have two living children. I recently miscarried two tiny babies in an emotional whirlwind. I work with children with special needs because I love their minds. I am a daughter. I am a mother. I am a wife. I am a sister. I am a cousin. I am a niece. I am able to define me better than anyone, most likely. And tonight I feel lost.
Twelve (gah, twelve!) years ago I went to bed not feeling so great. I awoke on the morning of October 20th, 2003 to find a bright, crisp autumn day. I remember meditating outside, feeling encouraged. I try to move myself back to that feeling tonight, and see it applied in my life. I fly forward through the days, and sometimes don’t know how I got where I am, though I know I’ve taken everything in as I’ve gone because I don’t know how to live without noticing almost everything. It’s Me.
My little girl was going about her day at home with her dad and her 7 month old half sister. Her sister’s mom had died in a car accident the month before, and her dad was injured. This was the first time she had been back at home with just her dad and sister since this fatality. Her sister’s grandparents had gained visitation that very morning, allowing them to see their granddaughter for something like an hour or two per week. My estranged husband had a difficult time giving up control. He learned that they had won this visitation and decided it was the worst possible thing. He decided he needed to show his control and took his gun upstairs where he shot his infant daughter, killing her. He brought his gun downstairs where he shot my daughter in the head, over her eye, killing her instantly. The S.W.A.T team says Kangaroo Jack was just ending on the TV when they arrived. Then, he stood by the front door where he used the same gun to take his own life. This is the basic story, though it feels so much deeper than the story I have learned to retell as though I have not been scarred to the depths of my spirit by living it.
I have scars. You have scars. Sometimes they consume us. Sometimes they are on the outside. Sometimes they are deep and denial is all you see, though you’d never know it. Sometimes it’s you. Sometimes you see through it. Sometimes you don’t notice it and you can live a “normal” life. And sometimes. Sometimes you find the hope. Sometimes there is intense guilt because you’ve found happiness. Sometimes the flashbacks are so strong, the panic is no longer able to stay silent. It can make you not breathe. It can make you dizzy. It can feel so so so lonely. My voice wears out. I lose energy just by remembering. I gasp. I sob. I let it have me. Sometimes comes not often after a while. It no longer feels raw in quite the same way. I can function. I can thrive.
Here is this, though: my life is good. My life is so flipping unbelievably amazing. It doesn’t feel bad. It doesn’t feel like you need to feel sorry for me. It feels right. My heart is so full of love. My head is full of memories that are unique to me and my life. I guess what I’ve done is I’ve survived.
Knowing that, and having said that…well, it’s pretty awful to be in this mama’s heart right now. I have two kids out in the living room doing their sibling thing and I should have four. Or even six. I don’t know how I will get through the next 24 hours, and yet I know that I most likely will. I just don’t want to, because I know how it goes. I know how the day drags and each minute is a flashback of that original day. I don’t wish that day on anyone, and yet I am glad this is my life.
I miss her arms wrapped around my neck in the most innocent of hugs. I miss her crazy quirks (like vomiting every time she saw her own poop). I miss how sweet she was to her baby dolls, and how she could dress up in a pillow case and feel beautiful. I miss her being amazed at something like a bird or a sticker. I miss the way she said the letter “L”, watching my lips and tongue and teeth and trying so hard to imitate. I miss kissing her goodnight with a kiss to her right cheek, then her left, then a huge fat kiss with her head flung back, dramatically saying, “Dah-ling!” I miss her taking time out of her toddler world to notice things about me, like what color I was wearing. I miss her putting my bra on her head and thinking it was hilarious as a hat. I miss her doing my hair in 500 tiny butterfly clips, upside down. I miss what would have been. I miss the 14 year old girl I would have had. I miss the hormonal teenage fights we never experienced. I miss the future. How is that possible?
Tomorrow I will get up and I will go to work. I will do it because I want to try, and not because someone is making me. For now, I will go be with The Big Awesome and the Kidlet and Batman and then I will gorge myself on gelato because it will help. It will. Really. The Me I know is convinced of that.
Tomorrow it will be a challenge to get through the day. I will wear my waterproof mascara and will cry when you ask me how I am because it is not fun to admit when I am not OK or anywhere near OK. I will be remembering what I had and dreaming of what I don’t have. All the while, so grateful for what I’ve got.
My girl. My Madeline.
Love until later,
My do it 02/05/2015
It’s interesting how I have blocked out the three months after Jeremiah’s death, and the year following Madeline’s murder, but there are some things so vivid it feels more recent than it actually is. I retell this story as I cannot be a survivor of child loss, though it is not my story. This is a bit more of their story.
Some of you have read me for years, and you have seen where I’ve been in my grief. You’ve seen where I’ve succumbed to the feelings I’ve been afraid to confront and you’ve seen me jump some hurdles. Each year brings something new. This year what I’m coming into is my little girl turning 14 and what it meant to me when I turned the same age. It might be the first year I really remember, for a lot of reasons. Mostly, I remember happiness that year, unlike the previous few years. I remember finding my voice and standing up for myself. I remember finding my weird for the first time and really embracing it. I know where I got most of my weird (thanks, Mom), and wonder if she would have embraced her weird or abandoned it for whatever she deemed “normal”. I wonder.
February 6th, 2001 started out like most of my pregnancy had. I was in the hospital because I was dealing with so much in my body (E Coli, Gall Bladder had been removed in January, Crohn’s flare up, deficiency so great it required a blood transfusion, malnourishment to the point where I was just over 100 pounds when I finally had her, and an abusive husband). My doctor came in before leaving for the day and said he thought they could move me from IV pain meds to oral pain meds (along with everything I was to be taking) and that I could go home. I said I would love to be on oral meds and go home, but in the four months of my pregnancy spent hospitalized, I knew that it was probably a good idea to put me on observation for the next 24 hours because that is when I always had my setback (thanks to the flare up). He said he could agree to that. The next few hours were a whirlwind.
I was being monitored and started experiencing a pain that was intense. I kept moving onto my hands and knees. The nurses kept coming in and putting me back in the bed on my back (sitting upright). I vomited a few times and the on call doctor came in and said he was going to give me a big bolus of Demerol. I was in a really bad way. It didn’t touch my pain at all. It didn’t even make me tired. I was back up on my hands and knees, rocking and in pain so severe that I couldn’t stop. They tried Morphine at that point. It didn’t calm a thing, but I was able to sit still long enough for them to wrap the monitors back around my tiny baby bump. Alarms started sounding and the medical team raced to my room. My nurse looked at me and said, “Heidi, we’re going to have to take your baby now.” All I could say was, “Thank you.” Eight minutes later they were asking me to count backward from 100. Ever the rebel, I only said, “Goodnight.” And she was born.
When I woke up, the nurse told me that I had a baby girl and she had struggled a little at first but she was OK. She didn’t breathe for roughly the first 10 minutes after her birth. She told me she was going to come into the recovery room where I was for just a minute on her way over to the children’s hospital. When they brought her in, I was allowed to stick my hand in the hole in the side of her incubator. I stroked my tiny four pound baby’s little foot and said my hello. She heard me and wiggled. She had the smallest blonde curls I had ever seen in my life. And she was alive. And she was perfect.
She spent a few weeks in the Newborn ICU (a heifer compared to most of the other preemies). Leaving her after I was released from the hospital was one of the hardest things I had to do as a Mama. I needed her way more than she needed me at that point. I held her for the first time when she was a week old. My mom gave Maddie her first bottle. I pumped so much milk that they ran out of room in the tiny NICU fridge. They weren’t used to women being able to make that much milk, apparently. When I do something, I like to do it all the way.
Today is rough. This week was rough (add a full moon in there). But today, especially. We’re driving to school this morning and A Team comes on the radio and the last line is “Angels die” and the whole van starts crying. I heard a tiny, “Mommy…” from the seat behind mine and my kidlet has tears just streaming down her face. Before she could utter the words, I said, “I know. Baby, I know.” I glance back at The Big Awesome and he asks, “Mom, what-what is it?” Kidlet said, “I really really miss my sister.” I asked her if that song reminded her of Madeline and she said yes. I kicked myself for not turning it off, but love those kids so much for loving what they cannot see-that right there says so much about the faith of a child. They are able to love something that they only hear stories about and feel so strongly about at times that it brings them to tears. I know that this sounds as though I sit around in the past and you might be judging me for transferring my grief off onto my living children-but I know it isn’t that. This isn’t just Jeremiah and Madeline’s story-it’s Kidlet and TBA’s story as well. We don’t live in the time of not speaking of such things anymore. They speak proudly of the siblings they never met. They ask for stories because it’s all that they have. They look forward to birthdays (or maybe birthday cake), and try to find ways to make it really special for her.
Once we got to school, I lost it a little. Learning that I was about to approach one of the special needs children I support in the middle of a meltdown first thing in the day really helped me. I put my all into a few of them today because they were testing me. I was so grateful because it kept me busy and focused on them and controlling or working through behaviors. They did me a favor today, because any minute I got to myself was the longest, most emotional minute. I gave up eating lunch mid bite because I knew their chaos was better for me and if I didn’t get back to it I would have to face reality.
This year I want to hold my living babies closer than in other years. I almost feel scared to be away from what I’ve got tomorrow. My heart is absolutely weeping tonight. I know tomorrow will be harder. I will feel empty and I will feel lonely-despite all of the support. Because that is how it is to be the mother of children who died. It’s a lonely place. People tend to look to me for answers and I won’t have any to give. And that’s just hard.
Another year older, my girl. Fourteen. I’m one old Mama.
Oh, my girl. I do miss you. I miss what you were and what you didn’t get to become. I am thankful for everything you gave me and everything you continue to give me-us. I love you to the moon and back!
Love until later,
The days leading up to these awful days are one slow inhale. Days are filled with anxiety and fear of the emotions. Well, this year, as I said yesterday, I was able to allow the emotions to escape. Actually, I allowed them in. Or…maybe I just allowed them. Or recognized them. Needless to say, this year I made some steps other than hurt.
That being said, tonight I have empty arms and two chunks of my heart devoted to those children who are no longer with me on this earth. My heart is not broken. My heart is so much more full than I can even explain. Where there were cracks, my children are my stitches. Love. That’s just love. Tonight my love focuses a little more on the missing her part. Tonight, I inhale a little more. Tomorrow I exhale.
So grateful for you who helped me not bear this alone. And you know what? I’m grateful I learned how to share because it’s just not easy.
Love until later,
When nothing can change 10/19/2014
I could sit here and eat all of this chocolate peanut butter. I could bypass the venti and go for the trenta. I could wear two boyfriend sweatshirts instead of just one. I could eat more potatoes. I could add bubbles to the bath. I could refill my wine glass, but the flashbacks will still find me. Eleven years and they still catch up to me. It comes down to the fact that I am not in control and that is hard.
Life sure is funny that way. Every day of my Mom life I have been schooled on control. When nothing goes as planned, I tend to go overboard controlling what I can. When I feel chaos around me, I feel as though I have lost control. I don’t really know if I was like that “before” or only since “then”.
This year is weird in that October 17th fell on a Friday. This was the last time I saw her alive. On a Friday. I dropped her off at about 4:30 in the afternoon with her grandma, and she hobbled up the ramp on her cast to her grandma’s front door, barely looking back for an, “I love you, Mommy!” My little girl, charging ahead.
I sit here now thinking about my thirteen year old daughter that I don’t see in the physical sense, but I do see every day in the hearts and eyes of my living children. The Big Awesome has a sweetness in him that reminds me of my Maddie. He has empathy and compassion toward those who have hurt in them. The Kidlet has the joy and innocence that Mad had, despite coming into her diva school days. There is light that burns in them and I saw it in her, too. There is spirit in them and I felt it in her, too. Yes, I have raised them, but they do this without me. I have no control over what goes on in their minds or the words that come out of their mouths (especially that Kidlet).
The farther away each day gets, the more I forget. If I could feel just one thing, it would be those arms wrapped around my neck in the biggest Maddie hug she could muster. If I could smell just one thing, it would be the back of her neck after a bath. If I could touch just one thing, it would be those cheeks on her face. If I could absorb one thing it would be a little bit of her soul. If I could hear one thing it would be her laugh. If I could keep one thing it would be that innocence.
If I could give her something, it would be the knowledge that she is looked up to as a big sister. She is missed by people who never met her (and those who did) and she lives quietly in the hearts of so many people. Her story is incredible, and I could not be more proud to be called Madeline’s Mom. I have no control over what happened to her young life, but I have control over how I live mine. I feel that my life is lived with joy because that is entirely what she brought to me.
So thankful for my support system who is checking in on me one by one as I write this, sending hugs and love and reminding me that I am not alone, despite the loneliness I feel as the minutes countdown to one of the crappiest anniversaries a person can have. Tonight, I give up control and allow my wall to come down a little bit so that I can let some of her escape me.
My girl, my love, my Maddie,
You are loved.
Love until later,
Madeline and Jeremiah’s story can be found here:
So, 15 years and one day after I thought I’d never receive anything new from him again, something made me go to the highest, darkest corner of my closet. I have a very tiny box of his things, as he died at only 11 days. The thing that I didn’t remember was what this box contained. I found some clothes, unwashed though I can’t smell him there any longer. A few stuffed toys. And an album.
The hyperventilating that ensued forced me to my knees, just now, as no mother should ever have this sort of album. It might be a little known fact that we once put our dead relatives before a camera to capture a memory, and at times this would be the only photo a family had of their infant.
It may sound quite strange, to have pictures of a dead child. To a mom of loss, this may have been offered to you. You may have declined. You may have accepted. When it was offered to me, it felt like an insult. Like a punch in the throat. At 19 years of age, I thought quickly and agreed, but only when I left the room. The thing not on your mind is that there will keep on being photographs. People will age. But not him.
I had a photo album that my first husband kept, and it was filled with Jeremiah. I went about 12 years until my pseudo-grandma passed on a picture of her holding my son. You really have no idea what that does to a person. In the age of instant pictures for the whole world to see, I finally have one more. Eleven days old. Two photographs I can hold in my hands.
Until tonight. His box called to me. On the bottom was a small gift bag. It was stiff, as I guess an old bag would get after 15 years. I opened it and there it was. Fifteen years and 1 day after I held him and his tiny energy left his body…I received an album. With pictures of my son. In a very tiny white casket. A scary…deeply beautiful gift.
I was unprepared for this, this night. I looked through it quickly, trying to deny that this is part of my life. I shut it just as quickly, but went back for a second look, then a third. I remembered things I had suppressed. Man, 15 years is a long time.
Love until later,