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,