Macie 10 Months

Macie turned 10 months old yesterday! He's just such a special baby. He's very even tempered and friendly. When he looks at you, it's as if he is looking into your soul. It reminds me so much of Max. Even Mo's teacher said something about it to me last time she saw him. She said, "I'm not Jewish, but the Rabbi taught us the word 'Neshama' and I think about it whenever I see Mace". Neshama means soul. That's what he is - he's all soul.

He started crawling right at nine and a half months (exactly when I think Max would have crawled, had he lived). He likes pulling up on stuff and playing with his brother and sister. Whenever he sees either of them, he smiles and laughs. They adore him. It's the cutest. We love this guy! He just couldn't be cuter!

Ready for the photos? Here we go!

Backwards milestones

Tomorrow Macie will be the same age Max was when he took his last breath. Tuesday, he will be older than Max ever was. Today is the anniversary, of sorts, of my last perfect day with Max.

It's hard to compute. To anyone who has never lost a child, I sound morbid. To everyone who has lost a child and then had a subsequent child, you know exactly how this feels. It's totally unreal and unrelenting. It's not an anniversary of anything - in the calendar sense. It's the anniversary of a feeling. The anniversary of blissful happiness and love. The anniversary of a time, of a backwards milestone.

When Max was exactly nine and a half months old, he was close to crawling - exactly where Mace is developmentally today. He was eating mushy foods, burying his face in my neck between smiles and snuggles, and watching me carefully as I crossed the room. Same as Mace.

I hate that after tomorrow, there will never be another baby of mine to remember Max by. They will far outlive him and stop reminding me of him, g-d willing. And all I will be left with is a bunch of photographs and fading memories. It breaks my heart. All of it....mostly the part where he is gone and never got to live his life. I'm just positive it would have been special, just like he was.

Macie today - at 9.5 months

Full Hands

I found this post yesterday on another grieving mother's blog and nearly fell out of my seat as she did SUCH a good job describing what I have been thinking non-stop since Myla came home to live with us.  I am sure there are many grieving parents just like us who are thinking this same thing. Have I written about this before?  I honestly can't remember.

When I introduce myself or meet new people and I tell them about my three children who are 3 and under, I always hear the same thing, "You've got YOUR hands full!"...usually accompanied by an evil little laugh.  "I do", I always respond.  I DO HAVE MY HANDS FULL.  What's so funny to me is that people think that having my hands full is the story that defines me, and of course, it is part of my definition.  But, obviously, what defines me just as much is the part where my hands aren't as full as they are supposed to be.  Also the part where my hands were full and then they weren't anymore for a full year.  Also the part where "having my hands full" is what saved my life from losing my entire full heart and then having it break into 5,000,000 pieces.  

The snickering that comes after hearing that my youngest two are only 9.5 months apart seems to insinuate a "better you than me" vibe and carries a somewhat "sucks to be you" quality.  And, yes, it is crazy hard MOST of the time.  On the other hand - it is exactly what I prayed for when the other thing happened that really made it suck to be me.  And, often, when I am thinking "I can't do this any more because it is too hard", I remember that what I did before this current round of full hands came to be (lying around all day crying, not getting out of bed, wearing the same sweat pants every day for a year, strategizing how I'd make it through the next hour....) and I realize that what I am doing now is actually NOT "too hard".  Too hard was taking my child off life support. I actually don't imagine that anything will ever be too hard again.

My days go by quickly and I have a million things to do.  I am on a constant trip to and from my kids' school in an endless cycle of drop offs and pick ups.  I do 100 loads of laundry a week and that doesn't include all of the laundry that my mother-in-law does for us (the amount of laundry is simply CRAY-ZEE!!!!!).  The hours between 5:30 am - 9 am and then again from 6pm - 8:30 pm are completely nuts and we hardly have time to pause to think about whether we are doing this all right or not.  But, our hands are full again!  

Thank god.

You can't escape from yourself

I've been going through a weird spell.  And, I know I always say that - so I am thinking that maybe I am now just "weird".  Or maybe I always was.  I will leave that up to the people who know me to decide.  Anyway, as it turns out - you can't run away from your own life.  Being in a new place is a good distraction.  I am not constantly looking for ways not to drive past Maxie's daycare, or the hospital - and I never bump into people who knew me before.  I like driving around in circles in the morning before I drop the kids off at school so Macie can nap and I can learn how to get from one place to another .  I like going to a new supermarket, where I don't have to worry about seeing the produce guy who thinks I am a jerk because I stopped making small talk with him after my son died.  At the same time, I hate that there are no reminders of Max here.  He only visited here once. Sometimes we get bagels after swim lessons on Saturday mornings and I always think about the time that we had bagels in the same place while visiting with Max.  I remember the table we sat at and that Maxie was sitting in his McClaren stroller that morning.  During my drive in the morning, I sometimes drive past a restaurant near the kids school that we had dinner at during Max's visit.  I remember my in-laws introducing him to the waiter. I don't remember much else about the time we were here with Max. We spent a lot of time at my sister-in-law's house and we had a small gathering in her backyard so that Ted could introduce Maxie to his friends.  Her house used to remind me of that visit.  We've made so many memories there though that the ones we made there with him have all but faded.

I had some strange idea in my head that I'd go someplace new and be "anonymous". Not "Anonymous", the jerk that writes mean comments on the blogs of grieving parents, just someone who could get lost in a town where nobody knew me. But, now I realize that I am in a town where nobody knows me and there are aspects of that that really kind of suck.  Don't get me wrong, I know we made the right decision for our family. Our kids are happy. We have more room. Whether I end up enjoying winter or not, I am pretty sure my kids will like it. Ted's commute is short and he is able to spend more time with us. I love living so close to my sister-in-law and her brood.  My mother-in-law is so helpful with the kids and at our home.  I guess I am just a little lonely - or missing some of the people who really know me.  These days everyone I meet is someone that I have to decide whether I can talk about Max with, and when I do, there is no way to either "keep it light" or properly convey the depths to which his not being here is always breaking my heart. I also often feel like I am speaking a different language than everyone else I meet. I am not sure I have figured out Connecticut culture yet.  It is much more different than I ever thought it would be.  I don't really feel like I fit in - not sure whether I ever will...AND - maybe that has nothing to do with the move - although I think I miss Californians.  Maybe having to make all new friends at 42, after the loss of my child wasn't the best choice for me.

Ok, but it is what it is.  I DO think that Mo, Myla and Macie will be super happy here...they already are.  And, change can be really good, right? I have no regrets.  Maybe just a little bit of homesickness.....

Mace Nine Months

Mace was nine months old on Monday but it took until today for me to find five minutes to take these photos. I promise I'm not making it up when I say that Mace is the chillest baby of all my babies. I can take him anywhere. He is usually happy, quiet and smiling. He hasn't started crawling or even really sitting without us worrying that he might topple over - but all of my babies were at this stage at nine months. It must be something I'm doing. Now that I've had four though, I really don't worry. I know he will eventually crawl and walk and talk. He loves his mommy and daddy, his siblings, his family, his teachers and his friends at school. And Macie is a real crowd pleaser - always smiling and laughing with people wherever we go. This is a scary month, but also my favorite month. He reminds me so much of Max - in body and soul. I just keep telling myself that he will be fine.

We love you forever Baby Mace!!!

Macie Eight Months

Our Macie turned eight months old on Friday, but I was out of town and Ted had his hands pretty full. For those two reasons, photos didn't happen until today. 

Mace is a really chill little guy. He doesn't cry much, he's usually happy and smiling, and when he looks at you, it's intense. Even the teachers at his school have remarked on how deeply he stares into their eyes.

He just started sleeping through the night last week. It took two nights to sleep train him. It's been pretty remarkable - especially considering that two weeks ago, he was waking up just about every hour. 

He has really special and unique friendships with both Mo and Myla and I can't wait to watch those grow. The next couple of months make me really nervous. Please send us some prayers or positive vibes.  This boy is really awesome!

The other side

As a follow up to yesterday's post, I should mention that there have been several lovely people who have told me that they know - they read it, or googled me, or someone told them - and they've either emailed or approached me to say that they know. And that they are sorry. 

That's been nice to hear.

I know that you know

I know that you know that my son died. I'm not sure if someone told you, or you googled me or you read it someplace. But, I know that you know. 

I know because I've seen it before. I know how people act when they know: We met, you were super friendly, I was too. We laughed, compared superficial stories ("I have three kids at home, you have two, our family just moved, blah, blah, blah..."). We talked about a future play date or coffee.... And then suddenly - you stopped staying hello, stopped smiling at me, avoided me whenever possible. 

 A part of me wonders if I said something awkward but the more honest part of me knows - - - knows that you know.  Knows that you know my son died and that now you can't be nice anymore because I'm scary. 

The truth is - it's ok. It is an easy way for me to know whether I really want to get to know you too. But, I guess I still just wanted to let you know that I know you know. And - that I'm not ashamed...because I loved him, and I still love him, completely. And that's more important to me than you are or ever will be or could be to me.

On Maxie's Fifth Birthday

Always in my head
India Arie

You're like a cool breeze, on a summer's day
You are a river running through the desert plain
You are my shelter, from the pouring rain
You were my comfort, even before the pain

I can hear the sound of five drummers in the wind
The leaves blowing in the breeze, ring out like guitars
A tin can rolls across the gravel like a tambourine
I am but a vessel, so I sing, because you are.... 

In my head, you're always in my head
In my dreams, you're always in my head
In my pain, you're always in my head
In my peace, you're always in my head

A rainbow of rhythm stretches across the sky
An airplane in the distance, plays a beautiful cello line
It's no coincidence, it's in tune with the music in my head
If you were a shoulder you're where I would rest, but I am your vessel so I hear, you....

In my head,you're always in my head
In my fears,you're always in my head
In my joy,you're always in my head
In my tears, you're always in my head

You're like a cool breeze, on a summer's day 
You are a river, running through a desert plain
You've been my shelter, from the pouring rain
You were my comfort, even before the pain:'cause I hear you

I am heartsick today, on your fifth birthday. I can't stop the tears that keep falling out of my eyes. None of it seems real. And yet, you were real.  You were mine.  And you had all of the potential in the world.  What I wouldn't give to see you grow up.  You are the deepest part of my soul.  You mean everything to me.  I can barely breathe some days without you.  I am so sorry you are gone.  I am so sorry.  I never stop being so sorry. 

Wherever you are Max, my love will find you.

One of the really good ones

Last night Ted gave Mo a bath, watched some dinosaur videos with him on Youtube, read a couple of books, and then tucked him in with a kiss and said "goodnight".

10 minutes later, we heard little footsteps running above our heads and then a little voice coming from the living room, "Mommy, I'm firsty"

I walked him back upstairs, gave him a few sips of water from the sippy cup next to his bed, kissed him goodnight and left his room.

5 minutes later, another little voice, "Hey guys, I bumped my head".

Another walk up the stairs, another kiss, a little head scratch and a song.

"Daddy, my froat hewts" [That's "My throat hurts" in a toddler accent].

This went on for a while.  Ted asked Mo what was going on.  Wasn't he tired?  Why was he having trouble sleeping?

Mo thought for a minute and then answered, "my brain is running".

I can relate.  My brain is running too.  Well put little man. My brain has been running and running and running since July 19th, 2011.  It won't stop running - and it's been on overdrive this past month or so. A sense of doom is lingering over me that I can't put my finger on but I know it is Maxie's birthday that's hung me out to dry. I can't stop thinking about him.  I can't stop worrying about Mace approaching 9 months. I am angry and sad and heartbroken and the worst part about this nightmare is that it remains a nightmare.

And then yesterday, I am scrolling through my Facebook feed and I can see that people keep tagging my friend Kate in a post.  When I click on the post, my stomach sinks and I feel sick.  I can't believe what I am reading.

I met my friend Kate only two years ago.  She responded to me when I posted on my blog about being in a carseat bind for a trip to Costa Rica.  We'd never met.  We have no friends in common.  She found me when she googled her OB and found a post that I'd written mentioning him..  I am not sure why she kept reading but probably because she is all heart. I ended up borrowing her Sit n'Stroll carseat/stroller for our trip.

When we finally met, it was love at first sight.  If you know me, you know that I value funny above all else....and this girl is the funniest.  She is the kind of funny that makes you cry from laughing so hard, not only when she is telling you the joke, but then again when you think about it days later. She is generous and kind and a wonderful mother and wife.  It was destined that we would be new best friends - and when I left California, I thought about how sad I was that our friendship wouldn't have the chance to grow into what it was surely meant to be.

And now I find out that Kate has Stage 4 lung cancer. And she is younger than I am.  And a mom to two little girls. And the universe is cruel and uncaring - but Kate isn't!  There was no reason on this earth for her to befriend me - only she did - and it was just because of her kind and loving heart.

Tomorrow Max would be 5. And I want to climb to the top of the highest building in town and SCREAM it!!!!! "MY SON SHOULD BE TURNING 5!!!!!" - and I would also like to add the word "FUCKERS!" to the end of that sentence because I am beyond ANGRY. And his birthday makes me feel so helpless and empty and the thought of Kate and her family is more than anyone who loves her can bear.

Kate's family has set up a website where you can donate to help with medical expenses, child care, etc. Please consider making a donation.  You don't have to help Kate and her family.  You don't even know her.  And she didn't have to reach out to me either - but she did.  That is what separates the ones like Kate from the rest of us schmucks.  She is one of the really, really good ones.

Love you Kate!

Pumpkin patch

Perhaps I've mentioned once or twice how much Mo LOVES pumpkins. So, you can imagine the sheer joy that this past weekend inspired, when we pulled into this place:

This is just down the road and it isn't even one of the real big pumpkin patches in our area (we will save those for the future). It was like a dream come true for this kid. Now he keeps talking about carving up the orange guys we got. We also talk about Halloween, costumes, and the Halloween cast of characters constantly (witches, spiders, ghosts, black cats). Nearly every day he asks me if it's Halloween yet. At the rate we are going, I think it's going to be a long month.

Hall Pass

In the months and even years following the sudden (and not sudden) death of someone you deeply love, the world you knew spins violently out of control. It is impossible to focus on anything but getting through the next moment. And even when it starts to get better, there is still an always present chaos. It is out of your control to a great extent. Every day that ends feels like an accomplishment, simply for having gotten through it.

During those days, there will be emails, voicemails and texts that go unanswered. There will be many times where you lose track of the story - of others, of yourself. You simply cannot think straight. 

You might feel like everyone you know and love is in great danger - of dying, suddenly and without warning. This feeling can sometimes dull the intensity of everyday (and not so everyday) problems. Taking care of three little kids is hard but not nearly as hard as the constant feeling that I have two and a half months to save the life of my youngest baby. I am literally out of my skin with anxiety about his making it through this year. I'm just trying to put it in perspective.

If someone you love (or loved) has lost someone they love. Especially if they've lost the person around whom their whole life revolved, who was the most special person in their world - I ask that you give them a hall pass. 

They may not be able to focus on you in the way you need or would like. You might need to seek out other outlets for a while. Im sorry to say this - but your "big" problems might be enviable to them. They might forget to return your last text (or your last 10 texts), they might not initiate phone calls or coffee dates (because they probably aren't "hanging out"). Don't take it personally. Your friend will be disappointing. Please try not to expect too much from them - they will disappoint you if you do.

I wish I had had a hall pass for at least the first couple of years. I still sometimes do. Instead I feel like I've been watched under a microscope - while I've tried to rebuild my life. In the past four years, I've had several miscarriages, gone through a complicated adoption, had two children 9.5 months apart and taken care of three under 3 years old, moved across the country & left behind my best friends and family. None of those things by themselves, or even in combination with each other has come anywhere near in the same universe of difficulty as grieving my heart out for Max all of this time. And I'm actually not asking for your sympathy, because I think we've done an amazing job functioning and even thriving through this. But I AM asking for an occasional hall pass and I am wondering if you might consider giving one to anyone you know who is going through a really hard time.

Practice compassion. Thanks!

You should know...

When you sweep aside Max, you sweep me aside too. When you act like I should be over him by now, what I hear is that you are over me. When you deny him, ignore him, and pretend like he never existed - you shut me out and close me down. When I try to talk to you about him and you don't listen - I feel it and it keeps me from connecting to you.

Because, you see, Max IS my soul. He is part of the very essence of who I am and my loss of him will be etched into every moment of my life forever. 

Just thought you should know.

Mace Seven Months Old

I am so grateful that Mace is seven months old.  The closer we get to nine months, the more scared I am.  He somehow seems more and more vulnerable to me, the older he gets.  I can't wait to post his ten month photo.

In the meantime, Mace has had an action packed month.  We took took a mommy & baby trip together to California for a wedding.  He was SO easy on the plane.  He sat on my lap quietly, just looking around and smiling until he fell asleep. The way home was a red-eye and he slept the whole way.  He is a very portable guy. He started daycare (I can hardly believe it either) at Mo's school (with Myla too). The teachers all love him and are always commenting on what a good and easy baby he is. I am praying that this was the right decision for our family.  My feeling is that there are so many capable and certified teachers there - 3 in his classroom alone - and we were having nanny fatigue. It was near impossible to find a nanny like our last one in CA, Vivian, and we couldn't keep playing musical nannies. So far, we've been really happy with the school, for all of our kids. Mo loves visiting his brother and sister throughout the day and Macie is getting so much attention. 

Mace started eating solid foods at the start of the month. He LOVES rice cereal and is pretty much bored with everything else. I have to hide other foods in the ride cereal. I've never had a kid even like rice cereal, Mace can't get enough. 

He is still crazy cute, as evidenced below: