Saturday, March 28, 2009

A memory quilt

I've decided that I would like to have a quilt made out of some of Samantha's clothing and blankets. My grandmother (hereafter known as “Nana”) does a lot of quilting and in fact made a quilt for each of my kids when they were born, including Samantha. So I asked her if she'd be willing to make a quilt for me, and she readily agreed to take on the project.

Last week I went through all of her clothes and carefully chose the items I wanted to be part of the quilt. I saved a few outfits that I wanted to keep intact, particularly the outfit she was wearing when she passed away. I also wanted to save her “lovey”, the little blanket-toy-thing she slept with. But there are many other great candidates for the quilt; lots of clothes that I remember her wearing that really make me think of her. We even decided we could use parts of her crib bumper and crib skirt for the quilt. I think it will be a meaningful project for my Nana and a wonderful keepsake for us.

Today my Nana was visiting for my son's birthday party (he turned 3 today). While she was here, I went through all the clothing with her and handed it over so she could begin work on the quilt. It was nice to spend time with her sorting through Samantha's clothing and sharing memories together.

But then a few hours later I realized I just wasn't ready. I got panicky just thinking about the fact that I would never see that clothing, as it is right now, again. And I just couldn't do it. I had to have the clothes back. Of course my Nana doesn't want to rush me, and really there's no hurry with this project. As much as I know I will love the quilt, it doesn't have to be done right now. I'm not ready to part with her clothing just yet. It just feels too final. You know, as if her death wasn't final enough.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bad news, shouted across an intersection

Today I was walking in the neighborhood with my son in the stroller when I saw someone I knew in a car at the intersection. I hadn't seen her for, I don't know, probably a year, and really didn't know her all that well.

Anyway, when she saw us, she rolled down her window and asked if that was Samantha in the stroller. I knew immediately this wasn't going to be an easy conversation, but I attempted to end it quickly. I shouted across the intersection that no, this wasn't Samantha, it was my son Charlie who was almost 3. Then I tried to start walking again. She persisted, “How is Samantha doing?” Fuck. This is problematic. My only choices were to lie (fine!) and hope to never see her again or shout the truth across the intersection.

I had to go with the truth. Pause, pause, “Um, actually she passed away”. Her response was, of course, horrified shock. I hate this. I'm totally fine with talking about Samantha. Almost anytime. But what I really hate is breaking the news to someone. It's just so awful. It's a little like reliving the horror of it all again. And the person finding out the news is always traumatized. Hell, I'm vaguely traumatized at having to spell the whole thing out again. I just hate it. It wasn't her fault. It was a kind and thoughtful question. Just one I'd prefer not to answer anymore. Maybe I could just make a sign for these situations.

Today is the 18th - two months since Samantha has been gone. I'm pretty sure these have been the longest two months of my life. And certainly the worst.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Big brother

I never expected to gain so much pleasure from watching my kids interact with each other. It's great fun to see them forming relationships with each other, apart from us, their parents. Losing Samantha means losing some of those relationships, too. My son was an amazing big brother to her. He's a very gentle boy (perhaps because he was surrounded by sisters) and tried so hard to be loving and gentle with Samantha. He didn't always succeed. He was frequently, accidentally too rough with her (and sometimes not so accidentally).

His relationship with Samantha was heartbreaking because he really did love her, but she usually assumed he was going to hurt her. She would sometimes cry in anticipation of him touching her as if to say, “I know where this is going and you're not going to get away with it!” Fortunately, he was oblivious to this dynamic. He would comment that Samantha was crying, never realizing that it was because he was too close. Heartbreaking. She did enjoy watching him from a safe distance and definitely appreciated his playful antics. He's a funny guy. And he's very attentive when we visit anyone with a baby at their house these days. He really does love babies. It's very hard for me to think that he'll never get to play the role of big brother again. He was a good one.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Carrot stains and other permanent damage

My hubby and I have discussed this ad nauseam: in his mind, Samantha lived a very good life. And he's right. If you don't count the time spent in the PICU (8 weeks total), her 12 months were very good. Great even. She was surrounded by a very loving family and was doted on by three adoring siblings. She died before she even knew to fear death. She died in my arms, her mother's arms, heavily dosed with morphine. She didn't feel a thing. What better way is there to go? Really, her death was peaceful and beautiful.

But forgive me for not celebrating this fact. I can't help but dwell on the fact that she was robbed of a full life. We were robbed of really getting to know her. My son was robbed of being a big brother. My daughters were robbed of their baby sister. I was robbed of my baby! I'm not ready to be past the baby stage already.

Today I opened up Samantha's dresser drawers for the first time since December and noticed that one of her onsies had accidentally been put away dirty way back when. I could see the tell-tale signs of baby food carrots and a few other unidentifiable bits of food on the collar. It was a very tangible reminder to me that she was here, she was alive and present in our house, and not that long ago. I looked through all her clothes and held some of my favorites up to my body, just trying to feel what it was like to hold her. How my arms ache just to hold her again. It's an actual physical ache.

I admit to treating my almost three year old son like more of a baby than I should. It's just that, well, I don't have my baby anymore, and he's the next closest thing. I sometimes carry him around when he should clearly be walking. I dote on him more than is probably good for him.

Oh, and he's responded willingly to this “babying” and has begun affecting a new “baby voice” from time to time. He's perfected the most annoying 2 year-old-speaking-baby-talk you can possibly imagine, so I guess this is my payback for treating him like a baby. I just hope the damage to his psyche isn't permanent.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Mundane memories

So many of the parents in the baby lost world never had a chance to meet their children before they died. I am so grateful to have had Samantha for the year that we did. There were a lot of great memories. There were plenty of bad memories when I add up the grand total of 8 weeks she spent in the PICU. But the good times were so good.

I'm distraught at the idea of forgetting things about her. Already, I know her memory is fading in my mind. I can still imagine the perfect smell of her head, the way she felt in my arms when I rocked her. For a while I saved one of the last outfits she wore at the hospital and would breath in its smell, her smell, every day. But sadly, that smell has faded from the outfit, which is just killing me. I feel desperate to hang on to everything that reminds me of her short life.

There are so many other things I want to remember, too. Like the fact that she frequently would “dive” for her crib at bed time. I would always sing the “Rubber Duckie” song to her right before bed, replacing the words “Rubber Duckie” with “Sweet Samantha”. Usually before I got to the end, she was bending away from me and leaning toward her crib. Of course, sometimes she would cry to be gotten back out 2 minutes later, but I always felt like she really did like her crib.

Samantha was never what you would call a great sleeper. She did have a brief period from the age of 4 months up to 5 months when she discovered tummy sleeping, and she did manage to sleep through the night from time to time. But then she had her first heart surgery at 5 months and spent the next 1 month solid on her back recovering. She would never again go for sleeping on her tummy. And she never really slept through the night after that either.

She was the only baby of my four children who would ever agree to taking a bottle. And I think that was only because we really forced it on her. She had a lot of trouble gaining weight before her VSD was fixed at 5 months, so we spend a lot of time trying to get extra calories into the poor kid. In addition to regular breastfeeding, I pumped several times a day, then supplemented the breastmilk with formula for a super-rich concoction.

She was never a ravenous baby. Her three older siblings seemed hungry all the time as babies and basically would nurse any time the breast was offered. Not Samantha. She was always picky about eating and really never seemed all that hungry. In retrospect, I'm sure that had a lot to do with all her heart troubles.

She ended up weaning by 8 months old. I think she preferred the ease of the bottle compared to nursing. It broke my heart to have her stop nursing so early, but I admit to enjoying some of the freedom that gave me as well. It was a lot easier for me to get out of the house knowing I could leave her with a bottle. And my husband shared night-time feedings with me once she went totally to the bottle. It was nice to get a good night's sleep every other night. And my hubby didn't mind the feedings much since she was the only baby he was able to feed. It was good bonding time for them. I also mostly enjoyed the night-time feedings (mostly). Because she was my fourth, I was fully aware of just how fleeting those baby moments would be. I definitely remember trying to appreciate and absorb her sounds, her feel, her smell. I'm so glad I did. Both of us are grateful for that time we had with her because the nighttime feedings were some of the only times we had one-on-one time with her. Now that we know how the story ends, I'm so glad we never did the whole cry-it-out thing with her.

These are just some of the memories I have of her. I know it's not exactly riveting to read mundane memories from her babyhood, but I really need to get these memories written down before I forget them. They mean the world to me. Thanks for understanding.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A picture from last fall

Just testing out how to post pictures on this blog. This one is from October.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009


My kids were each born just short of 2 years apart. So before now, I have never had an almost 3 year old child (which my son is now) and *not* had a 1 year old baby to take care of as well. In fact, it was usually around this time in the sequence that I got pregnant with the *next* child. So I'm kind of used to being pregnant and having multiple small children around.

Well, it has been a whiplash-inducing change for us to go from having 4 kids, with the youngest not yet a year old, to suddenly, unexpectedly having just 3 kids, with the youngest almost 3 years old. It's hard for me to even write, but the truth is, logistically, our life is a lot easier than it was before. Emotionally, it's much more difficult because of all we've been through. But feeding, clothing, and bathing them are just simpler tasks without a baby thrown in the mix. The kids are all fairly independent at this point and can play together or entertain themselves pretty well. They really don't need me in the same way that a baby needs her mom.

And this whole concept -- this not being so needed, this having more free time -- fills me with all kinds of conflicting emotions. It IS nice to have a little more time to myself. It IS good to be able to spend more time with my older kids. We can leave the house without a stroller and a diaper bag. We can go on morning-long outings without worrying about naps. We can go to a museum and see more than one exhibit!

But my mind recoils at even reading these words that I've typed. Yes, in a way I'm happy for all of these unexpected developments. But of course, I would give them all back 1,000-times to have Samantha with us again. Yes, we gained some new freedom, but the price for that freedom, well, it was unspeakably high. My baby had to die for us to have this freedom. Not worth it. Not even in the ballpark of worth it.