Missing

I’ve had multiple people ask me if we’re done having children this year. I always answer with a, very firm, yes.

Talking to my aunt Friday morning she says “It’s funny how you just know. No one is longer missing. Your family is complete.”

I always feel like someone is missing. Benjamin is missing and my family will never be complete.

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Let them eat cake.

We need to pick out Benjamin’s birthday cake soon. I say to him late last night, while we’re both staring at our phones. We both know the date is coming up. Looming over us as each day in February passes us by.

I think we should do a rocket ship. He says

We did that for his second birthday… then there is silence.

I hate picking his cake. I say and I feel my face starting to get hot. I feel my eyes starting to give way.

He looks up at me with serious, sad eyes. The way he always does when I get like this. I can tell my Mom not to make a cake this year if you don’t want one. He says, trying to fix it for me. Trying to make this a little less hard.

That’s not what I’m saying. I hate picking the theme. I hate that he’d be four this year and I have no clue what he’d like. I mean surely he’d be in to something. Like love something. And I just don’t know what it would be and that kills me. I hate picking his cake. But I want to celebrate him.

How about just a four with stars? He says. He’s trying to find a way to make this what I want it to be.

That sounds good. We need to figure out what we want to do also. Like if it’s just cake with our parents or if we go somewhere and do something. But not on his day. I can’t go anywhere on his day.

He nods. He knows.

 

In my day dreams I have a middle child. A child that sleeps on the bottom bunk while Jack sleeps up top. A curly haired boy who is a link in the chain that connects Jack and William together. A piece of our puzzle. A third booster seat in the car. Another little person to raise. I can see what it would be like… with him here. I could see how life was supposed to be. But it’s not.

So instead, the first week of March every year we throw  a sad birthday party for a boy who never got to be a day old, an hour old, a minute old, or a second old. He lived for 8 months inside of me, but never took a breath. We eat cake and plan small trips to celebrate him. To include him in our lives. What would Benjamin want to do at 4 years old?

It’s almost March and it’s almost time to eat birthday cake.

 

Gratitude and slowing down

The last few months have been a huge race… running toward the new house, trying to get the old house sold, juggling new work schedules, school activities, family obligations, and a new baby. 

It seems in the last couple months I was so stressed and anxious that I kept seeing red, finding it hard to breathe, and using my most over used phrase of I need a break. 

Things have slowed down this week, schedules figured out, the baby is finally on a day schedule to go along with his already established night schedule. Old house is in motion to be sold, and the new house is ours. For the first time since W was born I feel like this is it. It’s working and we can do this. 

Today, this morning, snuggling him in silence. Thankful for my time with him I realized wow, he is actually mine.  Even though his pregnancy was typical and okay, despite all of my anxiety and everyone else’s,  I didn’t actually think he’d be here. And now he is… and we are a completed family. 

I’ve always hated the term “rainbow baby”. After losing Benjamin and reading and talking and watching others who had experienced the same thing I hated that term with every fiber of my being. Rainbow baby. Thought it was the stupidest shit. The rainbow after the storm. I still hate it when people send me photos of rainbows. Awe look! Benjamin sent us a rainbow! Shut up, no he didn’t. That shit happened because of rain and science. 

And I laugh about it. Not because it’s funny. But because it’s sad. Because that’s what I do. I’m so the person who laughs at funerals. Because I’m awkward. But hey, it’s who I am. 

So W is not my rainbow baby. He’s just my baby. My baby who put all of my fears to rest even though i thought for sure that I would not carry another baby to full term and have it be born breathing. And technically, I guess he wasn’t full term. One week shy of it because I had awesome doctors watching me closely, watching him, and making sure they beat my body to the punch. 

I feel like this is all over the place. I guess my point is this week I finally have the opportunity to feel grateful for how things are going. I have a sleeping baby in the living room, and though sometimes my overly anxious heart makes me go over to him to check if he’s breathing, I am so happy to have him here. I am so happy to be here. 

Benjamin’s things

William has been using Benjamin’s diapers, Benjamin’s clothes, and the Benjamin blanket since he was born. Sometimes, William even uses Benjamin’s name. 

I like to watch people as they’re talking to see if they catch it. A slip of the tongue, a moment without thought, and there it is; they are holding William, but they have called him Benjamin. Sometimes they catch it and put their hand over their open mouth, look at me with wide, sad eyes, and say repeatedly I’m sorry.  And I just smile. 

A conversation with a family member two months after William was born. He kept calling him buddy. He said I’m sorry, but I won’t ever call him by his name because I’m too scared of messing up and calling him by the wrong one. He stepped around the subject, not saying what he meant but saying it all the same. My response was the same response I give to any one who slips up and gives me those wide, sad eyes. 

Why should you be sorry? If anything it makes me happy because that means he’s in your brain. He’s there and he meant something because he existed. 

We have been using Benjamin’s things. Today I asked j to go get diapers out of Benjamin’s closet, even though he’s never lived here. Tonight I dressed William in Benjamin’s blue submarine pajamas, even though he never wore them, and when I lay him down to bed William will be wrapped up in Benjamin’s blanket, though it was sewed with love and given to me two months after we laid him to rest. 

I didn’t know how unearthing all of those tubs of baby things, that used to cause me so much pain and were hidden from my sight for three years would open up life again to our dear Benjamin.Every time I see something I remember. But it’s no longer the memory of failure and despair, now I remember my hopes I had for him. And though William could never replace him, it’s kind of been a bit therapeutic using his things and laying those hopes to rest. 

We have been using Benjamin’s things. 

Present:Not being able to breathe and hope. 

Laying in bed last night.

“So here’s how I’m feeling.” I kind of say to the air and to him, not knowing if he’s already asleep in the pitch black room.

“Yeah?” He mumbles

“I’m feeling like I’ll believe it when I see it. I know how terrible that sounds but I feel like I wont believe it until they allow me to bring a healthy, breathing baby home in two weeks.”

“Yeah. Me too.” He says.

I’m 35 weeks pregnant with a new little boy who doesn’t have a name. We can’t decide, we say, or maybe we don’t want to. They are supposed to be taking him out the Friday after next. Easy peasy. The doctor says. The doctor calls him one happy ass baby for most of my appointments. I feel like I’m always at the doctor. I’m always monitoring a perfectly healthy little boy in order to help myself not go crazy with a .1% chance of something tragic happening.

Reassurance has been the word of the past 8 months. Reassurance that he will be fine and my body won’t fail me again. Specialist appointments and words like high risk being thrown around. More blood tests and ultrasounds for everyone to tell me that there is still no reasoning on why my body did what it did.

So now we wait. Stuck in that waiting place, carrying the past and hoping for the future. But not too much hope because that would mean that we’d end up where we were last time when Ben was born sleeping.

I try to remain optimistic. I’ve done everything an expecting mother is supposed to do. All the clothes are washed, the rooms set up, this week the car seat will be installed… In a week maybe I’ll be able to breathe again. But not until I see him breathing.

Memory- The morning you were still born.

I was 37 weeks pregnant and I called off of work the night before on a hunch that I didn’t want to be working the next day. It was a Monday morning in March, exactly 3 years ago. I woke up in so much pain. I sat up in bed and felt a huge gush. It’s time. I think my water just broke. I think I’m in labor. There was rushing to get your big brother around. You are coming early. We are not ready. I go into the bathroom to wash up and change. There is so much blood. Should there be blood? I’m not sure. Phone calls are made. I am speaking to doctors on the phone while I’m in the bathtub, sitting in bloody water. Then we are rushing. And the pain has not stopped. It’s one continuous contraction. Surely it’s not supposed to be like this. 

Jack is dropped off at Noni’s. She is waiting at the door. Her face shows excitement. I can not get out of the car. We are rushing and I am cussing and saying why isn’t it stopping? Why does it hurt so bad? 

At the hospital we are rushed up to labor and delivery. They are asking so many questions and I am still in so much pain. The nurses scurry in and out of our room. I look at Jason pleading Why aren’t they doing anything? He needs OUT! There is a searching, then whispers, then and ultrasound technician looking seriously at the screen. And I know then. I know what everyone in the room but Jason knows, but no one is saying anything. Just tell me. I tell the technician. The doctor will be in shortly. She replies leaving us alone in the room with my other two nurses who are still standing on the other end of the room just looking at me.

The doctor comes in. Fetal demise. No heartbeat. He is saying these things. He is asking me what happened. Did I fall? What happened? What happened? I look to Jason. Did you hear what he said? He is just looking at me. He is just holding my hand, nervously. He is looking at me but not responding. Jason, did you hear him? He’s gone. The baby is dead. 

Your Daddy starts crying, quietly, in his way that he does. Emergency c-section they say. Immediately.

I need to call my sister. The phone sucks and isn’t working fast enough. She answers, excited, says she’ll be on her way soon. Don’t come up here. I repeat it over and over and she keeps asking why. The baby is gone. I need you to make some calls for me. 

I don’t know how much time passed. We are left alone in the room. I am not crying. I don’t know why I’m not crying but I can’t cry, not yet. We can’t stop talking to each other. He says. I nod. I don’t remember when the pain stopped or what they gave me… but at some point it did. They are saying it almost time to take you out. They are asking if we want to see you. Absolutely not. No. Too hard. He’s not here.  We are being wheeled away. Other loved ones have arrived with terrible looks on their faces and questions. So many questions. No one has any answers.

In the operating room it is somber and different. There is rushing to get you out but not to make sure you arrive safely. Now, they are trying to stop my bleeding. They are trying to save me. And the nurse is there, waiting to take you away into another room, to clean you up. Wait, I do want to see him! I do! Okay, Okay they say. Okay. There is pressure then relief and you are here. But there is no brilliant cry. There is no hustle to get you breathing. You are handed off to the nurse, covered up, and hustled out before anyone can lay eyes on you. Methodical, business-like, the business of dead babies. The operation takes less time then I remember my previous one. Before we know we are back in our room surrounded by both sets of your grandparents and a friend of Noni’s that worked at the hospital.

I looked around and remembered you were coming. They’re going to bring him in here. So if you don’t want to see him you can leave now. But before I can finish you’re here. The nurse has put you in a nightgown and a beautiful knitted blanket. She hands you to me.

You are so little, 5 lbs 9 oz. But what I wasn’t expecting was how perfect you are. You look a lot like your older brother. You have my nose and your Daddy’s olive skin and forehead. Peaking out from under your little hat is your black curly hair, another thing you got from Daddy. You are perfect. But you are so, so still.

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Happy Birthday Benjamin Scott!

This morning has been a quiet one. Daddy is working until 5:30. Jack and I ate banana bread for breakfast and will hang your birthday decorations soon. We’ll be eating your third birthday cake this evening with your grandparents and thinking about who you would have been today. I think about you all the time. There is a space in our little family that only you can fill. You will be a big brother in May. I spend lots of days thinking about what it would have been like to be a mother to three boys. I miss you. Have the happiest of birthdays little bear.