Tuesday, October 28, 2008

So fall, so good

What a stark contrast this fall has shown in comparison to last fall. Last year at this time Adam and I were getting ready to step out of the fog that had taken refuge in our heads while pondering the news that Adam had a blockage in one of the main arteries to his heart. Should he have surgery? Should he not? Should he do it before Eli was due or should we wait until later? Could he wait until later? Should he exercise or be super careful about getting his heart rate too high? And of course, the ability for us to deal with the answers to all of these questions hung on the fact that the remainder of my pregnancy needed to be text book. No bed rest (as I had with Ethan), no early delivery, nothing beyond the perfect pregnancy with Eli arriving on (or after) his exact due date. The tears, the anxiety, the fear of the unknown, and even worse, the fear of the known. It permeated everything we did last fall. A shadow seemed to cast itself on everything we did.

So now that our life has returned to a delicious and wonderful normal, I can begin to turn my back on those sad thoughts and have been savoring every moment of this fall. Fall, for our family, is a season full of traditions...the state fair, the pumpkin patch, Halloween parties, Thanksgiving weekend at the cabin with friends. To be doing these same things, these exact same things as last year, reminds me how I felt 12 months ago, how vulnerable we were just a year ago and what a different way my life could've turned. It takes my breath away. I am ever so thankful that we are able to be having such great fun and galavanting with our complete family in tow all over the city.

Pictures of the recent festivities to follow...

I am also pleased to announce that it looks like I may be a college student again! Though I have not received the official word, it seems (by unofficial records) that Kennesaw State University has accepted me! Once I complete a few more prerequisites at the school, I will then be able to apply to the nursing school, so while that will be the REAL celebration, I'm still rather excited that at least one of the obstacles is checked off my list! Going to nursing school has been a (VERY lofty) dream of mine for quite a while so knowing that I am all that much closer to a goal that I never thought I would fulfill is exciting to say the least. I guess I will have to cancel those voice lessons now...(more on that later!)

I'm giddy...if you'd asked me at this time last year that I'd have myself and my (our) life together enough to even be able to think about applying to school again, I'd have laughed myself silly. That my husband would be healthy enough to help me, that I would be feeling great and no longer hopelessly exhausted from taking care of all (three) of my boys solo, that my children would be so happy and good natured that taking care of them would be just a little more than effortless...I wouldn't have believed it. Wouldn't have believed it at all. So, life is good, my friends. Life is good.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My turn to hold him

My dear friend Amanda sent me an email today to tell me that, today, October 15th, is the National Day of Remembrance for pregnancy and infant loss. She asked me, along with her/our group of loving friends, to light a candle tonight at 7:00 in honor of the memory of babies that have passed and babies that were lost during pregnancy. And to remember her sweet, sweet, little Gavin who was born on April 7, 2008 and died on May 3, 2008.

I have often thought about sharing my thoughts about Gavin here but had never had the courage to ask Amanda for her permission to do so. I think I felt that her memories of Gavin are sacred and to share mine might somehow spoil or infringe upon hers. I've started to see the error in that thinking though. For others to share their thoughts and memories of her sweet son makes him real, makes his life real. Makes it apparent that though he died, he also lived.

(And yes, I do have her permission to blog about Gavin now. I finally found the courage to ask, and not only was she okay with it, she said it did wonders for her heart and soul to know that other people outside of her family, still think of him.)

I spent this past Monday morning at Amanda's house. She asked for my help packing up the things in Gavin's room. She said that she was torturing herself by going in there and opening his drawers, smelling his little clothes, looking at his diapers neatly lined up in rows in his dresser and that the time had come to put it away. When I stepped foot in his room, I realized it was the only time I'd ever been in there. When he was home from the hospital, he was too sick to sleep alone and he either spent his nights in bed snuggled with Amanda and her husband, Chris, or another family member who had come to hold him while Gavin's weary parents tried to rest. Gavin was not expected to live many days after his release from the hospital but he hung on for several weeks. At his funeral, the family's pastor said that the only reason Gavin was able to live so long was because of the power of the human touch. That he lived because he was constantly being held in someone's loving arms. That statement was so profound and so resonant with me and I was reminded of how important that power is, the power of human touch.

I remember holding Gavin one night, I think the only time I ever held him. (I am so grateful to Amanda for sharing him and so awed at her selflessness in allowing her friends to eat up some of the precious few hours she had with her son. It will never, ever cease to amaze me, that selflessness she displayed in those difficult weeks.) Anyhow, the night I was able to hold him was one of the first days that they were home from the hospital. Amanda had called our group of close friends to go over and we sat in her quiet and cozy living room in a tight little circle and took turns snuggling with little Gavin. When it was my turn and I looked at his cute, tiny, absolutely perfect face, I had a glimmer of hope. Hope that there was some mistake, a misdiagnosis, and that he would be just fine. Did Amanda have this hope too? It was so easy to trick yourself into thinking that just maybe it could turn out differently. My turn to hold him ended much too quickly. When it was time to let someone else enjoy his sweetness, my stomach sank and I simply didn't want to let go of him. And it struck me at that moment, that if that's how I felt about letting him go and feeling that my moments with him passed by too quickly, then I don't think I could even begin to comprehend the depths of Amanda's grief and sorrow and instincts to hold tight to her little boy and frustration with what little time she had with him and how deep her desire to never have to let go. That if I had trouble handing him over to one of my close friends when it was her turn to hold him, how would Amanda be able to find the strength to hand him over to G-d when it was His turn to hold Gavin?

When Amanda and I sat down in front of Gavin's dresser this week, ready to put the clothes that Amanda had lovingly washed and folded and put away in drawers in anticipation of his arrival, a panic spread through me, a sickness in my stomach that clearly told me that this was for real. That he really was gone. I imagine Amanda must have experienced a similar feeling, tears pouring down her face as we sat looking at his drawers full of his things. I looked around as I sat there with her and saw just how ready his room was. Just waiting for him, saying in a gentle whisper, "Come on in, little man!". I didn't want to touch anything the wrong way, or sneak in a sniff of jammies lest I steal the smell of Gavin away from her. I treaded carefully, gently, as respectfully as I could. I felt that I was among relics. And I guess that sounds funny, but in a way, they were. Relics of a short life, yet a life lived. In an ever so meaningful way.

An hour or two later (just an hour or two to pack up his little life) the drawers and baskets and closet were empty, everything neatly packed in boxes now stacked in the storage room. Amanda had saved a few outfits that Gavin had been able to wear while he was home, as well as a couple of blankets and hats and socks he'd used. She had set aside an adorable, heart-shaped keepsake box to pack those precious momentos away in. I sat quietly as I watched her fold, unfold, and refold his few little outfits. Placing them in the box. Taking them out. Putting them back in so they would be just so. I watched her do this, sitting near to her so she would not be alone but trying not to intrude on her moments with Gavin's things. I prayed to G-d that she would not pick up on the symbolism of this task, that she wouldn't realize the significance, at least until later. She popped his little pacifier in the box, rearranged another outfit, put the top of the box on and said through her sobs, "All I have left of him is in a box." And I thought, "I guess G-d didn't hear me," because she sure as hell got it.

I have so much more of him to share and I will. But for now, I thought this day, October 15th, the National Day of Remembrance for pregnancy and infant loss, was an appropriate day to start his story.

Please light a candle tonight. And remember my dear friend Amanda's third son Gavin. And all the other little ones who could only be held by their mothers and fathers and families and friends for a short time, or who never could be held at all.

And remember what Gavin and his extraordinary life taught us...how strong the power of the human touch.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The things he says...

...positively melt my heart!

I was nursing a bad cold last week and Ethan desperately wanted some of my soup. I told him I couldn't share because he'd catch my germs and I didn't want him to get sick. I spent much of the morning in bed, leaving Eli in the Exersaucer and letting Ethan watch horrible shows on TV while eating whatever he picked out for lunch (Apple Jacks out the box. Eek!). Later, when I felt better, I joked to him that he must like it when I'm sick because he gets to do all kinds of things he can't do on a normal day.

He looked at me seriously and said, "No, Mommy. I don't like it all when you are sick. Because then you can't kiss me."


And speaking of sighs, Adam and I shared a wonderful moment last night. After having dinner with some friends, we headed home and both boys fell asleep in the car. I LOVE when they both are sleeping in the backseat. And not neccessarily because of the delicious peace and quiet that envelops the car, but just because they look so darn sweet back there. Heads lolling to one side, tiny snores coming from their noses, chests rising up and down, hands still in their laps. So unbelievably sweet and peaceful.

When Adam and I pulled into the garage, we each opened up one of the backseat doors and instead of immediately carting them off to bed, we just stared at them. I whispered to Adam with tear-filled eyes, "We made them!".

We made them. There are times when the magnitude of that hits me so hard. It is so obvious, yet something that I easily forget. Adam and I were just two people and we MADE a family of four. Such a simple thought, yet so difficult to wrap my head around it, around the weight that it carries.

Adam and I were on man-to-man defense and his man for the night was Eli, and I squeezed Ethan extra tightly as I scooped him up and carried him up to bed. I buried my nose in the curve of his neck as I gently walked up the stairs, trying not to wake him. When I laid him on his bed, he said he was "too tired" to get his jammies on himself and asked if I could please do it for him. I remember so well being a kid and falling asleep in the car on the way home from somewhere with my parents and being soooo sleepy when we got home and asking my mom to do the same thing. And what comfort it brought to have her do that for me, so I was so happy to be able to dress my little boy for bed while his eyes stayed closed. We skipped brushing teeth and washing up, and I kissed his sticky face and smelled his sweaty head and spent the rest of the night feeling dreamy and content.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I'm not a superstitious person. I'm really not. Except the hair on the back of my neck stood up and my tummy felt funny Sunday night as I was driving in my car, listening to the radio.

I was heading back home from the airport after a weekend away (a girls' trip in honor of my dear friend Tricia's upcoming wedding). I had the radio on and was thinking about the week ahead. I remembered that Adam had a PET scan scheduled for Monday. It has been almost a year to the day that he had his surgery. The scan is done to measure the blood flow to the heart. The heart rate is increased artificially and then photos are taken of the heart. Last time this the test was administered, Adam's heart showed over 50% ischemia, meaning that during exertion, Adam's heart was getting less than 50% of the blood it needed. When looking at the pictures, you could see where his heart was also getting enlarged, meaning that it wasn't functioning properly at all when not at rest. This was the test that pushed us over the fence in terms of making the decision to move forward, quickly, with surgery.

Anyhow, as I was thinking pretty deeply about this test and what good (or bad) results would mean for Adam and for us this time around, I reached out and changed channels on the radio. "You Want To Make a Memory" by Bon Jovi had just started on the channel that I turned to. Now, if you've followed my blog, you know what the significance of this song holds for me. If you are only just starting to read it, or are having a senior moment, here's the background: http://talesofasouthernyankee.blogspot.com/2008/08/i-wouldnt-have-missed-dance.html

I felt unsettled and queasy and had this familiar "here we go again" feeling in my (sinking) heart. When I arrived at home, I pushed these thoughts out of my mind. I hadn't seen Adam all weekend, found out the kids had been sick and didn't want to get into any kind of deep discussion. And I'm not above enjoying a little denial either.

Later that night, Adam was organizing his medications for the week and took his daily handful of supplements and lifesaving pills. He immediately realized that he had taken one of the medications he was supposed to refrain from taking in preparation for his test. He figured he would call the hospital in the morning and find out how significantly this might affect the test results. An hour or so went by and he told me he didn't feel all that hot (fighting off the cold that we all have had here) and thought that it might be best to reschedule his test. He said he was so sensitive to those results that he didn't want to do the test with any conditions that would affect the outcome. I told him that though I didn't want to share why, I really wanted him to postpone the test as well. He agreed and will take it later next week. I am partly relieved but partly on edge and trying to remember that I am NOT superstitious.

Not me Monday (Tuesday)

I guess no amount of Adderall can help me with my chronically late issues...but I digress (which would be wierd for someone with ADD to do...). Anyhow, I have been meaning to do this and am now finally getting around to it.

One of the blogs I read regularly, MckMama's blog, has this fun little thing going on called "Not Me Monday", where you spend the post saying things you didn't do, but actually did do. Now, it doesn't sound like that much fun, but I promise, once you get reading, it is! Anyhow, even though it is Tuesday...and almost midnight, so nearing Wednesday, here's my attempt at Not Me Monday.

Here goes...

I most definitely did not put Eli down for a nap yesterday and then promptly bribe Ethan with watching a kids' show that is off-limits in our house so I could take a nap. And then I absolutely did not put on a second forbidden show so I could nap longer. Heck, no. I would never even think to do something like that. Not me.

I did not plop Eli down on the floor and have him hold his own bottle today so that I could put on clean clothes before I picked Ethan up from school. What kind of mother would I be if I did something like that?

I didn't smell a pair of Ethan's socks today to determine if they were clean or dirty. How gross would that be?

I wasn't secretly glad that Adam had to work late because it allowed me to get out of cooking a meal, setting the table and then cleaning up afterward. And I didn't let Ethan watch Curious George while he sat and ate his dinner at his little kids' table. No sir, not me.