I know there are hurting people each and every day, for many different reasons. I know there are mothers every day who are grieving the loss of their child(ren). I know this and think about it literally every day of my life.
Because I AM one of those mothers.
But my friend Rachael is SO heavy on my heart. Knowing what she's going through. Knowing the uphill battle she now faces. Knowing how difficult the days ahead are going to be for her.
And it has brought back a flood of emotions for me. It has brought me back, emotionally, to the time right after Grady went to heaven. I don't write this for you to feel sorry for me. I'm in a much, much better place now 15 months later than I was then. Time does have a way of healing. But it never goes away completely. And, today, I just need to write out these thoughts and feelings.
And maybe you, too.
When I walked out of the hospital without Grady in my arms, I felt sad and empty. And MAD. I was, no doubt, in shock. But I was clear-headed and determined enough to know that if I wasn't leaving with a baby in my arms, I was walking. NOT riding in a wheelchair.
I remember as I got into the van, I said, "This is the second *%!#@?^ time I've left this hospital without a baby in my arms, and this time there's no chance that he's ever coming home with us." I don't often curse. But I did then. It wasn't fair. It just wasn't fair.
The drive home was somber. Quiet. Not many words were spoken between me and Gib. What do you say at a time like that? What do you talk about? I knew that we weren't long behind Chad from the funeral home who had come to get Grady. I wished he was with us. It may sound crazy, but knowing what I know now...people leave the hospital with their baby and take them to the funeral home themselves. I remember thinking, at the time, how that would have been nice. Just to spend a little more time with him. To hold him a little longer... If only I'd known that was an option...
Then we had the fiasco at our pharmacy. We went through the drive-thru to fill my Percocet prescription because I'd had a c-section. There were three prescriptions total to be filled, but that was the only one I really needed then. The lady at the window told us, sorry, they closed at 9pm (this was at 7pm) and they were already 3 hours behind. WHAT?! Are you kidding me!? First, I asked if my friend was working - nope - because I knew if she was, she would fill it. Then I
Then it was home to my sweet girls. They were so glad to see me, as I was them. My friend, Amy Ellen, had made dinner for us that night and she and my other friend Nicole had straightened my house. What a blessing. I walked into Grady's room and found the most beautiful basket on Grady's changer. My friends, Robin and Lori, had gone in together and gotten it for me. It was filled with angel items, chocolates and bath salts. Their thoughtfulness meant so much to me.
I don't remember if I cried when I first walked in Grady's room or not. I think I did, but it's terrible that I don't know for sure. I just remember feeling lost and in a daze.
After we ate dinner, and I pretty much sat watching them eat, my girls wanted to watch a movie. I was so tired but obliged. I pretty much slept on the sofa while they watched the movie. But we were all together and that's what mattered. They hadn't seen me in three days.
I really don't remember much about that weekend. I know all I really wanted to do was sleep because when I was sleeping, my heart didn't feel like it was ripping out of my chest. I religiously took my Percocet and Xanax just to get me through. Think of me what you want, but I needed my medication during that time. A few things about the weekend stand out...
We were trying to decide on cremation or burial for Grady. I decided to do a little research on cremation. First mistake. I then decided to find out how to talk to your children about cremation. Second mistake. "In order to talk to your children about cremation, you first need to understand the process yourself" is what the article said. I read it. Through my sobs, I told Gib, "I'm done for the day". It was only 12:00. I didn't come back out of my room until dinner time.
I also remember that Sunday my brother, sister-in-law and my stepdad came over for a visit. I was still a zombie. We sat in the family room, talking about stuff, all the while avoiding the "elephant" in the room. I remember either myself or my sister-in-law brought up Grady, and my brother said something like, "Okay, let's talk about something else." I knew it was hard for him and probably uncomfortable. I wasn't mad at all, but I remember thinking, "I don't want to talk about anything else...I want to talk about Grady."
Gib stayed home with me for the first three days of the next week. We made final arrangements for Grady, but other than that, I think I spent most of that time in the bed. The first day Gib went back to work was terrible for me. After the girls went to school, I was lost. I spent most of that time in bed. Not sleeping. Just lying there. Thinking. Thinking. Thinking. Reliving every moment that had happened.
I had wonderful people who were taking the girls to school for me, but I would stay in bed until the last possible second before I had to get Jessica up for school. I would get her ready and go back to bed until I had to get Emma Grace up for school. I would get her ready and go back to bed.
Yes. I spent a lot of time in the bed. Again, not sleeping. Just holding Grady's blanket close to my chest. But I had no energy for anything else.
Had it not been for people bringing us meals, I would not have showered. I would have stayed in my pj's all day. And that's exactly what I did on the days we didn't get a new meal. I just didn't care.
But on the days when I dressed, it literally took me about two hours. Something that normally takes me 40 minutes, shower and all. I would shower. Get back in bed. Do a little make-up. Get back in bed. Dry my hair. Get back in bed. Get my clothes on. Get back in bed. Flat-iron my hair. And by then, it was time for someone to be bringing Emma Grace home from preschool. We would snuggle, read, watch tv, etc until Jessica got home. Gib usually wasn't too far behind Jessica in those early days which was a blessing.
I remember a week after coming home, going in the nursery to read a book I had been given by the social worker at the hospital. It was called, "When Hello Means Goodbye". She gave it to me the day I was discharged and told me to read it at some point. I found a little comfort in the book, but mostly I was furious that no one had given it to me when I first arrived at the hospital. It talked about making memories with your baby in the short time you had with them. It would have been nice to have that part of the book highlighted and the suggestion made to read it before delivery. And if we weren't able to read it ourselves, maybe someone could have read it to us.
I remember feeling like I had lead in my legs. It was hard to walk. It felt like I had a ton of bricks on my chest. It was hard to breathe. It physically hurt to breathe. I remember feeling sick to my stomach all the time. I wasn't eating like I should have been. But why should I? I wasn't nursing a baby who needed nourishment, so who cared? I lost 30 pounds in two weeks.
I would go in Grady's room, sit in the rocker, and just cry. I cried myself to sleep one night in the rocker which resulted in a terrible crick in my neck. Gib came in one day and asked me what he could do to help me. I know he felt helpless when it came to me. I said, "I just need you to love me". He said, "I think I can do that".
I journaled to Grady frequently which helped. Just to pour my thoughts and feelings out to him felt good. And during that time, I wasn't speaking to God, so I started a journal to God which has turned into my prayer journal. I didn't want to talk directly to Him, so I thought I would write out my feelings instead. It was a tremendous help...at least until I had my first breakthrough.
I remember wandering through my house thinking, "I should have a baby in my arms", not knowing what to do with myself.
I remember the mailbox being full of sympathy cards every day. I would open each one, read it and put it in a pile. I still have them. I was so grateful that people were taking the time to reach out to me. But I remember thinking how I wished I was getting Congratulations cards instead. And how "not right" it all was. I got mad about it one day. But what could I do? Nothing. It was what it was, and it wasn't going to change.
I remember not answering the phone for at least a month. Even with caller-id. The only times I answered was when I thought it might pertain to Jessica or Emma Grace. I did answer Gib's calls, but other than that, I just let voicemail pick it up. I didn't really care to talk to anyone and if they really cared about me, they would just leave a message. Which most people did.
I remember the first time I went to a public function. It was Emma Grace's Thanksgiving feast/celebration at preschool. I wanted to be there for her, but I hated going. I walked in and felt like I wore a huge sign on my head that said, "Yes. My baby died". Whether it was true or not, I felt like people were talking about me, saying, "See that woman over there, the one in the black shirt, her baby just died". I hated that feeling, but it was worth enduring to see Emma Grace sing in her little Indian outfit.
I remember the first trip I made to the grocery store. I intentionally made a list and thankfully did not forget it. I was in the back of the store and felt like I was going to have an anxiety attack. My face became flushed. My heart started beating really fast. And my ears started ringing. I took some deep breaths, leaned harder into my shopping cart to hold myself up, focused on my list and somehow made it out of there. Luckily there were only three more items that I needed.
I remember the first time someone saw me who did not know what happened to Grady. It was at the preschool where I thought everyone knew...I felt safe there. But after Emma Grace's Christmas party, I was walking out the door and the woman behind me said, "I see you had the baby! How's he doing?" Not only was I caught off guard, but I just flat out didn't know how to answer her. I told her that he died and she felt awful. And I'll be darn if it didn't happen again later on that same day at Jessica's school. Except, instead of crumbling into tears like the first lady and me comforting her, this woman, while holding her baby, stomped her foot on the ground and said, "D--n it, I hate that. I hate that for you". I actually liked her response better.
I remember picking up "The Good Grief Club" by Monica Novak for the first time. I remember that I couldn't put it down because I was reading the words of someone else who was describing exactly what I had been feeling. Finally, I felt like I wasn't alone. Someone else knew what I was going through. Even if it was an author of a book and not someone in real life.
I remember sitting at the computer one evening after dinner. The dishwasher was going, the tv was on and the girls were running around playing. Loudly. I literally felt as if I was going to jump out of my skin! I thought, "What is wrong with me?!" I told the girls to turn off the tv if they weren't watching it and to please lower their voices. I then googled "symptoms of grief" and to my great surprise and sense of relief, "sensory overload" was on the list. It felt good that it was "normal" and that I wasn't going crazy. Even the sounds in the grocery store or in a large function with lots of people talking would just about put me over the edge. Eventually this subsided, but oh how I thought I had really lost it!
While I was completely consumed physically, emotionally, and mentally with my grief for Grady, I'm so thankful I had Jessica and Emma Grace. I honestly don't know what I would have done without them. I snuggled them and loved on them so much in those days that I'm pretty sure I suffocated them to an extent. I know they got tired of it, but they appeased me. Thanks sweet girls! It was hard to put a smile on my face at times, but I did. I know they were hurting and dealing with our loss in their own way. They knew how hard it was for me because they saw me acting differently than they had ever seen me before. I have cards they made me during that time that I will treasure forever.
After Grady went to heaven, I'll be the first to tell you that, YES I was depressed. I'm not one bit ashamed to admit that to you or anyone else. I think I was entitled to it, as is anyone going through such a significant time of loss. I had never known such depression before, and it was debilitating at times. Praise God, Dr. Joe asked me before I left the hospital if I wanted to go ahead and start on some medication. I agreed because my miscarriage in 2005 sent me into postpartum depression, which I didn't know could happen. I started Lexapro the day I came home from the hospital, and within three weeks some of the heaviness lifted. The gray cloud was still there but the fog had lifted some. I stayed on it until March of 2009 when I felt like it was starting to mask my feelings. It's terrible to feel the need to cry but you're just not able. And for the record, I didn't stay on the Percocet and Xanax very long. I traded the Percocet for Ibuprofen and the Xanax for some Unisom to help me sleep...worked fine and is not addicting...exactly what I needed.
I don't want pity for this post. That's not why I wrote it. I wrote this for myself because the memories hung heavily over me today. And I also wrote this for others who may be going through this very same thing right now. Maybe what I felt will make someone else feel a little less alone. I remember thinking, "I know I'm not the only one who's going through this right now". And I wasn't. Oh, how I wish I'd had my blog then...
If you're still reading...thanks for hanging on 'till the end! It has only taken me about four hours to get it done!