In less than a month it will be what would have been Toby’s first birthday. We’re going to have a small thing at the house and whether anyone manages to show up or not doesn’t matter. I just want to recognize the day in some format.
It seems crazy that a year ago he was fighting to come into the world and we were so worried that he wasn’t going to make it and then he did and we were so relieved. And then he died anyway. I have a friend who won’t announce a pregnancy, and doesn’t even consider what she’s carrying a real child until around 16 weeks because she had a miscarriage at that point in the past. I have learned that there are no guarantees when it comes to pregnancies and even to your children after they are born, no matter how long you wait to announce it.
Anyway, that’s not what this post is about. Thinking about Toby’s birthday has gotten me thinking about the day he was born. As soon as they got me up to the triage at UK the first person I called (after Pete called Mom) was my friend Becca. I didn’t know that she was at a party or I wouldn’t have interrupted her but she came and stayed until around 4 in the morning, helping take care of Sam in the hospital and being general support for us.
Toby was born on her birthday.
When Toby died, Becca was the first person I alerted. If not for her and her finance, Rob, and their friend Desha we wouldn’t have made it through those first two weeks. I wish I could give a list of everything they did for us but I can’t because unfortunately some of my memories of that time are hazy. Not the bad ones, of course. Those are as plain as day. But the other ones…they’re a little sketchy at best. I DO remember them cooking dinner for us, buying cleaning supplies, organizing people, staying at the funeral home with us, making phone calls…I remember Becca going to the doctor with me, talking to me, and just sitting with me so that I wouldn’t be by myself. Other people might have done other things, but the things that she did stick out the most. I know that for Pete, Rob was someone that he really looked up to and respected.
This might sound totally crazy, but the other thing that I remember is that the last time we saw them we talked about going fishing and camping when summer rolled around again. The idea of this excited us because Pete had never been fishing, I had no idea how to teach him, and the thought of actually having something normal and fun to look forward to in the future (even in the far-off future) was really something to cling to when we were feeling at our lowest. And our lowest happened a lot. Every day we seemed to hit new lows.
I’ve been given a lot of flack for things that I have said or done since Toby died. Even a couple of days after he died someone was complaining about how I was handling his death (mostly crying and sleeping at that point) and my Uncle Ray apparently had to jump in and defend me and say, “Well, she carried him for nine months.” I’m sure I said things and did things that hurt people’s feelings, but right from the get-go I wasn’t given any leeway for what I was feeling.
After a week, one of my friends actually said, “Well, if you’re still crying every day then you need some serious help.” We cut ourselves off from a lot of people, people that we actually liked, because they were causing us more grief than not. Some did it intentionally and some probably thought that they were actually helping. But in most cases, we were not entitled to anything that we felt or did. All of our actions and emotions were supposed to be centered around other people in an attempt to make THEM feel better and more comfortable. That wasn’t fair to us.
Honestly, I don’t even remember much of last Fall. I remember things here and there but I look back on pictures and things and can’t remember how I got from Point A to Point B. Sometimes I re-read the things that I wrote in my SIDS blog and cringe, but mostly I don’t because that’s what I was feeling at the time. And for as many hateful replies and responses I got I have received twice as many positive ones, mostly from people who have lost children and feel the same way I did at the time.
There are a few things that I regret. I regret spending any amount of energy on Pete’s friends (Simon and Sarah and Tom and Gemma). They weren’t worth it. People with their own agendas and hateful attitudes had no place in our lives at the time. I regret spending any amount of energy on them and as much as I said at the time, I actually regret not saying more. Pete handled it better than I did. His response was that he lost his son, what did it matter if he lost other people who weren’t there for him…
I regret trying to please everyone. There were those who didn’t want me to talk about Toby at all so I had to watch what I said and those who always wanted to talk about Toby (even when I didn’t) and I had to bring up painful memories and those who seemed to revel in being able to “help” us because they got to broadcast it and I let them…I said “yes” too many times and “no” too few times and I let some of the people in my life push me into feeling things that I wasn’t ready to feel yet. I let people make ME feel guilty for reaching out to them when I needed help and they turned me down for whatever reason. I let a lot of people affect me. Truthfully, these last six months where I’ve only seen a handful of people have been the most healing because people haven’t been something that I’ve really been able to deal with a lot. Most of the non-family members that were in our lives before Toby died no longer are and won’t be again. And some family members. I regret letting so many people have that much influence over me when I should have just been focusing on Sam and Pete and saying to hell with the rest of them.
The other thing I regret is whatever happened between us and Becca and Rob. I’ve been Facebook blocked by a number of people who said that I was being mean and hateful or that there was “too much drama” going on in my life and what have you. And that’s fine. They weren’t people who necessarily added anything to my life and nothing changed once they were gone. But I honestly don’t know what happened to Becca and Rob. They were there, and then they weren’t.
I have said some negative things about people and I haven’t been shy about it. But after spending 9 months of being accused of everything from killing your child to ruining your husband’s life you get a little bitter. I’ve been pretty negative, too. I don’t like it, but at least I recognize it. And there has been a lot of drama in our lives in the past 11 months. I’ll definitely attest to that. During that time we lost our son, lost Pete’s Mom, Dad had not one but two heart attacks, I got diagnosed with general anxiety and PTSD, Mom had a stroke, our dogs got poisoned, Pete lost his full time job, we’ve both considered suicide on multiple occasions and I even attempted once, Sam needed surgery, we had to move from the one place we really felt stable in, and we’ve gone through the worst pregnancy known to man. Not really, but it feels like it anyway. That’s a lot for a lifetime but a whole lot for less than a year.
I can understand why people wouldn’t want to be around that. Heck, I don’t want to be around that! But I don’t think we intentionally caused any of it. True, we kind of knew that a pregnancy would be hard since the last one was, but no one could have predicted it would be this bad.
But we don’t know that that’s the reason they disappeared. We don’t have any clue. Like I said, I have been vocal about what people have and have not done. I’ve been extremely disappointed by the people in our lives that should have been there for us and instead made the situation ten times worse. But I never felt that way about them. In fact, I’ve done nothing but rave about the good things that they did. I didn’t do anything but rave because I never felt anything negative about them.
Pete and I were talking about this the other day and their departure from our lives have hurt us worse than anyone else’s, including family. Not only did we really like them, but they represented that chance of being normal again, of going fishing and camping and having some sense of stability. Maybe it’s putting too much pressure on them, but there it is. I actually watched Pete cry when I told him that they had blocked us and he didn’t even do that through any of his dad’s stuff or Simon’s bullshit or Tom’s nonsense. We just didn’t get it-and still don’t.
So if we didn’t thank them enough, act grateful enough, praise enough, or generally be nice enough then I honestly apologize. (And I’m not being sarcastic here.) I tried, I really did. But I know I probably didn’t say “thank you” enough during that first week. I barely remember what happened that first week. And after that…well…things just kept getting worse when it seemed like they couldn’t get worse.
So whatever we did, we are sorry. Other people who didn’t hang around for whatever reason, well, they can kiss my ass. I hope to God that nothing like what happened to us ever happens to them but if it does then I pray that people don’t treat them the way that they treated us. And I take responsibility for sometimes not dropping something when I should have. (Although I don’t take responsibility for starting anything because I don’t think I did.)
But for Becca and Rob, I am sorry. Pete is sorry. We had Christmas cards and Christmas presents for them and I kept sending texts letting them know about Iris, that Iris was a girl, and that Sam’s birthday party was coming up. When I didn’t get replies I thought that maybe their phone number had changed. I am ashamed to admit that it was months later before I realized that I had just been blocked. Now I feel embarrassed.
Chalk it up to one more thing you learn about losing your child and grief: You don’t just lose the person who died. And sometimes the other losses can be just as hurtful, but in different ways.
I know that people get angry and upset at us (okay, mostly me) for choices that were made and things that were said but there is no manual on how to handle these things. And that grief model doesn’t mean jack shit. You can’t put a scientific explanation and pie chart on loss and grief. It’s not linear and it’s not explainable.
Last week when Mom was complaining that Pete didn’t help her enough with “her” stuff during our move and instead focused on ours I told her that I was trying to be more positive from here on out and focus on the good things that have happened and that people have done. (Except for the people who have done nothing but had and don’t deserve the energy to even be thought about or mentioned.) But when it comes to Becca and Rob, there was nothing partial or bad to even overlook. Everything they did was good.
It hurts that we are so forgettable that people can easily move on from us. It hurts even more that people can easily move on from Toby and Sam. But I am so very grateful for what they did. And it was something that Becca said to me once that I replay from time to time when I have thought about killing myself again that has stopped me each time. (No psychoanalysis BS, just something personal.) So although I am angry and confused, I am mostly very happy for having them in our lives, even for a brief time, and I am only sorry that it couldn’t have been for longer.