Friday, December 21, 2012

Our "Other" Children

I don't think I could write anything new about what happened in Newtown. It was a horrible thing and, I have to admit, the stories have made it difficult to sleep during the past week. I do have some thoughts on the tragedy, however, and after speaking privately with some of my other child loss friends, I feel compelled to share them.

I write a lot about having a surviving child, which I actually think makes for a different situation when you lose a child. If there are "stages" of grief then I believe those of us with surviving children might have moved through them faster. I didn't always appreciate that at the time.

Along the way, I have made friends with other mothers who, in addition to losing their child, were also going through foreclosures, deaths of parents, life-threatening illnesses, and job losses. The reality was, life continued to go on around them and they weren't able to shut down like they wanted to. Like I wanted to. We went immediately from Toby's loss to a horrendous pregnancy with Iris that could have killed us both. And, in its own terrible way, that was almost a saving grace for us.

What I DID learn, though, was that my fear of losing another child would intensify. That fear was not with Iris, however, it was with Sam. I am always grateful when someone asks me about Sam. Especially on this blog, so much attention is given to Toby that I often feel as though Sam is just completely ignored. I've never identified myself as "Toby's mommy" because Sam was here first and is still here and it always felt disloyal to him. I got very irritated on some of the SIDS forums because people would complain about others posting pictures of their babies and then as soon as THEY got pregnant or had their rainbow baby, that's all you saw. It felt unfair. I've had people tell me that they couldn't read my blog (or wouldn't visit my non-SIDS blog) because it had pictures of Sam and Iris on it, yet when they went on to have subsequent children they uploaded lots of pictures and videos.

I don't do hypocritical.

At any rate, my fear of losing Sam after Toby died grew unreasonably strong and continues to engulf me today. I talked to another mother about this (she also has a daughter Sam's age) and she said she feels the same way. Her fear of losing a child is NOT over her subsequent infant, but over her eldest. The one that was with her when her infant died.

Sam often sleeps with us. He didn't before Toby died. Iris does not. I check on Sam constantly throughout the day. Sometimes, I cry when he's gone. He spends the night with my mom and Pete and I are up until 2:00 am, sniffling and missing him. I find myself waking up in the night, checking to see if he's breathing. Iris has had to have loads of tests, some of which required her to be sedated. We were worried, but we let them do them. Sam was supposed to get his tonsils out and we wouldn't make the appointment because we didn't want him to go under.

This is all directly related to Toby's death. So to ignore Sam in my grief over Toby is unimaginable.

We bought a house and closed last week so there was a lot of moving being done. Sam started feeling bad on Thursday night and he was tired from "helping" us. I kept him home on Friday. He was up all night, crying, and cuddling with me because he was scared.

Iris slept like a log.

Had Sam been at school when I heard about the Newtown shootings, I would have gone and gotten him, just so that I could hug him. As it was, I wanted to sit in the rocking chair with him all day and hug him tighter. Except for the fact that we no longer have our rocking chair.

When I went to his Christmas party on Wednesday, I talked to some other parents and we all agreed that sending our 5 year olds to school on Monday was one of the hardest things we had ever done.

I spoke to other bereaved mothers who have school aged children and we all agreed: we didn't want to let our babies go. They might not be our subsequent children, but they are still our babies.

They are the ones who were with us when we went through the unthinkable. They are our little champions. They are the ones we held onto at night and loved when it felt like we had nobody else in the world. They are the ones who watched their siblings die and attended their funerals and learned from an early age that sometimes things won't be okay. We've protected them and loved them and made them the centers of our world like we hadn't before. They became even more important to us. Our subsequent children might have offered hope for the future, but our surviving children were some of our only links to the people we were in the past.

They forced us to celebrate holidays we couldn't have done on our own. They made us get out of bed and leave the house and attend birthday parties and hayrides and visits with Santa when all we wanted to do was take Tylenol PM and watch episodes of THE GOLDEN GIRLS.

They gave us a reason to live.

The thought of something happening to Sam is too much to bear. My Facebook friends know him well. He's the little boy who said he wanted to watch "that movie about American history" and was referring to BILL AND TED'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE. He's the little boy who spent all evening wrapping me Christmas presents-some of his toys and a cheese sandwich so that I wouldn't get hungry. He's the little boy who asks me to take him tot he flea market (without Iris) so that we can "have some private time." He's the little boy with my facial features who has developed my love of photography and old houses and can sing every Christmas song that comes on the radio.

He's the little boy who said that when he grows up he wants to be a cop so that he can "guard that kindergarten school so that nobody else can get hurt."

Sometimes, I miss him and he's not even gone.

So much is written about the children we lost and the children that followed those we lost. But what about the "other" ones? The Newtown tragedy struck a chord with me, but in a different way. Forget the "mommy porn" book. If something happened to my Sam, I believe I would go 50 shades of crazy.

SAM'S SONG by Caroline Herring

Curled up in your little bed
One little curl upon your head
Curled up in your little bed
What are you dreaming about, Sam?
What are you dreaming about, Sam?
What are you dreaming about?

I love it when you wear
Your birthday suit
You're wiggling around
You look so cute
I love it when you wear
Your birthday suit
What are you wiggling for, Sam?
What are you wiggling for, Sam?
What are you wiggling for?

I never knew what it meant to laugh and cry
Laugh and cry at the same time
Laughing and crying is hard to do
Hard to do but not for you

Raised up on your little knees
Soon you're gonna crawl
As fast as you please
Raised up on your little knees
You'll be crawling as fast as you please, Sam
Crawling as fast as you please, Sam
Crawling as fast as you please

And I was wondering where you're gonna crawl to
To London  tower or the ocean blue
Your mama's wondering where you're gonna crawl to
I'm already missing you, son
I'm already missing you son
I'm already missing you.


Caroline Herring said...

love to you

Jayden's Mommy said...

Rebecca. You touch my heart so much tonight, I sobbed as I read this post because a lot of this resembles exactly how I feel. We don't have Kyle yet soon very soon. Jayda and Kylie our surviving children were there are there and please I need them there. They have make us wake up every morning. Jayda has assured Jared and I, "it will be okay mommy". Kylie has given us so many huggs and when she sees me starting to cry she says " oh no, its okay momma". I'm specially terrify of loosing Jayda our eldest, we check on both but if Jayda is a little sick she sleeps with us. I check on her a lot. Kylie we do but many times we give her the freedom to be by herself. Strange feelings. We love your kids and Sam is so handsome. Love, Kira

New Mom said...

As I read through your blog it hit home in so many aspects; my husband just recently opened up to me about giving cpr to his oldest daughter (now 14) I guess at the time her mother shut down and couldn't help. He has a four year old that is so intelligent, with the baby almost here she is so excited to be a big sister. The downfall is situations in the world, especially Newton- SIDS is different from some rampage (in my book) but both are acts of God, but who am I to disagree with how he takes his children home. I see it as the ark- "God so loved the world" this world that is filled with child preditors, murderers, stalkers, etc. that he chose Toby and other infants and the Newton Children to be spared from this world he gathered them and saved them from this world.

Rebecca Patrick-Howard said...

@Kira- I remember that the days leading up to having Iris were the hardest. I was a mixed bag of emotions: happy to have the pregnancy over with, excited at the fact that I would meet her, terrified of shaking our world up yet again, and nervous that I would lose another baby to SIDS. My moods and emotions could change at the drop of a hat with no warning. I slept a lot.

I needed Sam like I had never needed anyone before. I just wanted him close to me. I even cried for him when I had to stay in the hospital. That bond is always there, but it seems to grow stronger if you lose a child. In the SIDS world we're known for the children we lost. In the pregnancy world we're known for the ones we're going to have. Yet those "other children" we have are usually the ones that are pulling at us the hardest. I hope these last few days/weeks go by smoothly for you. I don't know that it will get easier when Kyle gets here, but at least things will change.

@New Mom- Yes, that is one of way of looking at it and one that gives many people comfort.