Remember when I thought I couldn't cry? It turns out I can cry just fine as I discovered after reading this follow up from Kate.
If you missed Kate's story read it here first: Loss: Kate & Caden's Story.
Her story was read by THOUSANDS and the outpouring of support was incredible! Thank you all for that!
After hearing her story I had so many questions. I couldn't understand how this bubbly, happy, blonde woman who I saw today had been through everything that she had. How do you get HERE from THERE? How do you pick yourself up and recover from that? I asked Kate if she would continue her story and in true Kate fashion she happily agreed. "OF COURSE! Maybe it will help someone?!" And of course it will. If you are going through loss or have been through it, you aren't alone, friends.....
My Story: Part 2 Grieving and Healing (Yes, it DOES get better!)
Thank you so much for all of the people who read my first post on losing our child, Caden. I was so overwhelmed by the amount of support I felt and the amazingly sweet comments you left for me. I cannot tell you how much you all helped me and am beyond thankful for this opportunity to share my story. Lynsey asked me to write a Part 2 to my story about the aftermath of losing a child, and I jumped at the suggestion. It really is an important story to tell and one that will hopefully give HOPE to all parents who have gone through this terrible experience.
I'm going to just pick up from where I left off last time:
Once Caden had passed, and Bryan and I held each other for a long time, we had to go back to my hospital room and tell our family that he was gone. We walked in and everyone was just staring at us with such sad eyes. There were about 10 people waiting for us. Once I opened the door, we said he had passed and a burst of emotion came over me. My dad was to the right of me and I just fell into his arms and he hugged me so tight. I let go and had Caden’s blanket in his hand. The blanket was given to me by Bryan’s grandmother. A prayer group at her church hand made it and she sent it to me the minute I went into the hospital. So for the three days he was alive, he was wrapped in it and he died in that special blanket. I remember going over to her, handing her the blanket, and telling her he died in this blanket. We both just started to cry. She had just lost her husband a few weeks before, so she was really grieving.
I remember at some point looking around the room and everyone crying and hugging and not really knowing what to do next, and I was thinking to myself….I did this to everyone. I made them feel this way. I don’t want them to feel this horrible. I know that sounds crazy, but at the time, my thoughts were so jumbled, that I think I just didn’t know what to think.
After that, I just wanted to get the hell out of my room and the hospital. My family went into tornado mode with me laying on my bed, and everyone grabbing stuff, packing, jamming everything into my suitcases. Someone got my nurse and a wheelchair to discharge me. I was thankful for that wheelchair because even though it was hospital policy, I could not bring myself to walk.
I was just in a daze. Everything was happening all around me so fast, but I felt like I was in slow motion. I remember it was a Sunday because someone said to go get some alcohol and bring it to our house. I though, yes, wine! I need that! But living in Indiana, they do not sell alcohol on Sundays. Thankfully my awesome brother and sister in law, had plenty of supervisions and I think brought their whole liquor cabinet.
Bryan and I drove home together and I remember it was such a beautiful fall day. There was not a cloud in the sky, the leaves were at its peak, and the weather was just perfect. I thought it was a beautiful day. Then I realized I was going home from the hospital after giving birth, without my baby. This would be the norm for me for a long time. Something or someone trying to make me feel better, then realizing I lost a baby. That up and down feeling was pure terror.
I went upstairs to shower and change. On my way to my bedroom, I passed what would have been Caden’s room. I was just beginning to decorate it when I had to go into the hospital for all those weeks, but there were a few things and a rocking chair. I stepped into his room, sat in the rocking chair, and bowed my head and cried. I cried for so long that people started looking for me. My mom found me and called for Bryan. He came in, knelt down in front of me and just hugged me. Slowly he got me up and into the shower.
My sister kept trying to feed me, but I couldn’t stomach food. I did, however, drink wine. And lots of it. It was my comfort at the time, and for about a month later. But, who could blame me, I just lost a child! I couldn’t think straight. It was all I had for a moment.
After everyone left, Bryan and I tried to sleep. We just held each other all night and couldn’t let go. It was like we couldn’t get closer to each other and we couldn’t let go. I told him that parents who lose a child have a higher percentage of divorcing. He said no way. That was not going to be us. And in fact, it’s not. Losing a child actually made us stronger as a couple. Because we went through something so incredibly painful that we had each other to talk to. We understood each other. We didn’t even have to say a word to each other to know what we were thinking and feeling. We leaned on each other and took turns being a rock for the other. Although, I believe he was my rock more often than I was his.
The next day, it was time to plan a funeral. What? Plan a funeral for my child? I can’t wrap my head around it. So my incredible sister in law and sister took the funeral into their own hands. They arranged food, services, pictures, posters, a priest, music, flowers, EVERYTHING! The only thing Bryan and I had to do was write a speech to read at the funeral. We also had to meet with the funeral director to decide what we were going to do with his body, bury or cremate. We chose cremation because we were not from Indiana and knew that with Bryan’s job we would be moving again and I could not bear to “leave” Caden behind. If we cremated him, he could be “with” us. That was my thought process.
I have to add a little note here…. I was so grateful for my sister in law and sister because they did it ALL for me. And my sister in law’s friends all rallied and made so much food, people who didn’t really know me, but who knew her and wanted so badly to help in any way possible. I will never forget her friends. They were amazing.
The day of the funeral was the day before Halloween. It was excruciating to say the least. I could not even walk in the front doors. I fell to my knees when I saw the posters of my baby boy, pictures of me pregnant and happy, all the people who showed up and drove long hours to be with us, and the music! It was all so overwhelming and I was brought to my knees with emotion. The funeral went on and it was beautiful. My dad got up to speak, my brother read our speech because we could not bring ourselves to read and stand up before everyone, and my sister in law spoke too. It was heartwarming and terrible all at once.
After the funeral, one by one everyone started to leave. Then it was just the two of us left. And let me tell you, if I thought the first days were hard, I had no idea how hard the next few weeks and months were going to be. Halloween was the day after his funeral, then Thanksgiving and then Christmas. A season I absolutely LOVE was now going to be poisoned. Not thinking straight, I said we would still get candy for all the little kids in our neighborhood and welcome them to ring our doorbell. I somehow thought that seeing all the cute little children dressed up and happy, was going to make me happy. Boy was I wrong. A cute little family of four came to the door who just moved into a house on the next street. They didn’t know anyone so they were going around and introducing themselves. They told us who they were and then asked if we had any children. Innocently enough, they asked if we had children. A question I came to dread. It was not their fault, they had NO IDEA what we were going through, but I immediately left, ran into the family room and cried. I have no idea what Bryan said to them, but it got me thinking. What the hell do I say to that question? I don’t want to say no and feel like I am not honoring my son, but I don’t want to say yes, because I don’t want to have to explain where my child is…and make THEM feel uncomfortable. It was torture the first few weeks and months talking to people who didn’t know our story and would ask that question.
Anyway, about a month went by before Thanksgiving. I had taken all that time off work, and my employer was so amazing at giving me time and not rushing me back to work. So, from Halloween to thanksgiving, I grieved and I grieved. I don’t think I left the house much, laid in bed a lot and cried, thought about every little detail of what happened and how I could have fixed it, and drank…a lot! Bryan would get home from work, and we would just drink. I think I drank a bottle of wine a night. Seriously. It was a means to number one, sleep, and number two, forget about life. I spent my days reading cards and notes given to me, holding Caden’s blanket, looking at his precious face, and listening to the music my sister created for the funeral. I did, however, watch a little bit of TV, and one show I never missed was Ellen. She was my calm. My hour of calm. My hour of not thinking of what I had just been though. I remember watching her and she did something, I don’t remember what, that made me laugh. I laughed! I immediately covered my mouth and felt guilty for laughing. I thought, “I can’t feel joy. I just lost my son!” But you know what, that was just the tip of the iceberg of starting to heal.
We traveled to St. Louis for Thanksgiving and I DID NOT WANT TO LEAVE! I cried the whole way to STL, because I thought I was leaving my precious baby behind. I just wanted to stay in that house forever and hold his ashes. It was gut wrenching for me to leave, and looking back, we probably should have just stayed home. It was a terrible trip from the get go. I cried the whole way. Bryan’s family, God love them, didn’t really know how to act or what to say. I tried to go through the motions but all I was feeling inside was how badly I wanted to get back to my house. Bryan’s brother was playing in a band that night so Bryan wanted to go see him play. Bryan’s dad went too and some of his friends were meeting us out. The last thing I wanted to do was go out, but again, I was going through the motions, not really feeling a thing. We get to the bar, and after a while I couldn’t stay out any longer. A few of Bryan’s friends came out and were a little tipsy. I mean, it WAS Thanksgiving! Anyway, when we told them we were leaving, a friend of Bryan’s, and his wife, said, “Why? It’s not like you have any kids to get home to!” It was like the world just closed in on me. But the minute she said it, I could tell she wanted to take it all back. She didn’t think before she spoke and I could tell she felt so horrible once she realized what she said. I mean, they traveled to Indy to come to Caden’s funeral, and that meant the world to us. I know she didn’t mean it and I even knew it in that moment, but I just had to get out of that bar! We were supposed to stay though the weekend, but we got up early in the morning and headed back home. Once I walked into our front door, I Immediately grabbed Caden’s ashes and his blanket, and got into bed.
After that trip, I decided I needed to wake up. I needed to live again. I called my employer and told her I was ready to get back to work. I needed my routine. I needed people around me who would support me, hug me, and get my mind on something else. Not to mention, I got to work with some of the most incredible children in the world. It was so nice to be around children again and really feel good about it.
My sister called me every single day for a long time just to see how I was doing. She was amazing because I could cry to her and she would just listen. That’s all I wanted, was to cry, talk, and for someone to LISTEN. If you have a friend or a family member going through a loss, just keep calling. Keep calling and just listen to them talk. I felt I could not talk enough about it because I was already replaying the whole terrible experience over and over in my head. I would obsess over each detail like it was a movie replaying in my head. So I was grateful for my sister who would just call and listen. My best friend also called and called. We shared a special bond during that time because just 4 weeks before Caden passed, her father passed. So we each talked to each other and each listened to the other person cry. I cannot tell you enough how much that helped me start to heal. I also got involved in the March of Dimes, March for Babies event. I felt like I was DOING something to honor Caden and keep him alive. My whole neighborhood, friends and family donated, walked, and we all wore matching t-shirts with his little foot prints on the back. We now make it a tradition and my girls are involved too. It is an amazing organization and I am happy we have that walk every year to honor his memory.
Bryan and I also started doing other things to remember him. We got him a stocking for Christmas that has his name on it. We hang it every single year, and now his stocking is surrounded by his sisters’ stockings. We also make a BIG deal out of his birthday. I have always made a cake for him, and I keep a journal just for him and me. I write to him each year and it’s a private conversation between me and him. We also kept all of his belongings in a little chest that stays in our room. His blanket, holy water he was baptized with, medical wrist band, tiny diaper and hat, all the cards and notes given to us by friends and family, a photo album, and the journal I keep for him. When there are days that are so hard and I miss him so much, I pull out all those things, and have a private moment. Every time I pull those things out, I can literally feel him hugging me.
I also put down the wine and started running again. I use to be a big time runner, still am, and that is one way I started to find peace. It was MY time to run, be completely alone with my thoughts, and talk to him. Sometimes I would have to stop mid run just to cry. But it ALWAYS made me feel better. It is so important to find something that makes you happy and something that is just YOURS. It was the best healer for me.
Time went on, and our doctor told us we could start trying again 6 months later. I had no doubt in my mind I wanted to try as soon as possible. Bryan was a little more hesitant, understandably. But once that 6 months was up, we tried and got pregnant! But that pregnancy went a lot like Caden’s. And it was SCARY. I started having contractions again at 20 weeks, and my wonderful husband called my doctor and he wanted to see me right away. This time, however, we caught it in time! I was stitched up, also called a cerclage, and put on strict bed rest for the rest of the pregnancy. I didn’t care, though, and was going to do everything in my power to keep this baby inside me. We successfully made it through the pregnancy and wouldn’t you know she was late! We had a beautiful baby girl on December 31st, 2008.
When she was one years old, we found out we were pregnant again! But this time, my doctor didn’t mess around. He stitched me up at 11 weeks pregnant. I did however go into contractions again at 20 weeks and had to get a nanny to help me with my then 13 month old. That was hard because I couldn’t pick her up, but we managed with help from the nanny, my sister in law, and my incredible friends. We successfully had another baby girl on October 3rd, 2010.
And we were done! I couldn’t do it again and obviously my body did not take pregnancies well. But we were a family, and we had a guardian angel watching over us they whole time. I could feel Caden in each pregnancy and knew he was going to bring his baby sisters into this world healthy and happy.
How I cope now is by remembering him, talking about him, sharing my story, and listening to my amazing girls talk about their BIG brother. The pain is still etched in my heart, and it’s a pain that will never go away. But it DOES GET BETTER. It slowly subsides, and the ache is just a small part of my heart now. I still run and think of him the whole time. I look for signs from him while I am running. I see a lot of cardinals and think maybe that’s him. Or I will see the sun shining through a sky full of clouds, and think of him. I am always looking and always keeping hope alive. Like I said before, I am not afraid to die. I want to stay on Earth for my girls, but when it’s my time, I will not be scared. I will be ready to see my boy.
I will quote Maya Angelou one more time, as these were the words I lived by once I started to heal:
“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.”