Saturday, August 30, 2014

A grieving parents best friend

I really should have written this right after it happened. It probably would have helped me process. But I didn't and I still feel like there's some processing to do, so here I go.

On Aug 8th, we had to unexpectedly put our dog, Perk down. It was awful. It is awful. But not the most awful thing we've ever had to do (obviously). I don't want to get into the details of the why's here. What it comes down to is he had what's called predatory aggression. What's often the most difficult about that is the dog can be awesome 99% of the time and then just snap. The primitive brain takes over (ya know, the part where they came from wolves) and their rational brain turns off. There's no way to say what triggers the switch, so it can be a scary situation. Anyone that I've told that knew Perk has been shocked at what happened. I think that goes to show that he was awesome. And if you know us and want to ask more details about what happened, that's okay. I just don't think this is the place for it. But in short, he attacked another dog while being boarded.

This post isn't to be about what happened. It's to be about how it made and still makes me feel. And how that all related back to Marcellus dying.

Perk was our best friend in grief. He was there for us when human contact seemed impossible. He sat with us (or on us) when we cried. He listened to our wails. He became frightened by our grief at times, but he was our side, always. I honestly don't know what we would have done without him in those early days after Marcellus's death. He made the house seem just a little less silent then it was. 

Mother's Day 2011, they day I found out I was pregnant with Marcellus
We got Perkie shortly after we got married. He was a part of Marcellus's pregnancy. I shared the news with Mike by getting a shirt for Perk that said, "Only child. Big brother." He would snuggle with my belly, looking at me funny when he felt a kick from Marcellus. And he gave us one of the most fun memories of my pregnancy. One night I put some belly balm on my itchy growing tummy. Perk loved it. He licked and licked and licked at my bare belly. It was hilarious. We laughed so hard that night.

When I came home from the hospital and Marcellus was in the NICU it's like he looked at me asking, "Where's our baby?" We brought a blanket that Marcellus had in his isolette home for Perk to have in his crate. To get him used to Marcellus's sent. Perk still had that blanket. We kept it with him. We would always send it with him when he went to boarding too.

Losing Perk was like losing a piece of Marcellus. He was a connection to him. He was here before, during and after Marcellus. And now that's gone.

Perkie with Marcellus Bear
Mike and I stayed with Perk when he was put down. Mike always knew he would do that when the time came. Just didn't know it would be like this. I wasn't sure. But I didn't want to regret not being there. And I owed him. It was so triggering though. In ways that I couldn't have even expected.

I almost couldn't tell him I loved him. It brought me back to my last words to Marcellus. I don't have a clear recollection of what I said to Marcellus, but I know it involved pouring my love into him. So saying, "I love you" to Perkie filled me with some that emotion. Saying I love you when I knew he was about to die was too familiar.

What got me the most, that I had no way of knowing would happen, was when the vet pulled out the stethoscope to check for a heartbeat. I swear I almost had a panic attack. I felt like I stopped breathing for a moment, but I don't know if I gasped or just cried harder or did hold my breath or what. I swear the vet turned into Dr. Young checking for Marcellus's heartbeat. I could feel what it was like to have him trying to be discreet and out of the way, but leaning around me to listen. It all flashed before my eyes. It was one of the most intense flashbacks I've had in a very long time. Even just typing about it is giving me chills.

So there it is. Another difficult situation to be faced. But hey, we've been through worse...we've been through the worst. Still I'm sad and miss my dog. But more than anything I miss my son.

And you know how we explained what happened to Ethan...we said, "Perkie isn't coming home. He died. Perkie is going to be with Marcellus." Let me just take a moment to say how f'ed up it is that we can explain our dog dying to our toddler by saying that he will be with his dead big brother. Yeah, just had to throw that out there. I guess I'm feeling a little angry about everything at the moment. 

Here's what I wrote in an email to the dog trainer that owns the place he was boarded at (the same place we've boarded him every time we've needed too, including an extended stay after Marcellus died):
"Overall he was such an amazing, kind, loving, compassionate dog. After our first son died, Perk was there by our side and helped us through our darkest days. I don't know what we would have done without him. His loss is more than just the loss of a beloved pet, it's a loss of part of our support system. He has been through our ups and downs with us. We have always tried to do our best for him, but one can't help but wonder if some of our struggles played a part for his behavior, going through the loss of Marcellus with us, dealing with Ethan being in the NICU for 10 weeks (and us being pretty absent during that time), and then the adjustment for him of having Ethan in our home. The house is so quiet without him. I guess you never realize how much a dog is always there until he's not. Seems every movement I make within the house is different without our poochy here"

Dear Marcellus, well, you've finally got to meet Perk. That loud barky dog you heard when in my tummy. Maybe you felt the warmth from the snuggles with him on the couch. And I know you heard the deep belly laughs he gave us that night licking my tummy. He was such an awesome dog. He did so much for Daddy and I. Sometimes I feel guilty thinking of how much he had to go through with us. Your NICU stay and your death. Being away from us for so long when we were in MN after you died and then Ethan's NICU stay. But like I said, he was there for us. And we were there for him in his last moments. That brought me back to your last moments, my sweet boy. Those heartbreaking, life shattering moments. One moment you were here and the next, you were gone. Gone from this earth, but never gone from our lives. I love you, Marcellus Robert. I love you so very much and my heart still aches with your absence. Pet and love on Perkie Pie for me. xoxox.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Ethan recently had Hand, Foot and Mouth. He did not get sores on his hands or feet, but he did have them in his mouth. The worst one was right on the inside of his lower lip. It made him miserable. He couldn't eat and he barely drink. Nursing became difficult for him as the sore was right where he would latch. The thing that will always calm him, settle him, nourish him was hurting him. The first day in particular was awful. He fussed and cried. That night he woke up screaming an inconsolable cry. I panicked thinking something must be terribly wrong. Luckily our pediatrician has a good advice nurse line or I'm sure I would have rushed him into the ER. After switching from acetaminophen to ibuprofen, we were able to get the pain under control for him and he got some rest. But in that moment I felt completely helpless. My heart was aching to soothe my baby boy. But I couldn't. I couldn't calm him down, I couldn't take away his pain, I couldn't help him. It felt awful.

But those helpless feelings I had that night were not anywhere near the intensity of which I have felt that before. That same little boy, 18 months earlier was fighting for his life. I was helpless next to his isolette. In the NICU where if you ask any parent  they'll be able to tell you that the feeling of helplessness settles into their core.

But the most helpless I have ever been, as a mother, as a human being, is the day Marcellus died. There's a reason we parents get that helpless feeling when something out of our control happens to our children. You've heard the term, "Mama Bear" because we protect. As parents we protect our children from what we can. But we can't protect them from everything and when we can't we feel helpless. Nothing compares to the helplessness you feel as a parent when your child dies. Not the inconsolable screaming of a sick toddler, not watching your 2 lb baby fight for his life (okay, that one comes close because I genuinely thought Ethan would die too in the early days).

Nothing will ever make me feel as helpless as holding my sweet boy, my first born son, in my arms trying to will his heart to keep beating as it instead slowed down, trying to pour every ounce of love into him in that moment as I could hoping he knew I would have done anything to change what was happening. The hours leading up to that moment, watching my boy suffer and struggle and fight and deteriorate. Watching as even nurses and doctors and surgeons couldn't do anything to save him. But even then shouldn't I, his mother, have been able to protect him, keep him safe?!

I couldn't protect him. My intense, overwhelming love was not enough to save him. Was it enough to comfort him in those moments? God, I hope so. I don't talk about that day much. I don't think about that day much. But that day happened and it still brings complete helplessness over me. Even as I type this my arms are physically aching thinking of that last embrace with my boy while his heart was still beating.

2 years 7 months 8 days without that little heart beating on this earth. Yeah, that makes me feel pretty damn helpless.

Marcellus, I'm so sorry I wasn't able to do more for you. To protect you. To save you. There's that saying, "If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever." It's true baby boy. My love for you is so intense and never-ending that if love could save I know my love would have saved you. But it can't. Love can't save. But love can comfort and since my love could not save you that day. That God awful retched day, I can only wish that I provided you with some comfort. I could not protect you, I could not save you, but I will always always always love you. xoxox

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Those people

Somehow Ethan's bedtime has gotten pushed way back. He is staying up until between 9 and 10pm every night. In fact, right now he is still up (at 9:45pm). When E stays up so late it doesn't leave for much downtime. By the time he goes to sleep I'm usually heading to bed shortly after. Mike is in there with him now though and I can hear E blabbering.

I sat down at the computer to upload some pictures of Ethan. I posted some from Easter (when I wrote my Easter post), but haven't posted any since (including the remaining ones from Easter). As my computer turned on, this picture popped up and let's just say pictures of Ethan aren't getting uploading again tonight.

It didn't surprise me to see this picture. It's the background picture on my computer and I see it all the time. But tonight I just stared at it as it loaded. Like really stared at it. And now I'm thinking "who are those people?" Those people with that beautiful little baby boy. Those people that have no idea that 11 days later their world would be destroyed.

Have I written something like this before? I feel like I have, but the feeling is strong again. I often don't recognize myself in pictures from before Marcellus died. I feel like I can't connect with that person.

I look at that picture and I think those people are so naive. They have no idea what can happen. And we didn't. We had no idea. I want to know what it's like again to be those people.

Dear Marcellus, I miss you. I miss being your mommy like I was in that picture. I mean, I am your mommy and always will be your mommy. Nothing in the universe, including your death, can change that. But I want to go back to being your mommy with you here. With you in my arms. I want to go back. I love you my squirmy wormy. My little mister. My first born son. I love you so very very much! xoxox.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Tree and tulips

Every holiday is like a marker of time, time that has continued on without my sweet baby boy here. And here we are, another Easter. Our third Easter without him. I just reread my posts from the first and second year. Turns out many of those feelings are still the same (even the religious struggle from last year, not really any progress there). It's just now I am trying to balance those feelings of sadness, grief, and the ache with the joy, happiness, and fun of creating traditions for Ethan. A lot of what I said in the post from last year, we are doing. It's also difficult to comprehend that last year when I was writing that post Marcellus would have been about the age Ethan is now (they are only 13.5 months apart after all). The things I was wondering about Marcellus last year, I'm getting to see and experience with Ethan. But I will never know what it would have been like last year (or this year, or any year) with Marcellus. While I can compare some developmental milestones and know that Marcellus may have been doing some of those, they are two very different little boys. And even though I don't know what Marcellus would exactly be like, I just know they would have such very different personalities. It was evident from the moment they were born (or in utero for that matter).

So far our day has consisted of bunny pancakes for breakfast. A really nice visit to Marcellus's tree. This is the first time we've been there since Ethan has been walking. He loved being there. He loved kissing the tree and touching the branches. He loved looking at the plaque. I know he loves his big brother.

Mommy and Ethan kissing Marcellus's tree.

I had just gotten done reading what the plaque said to Ethan and he went in for a kiss.

We have been so last minute on everything that we didn't have the Easter baskets ready until right before we went to the tree. Mike hid them, so that Ethan got to look for his right when we got back. Two baskets. One boy to find them. This year the boys got candy and plush toys from "their stories." Marcellus's story is Guess How Much I Love You. He got Little Nutbrown Hare that has the saying, "I love you right up to the moon and back" on it. Ethan's story is Kiss Goodnight and he got a new copy of it (his is a bit rough) and a plush Sam Bear. They both got chocolate bunnies. Ethan hasn't had his yet. He's napping now. We'll let him have it when he gets up. But Mike and I will share Marcellus's.

After I took the picture below Ethan grabbed both baskets and dumped them out playing with the contents. I couldn't help but think and I actually said out loud, "Hey, when you have dead brother you get more things to play with." I, of course, mean that in no way negative toward Ethan playing with Marcellus's things. In fact, I like him playing with Marcellus's things (and the outfit he has on in the pics above is one we bought for Marcellus's first birthday). It's that, he should have his brother here to fight with him about it. His brother to get upset when Ethan grabs at all of Marcellus's stuff.

The boys' Easter baskets. Marcellus's is on the right with a hare from Guess How Much I Love You. It reads, "I love you right up to the moon and back." Ethan's basket has Sam from, Kiss Goodnight.

But no brother here in this house. Just Ethan. Just one boy with two baskets to play with. And just some small ways to include Marcellus in our celebration. This year we couldn't find decent white tulips, so we got this orangey ones. Works out because orange is Marcellus's color (because of his pumpkin hat). 
Marcellus's tulips. We waited too last minute and couldn't find open white ones, so this year they are orange.

I've been crabby, snippy, just out of sorts the last few days. It's because I miss him. I miss my squirmy wormy. And I have to go through yet another holiday without him. Having his little brother here does bring me so much joy, but it will never take away the ache and longing I have for him. It will never make the fact that we went to visit a tree and got our "remembrance tulips" any better. It does force me to find balance. Balance in celebrating and grieving. Grieving and missing my son that is not here, but celebrating with and loving on my son that is here. And to do both without guilt. Let me tell you that part is the absolute hardest and I haven't mastered it yet.

But for now, for a bit longer while Ethan naps I am only sad. I only ache and I only grieve. I cry. I miss Marcellus.

Marcellus, Your tree was looking beautiful today. Thank you for the nice visit. I felt you in the breeze. I felt you in your brother's love for you. You are both such sweet boys. I am a lucky momma to have such amazing little boys. I miss you so much though, my squirmy wormy. We are going to do a little egg hunt with your brother when he wakes up. I don't know that he will try to pick up the eggs or not. He's not really one to stay focused on a predetermined task. But I bet it would be fun with you this year. I bet your face would light up when you found an egg. I hope you liked the Easter basket we put together for you. I hate that you are not here to see it yourself. I just miss you. That's all. I miss you and I love you. Forever and ever. Always. I love you right up to the moon and back. xoxox.

Friday, February 21, 2014

This house

We are moving tomorrow. We are leaving this house. Okay, it's really a town home and we are moving to another rental. The new rental is a single family home though with a yard and a garage. We are excited.

But we are leaving this house, this place that has been our home for the last 3.5 years. Yeah, it may just be a rental, but it has been our first real home. Our first place as a family.

We moved here right after we got married. Just Mike and I. We had lived together for two years before, but this was our first place as husband and wife. We got our dog about a month later. Perk, our first "child." We were building our home and our family.

And then the boys. Our two boys. So many memories for both in this house.

Marcellus. So many things of Marcellus. The only place we will have ever lived while he was alive on this earth. His pregnancy took place in this house. I found out I was pregnant with him. I remember Mike walking in the door to Perk in his "big brother" shirt. Taking my pregnancy photos next to he mantle. The night on the living room floor when Perk was licking my big belly and we were laughing hysterically.

And then there's October 28, 2011. The day Marcellus was born. The stairs of this house are the ones Mike carried me down when I was 28 weeks 5 days pregnant in labor with our first son. This is the house we came home to when I had to be discharged from the hospital without my baby (both times). This is the house where my midwife unexpectedly found me 10cm dilated on Oct 28 and then 6 days later she removed my stables from my c-section in this house.

This is the house we started to get ready for him. The extra bedroom filling with baby things. All for Marcellus. I vividly remember sitting on the floor of the extra bedroom sorting clothes my sister brought. Anxiously looking forward to the day Marcellus would wear them. And that mantle. The one where we had taken my belly shots next to. It's where we placed his cards. The congratulations we received for his birth. We placed them there at a time we never thought they cards we would receive for his death would outnumber them so greatly. And they stayed there. They stayed there for two years. We only just took them down around his 2nd birthday.

And then, this is the house we came home to when it no longer felt like a home. That day, November 9th, 2011, we came home to the painful silence of this house. I no longer wanted to be here. I hated it here yet I was a prisoner to this house.

We held a memorial service for Marcellus here a month after he died. His funeral was in MN and many of our NC friends never got to meet him. We wanted to share his life. To let them know him. I made poster boards for that memorial and they have been on the wall ever since. In fact, they are still there right now, they will probably be the last thing to leave the house.

You now what else is still out in this house. In our bedroom, tucked in a little cubby are some clothes. They are the clothes we wore the day he died. The clothes we were wearing as he took his last breath. They are the last things to touch Marcellus alive. And they have stayed unwashed in the cubby in our bedroom ever since we came home that day he died. Moving will make us deal with them, moreso, make me deal with them. I don't think they're as big of an issue for Mike. But for me, they have had this power. A power my therapist says I should not let them have. They are just clothes after all. They will not bring him back. So tomorrow, finally, those clothes will be packed up. They will stay unwashed and they will stay unworn. But they will be packed up as we leave this place.

Tonight Mike and I were talking about Marcellus, about how we feel leaving this house. He feels it too. That it's like we're leaving him behind, but we're not. Mike said to me, "We're not leaving him behind. We're bringing him with us. We are moving as a family." I needed that. I needed to hear those words. I will never leave him behind. Marcellus is always a part of this family. And where this family goes, he goes.

This house holds so much. For our marriage, for our family, for our boys. Not only is this where we "had" Marcellus, but this is where we brought Ethan home. Not quite a year ago we finally got to walk through the front doors of this house with a baby in tow. And once again this house felt like a home.

My mom used to have this calendar that had a quote from a homeless girl, "We have a home. We just need a house to put it in." That girl had it right. Through her experience so knew the true meaning of home. And I will hold on to that. We may be leaving this house, but our home is coming with us. Our family. Our home. 

Marcellus, Momma's having mixed feelings about moving tomorrow. We are excited to have a new place to live that will fit our needs better, but we are sad to leave. To leave the place that was to be your home. The place that became our home, which has always included you. You my sweet baby boy. You helped create this home. This house is just a physical shell. We will take our home and move it into a new shell, a new house, but it will still be our home. This house will still always hold a special place in our hearts. The mantle where we took pictures of my growing belly and placed your congratulations cards. The doorway where Daddy first found out about your existence. The kitchen where he made me homemade peanut brittle when I craved it out of season and it was nowhere to be found in stores. The stairs he carried me down so bravely when I was in labor with you. We may be leaving the place where these things occurred, but they are not leaving our memory or our hearts. I love you sweet baby boy. I love you right up to the moon and back. And I miss you so much. So so so much. xoxox.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


I want to lay face down on the floor, kick my legs, pound my fists and scream at the top of my lungs how unfair it is. I really probably should. To let out the emotion I haven't had a chance to release lately.

I can feel it building up inside of me. When I'm busy I can keep it at bay. I have other things to focus on. But when I slow down, when I have a quiet moment, I literally can feel it running through my veins.

I guess that's why lately on Saturday nights my heart gets so heavy and I feel the welling up. E is sleeping, Mike is at work. Only my thoughts to keep me company. And those thoughts have being going to Marcellus. My first born son, whose name I rarely get to speak out loud. So here I am, sitting by myself repeating his name out loud, "Marcellus. Marcellus. Marcellus. Marcellus Robert."

Tonight I caught myself doodling his name while I am supposed to be prepping lessons for the week. He's always on my mind, but tonight he sneaked to the front of my thoughts and ended up right there on my paper in what Mike calls,"circle letters."

I think 2 years 2 months 2 weeks and 2 days without my first son (huh, look at that...all 2's) is a legit reason for a grown woman to throw a tantrum. Just hope my second son doesn't wake up needing me when I'm a big mess of emotions.

Marcellus, it's so unfair that you are not here with us. Sometimes it makes me feel so out of control with my emotions and want to throw a tantrum. Really I should be dealing with your tantrums. At 2 years old, I'm sure you would be throwing them over something or other. Instead of helping you work through your uncharted emotions, I'm still trying to figure out the ones of my own. I don't even really know exactly what I'm feeling right now. I just know it's overwhelming and it sucks. I completely understand why toddlers throw tantrums. I miss you, my sweet boy. It's so unfair that I have to miss you! That I can't have you here with me. And of course, there's your little brother over the monitor. I love you so much!!! xoxox


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Too much

October 28th wasn't just Marcellus's birthday. It was her birthday too. Eleven, she turned 11. Angela Mae, the beautiful baby girl I placed for adoption when I was 17. Marcellus was born on her 9th birthday.

It's a semi-open adoption. I haven't seen her since her parents picked her up from the hospital when she was two days old. But I have gotten updates and pictures over the years. It's supposed to be twice a year, but I haven't heard from them since May 2012.

I have to admit I haven't sent her birthday present yet. It's all packed up and ready to go out in the morning. I bought it before her birthday. Their birthday. I've been getting her the Precious Moments Birthday Train every year. A keepsake for her to have. Plus, it's not like I know what she would want. So it's something I can get without wondering if she'll even like it. I've always sent her present last minute. So last minute that I'm sure it doesn't get to them before her birthday, especially because I have to send it to Catholic Charities and then they mail it off to Angela. But this is the first time I've put it in the mail after her birthday. And to top it off it's almost a month after.

Why did I put it off? So many reasons. 1) Marcellus's birthday. October 28th is his birthday and I am an emotional wreck during that time. 2) Not getting an update from her parents is upsetting. I try to tell myself that maybe they're just waiting for me to send something to them (I've always written to them). And so if I don't get something sent out then there's a reason they're not sending it. Does that make sense? In a way it's me trying to be in control of something I'm not. I fear that they have just stopped writing to me and I will never get another update ever again. 3) Ethan. I have honestly been meaning to write to them since Ethan came home from the NICU. To send them his birth/coming home announcement. Then time went on and I didn't get it sent out, so I wanted to print a couple of recent pictures of him to send with. I just put it off and put it off. But the biggest reason is....

It's all just too much sometimes.

This motherhood journey of mine (which reminds me I never even came close to completing that "series" I was going to start) is so damn complicated. I mean it is complicated! 

My only full-term pregnancy, non NICU baby is the one I got pregnant with at 16 and placed for adoption when I was 17. I waited until the "right" time to have another baby, to be married to the most wonderful husband, be financially responsible, and emotionally ready to expand our family. I got pregnant for the second time when we were trying for a baby, a baby that was loved and wanted so much before he even existed on this earth. But that baby died. He was born over 11 weeks early and he died. Born on his big sister's birthday (weird to say it like that, but I guess biologically she is). But not here to celebrate. Then we are ready again. Still with my loving wonderful husband, trying for a baby that is wanted beyond want, pushing through the fear to do it all again. And that baby, that baby is born over 12 weeks early. We spend 10 long long long loooooooong weeks in the NICU fearing for his life. But we are so very blessed to have him here now.

Think about it. That baby, he's my third baby. Ethan is my third child, second son. But he is the only one keeping me up at night. He is the only one needing my attention and physical love on a daily basis. He is the only one I parent on this earth. He is the only one I will ever hear call me "Momma." He is the only one that has been put to my breast. It is so so so complicated. The only thing simple about this all is how much love I have for each of my children. All three of them.

But it can be too much. It can be too much to think of it all at the same time. So, sometimes I put off my feelings about Angela. Often times actually. She has a beautiful family, she is well taken care of and she is so loved. Not only by me, but by her parents, her big brother, and I'm sure so many others. I will always love her with all my heart. But sometimes I can't go there with my emotions. It's the drop that would open the flood gates. It's too much. Too much too much too much. It's hard enough that my second child, my first son is dead. I can't get into the "what ifs" and the grief of having placed Angela for adoption. My grieving priority right now is Marcellus. Marcellus is a part of our every day lives, but Angela is not. Yes, I think about her every day. I really do. But not in the way that I think of Marcellus. But I do miss her.

I do remind myself that I do not regret my decision though. These last 11 years have been such a long journey. And I have really come a far way in accepting the decision I made as a scared, unprepared, overwhelmed teenager just trying to do the best I could for my baby. I made that decision out of love for her and I can never regret any decision I make for my children that is based solely on my love for them.

Marcellus, I hope you don't mind sharing part of your space with Angela. I never got a chance to tell you about her. During my pregnancy with you I struggled with what I would tell you. Her picture is up in our house. In fact, in many of my "pregnancy shots" with you her picture is visible on the mantle. She turned my heart into a mother heart. She taught me how a mother loves. I was able to take what she has taught me and pour it into you during your short time here. You expanded my mother heart a thousand fold. It's amazing how much love one heart can hold. Now I wonder what I will tell Ethan about her some day. We already talk to him about you a lot. What will Ethan make of the fact that he is the third child, but the "oldest" child that is with us. It's so confusing for me to think about. Oh baby boy, I miss you so much. I miss you so so so so much. I have the hope of seeing Angela again on this earth. I hold onto that home that she'll want to meet me someday. But you  my sweet boy, there will never be another moment with you on this earth every again. Those 12 days we had, those have to last us through this lifetime. And I cherish those 12 days. They are held tightly within my mother heart. I will never let them go. I love you my squirmy wormy. I love and miss you! xoxox