...and the rest of my life to go.
So, we have officially survived 2 months without our little squirmy wormy. I don't understand how we've done it, but I can honesty say today was not nearly as intense as this date a month ago.
I stayed up way too late last night having a much needed conversation with my mom. By the time I got to bed it was right around 2:30am. I started the "at this time 2 months ago..." thing right then, 2:30am was the last time I pumped not knowing my precious baby boy was on the brink of death. It took me awhile to get to sleep after that thought ran through my head awhile. Mike had fallen asleep much earlier and tried to wake up to talk to me when I came to bed. He did the best that he could, but he was exhausted. I wasn't a complete wreck so I let him get back to sleep and just tossed and turned until I could eventually join him.
Our original plan was to go to a cemetery this morning. But since I stayed up so late I didn't get up until around 10:30am. Getting out of bed was surprisingly not as difficult as I thought. Mike had gotten up much earlier around 9am and offered to make pancakes once I got up. He held true to his word and we had buckwheat pancakes for breakfast (ok more like brunch).
My semester started back up today. I had a meeting scheduled at 1:30pm for my teaching duties. As the morning continued I started getting more and more nervous about heading to campus. I had been there a few times over break, but it's like a ghost town then. Today was my first time being there in a group setting like a meeting. I taught last semester before Marcellus was born. I just kept thinking about how the last time I was at a TA meeting, I was 28 weeks 1 day pregnant and happy. I had no idea what was to come. I was actually supposed to teach the day Marcellus was born. The day before I had prepared my material, leaving the handouts stacked neatly on my desk. They are still there, sitting where I left them. I can't bring myself to get rid of them. I don't know why, but they represent one of the last things from my obliviousness, from my happy pregnancy.
The clock continued to haunt me through the rest of the morning/early afternoon as I got ready for my meeting. Mike had the day off so we were together. After my shower I just sat in bed thinking about how we were sitting in a room off the NICU waiting to hear the results of our son's surgery. And the worst time of all, Marcellus's time of death 12:43pm. We both were holding it together pretty well, but there's something about the clock striking 12:43pm on the 9th that gets us. I think it will be this way for awhile. I will need to be aware of my responsibilities on the 9th for awhile and hopefully be able to excuse myself around that time. I even checked to make sure no 9ths or 28ths fall on Fridays (the only day of the week I teach) this semester. They don't, well except for one. March 9th is a Friday, but that's over spring break. I don't find this to be a coincidence. I think it is in God's grace that I have less of a chance of completely losing it in front of my students.
Mike drove me to campus and even walked me up to where my meeting was being held. I didn't want to go in. I got nervous standing outside the door. Was it better to go in and wait or to walk in right at the last second as the meeting was starting? I clutched the blanket they gave us at the NICU, the one that had a matching hat. Marcellus is buried in that hat and we kept the blanket (my mom made him a new one). I wonder what people thought when they saw a 26 year old graduate student clutching a baby blanket...but really I don't care. I needed to have something of his to hold on to. We had wallet sized pictures made for easier carrying and I had a stack in my pocket. I leafed through them throughout the meeting. I also was in my "Marcellus memorabilia", handprint necklace (his actually handprint scaled down), Mommy of an Angel bracelet, and Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness pin.
Mike was being met at a coffee shop across the street by the husband of a couple we've been getting together with. They're son would have been 20 yesterday (happy belated birthday Zachary!). They've been such a great resource to us. We met them at TCF candlelight back at the beginning of Dec. This is the first time Mike got together with him one on one. Actually this might have been the first time Mike met up with anyone one on one. I'm glad that he was able to have that time to talk with another bereaved father about some of the specific things they face as fathers. Mike also has a tendency to worry about me too much. Not that it's a bad thing, but I think he will often not completely deal with what he needs to in order to make sure I'm okay. Sometimes I want him to be able to forget about me and just take care of himself. He was able to have some "daddy time" today and I'm thankful for that.
The meeting itself went surprisingly better than expected. We were in the same room we were for every meeting last semester. I made a point to sit somewhere new. I couldn't sit in the same spot that the last time I had sat there I was pregnant and my biggest worry was when I'd be able to eat next. Although I didn't need to write much down, I took thorough notes. It helped me stay focused on the task at hand and kept my mind from wandering too much. The meeting was also much shorter than had been anticipated by the professor that oversees everything. When we were waiting for the meeting to start a couple of my fellow students said simple things like "I'm sorry" to me. That was helpful as then I didn't feel like my dead child was the big elephant in the room.
After the meeting wrapped up I asked if anyone wanted to see pictures of Marcellus. Everyone did and I was able to share a very abridged version of his life. I hope if anyone wants to know more they will feel free to ask me. I don't know how long it took me to tell them a bit about his birth, life, and what happened when he got sick....maybe 5 min, 10 at very most. I mostly talked about what he was like when he was alive. I can't unexpectedly throw his death story at people. I wish I could have told them more details, but I don't know if they really wanted to hear it. Hopefully people will be willing to ask about him if they want to or to show their support to me.
One of the professors did offer to listen anytime I needed someone to talk to and her office if I ever needed to escape for a moment. She said she couldn't imagine how difficult this is and wishes she had some inspiring words of comfort, but knows there aren't any. I told her her offer to listen and let me escape was more than enough. I also appreciate that she acknowledged my pain and the difficulty it will be getting back into the semester and research. I've never really talked to this particular professor much, but I very well may be taking her up on her offer. As a graduate student I do have an office, but I share it with two other students, one of whom is in there constantly. I don't think it would be fair to him to bust into our office and sit at my desk bawling my eyes out (as will inevitably happen at some point) while he's trying to do his research.
I only set out to make it through that meeting today. And I succeeded! Now tomorrow I will try to accomplish some work on my research, a much more daunting task. I'll probably unexpectedly run into more students tomorrow than I did just today just going up for my meeting and leaving. I officially have my meeting times with my advisor set up for Thurs, so hopefully that will give me a little push to get something done. Marcellus is my motivation. I will do this work for him. I would much rather lay in bed all day feeling sorry for myself. But that is not what Marcellus wants for his momma. If he were alive he would be my motivation to finish up this PhD. It is no different now that he is dead. I will do this and I will do it for him. That doesn't mean I won't struggle or there will be days I intend to work only to be blind sided by some trigger leaving my brain unable to perform even basic tasks. When those moments hit I hope I can find a fellow student or faculty/staff member to support me and let me know it's okay to stop for the day or hole up momentarily to get through it. I can be rather tough on myself, so I hope I can be gentle with myself as well.
Feeling like a failure is already an aspect of grief. It comes from not being able to fully accept that we are not in control of our destiny. Let's just say I have had intense feelings of failure arise for different reasons. As his mother I failed Marcellus by not preventing him from being born early or by preventing him from dying. Yes, this thoughts are irrational. I did everything I absolutely could for him. It doesn't always work to tell myself that. I'm his mother, I should have been able to protect him. I think you will find this thought is common among many grieving mothers (and fathers). I'm afraid that going back to work will intensify my failure feelings. Before Marcellus was born I was struggling with my research. It's not a good feeling to work for days getting nowhere. This is why research scares me right now. I am so afraid it is something I will completely fail at. Then where would I be? A mother without her child and a graduate student unable to finish her degree. Anyway, I don't know where I'm going with that one, but I guess it's something I'll need to explore further.
2 months down, 2 months closer to seeing Marcellus again. I honestly don't know how we've made it 2 months. I really don't know how will make it the next 2 months, let alone the next year. But everyone says we will. Others have done it before us and unfortunately others will continue to do it after us. I don't know how we are doing it, but I know why we continue to try. We do it for our son.
Marcellus, Happy 2 month Angel Birthday! Momma made it through the meeting for you today. Thanks for being with me to help keep me calm. I know you were watching over me. I need your help tomorrow too. Remind me you are there so I know why I am doing this. Also, help remind Mommy that these seemingly little things are big successes. One day at a time baby boy, I'm doing it one day at a time. Love you to the moon and back and missing you like crazy!