The last post I wrote was about the day Marcellus died. I needed a break after emerging myself in those posts, in his life, in his death, in our grief. But that doesn't mean I stopped thinking about what was going on a year ago. I don't remember much from those early days honestly. They're a blur, they run together. But the emptiness and rawness of it all, I can remember that. And today's date, today I am writing one more "a year ago" post because it was a year ago today we buried our son. I'm starting with a recap of the days between November 9th and November 15th. I just have the urge to write about them.
After we arrived home from the hospital on November 9th, our house just felt so empty. So cold. Even though Marcellus was never in our home outside of my womb, knowing he never would be made the emptiness echo so very loudly. Some of our really good friends came and went. They came to bring us things and to just be there. Even stayed downstairs while we were up in bed trying to make sense of
what in the world just happened to us. They were there just in case we
needed them. One friend went to the pharmacy for me. I hadn't filled my Percoset prescription for pain I might have from my c-section. I had gone over a week without filling it, I didn't need it for the physical pain. We filled it so I'd have something to take to help me sleep. Judge me if you will. I took Percoset those early days to help me sleep. It is what it is. The night was so scary. Sleep was so scary.
I remember that first night, after everyone had left it was just Mike and I. I was upstairs and he was downstairs. He was sobbing, just sobbing. I had the urge to be by him. To sob into each others arms. I started down the stairs and I remember I slipped a little and almost fell. I had to use my ab muscles to catch myself from actually falling. I remember how sore I was from that. I was still recovering from a c-section. A c-section I had only 12 days earlier.
I remember wondering how in the world we were just supposed to go to bed. That the day really existed. But then the hope of maybe if I just go to sleep I will wake up and this will all have been a nightmare. It had to be a nightmare. The shock is so strong at first. But like I said I was scared of sleep. I was scared of the thoughts and images that would come at night. And so we avoided the dark. We left a light on. For about a month we slept with a light on. An adult married couple, afraid of the dark. We would sleep, but not really sleep. It was like going in and out of consciousness. Each time I would get restless and awake it was like realizing all over again that my baby had just died. My baby died. I couldn't say those words at first.
The next day I remember people coming and going again. I remember sitting on the couch. I remember crying into my husband. A friend from out of state came. She was in town for work, but was going to make it to our baby shower scheduled for that weekend. No baby shower to be had. Instead she came and was there with us in those early moments after Marcellus's death. My advisor came. She had met Marcellus when he was two days old and was going to give me a ride to the NICU that weekend. Our midwife wouldn't come, but the midwife that worked with her did. We had met her once before. She came and sat with us. She helped me figure out how to manage my milk. The milk that was there for my son. But my body didn't know my baby died. My body still wanted to feed my baby.
We were showing anyone that was there the pictures and videos we had of Marcellus. I know we were in absolute shock. Like seeing him alive in the pictures and videos was telling ourselves, "look he's there, he can't be dead because he's right there in the pics/videos!"
I remember that I went up and down the stairs too many times. I was supposed to limit the stairs because of the c-section. They recommended coming down once for the day and then staying downstairs until I needed to go back up for the night. Well that wasn't hard when I spent the entire day in the NICU. I was never at home to use the stairs. But with my baby dead and no longer being a the NICU I ended up going up and down our stairs too much. It was a restlessness. I couldn't stay in one place to long.
One thing I don't remember is if I ate. I honestly don't remember eating any food at all those first days. I'm sure I did. I'm sure someone had to remind me to eat and even encourage me to eat. What was the point? I no longer needed to worry about my nourishment to make sure I could produce enough milk. I wasn't hungry. In fact I was sick to my stomach. Shock and going back and forth between the intense rawness and numbness. There was no feeling of hunger.
That night, that Thursday night two friends came over to help us pack for MN. I don't think I mentioned in my post about the 9th about wanting to take Marcellus to MN. No one expected us to. In fact, Mike's dad had already bought a plane ticket to NC to get here as fast as he could. My mom was trying to figure out what to do. She said she probably wouldn't have been on a plane, but with as quick as everything happened she didn't want to be in the air and have me trying to reach her. She was going to come though. I don't remember when it came up, but at some point while still in the NICU spending time with Marcellus after he died I just had the urge to take him to MN. I don't even know that Mike thought about it, but I said "I want to take him to MN." And so we did. My mom called the funeral home in my hometown and they arranged everything with a funeral home in MN. I don't know what the main drive behind my urge was, but I knew he had to meet his family. They had to see him. I also knew we aren't tied down to NC. I couldn't imagine moving in a couple of years (or even farther down the road) and leaving him buried here all by himself. No family around whatsoever. We will always have ties to MN.
So we had to get ourselves to MN too. I honestly don't remember how we even went about getting the flights. I know Mike dealt with that. We had already had tickets purchased for over Thanksgiving. It was supposed to be our last trip to MN before Marcellus was born. Somehow we switched those around to get on a flight that left early Friday morning. We probably left our house somewhere around 48 hours after that call from the NICU telling us our baby was doing so well. A friend drove us. We sat in the back together. We couldn't be separated. Those early days I constantly had to be right by Mike. He was all I had left.
I don't remember the airport much, but that flight. It was miserable. To be in such close proximity to all those people. What were they traveling for? Probably not to go bury their son. I took Percoset before the flight. Again, judge me if you will. But I couldn't figure out how I was going to manage three hours on a plane where I couldn't just break down and wail, sob, be hysterical.
Once in MSP we had a ways to walk from our gate to baggage claim. Far enough that we were worried about me walking that much. So we rode on one of those cart things. I remember Mike telling the driver that I just had a c-section and if we could get a ride. I wonder what he thought of that. I just had a c-section, but I had no baby with me. Did that register to him? It was registering for clearly to me. I had all the signs of just having had a baby, but my baby was now dead.
The most vivid memory I have from traveling that day is meeting my family at the airport. My mom, my sister, my little brother, and my nephew were there. At MSP you go down an escalator to get to baggage claim. They were waiting for us at the bottom. As soon as we got close the rushed up to us with open arms. Everyone just crying. I don't even know if we said anything. We just cried on each other and embraced. It was so emotional, so raw. That word again, raw. It's about all I can say to describe it. My mom (or sister, I can't remember which) later said that a man waiting on the bench nearby had tears in his eyes watching us. Did they know? Did they know what we were going through? Like I said I can't remember if we said anything. What that man did know is our hearts were broken, something was terribly wrong.
It's over a 2 hour drive from the airport to my hometown. The ride was so miserable. With everyone along the only place for Mike and I to sit together was in the backseat. The backseat facing our four month old nephew. I couldn't look at him. I couldn't acknowledge him. A live baby. My sister's baby. I don't know who thought it would be a good idea to bring a baby with when ours had just died. Nephew or not, it was too much. Way too much. We still loved him. It was just too much of a, "here's what you'll never have with Marcellus." And he cried. At one point he started crying a lot. Oh it hurt. It hurt my heart, it hurt my body. My body was still responding to the cries of a baby. But it wasn't my baby crying. My baby would never cry again. My baby was now forever silent. I remember trying to hold it in. Trying not to break down in that van. But I couldn't, I remember saying, "you have to make him stop crying! You just have to!" I couldn't take it.
I really have no idea what we did right when we got back. But that day we went to the funeral home to plan the funeral. To plan our baby boy's funeral. How it got planned I don't know. But I was part of it. I just don't remember. I do remember worrying about him. They had to organize getting Marcellus from NC to MN. It made me sick not to know when he'd arrive in MN, to not know where he was. The funeral home was great though. They did everything they could to make our planning go as smoothly as possible. We went out the cemetery and talked to the groundskeeper about our options. There were the baby plots or the full plots. Did we want to pick out a place where we'd all be buried and buy our own plots too? Who has to make those decisions at 26 and 28 years old? We did. And we ultimately decided to buy a plot for Marcellus in the baby section. It was the easiest to do at the time.
Mike's parents came. Everyone was at my mom's house. Another very overwhelming thing. I didn't want to be around people. I wanted to hide away from the world. I didn't want to have to talk about anything. I just wanted to cry. My head was spinning with what we had just been through, what we were going through. I couldn't care about if I was acting the right way or doing what people thought I should. I just couldn't. I remember having to retreat often. The chatter and the business, it made me feel like I was going to explode.
That night we found out Marcellus made it to the funeral home. The funeral directed said we could come see him anytime we wanted, even if it was the middle of the night. We decided to wait until the next day. We went just the two of us at first. We went into that room and there he was in that stupid little white casket. With that stupid two-sided liner and blanket. Once side blue for boy and the other pink for girl. We had brought the blanket they wrapped him in right after he died. We immediately swapped out the stupid reversible blanket for the one we brought. We got to see him. And honestly being in that room was the first time the three of us were alone together. The first time it was just us, Mommy, Daddy and Marcellus. A part of me still felt a little bit complete being there with him. It was very apparent he was dead. The smell, the coldness, the change in some of his features. But he was still absolutely beautiful. I could still touch him, his soft hair especially. I could still kiss his sweet face. I could still hold him. I could still see Mike holding our son. We could still do those things. We could still hold onto those things. And we did. We touched him, held him, kissed him, rocked him, read to him, sang to him, took pictures of him. Everything you would do if your baby was living. We did them with our dead baby in the funeral home.
One thing that drove me crazy is Marcellus was wearing the wrong diaper brand. We never thought to get a diaper from the NICU. And so the funeral director went and got one for him to wear. It's the wrong brand. It wasn't what he wore. And honestly to this day it drives me crazy. I can't stand knowing he will forever be in the wrong diaper. My sound insane, but that's how I feel.
We asked my mom, sister, and little brother if they wanted to come see him. And they did. They all came. Somehow we had thought to bring an outfit for him. A special outfit from his Auntie. She had bought a couple of preemie sleepers for him while in NC visiting. One had a doggy on it. We decided that's what he would be buried in. We didn't want to get him anything new. That outfit had been bought especially for him and so he would wear it. The first and only clothing to ever go on his little body.
After that I have no idea what happened for the day. At some point that weekend our friends came. Was it that day? The next? I really have no idea. We are blessed with some amazing friends. Marcellus's "Auntie" Beth flew in from NC. Some other really good friends came from a couple of hours away. They got a hotel in town, so they could be close and help with getting ready for the funeral. And they did. They helped so much. They helped make picture boards. We printed off literally every picture we took of Marcellus and filled up three picture boards full. Three picture boards for 12 days. Hardly anyone got to meet him alive, so it was so important to me that they at least get to see his pictures. To see how awesome and amazing our life was for that short time. At one point I realized I had accidentally saved over some pictures. I had resized them to send via email and I saved over the high quality images. I freaked out. I absolutely lost it. One was of our first family photo. Our friends took Mike's camera card to a local photographer and explained everything to him. Turns out he volunteers for Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and offered his services to us. I of course then stressed about that. I was already feeling so guilty for not doing professional photos with Marcellus in the NICU right after he died, when he looked his best. He was changing. We had to admit that. He had been dead for four days at the point we were offered the photography. But ultimately we took it and I'm so thankful we did. It felt natural to pose together as a family, not restricted by wires and monitors. My family. Together.
A couple of my MN friends came to visit that weekend as well. They came in the bedroom and sat on the bed and cried with me. Words we exchanged, but the words are not what's important. They were there, that's what was important. The hugs and the touches. They mean more than the words. One of those friends picked up Marcellus and us a copy of his story, "Guess How Much I Love You." The one we read to him in the NICU was the NICU's copy. We didn't own it. We knew we wanted him buried with that book. And we wanted one for ourselves, so she bought us to copies.
At one point it came to trying to figure out what I was going to wear to the funeral. I was at that in between stage where most of my maternity clothes were too big, but I was nowhere near fitting into my regular clothes and I still had to watch out with my incision. I did know what shirt I wanted to wear. One of the nursing shirts I had bought while Marcellus was in the NICU. I bought them for him and so I wanted to wear one for him. I needed black pants to go with it. My sister picked me up some because I couldn't bear to think of going out shopping. No way I would have been able to be in public. No way.
Marcellus's visitation was going to be right before the funeral. We couldn't deal with two days. Originally we were going to do a family only open casket visitation, followed by a closed casket public visitation, then the service. That Sunday we decided to do closed casket only. I hate that we decided that. It's because we saw a big difference in how Marcellus looked from Saturday to Sunday. I was afraid he was going to keep looking worse and worse and worse. His funeral wasn't until Tuesday, so two more days. Six days after he had died. Was I ashamed of how he looked? Why was I worried about what other people thought? I thought he was beautiful that should have been enough. But I don't know, we opted to do closed casket only. What we did do is call our family and close friends and told them they could come to the funeral home anytime before the funeral to see him. And many did. My grandma, my dad and stepmom, my other brother, our friends, Mike's brother. They came and they met him. Some touched him, some didn't. Some stayed for awhile, some only a short time. It didn't matter to me. It just mattered that they were there, that we could say, "look here is our son, isn't he beautiful?!"
Mike and I spent a lot of time in the funeral home those days leading up to Marcellus's funeral. And I'm glad we did. I am thankful for that time. I would look forward to going to the funeral for the day. To have those last moments we got to be mommy and daddy to him on this earth. Sometimes I wish we would have spent more time there. Held him more. I think I will feel like I always could have had more time with him. Alive or dead.
Marcellus, the days after you died are such a whirlwind. They run together, they are a blur, I don't remember many details. I remember spending time with you though baby boy. Even though you were already gone, it didn't feel like it completely yet. We still got to be together. Daddy and I still got to touch you and hold you and actively love on you. We still got to physically be together as a family. I'm glad many other people came to see you too. To get a real sense of you. To express their love for you. Oh baby those days were so hard. So raw. So exhausting. I hope you know we did the best planning for you. We did the best to spend time with you. I miss you so much. I miss touching that soft hair of yours, something I still got to do during those days. Kissing your little face. That sweet sweet face. Holding you. Feeling you in my arms. No more squirming though. You were still, silent, cold. But you were still mine. You still are mine. You will forever be my son and I will forever been your mommy. One of my most important roles in life will forever be Marcellus's Mommy. I love you so much little mister. So so so very much! xoxox.