angels must have birthdays

Oh, we miss you. ūüė¶

I have no idea where the time has gone. A year since we held you? A year since we held your face close to ours and kissed your tiny nose? It feels like an eternity and yesterday, all at the same time.

We celebrated how much we love you on Saturday. And we thought about how much we miss you.

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We made you a cake.

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And we sent some love notes up to you.

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And we stood in the dark and watched them go up. And we waited until we couldn’t see them any longer.

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Happy Birthday, Dziko. We miss you so, so much. Be good. Stay safe. Remember us. We love you.

Love,
Mom and Dad

there’s a danger in loving somebody too much

Because love isn’t always enough to keep them here with you.

Inside this folder is the picture the doctor drew for me on August 22, 2012.

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I keep this picture in a folder, in the nightstand next to my bed. I haven’t opened it since the day she drew it. It’s a picture illustrating the complete destruction of hope (which comes in the form of a funneling cervix).

One year ago today, my mom jumped on a plane and only packed her purse (ok, this part is funny. She literally put her purse in a suitcase, drove to Lambert Airport and got on the next plane to Connecticut). I get it now. It’s what moms do.

Two days later, my friend Aimee sent me a box of chocolate covered Oreos. And while gravity and I (laying upside down) were doing our best to keep my son safe, I felt him kick for the first time. My sister came over that night, and with each Oreo bite, he’d kick. She felt him. My mom felt him. I felt him. My husband felt his son move for the first time.

I went into active labor the next morning. I grabbed pillows from the couch to keep me upside down in the car. I shouted directions to the doctor’s office at my mom who had no idea where she was driving or going. I cried into the phone when I told my husband what we thought was happening. And I screamed in horror when my doctor told me that over the past 3 days, I had already dilated 4cm. And as hot tears ran down my face, I reached for my husband’s face and I sobbed, “We’re going to lose him, LB.”

I spent two days upside down in a hospital bed while labor started and stopped. We shared one hopeful evening when another hospital told us they would be willing to risk an emergency surgery to keep him in place. I took one terrified ambulance ride on the way to that hospital. ¬†And I spent 4 solitary minutes in a room before my husband could find me there, once again sobbing. My water broke and our chance at saving our son’s life was gone.

We held hands and LB cried on my shoulder as we listened to his heart beat a few more times. I couldn’t bear to hear him die during my labor and so we stopped the monitoring. I can still hear his heartbeat if I try. LB and I used to listen to his heartbeat every morning before we got out of bed with our doppler. ¬†Worst of all, I couldn’t comfort my own son in the moments before his death.

He was born and died at 8:30 p.m. on August 27, 2012. I checked out of the hospital with no baby and I checked right out of my mind. I remember the sun shining the day we left and how angry I was that the world could even thinking about enjoying summer sunshine.

Leaving my son was considerably harder than losing him. Wondering if people were just shuffling by him. Wondering when they took the warming blankets away from him. Wondering how long he would be cold with no one to hold him or touch his hands or his tiny nose. Wondering how gentle the funeral home would be with his tiny body. Thinking about the moments before he was cremated and how long it would be before he was returned to me. “He has no one telling him that things will be ok. He has no one to hold his hand. What if he’s scared? He has no one to feel safe with.” Those thoughts occupied every single moment of every second until his remains came home to us. Burying your children is a special kind of hell that I wouldn’t wish upon a single soul.

I listen to Garth Brooks’ “The Dance” often. In particular, I listen to it on the days where I need to shake the sadness that’s under the surface to make sure it’s still there.

Looking back on the memory of 
The dance we shared beneath the stars above 
For a moment all the world was right 
How could I have known you’d ever say goodbye¬†
And now I’m glad I didn’t know¬†
The way it all would end the way it all would go 

I spent so many years being sad that I couldn’t get pregnant. I wished so hard for that pregnancy and it never dawned on me that the sadness wouldn’t stop once I achieved that goal. I laid in bed every single day worrying about him. Miscarrying him, losing him, losing our family and our chance to be happy and complete. I never enjoyed my pregnancy, except in the brief moments of ultrasounds where I got to see that he was alive and doing well. I regret not enjoying him, but I know that I worried for him because I loved him so, so much. And that I don’t regret. I think I just started being a mom really, really early.

It’s weird to think that if someone told me, “You will get pregnant, but you will watch your son slip away from you and this world and it will crush every part of you.” that I would agree to do this, and go through all of this, again–just to experience the brief moments I had with him.

Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain 
But I’d of had to miss the dance¬†
Holding you I held everything 
For a moment wasn’t I the king¬†
But if I’d only known how the king would fall¬†
Hey who’s to say you know I might have changed it all¬†
And now I’m glad I didn’t know¬†
The way it all would end the way it all would go 
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain 
But I’d of had to miss the dance¬†

Dziko is helping me remember that life is all too brief. He is forcing me to experience life in ways I would not have if he were here– He helped me find Sprout, a wonderfully tiny nugget who does nothing but love me when I need it. The opportunity to go through nearly 1,000 photos to choose ones for our adoption profile and, in the process, remember how many fantastic pieces of my life I have been able to share with the greatest people on this round spinning thing.

He also is helping me remember that I can not retreat into myself in the moments I am alone. And that my husband needs me and he needs me to love him more than I ever told him before. This has been the most difficult year of our 12 together– and this experience helps me remember on a daily basis that we don’t always get forever to tell people how much we love them and how much they mean to us. I love him an incredible lot.

Until we meet again, sweet baby. – Love, Mom & Dad

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Perspective of soul

I have a love/hate relationship with empty Saturdays. Nothing to do but relax. Nothing to do but sit inside my thoughts and sadness, particularly as we’re drawing closer to his birthday. Yesterday was a hard day. This week begins the worst string of anniversaries that could belong to a person, and so I imagine everyday will be hard for awhile.

But today, I came home from the market to two emails. The first from a sweet, sweet friend, who wanted to let us know that she didn’t have to be reminded of what was coming.

And the second was from my sister. I have never seen or heard advice spoken so carefully, delivered so lovingly, and full of so much silent, heavy-hearted connection.

This is a transcript from a conversation held on Oprah Winfrey’s show in 2000, between Gary Zukav and a couple who had a set of twin boys, born early, and one tiny baby stayed with them only for a few days.

I always knew it would be, and I find it already is, difficult to watch my friends children, who had celebrate birthdays close to Dziko’s and are the age he “should be”, accomplish milestones. I imagine this mother’s struggle with trying to live for one child while not dying of a broken heart for the other to be a horrible impasse- she’s rather stuck. What strength she has to seek to free herself.

Mother‚Äôs question:¬† ‚ÄúHow do I not let this loss and tragedy in my life take it over?‚ÄĚ ¬†

Gary’s response: “This is a matter of perspective.  Perspective of the personality or perspective of the soul. If you look at Ryan (the baby that died) as a personality who lived for a few days and then encountered tragic circumstances and died then you are looking from the point of view of personality. 
If you look at Ryan as a soul, like yourself, your husband, those around us, that left this earth when it chose then you will have a different perspective.Then you will be able to see the gifts this soul offered to you during its short stay on the earth.¬† You will reach a place in your life where you are grateful that this soul chose to be with you for however short a time.¬† If you do not you will live your life in anguish thinking that a tragedy has occurred whenever you see your other son growing up, you will say Ryan should be here, when you see your other son graduating you will say Ryan should have graduated, when he finds his wife you will say, Ryan should be getting married too and through all of this time you will be imposing on your other son a burden to carry because no matter what he does or how successful he is he will be causing his mother pain.If you look at Ryan as a soul, a great soul like yourself who voluntarily entered the earth school and voluntarily left it in order to be with you and to offer gifts then you will begin the process of fathoming and appreciating and becoming grateful for the power of the interaction that you had with that soul and you will be able to receive the gifts that that soul came to this earth to give you, to give to your husband, and to your siblings and if you do not, you will continually be turning away from those gifts, you will be denying the very wealth of wisdom and compassion that was offered to you by this soul.”

So this is not a situation of “things happen for a reason” and “there are lessons to be learned from sorrow”, but instead to appreciate that my son gave me beautiful things in the five months he lived inside me, in the moments we were able to hold him, and in every fiber of my being he is woven into.

For him, I am thankful. ‚ô•

surviving

Newtown, CT.

Moore, OK.

These stories are more than obviously sad. They’re nearly obsessively sad. I can’t turn away from the news. I can’t stop imagining those parents screaming for their children in the instant they lose them. Or the solid feeling in your chest the moment you realize your heart is gone.

To lose your child is…awful. To realize you are unable to provide the comfort, love and calming a child needs in their last moments is…more than awful. There aren’t adequate words to describe that circumstance. But the feeling is very real. And very, very sad.

I turned on NPR to listen to Oklahoma updates on my way home his evening. To my surprise, I heard some very familiar words.

My own words.

Faith Middleton replayed her show on dealing with the loss of a child, in hopes of reaching out again to parents who have lost and those who are left to help them carry on.

I want to leave those words here.

I hope they help.

common ground & peter pan

Four years ago today, my aunt lost her son.

It was unexpected.

I flew home immediately. I remember picking out his flowers. I remember placing a Peter Pan book in his casket, his sister falling apart as she walked into the funeral home, and choking through tears reading this poem at his funeral:

Longing For One More Day

“When we lose someone we love it seems that time stands still. What moves through us is a silence… a quiet sadness… A longing for one more day… one more word… one more touch… We may not understand why you left this earth so soon, or why you left before we were ready to say good-bye, but little by little, we begin to remember not just that you died, but that you lived. And that your life gave us memories too beautiful to forget. We will see you again some day, in a heavenly place where there is no parting. A place where there are no words that mean good-bye.¬†”

The only thing I can do for my aunt is tell her that I remember his beautiful life. I only held my son for minutes. She held him for 26 years. I cannot imagine the amplitude of her pain. She finds grace in dark places that only grief and sadness know.

I hate to share this common ground with her– we’re undeserving. But in her I see that life beyond this grief is different, but possible– and for that I am thankful she is my teacher.

Second star to the right and straight ahead till morning, Johnny. I love you. I miss you. I remember you.

who put me in charge?

I did, I suppose. 

The grief is omnipresent and saturating. It stresses relationships & interactions and has changed every part of who I am now and who I will be later.

It just seems like, with that heaviness, I’d be ready to be lighter. To let go a little bit, to unburden myself of sadness, and to move forward with positivity. But I can’t. I’m not ready.

I have to be sad for him. I have to mourn him. All I’ve ever been was sad for him. It’s the closest emotion I have tied to his memory. ¬†If I smile, how will that remind everyone that he existed?¬†

I am in charge of remembering him. I don’t trust anyone else to remember. Who else will cry for him if I don’t? Who else will imagine holding him while making breakfast while his Dad sings funny songs to him? If I don’t, who will imagine him at his soccer games? Or him sleeping on his Dad’s chest? I don’t trust the rest of the world to not stop remembering him. It is an incredible weight to exist with– but I don’t want to let it go.¬†

But he has given me things. He has given me a new relationship with my sister. He has shown my husband and I that we are stronger than we ever imagined. He has given me the opportunity, several times over, to see the people that we call friends and how mighty they are in their support when we need something. These things, especially the latter, is something I can not help but be happy about. If we did not experience infertility, pain and loss– we wouldn’t know these things. In an honest moment, I will remind you that these life lessons aren’t worth the cost. But in a second moment, I will say that in the moments of grief, these lessons are what keep us moving forward.¬†

And moving forward we are. We have had over 500 viewers of our blog. We’ve raised nearly $500 in the last 48 hours towards our goal. We have launched our Facebook page to keep everyone posted on new blog updates, new fundraising goals and opportunities and new milestones in our journey.

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We called the agency today. I’ve printed the application. I’ve tucked it neatly in it’s folder. I’ve printed the applications for grants from two non-profits for adoption assistance.¬†

We’re ready to build our home.

 

remembering

On May 6th, 2012, we found out we were going to be parents. At 6dp5dt (IVF lingo for 11 days post ovulation), I saw the faintest line on the test. I bounded out of the bathroom and woke LB up to show him. He wasn’t sure he could see it, but we convinced ourselves something was there. I secretly texted my friend Aimee a picture to have someone else to ‘squeeeeee’ with. I had never seen two lines before, and although faint, I knew it was there.

We went to his soccer game as parents that morning. He carried my chair for me across the field and made sure I was comfortable before he took off to play. The sun felt brighter, the grass looked greener and we were parents.We confirmed with a blood test through our reproductive endocrinologists office a few days later– we were pregnant! I tested every.single.day to make sure it was happening. Two lines. Over and over and over. Two beautifully pink, clear as day, lines.

The day before our first ultrasound I began bleeding heavily. I knew it was too good to be true. I was beating myself up for allowing the hopefulness to be so pervasive. We found out the next morning that I was miscarrying– a twin. But one baby, in it’s tiny sac, was still ok. O.K. was good.

I still remember all the numbers. 131- first beta. 112 bpm- first heartbeat.

I listened to Aerosmith’s “Dream On” over and over and over. And once more for good measure. I never gave myself time to mourn our first baby– I was too busy hoping for this one. I lived every day with the terror that I was going to lose this pregnancy. That he would slip away from me somehow. And the sadness that came with that fear was paralyzing. How would I continue to live without him? How would I ever recover from losing this thing we wanted so badly? It was our only chance at our family. How do you keep living when your dream dies?

August 22nd was our anatomy scan. For most couples, it’s the day they find out if they’re Team Pink or Blue. I secretly hoped for a girl, but I wanted the cliche– a healthy baby. I just wanted a baby. We held hands as the technician started the ultrasound. LB whispered to me that the safari wallpaper in the room was exactly what he had in mind for the baby’s room. It was the first time he talked about tangible baby things. The wand pressed down on my belly and we both smiled. Healthy heart. Healthy kidneys. Healthy brain. He was perfect.

“Can you cough for me?”, the tech asked. “Ok, bear down for me like you’re pushing.”, she instructed. “I’m going to get out the transvaginal wand to get a closer look.” ¬†I froze. I squeezed my husband’s hand and I looked over at him and I said, “Something is wrong.”

I had only 5 mm of cervix left. I should have 3.5-4 cm of cervix left. Our office consulted with Maternal Fetal Medicine at several hospitals nearby. No one could fix this. The membranes were funneling and any procedure to save him would risk losing him. Immediate bedrest. Immense panic.

Three days later I went into labor. Two days after labor began my water broke on the way to an emergency surgery to save him.

On August 27th, Dziko George Banda was born and died at 8:30 p.m. I remember screaming, “IS THAT HIM?” and “NO! NO! NO! MY POOR BABY” over and over and over. I remember holding him and apologizing to him. I remember being struck by how much he looked like his daddy. I remember my husband crying. And I remember feeling like my entire world just fell apart. We held him for hours. We showed him to our family members that were at the hospital. I don’t know how, but we slept. We held him again. They kept him wrapped in warm blankets for us.

And I remember the distinct feeling of wishing I was dead when I left the hospital without my baby.

I do also remember how amazing my friends were (and still are) throughout this time. I remember my group of friends, lovingly referred to as The Bitters, sending me hilarious gifts, including a majestical 3 wolves shirt in order to watch over him and keep Dziko safe. I remember the chocolate covered oreos Aimee sent me that helped me feel Dziko move for the first time. I remember Sara asking the hospital to find a separate room for my family to grieve in, so that they didn’t have to watch happy families await the arrival of their newest family members. I remember Sara buying all the thing in Whole Foods so that I didn’t have to think about cooking or feeding myself. I remember Sara visiting me in the hospital and crying with me. I remember Sara and Noelle sitting with me to look through his pictures. I remember Kristi setting up a GiveItForward donation page for the medical costs and memorial. I remember all the people I had never met donating and thinking of us– and crying for us. I remember my mom getting on a plane hours after our anatomy scan and staying with me for a month and taking care of me while she grieved the loss of her first grandchild. I remember my sister keeping herself together while I, and her car, fell apart. I remember her coloring with me through my bedrest, keeping me company in the hospital when LB couldn’t be there….

And I remember you all crying for us. And I remember that you helped me realize I was not as alone as I had imagined I was. I am touched that I know so many great people. And I am touched that so many great people loved Dziko.

I wrote our story. I never thought I’d be able to do it, but I wrote our story. I love him and I miss him so much. He helped us see that “dziko lo kongola” (the world is beautiful- in Chichewa).

Our decision to move forward in our pursuit of parenthood is challenging. This process must honor him as our son. I believe very much that he will help us along the way– to navigate each turn, each obstacle, each roadblock. I hope he knows how much he means to me and how much I wish to parent him. Since we are unable to be his parents, I hope that he can be our guardian.