Tag Archives: infant loss

The 11th

In the year following Hudson’s birth and death, I wrote something each month on the 11th, to mark the milestones we should have been celebrating with our growing little girl.

And then, we were pregnant with Anson, and Hudson’s first birthday was spent contemplating all we were missing but also celebrating her brief existence and the coming arrival of her baby brother. And with the passing of July 11, 2013, the 11th started to sting less.

Sometimes the 11th of the month comes, and my mom texts me to let me know she’s thinking of us and of the joy our little girl would have brought us, and I’m surprised that it’s the 11th.

^^That actually happened today.^^

This weekend a dear friend came to visit and meet Anson. Amidst the questions about nighttime feedings and diaper changes and who does Anson look more like, she asked me how I was doing emotionally.

Another friend whose first child was stillborn shared with me that some of her most emotional moments over the loss of her daughter came years later, when she was caring for her infant son.

I won’t pretend that I haven’t had countless thoughts of our beautiful girl since the birth of our son. But I’m so filled with joy over the little guy that I don’t have a lot of room for sadness over the missed moments with Hudson. If anything, all these moments are made more beautiful knowing how precious they are, how much we would have given to experience them with Hudson.

Back to my friend’s question: How are you doing emotionally?

I’m happy.

Let me be clear, Anson’s arrival doesn’t fix Hudson’s far-too-early departure from our lives. Hudson’s life is its own beautiful part of our story, just as Anson’s life is a new and wonderful chapter, and he is his own unique person. We experience Anson’s life more fully because of his big sister, but I want to be careful not to tie the two too closely to each other. My hope for Anson is that he always knows how much he is wanted, how much he is loved, in his own right and not just because his big sister died.

So today,  the 11th, gets to be the day that Anson spit up on 3 outfits and went through 3 diapers in an hour.

It also gets to be the day his big sister Hudson would have been 20 months old.

This life doesn’t give us only beautiful experiences. It’s up to us to find the beauty in all of life’s experiences.

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Mommy & Daddy & Anson

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Mommy & Daddy & Hudson

 

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Reflecting on moments lost

The other day, I mistakenly clicked on a link a friend shared on Facebook and watched this video.

Video screenshot

Yes, it is lovely.

Did you catch the birthdate? This little guy was born 2 days before Hudson.

I’m pregnant and hormonal so I blame the Friday morning waterworks on that.

But seriously.

We were robbed.

This video runs 6:54. Crying, laughing, sleeping, taking his first steps, trying his first solid foods, the video’s little hero has 365 experiences in less than 7 minutes that my daughter will never have. We got three days with our daughter, but not one single second of interaction like a parent SHOULD experience with their newborn. I think of the joy and magic that can be captured in a second, seconds I would give just about anything to experience with Hudson, and I realize how much we take for granted these tiny moments in our lives.

Something about the dates in that video, dates when seconds should have been blurring together in our sleep deprivation and new parent frustration, made me feel the distinct, harsh, jagged pangs of loss and absence that I had been able to blissfully ignore for the past 6 months or so. There is emptiness buried under the happiness of our son’s impending arrival, and I’m reminded of it at surprising moments by unexpected 7 minute videos.

We have seconds and moments to look forward to, and we’ll be wiser than to take them for granted. But sometimes I yearn for the missing moments in a way that takes my breath away.

We love our son. We love our daughter. We ache for our daughter. And these feelings can coexist in one, most-of-the-time happy couple.

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Brokenhearted, but hopeful

This morning, my heart broke.

photo(2)The inside of that heart is with Hudson, and the outside, which I’ve worn on my wrist or around my neck every day since I got it, is now broken.

It was kind of a shit start to the first day in The Week.

From Monday to Sunday, we will pass the day we went into labor (the 10th), the day Hudson was born (the 11th), and the day that Hudson died (the 14th).

I was so sure I could sail through The Week relatively un-phased, and then my heart broke.

I was in a hurry to throw my bags in the car and get on the road for work, and I must have caught the edge just right. I just stared in horror at the fragments on my garage floor, the ruby chain dangling haphazardly from my wrist. I wanted to cry. I felt sick. I thought this heart could withstand the heat of cremation. How did this little tap against my car door shatter my heart?

Sometimes the tiniest things can shatter you.

I’ve figured out how I’m spending Hudson’s birthday this year. It’s mostly small personal things. But there is one big thing that has been on my heart, that I’d like to share today.

I started my day with a broken heart, but after work, I went to check the mail, and in it was a letter from C at the Forget-Me-Not Foundation. She had handwritten a card to the Hubs and I, letting us know she was thinking of us this week, almost a year from when she met us and our beautiful Hudson. She said she still can picture us standing over Hudson’s bed, reading stories to her.

One of my favorite memories of Hudson is also one of the strongest memories someone else has of me. How nice.

I would like to make a large donation to the Forget-Me-Not Foundation in honor of Hudson’s birthday this year. In order to do that, for this entire week, 100% of the income from any Hudson’s Heroes teeshirt orders will go to the Forget-Me-Not Foundation, plus I’ll match the amount (so if you buy a $15 shirt, I’ll donate $30 to Forget-Me-Not). I’ve got short and long-sleeved in a variety of sizes. To order a teeshirt and have the full amount sent to the Forget-Me-Not Foundation, you can click on the “Donate” tab at the top of the blog, fill out your information and I’ll take care of the rest.

If you choose to make a donation directly to the Forget-Me-Not Foundation in Hudson’s name, I will mail you a Hudson’s Heroes teeshirt as a thank you.

To give online, visit this link and under Designation, select “Other”, then type in “Forget-Me-Not Foundation”. In the comments, you can enter “imo Hudson Ruth Walter”.

You can also mail your donation directly to:

Providence Health Care Foundation, Eastern Washington
c/o Forget-Me-Not Foundation
PO Box 2555
Spokane, Washington 99220-2555

In the memo on your check you can enter “imo Hudson Ruth Walter”.

Grandma and Grandpa Dub have made  contributions in Hudson’s name on both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and have promised to do so again to celebrate Hudson’s birthday each year. Grandma Shiz has “sold” some of her photography work in exchange for donations to the Forget-Me-Not Foundation. I feel blessed and touched every time I get a letter from the organization saying that yet another donation has been made in our precious daughter’s memory. I am excited to contribute in another big way to celebrate Hudson’s first birthday, and hope that those with means will find it in their hearts to help make a big impact for families who face the loss of an infant.

Sure, I started the week with a broken heart. But I can and will spend the rest of this week offering hope to others.

It’s the least I can do in memory of our beautiful fighter.

 

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11 months – empty car seat

Hudson was born 11 months ago.

Our daughter would have been 11 months old today.

When I was pregnant with Hudson, about 6 weeks before she was due, in fact, I had the Hubs install the car seat in The White Stallion… just in case.

You see, I was informed that the only things you NEED when you have a baby are diapers and a car seat… because you can’t take her home without one.

So for the weeks leading up to July 11, I drove about with a car seat installed, ready for action should I go into labor early.

And I would drive around with that car seat, and I would actually look in the rear view mirror and picture our baby girl in that car seat, and I couldn’t even fathom what it would be like with a baby that we made riding in it.

Today I drove from Yakima to Walla Walla, pretty early in the morning, and I looked in the rear view mirror to check for pursuing cops as I sped along the highway and was hit with a sense of nostalgia for those six weeks that I drove around with the empty car seat.

Then it struck me that today is the 11th. And of course there were tears.

That empty car seat remained in my car for about a month after Hudson died. I just didn’t have the heart to take it out right away. In the weeks following our baby girl’s death, I would drive around in my car and look in the rear view mirror and imagine what our beautiful red head would be up to back there.

And today, the back seat is empty. No empty car seat, but something about the rear view mirror check today had me thinking about what it would be like to have our 11-month old beauty with us today. She would have been so precocious, so spunky, so challenging but so fun.

For the most part I was able to distract myself about today’s significance. I’m reading a book right now with a line that stands out “…I will remain too busy to be sad.” Mission accomplished on this particular 11th.

It’s hard to believe that we are coming up on a year. What is the next 11th going to do to me? I guess we have no choice but to find out in a month. I planned to have the day off, but maybe that isn’t the best thing if I’m going to “remain too busy to be sad.”

But today, I didn’t remain too busy to write about the 11th day that would have been the 11th month, and I didn’t remain too busy to pine for what might have been in an alternate universe with that car seat full of precious red-headed bright eyed fun that was and is our daughter Hudson Ruth.

Wherever that universe is, wherever our car seat is not empty, I want to go to there.

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Why?

This Thanksgiving, I decided that with all the extra time I have these days I would organize a family craft-y thing revolving around Thankfulness.

I also decided to make a turkey out of cheese, and it looked like an angry bird, which is pretty awesome.

Cheese Turkey

Cheese turkey aside, I wanted our family to spend some time reflecting on the things we are grateful for in a year that has been so fraught with difficulty and loss. And I wanted a physical reminder of gratefulness in my home so that when I’m feeling sorry for myself, I can just take a peek at all the things I could find to be thankful for during the most challenging year of my life and remind myself how good we still do have it.

Thankfulness craftSo I found a template online (and now I cannot find a link to it, no matter how many variations of “Thankfulness template” I google), printed it onto lovely craft paper, and had my mother in law help me cut the paper into strips. Everybody in the family had to spend a little time filling a few of the strips out during our Thanksgiving progressive party.

Yes, you can see that I am thankful for cheese.

So these little strips of paper have been lying around my house since Thanksgiving, waiting for some shock of inspiration on the level of the Cheese Turkey.

And now it is Christmas… or nearly. It is the Dub Family’s turn to have us for Christmas, but the Shiz side will be in town in the days after Christmas, so it was decided that we would host an after-Christmas dinner and gift exchange. This lit the necessary fire under my behind to get me moving on the craft-finishing, and although it didn’t turn into the Pinterest-worthy masterpiece I had hoped for, I have to say I’m pretty fond of the result.

Blessed Banner

I did that all by myself.

As I was folding all those little strips of paper in half, I was given a unique opportunity to contemplate the things I am thankful for as well as the things that my family is thankful for. The template had little prompts in varying fonts, things like:

I’m thankful for (crossfit, Diesel, coffee, etc.)
I love (my hubby, my brother, my family, etc.)
(Being outside, baking, Natalie’s smile) brings me joy
(Hudson, singing, music) warms my heart

and the big curveball:

God is

Not many of my family members filled this one out. But my dad did. He wrote:

…going to tell us why.

God is going to tell us why.

This really struck me. Because my knee jerk reaction to “God is going to tell us why” is “The answer won’t be good enough.”

I’ve expressed my frustration with the whole “God’s plan” business a time or two. I cannot wrap my mind around a God who would plan this. And there is no “Greater Good” that I can imagine that could justify losing Hudson. Call me selfish. Call me faithless. Maybe something about hearing it straight from the Omnipotent One will make it easier to grasp, but if God is going to tell us why, I’m not sure I will want to hear it.

We received a letter in the mail last week from LifeCenter Northwest, the organization currently in possession of our daughter’s heart valves.

“The evaluation of Hudson’s gift of Aortic heart valve is now complete and has been released for transplant into young patients.”

Perhaps because of our daughter, some other baby will get to grow up, and maybe that grown-up person with a piece of my daughter pumping in their chest will cure cancer. They had better.

God is going to tell us why.

I don’t believe in a God who watches these dramas and horrors unfold on earth and thinks, “Ah yes this is all going according to my great plan.” If God is going to tell us why my daughter had to die, then He is also obligated to speak with the parents of 20 kindergarteners who were slaughtered at their school a week ago. Sounds like a crappy job to me.

God is going to tell us why.

I feel like it should be some sort of twist ending, like in a good M. Night Shyamalan movie, something that puts an entirely different slant on every experience in our life since. If not justification for Hudson’s death, at least it would be good entertainment.

God is going to tell us why.

“The only excuse for God is that he does not exist.”
-Stendhal

God is going to tell us why.

The truth of the matter, and what I know in my heart even when I’m feeling bitter and cynical, is that bad things happen for no good reason all the time. It is our responsibility as members of the human race to pick up the pieces and make some good come from all this bad. God didn’t take Hudson because He had some greater plan. Hudson died because we live in a vicious world.

I do like the idea of having a good long chat with God about all the ways that Hudson’s short life changed the world. But I don’t like it in the context of an explanation for why she died. Many people do find comfort in the “God’s plan” business and far be it from me to take that comfort from them.

This is just the way that I have to accept the nature of things, and certainly not a prescription for peace:

“Every life is different because you passed this way and touched history.”
–Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

 

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Firsts

After the Hubs and I got married, I remember getting all gooey and sentimental about our “firsts.”

“It’s our first married plane ride!”
“This is our first married Christmas!”
“Oh my gosh, this is our first married grocery shopping trip!”

I may or may not have saved the receipt from that one.

Since Hudson died, I’ve had a new set of “firsts” – not ones I necessarily get gooey or sentimental over, but emotional firsts all the same.

The first time I held a baby after Hudson.

Don't I look like I'm going to eat this little guy?

Don’t I look like I’m going to eat this little guy?

The first trip into a Carters to buy baby clothes as a gift, the recipient of which was the little man pictured above. That will get its whole own blog post, probably.

The first baby shower for a friend (another one that will get its own dedicated blog post, likely).

The first Thanksgiving.

And soon, the first Christmas.

I have been wracking my brains for ways to remember Hudson this holiday season, to make a new tradition of celebrating Hudson’s life during this time when we celebrate the life of another pretty remarkable baby (“Dear Eight Pound, Six Ounce, Newborn Baby Jesus, don’t even know a word yet, just a little infant, so cuddly, but still omnipotent…” Talladega Nights, anyone?).

If only I were shopping for frivolous baby outfits and 6-month old toys this week, instead of trying to figure out a holiday memorial for her.

The Forget-Me-Not Foundation sent the Hubs and I a card and a little angel ornament, something to put on the tree to remind us of our “angel baby.” We talked about making a big family donation to the Forget-Me-Not Foundation in Hudson’s name for Christmas. I even read on some grief and loss forum about a woman who was planning to still shop for her daughter (who was stillborn), but was going to donate the gifts to Toys for Tots. I didn’t even shop much for Hudson when I was pregnant. I sort of wish I had indulged that little temptation more now, but I was so sure I’d have a lifetime to dress her up, entertain her, teach her.

While I’m still a little at a loss for ways to make Hudson a part of our Christmas celebration this year, I do find myself looking forward to a lot of firsts.

How about:
First positive pregnancy test
First sound of Hudson’s baby sibling’s cries
First diaper blow out
First sleepless night
First word
First grade
First boyfriend/girlfriend
First job
First grandbaby (hey, why not? I’m looking WAY forward here!)

Everything now is a “first” without Hudson – and that is the sentence for a lifetime of making bittersweet memories. But I’m determined to face these firsts with a heart full of hope, not dread. No matter how profoundly or meaningfully we chose to celebrate Hudson this Christmas, I know it will still be a shitty Christmas without her. But maybe our second Christmas without Hudson will also be our first Christmas with Baby Dub Dos.

And Baby Dub Dos will be the first of his/her kind.

I won’t live my entire life in the shadow of Firsts Without…

 

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How’s your baby?

The other day I bumped into a neighbor while checking the mail. This observant fellow must have picked up on the fact that once, I was pregnant, and now, I am clearly not, so he asked me:

“How’s your baby?”

It has been almost 5 months since Hudson died, so the question surprised me. I mean, we are sort of past that point where people ask – they either know what happened or they’ve forgotten I ever was pregnant. I haven’t had somebody ask me about the baby since September.

So I stammered a little bit and finally was able to come up with:

“She passed away.”

“What?”

“She died at the hospital. We didn’t get to bring her home.”

Now, I’ve been in this situation a time or two before, and usually at this point I get a “I’m so sorry” and an awkward goodbye. But neighborman felt the need to continue asking questions:

“Was she born sick?”

Such a funny way to put it, I couldn’t help but repeat it in my answer:

“Yes, she was born sick. She was born without a heartbeat. But they got it going again and she lived for three days.”

“When did this happen?”
“How are you doing?”
“How is your husband?”

Neighborman was clearly concerned.

And the whole time we are having this strange conversation, at the back of my mind I am thinking to myself, “Wow I really spit that whole thing out well. I didn’t choke up or anything.”

Finally, I’ve satisfied Neighborman’s curiosity and I head back to my house, the conversation replaying in my head. Apart from this guy’s insistent questions, the one thing that really stood out for me was the tone of voice I used when answering him:

Apologetic.

Like, “This is going to hurt you more than it hurts me” apologetic.

You get into these conversations, and really, you’re the one who is supposed to be hurt. But I find myself wanting to cushion the other party, to couch the blow, because I know how awkward the conversation is about to get, how bad they are going to feel for “bringing it up”, the head-shaking they’ll do when the conversation is over, the “Honey did you hear…?” that will happen when they get back home (if the matter is still on their mind).

Something I’ve learned about grief and loss is that you just live with it. The sadness doesn’t go away, but you learn to manage it. The impact of your loss is present with you constantly, but you exist through it. At a certain point, I think society expects you to move on, and so you do – outwardly. So when your neighbor that you don’t know that well is asking you incessant questions about the death of your baby, you almost feel inappropriate having any feelings about it, and for whatever reason you feel like you should be apologizing to him instead of the other way around.

When I told the Hubs about this conversation later that day, he was flabbergasted.

“What did he think we just leave her inside?!”

But then I have to remind myself: Neighborman’s world did not revolve around Hudson – OUR world did. Her absence seems so obvious to us, it seems almost impossible for it to have gone unnoticed by others. I wish I had a series of developments to report when somebody asks: “How’s your baby?” Teething. Smiling. Crawling. Walking. Going on dates (just kidding about that last one, Hudson was not going to be allowed to date).

But I don’t get to answer that question “normally” for a while.

I would never want to pretend that Hudson was never born, that we didn’t have this amazing daughter. But for those awkward times when someone you really don’t know that well is asking questions, sometimes, I wish the conversation would end just a little bit sooner.

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