Today, we got an extra day. And all I feel is tired.
And with that tiredness creeps all the sadness.
So today, all I feel like I got was one extra day on this journey to miss my boy. One extra day to add to the length and the depth of my grief.
I think I'm ready for a new month now.
One of the things I have found comfort in when I think of Ryan is that he is surrounded by the spirits of other beautiful little babies just like him. Oh how I wish all of those sweet babies were in the arms of their moms and dads instead. But the reality is, my baby is not alone. He is one of many taken too soon or without even a chance to breathe earth's air.
So when I think of Ryan, he's often surrounded by the light of so many others. I often think of him surrounded by friends. The babies of the moms I have met in the past five months. Connected through this horrible circumstance we have found makes up our realities.
Much earlier in my grief journey (though I am still very much in the early-stages), I came across this beautiful thought:
At the time, with my wounds still so fresh, I found no beauty or truth in this. I did not feel strong. Or brave. And I could not find comfort in Ryan being anywhere but in my arms.
It's a testament to my growth and progress that I can find beauty in these words now. That I can think on this sentiment and hope so hard that it's true. It brings a smile to my heart, which is a scary thing. That I can find peace without Ryan here with me. Something I would have never thought possible only a few short months ago.
And so, my complicated journey continues. With Ryan and his friends watching every moment.
My heart will forever be intertwined with Ryan's.
It was through my beating heart that Ryan's heart came alive. And I have always wondered what he felt in those last moments before his heart stopped beating. It is one of my greatest fears that he felt pain. Recently, it was described to me that because babies in the womb don't breathe air the same way we do, that his death was painless and he just gradually fell asleep.
I don't know if this is true. But it certainly gives new meaning to the expression that he was "born sleeping."
I also read the most beautiful quote that brought my heart some peace on the subject. (I wish I could remember who said it...)
"The last thing he heard was the lullaby of my heartbeat singing him to sleep."
I may never sing him to sleep with my voice. But there's some comfort in knowing our hearts beat together for a time, and we were together at the end.
I miss my boy a lot today.
I wish I could hold him in my arms instead of only in my heart.
If you were a guest in my house, it would look pretty ordinary to you. You probably wouldn't even be able to tell that a baby lives here -- or was supposed to, anyway. In the weeks following Ryan's death (I've been saying "death" a lot lately, and I used to always avoid that word -- I still don't really like it)... But after he died, I struggled with what to do with his "stuff." When you get pregnant, you start to accumulate a lot of things. Some things maybe could have waited until after we brought the baby home, but when you're excited, and planning, and oblivious to the fact that bringing baby home is not a guarantee, you gather things. Bottles, clothes, diapers, blankets, toys, swings, strollers...
These things were spread far and wide around my house. I had even gone as far as preparing a "baby station" in our living room -- a little basket full of baby necessities (diapers, soothers, lotions, blankets) so we wouldn't always have to run upstairs. I was so ready to bring my little man home.
It was decided right away to leave his nursery alone. The door stayed open, and his things inside the room stayed perfectly intact. But it took me over two weeks to start stripping away the obvious baby layers in my living room. Moving the "napping bassinet." Taking the swing up to his room. Sadly unpacking the "baby station" I had so lovingly and excitedly packed only a few weeks before.
But then that was it.
I couldn't erase the rest of it. I didn't want to remove the other traces that this house was meant for a baby.
If you were a guest in my house, you wouldn't notice the kitchen cupboard full of baby bottles, bibs, and other feeding things. You wouldn't notice the drawer and cupboard in the bathroom full of tiny cloths, hooded towels, and baby shampoo. You wouldn't notice the folded up stroller in the basement hallway. Or the shelves full of diapers in the laundry room. The car seat bases in the pantry. Or even the car seat in the front hall closet.
They're tucked away, in the corners of our home. And I've come to need to see them there. Because seeing those cupboards empty, the shelves unfilled, would feel just that. Empty. And I refuse to let my life without Ryan be empty. Feel empty. I want my house full of him. And the "stuff" that was his stays to keep me hopeful we will use it again-- or for the first time.
So, although baby things in a house without a baby may seem out of place to a guest here, they fit so perfectly in my eyes. Because there is a baby here. And I've got to believe that there will be more someday.
I've mentioned before how I have searched for Ryan in little things since he died. Little signs of him saying "hello." There have been many. And he never lets me go too long without one of these greetings. I wondered if maybe I had just gotten really good at looking for him. Or if he really is reaching out so obviously. And maybe it's a little bit of both.
But most recently he's been playing around with the lights. And he always seems to do it when I'm inside my head about something. Worrying. Or seething about some insignificant issue.
I have a few really great examples of this. The first was when I was on a walk with Chase one night, after a particularly long hiatus from winter walking. I was frustrated with Chase's deteriorated leash manners and took to pacing the park by our house, back and forth, until he got the hang of walking with me instead of pulling me along. But he wasn't getting the message. And I was getting impatient. Then suddenly, the street light we crossed under went out. Which I thought nothing of. Street lights flicker and go out all the time. We paced back under it. It turned back on. Still I thought nothing. Maybe it was on a sensor? But cars drove past and the light stayed on. Others walked past and it stayed on. So we crossed the light again. And it turned off. I remembered an old story someone told me of angels being near when lights flicker, and thought maybe it was Ryan. We continued pacing under the light 3 or 4 times and each time the light flickered on or off. I was full blown laughing by the time I decided to head back home, and realized my baby boy did his job. My frustrations went away and it was one of the most enjoyable walks we've ever been on.
The second time it happened was after a frustrating phone call. I hung up and was angry about some of the things said. I stomped to the basement to get some laundry when one of the pot lights turned off as I passed under it. This was fairly soon after the street light incident so I tuned in pretty quickly. Almost immediately the angry phone call was forgotten. I grabbed the basket and headed back upstairs, only to have the light switch back on, again, as I passed below. A pretty "weird" occurrence for a pot light connected to several others.
There have been more instances (like when he flickered a light at the Super Bowl party I sadly attended without him) and I choose to believe it's my boy every time, looking out for me. Keeping me calm. Reminding me to smile. It's like our own little game of "peek-a-boo." He's pretty creative, my baby boy.
I'm very lucky to be his mom.
Something I've been thinking a lot about is how I'm changed. What is different about me? I think the answer lies mostly in how I'll handle what comes next. Because at my core, I'm still me. I still find the same things funny. I still find enjoyment in many of the places I used to. I still talk the same way. Laugh the same. I cry a little bit more. But then I've always been a bit of a crier.
Some of the things that used to seem important, don't seem very important at all now. And though I still want many of the same things I used to want, some of them I now want more fiercely than ever.
"The bumps in the road teach us to be cautious the next time around, show us the depth of our courage and strength, and may even fling us forward onto a life path that we may not have otherwise chosen for ourselves." (Trista Sutter, Happily Ever After)
Losing Ryan has been more than a "bump in the road." But it has changed me, in that it has shown me strength. And brought me to a place where I can easily recognize what is worth fighting for and what I need to let go.
I'm walking down a path now that I never imagined for myself. And it can be scary. And lonely. And confusing. But there is some goodness here. And I'll find it.
Before he was born, my aunt knit Ryan a very sweet baby blue blanket. When I brought it home, I immediately put it in his diaper bag. This was the blanket Ryan would be brought home from the hospital in.
Until today, it has remained in the bag. I kept his diaper/hospital bag packed. I've only removed his "coming home" outfits because one of them he wore at the hospital and was turned into a bear. The other outfit he wore to his cremation. A sleeper his dad bought for him. He went out for dog food one night, and returned with a sleeper. It's one of my happiest imaginings. Rich out shopping for that sleeper on his own.
But the blanket stayed in the bag. Call it shock. Or absent-mindedness. Whatever it might be, I never got to wrap Ryan in that blanket.
It is his.
But never really got to be his at the same time.
The nurses wrapped him in a nice green knit blanket of their own. And it never dawned on me until a couple of days ago, that I never asked for it. That I don't even know what happened to it. Maybe it's the blanket they always use for babies like Ryan. Or maybe it got to go home with some other baby. I don't know. And I'll never know.
But the thought popped into my head the other day and it made me want to go into the closet and look at the blanket again. After months in the bag it is so full of that baby powder, fresh, baby smell. It brought a little ache to my heart to hold it again.
So now I have this pretty blue blanket, back in the diaper bag in Ryan's closet, waiting for the chance to cuddle and bring comfort to another little one. I hope that some day it'll be used by one of Ryan's siblings. But it will always be his.
I heard this song today. "Why, Baby, Why?" by Mickey Guyton. It's really a beautiful song, but it made me feel all kinds of sad, and tears sprang to my eyes quite quickly and effortlessly.
If you listen to all the words, it's very obviously about a break up, and wanting to stop feeling the pain of losing someone you love because they've walked away or you've made some mistake to push them away.
But since I've gotten so good at projecting my own stuff onto the world around me, the pain in the song, the sadness, the sentiment of losing someone and having their absence leave a burning ache inside of you, clearly resonated with me.
Here's a sample of the lyrics that made me feel all the feelings:
But what can I do with these memories
To be clear, I don't want to be separated from Ryan's love. And I don't ever want to let him go. Even still. Even now. Even though he's already gone. But if you take a listen to the song below, I think you'll hear that pain and sadness that's so easy for me to connect to.
I probably talk about "Me Time" too much. And maybe I'm spending too much "Me Time" and not enough time with other people. But here's the hard truth. I love spending time with other people, but it can be exhausting. Honestly, a lot of the time, it's okay. I'll go out, and have a good time. Laugh. Talk. Tell stories. Joke around. But if I'm not in an environment where it feels okay to talk about Ryan -- or just mention him in passing -- it's exhausting to keep my focus.
A "regular mom" would be able to go out and field tons of questions about her little one at home. Would be able to duck out of a gathering early to get home to baby. But it doesn't always feel as acceptable for me to do it. To bring him up.
"I was thinking about Ryan today..."
"This thing happened and it totally made me think about Ryan..."
"I missed Ryan a lot today..."
Sometimes I feel the anxiety amp up in the room when I even mention being pregnant with him. A newly pregnant mom was telling me about a pregnancy condition she's dealing with right now. And so I felt it appropriate to relate it to something I experienced in my (totally regular, textbook) pregnancy. Instantly she was all stammers and shifty and exited the room. Like how dare I compare her pregnancy to mine that ended in tragedy?
So yes. Sometimes I prefer "Me Time" to "Social Time."
Sometimes I like to spend my Friday/Saturday night on the couch, with PVR, a movie, a book, a cup of tea, and/or some colouring. (Which by the way is actually a super mind relaxing, calming thing -- even when I don't have the patience to colour in the really tiny lines). One of my colouring books also happens to be full of butterflies, which feels like bonus Ryan-time.
But what I'm trying to say is, sometimes going out is great. And just what I need. But sometimes it's not. And that's okay.
At about 5 and a half months postpartum, I'm now at a weight lower than my pre-pregnancy weight. In fact, by eating healthier and exercising more, I've lost 10 pounds in about 5 weeks. I'm complimented and congratulated on my accomplishment of getting my body healthier again. And yes, I feel really good myself. I love the time spent stretching and balancing in yoga. The time spent strengthening my muscles in Pilates. The time spent outside walking with Chase (and Ryan). But there's a small part of me that resents it all.
If I had been caring for a baby these past 5 and a half months would I be here in this healthier place right now? Or would I still be struggling to lose the "baby weight?" As I struggled to find "purpose" after Ryan died, I found it in caring for myself. And I can't help but think if Ryan were here that he would have been the priority and I would have been just another mom struggling with my weight.
In hindsight, I hope I'd be the mom who wouldn't give two shits about how much I weigh, or the extra bits of fat here and there. I hope I'd be the mom who sees these things as badges of honour earned by being a mom. By giving life. I hope I'd be the mom who wouldn't complain about it because I have a baby to snuggle and care for. Or maybe just be the mom who quietly tries to get myself healthy again, because complaining about it is a slap in the face to every mom who couldn't bring her baby home. Or every mom who wants to get pregnant and earn those extra pounds, but can't.
Yes, I'm proud of myself for getting fitter again. For taking care of myself. For being healthy. But I'm proud of myself, too, for what I've learned. For the extra bit of sensitivity I've gained. I'm proud to know that when I become a mom to a baby on this earth, that hopefully I'll be more accepting of the challenges, knowing honestly what the alternative could be.