Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Book of Life: Chapter 2011

Peanut -

Today, New Year's Eve, marks the end of 2011.  The end of a year that began with hope and promise, and quickly devolved into the Worst Year of Our Lives.  Tomorrow will usher in 2012, with its own potential of being a fresh start, full of new dreams.  And with it begins a year that will never know my Peanut.

On this day last year you and I were home together, dancing joyfully to James Blunt singing "Stay the Night" on The Today Show.  We watched the severe weather reports as tornados ripped through the St. Louis area while we hunkered down in the basement, you tooling around in your brand new Cozy Coupe.  Later that day Dadda and I made you your first taste of filet mignon and asparagus, much to your delight and amazement.  Your little face and its awed expression said it all, "This is DEEEEEeeeee-licious!  I. Love. Food!"  We talked of New Year's Eve celebrations to come, making this meal our tradition, eventually having you invite friends over...the future was bright, wide open and full of Peanut Possibilities.

Just over three weeks later, out of nowhere and without explanation, your life ended while you slept.

So much of the rest of 2011 is a foggy blur to Momma's memory.  So much of the year was spent trying to just figure out how to live without you.  How to make sense of this world.  How to not be bitter, angry, and without hope.  It would have been so easy to abandon hope.

Yet, out of the ashes hope has risen, in the form of your little brother.  The Bean.  It now looks like he will arrive in 2012, and for that I am thankful.  I know a year is a year is a year, but...having him arrive in 2012 has been my hope, my prayer, since we confirmed we were pregnant last spring.

Peanut, Momma has always viewed life as a series of chapters, that eventually create our own very individual book.  The chapters vary in length, duration, joy, pain.  Some chapters introduce people and events that will be a part of our story forever.  Others enter and exit, but leave their mark.  We can't write our story in advance.  We can't see how it will end.  This outlook has allowed me to bid chapters farewell without drama or too much heartache.  Until this year.

The closing of 2011 feels monumental.  The idea of a new chapter, a new year, in which you haven't lived is heart-stopping.  2012 is the beginning of a lifetime of years, of chapters, when we will honor you through memories, stories and laughter.  But, no more hugs.  No more new tales of Peanut adventures.  After three years touched by the wonder and joy of you, this chapter now closes.  Another milestone.  Thud.

I don't know what 2012 will bring.  But, I have hope.  Hope that grows and burns brighter, day by day.  Just like my love for you, Peanut.  To the moon and back!

- Momma

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Dream

Peanut -

Momma's sleep has been restless and fitful these last few weeks.  As The Bean grows there just isn't a comfortable position or a way to get a good night's sleep.  I've found the more interrupted my sleep, the more I dream...and lately that has meant more Peanut Dreams.  These are wonderful and welcome dreams - possibly brought on by the anticipation of The Bean, the holidays, your looming anniversary.  Maybe all of the above.

This morning I was tossing and turning beginning around 4:00 am.  I could feel The Bean stretching, turning, kicking and my imagination kicked in while I dozed.  In the dream world you and Dadda were up early, eating breakfast together, giggling, and trying to let Momma get some rest.  But, eventually the temptation was just too much - the two of you came running down the hall with Henry the Dog in tow, into the bedroom and WHAM! jumped on the bed.  You crawled up to Momma's pillow and smothered me with kisses, cupping my face in your tiny hands, "Momma, I love you!"  Then, a giant bear hug and a full family snuggle while The Bean kicked, full of happy anticipation.

Oh, bliss.

I know that isn't reality, and never will be.  But, maybe a different version is playing out.  A version where you are everywhere, but we can't physically reach out and touch you.  You are influencing the way we parent, how we appreciate what we have, how we treat others, and how we love.  In dreams - and only in dreams - I will get to see you laughing, nose nuggling with me, touching my eyelashes with delight, and touching my soul with your clear, blue eyes.

This version will never, ever, ever feel sufficient.  But, I have to learn to appreciate it and live with it.  Do I feel cheated?  Yes.  Am I jealous of all my friends who are watching their children grow up, enjoying all their milestones?  Yes.  Am I resentful of all the people who are having their second, third, fourth children without any sense of fear?  Yes.

Am I thankful for the time, love and memories with you?  Yes.  Am I eternally grateful for The Bean?  Yes.  Am I hopeful?  Yes.  Do I choose to live with love, rather than anger?  Yes.

Peanut, I dream of you all the time...awake and asleep.  I miss you all the time...awake and asleep.  I send you all my love, to the moon and back...awake and asleep.

- Momma

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Caution: Milestones Merging Ahead

Peanut -

Yesterday, December 26, marked 11 months.  Eleven unimaginable months.  Eleven long months that have tested the limits of everything our bodies, brains and spirits thought they could handle.  Eleven months since Momma last hugged her Peanut.  And, even though the months have been long, it still feels like just yesterday since I watched you toddle across the room to bang on the TV screen, or play with your Elmo telephone.  Or, give me a Connor-kiss.

Yesterday also marked the last day of Procardia - the medicine Momma has been taking to slow down Baby Bean's arrival.  We needed to get into Week 37, which started a few days ago, but Momma also needed to make sure The Bean didn't arrive on the 26th.  As silly as it may sound, I just can't bear to have his birth share a date with your death.

But, in an amazing, wonderful twist of fate, another little ray of joy entered the world yesterday.  Joey's mom - Joey, who passed away just days after you - had a little baby girl yesterday.  She and I have shared our waves of grief, our struggles to make sense of life, our highs and lows, and our side-by-side pregnancies for the last 8 months.  Something about her birth yesterday makes so much sense to Momma, and it reinforces just how close you and Joey still are to this world, and to our hearts.

Peanut, we are now entering an interesting 3-4 week stretch of highway.  A zone that probably needs its own large, blinking, neon caution sign.  Warning!  Caution!  Joy, sadness, confusion, the beginning and end of life - all merging ahead!  Just as we welcome The Bean, we will be acknowledging your 1-year angel milestone.  I still have no idea what to call that date.  Your anniversary?  Angel date?  Nothing seems accurate or appropriate.  The day the world turned upside down?  <sigh>

I am so worried my brain won't know how to manage these conflicting emotions.  That it might start to confuse you and The Bean.  That fear will take over, and I won't know how to celebrate his birth and life.  My heart - and others who have traveled this road - assure me that won't be the case.  And, as I've learned over the last year, only time and experience will tell.  Anticipation and fear won't help.  So, for now, I try to simply live day-by-day.

Peanut, I read an Earnest Hemingway quote yesterday that seemed oddly appropriate for this danger zone:

The world breaks everyone, 
and afterward, 
many are strong at the broken places.  
(E. Hemingway, A Farewell To Arms)

While I don't believe this last year has made me stronger, it has forced me to band-aid and superglue the broken places in my soul.  And, a new Momma has emerged.  Maybe, just maybe, it is this new, patched-up version of Momma that will have the capacity to make sense of the next few weeks, months, years.  Stay tuned.

Peanut, I miss you every second of every moment of every day.  I know you've been watching, and you see the tears.  It has been a hard few days, but only because we love and miss you so very much.  To the moon and back.  With bunches of love -


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Peanut Christmas Spirit

Peanut -

Waking up on Christmas morning without you ranks in the "Top 5 Hardest Things Momma Has Had To Do This Year."  This day is sad, empty, hollow without you.  Yet, I feel The Bean kicking and pushing, anxious to greet the world, and I feel a sense of hope.  I never imagined a Christmas without you, but I know you are here with us in spirit.

Before having you, Christmas was a day to open gifts, eat with family, and celebrate.  After you were born, Christmas became 100% about making sure you had a wonderful, fun day.  And now...well, I don't know what to do with myself this year.  Besides, simply getting through the day.

(Spoiler Alert for Family)
Dadda and I decided to take the focus away from presents this year, and to instead focus on honoring your wonderful spirit for the holiday.  Along with your beautiful Peanut Tree, we created a 10-minute movie all about YOU and your 500 amazing days on this earth.  This movie has been our project all has been joyful, painful, inspirational and difficult to create.  I'm not sure I'll ever be able to watch it without crying, but I also know it is something I will be proud to share with The Bean.  Each member of our family is receiving a copy of the movie - and I have shared it in today's post.

In addition, we are donating the money we would have spent on gifts to SUDC, in your memory, in the names of each of our family members.  It just feels...right.  This year, the Peanut Christmas Spirit is all about honoring you and all the people and organizations who have helped us survive and remember how to live.

Peanut, there is nothing I can say today that isn't going to feel devastatingly sad.  I miss you.  Desperately.  I love you more than words can express.  To the moon and back!

- Momma

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Movie of Your Life

Peanut -

Momma has spent the last two evenings going through every single photo and video we have of you.  It has been emotionally draining.  Heart-wrenching.  Cathartic.  Painful.  Joyful.

I have re-lived every moment of every day we spent with you.  The smells, the sounds, the softness of your blonde hair, the tight grip of your little monkey has all come rushing back with an overwhelming rush.  A reassuring rush.  I've been so afraid that I was beginning to forget the little things, the details.

It seems my brain, on a daily basis, only doles out what it thinks I can handle.  But, when I go into full-immersion mode - like I did this week - the floodgates open.  I welcomed this flood.  I intentionally opened those gates.  And the emotional drain has had a surprising end result...I actually feel re-energized. Refueled by the love and memories.  By how close you still are in my mind, and in every one of my senses.

I know I feel better when I get to talk about you, so it only makes sense that this photo overload has been healing.  So, while I probably look a little crazy with my mascara-tear-streaked face, I actually feel a sense of calm.  Peace.  Love.

Peanut, I send all that love and peace your way tonight, along with a big air kiss - MWAAAHHHH!  I love the moon and back!

- Momma

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Lie (Or, Is It?)

Peanut -

As Momma's tummy stretches and grows - it looks like I swallowed a basketball! - it creates more buzz from complete strangers.  Strangers who mean well, but have no idea.  No idea about our precious Peanut, no idea about the immense loss and grief we've struggled with this year, no idea what a miracle and blessing The Bean is, and just how scared Momma is to open her heart to hope.

Today, Momma told a lie.  Normally, when the questions start, I have a script:

Stranger: Oh!  Is this your first?
Me: No.
Stranger: How many others do you have?  Boys or girls?
Silence while I assess the situation.  Will I run into this person again?  How much do I reveal?
Me: I have a little boy.
Stranger: And, do you know if this is a boy or girl?
Me: A boy.
Stranger: You must be thrilled!  Is his big brother excited?  How old is he???
Further assessment of the situation...

Peanut, at this point, I usually either avoid the questions, redirect the conversation or tell the truth.  It depends on the person, the relationship and potential future interactions.  Today, however, I flat out lied.

I was on the phone, making small talk with a Nordstrom customer service representative while she waited for my order to be corrected.  We got on the topic of the pregnancy, and the script played out as usual.  When we got to the last questions, I hesitated.  And then, I just plunged head first into my lie:

Me: Yes, he is delighted.  He's just over two years old, and is going to be a fantastic big brother.

Oh.  Gosh.  What did I just do?  In my heart and mind, it really isn't a lie.  You are just over two.  You already are the world's best brother.  I believe you look out for the The Bean each and every day.  You aren't just any ordinary brother - you are the most special kind of brother out there.  An Angel Brother.

Peanut, maybe I should feel guilty about this interaction, but...I don't.  Because, in its own way it is 100% true.  I'm sending you my love along with a giant Momma hug.  To the moon and back, 'Nut.

- Momma

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Peanut -

When I was pregnant with you - especially towards the end of the pregnancy - I loved to pick up my guitar and strum a few notes, or a Beatles song or two, just to get a reaction from you.  It was obvious you could not only hear the music, but could FEEL it.  You always responded with a somersault, a kick, a little punch.  I truly believe you were born with music in your soul, partially because I sang and played for you so often.

Since your death, I've commented that the music has left my spirit.  The guitar has gathered 11 months of dust.  My voice has not lifted in song, and I have rarely felt compelled to dance.  A few times recently I've thought about picking up the guitar just to see how The Bean might react.  But, I've always banished the thought, stored it back on a shelf, and moved on.

Until this morning.  I was watching the CBS Sunday Morning Show, due to its light-hearted, uplifting format.  Enough with the bad news that makes up the news.  Momma wanted to kick off the day in a more positive light.  In the middle of their second hour, a segment aired about Christopher Plummer, due to his lead role in "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo."  But, the interviewer also focused some time on his role in "The Sound of Music" which has a special place in Momma's heart.  My family used to watch it together every year, and I was fortunate to share part of that movie with you, Peanut.

During the CBS interview, they aired a clip from "The Sound of Music"where Captain Von Trapp rediscovers his love of his children, and music, while singing Edelweiss with his oldest daughter.  He is sitting in their parlor, strumming a guitar and singing this lovely, simple little song (fun fact: not actually Christopher Plummer's voice in the movie).  An overwhelming urge struck me in that moment.  I wanted nothing more than to pick up my own guitar, strum and sing along.

I spent the rest of the morning humming the song.  By this afternoon I couldn't help it.  I picked up the guitar for the first time since you died and played a few notes while I held the body of the guitar close to my tummy.  The Bean responded with an overwhelming reaction - kicks, flips, pokes and punches.  What a delight!

The moment was truly shared with both my little boys.  While I was the only one physically sitting on the bed with the guitar, you were both there with me - in the music, in the song, in my heart.  Little by little, the music is returning to Momma's soul.

Peanut, I feel you everywhere.  More and more every day.  I am sending my love to you, across the world, across the universe, across time and space.  And, in the music.  To the moon and back!

- Momma

Friday, December 16, 2011

5 pounds, 1 ounce

Peanut -

Momma had what will probably be our final Bean ultrasound today.  At 35 weeks, we actually didn't expect to have one this late in the pregnancy, but the doctor thought it was a good idea to check in.  Between early contractions and Momma's low pregnancy weight gain, we just needed to be sure everything was on track.

And, although we never say it out loud, all the doctors and nurses have been so vigilant, so full of care, so aware of what happened in January.  Losing you broke all our hearts.  So, The Bean is a little beacon of hope for all of us.  We can't - won't - risk anything going wrong.

The primary purpose of today's ultrasound was to check The Bean's current weight.  Momma lost a lot of weight early in the pregnancy thanks to morning sickness layered over grief, and has been working to gain that weight back the last 6 months.  With little progress.  No surprise, given the emotions, the stress, the sorrow, the roller-coaster Momma has been navigating during this pregnancy.  While we know The Bean is strong and active, Momma's pre-term labor issues have prompted us to make sure everything would be safe if he decides to arrive early.

As expected, The Bean looks perfect and healthy and strong.  Of course, he wouldn't be still for more than a few seconds, kicking, punching Momma's bladder, grabbing his little toes with his tiny hands.  We had our favorite technician, who took the requisite pictures, but also showed Momma and Dadda all sorts of neat things - The Bean has a lot of hair!  And we could see him swallowing, followed by his infant tummy filling up with fluid.

The end result of the ultrasound was the final report of The Bean's weight.  As of today he is officially 5 pounds, 1 ounce.  Exactly your weight at birth on September 12, 2009.  It's unreal to me to think that he's still (probably) a few weeks away from birth, but is currently your birth size.  With every passing day he will gain more weight, and will be a bigger boy than you.  He will not be an itty-bitty Peanut.  He will be his own strong, feisty self.  A kicking, punching, jumping Bean.

But, in this moment, in this day, you and your little brother have so much in common.  Such a connection.  With your identical weights, full heads of hair, and active personalities.  And 5 pounds and 1 little ounce.

Peanut, I truly feel like this was you speaking to us today.  Another sign that you are watching out for us and The Bean.  Another sign that you love us and bless this step forward.  And, while it is bittersweet, it is more sweet than bitter.  I am sending you love and hugs and oodles of wonderful Peanut memories.  Thank you for being so close, so present today.  I love you baby boy - to the moon and back.

- Momma


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Motion Sickness

Peanut -

The last several days have been painfully difficult for Momma.  The combination of intensely missing you, facing the holidays without my darling little boy, powering through the final weeks of our pregnancy, and navigating intense pressure and stress at work - it has all resulted in a level of grief and sorrow I haven't felt in months.  There will be good moments, and even good days, but when the lows hit they are a powerful, debilitating kick to my stomach.  And heart.

I was warned this could happen.  As the span of time between the lowest lows and the moderately normal moments begins to widen, it's almost as if the body and mind want to forget.  They want to no longer be considered pros at handling grief.  At protecting the person from themselves.  They need a break.  The almost inpenetrable force field comes down.

The end result for Momma has been a sensation somewhat akin to motion sickness.  The normal moments are jarring, out of place, and uncomfortable.  They give me a sense of vertigo.  And when the darkness sweeps in, it simply flattens me.  My body aches, my heart feels as if it's being squeezed by pliers, and curling up in bed seems to be the best option.

The world is ready for me to be "normal" again.  To others it probably seems like a really, really long time since you died.  That I should be through the forest of grief.  But, it's almost worse now because I've lost the insulated protection my body and brain once afforded me.  The grief is sneaky, and leaves me raw, exposed.  My focus is gone, and I'm irritable.  My temper is quick to flare up, and my level of patience is low.

Peanut, I want to make you proud.  I want to be the best Momma I can be.  But, as I run out of pictures of you, as I realize there are very few images left that are under a year old, I am devastated.  I want to see you running after Henry The Dog in the yard.  I want to hear you talking and laughing, getting excited for Christmas.  I want to look down and see your little outstretched arms begging me, "Uuuph Momma!" as I pick you up, swing you around and give you a giant kiss while you hug me tightly.

And, right now, I just want the world to let me cry and cry and cry.  I cry because I love you soooooooo much.  How much?  Well, you know, Peanut.  To the moon and back.

- Momma

(picture from last December)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Light of Love and Hope

Peanut -

Today was a VERY busy day full of Peanut activities.  First, Dadda and I hosted a small "open house" this afternoon for family and friends to come help us decorate your Peanut Tree.  This evening we were scheduled to attend the St. Louis Worldwide Candle Lighting event along with other local families who are remembering and missing their children during this holiday season.  In the midst of this season of commercials, Santa Claus, gluttony, parties, and giving with the expectation of receiving, days like today are so very important to Momma.

Decorating your tree was sad, happy, painful, joyful and impactful.  The ornaments that now hang on your tree are full of love, stories, memories.  As each person hung their ornament, they shared with Momma why they chose that image, that color, that symbol.  I heard funny little remembrances and stories never shared before.  And, I felt so very, very close to you.  The tree is...beautiful.  Heartbreakingly beautiful.

Later, we sped to the location of the St. Louis Candle Lighting service, only to find an empty, lonely parking lot.  We had a whole string of cars with us - family members who wanted to celebrate your memory in a public way this evening.  Dadda finally called the organizer who informed us we had bad information.  Wrong location, no service.  <sigh>  The website was inaccurate.  Of all things to screw up, this is not the ideal audience to mess with Organizer People.  This event was the one and only event Momma has been looking forward to, the only event that felt really important, this whole holiday season.  Dadda and I drove home in silence, with Momma gripping the steering wheel so hard my hands started to cramp up.  When we got home, our own little Peanut Candle Ceremony took place, with our own private emotions.

As I moped around the house, feeling cheated, battered and bruised, Momma happened to glance over at your Peanut Tree.  The lights twinkled and illuminated all your perfect, lovely ornaments.  My heart swelled with love, and it hit me over the head like a ton of bricks.  This is what is truly important.  Time spent remembering you, sharing you, with those we love.  Time spent honoring you with laughter and tears.  Keeping you alive through stories.

So, tonight we light a Peanut Tree in your memory.  We light a candle in your memory.  And, in turn, your memory keeps the light of love and hope alive in our hearts.

Peanut, I miss you.  Plain and simple.  My heart longs for you desperately, and is so thankful for the memories.  To the moon and back, 'Nut.

- Momma

Friday, December 9, 2011

Erasing Your Fingerprints

Peanut -

This evening Momma tackled a task I've been dreading - postponing - for days.  Let me put this in perspective.  In the last week, Dadda and I have revisited all your books, clothes, your room, crib, stuffed animals.  We've touched and smelled everything.  We've had to make decisions around what to put into Permanent Peanut Storage vs. what to potentially re-use with The Bean.  But, there are two items, two categories, I have intentionally ignored.

The first - your diaper bag. It has been frozen in time, still packed with your size 4 diapers, half empty diaper cream, a container of Goldfish and a smashed NutriGrain bar, spoons and extra toys.  And a special, bright green bib that exclaims, "I'm a McCutie!"  The bib still smells like you.

The second - two bins full of the last toys you played with...most of your favorites.  Toys that are still covered with your fingerprints, saliva, and memories and smells of you.  The last remaining traces of the Peanut Who Lived on this earth.  Traces of you that, once cleaned, are erased forever.

Any sense of bravery, of strength, of courage that I've had this week evaporated this afternoon.  With Dadda's support and help we tackled these items.  Time moved in molasses slow motion as we faced these tasks, and touching each item re-opened a fairly fresh wound.  But, we also got to revisit hundreds of moments and memories of you.

Pulling these items out has been dramatically different from packing them away for storage.  When we organized them for storage, there was no joy.  Just the finality of your death and loss.  Just emptiness and sorrow.  Bringing them out of "hiding" has been bittersweet.  We've been forced to face all the lost hopes and dreams...but the memories have brought smiles.  And, there is the hope of The Bean peaking around the corner.

As I cleaned and disinfected all your toys, and as Dadda sorted out the items from your diaper bag, we realized - this is our life.  We will always have to face these immobilizing hurdles.  Learn to move through them.  And soon - very soon - we will also have your little brother here to share the stories, the laughter.  And, we will get to watch him play with many of your toys.  I will tell him tales of how you read your books all by yourself.  And played your Kitty Kat Piano.  And rode around in the back of the bright yellow Tonka Truck.  Through these toys, stories and books your little brother will get to know you.  Love you.  So, maybe in erasing your your fingerprints, in getting these items ready for The Bean, I'm allowing you to live on in a different way.  That's how I choose to think about it, at least.

Peanut, I miss your smell.  Dadda and I couldn't stop smelling your old bib tonight.  It brought so many tears, so many memories.  I feel so very connected to you in this moment.  I close my eyes, breathe you in and feel you.  In this second I send you all the love in my heart, my soul.  To the moon and back.

- Momma

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Nursery

Peanut -

I'll always remember putting the finishing touches on your nursery just six days before you born.  September 6, 2009.  Dadda and I hung the final pictures, got the changing station set-up, made sure your swing and bouncy seat had batteries, and arranged all your books and stuffed animals.  You weren't due until September 25, but Momma had a were coming early.  Sure enough, you said "Helloooooo world!" on Saturday, September 12.  It was such a comfort to know we had a special space set-up and ready for you when it was time to come home.

The theme of your room was Beatrix Potter/Peter Rabbit, and the focal point was a beautiful, hand drawn and embroidered Beatrix Potter character quilt designed and sewn by my Aunt Ann.  When I opened the quilt at your baby shower, I burst into was so special, so amazing.  I pictured hanging it in your room for years, and passing it along to you as your grew older and had your own children.  In the nursery, that quilt hung over your crib, watched over you night after night, and was a source of delight and fascination for you.

Even as we convert and transform your room into something new, special and different for The Bean, there are special items that will remain.  The Beatrix Potter quilt is one of those items.  We are actually keeping one whole corner of the room Beatrix Potter themed, with all your picture frames, stuffed Peter Rabbit toys, a piggy bank, a "First Tooth" jar we will never get to use - and your quilt.

Peanut, you wouldn't recognize the rest of the room.  It is now blue...painted over your Peanut spring green walls.  There is new carpet on the floor.  The crib will no longer reside in the nursery.  It is set-up in Momma and Dadda's room, right next to our bed.  I suspect The Bean will sleep there for at least his first two years.  The rest of the nursery is rearranged, with many new pieces of furniture that never knew my Peanut.  The closet is full of clothes that were never worn by you.  It is so odd to see a closet full of clothes that aren't yours.

But, the theme of the room is something you would know and love.  I actually think it would get a giant laugh and hand-clap out of you.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar!  And, just as she did for you, Aunt Ann is making a very, very special quilt for The Bean.

Peanut, I hope you bless the changes we made to your room.  I'm so sorry we had to change it.  But, I believe you understand.  We will always have spaces that honor you, that are special Peanut Places.  But, we also have to give The Bean some spaces that are new, and feel special for him.

The "new" nursery is beautiful.  But, I will always remember your happy, green nursery with love and a smile.  I will always remember the happy moments playing with you, reading your bedtime stories, changing your diapers, and peek-a-boo in the closet.  I'm sending you love and memories of those wonderful the moon and back, Peanut.

- Momma

Monday, December 5, 2011

All I Want for Christmas Is...You.

Peanut -

Last year, throughout the holidays, Momma would subject you to her rendition of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas" - over and over and over again.  This often happened while we were in the car, when I had you as a captive audience.  Peanut, to your credit, you were a very receptive, appreciative audience.  You would smile, laugh, clap your hands and bang you little feet to the beat of the song.

You also knew I was singing that song about YOU!  Sometimes I would sing it to you in the house, and I'd pick you up, swing you around and hold you close to my cheek so you understood you were the only thing I wanted for Christmas.  The gift of a lifetime.

This year, the music has left Momma.  I can't sing it, and really can't even listen to it.  As much as I love the memories, the song now feels so empty.  It has a different, sad meaning.  The same, but different.  Because, you really are all I want for Christmas.  And beyond.

I wish I were shopping for you this year.  I wish I could see you open a gift.  I wish I could see you marveling over all the Christmas lights.  I wish I could take you to see Santa.  I wish I could create a "happy family" holiday card.

Instead, we will decorate a Peanut Tree in your honor this weekend.  Instead of a traditional tree skirt, we are using one of your personalized baby blankets.  A small statue of a sleeping baby angel is now resting under your tree.

Instead, we will light a candle in your honor at 7:00 pm on Sunday, December 11 - part of the 15th Annual Worldwide Candle Lighting Ceremony:

The Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting unites family and friends around the globe in lighting candles for one hour to honor and remember children who have died at any age from any cause. As candles are lit at 7 p.m. local time, creating a virtual wave of light, hundreds of thousands of persons commemorate and honor the memory of children in a way that transcends all ethnic, cultural, religious, and political boundaries.

Peanut, as we light your candle that evening, Momma might just sing a little bit to you, for you.  And maybe others will a light a candle in your memory, and in remembrance of other children who have died, at 7:00 pm.

All I want for you.  Loving you and missing you - to the moon and back.

- Momma

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Fortune Cookie is Smarter Than Momma

Peanut -

Earlier this week Momma opened a fortune cookie looking for a witty phrase or, perhaps, some terribly wise statement.  What I got was this: There is nothing lost or wasted in this life.  Huh.  Huh?  Huh...

Momma's brain has been stuck on that little fortune for days.  Nothing lost or wasted?  What about my Peanut and his life that was cut too short?  What about all my love, now transformed into heartache?  What about all your future potential?  What about the intense joy and happiness we discovered after you were born...a bliss that was snatched away in the blink of an eye on January 26, 2011?

Peanut, the majority of Momma's life has been spent 100% focused on one person - Momma.  Education, career, travel.  These were the priorities.  All decisions hinged on what was best for me, and my own future.  Somewhere along the way, I got older and started craving home and family.  Which brought me back to St. Louis and eventually back to Dadda - the first love of Momma's life.  A few years later we got married and decisions became a little more complicated.  Then we decided we desperately wanted to start our own little family.  In December of 2008 we got pregnant, and to our eternal delight actually discovered we were pregnant in January 2009.  Peanut, I was so elated and scared.  Scared I wasn't cut out for motherhood.  Scared of being too old to have a healthy pregnancy.  Scared of just about everything.  And then, you arrived.   You showed up two weeks early, in September 2009, and changed Momma forever.

For the first time in Momma's life, nothing was about her.  You instantly became the center of my life, my love, my heart, my brain.  I immediately understood the meaning of unconditional love.  Fierce, powerful Momma love.  From the moment our eyes met, I knew I would do anything - give anything - for you.  Which is a huge part of what makes the loss of you - of a child - so wrong.  So insane.  Peanut, I would happily have died 10,000 excruciatingly painful deaths to save you.  If only death had knocked on my door that morning.  If only he had thought to stop and ask, I would have given him anything.  Everything.  Everything, but you.

So, how does all this relate to that fortune cookie?  Here's what I finally realized.  Your birth, your presence, your Peanut Effect has led to a Momma who needs a world that is about everything BUT her.  A Momma who needs a world that honors you and makes you proud.  A world where she can give your little brother all her intense Momma love and wisdom, including the wonderful stories of his big brother.  And, in sharing you - through The Bean or through this blog - you will continue to live on and on and on, forever.  Your Peanut Effect will echo across this world for eternity.

So, truly, there is nothing lost or wasted in this life.  Or beyond.  Especially Momma's love for you.  It grows bigger, stronger and more powerful every day.  To the mooooooooon and back...and beyond.

- Momma

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Can You Make Those Flowers Appropriately Mournful?

Peanut -

Last weekend Momma was talking with another Angel Momma about the absolutely insane decisions we've made and unthinkable tasks we've performed this past year.  As we discussed them, we couldn't help but laugh at ourselves, since the only other option was to burst into tears.

You see, Peanut, having a baby is one of the most hopeful, optimistic decisions any parent can make.  From the time Dadda and I started trying to conceive, to when we finally got pregnant, through the whole pregnancy, and all 500 days you were alive, we never once considered a world without you.  Every moment of every day was spent imagining your future, your next step, your next milestone.

We were so optimistic, in fact, that we had a closet full of clothes just waiting for you to grow a little bigger, a little older.  Clothes you never got to wear.  We had toys and books meant for a boy twice your age.  Every action was taken with the future in mind.

So, when you died we were suddenly thrust into a twilight zone of choices, actions, decisions that made no sense.  From the moment Dadda found you unresponsive in your crib, as Momma was holding you skin-to-skin in her bathrobe thinking my warmth would save you, as we performed CPR and the EMTs worked feverishly to save you, through the frantic ambulance ride to the hospital, and the whole time the ER team scrambled to do everything possible to revive and save you, it never once occurred to Momma you might actually die.  That we might have to leave you - forever.  Even as I was sobbing, holding your increasingly heavy, stiff little body in the emergency room, my brain didn't process it would be the LAST time I would ever hold and cuddle you.

Which leads to "the list."  This horrific list of things no parent should ever have to face.  Yet, we did.  In the moments, hours, days, months after your death we had to:

  • Decide if you were going to try and be an organ donor (yes)
  • Say good-bye to our Peanut and watch the medical examiner's office come retrieve your body to perform the requisite autopsy
  • Drive home in a car with an empty carseat, and enter a house that had been the site of your death, the race to save you on our bedroom floor, and a visit from the eerily quiet house
  • Sit and write your obituary...decide who to thank, where to have donations sent and select the picture to include
  • Plan your memorial we try and speak? Ask others?  Sing?  Have music?  Read your favorite book?
  • Decide if we should bury you and pick a casket, or have you cremated
  • Choose an urn, when companies simply don't make that many urns for children...because children aren't supposed to die
  • Go shopping for a black dress for your service...I don't own a "funeral" dress - for my own son's funeral
  • Pick flowers from Momma and Dadda to have at the service...nothing too "cheerful"
  • Create some type of thank you card to send to all the amazing, supportive people who sent cards, food, flowers, gestures of sympathy...we had over 500 notes to send do we thank people when we can hardly get out of bed?
  • Fight to get your autopsy results...why and how did you die?
  • Fight to get your bedding and froggy back from the police...why the hold-up from the MEs office?
  • Fight to survive
  • Decide how to re-enter the world, re-engage with family and co-workers...nothing is what is used to be, including us
  • Start to put your toys and clothes away, including that last load of laundry...dust gathers so quickly
  • Start to get grief counseling, to find a way to move forward
  • Decide to have another baby, when that had never been on the table
  • Smile, when it feels so wrong
  • Start listening to music again in the car
  • Reach out to other bereaved parents, others who relate, who we can actually talk to
  • Learn to cry in front of others, even complete strangers
  • Rehearse complicated answers to simple questions like, "How many children do you have?"
  • Start looking at your pictures, through tears and laughter
  • Celebrate your birthday without you, knowing you will never grow older
  • Face all the "firsts" and dread the day there will no longer be any more firsts
  • Struggle through once-happy just a reminder of the loss and emptiness
  • Talk about you to others, with joy and laughter...and realize this journey will last forever...

Peanut, this list will never be complete.  Because, life without our Peanut will never make sense.

I love you, I miss you.  Sweet, beautiful child of mine.  To the moon and back.

- Momma

Monday, November 28, 2011

Running Out of Fresh Memories

Peanut -

Momma is petrified.  Time refuses to slow down.  It refuses to stop short of your rapidly approaching Angel Anniversary.  No matter how tightly I shut my eyes, or refuse to turn the calendar page, the months keep rolling on.  But, I can't face the reality of a year - one whole year - without you.

We passed the 10-month mark this weekend on Saturday, November 26.  Soon it will be December 26...the day after Christmas, and the 11-month mark.  Then it will be January 26, 2012.  One. Whole. Year.  And the next day will be January 27, 2012.  And we will be past the year of firsts.  But, more significantly, we will no longer be able to say, "Do you remember what Peanut did this time last year?"

And then, before we know it, we will pass the milestone of 16.5 months without you.  Suddenly we will face being without you longer than we had you.  How can that be?  How can it be that me, your Momma, will be without you longer than I was physically with you?  How is it that I'm still alive, still here, living a life and planning a future while you're gone?

This reality struck me during a horribly long commute into the office today.  Momma had over an hour to sit in her car, in traffic, to stew over these thoughts before even kicking off the work day.  I've ben unable to shake these fears the rest of the day.

I've stared at one picture of you brain is unwilling to let go of you, to believe something as beautiful and perfect as my Peanut is no longer on this earth, in my arms.

I miss you so desperately.  To the moon and back, Peanut.

- Momma

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Zen-Master Peanut

Peanut -

Dadda and I were talking today about how different this current pregnancy has been from our pregnancy with you.  While Momma's morning sickness was much longer and stronger with you, the overall pregnancy was quiet.  Calm.  You were an active baby, but not a hard kicker.  Your sleep schedule mirrored mine, as did your periods of activity.  I also had relatively few Braxton-Hicks contractions.  You did arrive two weeks early, but somehow we knew you were going to be an early baby.

The Bean, on the other hand, has made his presence known.  At night, just as Momma is settling in for sleep, he gets active.  His kicks, nudges and flips are enough to take Momma's breath away.  Over the last three weeks the Braxton-Hicks contractions have, at times, been debilitating.  During meetings at work, I often catch co-workers watching my stomach with a mix of delight and horror.  In short, your little brother is a wild man!

I wonder...will this be a key difference between you and your little brother once he arrives?  You were such a thoughtful, old soul.  Very few things rattled you, and you tended to quietly size up situations with your clear, knowing eyes.  Even when you took a surprise tumble or conked your head, it was rare that you would dissolve into tears.  Dadda and I were always careful to not over-react, but on your own you would generally just shake off the shock and get right back up on your feet.  You were also a VERY cautious kiddo.  You always had a keen sense of the spaces around you, distances between furniture, the drop from stair to stair, or just how high the couch was from the floor.  Every move was calculated, which is why I think you were a fairly late walker.  I often saw your little brain's wheels turning...why take the chance, when crawling was faster and safer?  You were able to walk on your own at 12 months, but you chose to wait until month 15 to use it as your primary mode of transportation.  Safety Peanut!

Will The Bean be the opposite, or at least dramatically different?  I think so - maybe.  Momma's brain knows he will be different from you in many ways - but will probably also share a lot of similarities.  Over the Thanksgiving holiday, one of the dinner guests heard The Bean's due date was January 17.  A look of wonder passed over his face, and he exclaimed, "Oh!  That's an 8 in Numerology!  AND you're having a boy?  That is a very powerful combination.  You should expect an old soul."  I've reflected on that...I HAD an old soul.  You.  Peanut, you were truly an old it possible we will have another?  If so, what does it all mean?

As The Bean's due date, and your Angel Anniversary, approach I find my brain occupied with these questions.  The fear and anxiety of having another baby - of the awful possibility of losing another child - has been replaced by a more universal pondering.  Maybe this is "normal" in situations as abnormal as ours.  Maybe it's part of my brain's healing process.  Maybe it's a message from you, "Slow down, Momma.  Enjoy this second chance.  Love my doesn't replace your love for me.  Just keep talking about me, too."

No problem there, Peanut.  You will be the center of our stories, laughter, and tears for a lifetime.  And beyond.  To the moon and back, baby boy.  To the mooooooooooon and back...


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Choosing To Be Thankful

Peanut -

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States.  This holiday - one we were lucky enough to celebrate twice with you - is all about giving thanks for our blessings, our family, our friends.  It's not based on religion, politics, gifts.  The day revolves around breaking bread with those you love.

It would be easy for Momma to ignore this day.  First, how can I have a meal with the people I love most, knowing you are missing from the equation?  Second, what about this year do I have to be thankful for as the pain and permanence of your absence becomes more and more real?

But then, yesterday, I received a note from a dear college friend.  In the note she acknowledged how hard this holiday season must feel for Momma and our family.  She also expressed her own deep appreciation for my willingness to share my grief, stories about you, glimmers of hope over The Bean, via this blog.  She shared how it has elevated her own love and appreciation for her family.  How it has changed her view of motherhood. As I read her note through my tears, I discovered just how much I have to be thankful for this year despite of - or maybe, partially because of - the enormity of our loss.

Some of the greatest blessings I count and give thanks for this year:

  • The love and support of the hundreds of family and friends who have surrounded, supported and lifted us over these last 10 months;
  • The understanding and grace shown by my co-workers, bosses, and others who have allowed me to ease back into work, into a safe routine, and have never judged as I reveal my tears and sorrow;
  • The 500 delightful, amazing days I got to spend with you, changed me, my life, my personality forever;
  • The life lessons I've learned in grappling with your loss;
  • The new depth of love I've discovered for Dadda as we grieve, build hope, navigate a new future;
  • The miracle of The Bean, feeling him grow and kick every day, reminding me that you have a little brother who will be here in January...just days before your 1-year anniversary;
  • The power of the human heart to heal, the protection of the human brain to only hand us what we can process, the grace of the human soul to continue to love;
  • The tenacity and sharpness of memories to allow Momma to remember so clearly how it felt to touch your skin, smell your scent, comb your messy curls, brush your little teeth, bump your forehead, hold your tight grip, and receive those powerful Peanut hugs.

Peanut, on this day of Thanksgiving, the weight of your absence feels heavier than usual on Momma's shoulders and heart.  Yet, I choose to give thanks because of you.  I know you will be sitting at the table with us, laughing and enjoying the presence of family and love.  Sending you SOOOOOOO much Momma love the moon and back!

- Momma

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Brush-a Brush-a Brush-a!

Peanut -

Dadda and I have been marveling tonight over what a happy kiddo you always were.  Even when you seemed to want to cry or be unhappy, it just didn't stick.  Even the ONE time to you tried to force out a single, solitary, giant crocodile tear, you couldn't stop your musical laugh from escaping.  My funny little 'Nut.

This got Momma thinking about a daily event that other parents seem to find intolerable.  For us, it was never an was actually a lot of fun.  The morning tooth brushing routine.  Peanut, let's face it.  You had a LOT of teeth very early, so brushing had to become part of our schedule.  We had some false starts with Momma choosing a toothbrush that was too big, or the wrong toothpaste.  But, once I found the perfect little Winnie the Pooh toothbrush, and the Tom's of Maine Silly Strawberry Infant toothpaste, we were rockin' and rolling.

I placed your tiny, yellow toothbrush in my old-fashioned, Momma-style toothbrush holder.  And your toothpaste was part of Momma's arsenal of personal care products.  Often, I would brush my own teeth in front of you, just to help you get the hang of it.  Apparently, Momma's toothbrushing faces are hi-lar-i-ous.  So, it should have been no surprise to me that you would mimic my funny faces when we started brushing your teeth.

Peanut, you were always so eager for me to start on your teeth.  I would sit you on the bathroom counter, and I'd give you a giant, toothy smile.  You would always reciprocate - in spades - and we'd be off to the toothbrushing races!  Whatever I needed you to do, I just had to do first.  If I needed you to open your mouth, I just opened mine.  Ta-da!  Laughter, hand-claps, and clean teeth were always the end result.  Joy!

The smiles, the laughter, produced during those simple morning routines...that's a big part of what I miss the most.  Peanut, you provided laughter in even the most basic, everyday moments.  Your zest for life is what I hold close to my heart.  It's why we are trying to celebrate the upcoming holidays, and to not give in to depression and grief.  To make you proud.  To make you smile.  To produce that giant, Peanut toothbrush smile.  Cheese!

I love you, sweet boy.  Please know you are with us in every moment of every day.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Saturday, November 19, 2011

O Peanut Tree, O Peanut Tree!

Peanut -

The holiday season is going to be hard.  Sad.  Empty.  Lonely.  But, it is also going to come.  And go.  And come again next year.  And the year after that.  We can't ignore it, as much as I want to.  We also can't ignore the large, hollow, empty place in our hearts, our lives, and at our tables, this year.

We need to honor you, remember you, laugh and cry, and start a tradition that will incorporate you into this holiday season and all future seasons to come.  Partially to remember, and partially to share you with your little brother.  While you two won't share the same physical space, you will share a brotherhood.  A family.  A love.  And, he will know you, love you, and talk about you - just like I know you do about him in heaven.

So...what to do?

Thanks, very much to another SUDC family here in St. Louis (Shawn B. and family), we have settled on a new ritual.  This year, and every year to come, we will have a special "Peanut Tree."  It will be a small, but important tree, dedicated just to YOU!  We will reserve a weekend in December to put up and decorate your tree.  The tree will be trimmed with all your special ornaments - "Baby's First Christmas 2009" and the vintage paper mache Santa Claus, to name a few - as well as new ornaments.  Each year we will add ornaments that remind us of you.  Stories of you.  Pictures of you.  Colors of you.

Dadda and I had batted this idea around for several weeks, and then you spoke to me with a powerful confirmation.  Peanut's approval.  In a Hallmark store, of all places!  Momma was running a quick "thank you" note errand, and there it was.  A beautiful display dedicated to our favorite book, "Guess How Much I Love You."  In the middle of the table, an ornament with Big and Little Nutbrown Hare, staring at the sky.  The book is open in the background to the final quote - and Momma's nightly sign off.  It was like...magic.

I promise, we will do other things to pay tribute to you this holiday season, Peanut.  We will hang your stocking with the special "Connor" teddy bear stocking hanger.  We will light a candle in your honor every night.  In particular, on Sunday, December 11 during the "Light The Night" ceremony honoring all children who have lost their lives.  But this tree will be different.  It will allow us to carve out a weekend to decorate a tree, talk about you, tell stories, feel both your presence and absence, and include you in what was always Momma and Dadda's favorite holiday.

Peanut, this doesn't feel nearly sufficient, but it's a start.  I hope you feel our love.  My love, as I talk about you and share everything Peanut with anyone who will listen.  Your absence is jarring.  Your presence is comforting.  And, above all else, the love your have created in our family, is powerful.  Sending you Momma nose nuggles and forehead bumps.  To the moon and back!

- Momma

Readers, family and friends: Our family welcomes and invites your ideas for ornaments, tributes, or anything else that inspires you, as we create this year's tree.  

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I am thankful for you.  Your e-mails, shares, "likes" and comments have been inspirational, heart warming and have reminded us that we are not alone.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lonely Kitteh Kah

Peanut -

Most mornings when Momma leaves for work, Zeke The Cat is curled up, fast asleep on our bed after a night of frolicking with his cat friends.  But every once in a while, he's nowhere to be found.  I've always assumed he's skulking around the house, asleep in the basement, or up in one of the other bedrooms.  Until this morning.

While I always call out, "Bye Peanut!" when I leave for work, this morning I had a strong urge to sit in your bedroom for a few minutes before starting my commute.  But, when I walked into your room the chair was already occupied!  There was Zeke, curled up in a ball, ready to spend the day sleeping in your room, surrounded by smells and reminders of his Peanut-friend.

Sometimes I wonder if Zeke understands what has happened.  I know he misses you.  In the first weeks, and even months, after your passing I would find Zeke crying in your room.  Or wandering around the house looking for you.  Before we dismantled your crib, I would often find him napping in your sleep spot.  I guess I just figured that phase had passed.

But, then I have to remember just how much you loved Zeke.  I mean, one of your very first phrases was, "Hi, Kitteh Kah!"  Followed, of course, by you whacking him on the head while Momma warned, " gentle, 'Nut."  But he loved it - he must have, because he always came back for more.

Picturing the sheer delight on your face whenever you got to play with Zeke makes me smile from ear-to-ear.  I hope that sometimes you visit Zeke while he's seeking you out.  Maybe you guys play a little hide 'n' seek.  And then you give him a "gentle" pat on the head.

I love and miss you, Peanut.  We all do.  To the moon and back.

- Momma

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Peanut -

There is a new little boy in heaven, and I know in my heart you are looking out for him along with your little band of angel brothers.  His name is Tyler, and he is only 13-months old.  And he needs love, hugs, comfort.

Yesterday, across the St. Louis area there was a frantic search for this little boy, only to have the search end in what was thought to be the final tragedy.  His lifeless body was found in a wooded area, near a cemetery.  Then, this morning, the tragedy escalated.  Tyler's mom was arrested, charged with 2nd degree murder.  She confessed that in a moment of rage and frustration over her crying son, she beat him to death and dumped his body in the woods.  This little, adorable, innocent boy.  Thirteen months old.  The person he trusted most in this world, his momma, was the last person he saw while being beaten to death.  The fright, the confusion he must have felt.  It defies understanding.

But he's with you.  In a safe place, surrounded by love and laughter.  Peace.

This tragedy has torn Momma's heart to pieces.  Peanut, I would give my life to have you back on this earth.  I would give anything and everything just to have you back in my arms.  So, to hear of a mom who batters her son to the point of death...kills him because he won't stop makes me so angry.  Anger is not an emotion I feel easily.  It is an emotion I haven't given in to over the last 10 months.  But, it is the emotion I feel throughout my mind, body and soul today.

There are so many resources out there for parents who are on the brink of rage, abuse.  There are so many other families out there who would love and cherish these children.  There are just no good answers or reasons for Tyler's life and story to end in this senseless tragedy.

Peanut, I am sending you an extra bundle of Momma love tonight.  Please share it with little Tyler.  Let him know he's safe.  He's loved.  He's home.

I love you soooooo much, my precious little son.  My little guardian.  My sunshine.  To the moon and back.

- Momma


Monday, November 14, 2011

Momma Masks

Peanut -

Momma was home sick today, with a touch of the flu piled on top of general pregnancy and grief exhaustion.  It's strange - I work from home most Fridays, and am home a lot over the weekends, but today was somehow...different.  After taking some conference calls, and catching up on work e-mails, I found myself not only unable to rest, but also unable to stay away from your bedroom.  Momma spent a frenzied hour in your room, searching for something - anything - that still smelled like you.  When my search turned out to be generally fruitless, I sat on your personalized Pottery Barn futon (a Christmas gift from last year) and cried my heart out.

The tidal wave of grief ebbs and flows, some days washing over me with such force I'm worried I'll drown.  Today was one of those days.  In an effort to find some comfort, I pulled all the grief support books down from our top bookshelf (a precarious move for my unbalanced, pregnant self).  In the course of one afternoon I re-read six of the books, searching for answers, support, a roadmap.  Something.  What I found...nothing but confirmation that this is all "normal."

Days like today are actually good for Momma's brain and heart.  Without the pressure of work, or friends and family around, I was free to leave all my Momma Masks on their shelf.  Today was raw, unfiltered Momma mourning.  I use that word - mourning - very intentionally.

Grief is what I carry with me, day in and day out.  It lives in my heart, my soul.  I don't expose it freely, yet it has become my constant companion.  Grief is what will live within your Momma until the day we meet again in Heaven.

Mourning is my public, external expression of that grief.  Mourning is what I exposed without shame in the first days, weeks, months, after your death.  But, once the American culture's accepted mourning period ended (between 4-6 months) and Momma was back to work full-time, mourning was replaced by the Momma Masks.

The Momma Masks help navigate the day-to-day.  They help others feel more comfortable - like they have the old "me" back.  But, they hurt after an extended period of time.  Their fit is unnatural.  Sometimes it's hard to breathe behind them.  They can feel brittle, hollow.  And, a "day off" from them is a truly welcome occasion.  A chance to breathe...just breathe and cry without reserve.  To mourn.

Peanut, I hope you felt me with you today.  I held your froggies and shared some tears of love.  I rubbed your urn and traced the outline of the carved teddy bear over your name.  I turned on and played with your toys.  And, I pulled you close to my heart.  Loving you, missing you, aching for the moooooooooon and back.

- Momma

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kung Fu Peanut

Peanut -

On the way home from lunch this afternoon, Dadda and I drove past a little karate studio, and I broke into a giant smile.  "What's that smile?" Dadda wondered out loud.  So, I shared a little piece of my over-active imagination with Dadda, and we both got to share that smile.

You see, Peanut, I always imagined you taking karate classes when you got to be a little older.  Your incredible manual dexterity, cautious yet sturdy approach, sense of determination, and Zen-like inner calm had Momma convinced you would be a quick study in most sports, and would take well to something like karate.  I pictured you attending classes in a little white outfit, earning your way through the various belt colors, and maybe even watching you in demonstrations and competitions as you grew older.  Even today, I can see it so clearly in my head.

Dadda asked if that story, that image I've created, now makes me sad.  What's funny is, it doesn't.  Maybe it should, but instead it warms my heart and makes me grin.  Maybe a part of my head and heart still can't fully believe or comprehend that you're gone and these projected images and stories somehow keep you alive for me.'s more than that.

Peanut, I'm going to share something I refer to as a Momma Truth.  It is simply something I choose to believe, down to the very core of my being.  It's not anything I ask others to subscribe to or believe, it's not based in religion, it's not political.  It just is what it is - a Momma Truth.

Momma Truth About Heaven:  Peanut, when I think of you in Heaven, I don't picture a God, or angels, clouds, harps, flowing white gowns, or a suspended state of being.  I picture you living a full, stimulating life in what is a perfect, happy, parallel universe.  In that place you are playing baseball, learning karate, reading books, dancing to funky music, sharing Peanut hugs, and warming the world with your sunshine smile.  While you might miss Momma and Dadda at times, you are also present, with us, all the time.  You see everything we're doing, and you're by our sides participating.  Back in April I wondered via Eric Clapton if you would know my name when I saw you in Heaven.  But, now I've never been without me and I've never been without you.

I share all this to try and explain why I smile every time I see a karate studio.  It's because when I see you and get to hold you again, I know you'll be a master black belt.  And, you'll have lots to teach Momma.

Peanut, I love you sooooo much.  I know you've seen how hard the last few days have been, and I also know you sent me that smile today.  Sending back to you giant bunches of Momma love, hugs and butterfly kisses.  Maybe even an extra-special forehead bump.  To the moon and back, my handsome 'Nut!

- Momma


Friday, November 11, 2011

The Sound of Silence

Peanut -

Henry The Dog left for training school today.  Since Dadda had the day off work he was able to meet with the trainer who deemed Henry "smart and trainable" within about 30 seconds.  We now face a whole week without Hank.  And, already, we've discovered the house is intolerably quiet.  Which made us remember...this is how it felt in the days, the weeks, after you died.  Henry came into our home and lives and helped partially fill the giant, painful, quiet void left in the wake of your loss.  As he drove off in the trainer's van, the pounding silence descended before we could anticipate or prepare.

In the silence, Momma's brain had the opportunity to think back to exactly one year ago.  Veteran's Day 2010.  Dadda was off work that day too.  He brought you downtown to visit Momma at work, and you guys took me to lunch at one of my favorite places.  We had such a nice, fun lunch and marveled over the gorgeous, warm, sunny November weather.  After lunch, you and Dadda headed to the St. Louis Zoo where you had a VERY close encounter with a little giraffe and then tried to climb into the lion's den.  Peanut, my little lion man!

The memory made me reflect...we had no idea how short our time was with you on that fun, warm November day.  The future stretched out before us and it seemed so certain.  While I'm so thankful we never had to watch you suffer through a long illness, I also hope we gave you every ounce of love and appreciation we could while you were here rather than take the days and moments for granted.  I think we did.  I know I am now so much more conscious of telling Dadda, "I love you" every time we part ways.  I am so aware of treating my friends as if every interaction might be our last.  To loosely quote so many songs, I live every day as if I were dying.

And yet, my heart still breaks.  The crying had been unstoppable this evening for both me and Dadda.  We have filled the echoing silence with tears, gasps, sobs.  While I hate that you have to witness this, I hope you know we cry because we love you so very much.  Guess how much.  Yep, that's right.  To the mooooooooon and back.

- Momma

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Making Sense of the Senseless

Peanut -

On the day you died, and every day since, I've come to realize we live in a world that truly doesn't make sense.  If it did, you would still be here.  If it did, we would be living our quiet life, watching our little boy grow up, working hard to make a good living to support our family.  If it did, my heart wouldn't hurt so much, leaving me to wonder how I still get out of bed, breathe, function, every single day.

But, the world we live in is a mystery to me.  Yet...I've chosen to get out of bed.  Breathe.  Function.  Every single day.  I've chosen to live.  To make you proud.

Part of this commitment has revolved around work.  After your death I went back to work far too quickly, and got sucked back into full-engagement mode before I was ready.  Looking back, I can see it so clearly.  However, work was a good distraction and gave me a purpose in those first few months.  And now I find myself in a place where I've taken on a new, demanding leadership role surrounded by people who either don't know about our family or have already forgotten.  And it is...exhausting.

Peanut, I can people find joy in working against each other?  How is it pleasurable or productive to challenge, question, and create confrontation rather than aim to partner, collaborate, and work towards a common good?

My commitment to make you proud is the reason I took this new role.  Momma saw an opportunity to do great work.  To make a big, positive impact.  To simply do the right work, the right way, for the right reasons.  Was that senseless of me?  Was I expecting too much sense in this senseless world?  Or, am I just expecting too much of either myself or of others?

<sigh> The only thing that makes sense to me tonight is the joy I felt in being your Momma, my Peanut.  I look at pictures of you, watch your videos, and I know that part of my world, my life, was the definition of perfection.  Sense.  My appreciation of the gifts you brought to my life deepens every single day.  My appreciation of my love for you grows bigger, deeper, wider, every minute of every day.  And my love for you stretches to the moon and back and back and back again.

Missing you terribly.
- Momma

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Peanut -

Momma tapped into a new resource, a new community today. It is one I've been avoiding, and still haven't fully embraced. The Bereaved Parents of the USA.

Maybe it's my final shred of denial. Bereaved Parents? No, that's not for me. Those parents have lost older children. Or, children to suicide. Or, children to tragic accidents. But, not a toddler who was rapidly growing into a little boy, who went to bed healthy and never woke up. Those parents haven't lost MY little boy.  They can't understand my level of loss, grief, desperation.  They didn't know my Peanut.

The Bereaved Parents of the USA's Winter Newsletter showed up in Momma's inbox this afternoon. Strangely, I couldn't wait to read it. And, once I started, I read it cover to cover, non-stop. Poems, and stories, book reviews and helpful hints for "surviving the holidays." Thoughts and commentary that echo my own questions. My own concerns. These authors, these parents...they are...just like me.

So, maybe our losses are different in terms of the details. But the journey. The long, arduous journey we have all been on is remarkably similar.

Peanut, I am thankful for these other parents who are willing to share their hearts, their grief and their learnings.  In sharing, they help people like your Momma figure out how to persevere.  

For those who read this blog in the midst of their own grief journey, I share the Letter From The Editor. It is short and beautiful:

Eyn Chaya Kazo!

Bereaved parents are strange creatures. We are different, in some fundamental way, from people who have not shared our experience. Although we appear normal, perform the daily tasks expected of us, and seem to fit in the society in which we live we know it is a sham. We know the design of our lives no longer fits a regular pattern. Others do not understand and do not believe that the changes to our core selves are real and that this new type of creature we feel we have become actually exists.

In October [2011] Israeli scientist Daniel Shectman won the Nobel prize in chemistry. He had revealed that certain crystals do not link up in the symmetrical pattern that nature demanded. Quasicrystals, he called them, line up in a non-repeating fashion that was previously thought impossible. “Eyn chaya kazo!” he exclaimed, in his native Hebrew, upon first seeing this phenomenon, “There can be no such creature!” For many years the scientific community refused to believe quasicrystals existed because it altered their basic understanding of what a crystal is.

Like the scientists refusing to believe there could be a different kind of crystal, the world we face can’t, or won’t, comprehend that the patterns of our lives no longer fit a regular plan. We are expected, after a brief mourning period, to return to the life we lived before; doing jobs, maintaining connections, fulfilling responsibilities. Friends, family and co-workers don’t understand that although we still look like a crystal we have become quasicrystals— unable to be the reliable, predictable, symmetrical souls we were before our children died. Even so a quasicrystal can be a beautiful thing. There’s a Nobel prize that says so.

- Editor

(Taken from the national Newsletter of BP/USA - A JOURNEY TOGETHER.  Website:

Peanut, I've had your face, your smile, your forehead bumps stuck in my head all day today.  I think of you, see your image, and I smile through the bitterness of this loss.  <sigh> Oh, how I miss you...  Sending you love across the light years of eternity.

- Momma

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Peanut Connection

Peanut -

Today Momma embraced her new norm.  New reality.  The new Momma I have become.  There wasn't a bolt of lightning, crash of thunder, or even what some might refer to as a pivotal moment.  There was just...a moment.  A question.  And, an answer that felt normal, appropriate.

This afternoon I got to meet the new leadership team I've joined at work, after spending the last several weeks simply communicating via telephone and e-mail.  We all congregated in St. Louis this week to meet in person, and get some planning work done for 2012.  While the main focus of this meeting is work related, there is also a big component of "getting to know you."  To that end, we were all asked to introduce ourselves by sharing whatever we deemed important in our personal and professional lives.

At 30 weeks, it is quite obvious to everyone that I'm pregnant with your little brother.  So, of course, that was a no-brainer to share.  But from there...what?  Hmmmmm.  Then, a question from the room, "Is this your first?"  And just like that I realized, I HAVE to share I have a son.  A Peanut.  A little boy who would be - should be - 2 years and 2 months old.  And, his name is Connor.

I knew this could make the room uncomfortable.  But, it is who I am.  Who we are.  I am Peanut's Momma.  My love, my motherhood, my grief, my tears, my memories - these all define who I am today.  To not reveal the facts about you would feel wrong.  Like denial.  Like a lie.  How could I not share the accomplishment I am most proud of - you?  So, I did.

As we went around the room and continued introductions, I realized something else.  I made an instant connection with someone else in the room.  Another momma who has experienced her own loss.  Different, but similar.  My share opened her up for her own share.  And just like that, a new version of The Peanut Effect came to life.  The Peanut Connection.

Peanut, your far-reaching impacts never cease to stun me.  Amaze me.  Humble me.  Thank you for teaching your momma some of her most important life give, share and love freely, openly, honestly.

My sweet, amazing son.  My Peanut.  I love and miss you sooooooooo much - to the moon, and back.

- Momma

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Splish Splash

Peanut -

Wow, the last two days have been a whirlwind of activity.  Yesterday we had a string of doctor's appointments - some "normal" baby stuff, and some not-so-normal.  And today we had a beautiful, meaningful, Peanutriffic baby shower for your little brother.  While the lion's share of these activities are bittersweet without you, they have led to a few very positive days.

The doctor's appointments for The Bean have been different since we don't really know how/why you died.  The amazing team at SUDC have compiled a list of recommended tests for for expecting SUDC families and their subsequent (ick, I hate that term) children.  So, this poor little Bean is going to be a bit of a pincushion when he's born.  Until then, Dadda and I had to get EKGs yesterday, and we had a 30-week ultrasound to check-in on the Bean.  We also met with your amazing pediatrician to discuss some additional tests the Mayo clinic can run on YOUR birth blood panels, which is pretty interesting.  While we don't expect earth-shattering answers, it still doesn't hurt to pursue every avenue, right?  We ended the day with the reassuring news that your little brother looks fantastically healthy, and is weighing in at 2 pounds 11 ounces.  Good stuff!

Today's baby shower was a joyful event, attended by immediate family and a few close friends.  It was the first time Momma had seen this group gathered in a room since your Memorial Service.  Stunning.  Peanut, you were everywhere at the shower today.  We all remembered back to your baby shower just over 2 years ago.  Your name filled the room, stories about you abounded, and Aunt Dru and Aunt Colleen had Peanut-nods woven throughout the event.  Tins of mints with bright green, smiling froggies.  Bottles of spring-green hand lotion for all the guests.  The cake was covered with tiny butterflies.  And, a lot of the gifts were Very Hungry Caterpillar themed.  It was...perfect.

One of the first gifts Momma opened was a Fisher Price Fun Tub for bath time.  The sight of it made Momma crack up.  When you were itty-bitty, most of your baths took place in the kitchen sink, but as you grew we moved you into Momma and Dadda's giant, powerjet bathtub.  A bathtub that had no mats, skid strips, traction devices...just a nice, slick surface.  Combine that with baby shampoo and a slick, wet kiddo and WHOOSH! you basically have a slip-n-slide.  I'll never forget your shocked expression, eyes round as saucers, as you slid from one end of the tub and back as Dadda and I tried to get a grip on you.  And never once did you cry or look worried.  Once we finally had you stabilized, you simply gave us that, "Hey! Can we do that AGAIN?!" look.  Hilarious, and perfectly Peanut.

It was so fun to have the chance to share that story - that memory - with all our friends and loved ones at the shower today.   To hear everyone laugh over you, rather than shed tears.  This...this is how it should be, as often as possible.  To remember the joy.  The delight.  The little moments that now mean the world.

Peanut, my heart is full of joy and love.  I so wish you were here physically, but I feel you.  I've felt you all day today.  Sending you buckets of Momma love - to the moon and back!

- Momma

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chin Uh-PUH, Momma!

Peanut -

After spending the better part of this week in a dark blue funk, capped off by a totally inappropriate crying session at work this morning, Momma realized it was time.  Time to square her shoulders, lift up her head, take a deep breath and...just keep breathing.

No, this isn't a Pollyanna moment.  I'm not going to burst into a Broadway-esque rendition of "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow."  No revelations about clouds and silver linings and unexpected blessings.  But, there is this: We have survived the worst imaginable loss ever this year.  Nothing can compare, Peanut, to the loss of you.  Yet, here we are.  So, by that logic, we will survive this too.

Peanut, Dadda's company announced on Monday they are closing their doors at the end of the year.  No severance packages.  No health benefits.  Nothing.  Two weeks before your little brother is due.  And, while "it's just a job" it was, for us, a sense of security.  Momma was planning to take an extended maternity leave this time around, knowing we had the security of two paychecks.  We were evaluating whose health insurance to use for The Bean.  Everything felt like it was going to start falling back into place in 2012.  We had started to feel...hopeful.

Now, we're facing the reality of one paycheck.  No extended maternity leave.  No options around insurance, as Momma's company dramatically changes health plans to save corporate expenses.  No true sense of financial security as we support this family.

But, we'll be OK.  It will work out.  Now Dadda might get to stay home with your little brother as Momma goes back to work.  And, if there is one thing I know for sure, it is that Dadda will be the BEST stay-at-home parent in the world.  We've also learned a lot about who we trust, how we trust and when we trust.  A lesson I'm glad we learned now, rather than 5 years down the road.

Peanut, as I sat in my office crying this morning, I heard your little voice saying "Uhhh-PH Momma!"  I vividly saw the image of your delightful, pleading face and outstretched arms asking for me to lift you onto the couch.  That image, in that moment, told me it was time.  Time to put my chin uhhhhhh-puh!  Put the steel back in my spine.  Face the day.  And, breathe.

Peanut, I hope you know every tear, while salty with sorrow is also full of my love for you.  To the moon and back.

- Momma