Monday, October 29, 2012

Diaper Rash Flashback

Peanut -

Now that The Pickle is over nine months old, he is being introduced to the wonderful world of solid foods.  Cheerios.  Macaroni and cheese.  Steamed, chopped vegetables.  Goldfish crackers.  Ah....Goldfish crackers - your favorite!  (Unlike you - so far - The Pickle doesn't shove handfuls of Goldfish into his mouth without chewing and swallowing.)

The introduction of solid food brings new spices, tastes, acidity and fierce diaper rashes.  Your brother has been blessed with skin that can handle fragrances and heavy ingredients which is very different from the hyper-sensitive skin you inherited from me.  So far, The Pickle really hasn't dealt with a persistent diaper rash so it was a memory, a fear, Momma and Dadda didn't have to face until this past week.  And, Whoa Nelly, did we ever have to face it.

You see, Peanut, when you passed away you were in your second week of a persistent, nagging diaper rash.  The school nurse counseled that is was a yeast-based rash, and we were combatting it accordingly.  But it never totally cleared up.  That rash, and its potential link to a yeast infection, has haunted Momma and, in particular Dadda, ever since.  Was that rash a symptom of something worse?  If we had been able to get it under control would you still be alive?  Did the rash compromise your system and allow something worse to attack you?

So, last week your little brother showed signs of a diaper rash that kept getting worse.  By Friday it was out of control.  Suddenly, we were reliving January of 2011 all over again.  In a panic we called our doctor, took pictures of the rash, and received an odd but effective piece of advice.  Stop the diaper rash creams and ointments.  Stop the powder.  No more "baby wipes" regardless of how scent free they claim to be.  Simply put him in a bath with a tablespoon of bleach twice per day, allow to air dry and frost his tiny butt with zinc oxide.

Ta da!  Within a day the rash faded.  By the end of the weekend it was gone and healed.  On Sunday afternoon Momma looked at Dadda, sighed and said, "Oh, the things I wish we had known two years ago..."  He looked down and nodded in agreement.

Would this have made a difference for you?  I guess we will never know.  My logical brain tells me to let go of this line of thought.  My heart says something different.

The Momma-guilt is deep tonight. I hope you can feel how often I think about you.  And how very much I love you.  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Oh, For The Love Of Vanna!

Peanut -

What is it with my boys and this strange fascination with Vanna White?  (Hey Vanna! April 27, 2011)  I mean, I know she's sparkly.  And has brilliant white teeth.  And lights up large letters with a mere brush of her hand.  I get all that.  But still...Vanna trumps Momma on a nightly basis.  First you and now The Pickle!

Tonight, after giving The Pickle a dinner of pasta primavera, strawberry & beet SUPER PUFFS!!! and a bottle, I left him in the play area to explore and wander while I washed the dishes.  In a quiet, still moment I glanced across the room to find a confusing vision of the past and present, Peanut and Pickle, merged into one.  The Pickle was standing in front of the television transfixed by Vanna and her shiny blue dress, both hands gripping the gate while he bounced up and down full of grins and giggles.  He finally plopped down on the floor only to start clapping his hands for Vanna...just like you.

If it's possible, Momma's heart shattered and healed all at once.  Tears and laughter.  A smile and a sob. The sound of my breath catching must have alarmed The Pickle.  As his little blonde head whipped around Momma remembered and recovered, "Heeeeeeeey Vanna!  Whassup girl?!" And, The Pickle broke into a beautiful smile.

Oh Peanut...there you are...right the sunshine of his smile.  In the beauty of that moment.  In the Momma love in my heart.

Joy and grief, side by side.

With each day that passes, I understand that sentiment more deeply.  I know it intimately.  I embrace it.

So, beginning tomorrow night and every night after Momma will exclaim at the top of her lungs - HEY VANNA!  And I will laugh.  And cry.  Why?  Because I love you.  How much????  To the mooooooon - and back!



Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Comfort Circle

Peanut -

Last Friday Momma had lunch with a special group of women who share a single, simple bond with our family.  They have experienced profound loss...death of a child/spouse/sibling.  In a normal world, we probably wouldn't have ever met.  Our social circles don't necessarily intersect.  But now.  Now these women are, in many ways, family.  Friends who understand Momma's heart.  Friends who require no words, apologies, or explanation.

It is so hard to describe this bond to others.  To lifelong friends who continue to stand by our sides, desperately wanting to support and provide love.  To family members who are also navigating their grief while wanting to be strong for Momma and Dadda.  To other friends and co-workers who, after 19+ months, believe we must be "over" this tragedy.

Momma equates this new group of soul-mates to other types of groups.  Actually, one group in particular - knitting circles.  In these groups individuals congregate based on a common bond - knitting.    The conversations that take place over knitting...well, that's where the magic happens.  As knitting needles create new patterns, colors, designs the discussions take a parallel path.

It's similar when Momma connects with The Comfort Circle.  The connections may take place over e-mail, telephone, Facebook, lunch, a glass of wine.  It doesn't matter.  The level of comfort, the sigh of relief, the removal of the mask, is always similar and liberating.  We find each other completing sentences, finishing thoughts, laughing as we share like experiences.  Oh, what a morbid mystery we must be to other diners when we have a group meal!

Peanut, death, loss and tragedy have changed not just Momma and Dadda...they have transformed our friendships and interactions with the world.  But, rather than see this as a negative Momma chooses to see it as an amazing, positive impact.  Another ripple in your Peanut Effect.

I send a note of love to Heaven on behalf of the women who have touched Momma's heart, surrounded us, and shared in our journey.  Sarah, Amy, Nancy, Jill, Shawn, Laura, Jules, Katie, Laurie, Ann...and so many others.  I hate that we know each other.  I love that we know each other.

Peanut, it is in these connections that I feel your presence the most.  I still feel you, every moment of every day.  And, oh, how I love and miss you.  To the moon - and back.

-  Momma

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Are You OK?"

Peanut -

Momma has heard the above question too many times to count over the last two weeks.  It is a question that is based in good intention, but makes me absolutely nuts.

Am I OK?

No.  I am not.  My son is dead.  And I'm still here.  My brain is forever scarred with images from the worst day ever.  My heart is forever confused by losing the beautiful gift of you.

Am I OK?

No.  I will never be "OK" or "The Old Me" again.  There will always be a shadow, a sadness in my eyes...a sign of Momma's unfinished earthly love for her Peanut.

Am I OK?

No.  I still cry most days.  Yet, I have rediscovered happiness and laughter and hope in this life.  A smile is always ready and waiting on my lips, thanks mostly to The Pickle.  But, there are still painful days, exhausting weeks.

Am I OK?

No.  Because "OK" doesn't measure up anymore.  I owe you more than that.  I am not simply surviving.  Since your death, it is Momma's mission to make this life better, one interaction at a time.  To continue your Peanut Effect.

Am I OK?

No.  No matter if it's two months, two years or two decades after that awful day in January of 2011, I am not OK.  I am a bereaved parent.  I am a Momma who outlived her amazing son, and no parent should ever have to face that reality.  Parents do not, should not, outlive their legacy.  Their heart.  Their love.

A better question, perhaps?  "How are you?"

Thank you for asking.  I am taking it one day, one moment, at a time.  There are wonderful days, full of love and remembrance.  But, some days are dark and almost unbearable.  Yet, I am slowly rediscovering my love of laughter.  The sound of my voice singing full blast in the car.  Dancing without a care in the world.  Yes, I will always live with the fear and knowledge that it can all be ripped away in a second which simply makes me embrace it more completely in the here and now.

Peanut, I don't mean to sound bitter or angry.  Momma is tired.  Feeling alone in this new period of dark grief.  My heart knows it will ebb and flow and ebb and flow.  The trick is to keep facing each day with my chin up.

I am missing you so very much.  I miss your toothy smile, warm breath, and curly blonde locks.  Your expressive hands and monkey toes.  Your funny penguin walk and deliberate, hand-smacking crawl.  In short, Momma misses you.  I love you, Peanut.  How much?  To the mooooooooon - and back!

- Momma

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Peanut -

Momma thought we made it through this week without too many wounds and emotional scarring. That first day of school was tough...walking in and smelling the same scents, tracing footsteps from 2 years ago, passing the door to your was jarring.  But, also comforting.  It felt good to get back into the old routine.  I thought, "Hey!  We've got this!"  Until yesterday.  Dadda brought your brother home from school with a note tucked into his diaper bag.  Pertussis alert.  Whooping cough.  The older sibling of a child in The Pickle's class has a confirmed, diagnosed case of WHOOPING COUGH.  Seriously?

After 9 months of no runny noses, no coughs, no sickness, I am now faced with a little Pickle who has a runny nose and tiny, persistent cough.  Regardless of his immunization status we now have to start him on a regimen of antibiotics to guard him against pertussis.  Momma stayed up most of the night watching The Pickle sleep, making sure his chest was rising and falling with breath.  The Angel Care Monitor was fully armed and alarmed twice, sending Momma's heart into overdrive. In the midst of these events all I can think is, "What am I doing?"

What kind of Momma loses her Peanut, is fortunate enough to be blessed with The Pickle, but still goes back to work?  Forcing her miracle child into daycare, a place full of sickness, germs, and - apparently - pertussis?  What kind of lifestyle is so important that we need Momma to keep plugging away at this job?  Am I simply asking the universe to rob us of another son?  Have I not learned my lesson?

Peanut, in the months after your death the truly important things in life became crystal clear.  The drama and politics of work faded into the background.  Material possessions lost their value.  Gossip and petty arguments no longer had a place in Momma's world.  But slowly, ever so quietly, these have burrowed and snuck back into my frame of reference.  The swirl of life, events, schedules, meetings, sunrises and sunsets took over.  Momma hadn't even noticed it until yesterday...until the pertussis alert.

Why does it take heart-stopping events, unspeakable losses, and once-in-a-lifetime moments to make us (me) stop and breathe?  To reassess?  Reprioritize?  Shouldn't this be the way we strive to live?  Our aspirational best?  Why is it so easy to get caught up in the muck?

Peanut, you are Momma's North Star.  You are my reminder, "Be better, Momma."  Today I focus that energy on The Pickle, his health, and the love of our family.  The things that matter.  And I commit to release and walk away from the noise, the swirl, the drama, the politics.  Today, I will crawl on the floor with your brother, take him to a pumpkin patch to play in the fall leaves, shower him with hugs and kisses, and watch him like a hawk as he naps.

Today I will make sure you, my Peanut, feel my love, my heart, my grief and appreciation all the way up in heaven.  I love you, sweet 'Nut.  How much?  To the mooooooooon - and back.

- Momma

A very unhappy Peanut, sitting in a pumpkin patch in October 2009.

Monday, October 8, 2012

D Day

Peanut -

Tomorrow is...D Day.  Daycare Day.  The Pickle's first day at your school.  Momma has only walked through those doors once since you passed away.  Those classrooms are full of memories of you.  A froggy statue with your name and the fingerprints of your classmates now lives in their butterfly garden.  And now we (I) have to learn to build new, happy memories in those walls with your little brother.

You loved school.  The interaction with other children.  The activities and classes and teachers.    Well...except "gym" class.  Apparently you and the teacher never saw eye to eye.  The memory of those funny daily reports, detailing your displeasure with gym class still make me giggle.

The day before you died you had to leave school early due to your fever.  100.7 degrees.  No school for you until you were fever-free for 24 hours.  The morning you passed away Dadda was getting you up to go see the doctor. never made it there.  Instead, we called 911, performed CPR on the bedroom floor, took a wild ambulance ride, experienced heroic efforts to save you in the ER, dealt with the frustrating organ donation process, survived questioning by the police, and eventually held you for the last time.  And then the phone calls started.  Momma called work.  Dadda called your school.  Since your death was so totally inexplicable, we had to put them on notice.  What if there was some horrible, new virus?  What if other children in your class were infected?

The school, its staff, and your teachers surrounded us - and continue to surround us - with love, support, food, flowers, friendship.  Two of your teachers spoke at your memorial service, sharing wonderful stories, memories and tears.  Your school had to quietly grieve while caring for the other families, and keeping the business running.

And now, they are preparing for your brother.  I spent this evening labeling his bottles, food, diapers, snacks.  The label-maker purchased for you was pulled out of storage.  As I turned it on I wondered...would it pull up the last label I made for you?  <sigh>  No.

Momma's heart is heavy.  I know daycare is the right thing to do for The Pickle.  He is ready to be around other kids.  But, he has been so healthy.  And, we're entering cold and flu season.  He's had all his vaccinations, his flu shot, his formula loaded with probiotics.  But...what if...?

Momma is putting her faith in...something.  The universe?  God?  All that might be right with the world?  I don't know.  I have to believe lightning won't strike twice.  I have to believe it is safe to plan on a future with The Pickle.  I have to believe he has a Guardian Angel named Peanut.  Connor.  My little boy.

Peanut, I know I ask a lot of you but I need another favor.  Flap your wings extra hard tomorrow.  Keep an eye on your brother.  And feel the love I am sending to you every second of every minute of every day.  How much love is that?  To the moooooooooooooon - and back!

- Momma

Your froggy statue in the butterfly garden.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How Momma's Heart Has Changed

Peanut -

It's would be so easy to be angry every day.  It would be so easy to never get out of bed.  It would be so easy to shake my fist fiercely at all the happy families I encounter on a daily basis.  It would be so easy.  Right?  Or, would it?

Maybe in a time before my heart knew you, before I became a Momma, it would have been easy.  But after becoming Peanut's Momma none of those actions were even an option.  Not even close.

In a time before Momma Love I had very sharp edges.  Expectations of myself and others were impossibly high.  Praise was not given easily.  Relationships were sometimes sacrificed for the sake of results.  Let's just say "empathy" was not a strength for your Momma.

The unconditional, boundless love you offered so freely humbled me.  Quite frankly, it took my breath away.  It began in the moments right after you were born.  Your trusting nestle into my chest.  Your desire to sleep next to my beating heart.  And through your 500 days on earth you continued to dole out that trust and love through Peanut hugs, butterfly kisses and air kisses tossed across the room.  Sighs into Momma's neck.  Towards the end of your 500 days, the whisper just before bedtime, "Momma..."

And then...the worst day imaginable happened.  The sorrow, emptiness, grief and confusion consumed Momma.  But always present was Momma Love.  Peanut Love.  I always felt you.  I still do.

And now...your brother.  A bright light in the darkness pointing us towards the future...a future full of hope and promise.  And, sadness because you are always absent.  Everything feels a little unfinished.  Off.  Imperfect.  Yet, I know you are here in your own special Peanut way.

And maybe that explains how Momma's heart has changed.  And how it manifests itself on a daily basis.  Back in May of 2010 I went through a 360 feedback process at work.  The results were (I'm sure now) spot on but not pretty.  Momma was viewed by others as a "get it done" kind of leader.  Not terribly collaborative.  Or interested in building teams.  A good communicator, but sometimes at the expense of others.

Last month Momma went through a "retest" of that same 360 tool.  The feedback in places was similar, but not.  This time a more people-focused Momma emerged.  Results still showed up as important, but behind caring for others.  For people.  Rather than the raters taking this as an opportunity to say anonymously what they were afraid to say directly, Momma found no nasty surprises.  It was...humbling.

I believe this is YOUR impact, Peanut.  I think/hope/know I am kinder, more gentle.  And working hard to make you proud so you can say to your angel friends, "That's MY Momma!"

People said from the moment you passed away that a loss this profound would change me forever.  But no one explained it was up to me what that change might look like.  It took several months to realize that was up to me.  And you.

Peanut, I love you more every day.  I miss you in new ways every day.  What doesn't change?  I love you to the moooon - and back!

- Momma

The day we brought you home from the hospital.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Emotional Icebergs

Peanut -

It's been nearly a week since Momma's last letter.  While I talk to you every day, it's been nearly impossible to put words, thoughts, emotions into written form.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Year Two is hard.  Confusing.

What most people refer to as "triggers" - sounds, smells, moments that bring raw grief rushing to the surface - I refer to as emotional icebergs.  Why?  Because the trigger itself lasts just a minute or an hour.  Maybe a day.  But looming beneath the surface there is so much more.  And no way to tell how deep it is until it's too late.  Your birthday was an iceberg I saw coming, and I tried my best to steer into it, to anticipate and prepare for it.  And I did.  Yet, here we are almost three weeks later and my heart is still crippled.

And now, a new iceberg.  The Pickle starts daycare next week.  At your school.  In the same building and classroom that you loved so very much.  Once again we will have artwork, classroom parties and daily report cards.  And all the colds, runny noses and fevers that come with the petri dish that is a daycare classroom.

Your brother has only dealt with one very low-grade fever after a round of vaccinations.  But the first time he gets a real fever, and we have to put him down for a nap or bedtime, I'm not sure how I'll stay sane.  Maybe I won't.  I'm sure I won't sleep.

For now, I will do my best to prepare for next week.  To look for the joy in the situation.  To remember how much going to school delighted you.  And know it will be a terrific, fun experience for your little brother.

I love you, my sweet Peanut.  How much?  To the moon - and back!

- Momma

Peanut eating peanut butter toast during a sick day from school.