Rainbow Guilt

I don’t know how to write this without it sounding horrible. Or totally confusing. Or just completely fucked up (excuse my French). It’s a rabbit hole I try to stay out of because once it starts, it’s hard to stop. And it’s laced with so much guilt.

Once Benny was born, Parker was done having children. I had had always wanted 3, but I was pretty set with being pregnant again and was happy with our little family. So I began to get rid of the baby gear, my way of acknowledging that  the baby factory was closed. I had always wanted to be younger when I had my kids because I had lost my own mom so early on in life. It was feeling like a good decision for us.

And then Benny died. Suddenly our little family became too small. Everything felt wrong. It is really hard to wrap your head around someone dying in an instant. I watched my Mom suffer from cancer for 2 years. As awful as that was, it made the end a tiny bit easier. What happened with Benny is completely illogical. I will never understand why he had to die. I will never try to find meaning in it. It just is.

I remember being in my room with Parker the night that Benny died. I remember looking at him and saying I wanted more kids. This was never to replace Benny. I just knew in that instant that I wasn’t done. I wanted Darcy to have more siblings. And Parker felt the same way. We were numb and terrified. The worst had just happened.

We waited almost a year. Then I miscarried. And I was angry. I stupidly believed (again) that more awful things couldn’t happen to me. How completely naive I was.

By some small miracle we had Fletcher and Perry. I know how very lucky we are to have them. Rainbows aren’t promised. 

So here in lies he rabbit hole. If Benny hadn’t died, would Perry and Fletcher cease to exist? It’s pretty awful, right? I’d give anything for Benny to still be here and make it all just a horrible nightmare. But how do P and F factor into that?

It’s kind of like, what came first, the chicken or the egg? I can circle the drain a bit if I think too hard about it. But honestly, none of it was ever my choice, it’s just how things happened. I guess there’s a romantic notion in thinking we can change the past.

I used to think about this constantly after Fletcher was born. And then I would feel guilty. Guilty because I would do anything to have Benny back. And then guilty because I would do anything to protect my new baby. It was this awful dance of guilt between the deceased and the living.

As Benny’s birthday comes closer, these are the things I think about. This is the ‘stuff’ it brings up. The missing just gets so hard sometimes.

Marbles

So here’s the thing about loss. When something really awful happens, you begin to realize how little control you have over things. And that maybe something bad can happen again. And it’s terrible.

I’m paranoid and anxious. A lot. I try really hard to reason with myself and be realistic, but man there are just some times when it is really difficult to let my guard down. In my 41 years of life there has been so much damn loss. And grief. And trauma. So much of who I am and how I react now is a trauma response.

Let me preface this story by stating that everything turned out fine. Earlier this week I was in the living room on the floor working out. My littles were on the other side of the couch playing with marbles and magnets. I was less than five feet away. I could hear them giggling and goofing around. Then I could hear something in their mouths and my ‘Momdar’ went into hyper drive.

As soon as I popped up to ask them what they were doing, I could hear a slight choke/cough and my 3 year old Perry began crying, saying she swallowed something. To say I panicked is an understatement. I completely freaked out.

She swallowed a 1/4″ steel ball. At first I thought it was a magnet and then I really started to panic. I called her doctor and was told that the NP would call me back soon. It was a long 20 minutes.

I called my husband who convinced me the marble wasn’t magnetic. That made me feel a little better. I was convinced we would have to go to the hospital and they would have to open her up. During Covid. I was freaking out she could have aspirated it. Every awful scenario played out in my head. I was texting and googling like a madwoman hoping to find someone who had gone through this before and could guide me.

The worst part was that I was right there when it happened. I was maybe 3-4 feet away from the kids and she still swallowed the damn marble. I was a second too late in realizing that my kids were making very poor choices. And I was really angry at myself. And my kids of course, because they both know better than to put stuff in their mouths. But they are just kids. And I’m the adult.

But I couldn’t prevent it. I couldn’t predict it would happen. And I felt completely out of control. And anxious. And really angry that I was fearing for my child’s safety again. I’m pretty sure I aged another 10 years in those 20 minutes.

The NP called and wasn’t concerned. It was a good thing it was small, it was a good thing it was round, because it wouldn’t get stuck. Even if it had been a magnet that’s fine as long as it’s just one. I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Here’s the thing about trauma, the small things become big things. They send you completely down the rabbit hole. Just when you think you have something figured out, life throws you a curve ball. This was my reminder that I cannot control every situation. It was a reminder to give myself a little grace.

Oh, and that marble, came right back out.

1,000 Years

My heart hurts so much after reading that singer/songwriter Christina Perri’s daughter was born sleeping. This after she suffered a miscarriage.

Her song, a Thousand Years, has been Fletchie’s and mine since he was born. I would sing it to him at bed every night and every naptime. Now when it comes on the radio he immediately seeks me out. And then falls into my arms in a blubbering mess. Because this kids loves more than anyone I’ve ever known. And he feels more than most people.

Some part of him recognizes how shattered my mama heart is. I swear he understands. So he holds me and I hold him. And we sob. Every. Single. Time.

And my heart is broken knowing that another mama is struggling. Her words have had such a huge impact on my healing and now she knows this pain. It makes me very sad. Sending her family so much love.❤️

‘And all along I believed, I would find you
Time has brought your heart to me, I have loved you for a thousand years
I’ll love you for a thousand more.’

Class of 2033

I was invited to a Facebook group tonight for when my son enters Kindergarten this Fall. My head nearly exploded when I read that he would be graduating high school in 2033. As in, 13 years from now. As in, I will be 53 years old. Even better, I now know that I will be 55 when my youngest graduates.

And to some, that probably isn’t even that old. It isn’t in the grand scheme of things, it’s just not what I planned for me. It’s just that little reminder how off kilter things went.

We had Darcy when we were 28 and Benny at 32. I wanted to be a younger mom. Not because it was this great life plan, but because my mom had me when she was 33. And she died when she was 49. I wanted my kids when I was younger because I wanted them to have as much time as possible with us. I was so constantly concerned about something happening to one of us.

How disgustingly ironic my life became those 7 years ago. I was so worried about something happening to us because I never thought that anything could ever happen to one of my children. None of us do until it happens.

So here I am again, in a bitter twist of fate freaking out at how old we will be come graduation time in 13 years. So much can happen between now and then. So much can change. And it freaks me out. My mother wasn’t at my graduation. Or my wedding. She wasn’t there when her grandbabies were born.

I know that I’m very lucky to have my rainbows. I just need a moment to catch my breath and scream at the Universe. This anger has caught me by surprise because it’s been a long time since I’ve felt this way over everything. The need for control is rearing it’s ugly head again and I just need to shake my fists a bit to release this energy building up inside.

#thisischildloss

Raising Grieving Children

I was home with my little rainbows the other day when my four year old son came over to me with tears in his eyes. I was potty training with the 2 year old, which consists of whisking her through the house before she can pee on my carpet whilst she screams at me that she has to ‘go right now!’. So I’m in the middle of wiping butts and washing hands when her brother approaches me with big crocodile tears running down his cheeks.

‘What’s wrong buddy?’ I’m asking not really paying attention as I’m trying to clean up the mess his little sister made. ‘I really miss Benny. I’m sad that he died.’ he replies standing there clutching his big brothers picture in his hand.

It was as if someone punched me in the gut, or maybe more accurately, the heart. This beautiful child of mine never even met his older brother. He was born nearly 2 years after he died. It completely throws me when this little 4 year old has these very intense moments of loss.

Later in the day my son was talking about music and how sad music makes you feel your feelings, especially when someone dies. Then you cry. This little guy may be more emotionally mature than I am.

And what am I supposed to do with this? Never in a million years did I expect my rainbows to feel the loss of their brother they never knew this deeply. The whole thing is baffling and overwhelming. My older daughter who knew her brother has been in therapy for years and we’ve all been getting the help that we need. I guess I figured that Benny would be an abstract idea to these ‘after’ children.

Maybe it’s because we have pictures of Benny up all over the house. We talk about him and share stories. We celebrate his birthday and visit him in the cemetery. My children have been raised surrounded by tragedy and death and the realization that young people die too. It’s awful to even pen these words.

I wish I knew how to best handle these moments when they happen, or at least be able to be better prepared for them. But like most instances in parenting, it’s learning as you go.

So I got down on his level and hugged him tight. I told him that I was sorry that he missed his brother and it’s ok to be sad. I cried because it made me miss his brother too. It made me miss everything my boys never got to do together.

As I collected myself the kids became busy with Batman and my son had moved on. He accepted the fact that Benny was gone and he was ok with it, for now. I wish that I could be as resilient in grief as children are.

#thisischildloss

When Your Rainbow Baby Asks Questions About Death

Growing up I had a cousin who was crossing the street by the school bus and was hit by a car and died. This happened roughly 15 years before I was born, so I never knew him. I remember seeing his picture in one of those collage frames from the 80’s at my grandmother’s house. I knew his name and how he had died but that was about it. I was a lot younger and it was a different time.

I now have 2 children that were born following the death of their older brother We (thankfully) live in the age where mental health is discussed openly and grief (for the most part) is acceptable. I can talk about how my husband, daughter and I were in therapy and how we’re dealing with PTSD and anxiety. And never ending grief.

The term rainbow baby is fairly new and for those of you that don’t know what it means it is the phrase for a child that is born following a loss or a miscarriage. It’s supposed to signify your ‘rainbow after the storm.’ While the term is not a favorite for everyone, it works for me better than describing my children as the ‘before and afters.’

Rainbows are new. We are living in a time where you acknowledge the loss of a child, even a young one. Their death is no longer swept under the carpet never to be spoken of again. I am raising 2 rainbows right now that will grow up knowing their deceased brother.

We go to the cemetery where there are toys. There are trucks and balls and buses and even Captain America. My rainbow son who is nearly 4 loves being there. He never knew his brother.

Death to him was a foreign concept. He has grown up knowing that his big brother is in heaven. He accepted that because that is all that he knows. Death was not sad to him, just a part of life. Until our dog died. Then death became real. I think it made him realize that his brother was here in the physical sense and is now gone. It made it real and it made it sad.

We drive by the cemetery several times a week and he says hi to his big brother and blows him kisses. Once the dog died the questions started. Is the dog with Benny? Why won’t Benny bring him back? He talks about how he misses the dog and also his brother and he just wants them to come home to play with him.

I never saw this coming. This is all so new and there is nothing in place on how to raise a rainbow baby. I am out of my depth here. Most days I’m just trying to make it through raising my children to be good humans and then bam! The questions start and the grief truck reels in and hits me square in the heart.

I try to answer him as honestly as I can. One of the best pieces of advice I was given by a therapist was to only answer the question being asked. As adults we analyze and obsess over some of our kids questions, but sometimes we just need to remember they are simple questions that only need simple answers. Kids don’t think with the complexity that we do. And my favorite answer sometimes is simply, ‘I don’t know.’ I don’t have all of the answers, even though as parents we feel that we should.

We talk about my son that died and we look at pictures with our kids. We celebrate his birthday because we want to remember that he was here and even though they didn’t know him, he was still their big brother.

We’ve Crossed the Line

On February 1st Perry, my youngest rainbow baby officially became older than her brother Benny who passed. Now both of my rainbows have outlived their brother.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tough. Part of me sighs in relief that Perry has made it past 18 months and the other part of me is sobbing inside. That perfect little boy will forever be frozen in time at a year and a half. It nearly breaks me.

Time makes no sense and just keeps moving forward, further away from my Benny. His two younger siblings will never hear his laugh, pull on his curls or touch his dimples. They will know him in memory only.

I am trying to understand what that looks like to them. Benny will forever be this idea, something that existed way before them. I only hope that we can show them how real he was.

As the years have passed, Darcy has forgotten. She was so young when Benny died and the memories seem to be fewer and further between. It’s heartbreaking. A lot of the time it’s as if we are reintroducing her to him as well.

Time is the enemy and the hero all at once. As cliche as it sounds, it can heal. It can breathe joy back into a broken heart. We’ve been lucky to have the other three. We’ve been lucky to have each other. I just wish we could have it all

Your mama is missing you tonight buddy. XOXO