How are You?

Cohen-14-1

How are you?  It seems like a simple question.  It’s a question everyone asks everyone, someone you haven’t seen in awhile, your friends, and people you don’t really know all that well.  It is a way to make small talk, a way to start a conversation.  And people answer it almost automatically with an okay, fine, or we are doing well.  Not a lot of thought really goes in to the asking or answering of the question, How are you?

This question took on a whole new meaning after we lost Cohen because everyone wants to know how we are doing.  Out of concern people ask this question and it is kind of hard to answer.  My husband and I often joked together that we should answer them by saying, “How much time do you have,” or “Do you want the real answer or the short answer?”  Don’t take me wrong we appreciate all of the concern and thought, it just became a really hard question to answer and it doesn’t really have a short answer.

I started answering with, “Okay,” followed with a shrug of my shoulders and a half smile.  Kind of to say, “Yeah we are okay but we really aren’t.”

The other day I started to really think about it, how am I really.  Am I really okay?  Am I not okay and think I am?  Do I think I am okay but I really am?

The answer  I came up with is yes I am okay on the surface.  I can get up in the morning and get dressed.  I play with my kids and take them from one activity to another.  I can go to mom’s group, smile, and talk to the other moms about their babies while they are holding their babies and not sob during the group (most of the time and I usually do after the group on the way home).  I can go shopping and have girls nights out.  I can have fun and smile real smiles and laugh real laughs.

I can do all of those things but if I really stop and think about what happened with Cohen and to our family, no I am not okay.  Last Friday I was alone in my car (for those of you with small children I am sure you know how rare it is to ever be alone even in the bathroom).  I turned on some music and let myself think.  I thought about Cohen and his sweet face.  I thought about the day we buried him and how the outfit he was in was the one we were supposed to bring him home in.  How we let balloons go with the song, I’ll Fly Away, playing in the background.  How I really will never see my son, my Cohen, run, laugh, play, or smile.  That my three sons will never really get to experience being brothers, at least not here on earth.

I think about Cohen a million times a day, every single day.  Sometimes I even think about some of the things that I thought about on Friday but I don’t really let myself feel those things.  Why?  Because I am afraid if I do I will fall into a pit and not be able to get out.  I won’t be able to take care of Cole and Carson or go out and function.  I let myself feel on Friday and I fell.  I cried and cried and cried.  I yelled at God. I screamed.  I hit the steering wheel.  I ranted and cried out.  I felt like I was right back there on June 7, the day Cohen was born, and June 9, the day he was buried.  I felt like someone had punched me in my stomach and that I wouldn’t be able to go on.  I was able to get back up this time and go pick up Cole and Carson.  I was even able to get a smile on my face so that the person who was watching the boys had no idea what had just gone on in the car. I am afraid if I let this happen too many times I won’t get back up.  I’ll sink lower and lower.  And so I don’t let myself go there often.  Only on rare occasions when I am alone and feel like I can let go without scaring my kids.

There are times when I can’t stop the onslaught of emotions.  A song will come on the radio or I’ll see something a the store or a baby that is about the age Cohen would be.  Sometimes I can hear the same song a million times but that one day it will hit me the wrong way.  One day I can be around tons of babies Cohen’s age and it will hurt but I will be ok and the next day it will not be okay and I will feel like I can’t breath and have to get away.  How I am depends so much on the day, the hour, or the minute.  I can be going along fine and something will hit me.

So how am I?  Like I said before on the surface I am okay but underneath I am hurt and broken.  I miss my son with every fiber of my being.  I feel like a puzzle that has been poured out of the box and is slowly getting put back together.  I am better than I was but I still have a long long long way to go.

So if you see me and ask me how I am doing I will probably say that I am doing okay with the same shrug of my shoulders and half smile.  That is the easy answer, the quick answer, and in a way it is partially true.  But underneath I am still hurting, still aching, and still longing for what I cannot have.

Advertisements

Cole

The loss of Cohen has affected everyone in our family.  It of course had a huge impact on my husband and I but I was quite expecting losing Cohen to affect Cole the way that it has.

005

Cole turned five years old in October so in June when we lost Cohen he was only four.  He is extremely active and says whatever he is thinking no matter who he is talking to.  He is all boy, he loves sports, golf is his favorite sport and the Packers his favorite team (mostly because their uniforms are green, his favorite color), he loves Legos, and being outside.  He is loud and I constantly have to remind him about his inside voice.  He has a contagious laugh and once he starts laughing it is hard for him to stop.  He loves to be in control in all situations.  Roller coasters and fast rides are not for him because he is not the one controlling the ride, but sledding and flying down the hill on his tractor he could do all day because he feels in control (this is a trait he definitely gets from me although I didn’t realize I was like this until I was married and had a hard time letting my husband fold wash and clean because he might not do it right (or how I thought was right)).  Cole is full of questions and wants to now how everything works and the answer, I don’t know, is not good enough for him.  He is also very loving and compassionate.

When I was expecting Cohen we talked about the baby all the time with Cole and Carson.  We talked about what it would be like when the baby got here, if the baby would be a boy or a girl (we had decided not to find out until the baby was born), and we read tons of books about being a big brother.  Cole was so excited to be a big brother again.  He would talk about how he was going to help me with the new baby.  He was so excited to get the little tiny diapers for me to change the baby.  Sometimes he would go into the nursery and pull out one of the newborn sized diapers and talk about how small they were and how cute they are.  He would kiss my belly all the time and talk to the baby.  We would sit together on the chair and he would feel the baby kick.  This was his baby and he couldn’t wait.  Towards the end of the pregnancy he would ask me all the time if the baby was going to come yet and how much longer.

150 (2)

After we found out Cohen didn’t have a heartbeat we called our parents immediately.  My mom lives an hour and a half away and she drove up and came to the hospital to be with us.  Cole and Carson were with my husbands parents while we were at the doctor appointment and we called and asked if the boys could stay over night.  We asked them not to tell the boys that there was anything wrong.

After Cohen was born my mom went to our house to get a little sleep and to get the boys ready to come in to see us.  She told them that we were in the hospital but she didn’t tell them that Cohen was not alive.  I remember her telling me that Cole kept telling her that she needed to bring the car seat to the hospital to bring the baby home.

My husband met them at the entrance of the hospital and talked with the boys and told them that I had had the baby but the baby was in heaven and that we wouldn’t get to bring our baby home.  I’ll never forget the look on Cole’s face when he walked into that hospital room.  His eyes were so sad.  He held Cohen and watched all of us cry.

334

In the weeks that followed Cohen’s death Cole would bring me his stuffed animals when he would see me cry.  He would sit and wipe away tears off my cheeks.  He would go off by himself and play quietly (something he never did before).

During the weeks that followed I also watched my little boy struggle so much with anger.  Cole has always had a temper but this was different.  He would lash out, yell, and get so mad for seemingly no reason.  We started him in counseling and it has helped, not only him but us knowing how to work with him.

A few weeks after Cohen died I had a friend over who had a baby boy that was about a month and a half older then Cohen should have been.  She brought her baby boy and Cole was all over him.  Kissing him, hugging him, trying to play with him.  It broke my heart.  When they left I asked Cole how it made him feel to play with the baby, did it make him happy or sad.  He looked at me and said, “Happy because he was alive,” then he paused for a moment looked right into my eyes and said, “I wish Cohen was alive too.”  When we are around babies (which seems to be fairly often because 4 of my closest friends were pregnant at the same time that I was) Cole loves to try to make the baby laugh and smile.  He likes to bring them toys and love on them.

I have watched my sweet son cry himself to sleep at night because he misses his brother.  He sleeps with the little “Cohen bear” they gave him at the hospital every night.  He sleeps with the yellow blanket my mother-in-law had made for Cohen every night too.

Cole asks so many questions.  Like, why isn’t Cohen here?  Why does everyone have a baby but us?  When are we going to get our baby?  When are you going to get another baby in your belly?  It is so hard to have him ask all these questions and not to have any answers.

Cole loves to draw pictures of our family and he always puts Cohen in the picture up in the sky, in heaven.  We have a picture drawn by Cole of our family taped on almost every door inside of our house.  I love that he always includes Cohen and I hope he always will.

014 012

I know that everything would not be perfect if Cohen were here.  Cohen would be getting to the age were he would start getting into Cole’s things and Cole would get mad.  There would be crazy days and good days.  It just makes me so sad that Cole never got the chance to be that big brother to Cohen that he was so excited to be cause I know that he would have been great.

The Chickens and Alfredo

Image

One afternoon in May I told Cole to go down to take care of his two chickens.  This is something that he can usually do on his own so I was a little surprised when he came up a little while later and said he needed my help.  I asked him what was wrong and he said our dog, Alfredo, had come down with him to the chickens.  Feeling more then a little frustrated about this because I had told him a ton of times to make sure that Alfredo was in the house before going down there because the dog would always bark and upset the chickens, I asked him what the problem was with the dog.  “Well,” he said, “Alfredo got into the chicken pen and he won’t come out.”  We have a little chicken house and the chickens have an area that they can go outside in with a roof over top so they don’t get eaten by a fox or carried off by hawks.  It was this little outside space that the dog was in and was refusing to get out of.  Keep in mind that I was 9 months pregnant with our third child at this time and fitting into a small space of any kind was not happening.  I trudged down the chicken pen which is at the bottom of a pretty steep hill not feeling too happy with either my dog or my son.  I got down the pen and started calling to Alfredo to come and to get out.

ImageI was yelling and screaming at the dog to get out and the dog just stood there looking at me.  The more I yelled the further he backed into the pen.  I tried to hook his collar with a hoe we had laying in the backyard but that didn’t work.  Feeling extremely frustrated and not really sure what else to do I make a desperate phone call to my husband at work.  I tell him that Alfredo is stuck in the chicken pen and I can’t get him out.  “Alfredo always listens to you,” I told him, “So I am going to put you on speaker phone and you tell him to come out.”  My husband of course thinks I am crazy but reluctantly agrees.  I put him on speaker phone and he starts yelling at the dog to come and to get out of the pen.  This does nothing.  The dog is still standing there not moving.  I hang up the phone and continue to try to coax the dog out.  He starts to move towards the door and the chickens charge him and start pecking at him so he moves back into his corner.  I get the chickens moved away from the door and beg the dog to please come out.  Alfredo runs out of the pen faster then I have ever seen him move and then prances up to the house like nothing had ever happened.

When I think about it now I wonder what the neighbors were thinking when they saw me out there holding a cellphone over the chicken pen and heard my husband yelling at the dog.  I wonder even more what the people around my husband who had no idea what was happening on the other side of the phone thought about him while he was yelling at Alfredo to get out of the pen!

Struggles

I struggle.

I struggle with not having any answers.  I want to know why Cohen is not here and I want to know now.  I don’t want to wait till I get to Heaven to know.  I want a reason.

I struggle with knowing God loves me.  I feel like if He loved me He would have prevented this from happening.  Yes I know God allows struggle and I am ok with that but I am not ok with not having a reason why.  There is no medical reason that Cohen is not here.  Nothing that the doctors could find,  he was fully formed and perfect.  I think about  how much I love Cole.  I would not give Cole something that he really really wanted only to allow it to be taken away nine months later and not give him some kind of explanation.

I struggle with not feeling peace.  I felt peace only once during the last months.  Right before the funeral director came to take Cohen from us at the hospital Crist and I looked at each other and both said, “It’s time.”  The peace in that room was almost tangible and I could feel God there with us.  We left that room feeling sad but not defeated.  I have not felt that since.

I struggle with feeling like I deserve my son.  I see on the news or read on-line about people who kill their tiny babies or leave them to die.  I wonder why.  Why would God give them their baby just so they could kill it?  I wanted my son and  love him.  We would have raised him in a loving home and done our best to raise him.  It just doesn’t make sense to me.

I struggle with feelings that maybe I did something to hurt Cohen while he was in me.  The doctor assured me from the moment we found out he didn’t have a heartbeat that it wasn’t my fault but I still feel like maybe it could have been.  If the doctor can’t tell me why Cohen isn’t here, how can he know for sure it wasn’t something I did.

I struggle with feelings of guilt. Monday June 4 is the last day I know for sure that Cohen was alive.  On that day Cole bite Carson so hard that Carson had a huge welt even though the bite was through his jeans and diaper.  I was so upset with Cole.  I yelled at him, not just yelled but screamed.  I was livid.  Now I look back and think are those the last feelings and words that Cohen felt and heard.  I feel guilt that I wanted Cohen to be a girl so much so that I cried while I was pregnant at the thought that I would have a boy.  I knew I would love my baby either way but I wanted a girl.  I worry that Cohen felt like I didn’t love him because he was a boy.  In the end it didn’t matter, I love Cohen as much as I would a million girls, and wouldn’t have traded him.  Now that Cohen is gone I feel guilt that I am having fun and I just lost Cohen 8 months ago.  How can I smile or laugh when my baby isn’t here?

I struggle with anger.  Anger that I don’t have Cohen.  Anger with God.  Anger at people whose lives seem so happy and nothing ever seems to happen to them.  Sometimes I just feel so angry with everything.

I struggle when people think I am handling this well because I don’t think that I am.  Half the time I think I am crazy.  I can’t remember things.  I feel things that don’t make sense even to me.  I can be crying my heart out one minute and laughing the next.

I struggle with thinking that people are kind of watching me.  I feel like when I walk into a room people stare at me and that I have a mark on me that says, “Grieving Mother.”  I feel like people don’t really know what to do with me, should we talk to her, should we not, if we do will she cry.  I am sure that most of this is just in my head but I know for me when I was on the other side of this I would see someone that I knew had suffered a loss and wonder what to do.

I struggle. To be honest I have only prayed a handful of times since we lost Cohen.  But at the same time I know that the only way we are making it through this horrible mess is because of the prayers of other people.  Deep down I know that God has not left us, that He is here and trying to teach us something.  I don’t want Cohen’s death to be in vain.  I want something good to come out of this.  I want to learn and grow from these struggles to have them make me a better Christian, wife, mother, friend, and woman.

 

Eight Months

Cohen-23-1

Today Cohen would be eight months old.  It’s funny how time can be.  On one hand I think how can it already be eight months since we lost Cohen, it feels like yesterday. On the other hand I think wow it’s only been eight months it feels like so long ago.

Eight months ago I laid in a hospital bed holding my sweet baby close knowing this would be the only time I had with him.  I can still see and hear the doctor shake his head and say, ‘I’m sorry,” like it happened yesterday.  I remember them putting Cohen on my chest right after he was born and saying, “He’s perfect,” even before I knew for sure that he was a boy.  I remember his smooth soft skin.  I remember being so upset because he had skin tears and having to wrap him up so that he wouldn’t get anymore.

With Cole and Carson I took special pictures on the day of the month they were born until they were a year old.   Since I can’t with Cohen I take him the number of sunflowers he would be to his tiny grave.  Today I took eight.

027

My friend met me there this month.  It was the first time anyone other then my husband has gone with me.  I was glad to have her there to share Cohen’s special moment with me.  It was good to know that Cohen is remembered.

One of my biggest fears after we lost Cohen was that people would forget.  Forget that he ever was because they never got to see him, hear him, or touch him.  I remember saying to my husband right after Cohen was born that I want people to come.  I wanted everyone to see him and hold him so that they would know he was real.  He was so real to me because I got to feel him kick and move inside me and I just needed people to come and know him.  Even if it was only for a few moments.

I try to picture Cohen at eight months old.  I can picture everything so clearly in my head except for his face.  I can see his chubby legs bouncing up and down in his bouncer in the kitchen.  I can see him sitting in the living room laughing at his brothers.  I can see his brothers fighting over who can make him laugh more.  I can see him trying to crawl to keep up with the fast pace his brothers keep.  There are times when I ache to kiss him just one more time, to whisper in his ear that I love him, and sing him the songs that I sang to Cole and Carson.

It’s hard to believe that the person who has had the biggest impact in my life and has changed who I am, how I think and feel, never even took a breath outside of me.  Cohen has changed my world so much.  I never knew something could hurt this bad, that you could want something so much and know that you can never have it no mater how hard you work, how much money you make, or how hard you pray for it.

I have learned to love Cole and Carson more.  To not take for granted that they will be here tomorrow or the next day.  I always knew that in my head but now it has become a reality.  I take time out of the day to play games with them and to just spend time with them.  If it means I play Trouble ten times a day then I play Trouble ten times a day (although I do grumble about it a little).

Losing Cohen has not made me perfect.  I still get frustrated and yell at my kids.  I still get mad at my husband and frustrated with life.  But I do hold them all a little closer and love them a little stronger.

(On a side note:  While I was writing this post I thought Cole and Carson were upstairs playing Legos but just a few moments ago Carson came downstairs, smiled at me and said, “Mommy, Cole cut my hair.  It was crazy so Cole cut it!”  I looked and yes there is a big chunk of hair missing in the back of Carson head.  Guess it’s time to hide the scissors better)