The Closer A Year Gets

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The closer it gets to being a year that we have lost Cohen the more unhealed I feel.  I thought I was doing good, working through my grief and living our new “normal” life.  Getting out with the kids, smiling, laughing, and doing things that normal people do.

But now, now that Cohen will be gone for a year in just a little over a week I feel that maybe I have not healed at all.  The tiny scab that was starting to form has been ripped off and my heart has been exposed again.

I can remember so well now exactly how I was feeling at this time last year.  Hoping that my baby would come soon.  Excited to find out if the baby that I had carried for 9 months was a girl or a boy.  Tired, oh so tired of being so big.

I think about how I could hardly walk because he was down so far and thinking that this labor should be fast since he was practically in the birth canal already.  I had to pee all the time and was so thirsty.

I remember how excited my mom was.  How she always sounded excited when I called her, like maybe this time I was calling to tell her I was headed to the hospital to have the baby.  How she had her bag packed months in advance to come here to take care of Cole and Carson.  And then I think about the phone call she actually received, me hysterical telling her we were headed to the hospital because the doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat.  I was crying so hard she couldn’t understand me.

I can even remember exactly what was happening on certain days now.  Like yesterday, Memorial Day.  A year ago it was hot.  We got up early and went to the park and got pregnancy and family pictures taken.  The boys threw stones into a pond.  My mom was there to help with the boys during the picture-taking.  I remember thinking that I was lucky to even be getting these pictures since I had waited so long to ask my friend to take them.  I was surprised that I didn’t already have my baby.  That afternoon we had a cookout with my mom.  When she left we were both excited that the next time I saw her would probably be because I was having the baby.

This Sunday it will be a year that I sat in church and felt Cohen flip and move around.  This is the last time I can really remember feeling him move although I am sure he must have on Monday because I don’t remember feeling worried Monday.  He was crazy during worship.  My husband and I watched my belly jump and bounce the whole time.  We sat in the balcony that Sunday and I timed contractions.  I thought for sure I would have him later that day but unfortunately the contractions stopped.

Then came Tuesday.  A year ago I sat in my friends living room and looked at the pictures she took of our family on Memorial Day.  We talked for a while and when I left we said the next time we see each other I will have a baby.  Then I went to the grocery store.  I came home and when I went to bed that night I told my husband that I couldn’t remember feeling the baby move all day.

The next morning I got up.  My mother-in-law came a took Cole and Carson for the day.  I did wash and took a nap.  I had contractions most of the day.  Then my husband came home.  We went to the doctor never expecting to hear what we heard.  I remember the doctor telling me that we would have to go to the hospital right away and that he had called them to tell them I was coming.  He told me my friend, Kristel, a labor and delivery nurse, was working and that she would meet us there.  In the parking lot of the doctor’s office I called my mom, like I always did after an appointment.  We drove to the hospital, the only sounds were of me crying and begging God to please please please let this not be true and to start my baby’s heart again.

In the parking lot of the hospital I called my friend, the same friend whose living room I had sat in just 24 hours before, and told her to contact our old small group and for them to pray.  Pray that everything would be ok, that the doctor had somehow made a mistake.

I remember standing in the lobby of the hospital and the woman in front of me staring at me like I was crazy for sobbing.  I wanted to scream at her, “They can’t find my baby’s heartbeat!”  I remember checking in to the hospital and telling them that I didn’t information with me because I wasn’t expecting to go to the hospital.

I remember the triage room and the ultrasound tech who said absolutely nothing to us.  She did the scan and looked at the nurse (who was wonderful) and said, “Do you need anything else?” but never spoke a word to my husband or me.  We sat there wondering if by some miracle his heart was still beating.  But it wasn’t.  We called my mom and our friends to let them know that our son had died.

I was admitted to the hospital.  My friend, Kristel, came in and tried to make me as comfortable as possible.  She was in and out all night.  My cousin came to the hospital and sat with me.  My mom came too.  We cried and talked but no one slept.

I remember getting an epidural and having my blood pressure drop.  My mom and husband had just stepped out of the room for a minute and my cousin and Kristel were the only ones there.  I felt so dizzy and everything went black but I could still hear everything going on around me.  I remember finding a bit of humor in such a horrible situation when I came to and saw my cousin fanning me with a sterilized catheter bag.

My cousin went home at about 2 in the morning with the promise to be back later.

Shortly after she left they came to check me and it was time to push.  I didn’t want to.  I did not want to push my baby out.  As long as he was inside of me there was hope that he was still alive, that this was just a big mistake.  But once he was out and I saw him I would have to face reality.  That he really was gone.

But with two big pushes he was out.  The room was silent.  No newborn baby cry.  No one announced if the baby was a boy or a girl.  They just placed him on my chest.  I looked at him and whispered, “He is perfect.”  Only after I said that did anyone else talk.  The confirmed that the baby was in fact a boy.

I cried and cried and cried.  I never knew I could cry so much.

All of these feeling are coming flooding back now a year later.  Yes the entire year has been painful but now that I can actually remember exactly what I was doing and feeling it hurts like it happened yesterday.

I miss my sweet boy.  I miss my Cohen who should be having a first birthday party in a week and a half.  I miss calling him the silly nicknames that I think of him as in my head like my Coco Puff or my little Coco.  I miss his smile that I never saw, his laugh that I never heard.  I miss the sound of little feet trying to walk down the hall.  I miss seeing my three boys playing together.  I miss what our family should be.

I miss my son.

The Worst Thing

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A few days after we lost Cohen someone came to my house to visit us.  While at my house the woman went on and on about how her daughter had jumped off the sofa and hit her lip on a table.  That this was so tragic and horrible and awful and that her daughters lip was swollen and her two front teeth had been knocked out.  She kept using the words tragic and tragedy and trauma and traumatized.

All I could do as this woman rambled on and on was think to myself, “Really, you’re talking to me about being traumatized!  Because of a lip!  You have got to be kidding me!  You carry your child for 9 months only to be told in what should be your next to last appointment before you deliver your happy healthy child that your child no longer has a heartbeat.  Then go through labor, deliver you child, and bury him two days later.  Then have your breasts swell up with milk to feed the child that you should have and have all of the other post postpartum issues and then you can talk to me about trauma, tragedy, and being traumatized.”

Thankfully my mother was there to see the look in my eye that said I was about to explode and quickly escorted the woman to the door before all the thoughts that were brewing in my head came pouring out of my mouth.

After this happened I was extremely upset.  How could she even think to talk about her trauma after everything I had just been through?  What in the world was she thinking?

As I was ranting and raving about this to my cousin one day he said something that has stuck with me ever since.  He might not even remember saying it to me.  He said to me, “Kristen the worst thing that has ever happened to a person, is the worst thing that has happened to them.”

In other words if the worst thing that had ever happened to that woman was to have her daughters lip be swollen, then she has nothing else to compare that to.  I can’t expect her to understand the worst thing that has ever happened to me.

When I was 20 years old the worst thing that had happened to me up to that point in life was having my boyfriend break up with me.  I cried and cried.  I sat in the dark and isolated myself.  Looking back now that pain is nothing compared to what I feel now losing Cohen but back then that was the worst pain I had ever felt and I had nothing else to compare it to.

Losing Cohen is the worst pain I have ever felt and I feel like a swollen lip is such a small unimportant thing that could never be labeled a tragedy.  But then I think about women who have to watch their children starve to death and can do nothing to help them.  Or women who watch as their children are killed and/or raped.  Or women who lose not one child but all their children. And I think to myself, to those woman losing Cohen the way I did and only losing one child would be like the swollen lip is to me.

My cousin’s words to me have helped me keep things in perspective.  What happened to us is horrible, it does hurt, and I would do anything to have Cohen.  But just because we hurt so bad doesn’t mean other people can’t hurt too.  And just because what they might be going through doesn’t seem to us as bad as what we are going through it may be the worst thing that has ever happened to them.

His words have helped me to be more sympathetic to others.  To really listen to what their problem is.  To not just write off what they are going through because it doesn’t seem as bad as what we are going through.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t get annoyed when people say things like, “This is the worst day of my life, Starbucks ran out of my favorite coffee and I had to wait for them to make more and then I was 20 minutes late for work.”

It doesn’t mean that I don’t get a little mad when people try to compare our loss of Cohen to loss of their adult sister or grandparent because losing a child is just different.

It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t sting when people complain about being up all night about with their baby when I would love to be up with mine (but honestly if we hadn’t lost Cohen I would be right there with them because I love my sleep).

But it has helped me.  Helped me to see things differently.  To be more empathetic and loving.

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He’s In A Better Place

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Tonight while I was in the shower listening to the music on my iPhone the song, “Homesick,” by MercyMe came on.  I have heard this song many many times but this time the first line of the song really stuck out to me.  The first line is, “Your in a better place I’ve heard a thousand times.”

I know that Cohen is in a better place.  I know that given a choice Cohen would choose Heaven over earth.  I know he is happy and that he will never have to suffer.  He will never know pain.  He will never know what it is like to lose someone he loves.  His life is perfect.

I know all of this but somehow it doesn’t really make me feel any better.

I still miss my son!  I am here and I want my son here with me!  I am still hurting.  I don’t know heaven.  I don’t know what it is like.  I can’t picture heaven in my head.

As a mother of young children I know where my children are all the time. They are usually with me but when they aren’t I know where they are.  At my mom’s house, my in-law’s, or at school.

I know that Cohen is in heaven but it is not the same.

When Cole and Carson go to my mom’s house I know what my mom’s house looks like.  I can picture what they are doing.  I can picture them in their beds at my mom’s.  I can picture them playing in her living room.

I can’t do that with Cohen.  I have never been to heaven.  I don’t really know what it looks like.

I usually know what Cole and Carson are doing.  Even if they aren’t with me with me I have an idea of what they are doing.  When Cole is at school I know he is learning things and playing with his friends.  When they are at my mom’s house I talk to my mom and find out what they are doing and what the plans are for the day.  When they are in their classes at church they are learning and playing.

I have no idea what Cohen is doing.  None at all.  I can imagine what he is doing but I don’t really know what people do in heaven.  I have no idea if what I am imagining is even close to what he is really doing.

I know who Cole and Carson are with.  I know that when Cole is at school he is with his teachers and with his friends.  When they go somewhere I know who is going to be there.  Who they are going to be playing with.  Who they are talking to.

I don’t know who Cohen is with.  I know he is with God and Jesus.  I know he is with my grandfather, my husband’s sister, and our friends son.  But there are a lot of people in heaven and I obviously don’t know them all.

I don’t even really know what Cohen looks like!  I don’t know if he is a baby or if he is older.  I don’t know if he can run and dance and play.

It is my job as a mom to know these things.  It is my responsibility know where my kids are, what they are doing, and who they are with.

It is extremely hard for me to not know these things.  I am supposed to know!  It’s not natural for me not to know.

I want to know these things.  I want to know what my son is doing!  I want to know what he can do!  I want to know what he looks like!

But I will!  One day I will know all of these things!  But waiting is hard and frustrating and it hurts.

One Day

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Monday afternoon my husband and I went to pick out a stone for Cohen.

We had gone before in July but we were not really ready to pick anything out.  I remember sitting there listening to all these choices for stones, colors, writing, pictures, and feeling completely overwhelmed.  I remember thinking, “My baby just died!  I do not want to be here.  There are too many choices, too many options.  I don’t want to be doing this.  I don’t want to be here.”  I just sat there while my husband talked.  I don’t really even know what all was said.  I felt like I was outside of myself watching someone else’s life.  That this was not really happening to me.  We left there without ordering a stone and me feeling like I would never be ready to order one for Cohen.

Ten months later we finally went back.  This time we went in knowing that we needed to make some decisions and order the stone.  The place where Cohen is buried asked that we have the stone ordered within a year and we were running out of time.

We got there and I immediately took the same place on the sofa that I had before.  I let my husband explain what we wanted and pretty much just sat there.

After we had been there for a while my husband called me over to the desk to look at the sketch of what we wanted on Cohen’s stone.

As I was standing there I glanced down at the desk.  I froze.  I still get chills about what I saw.  There on the desk was one tiny little picture about the size of a nickel.  The picture was of our friends’ child who had passed away nearly a year and a half ago from cancer.  They had ordered their son’s stone at the same place nearly a year ago and had gotten his picture on his stone.  The owner said that they send him the tiny pictures but he is never sure what to do with them since he never sees the people again to give them the picture.  He gave us the picture to give to our friends and our friends said we could keep it.

Ordering Cohen’s stone has been hard for two reasons.  One is how do you say everything you want to say in only a few words.  We of course wanted his name and the date on there but it was hard to figure out what else we wanted.  We finally decided on the words, “Forever loved, always missed, never forgotten.”  We picked a picture of Jesus holding a baby to go on the bottom of one side of the stone.  On the other side is a sun with sunbeams coming out and a butterfly flying in the beams.  “You are My Sunshine,” is one of the last songs I sang to Cohen in the hospital before we left.

The other reason is because it feels like we are slowly ending the Cohen chapter in a book.  Now that the stone is ordered the only other physical thing that needs to be “taken care of” is Cohen’s room.  Once his room is cleaned there are no other physical things that need to be done for him.  It feels too final, too done, too complete.  Once the room is done I will never have to do anything else for him and that is hard.  I’m not ready for that.  I’m not ready to end the chapter.

I know that Cohen will never be done in my heart and in my mind but there is just something about cleaning out the room that is just too hard for me right now.  So for now the door will remain closed.  His things will stay in the drawers and in the crib.  His car seat and the diapers I got for him will stay in the room.  One day I will be able to clean out the room.  One day but not today.