Sunday, March 31, 2013

Passover was a dance party

Last night was SO fun.  It really, really was.  The bad news is that the neighbors were not happy with us.  We were loud outside way longer than I thought we would be.  My neighbor asked us to keep it down.  Oops.  He had actually come over earlier in the day to tell us that they were having an Easter party today and asked if we could keep our dogs out of our backyard during the afternoon so that they wouldn't bark during their party.  I thought that was kind of a weird request.  He also said it like he was annoyed and thought that our dogs bark too much.  What's funny to me is that when they bark, it is usually with THEIR dog.  Back and forth over the fence.  Anyway, this is the kind of thing I stress about...I am probably way over focused on it.  What REALLY matters is that is was such a good Passover.  The food was delicious, the wine was drunk, and the people danced.  Click here to catch a glimpse.  I planned to take a lot of photos but I failed.  Here are a couple of the table.





Saturday, March 30, 2013

Babies at the Market

I went to Whole Foods yesterday in the middle of the afternoon to get a whole bunch of stuff for the seder tonight.  The place was crawling with babies.  I mean, I literally counted near 10 babies under 2 years old.  A year ago, it would have been my worst nightmare.  Yesterday, it was actually fun.  Mo loves checking out the other babies.  At one point, we found another baby about the same size (even though she was 18 months) who was at the store with her grandparents and she and Mo were holding hands across the shopping carts.  It was so cute, we couldn't bear to split them up, and we actually held up traffic by the dairy isle.  I would have HATED me last year!

The truth is, every time I see babies around this age, I wonder if they are going to die.  Actually, anytime I see babies of any age....every time I see a pregnant person too.  I can't help it.  I don't intentionally think this - my mind just goes there.  My experience is that babies die.  But instead of babies being a complete horror to me, now I see them as Mo's potential playmates.  I still have trouble with the Pavillions in my own neighborhood, but at least I can go to the market and face my absolute worst fears - babies and happy, proud, secure parents and grandparents.  Some things really are getting easier.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Ted's the mess

This week, Ted is the mess.  His knee is swollen like a melon from his ski trip last week and he has a bad cold.  He is home today - and since I am planning to make boat loads of chicken soup for tomorrow's dinner, I am going to try and nurse him back to health!  We are falling apart!!!!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Passover Photo Shoot

Mo wasn't really feeling up to our Passover Photo Shoot.  Instead of his usual smiles, he was mostly wanting to take a nap.  So, it was a short shoot.  We took him to the pediatrician later that day because his mommy worries!  He checked out fine and seems to actually be much happier today.  Thank goodness!

I love this boy!







Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Still...

I am still struggling with all of this anger.
I am angry that the circumstances surrounding Maxie's death are still a mystery.
Angry that my son is gone.
Angry that I am expected to tip toe around other people's feelings but they do not tip toe around mine. 
I am angry that there is nothing I can do to reverse this injustice.
I am angry that my heart is ruined and my soul is so damaged.
Angry that Mo will never get to play with his big brother.
The prevailing emotion I feel is not anger...but it is still in there and I would be lying if I said that I had come to peace with any of this.  I have not.
I still have so many questions.
I still am so angry....

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Six Weeks

Ted was out of town this past weekend, and Friday night I had a bit of an anxiety attack about Mo.  He was fussing a lot all day - acting annoyed and whining.  He didn't have much an an appetite and he wasn't his usual happy self.  He was doing this a lot:


I remember Max losing his appetite around this same age.  He would get really fussy at meal time.  He would clamp his mouth shut and whine - just like Mo was doing.  I didn't think much of it when Max was doing it.  A co-worker told me that I should firmly tell him "no".  I get sick thinking about telling Max "no" when he might have been trying to tell me that he wasn't feeling well.  Perhaps he knew something was wrong with him.

Seeing Mo act the same way caused my mind to race.  I ended up calling the pediatrician late.  I was hoping she would tell me that all babies fuss like this at eight months old.  She didn't.  She just said that if he kept it up, I should bring him in.  Not what I wanted to hear.  What she did say though, was that if it were anyone else's child, she probably WOULD just say that it was likely nothing - a little tummy ache, overtiredness, gas or maybe cutting a tooth.  She understands that my experience is not like those of other mothers.  I worry more.

Last night, we attended a Passover seder at my fathers house.  Mo was thrown off of his game from the minute we got there.  My dad has a very loud bird that squacks in a way that makes the hair stand up on your head.  Even though Mo's hair is already standing straight up, his feathers got ruffled.  Every time the bird, Echo, would squack, Mo would cry.  He continued crying the rest of the time he was awake and then would not settle down to sleep easily.  Ted ended up rocking him and rubbing his back for 15 minutes or more until Mo finally fell asleep.  Everyone kept suggesting that perhaps Mo was unhappy because there were so many people there but Mo was super happy the day before at a baby shower full of strangers.  I know that sometimes babies, like all people, just get into moods - but it worries me more than it ever worried me with Max. 

Mo is eight months old.  That means that in six weeks, he will be nine and a half months old.  I have been both anxiously awaiting this time and dreading it.  So many of his behaviors are "typical" of an eight month old and so they remind me of how Max was acting in his last six weeks.  I am having trouble deciphering between what is normal for an eight month old and what is an indicator of impending doom.

The next six weeks are going to be a struggle for me - no doubt.  I am using the remainder of my massage gift certificates from my friends, celebrating Passover, taking a small road trip with my boys, working on some art projects, trying to distract myself.  If you pray - I hope you will consider including us in your prayers.

Thank you

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sister Wife

We attended a baby shower for this beautiful lady yesterday:

(Erika with me and Mo)

Ted has always said that baby showers are for women.  He would never attend one.  But, for Erika (his former "work wife"), he came home early from a ski trip to be in attendance.  I think he was pleasantly surprised to find a beautiful garden filled with his friends, delicious food and cold beers.  He's going to want to go to every baby shower I'm invited to from now on (....as if!)

Erika was always wonderful with Max.  She is wonderful with babies.  She spent lots of time with us in the year after we lost him.  She had us over for dinner on Halloween (one of the most horrific days after losing Max), she brought over countless dinners and sat with us in our darkest pain, she volunteered at Maxie's event and donated her time for our silent auction (she is an amazing interior designer), and she never, ever rushed us through the horror - she never stopped us from talking about Max - she never changed the subject or belittled our loss - she ALWAYS acknowledges the horror of Maxie's death - the profundity of our emptiness.  And, I know we were really hard to be around in that first year...but she always made us feel like she wanted to spend time with us, not like we were an obligation.  I love her.  I really really love her.

I am very excited for her little one's arrival and I look forward to many future playdates. (And, I am talking about me and her....but our little boys can come too).  She is going to be an amazing mother!

PS - just kidding about the "sister wife" thing.  BUT - if we were to take one - I pick Erika!  (Though I am not sure how her husband Ian would feel about that one)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Thank you for understanding

Dear Parents, Friends of Parents, Siblings, Friends, Colleagues, Baby Sitters and Well-Meaning Folks who are just passing by:

I know that you managed to raise 2-3 healthy children, despite doing whatever it is that I am uncomfortable with you doing with Mo.  I know that I am over protective, bossy, and overly worried.  I am fully aware how annoying it is that I am not more relaxed.  I recognize that the sleep guidelines keep changing and that in your experience, "they all grow up".  I DO know all of these things.  I really, really do.  

But, you see, my baby didn't grow up.  What I may have done wrong will haunt me forever and so I am not going to make any mistakes this time.  I will put my baby down to sleep with nothing in the crib other than him.  I will be extra careful about things that hang near his face.  I will probably be giving him pureed foods for much longer than you gave your child.  I will watch him on a baby monitor when he naps and try to make sure that he is in a well ventilated room.  I will remind you over and over to do things that you already know to do.  I will do my best to make it obvious in a nice way that I would rather you didn't XYZ (whatever you are doing) but then I might not be so polite when you aren't getting the hint.  I will annoy the hell out of you.

I am sorry.  I apologize in advanced for being bossy, for seeming tense, for worrying too much.  I was sure everyone would understand but it is clear that they do not.  When I was pregnant, I even warned everyone, "I will be putting this baby's safety first and will have to just be blunt about what work and doesn't work for me".  I really did try to prepare everyone.  I really did.

The truth is that I would rather hurt your feelings and endure a few eye rolls in order to feel comfortable about my baby's safety.  I regret very much not being firmer about these things when it came to my precious one who is no longer here.  

I'd like to think that I will feel calmer in 7 weeks, when my baby is 9 months and 3 weeks old....but, I really don't know if I will....I don't know if I will ever feel as calm as I once did.  It just is what it is.  I didn't ask for it to be this way.

I know you just love him and you only ever mean well.
Thank you so much for your patience with me.  

Abby

This is me in my crib when I was a baby.
Times have certainly changed.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Eight Months Old

Our Mo is eight months old today!!!!  He is unbelievable - such a delight.  We never thought we could love another person as much as we love Maxie, but we do!  We love him so much.  I've already pretty much brought you up to speed with all of his stats.  So, let's just cut straight to the photos:



And, another one - because he is really good at sitting up:


Friday, March 22, 2013

Playing the part

Ted and I were watching HBO's "Real Sports" on Wednesday night during dinner: a show we can both enjoy because it features human stories about athletes....satisfying the interests of both of us.  The lead story was about Mike Tyson: A look at how he has changed, how he has softened.  He is no longer the crazy angry ear-biting boxer.  He is now living a quiet suburban lifestyle with his wife and two kids and traveling the country in a one man show.

Fascinating enough...And then we learned something else about Mike Tyson, something that many others probably already knew.  He lost a 4 year old daughter in 2009 in a freak accident - she hung herself accidentally from a loose rope hanging off of a treadmill.  And as if the story isn't horrific and shocking enough, seeing Mike Tyson crumble on camera talking about his loss, was something that felt like a punch to the gut.  The crumble was so intense, he had to stop the interview....he just couldn't continue to talk.  It was too much for him.

Ted stopped eating, pushed back his plate and got that look.  Ted gets this look of sorrow that starts in his eyes and slowly takes over his whole face and body.  It is soul crushing to see my big, strong, sweet husband sink into sorrow.  I knew it was too much.  It was too much for me as well, I felt my throat closing while watching.  But, of course, we didn't turn it off.  We need to watch these things.  As much as they hurt, they somehow help.  We are not alone.

When Ted came home from work yesterday, the first thing he said to me was how upsetting the segment was - he'd been thinking about it all day.  Tyson spoke about not wanting to cry on camera - not wanting people to see him cry.  Let's face it - men don't like for people to see them crumble.  I know this is something that Ted can relate to.  I have barely seen him cry since we lost Max but I know he does it sometimes still - when he is alone - most often in his car, listening to music.

For the last ten years, Ted has been making a CD of love songs for Valentines Day for the ladies in his life.  (He is actually a romantic - don't tell him I told you).  There are girlfriends before me who got those CDs.  These days, they come to me, Gigi, Beth and my mom.  For the last two years, the music has been for Max - song after song expressing how Ted feels about losing the love of his life - his son.  Men ARE so different from women.  They do not cry in public very often.  They have trouble expressing their emotions.  They would rather not have to say how they are feeling out loud.  I know that music has helped Ted articulate his feelings for himself.  Hearing the words come from someone else's mouth is easier in a way than having to say them himself.

Mike Tyson said that when he performs his autobiographical show, he isn't just being himself while onstage...rather, he "plays the part of himself".  It is easier for him that way.  It is such an interesting concept but one that most bereaved parents (I would guess) are doing off stage each and every day.  A slide show runs behind Tyson's head while he talks about his life.  When the subject of his daughter and her death comes up, he says that he literally cannot turn around and look at the photo.  It is too much - he would break character (the character he is playing - himself - Mike Tyson).  He knows that if he looked directly at the picture, he would come back into himself and crumble....which would cause him to break character....like he finally actually did, causing the end of the interview. 

I think that is why men look for distraction - why it seemed like it was "easier" for Ted to go right back to work after losing Max.  Not that he really had a choice but I know that it was not "easy" at all.  He had to play the part of himself so that he wouldn't crumble...  So, he did things I couldn't imagine doing - going to a fundraising event, attending small parties, hanging out with friends, traveling out of town for a football game.  He had to play the part of himself for a while...like Mike Tyson does in his show.....like I feel myself doing now.  I can tell you that lately, I am just playing the part of me. I am sure that Ted is still playing the part of himself as well.  It's ok and most of the time, it does keep us from crumbling.  Every now and then though, it is just too much - we break character.

If you are interested in seeing the interview, it is on HBOGo: http://www.hbogo.com/#sports/

Thursday, March 21, 2013

My Unique Boy

I've written a lot about how Mo reminds me of Max.  It is only one of the MANY reasons that I am so in love with Mo.  Mo is also completely different than Max in many many ways and a very unique little guy.  Most obviously - he is HUGE!  He was born huge (9.52 pounds, 21 inches) and continues to grow large (He is about 20 pounds now at almost 8 months).  He is busting out of his 9 months clothes and wears a size 4 diaper.  Max was much smaller.

Also hard to ignore is Mo's full head of hair!  It is stick straight and he has already had to have it cut around his ears twice! Max's hair very lightly covered his head...

Mo makes a lot of different sounds - he says "MAMAMAMAMAM" on the regular (my FAVORITE whether it is intentional or not because I really don't know), he has about 3 different kinds of raspberry noises, he hums and grunts, he screams when he is happy (as I've mentioned, it sounds like he is on his way down a very fast moving and sky high roller coaster), he makes yummy noises when he eats, and I could really go on and on.  He is very vocally expressive.  The pediatrician even said she thought he'd probably be an early talker.  Even though Max was also very expressive, he mostly said "Da Da Da Da" (which Ted especially loved) and squealed with delight.

Mo's always moving, whereas Max was much more reserved.  When Mo is especially enjoying something (food, tv, seeing Daddy or Grandma), he twirls his wrists and ankles constantly (see video below).  On the changing table, he kicks his feet and reaches for the drapes, and thrashes his head from side to side.  When he is in his exersaucer or jumparoo, he gets a lot of exercise - dancing like crazy, whereas Max would sometimes jump but mostly would very carefully study each toy and button.

 Watch the ankles and wrists

Max was content to play on his own for much longer than Mo.  Max could sit in his bumbo and watch me make dinner.  I would generally talk him through the steps of my preparation and he loved it as much as if I were reading him "Goodnight Moon".  Mo also likes to play on his own but he likes more interaction.  He is happiest when I am up close and personal with him - which is fine by me since I can't get enough of him.

Mo reminds me a lot of Max but he isn't a replacement child.  He is his own little dude.  Mo feels like much more of a little boy than a baby in many ways.  Mo is hearty next to Max's delicateness.  He sweetness is boisterous compared to Maxie's more subdued sweet.  And, in a giant twist of "doesn't quite fit the rest of his personality", Mo is a crazy cuddler...Max was too but Mo is even MORE.  He likes to rest his head against my chest and suck on those fingers.  He seems most happy when we are snuggled close, and so am I.  Mo's heartiness and little boyness is what we needed - it inspires more confidence in his well-being than I think we would have had otherwise.  We are so grateful for that....and for him.  He is perfect - talking about him turns our sadness to smiles.  Mo is not a replacement child.  He is just Mo: our second boy, the healer of our hearts, our most important living person, a child we love just as much as his older brother.  He makes every day special.  We love him so much.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The plagues

We are doing Passover this year.  We needed last year off but, we are excited to be celebrating again this year.  It really is my favorite holiday.  Monday night we will be at my father's house.  I am planning on making chocolate covered macaroons.  I hope that they turn out.  Homemade macaroons are delicious.  Then, the next weekend, Greg and I are doing our annual Seder....this year, at our house.   If the macaroons go well for Monday night, I'll probably do them again...along with Matzo Ball soup and other smaller dishes.  It will be our first Passover "in nature", as we plan on doing it on our deck. We are going to rent some heat lamps and light up our trees.  I think it will be really nice though I'm not sure what the best way is to warn our neighbors of the coming festivities - since I have literally never spoken to any of them.  I've only ever seen the neighbors on either side of our house once each.  I can't imagine we will be singing out there much past 9:30 or so but we get loud.  Although we will be a smaller group this year, wine + festive revelry generally equals loudness.

Deciding to do Passover again wasn't a decision that came easy.  Deciding to celebrate at all EVER is really hard...but life does continue and I want our traditions to be something that we can look forward to and eventually include Mo in as well.  When Greg and I first discussed bringing Passover back, he brought up a good point - one that I really don't know what to do with - the plagues. Throughout the Passover Seder, the 10 plagues that were brought on the Egyptians are brought up - we list them, talk about them, sing about them.  They include: blood, frogs, locusts, lice, and the plague that broke the pharaoh's back - death of the first born son.  If you know the story, you know that when the first born son's of Egypt were taken by the angel of death, it was finally more than the Pharaoh could take and the Jewish slaves were set free.  How can I sing about this plague?  This plague that brought the Jews their good fortune is the same plague which has been visited on my family.  I cannot sing about it...or list it...or recount it at all without wanting to shrivel up and die....without wondering WHY was this plague brought on us?  We thought about getting rid of the plagues.  Ted says we can't avoid them forever.  Perhaps for this one year, we can focus on the rest of the story and not this one part...and then review again next year.  It's not simple.  Nothing is.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

On a clumsy run

I've been kind of a mess lately.  My brain is extra air-heady and I keep getting hurt or finding new ailments.  It started with the plugged duct - which lasted a couple of days but finally cleared up after I took some advice from my readers.  Awesome.

Then, the ankle - it's so nice how people keep asking about it.  It is actually SO much better.  I spent about 5 days off my foot entirely - elevating and icing it and it has been getting slowly better.  I was off crutches by the following weekend.  It still hurts - mostly it is just a real bummer because I originally injured it on the day of Maxie's incident and it is just a nagging physical reminder of my broken heart.



Then, Sunday I was playing with Mo and Ted when Ted asked me what happened to my eye?  I asked him what he meant and he told me there was blood in the corner of my eye.  That was Sunday - the blood has now spread and covers over half my eye. (See exhibit A).  Sexy.

Exhibit A
 
Finally, last night I was making dinner and used a pan in the oven to roast some chicken thighs.  After I took the pan out and put it back on the stove, I was on auto pilot and grabbed the hot handle.  It took a full minute for my brain to receive the message that my hand was being burned.  Ted took good care of me - getting my hand under cold water and iced up and then wrapped in gauze.  Then he finished off making dinner under my direction. 

I am on a clumsy run.  Not paying careful attention, getting hurt for no reason.  My brain is kind of out to lunch and it takes all of my energy just to maintain the focus for the stuff that I HAVE to pay attention to - like work and Mo.  Even when I am not hurting myself - my body seems to just be combusting from the inside - as evidenced by my bloody eyeball.

An old friend recently lost her brother - suddenly and unexpectedly.  I get the sense that she might still be in shock even though I hear it in her emails that she is totally devastated.  She wrote me a couple of days ago to tell me that she was doing Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Choprah's 21 day meditation challenge.  "At first it sounded a little bit commercial to me or like they would be trying to get something out of us", she explained "but it is wonderful and I am loving every second of it. It's 15 minutes per day and I think the thoughts and messages are so meaningful and comforting."  So, I decided to do it too.  Perhaps 15 minutes a day of quiet might help me regain some focus.  (I meditated A LOT in the first year after losing Max.  My periods of meditation were the only moments of peace that I had and I would do it several times a day.)  I'd really like to put an end to this clumsy streak. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Balance

Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, has been making her way around the television news shows - talking about how women need to "lean in" (or I might say "not shy away from") leadership and career.  Ted and I were watching her on 60 minutes last night (perhaps an old segment...it was on our tivo).  She said that women often don't go for leadership positions or promotions at work because they want to be able to have a family and they don't want their career to get in the way.  She was saying this as if it were somehow negative.  I think it is a choice that many women make - to keep their life in balance - because not all of us think that "having it all" means the same thing.  And, the truth is, I really like what I have seen of Ms. Sandberg.  She is smart and articulate and I would like to see more women like her at the helm of successful businesses - and I get what she is saying - that we women should fight for ourselves!  That most men would not just lean back and not go for the promotion or the leadership role so that they could spend more time with their families.  But I would say - maybe they should, if that is what they want. 

"Having it all" sometimes means having no balance and I don't think that is gender specific.  "Having it all" can feel overwhelming and more like having many medium sized pieces of all there is to have.  And, as she said, most women end up feeling guilty on some level for the choices that they make - spending too much time at work or not working at all or working so hard that they feel that it kept them from having a family.  I don't really mean to criticize Ms. Sandberg, because on the whole, I like what she has to say.  But, it did start me thinking about balance.

During the nine months that Max was alive, I guess you could say that I "had it all".  I had the job that I went to graduate school for - one that made me very happy, that I felt very passionately about, that I was paid well for, that I think I was pretty good at.  I had married the man of my dreams - the one that I never thought I would meet, that I still can't believe chose ME to spend his life with, that is my perfect partner - it took me a long time to find him - I am so grateful for him every day.  And, of course, we had Maxie - perfect...healthy, happy, sweet, easy, a perfect love in all ways - In fact, the most profound love of my life.  And, still I felt guilty all of the time.  I felt guilty that I wanted to go home every night and be with my baby so much more than I wanted to go to important networking events or fundraisers.  I felt guiltier that I often went to those things and didn't come home to my baby.  This is how all working moms feel, I am sure.  It's ok though - I felt genuinely happy and even a little impressed with myself that I was finding and managing balance.

I wrote a quick "happy birthday" email yesterday to a colleague with whom I had been good friends with before Maxie died.  The email that I got back thanked me and asked how I was doing?  More specifically, he asked how I was managing to balance motherhood with work...as if I was in some new stage in life and that I must be trying to figure out how I could possibly "have it all" now that I have Mo.  What he doesn't understand is that having Mo is what brought back the balance.  Losing Max is what threw my life out of balance.  What I wouldn't give to have never experienced this loss - so that my biggest issue was how to manage "it all".  I didn't respond.  I don't think he cares anyway...and I don't have an answer.  He probably just had nothing else to say, since we haven't spoken in a year and almost eight months.

I don't care about "having it all" these days.  I am not trying to stay on top of everything.  I don't feel the need to go to bat for myself or carve out time for my family.  I'm not trying to keep all of the dishes and counters clean.  I am not worried about making every minute with Mo into a teachable moment.  Sometimes we snuggle, sometimes we read, sometimes we watch television.  Often I don't do the laundry or the dishes - they can wait.  I am not trying to figure out new ways to leverage my position at work.  I just try to do the best job I can.  I just try to enjoy each moment as much as possible. It just "is"....I can't really explain it.  It is connected to my feeling that looking forward may be an exercise in futility.  I believe that most people are looking for balance in one form or another.  I am slowly accepting that for me, balance will mean something completely different than what it once did.  For me, the balance comes in looking for joy despite my pain - cherishing the moments with the ones who are still here, while constantly mourning the one who isn't.  I don't have the luxury anymore about caring about my work/life balance....and in retrospect it feels like it was a luxury - because once, I had it all.  No matter what my future holds, I will never have it all again (because to "have it all" would include Max and that will never be)....but I can find some peace in my moments....I think I will continue to experience love (I am WILD about Mo)....and that is probably as close to balance as I'll ever get.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

St Patricks Day







This shoot is a little silly, I recognize.  Ted told me this morning that my photo shoots remind him of when he used to dress up his childhood dog, Buttons.  But, I could not resist.  I know you are thinking ...."But aren't you guys Jewish?"  YES.  But, my mom converted and Mo is actually a little Irish.  About 1/8th (or something?).  My mom got him the St. Patty's Day onsie with his name on it...it's so cute!  Mo had so much fun during this shoot.  He loved playing with the shamrocks and was so happy that I included his little green dog "Scout".  Happy St. Patricks Day!  Enjoy some green beer for me.





Saturday, March 16, 2013

Small talk

Not long after Maxie's death, my mom had to go out of town for a conference.  On her way home, she was seated on the plane next to a mother who was flying with her husband and many children to California for a trip to Disneyland.  They started making a little small talk and my mom asked her how many children she had.  The woman replied that she had 5.  She asked my mother how many children she had and my mother responded that she had two grown children.  The woman asked if she had any grandchildren and my mother replied saying that she had one grandson.  The small talk went on as various children came up to where their mommy was sitting to visit.  The older ones were sitting on their own and the two littlest were each sitting with a parent.  As the small talk continued, my mother casually asked where the fifth child was, as she had seen four of them already.  At that point, the woman teared up and told her that months earlier, they'd had a baby who died.  They decided to take this trip to Disneyland with the other children to help them take a break from their grief.  Obviously that is when my mother shared that her one grandchild had also recently died - she had no living grandchildren.  The two of them cried together.  Two strangers on an airplane.

I'm not sure why I am sharing the story.  It has stuck with me.  It speaks to me on many levels.  The obstacles of small talk, the necessity of sometimes sharing only partial truths, the power of empathy and connection, the fact that the picture you see often masks the reality of what is.  The world I used to live in was one where the greatest fear I had in making small talk was having nothing to say.  The world I live in now is one where my greatest fear is having to make small talk....and even though I took a long break from it, it's totally unavoidable.  If I have to do it, I prefer to do it with complete strangers - ones who don't know me, who I can pretend to be a normal, happy person with.  The idea of having to make small talk, simply "catching up" small talk, with people I know only casually or as acquaintances is torturous.  How can I put into small talk the words to answers questions like, "What's new?"....or "How have things been?" to people I haven't seen in a while, who I haven't heard from since our tragedy, or how I don't know that well?  I don't want to make small talk about Max but talking about everything but Max feels super fake.  And, I don't want to have a heavy conversation about Max in a fun celebratory environment either.  There is no right way.  And I can't help but wonder if I am being judged for smiling or laughing or living still.  Do I care?  I definitely am WAY over caring about those people who think I am grieving too much.  And if I don't care, why am I even bothering to attend whatever event it is where I am having to make all of this small talk?  I don't know...these are some of the questions that have been coming up for us recently as we are trying to navigate a world of 40th birthdays, first birthdays, parties, holidays and reunions of various types.  As we redefine who we are and rebuild our lives, this is another bridge to cross.  We are sort of picking and choosing the environments that feel most comfortable, that are in celebration of our most favorite people, and/or that feel like they will be a real occasion to get back to our old selves for a bit and blow off some steam.  I know we will figure it out eventually, but until then, I often wish I could just stay in my bubble.

Friday, March 15, 2013

She is a light

I was up late last night: talking to Maxie (I literally go in the livingroom and sit on my couch and talk to him), reading my book (about Deathbed Visions -thanks Marla for the recommendation), and finally, desperately searching the internet for something that would give me enough peace to just close my eyes and sleep.  Forget being a mom to a baby - Grief is EXHAUSTING.  At last, *I noticed an update on the blog of one of my favorite people.   The post talks about getting through grief...with a special message to ME! (can you even believe it?)  It worked..and I slept. 

I feel so lucky to have met up with people like Molly on my terrible journey.  People who've been deep in the trenches and are helping to light my path.  I especially liked what she said about how the loss of a child "is too much for a mortal to bear. Only the grace of God can carry you through from day to day. No mortal can do it."  It really IS too much for any mortal to bear.  My humanness is not adequate for the burden this big, a grief this deep, a loss this earth shattering.  I cannot count the number of times I have said "It's too much" in the last year and almost eight months.  COUNTLESS.

I PRAY that one day I can be a light that helps others to see past the immediate darkness.  It seems that I can think of no greater purpose for my life.  And, I need a BIG and GREAT purpose because sometimes I feel like I just cannot go on.  To light the path gives our childrens' lives SO MUCH meaning.  More than anything, that is what I want - SO MUCH MEANING....and love, and hope, and joy, and laughter and to bring the funny back. 

Molly - you are a gigantic light for me!  GIGANTIC!  You continue to give Lucy's life so much meaning every day with all of who you are.  I am so grateful for that...I am SURE she is too.

XOXO

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Milk

It looks like my breastfeeding days are coming to an end (at least with Mo).  We still have lots of frozen milk in our freezer but we are supplementing with formula and giving Mo his milk from a bottle.  It leaves me feeling very conflicted.  I think it will help me have a chance at getting pregnant again...yes, I know it is very soon, but it is something I am anxious to do again.  It makes life much easier not to be breastfeeding - I am more physically comfortable - my back hurts less and I don't have to worry about leaking or pumping, we can go out easier, and it makes it easier for other people to feed Mo.  BUT - I miss the closeness of our cuddles during middle of the night and pre-nap nursing sessions.  I am sad that this period of MO's babyhood is over....even though all I want in the world is for him to safely get through this first year and then continue growing big and strong.  I am also SCARED.  Max stopped breathing 2 weeks after I stopped breastfeeding him - he was still getting breastmilk in a bottle - but those were his last two weeks on earth.  It scares me.  I have been assured over and over that that had NOTHING to do with his death.  I think about ALL of the mommas I know who were never able to breastfeed their babies and their babies are just fine.  They are living and Max is not.  So, it couldn't have been that, right?  And, he WAS still getting breastmilk...albeit defrosted from our freezer breastmilk.....it WAS STILL breastmilk.  But, then again, my frozen supply won't last forever.  Am I over thinking?  AM I?  I seem to over think everything these days!  Then again, if you were in my shoes, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Idiosyncrasies

My babies have had so many of the same idiosyncrasies.  I have to wonder if their similarities are unique to the two of them or to babies everywhere.
  • Both boys have been VERY impatient when being dressed.  Mo is impatient when getting dressed for the day AND when being put into his jammies at night.  Max was more impatient at jammy time - but it's the same need to get in the clothes and off that table.  A quick change of diaper doesn't elicit the same impatient response.
  • Both boys have had the same impatience when eating.  You cannot shovel the food in fast enough.  They have been super HUNGRY boys - screaming and grumbling between bites.  They have both been good eaters, loving new foods and textures.  Yams have been the Leviss boys favorite food for sure.
  • Both Maxie and Mo have loved being read to and have had strong preferences for certain books.  Mo is not NEARLY as big of a fan of "Goodnight Moon" as Maxie was but he does like "Goodnight Gorilla" a whole lot.  Both boys have absolutely LOVED this weird series of animal books that I bought at the supermarket for Max.  Mo smiles from ear to ear when he sees me bring one of those books out to read....so did Max.


I love the Maxie I see in Mo.  Not only in his smile but in the small ways that they are the same...the small ways in which I get to feel like Max is in Mo somehow.  Max, my very special baby - the most important person of my first 37 years - will never, ever be replaced...but I look for the small details of his beautiful life in the most important living person in my life right now.  Just one more thing that makes my Mo SO incredibly special!

Monday, March 11, 2013

A weekend with Gigi

Teddy's mom, whom the grandchildren call "Gigi", is in town and has been having loads of fun with Mozie!  She and Teddy went to Ikea and bought Mo a brand new highchair, they went on his first roll around the block in the little car that Maxie loved, and we all went to my niece Camille's first birthday.  There, we watched Mo fall in love with his cousin.  I had both of them on my lap and he was touching her face and putting his arm around her and stroking her arm.  It was very, very cute.  Camille's birthday party is the first kid's birthday party we have been to since the weekend before Maxie's incident.  Kid's parties, specifically babies' first birthday are somewhat complicated for us.  It would have been easy to avoid going to one until we were able to throw a first birthday for Mo...but, Miss Camille needed celebrating.  She is such a cutie!

Teddy and I also did lots of reading to Mo this weekend.  He really pays good attention to the books and it's obvious which books are his favorites and which he doesn't like at all.  Max was the same way.  It's not at all shocking that they have liked many of the same books.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Looking Forward

Not long after Teddy and I got married, we went away on a weekend "mini-moon" to Ojai for the weekend.  I have loved it there ever since I was a kid, spending summers just up the road at sleep away camp (something I looked forward to all year long....Oh, I just loved it there!).  We had such a nice weekend.  One of our favorite parts was stopping at a boutique winery/antique shop on route 33. While there, we found the perfect framed pictures from an old children's book for our future baby's room.  We were so excited about them.  It was the first thing we bought in anticipation of our future family.  Those pictures represented our looking toward the future.



Less than a year later, Maxie was born.  What an exciting time in our lives!  We hung the pictures in his room over his changing table and when I would change him, he would smile up at them.  I wondered how we had known that he would love them....it must have been that feeling that I had about Maxie - somehow I had always known him.  Of course, I would know his taste in children's art even before he was conceived (oh, how I am tempted to insert a happy face emoticon here....but I won't).


When people say (or think) that it's ok that Maxie is gone because we can have other children and already have another child, they don't ever consider Maxie.  Even if Ted and I were fine (which we will never be), Maxie isn't fine.  And, frankly, his well being became more important to us than our own from the moment he was conceived (or at least, from the moment that we saw I was pregnant on the home test stick).  Maxie never had even one birthday party, he never spoke even one word, he will never get to go to sleepaway camp, or fall in love, or go to school, or anything really.

Ted and I always feel devastated for ourselves as parents, but somehow we even feel guilty about that.  Our greatest grief is for what Maxie will never have.  It's one of the many things that makes losing a child different from losing a parent or grandparent, who lived a full life.  Maxie never got to do anything.  Teddy and I have both lived long and full lives.  How can we fell sorry for ourselves?  Max got NOTHING!  Ted always says that he mourns the moments he will never have with Maxie (and he mourns these things so much) - watching football games, playing catch in the yard, going on camping trips together, taking him to travel town.... but he says it doesn't compare to the grief he feels that Max will never get to experience these things.  It doesn't even compare.

The Moyel at Maxie's bris told us to "soak up the moments...because they pass too quickly".  He didn't mean "because your baby might die", because nobody ever thinks their baby is going to die (which is why I feel like I have nearly nothing in common with blissfully happy new moms...nothing).  He meant that kids grow up too quickly.  I took that advice in and I savored every moment with Maxie.  I really did.  It is something that I am actually able to feel good about.  I took lots of pictures (but not enough - never enough) and cuddled, and relished bath time and nursing and feeding him and playing with him.  I lingered on every whiff of his sweet baby smell and of my lips pressed against his soft cheeks.  I loved my every moment with him.

I am trying to do the same with Mo.  I try not to imagine all of the things we will do together, because I am afraid of the heartbreak that could cause....again.  I live in the moment and that is all...maybe I let myself think to the next week.  That is probably why I feel the need to do a photo shoot for every holiday and chart his every month birthday.  It is why I film him doing mundane things, like sitting and playing with toys.  I don't want to forget a thing....because he will either grow up too quickly or not at all.

I am a planner - I like having things to look forward to - vacations, occasions, plans, parties.  When Maxie died, he had already lots of stuff on his calendar.  He was supposed to go with us to Palm Springs that weekend to see Ted's Aunts Dolly and Jan and a bunch of Ted's cousins, he was supposed to go to Utah with Ted the weekend after his funeral for a family reunion, we had started planning his first birthday, I planned on a trip for the week after his first birthday to visit our house in Costa Rica with my mom and Prima Sharon.

 Sometimes, when I am not paying attention, my mind wanders to what it would be like to see Mo grow up.  I imagine family vacations and trips to Disneyland, dropping him off at soccer practice, being lifted up on a chair at his Bar-Mitzvah with tears of joy rolling down my cheeks.  The idea is seriously bliss, but I stop myself.  I am scared to look ahead....so scared to think past April or May.  It's too much.  I just need to get through today.  I don't let myself think of growing old with Teddy or having grandchildren or seeing my kids play together.

I DO imagine lying on my own deathbed and I wonder if I will have visions of Max...if I will be visited by my grandparents who I love and miss so much.  Not looking forward makes me so sad, but I can't let myself go there.  I'm smart enough to know now that there is no point.

What matters is who I love today and how I love them.  What matters is that I control this minute of this day and that is all...that I relish THIS moment.  I love my boys (all 3 of them) more than my heart can take sometimes.  I love them whether they are here or there or anywhere.  To the moon and back...... that's how much I love them....

Friday, March 8, 2013

A seven month bath




Both of my boys have loved bath time.  It is their absolute favorite time of day and ours.   It's what I miss doing most with Max too.  Mo is ALWAYS in a good mood in the bath.  So was Maxie.  Expect to see many more photos of bath time.



Thursday, March 7, 2013

They meant well...

 They meant well:
  • The one who "came out for Maxie's funeral" and partied the whole time, excited about pot being legal in California, then went home and called to say how wiped out they were from all of the action.
  • The person who posted "Another beautiful day in Los Angeles" on Facebook, the day after she'd been at Maxie's funeral.
  • The person who posted "Can Abby come out and play?" on my Facebook page the week after Maxie's funeral.
  • The one who came out here "for me" but made me feel bad the whole time that I didn't have room in my home for any more guests.
  • The one who told me "Well, all is not lost....at least you still have great boobs.  And they are real, no?" YES - someone really did say this to me...and this person is responsible for more than one of the zingers on this list.  This one is in a tie for the worst and most inappropriate thing said to me after my child, who I had been lovingly breast feeding, died.
  • The other one who told me, "It's like a miscarriage.  Every woman has one.  So, you had this and now it's done and so you don't have to worry about it anymore."  I'm sure that person has no idea that three months later, I had a miscarriage.
  • That one who defensively told me, "I've had bad things happen in my life too!"
  • The person I paid for therapy who told me, "I was sad after my dog died, but then I got another dog.  You can have another baby".
  • The person who replied, "Well, you weren't exactly the same after Max was BORN either. People change." ....when I cried that I would never be the same after my child's death.
  • The one who emailed me to say that "If Max were still here, Mo wouldn't be" (in a tie with the "great boobs" one.)
I could keep going, but I think I will stop there.  They all meant well.  But none of them thought before they spoke.  They all meant well, but their comments will be with me for life.  In most cases, I would say that the worst thing you could do is not say anything at all...but in the case of these people, I wish they'd kept their mouths shut.



Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mo's appointment with the cardiologist

Mo had an appointment with a cardiologist last week.  It was a follow up to our appointment with the hepatologist.  The hepatologist, who was not at all prepared for the meeting we waited for months to have with him, told us that when looking at Max's heart slides, he felt something wasn't right.  He likened it to "a brick wall whose rows look straight up close but when you back up are not".  He said "something wasn't right with the architecture of Max's heart".  This was very upsetting news to both Ted and I, of course.  We were referred to a cardiologist who could give Mo an EKG and an ultrasound.

Last week I brought Mo in.  I went over all of Maxie's history with the cardiologist.  We talked about his autopsy (something I HATE talking about), his death (as told to me by the daycare, which I also HATE talking about), the testing we've done on us, our genes, Mo.....  He gave Mo an EKG and an ultrasound and determined that Mo is fine.  Of course, the only way to tell that Mo is really fine, would be to take a biopsy of his heart - OBVIOUSLY something we won't do!

The cardiologist didn't really understand the report of the hepatologist and offered to visit with him and get more information for us.  So, a few days later, the cardiologist went to meet with hepatologist.  The hepatologist said that he didn't look at the slides himself (as we were led to believe).  The lab technicians did.  The report didn't even say which technician had been the one to review them.  So, my cardiologist went on a hunt, through the computer records to find the right technician.  He finally found her after a lot of digging.  She remembered looking at Maxie's slides....and no, nothing was wrong with his heart.  What she saw was likely caused by the chest compressions given during CPR.  Again, Ted and I were totally misled about what happened to Max - information passed along like a game of telephone by a bunch of apathetic players - from the coroner, to Maxie's pediatrician, to those who passed information on to the police, to the lab technicians.

I am totally relieved that we don't have to be worried about Mo's heart but it really brings everything up again....and again....and again.  It's amazing to me how little people actually care about a dead child...and his sibling.  It's amazing how they seemingly don't care about the quality of the work they do ...as doctors!  I will say, the cardiologist was a lovely man.  He confided in me that his wife has suffered through several late term miscarriages and how he knows about loss and grief.  His wife is due next week with their first child...finally.  I was touched that he shared it with me as he said he has never shared it with another patient.  When he called me with the technician's report he asked if he could talk to me like a friend. "Sure", I said.  "You seem like a wonderful person and mother," he said. "I would hate for you to stop having any trust in the world.  Remember that there are people who want to help you.  Have faith in human kind."   

I think I still do have faith in human kind (mostly)...but trust in the world is a whole other issue.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Acceptance

I was on the phone with one of my cousins yesterday and she asked me what makes things easier now....since I have mentioned that life is easier now than it was right after losing Max.  Sometimes I forget that unless you have experienced this kind of pain, you don't really know what I am talking about.  Since so many grievers really long to be understood, I am going to try and explain.

When Max first died - it was sudden and unexpected.  I fed him some bananas and greek yogurt for breakfast, carried him into daycare, kissed him on his sweet face and fully expected to pick him up that evening for bath time and more kisses.  I NEVER expected to get a call saying that he'd stopped breathing and that he was in the emergency room.  I NEVER expected my brand new baby, who I was falling more madly in love with each day, to die for no reason.  It took me a long time to accept that this even happened.  Even today, I barely believe it did.  I love Max with all of my heart. I always will. 

When it first happened, I was cushioned by shock.  It is your body's natural response to deep emotional pain and trauma.  Shock softens the blow.  Shock was the reason that I was able to act like a friendly hostess at my son's funeral and shiva.  It is the reason that so many people were misled into thinking that I was fine and would be ok.  I felt out of my body for weeks, until I woke up one day and realized that he was actually gone and that I would never see my most beloved boy again.  Then the horror set in.  It was like living in my worst nightmare.  I couldn't bare to breathe.  People kept interacting with me like I was still the hostess from the shock period.  It made me hate the shocked me who had misled them.  Their expectations of where I "should be" were completely crazy.  I wanted to die.  Life was way too painful....it often still is.

The horror and pain got worse and worse, every day for about 6 months.  I couldn't focus on anything other than Max being dead.  There was nothing sweet or angelic about his "passing", as people tried to imply.  It was complete horror.  To think otherwise is to be kidding yourself.  People said really stupid things to me (they still do) and I still debate every day whether or not to share them in this space because they would simply make your jaw drop.  I have never shared the very worst stuff here because it is just too horrible.  Because people don't understand how terrible grief is, they aren't sensitive....and for some reason, they are unapologetic about it.  In fact, they are mean and defensive about the terrible things they say....because "they meant well".  Sometimes they really didn't.  On top of being so deeply sad about losing Max, I was angry about how cruel people can be (it still boggles my brain).

As time goes on, your view of the world changes.  Accepting a new reality makes living in that reality easier, because for the first few months or years, you spend a lot of time fighting the new world view.  You are hoping that somehow everything will go back to how it was.  It won't.  The biggest part of that is realizing that your loved one isn't coming back.  The smallest part is realizing that people you once really liked are actually pretty shallow. You start to accept all of this and life becomes easier.  The acceptance doesn't make your grief go away.  It doesn't make the loss any easier.  It just saves you the energy of fighting what is.  When I say that life is easier - I should be clear - it is nowhere near easy.  I am not the person I was.  I never will be.  Never.  I still spend all of moments of the days of my life longing for Max.  I imagine I always will.  But I am adjusting to the pain....learning to live with it.  Somehow that makes it easier.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The weekend ends in crutches

Palm Springs was SO much fun - even after I got hurt.  I didn't realize the sprain was so bad.  I kept walking around on my ankle, we even choreographed a group dance routine after dinner (as I've mentioned, I love dance routines). It wasn't until the middle of the night that I woke up and couldn't put any weight on my foot.  The evening dance routine probably wasn't the best idea after my afternoon spill.  So, now I am on crutches - I can't carry Mo, I am on Vicodin, and I'm going to need extra help all week.  Hopefully I'll be able to put some weight on my foot by Friday...until then I am resting and icing and Ted is putting in some daddy overtime.  Good news is that I didn't break anything.

Anyway, here are some photos from the weekend.  Would I do the weekend again, knowing that it would end in crutches for me?  Yes.  Yes, I would - seeing Mo swim for the first time and his big smiles all weekend long - totally worth it.