I'm not exactly sure what's going to come out on this screen tonight as I sit here at 12:30am, tired, but can't sleep...knowing as soon as the tv is off, the lights are off, the computer is off, I'll say goodnight to Zoe, kiss her picture, kiss her urn, blow out her candle...and cry.
I've become quite an expert at crying. I enjoy it. I can start and stop...mostly because if I don't make myself stop, I might not stop. I can usually reserve my crying for the moments I'm alone...in the shower, in the car going to and from work, and in those last moments at night. I don't cry in front of Avery and Lily...maybe a little if they do something really sweet and unexpected that relates to Zoe in some way...but never the deep, from your core kind of crying that I've learned about.
I've been sad before Zoe died, but the crying that comes out of me now...it's almost primal...it truly comes from the depths of my soul and the depths of my heart. I scared myself a little the first time I cried this hard and this out loud...I didn't know I would make noises like this. But now, it's the norm. I can usually just swallow down that lump that forms in my throat when someone asks me how I am...I can usually blink away the mist that forms in my eyes when I'm talking to someone about her that really doesn't want to hear all the sad details of losing our little warrior princess. But when I'm alone, I don't hold back. Sometimes all I need is a good 5 or 10 minutes just to get it out at that moment. It is a true release, I can relax after I cry, I can smile at Zoe's picture and tell her I love her and miss her...I can picture her running free with long curly black hair flying in the wind as she laughs in the middle of a field full of bright green grass, sunny yellow daisies and red tulips. I see butterflies and dragonflies twirling around her sprinkling iridescent fairy dust in her wake...I can feel the joy in her soul. But she's always out of my reach...like there is this thin window that I can watch her through in my mind, but I just can't get to her.
I still pray for a dream with her or even a visit with her...I completely believe in angels and I do believe that she'll visit me. I've read a lot from other moms who have experiences they attribute to their dead child's effort to communicate with them...pennies or dimes in odd places, tv's turning on and off, lights turning on and off, butterflies swirling around or landing and staying for a while, a random flower not indigenous to the area appearing in the same spot each year at the time of the child's death...but I can't say I've had anything like this yet. I try to create these instances...like the other day I was out in the yard with the girls and this little bird flew and sat on top of a bush about 10 feet from us, it sang and sang and sang and stayed for a while. The same thing happened two days later...Avery and Lily and I have decided it was a Zoe bird, so we said hello to her and told her what a beautiful voice she has. Because I know that now she does have a beautiful, clear, warm voice...no more paralyzed vocal chords in Heaven!
I've even read a book where a mom chose the work of a medium to communicate with her son...I'd like to try that one day. I'm sure Richard will think I'm coo-coo...or maybe, he'll indulge me in this and get a reading with me...we'll see.
I did truly feel Zoe's presence when we were at the Speech School dedication...I felt this kind of warmth about me...like I was being held that morning. There are times when I think, "gosh, if she's supposed to be present with me, why don't I feel it" and I guess it's more that I notice when she is definitely not there that will confirm her presence for me at other times. I said in my remembrance speech that as bereaved parents we have to learn that love transcends the physical touch of a hug or a kiss...we don't have that luxury any more. And it also brings me back to my very early blogging when we couldn't touch them in the NICU, we could barely speak at their bedsides, they were so fragile. I struggled so much with feeling like I was an actual mom because I did not have that luxury of the physical bond...for TWO months I couldn't hold Zoe...TWO months the only physical contact I had with her was to change her diaper! Unless you've been through this you can not begin to even understand what this is like...you just can't.
There is a lot about the NICU days that has been coming back to me lately. I guess when you're living in the NICU you don't get an opportunity to reflect on the impact it truly has, you're in survival mode..."staying strong" so your babies might actually live. I remember being so proud of these beautiful monogrammed baby books I bought, lavender for Zoe, pink for Lily, and sage green for Avery. I thought, well, I can't hold my babies, but I can start their baby books; not even thinking that baby books start after a full term delivery...my girls still needed almost 4 more months to grow before they'd be 40 weeks gestational age. They did a lot in those remaining 15+ weeks, but nothing that these books noted...like "how many days on the ventilator, CPAP, or nasal canula"..."how many days on IV fluids"..."measurement of first tube feeding (was 1cc = 1/5 of a teaspoon)"..."days old when first held"...you get the picture.
Zoe was 6 months old before I could write in "first bottle" and I can't write in her favorite foods because she never ate by mouth. No first steps, no first words, their first photos were certainly not "typical" newborn photos...I remember being back in my hospital room and Richard brought me their little, tiny foot prints and their photos...I couldn't tell what they looked like because of the CPAP mask or the vent tubes and tape that covered their face and the Velcro sunglasses that covered their eyes from the billirubin lights. I cried because I couldn't see them and I couldn't tell them apart...you could see no distinguishing characteristics...EXCEPT that Zoe had eyelashes a mile long already!
I think things are getting difficult again because the holiday season is upon us. Zoe had made it home in time for Halloween last year...but now we've got their birthday and Christmas on the horizon and I'm just not sure how I'm going to handle it. I may not do so very gracefully, but I'll try. I need ways to make SURE Zoe is a part of everything and anything we do. My biggest fear is forgetting her...or being "practical" and not getting her something that I get for Avery and Lily when I really want to get something for her. It feels so unnatural to not buy a birthday or Christmas gift for your child. One mom suggested that I fill her stocking with things Avery and Lily can enjoy...I want to hang her stocking of course, but the image of an empty stocking while the others are full would just depress me even more, so thanks Shelley for the idea. But I need more than that, I need more ways to bring her closer during this time.
I think the other thing that's making this hard is the anticipation of the 1st anniversary of her death. January of this year wasn't a very fun month because we were in and out of the dr office for all three girls with ear infections and strep throat...and thus began the further attack on her already fragile immune system. The thing with Zoe though was that you couldn't even hardly tell she felt bad...you could tell when she got the flu before she died, but in January you'd never have known she had an ear infection and then strep. I was just overly cautious so even a slight temp or change in her cough sent us to the dr and even urgent care once...this was all just in January. I even have a post from January with the tally of sickness in our house with the last line saying "hoping to stay out of the hospital"...my next post was about her death.
I'm trying so hard to not see death as so final, not as an ending...but rather as a beginning of something new. It is just so hard when this yearning to hold her is so intense and there is nothing that can fulfill this need...nothing.
People continue to share their "Zoe moments" with me, and I have to say there were a couple right around the time of the remembrance that were just incredible (Taryn, Jennifer...thank you sooooo much for sharing those with me). And people still talk about how she impacted their lives. Our goal of course is to make sure that she continues to impact lives for at least as long as Richard and I are on this Earth. One of those people who was touched deeply by Zoe was her teacher, Linda, at the Speech School. I want to share with you the beautiful things she said during the dedication at the Speech School. The most poignant part was when she spoke of what Zoe taught her as if Zoe were speaking, this is what Zoe "said":
"I'm here to show you that life is wonderful, live it to the fullest."
"I'm here to show you courage when life is a struggle, but do it with a smile on your face."
"I'm here to show you to believe in yourself, have faith in your ability to keep your dreams alive."
"I'm here to show you to have fun, be silly, because laughter is the language of the soul."
"I'm here to give you hope that whatever we strive for is possible."
"I'm here to show you that we need each other and remember I am always with you."
"I'm here to show you the most important gift...to love with all of your heart in this life and through eternity."
So here I am, having my pity party and not listening to the lessons my 14 month old daughter taught us...I'm sorry Zoe, I'll make sure to smile tomorrow, okay?
*Editors comment - I am posting this on Halloween night even though I meant to post it the night before...the Halloween update is forthcoming....and Jess...I'm thinking about you and praying for your family!