Father’s Day sucks. Walgreen’s sucks more. Cancer sucks most of all.

Diddy,

How is it possible that two whole weeks have elapsed since I last wrote you? I guess so many things have been unfolding in my life, that the days continued to pass by without me really knowing which end was up. Despite the buzz of activity, the ache of your absence has not dulled – not even a little bit. You are the first person I think of before my eyes open each morning, and the last person I think of before I fade into a semi-slumber each night. I think of you at least one hundred times in between sunrise and sunset as well.

The end of the school year has arrived; in turn, summer has officially commenced. It makes my throat tighten when I spend too much time thinking about how we should be spending summer. Can you imagine how super-duper excited we’d have been to be together every moment of every day? No work for Momma. No day care for Diddy. The Dynamic Duo would have spent our days ruling the world. Even though you are not here physically, you are with me wherever I go.  I have always heard that having children makes you see the world in a whole new way.  Nothing could be more true. My entire universe was altered when you came into my life, and made me a Momma. I view the world in a far different way than I knew possible. I have slowed down to better absorb my environment; I pay attention to the wonder around me; I notice little things, and ignore big things.  Most of the time, I think about how you would interpret what I see, hear, and smell. I picture you smiling at passer-bys, waving at puppies, pointing at airplanes. I see you running through grassy fields, and tiptoeing through warm sand. I imagine your raw excitement and genuine curiosity in new surroundings. I revel at the notion of your innocence in everything you touch and everything you do. Wherever I go, I carry you with me Paxton.

Yesterday was Father’s Day. Like most ‘holidays’, or notable days, in my head I remove the word “Happy”. It was not a “Happy Father’s Day”. Let’s be real and call it what it is: “Father’s Day sucks ass when your only child is gone.” Maybe I should embark on creating a new line of greeting cards for bereaved parents? Every time I see a card for the “Happy” holidays, I want to tear them in half and stick a piece of chewed gum inside. Our little family should have been together celebrating the absolute honor and sheer joy of Daddyhood.  Alas, we were not.

I spent a big part of the non-happy day replaying and rehashing Father’s Day last year. We were discharged that morning. As with all “discharge days”, equal parts excitement and anxiety filled my bones.  You were wearing your Ado(red), red, onesie from the Gap, and you were extra smiley. It was as if you knew that it would be your first and last Father’s Day with your Daddy, and you made sure to turn on all your charm.  In hindsight, it makes perfect sense: that is quintessential you – the ‘Peace Bringer’.  Father’s Day marked the last time we would leave the hospital with you in our arms. Father’s Day also began the stretch of time that Walgreen’s pharmacy began to further torture you. Because they are the biggest asshole fuckwads of all time, they filled a prescription which they had no business, and no knowledge, in filling. They did so merely to do what they do best: make money through preying on consumers who are in dire need of their of over-priced, inaccurate, ill-preppared prescriptions. (Don’t believe me? Do some research.) Going into detail will only further incite me, and make my stomach turn inside out and come up my throat. Just know this, I still haven’t stepped a pinkie toe into one of their establishments.  Despite their Monopoly build-a-store-on-every-major-street-corner-in-America business approach, I swear to you, I never will again. I still do my fake spit…twice….every God damn time I see a Walgreen’s – which is a lot because as I said, they’re on every blasted corner in America. I get the most satisfaction, however, when I run down Oklahoma and do an actual spit onto the driveway of the very Walgreen’s that royally screwed up your prescription. In fact, I start to save up all my spit once I pass under 794…as soon as I hit the property line of that wretched place, I hock the biggest, gooey, wad of runner’s spit right onto their punk ass driveway. I hate them.

I digress, last year on Father’s Day, Erin and Dan helped you and I set up a surprise for your Daddy. They stashed a cooler full of Bloody Mary mix, vodka, hella fixings, a 12-pack of beer, and snacks to boot. In hindsight, my behavior was glaringly unacceptable. We were enjoying a Bloody Mary – and cancer was raging throughout your tiny body. When I think of how oblivious I was, I want to throw my head against a wall until I’m unconscious. I will never forgive myself, Sweet Boy. Never in one million years. I can’t imagine the pain you endured every single hour of every single day. I cannot fathom the agony that filled your little bones and tiny limbs. You couldn’t say, “Momma, my head is pounding. My tummy is sick.” or, “Don’t hold me that way, it makes my arm hurt. This way makes makes me dizzy.” All you could do was whimper and cry…and let Momma fumble all around trying to guess what you were so desperately trying to tell me. I’m sorry I guessed wrong sometimes. I’m sorry I made you eat when you were nauseous. I’m sorry I covered your eye with that patch. I’m sorry I put Biotine in your mouth, and made it hurt worse when it didn’t help at all. I’m sorry for all of this Paxton.

I will never stop asking, “How?” “Why?” “When?” “What if?” I just will not. I don’t care what anyone says. I won’t “get over” losing you.  How could I? I am your Momma.  Protecting you was my job. I failed miserably.  Nonetheless, I am intent on hunting down your killer – and taking it to task. The good news is, I recently acquired a partner in crime. I met her through cancer and this blog. She is a bad ass, and she says the F word even more than I do. (Promise.) Two Mommas are more powerful than one; especially us two. Together, she and I are going to change the world of childhood cancer. You wait and see little boy.

Thank you for being my son. Thank you for coming to me. Thank you for letting me know you are, in fact, still with me wherever I go. You are the best little boy in all the world.

I miss you. I love you.

shot through the heart.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

the weekends are slow. your momma is fast. let’s move to france.

Little One,

“Tu me manqués”.  In French, that translates to “You are missing from me.”  I love that – as it is far more accurate than to simply say, “I miss you”.  (Although, also true.) Today is June 2nd…as of today, you have been missing from me for eleven months. You will be missing from me, every single day, for the rest of my life.

“Tu me manqués.” The French are brilliant.  The French are sexy. The French are in love with love. The French also love bread. Best of all, the French drink wine…all the time.  My friend, Lisa, in Los Angeles may be onto something in telling me to take my broken heart to France.

This weekend was not an easy one. Most of them aren’t. For the first time in my life, I am NOT a fan of the weekend.  (Don’t ask me how I intend to get through summer….which is, in essence, one never-ending-torturous weekend.)  The weekends go extremely slow. Each day is impossibly long – and the nights, well, those are even longer.  As usual, I spent most of the weekend alone. My company basically consisted of my thoughts.  Well, my thoughts and a Milwaukee County Sheriff who introduced himself after pulling me over on Saturday.  “Hi. Not nice to meet you sir. Yes. I know why you pulled me over. You want to make my day shittier than it is naturally.” I was flying, Paxton. But, it was not entirely my fault. There wasn’t another soul on the road…the sun was out…and JT was on the radio. Further, I was driving Nana’s brand new whip. Given it is far sassier than Momma’s car, I couldn’t even tell I was moving – much less that I was going 80 mph. (Yes, I know…a tad excessive.) In addition to accidentally speeding, there was no ‘proof of insurance’ in Nana’s car. So, the friendly Sheriff gave me a ticket for that too.  Truth be told, the Sheriff actually was quite friendly – but only because he found me to be quite amusing.  Ultimately, he felt badly enough that he “gave me a discount”…and only charged me for 19 mph over, instead of 25 mph, which apparently significantly reduces the price of the ticket.  But I’m still mad at him.  Needless to say, despite the fact that Mr. Sheriff and I got along swimmingly, Momma is still out a million hundred dollars, 4 points, and a squeaky clean driving record. To salt the wound, I was racing around town to get to the store to buy food to make a “dish to pass”…for a party I ended up not being able to attend. Quite an expensive dish to pass right into my garbage. But, I did anyway – because, I could care less.

I wonder if they have speed limits in France? I bet they don’t…at least not for moms who’ve lost their only child – especially when she’s en route to a party, which marks the first real plan she’s had in three weeks.  If the Municipale accidentally pulled me over, for accidentally speeding, I bet un policier would’ve given me a hug, a baguette, and a bottle of wine. He probably would’ve told me to screw the appetizer – and advised me to head directly to the party, as fast as I damn well pleased.

So another day, another weekend, another month without you has come and gone. Life without you is so abundantly sad and wholly empty that words will never suffice to explain it.  I know in the very, very depths of my bones that this was not your destiny. You were not supposed to get sick. You certainly were not supposed to die at the age 20 weeks and 1 day.  You were bound for greatness, Paxton. I am your Momma, so by default – I know things about you that no one else in the world could ever know. It’s not their fault that they don’t know; they are not your Momma. Being your Momma is my job, and my job alone.  Part of that job is to follow my instincts….the same instincts that kept telling me something was very wrong with you.  My intuition also tells me that there is something very wrong with many things which have occurred in my life. I don’t care what anyone tries to riddle me in efforts to help make sense of complete nonsense.  I know I am right when I say…all of these “events” are entirely wrong.

lock bridge. paris.

This is a photo of the Pont de l’Archevêché in Paris – more commonly known as the “Locks of Love” bridge. This breath-taking attraction allures visitors from across the globe. Two people, who love each other, inscribe their names on a padlock, attach the lock to the fence on the bridge, and throw the key in the river. Legend has it, that this act solidifies their love as one which will last forever.  Momma needs to get to this bridge. I will get an extra fabulous padlock.  I will write “Momma & Paxton” on one side, and “Danna & Diddy” on the other.  I will lock up our love. I will throw away the key.  It will last forever…and ever…because France says so.

I miss you. I love you.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

the drugs don’t work…and they didn’t cure cancer either.

Paxton,

Five weeks…that’s all we had left together. Memorial Day, last year, marked five weeks until cancer stole you away from me.

My flashbacks are flaring up again. Is that a possible condition: flashbacks flaring up? Like a case of hemorrhoids, arthritis, Tourette’s? I guess I could look into it. But, I don’t really care what any medical books have to say. These flashbacks are so very clear and so very real, that I have to dig my fingers in between the bones in my arms to bring myself into the present time and space. I need to feel the throbs in my arms to serve as proof that I am “here and now”, not “there and then”. Without the physical pain to ground myself, I float away to some ‘still-frame’ at Children’s Hospital and unwillingly follow the reel through the next five, seventeen, two hundred and twelve frames. I watch you disappear through two narrowing doors, after handing you off to a lady in a white jacket to be carried away to another surgery. I feel the snap of the blue gloves against my wrist as I prep to change your tiny diaper. I hear the humming and beeping of the monitors attached to your little toe. I see the cage-like crib, the fold-out-couch, the egg crates, the heavy curtain, the desk, the plastic non-rocking chair, the tables littered with empty bottles and styrofoam cups…I see the darkness. I hear myself think out the conversions of ounces to mL and squint at the scale, with every diaper change. These details are critical as they serve to accurately report your I/Os at the morning rounds. I look at the clock, I check it again. I reach for the nurses’ button to tell them they are 10 minutes late with your medications that can’t be taken late. I ask question after question, and answer a few hundred in between. I taste the stale air, the metallic suffocation, the charred helplessness. I carefully study every single person who walks through the door of your room. I concentrate on their body language, facial expressions, and word choice. I hear every word they say. But, I pay attention to what they don’t say.

No matter where they start – my flashbacks always end in the same place…where I accidentally left you: on a bed – one thousand times too big – for your tiny, precious body, in the NICU, wrapped in your yellow fleece blanket, wearing your grey and blue “Mamma’s Brave Guy” snap-in-front. I see your plump ruby lips, and your pretty pink cheeks. I watch myself kiss your baby face everywhere there is surface area. I feel your silky hair, and your soft skin for the very last time. As I memorize every last detail from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, I place “Little-Tiny-Bear” under your long, beautiful fingers. I sense your Daddy gently guide me away from you, and put me on the couch where, just moments before, we all sat intertwined as we collectively willed time to stop. I watch your Daddy go back to you one more time…and then another; I hear him whisper in your ear; I watch him snuggle your blanket around you, and tuck it gently under your chin; I see him kiss you over…and over again. I play this scene in my head, but it can’t be real. It wasn’t real then, it certainly could not be real now. The scene starts again, but before I watch it one more time, I heave myself out of bed, press my back against the cold bedroom wall, and dig my fingers into my arms all over again. I do this – “dig into my arms” routine – because it has been the only thing that keeps me from busting out the back door and running to CHW to get you. There are times, Paxton, that these episodes are so vivid I know you are still there – waiting for Momma to come back and get you. In these moments, I am not having a vision, a memory, or even a flashback…rather, a feeling so deep in my soul that I can’t possibly be imagining it. If I could make my way to CHW, I would find you peacefully waiting for me in the NICU. Nurse Renee would tell me you loved your bath, your diaper is fresh and your outfit is changed. She would be sure to have put on your Jordan socks and wrapped you in your potato blankie. She’d tell me not to worry, she loved holding you while I was gone…and, that my timing was impeccable because you were just starting to look for me. Just when I’m about to start for the door, I feel my fingers and thumb almost meet as they lift my biceps off my bones…and reality quickly ensues. No matter how far, how long, how fast I run ~ I will never get to you. You are gone.

The reasons for my ‘flashbacks’, ‘night terrors’, ‘panic attacks’ are plentiful. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard them all: PTSD…trauma…anxiety…depression…psychosis. I think they are all a bunch of b.s. There is no canned diagnosis which could appropriately define my symptoms. No diagnosis exists for the symptomatology of a mother whose only child was brutally murdered by a mother fucker named cancer at the age of 20 weeks and 1 day. Look that up in the DSM-IV.

That being said, over a month ago I decided to stop taking all the crazy ass medications those doctors, who couldn’t save you, prescribed me. I took all those pills because I was a shell of myself, and didn’t know my name – much less what I was supposed to do after my baby died. I was a shell of myself, with a hand tremor and a glazed over look in my eyes; I could barely inhale & exhale, much less realize my pill cocktail was more radio active than Kryptonite. I was a shell of myself who bought into the doctors’ alarm when they said my suicidal ideations put me significantly at risk. No shit I was suicidal. I probably still am. Far as I can tell, I will be for the rest of my life. What type of mother could watch her child die, be forced to carry on in a world without him, and NOT think (a hundred times a day) of a way to be reunited with her beloved baby?

Now that I’m in “recovery”, I see and feel things my salad bar of drugs numbed out. Most of which are not pleasant or uplifting – I should be so lucky. But, I feel them no less. The world is more vibrant and more alive…which is mostly annoying to someone like me living in the land of “My Baby Died”. Nonetheless, I feel things. Albeit these things consist mostly of pain, heartache, and a longing that can’t be fulfilled, I’m no longer numbing out the world. In fact, I am letting the world back in…one day at a time.

I have five weeks, Diddy. This time, it’s my life I am going to try to save. I have to see if I can save my life, because my life is all I have left. For the next five weeks, I am going to fight for me; strangely, a phenomenon I have never before considered. I am going to take every possible measure to get myself in a place where I am strong enough to look July 2nd in the face and give it the finger. In fact, I’m going to do my best to declare July 2nd as, “National F U Cancer Day”. It will never be the day you “…grew angel wings,” or “…went to a better place.” Fuck that ridiculous nonsense. You belong here with me; anybody who says otherwise is a brainless dickbag. My heart may be unequivocally broken, but my spirit is somehow still fierce enough to refuse to go down without one last rally. If I come through on the other side – cancer better start running. Your Momma ain’t never been a punk…but this “no drug” thing is unleashing a whole new level of bad ass. (At least this is what I am telling myself in the spirit of trying to make my five-week plan a success.)

This is absolutely the opposite of what I sat down to tell you about tonight. It’s quite bizarre, actually, that any of this came out. But, deep in my soul it must be what I needed you to know. The other stuff I have brewing in my head, can wait until tomorrow. Apparently, I needed to throw a “Hail Mary” to my Sweet Boy to let you know Momma’s in a whole new fight mode. I know it is selfish, as when we had five weeks left together I wasn’t able to save you. And, here I am with five weeks until “the day I don’t ever want to face again”, and I am asking you to help save me.

I am sorry, baby. I am sorry for all of this. I hope you know, that I will be okay either way. I just want to make you proud to call me your Momma. At least today, I feel like the best way to do that is to be okay and alive, instead of okay and living.

This conversation made me think of one of the most beautifully heartbreaking songs of all time. My favorite version is, of course, by Ben. It’s your lullaby for tonight. It is from your Momma…your #1 fan of all time.

Good-night, love bug. I miss you. I love you. I hope you are safe.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox

Momma

you made me a momma. i will stay forever yours.

My~My,

As the sun stirred me awake, I did my best to resist its presence and bury my head underneath my stack of pillows. I intended to deep six myself until Monday. Today is your 15 month birthday; today is the 1 year shit-o-versary of the day you started chemo; today is also Mother’s Day. A power packed, heartache trifecta for one day.

Before I could come up with a plan on how to best avoid the day, my phone buzzed. It was a text wishing me a ‘good as can be, Mother’s Day’. A mix of happy and sad tears spontaneously fell from my eyes, rolled down my cheeks, and dropped on top of Giraffey’s soft little head. (Poor Giraffey.) Seeing the word “Mother” directed at me, made my heart smile. I wasn’t quite sure if anyone considers me a Mom anymore. I know that you do – and that I do…but, the rest of this crazy daisy, mixed-up world seems to be all sorts of messed up lately. The most beautiful part of the text, however, was not the contents of the message – rather from whom it was sent: the only other person in this universe who truly understands the depth and breadth of my love for you.

With two pieces of my heart put a little closer together, I got out of bed and almost skipped down the hall to your bedroom. I will always start and end my days in there. Even if I move far, far away – and live in 12 different houses, you will always have a bedroom…and it will always be my sacred garden. I hope you make Momma’s heart and soul your sacred garden. As I gazed out your window, I said aloud at least a dozen times, “Thank you for making me your Momma.” This was not how I was supposed to parent you, Paxton. Not even close. But it is how I must. So I will continue to do my very best to keep you alive, present, and vibrant as you would be if you were here.

After my run – which went shockingly well, I headed out to finish shopping for Dafne. Remember our little Princess Warrior? Her birthday was on May 7th. She thought it was quite special that your “D-day” was one day after her birthday. So, Momma made a promise not to forget her special day. Dr. Mortland and I still conspire ways to kick the shit outta cancer; I always knew we’d be friends on the “outside”. I desperately wish I could bring you to see her, or show her updated pictures as I told her stories aplenty about her “Lil’ Bud”. Nonetheless, she told me that Dafne is checking into the HOT Unit on Thursday…for 30 days. I still don’t have the courage to ask about her diagnosis, or her prognosis. It’s none of my business; and it doesn’t matter. All that matters is that she gets better. I bought Dafne all things, pink, sparkly, and completely radical. I probably went overboard – but, I couldn’t help myself. It is therapeutic to shop for pink things. In this case, it’s especially therapeutic because I am doing something to defy cancer’s punk ass. Further, I can make someone happy, without making myself want to puke because I should be buying it all for you. Please know, as my son, you would’ve been secure and smooth enough to wear pink (and looked totally fly, I may add). But, you wouldn’t have wanted purses, lip gloss, hats, boas, bows, sparkles, wands, and Hello Kitty.

Apparently, that adventure used up all my energy for today, because I wasn’t able to fake my way through much more. I tried to have lunch with Nana, but the food just wouldn’t go down. I thought about getting my nails done – but it seemed so artificial and unimportant. I considered meeting an old friend for drinks, but my heart wasn’t in it. Instead, I went to sleep. When I woke up, nighttime was here. I am relieved this day is almost done. Tomorrow won’t be any different…every day is just another day. But, today was a little over the top challenging – even for a girl pretending to be the bravest Warrior Momma of all-time.

Thank you for making me your Momma. I hope against all hope, I am doing you justice. I watch for your signs; I listen for your whispers. Every single moment, of every single day, I wish with all of my weary might that you are still with me. Today was not happy…not even close. But, it was Mother’s Day – and, I am so very happy that I am Paxton Bowe Andrews’ Momma.

You & Me, Diddy

I love you. I miss you.

Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox

Momma

No~Thank You, May.

Paxton,

May is here. I cannot do May.

I said those words tonight. I said them over and over. I am sorry if you heard them…if you heard my voice grow weaker with each, “No, no, no,”. I am sorry if you saw the pain in my eyes, the hot tears that ran down my cheeks. When my “no’s” fell silent, I blindly stared out your bedroom window. My sweaty palms slipped off your changing table, and wrung themselves tightly together. In my head, I begged no one in particular, “Please make May go away. Please bring him back. Please. I cannot do May”.

May is when you stopped eating. May is when you couldn’t sleep some days. May is when you couldn’t stay awake other days. May is when you were admitted into the ER. May is when you became a patient on the H.O.T Unit. May is when Room 582 became home. May is when you were assigned the largest team of doctors in the history of pediatric Oncology patients at CHW. May is when you had three (out of five) surgeries. May is when you were diagnosed with Neuroblastoma…then with Leukemia….finally with Sarcoma. May is when you started chemo…on Mother’s Day. May is when you had, and ultimately ended, your 10-day “smile-drought”. May is when the end began.

For the next seven days, I will recount every hour we spent together before we crossed the one-way bridge into the barbaric world of Childhood Cancer. I will recall the endless trips to Target to buy ‘another’ new bottle, three different nipples, Vick’s Vapor Rub plug-ins, a medicine dropper, and Pedialyte. I will read, and re-read the Gold Binder of “Paxton’s Day” logs in which I insisted Nana, Papa and Kim Lueder record detailed notes of your eating and sleeping patterns. I will think about the night I gave you a bath – and suddenly realized that the water may be a little too warm; I will then feel my heart sink as I picture you simply staring back at me with a look of quiet exasperation. I will remember watching my miracle boy in his peaceful slumber for “…just one more minute” – before waking you on Thursday morning. I will see the vision of you intently watching Nemo on the computer at the gym through weary and tired eyes. I will remember you and I fumbling our way to Urgent Care Sunday afternoon, as I did all I could to appease you as we waited for over an hour, only to have some inattentive, arrogant doctor tell me you had “Hand Foot Mouth Disease”. I will remember you waking up every few hours throughout the night on Friday, Saturday, & Sunday….not to eat…just to be held. I will swear at myself over and over as I wonder how I didn’t figure out how very sick you were. I will ask myself a hundred more times how I possibly missed all the signs. I will regret not staying awake all day…and all night…not giving up one moment with you. I will call in every favor I have to just in case this can still be one huge misunderstanding. I will give everything I own to be stirred awake tomorrow morning by the sound of your “Whoo.Who.”

Achhhk. May. Spit.

But tonight it is still April. I will hold onto April until the sun steals it from me. I will thank April for giving me a myriad of “Non-Childhood Cancer” memories. We did so many special things in April; we embarked on so many secret adventures: just me and my American Express Baby. “…I’ll never leave home without you!” Do you remember when I said that to you as I strapped you into your car seat to set out on yet another one of our outings? You pulled your smile back so big; your eyes filled with laughter and your arms circled with excitment.  You’re reaction made Momma let out a shot-gun laugh and drop her head onto your little tummy. That is such a great memory. I replay it in my head more often than you know.

Yes, it’s true. Momma has a fierce storm brewing inside her bones. May started it. But hasn’t let up since. When the storm will rise to the surface of my skin is no one’s guess – and everyone’s fear. All I know is it will not be tonight. Tonight I am going to close my eyes and play back all the bliss of April. As I do, I will imagine you sleeping in your bassinet – right by my side, breathing the same air, feeling the same breeze, hearing the same sounds, sharing the most sacred times, stealing the same love…which saturated our home.

As Dave would say, tonight I will “sleep to dream (you).” If we do not find each other in Momma’s dreams tonight, you need not be afraid: “space between” us does not exist. I am always holding your hand, and forever carrying your heart.

Trust me, My-My. You and me…we are gonna be okay. Momma’s got this.Trust.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox

Momma

the world is insane. i’m just mad.

Paxton,
I am currently donning my pink (PINK!) hoodie…complete with hood up, and tied so tightly that the only thing exposed are my swollen, tired eyes. Only your Momma would be freezing cold on April 21st. I guess I will always be the biggest freeze baby in all the land. I still think you were “coldie” more often than not too – even when others would argue you were fine…I’m pretty sure you had your Momma’s blood. (I apologize for the few times I accidentally made you super-sweaty on those walks when I snuggled you with one too many blankets. I was just making sure.)

I am sitting in your bedroom, in our glider, with your little teal pillow propped underneath the computer. The ‘just right’ pillow positioning is both traumatizing and comforting. I can remember exactly the way you and I needed to be ‘situated’ both here in our glider, as well as on the couch with your boppy – leopard pillow – red pillow combo. Of course, it all makes perfect sense now why it hurt your tiny little body so much anytime Momma made even the slightest move. I can’t talk about it in detail…because doing so would make me puke. All the little signs continue to fall into place. Just when I think I’ve thought of them all, another one pops up: like tonight, as I instinctively resumed the “glider teal pillow arrangement”. I will never forgive myself for allowing anyone to talk me out of my gut instinct. I’d do anything to rewind time and be a stronger-willed Momma. I would force someone to listen to me…not simply hear me. If I needed to, I would scream at the top of my lungs, “No…I am not a neurotic, hyper-sensitive, first time mom. No…I am not going to keep a god damn journal to document on paper what I am telling you right now. No…I am not going to bring him back tomorrow if he doesn’t ‘turn the corner’. What I am going to do is stay right here, holding my son against my chest ,while you figure out what the fuck is wrong.” I am so sorry it took me too long to say all of those things.

On top of being cold, and sad, I have officially decided the world is insane. This weekend sealed the deal, Diddy. The more people I encounter, and the more knowledge I acquire…the more convinced I am that the entire universe…at least my corner of the world…well, minimally my street…is completely twisted.

Go away - except Diddy.

One year ago tomorrow marks my first day back to work after my 13 weeks of bed-rest + 10 weeks of maternity leave…totaling 50 weeks and 1 day of completely unseparated time with you. Dream come true.

I remember how phenomenally scared I was to be away from you for ‘an entire day’. Grammie slept over to make the transition smoother for Momma. But it didn’t work. I did not sleep the night before. I could not make myself leave when it was time to go. Just as I headed for the door, I was compelled to write you a letter. Even though she was anxious to have you to herself, Grammie let me write in silence. Knowing it’d make me even later, I insisted I take the letter up to your room and put it on your dresser. I asked Grammie to read it to you when I was gone, so you would’t go too long without “hearing” from me. And she did…that Grammie of yours is a spoiler. I did not do a single, meaningful thing at work that day. I did not concentrate for two consecutive seconds. I did not make it more than one hour without calling home to check on you. I thought about you every.single.second. Above all, I missed you terribly.

Nothing about tomorrow will be different while I am at work. Everything else will be; starting with the fact that I can no longer rush home, scoop you into my arms, breathe in your sweet smell, and whisper in your ear how very much I love you…and everything else thereafter too.

I miss you so much it hurts my tummy. I hope you are warm enough.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox,

Momma

14 months. numbness. and (involuntary) survival.

Little Diddy,

It has been too long since I’ve written. There is no excuse – other than the fact that this numbness thing has made stringing multiple sentences together an elusive feat. Everyone who knows me could attest that I express the contents of my heart best through the written word. I realize that talking proves to be the most efficient and effective form of communication for most people. Apparently, I am not most people; at least not when I’m expected to express emotions by talking. So much of what I want to say remains unvoiced when I have to rely on my mouth to keep up with my brain. (Momma is a quick thinker. But when matters of the heart are at play, the right words don’t always catch up with my speedy brain…much less find their way out of my mouth. Ironically, in situations that it’d behoove me to be at a loss for words – thoughts fly out of my mouth all too quickly. It’s gotten me into trouble every now and again. Largely because the things that fall out of my mouth, when not speaking with my heart, happen to include the “F” word…usually more than once. And also because most people don’t appreciate the versatility of the word as much as I do.)

In hindsight, writing to you proved to be a helpful way for me to process my grief. I guess it took me until January to begin writing because that’s when my grief-induced numbness started to wear off. Each time I wrote, little pieces of my heart grew closer together. Uniting my scattered, yet most sacred, thoughts into a coherent and heart-felt voice allowed a tiny sliver of my soul to come back to life. Given I had lost my beloved child, to a gruesome and horrific disease – just six months prior, I don’t think my emotional paralysis was uncommon or unacceptable. As it turns out, others thought differently.

Two months ago a deep-freeze-Novocain-shot-to-the-heart-type-numbness returned. This round being induced by a choice, not a disease, feels entirely different…yet strangely familiar. Apparently, numbness is how I spare myself from pain so profound that, if absorbed, it would kill me. I never understood how Aron Ralston, the hiker who got trapped under a boulder for 127 hours in the mountains of Utah, managed to severe off his arm to dislodge himself and save his life. Now it makes perfect sense. Mr. Ralston cut off his arm; I cut off my feelings. Survival: I guess it is an involuntary reflex after all.

I am glad I survived until today, because today you would have turned 14 months. Before I even opened my eyes this morning, I knew it was the 12th. I knew it was 14 months. Instead of letting my eyes give way to the tears which all too often push their way past my lids and down my cheeks, I closed them a little tighter. As I did, I was met with a vision of you so vivid that if I’d reached inside my eyes, I could’ve grabbed onto you. You held onto the railing of your crib as you bounced just high enough to make me nervous…but too excited to make you stop. Across your sweet face spread your trademark, semi-lopsided, contagious smile which was so fierce that it pushed your cheeks against the bottoms of your baby-blue eyes. You had on fuzzy pj’s – – through which your diaper, being extra squishy, made your dupa stick out a little further than the rest of you. The babble you uttered was purposeful in nature – – as you were luring Momma to your room to swoop you into my arms for a good-morning kiss and love-packed squeeze.

I could have watched you all morning. But just as quickly as you came – you were gone. When that happens, especially in a semi-sleep state, I am still not sure if you actually came to visit, or if I simply conjured up a desired reality. Either way, I feel as close to you as I can possibly get – which makes my heart smile.

I eventually willed myself out of bed. I forced myself into the shower. I put one foot in front of the other. I set out to execute the motions of the day. But I held that vision of you so steady in my eyes that I can’t say for sure I ever saw the road as I drove through the dark, rainy morning. I was snapped out of my trance by a message from someone I thought I may never hear from again. The gesture alone was beyond what I could have asked for…especially today…especially in that very moment. I am certain you were behind that too, Sweet Boy. You always find a way to remind me that we are together in this shit storm of life.

For now, Momma has to go to sleep. As always, I will look for you in my dreams. Wherever you are, and wherever you roam, I hope you can feel my love – – from the top of your precious little head all the way down to your tippy-tippy toes.

...the giving tree.

I am so sorry you got sick. I am so sorry I couldn’t protect you. I am so, so sorry for all of this.

I love you. I miss you. I hope you are safe.

xoox,

Momma

Be Peaceful.

Sweetest Diddy,

An early morning trip to Target proved to be far more significant than Momma’s run-of-the-mill trips to Target. With only a few things to pick up, and a surplus of time to spare, I began to amble mindlessly through a store which, once upon a time, was as familiar to me as our backyard. Ultimately, I found myself in the middle of the “happy home” isle. I almost screamed out loud, (but didn’t – so don’t be embarrassed) when I found the candle I have been searching high and low for since last April. To the rest of the free world, it would seem there is nothing extraordinary about this candle. It is a typical Target something-or-other-brand aromatherapy candle. The name however, a bit more special, ‘Be Peaceful’…which is what compelled me to initially buy it. I found it on my first “away from home” trial in very early March. I wonder if it were exactly one year ago today? At any rate, I remember your Daddy making me leave the house without you in tow. He said I could go wherever I wanted, but that I had to be gone a minimum of twenty minutes. Prior to you becoming a part of my life, a twenty minute errand was nearly laughable, given my trademark ability to turn a five minute errand into a two hour escapade. Nonetheless, I took the challenge.

In lightening speed, I secured formula, a double pack of Dr. Brown’s bottles, and a tube of “Butt Paste” (recommended by Dr. D.). I turned to head home, but realized I had been gone about 7 minutes. I anxiously made a quick right turn down the “happy home” isle….where I spotted the ‘Be Peaceful’ candle. I instinctively, and giddily, added it to the must-haves-for-Paxton basket. Unwilling to suppress my angst of being away from you, away from my family, a minute longer – I headed to the Express checkout, paid for our stuff, and drove home…without stopping to look both ways. I burned that candle, almost daily, until approximately the middle of April. When I noticed it was almost gone, I began my search for another one. I checked multiple Target locations, Target online, and eBay; but was unable to find another one anywhere. Knowing it was ‘running’ low – and with no replacement in sight, I began to burn it more sparingly. Then May happened.

Finding the ‘Be Peaceful’ candle today, initially, seemed so very serendipitous. It is, after all, March 2nd. Today marks 8 months since I rubbed my lips across your perfect head and silky hair, held you against my chest as we slowly breathed in tandem, and felt the warmth of your gentle – but steadfast – fingers circled around my thumb. To my surprise, the more aroma that fills the room, the more sadness fills my heart. Our sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than any other of the five senses. The recognition of smell is immediate. While other senses (touch and taste) must travel through the body via neurons and the spinal cord before reaching the brain: our olfactory response is immediate, extending directly to the brain. The emotional connections and the memories attached to a smell are always deeply personal; it seems a familiar smell is oft intrinsically enmeshed with the individual experience.

As the scent of the candle replaces the air in the room, I can almost teleport myself back to last year on this very day. Although smell is the strongest of the five sense, I can remember them all. I hear college basketball steadily as a fixture on our t.v. – but not too loud – because we were listening for the coo of your voice. I see you contently asleep, while swaddled (extra tight, like a cigar) in my arms, or in your bassinet – which we moved upstairs and downstairs depending on where “camp” was determined to be for the next several hours. I taste the sweet flavor of your formula, as I test a drop from my wrist to make sure it is just the right temperature. I feel the unabridged happiness, unexplainable contentment, (no doubt the newborn induced sleep deprivation); most importantly I feel the good, sweet love that filled every last inch of our home.

Needless to say, since ‘Be Peaceful’ has permeated throughout our home, the scent has evoked an unanticipated array of emotions. The sadness and yearning which have flooded my heart are not only due solely over the loss of you – but also over the loss the family who lived here – just last year. It does not seem plausible that the only thing that remains the same about our little family, about our quaint home, about our happily-ever-after … is the familiar scent of a candle.

Sweet boy, I do not know how all of this has happened. What I do know is that if I could fix even one part of it, I would…in a heartbeat, I would.

Momma. Alone.

I hope you are safe. I hope you are peaceful. Please be happy, little one.

Stay with me, Sweet Boy.

xoox
Momma

A sign. A sigh. And I just miss you.

Sweet Boy,

Thank you so very much for the sign you gifted me the other night. It was one of the most special, endearing, and distinct ones you have so graciously sent to date. (It was no baby giraffe drinking from a bottle…but, it was pretty damn close.)  And, of course, I so appreciate that you made sure to save it for a time when I needed it so very, very much. Not only are you good, kind, brave and funny…turns out you also happen to be quite bright to boot.

Each time I come to the edge of all the light I have, you find a way to reassure me that I am not alone. You find a way to let me know that you are, in fact, right by my side. Diddy, with the dawn of each new day, I draw a bit of strength, fight, hope and grace from you. Though it pales in comparison, I will continue to conduct myself in a way I hope makes you proud to call me your Momma. I will continue to carry you in my heart, my bones, my blood, and my soul through all of eternity.  I will continue to believe in you…I will continue to believe in us…I will continue to believe in our indomitable bond.

Littlest Warrior

I miss you. That is all. I miss you.

Stay with me, sweet boy.

xoox,

Momma

Two hundred and twelve steps back. And the other shoe dropped too.

Diddy,

I think I have taken 212 steps back. I knew your birthday would be a force to contend with; needless to say, it far surpassed my expectations. Yesterday and today, however… well, I guess it could all be nicely summarized by saying, “the other shoe has dropped”.

Despite the fact it felt like someone cut my eyes open and rubbed lemons on them, and my head ached from an entire day & night of a “hard-cry” hangover, I got out of bed yesterday morning. I did so because I had every intention to resume going through the motions of life without you. (I continue to do this, hoping that if you are watching, I just may make you proud every so often.) I repeated the mantra I said over & over throughout those first several weeks I returned to work. “Your pain is nothing compared to his. Your pain is nothing compared to his.” As I silently chanted my battle-cry, I used all my insides to put one foot infront of the other and make my way to your room. I simultaneously concentrated on containing the tears pressing against the back of my eyes, and holding down the vomit rising from my tummy up to my throat. I made it to your changing table to say good-morning…but somehow I ended up across the room in our glider. In an instant, I came undone. I couldn’t breathe, much less move. I truly didn’t feel this panic attack coming – which scared me a bit. As you know, at this point, it is somewhat of a challenge to rattle Momma. I tried all my well-versed tricks to regain some semblance of control, but it was too late. Ultimately, I gave in…and unleashed a primal shit show.

I’m still not sure how, or when, I finally managed to bring myself around. Maybe a text message came in from Daddy – inadvertently providing a sense of saftey? Or, perhaps Lucas came into your room to stand by my side? (Although, he never comes in when Momma or Daddy are in your room. It is the strangest, yet most endearing, phenomena. He knows exactly what has happened; he misses you too. Lucas visits your room on his own, and even sleeps in front of your changing table every so often.) By the time I was semi-functional again, I realized I simply would not be able to get myself to work on time. So I called in ‘sick’ again…this time, for a half day. I wonder if they’d consider adding the option of calling in ‘broken-hearted’ to my queue? Those good and kind kids of Momma’s were so relieved to see me. When they saw I had returned for the afternoon, a few of my most ‘belove-lies’ charged into my room and pounced on top of me and hugged me but good. One of my favorite, sassiest, girls planted a kiss right on top of my head. They knew why I was gone; better yet, they knew not to talk about it. It makes me sad to know they worry about me. I love them all so dearly. You would too, Paxton…and they’d have protected you to the end’s of this earth. Momma’s crazy-daisy kids: thank goodness for each of them.

Today is the day we brought you home from the hospital last year. I remember thinking, “There will never be another Valentine’s Day that can top this one.” Little did I know how very true that statement would prove. I keep picturing you in the beautiful outfit Nana made for your “coming home” extravaganza. Given we all operated under the guise that you would be born early, Nana made each part of your outfit smaller than those she had made for your cousins. Nonetheless, you still were drowing in it. Daddy was so irritated that I had you wear it anyway; I couldn’t be swayed – you were just too dang cute in it. Your toes barely passed where your knees should have hit – and I had to cuff the sleeves on your sweater, not once, but twice. My favorite part, however, was the way the hat kept falling down – nearly covering your sweet little face. Oh, Diddy-Diddy, how did this all happen?

Momma? Are you there?

It’s not that I shouldn’t be missing your itty-bitty newborn days; every mom misses those days. After all, they are the very moments we have patiently, yet anxiously anticipated for the previous 9 months. Sweeter yet, they afford the unique opportunity to fall in love 100 times a day, with the same little person. The sleep deprivation, hormone fluctuation, and punch-drunk love state, result in a blissful blur of some of life’s finest moments…which, in hindsight, slip away before you’ve even had a chance to realize they were real. Yes, I should be missing those days. I should be missing those days as I watch you across the room and marvel at how you’ve transformed before my eyes into a one-year old baby, with plump cheeks and locks of blonde hair. I should be missing those days as I gently clean the lint and baby food out from the crevices of your chubby fingers, which match your Michelan-baby body so perfectly that it looks like someone screwed your hands onto the ends of your arms. I should be missing those days as I shriek in excitement because you just took two, maybe three, steps on your own before teetering over right onto your dupa. I should not be missing your itty-bitty newborn days, along with everything else about you. I know I say it all the time, but I just want you back. It is that simple: I want you back.

For some reason, earlier today I recalled one of the songs I sang to you on our first night at home together. We were tucked away in Momma & Daddy’s room as the lyrics started to stream from my mouth…seemingly on instinct. I had never sung them out loud before that moment. I can still feel how very petite and fragile you felt in my arms. I can still feel my cheek brush along yours – which was so soft that it felt like it was made of clouds. Truth be told, I still remember every nook and every cranny of you, sweet boy. My memories of you are so detailed and so plentiful that I have to remind myself more often than I should, that no matter how intricate and abundant my visions remain, I will never be able to reach out and scoop you up into my arms – where you belong.

Alas, in honor of our first night at home together, and the very best Valentine’s Day there ever will be…here is your lullaby tonight, Paxton.

Stay with me sweet boy.

xoox,

Momma