Saturday, January 3, 2015

One year approaching

I receive several painful emails from baby marketers every week.  No matter the number of times I've unsubscribed, there is always another one - giving tips for the perfect nursery, the softest clothing for baby, pampering for the new mom.  If it's not the email marketers, it's the deluge of miracle baby and parenting stories that perpetually pop up on every search engine that exists.  I can only imagine the torment I'd endure if I had a facebook account.  I usually laugh out loud, try to diffuse whatever minor impersonal blow strikes, but I often end up in tears at the effortless realities depicted..., at the easy joys and concerns that will never again be mine after Zachary's death. Today's stab came by email:

Happy Birthday January babies!  Treat your January babe with a legacy birthstone necklace...

Perfect.  Do you size them to adorn the urns of dead children?  Great, I'll need two.   


We have been trying to prepare ourselves for the onslaught of Zachary's first birthday (on January 7) and the first anniversary of all the beautiful, and then horrendous, moments of his life in January.  There is a burning desire to honor him during this time, to acknowledge the fourteen days of his life more intentionally than we otherwise feel permitted to do.  We keep fantasizing that maybe if we have a plan, if we create an illusion of control over the things we do in his memory, maybe the crumble-and-fall-apart effect will be dulled by at least a fraction.      

Yesterday over lunch, my sister and I mulled over the list of ideas and plans that B, C.T. and I have mapped out to do in Zachary's memory.  I'm feeling okay about the specific things we have planned, but honestly, it is so damned hard, so unsatisfying.  The person of honor is my dead son.  There is no party.  There are no happy guests taking time out of their day to lavish my boy with love and birthday presents, no messy first bites of cake.  This is nothing like what I imagined when I thought about planning Zachary's first birthday.  And he is not the first dead son for whom we must remember his birthday..., rather than celebrate it with him.  It is so overwhelming that this new level of brokenness is really my life. 

January is going to be brutal.  I miss him so much. 


  1. Dear Gretchen,
    first of all I am so very sorry for the loss of your two beautiful sons. You are a wonderful mom and they should both be with you. Your love and devotion for all your boys is obvious in every post you write. Please try to ignore the people who try to minimize your loss. I know that is nearly impossible. Just know there are people out there that support you 100 percent, even if it is just from a distance!
    I think of you and your boys.
    Greetings from Germany, F.

    1. Thank you so much, Florence, for your kind words and for reading here.

  2. I"m not sure if my first comment took... so forgive me if this is a repeat.
    YOu highlight the difference between celebration and remembrance quite well. After Mabel died, I immediately pictured throwing her a party for her first birthday. Cake. Party hats. presents from people (to be donated). But as the time approaches (february) I'm not sure how much of a celebration I want. I just dont know. I"m eager to hear how you spend the day.

    I hope the day (and the days before and after) are gentle.

    1. I actually did have a "party", for each of the first 6 birthdays after our first son, B.W., died. We had food, birthday cake, a balloon release and an invitation to bring gifts to donate in his memory. Let me tell you, it was exhausting to do it, and to try to manage my own deep aching emotions while attempting to make sure people didn't feel too uncomfortable with the idea (for the 2-3 hour commitment they made). Each year, people fell away from participating, which hurt me/us deeply. On his 7th birthday, we decided to go it alone and just simply do our own remembrance stuff. I regret not giving it up sooner, but I suppose I just wanted to make sure he was never forgotten. It was my one annual chance to have an event that was all about him. As you know, almost everything is lost when you baby dies...

      I cannot bear to do the same for Zachary for many reasons and in acknowledge of many dimensions. We are choosing to do what we (think we) can handle to honor each of the 14 days of his life, and to include only the few people who have specifically asked to be included.

  3. I'm not physically "there", of course, but I would be honored to do something in honor of Zachary...

  4. I'm thinking of you, Gretchen, and your darling boys. I'm so sorry you have to endure this. There is no way to make it right, but it sounds like you have a plan to follow through the very difficult days ahead. I wish you strength and whatever moments of comfort you can find as you remember Zachary in the days to come. XO

  5. Happy Birthday, Zachary! Wishing you strength and comfort over the next 14 days.

  6. The words in this blog express your love for Zachary so beautifully, Gretchen. I have not commented until today, as I know there are no words that could ease your pain, but I wanted you to know that I have thought about Zachary all day today on his birthday. The kids and I talked about him this morning, speaking his name and remembering one year ago. I am so sorry that he is not here. You are a wonderful mother to him in the ways that you are honoring him and remembering him. He was and is loved deeply.