Saturday, July 2, 2016

Attempts at life

I feel my chest cave inward, a sad sigh of disillusionment, every time I hear puppy congratulations.  
As of the end of Wednesday, he'd been with us a whole day longer than Zachary's fourteen days of life.  Our time and attention is now invaded by a new creature - a pet - who shares our home. 

I already know our puppy well enough to know he is going to poop seven times a day, give or take one.  When I rescue him from his crate in the morning, he is going to do vertical, twisting spins in my arms as he licks my face and neck.  When he's tired and ready for a nap, he smacks his lips and flutters his eyelids.  His puppy fur is so soft that when he sits, his rear end slips out from under him on our wood floor.  He likes to snap at moths and do somersaults in tall patches of grass and hates the sound of the big, intimidating looking trucks that occasionally drive down our road. 

He looked up at the sky yesterday and was at once awed and terrified when he noticed a low flying airplane for the first time.  He is adorable and trouble-making and chews his toys and my hands and clothes incessantly. 

I think we may have almost as many photos of Thunder now as we do of Zachary.   And that hurts so badly. 

It feels wrong that Thunder lives, spends ordinary days with us in our home, while Zachary does not.  Maybe it sounds strange, but I feel envious (for Zachary) that our puppy gets so much of our time, so much normalcy, that he receives C.T.'s attention, some of the hugs and kisses that should have been Zachary's.  I find myself even pointlessly fantasizing about swapping the pet for the son, and dreaming it were then possible to go on with Zachary as if the last 29 miserable months never happened.

This consolation prize reality is still, still, so hard to accept.  Every new thing since Zachary's death is approached with such tremendous reluctance. 


Unlike the prior two years, and despite glacially-slow improvement in my feet, I made it to just about every one of C.T.'s baseball games this spring and early summer.  I still couldn't bring myself to sit anywhere near the bleachers, where the others parents and siblings were, so I'd set up my chair way out beyond the first or third base line.  I even cheered for C.T.'s team at the appropriate times this year, as if the outcome of the game mattered to me.  It's progress.

A few weeks ago, a mother I remember from C.T.'s kindergarten class showed up to the game with her two younger sons.  I remember her from C.T.'s kindergarten year.  We had worked on the Halloween party together in the fall of 2013 when she had a kindergartener and a preschooler.  The following fall, just seven months after Zachary died, I saw her on the first day of school, her belly about to pop with a third child.  A few months later, she was toting a stroller and a brand new baby boy in the infant carrier.  And now, here they were again - the baby boy now a full fledged toddler, in a baseball cap and running around in sandals carrying a sippy cup, his mother throwing her head back in laughter, small talking in the stands with the other moms. 

Every time I see these little humans, these mothers with new living children, produced after Zachary lived and then died, I can hardly believe my eyes.  My aimless unanswerable questions ensue...  How do these plans for children and lives materialize so effortlessly?  How do all of these little people not die?  How have they grown so big already?  Why have two of my children died, and all three of hers are living?  What is it like to feel so carefree at a baseball game, to casually banter with other parents, unencumbered by this kind of sorrow?


C.T. has joined a travel soccer club, and while we expect it will be a nice opportunity for him, I'm seriously dreading the whole getting-to-know-the-team process.  

Before try-outs in May, the coach asked us if C.T. wanted to practice with the team, to see if he could keep pace.  While B and I sat on the sidelines, watching the practice, one of the soccer moms decided to try to talk to us.  Of course, her second question, after introducing herself and asking which boy was ours, was:

So, do you have other children at home?

While I held my breath, B took the lead and gently informed her that C.T. has two brothers, both of them deceased. 

I don't know if I should have been shocked by what came out of her mouth next, but I was.

Oh, gotcha...
Do you live on the north side of town?

So, with the arrival this week of emails about the club/team social events for the summer and fall, involving families, my anxiety and panic about being part of this group has reached a crescendo.  I just don't know how to be graceful about Zachary's death... on top of B.W.'s.  I don't feel safe letting these people into even a fraction of our life, nor do I care about "socializing".     


I recall that B's (high school) senior yearbook blurb about his dreams and his future life included something like:

... I hope to get married and have three children...

I don't think he could have ever imagined it this way. 


  1. Dear Gretchen,
    I've just come to your blog. I lost myself a 6 week baby 4 months ago and I am devastated. Everything you feel , everything you write is what i feel at the moment. I always thought, if something like losing a baby ever happened to me, i would die, and then it happened, and then i didn't die. I'm barely functioning for my other two children and husband. But that's not living, that's not the life i ever wanted. I can imagine for a moment how you are feeling, i am broken, if you are living through this for the second time you most be twice broken, pain over pain. That's too much for a person to handle. So sorry for you and your family. I am also at a point that don't care about "socializing". All the families around me with all their children and so carefree, can't do it right now, don't know if i ever will......Just sending you a big hug!

    1. I am so very sorry to hear about the loss of your son or daughter. It is an unbearable loss that somehow we learn to live with. At four months out, you are so very fresh in your shock and grief, and yet people begin to think they should see some life back in you. Hang in there. I am so, so sorry.

      Thank you for reading and commenting...

  2. Gretchen: Thank you for validating my own antisocial tendencies. I did the same the same thing...sit away from the other mothers. Their reactions or lack of reactions are going to hurt too much and I just don't want to feel sad all the time. (And my husband wished for six kids...he's got five...but not the way he wanted them.)

  3. Every event attended is a risk of reopening the wound, exposing ourselves to what should be simple social questions, risking our vulnerable bereaved selves to feeling pain again.

    I recently saw a mother who had a baby the same month Heidi was born. I saw her the other day at the park and I thought " I hate her". As you said, how could it be so effortless for some? I forgave myself for this terrible feeling that was truth to me in that moment. Of course, I don't really hate her - I don't even know her. Who knows what she has been through.

    "Gotcha"....I felt the sting of that just reading it. That's all she cold muster? Most people can at least get an "I'm so sorry" out. That's why we need shirts that's say "my baby died" so people will know we just aren't being bitchy or isolates. The double pain you have to endure is just too much. It's no wonder your feet pain you - the part of your body that connects you to a world that has been excessively cruel - twice.

    But what can we do? The risk of the pain is worth it sometimes just to see the beam of a smile that our living children have when we see them kick that ball. That's the smile that brings us back.

    Thank you for writing Gretchen.

  4. I related so much to everything that you described, Gretchen. We adopted a dog in February and I continually have thoughts about the amount of time that we have had with her in comparison to the lack of time that we had with our son. It's so strange to think that we've now had our dog for 6 months longer than our son was alive. Sometimes I feel I know her better than I knew Anthony. It's such a hard thing to think about.

    I can also completely relate to the crushing feeling of seeing other kids who are close to the age that he would be now. Those painful encounters make me realize even more the passage of time while marveling at the fact that these children are somehow still alive--it indeed seems so easy for others. And the insensitivity of these other parents only amplifies the pain and the sense of isolation.

    Sending lots of love and hugs to you.