Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Recently, I was given a writing prompt at school that I related to more than I wish I did. The question was: "Do you think you could allow yourself to love your child if you knew there was a possibility they would not survive?" I knew where the prompt originated from, as we had been studying some African cultures where only half of the children born survive.

In 2012, I was pregnant with my son. Although he was unplanned, I loved him the moment I found out he was growing inside of me. When I was 23 weeks pregnant, I found out he would be born with a severe, life-threatening heart condition. He was given a 25 percent chance of surviving until birth, and a 25 percent chance of living if he were to be born alive. The shock of this diagnosis made me thoughtlessly withdraw my emotions from my child. I knew I did not want to subject myself and invest my feelings into such a grim outlook. However, I knew that I loved my baby, and it felt wrong to pretend like I didn’t only to save my own feelings. I did allow myself to love him, and love him as much as I would if he wasn’t ill.

He was born in November, 2011 with even more issues than they had predicted during birth. His heart condition was worse than expected, and he also had moderate kidney and liver dysfunction. That meant his chances of survival were even lower. But, I still allowed myself to love him, and make sure he knew how much he was loved. It became more and more natural, as the shock and fear wore off and my motherly instincts became stronger.
This love was seriously tested when he was nine days old and had open heart surgery. I was given the option to keep him comfortable and allow him to pass away without any intervention, a 100 percent guarantee that I would lose him, since no child had ever survived this condition without treatment for more than 14 days. This option would have saved him from needing a minimum of three surgeries, and would have saved me from exposing myself to the heartbreak of watching my baby go through this. I couldn’t. I allowed myself love him, and maybe selfishly, allowed him a chance to survive and move forward with the surgery.
I was told the surgery would take eight hours, but he was gone for nearly 14. Every minute was excruciating, because I allowed myself to love him. When the surgeon told me they had no control over his bleeding for six hours, it physically hurt me, because I allowed myself to love him. When I saw him with his chest still open after his surgery, my own heart broke, because I allowed myself to love him. When I pushed all of that pain aside and broke down in tears of joy because he was alive, it is because I allowed myself to love him.
When he was two months old, and had been home with me for nearly six weeks, he was brought to the emergency room in an ambulance. Shortly after we got there, his heart stopped. Chest compressions and respiratory support was started, and after over an hour, the doctor told me there was nothing they could do, and that he was going to die. I went to the restroom, screamed, cried, and felt myself trying to withdraw my emotions from him again to save myself from heartache. I didn’t want to see him die. What would I do? But, I allowed myself to love him, I went into his room, I held him, I kissed him, and I allowed myself to love him until he died in my arms.

If you are wondering, I got 100% on this paper.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

The 7 Stages of Grief

The 7 Seven Stages of Grief

There is a list out there that says there are 7 stages of grief one goes through after something traumatic, such as a death.  The steps are:

1.  Shock - Initial paralysis
2.  Denial - Trying to avoid the inevitable
3.  Anger - Frustrated out pouring of bottled up emotions
4.  Bargaining - Looking for a way out
5.  Depression - Final realization of the inevitable
6.  Testing - Seeking out realistic solutions
7.  Acceptance - Finding the way forward   

A person experiencing grief is "supposed to" cycle through each of these stages, ending in acceptance.  The person experiencing grief is also "supposed to" feel better within 6 months, or they are given the title "complicated grief".  I am here to tell you that everyone grieves differently.  After the loss of a child, you are not going to be over them in 6 months.  There is no textbook case or ideal way of dealing with this kind of grief.  I wish I could tell you it was as easy as making smooth transitions through these stages and feeling yourself within 6 months, but I can't.  It's a lie.  I am over 3 years into my journey with grief, and I still have not reached the final stage of acceptance.  I have experienced stages 1 through 6, and I have gone back and forth, up and down the list in that time.  This is NORMAL.

Shock - This will be your first response.  Your body goes into survival mode in an attempt to cope.  I went into shock when I had to place my son's body on the hospital table and walk away while they took him to the morgue.  I was in an undeniable state of shock until his funeral, one week after he passed.

Denial - This started for me the day after he passed.  I woke up in the morning, and had almost completely forgotten that my son had died.  Waking up without him was normal to me.  He was in the hospital for close to half of his life, and those days I would wake up and spend the entire day with him.  I honestly believed the hospital was going to call me and tell me this was all a big mix up.  That Jayden was fine.  Of course, that call never came.

Anger - It took me months to get to this stage, and I frequently "back track" to this stage.  About once a month, I have a day where I am angry at everything and everyone.  I am self destructive and usually have to talk myself out of making stupid decisions.  On these days I consider dropping out of school, instigating conflict with my loved ones, I always consider letting myself dive right back down to rock bottom, and worse.  Be kind to yourself.  These extreme thoughts are temporary and you will snap out of this anger.  I promise.

Bargaining - This has been a stage that I have been stuck in for a long time.  It is always lingering in the back of my mind.  Occasionally I find my thoughts drifting into ways to escape my life.  In the beginning, it was a good thing for me.  I was in a toxic relationship and I NEEDED to get out.  Now, I am happy with my life, but I still have these thoughts.  I never put serious consideration to them, but they're there.

Depression - I can't say for sure when the final realization hit me.  A lot of angel moms I talk to say it's when their child's headstone is placed, or they receive their ashes.  I believe I was first "grazed" by this stage when I was planning his funeral and when first walked into the funeral home the afternoon of his funeral.  I believe my true breaking point was when I finally gained the courage to go to the funeral home and make his arrangements.  I got about half way through the meeting, until they showed me a picture of the baby caskets.  They had white, pink, and blue.  Seeing the picture made it all too real for me.  I stood up and walked out.  After a good cry and a short break, I was able to return and finish up with the arrangements.  I don't remember anything between the morning I made the arrangements and the afternoon of his funeral.  I greeted all of our family outside of the funeral home and held it together.  Once I walked inside, hand in hand with my mom, I was caught off guard by two large pictures of my son and a song that I had first heard when I was pregnant playing in the lobby.  My mom and I simultaneously started crying.  That was the second time that the truth actually hit me.  My son was gone.  I visited him at the cemetery countless times without actually comprehending that he was buried below me.  I snap in and out of this stage.  I think about my son every single day, but some days the only thought I have is that he is dead.  Those days are the days I fall back into this stage.  

Testing - This seems to be where I am right now.  I still frequently "visit" stages 2-5, but for the most part, I am here.  I am trying to find ways to continue on my life without the agony of not having my son here with me dragging me down.  I am making sure his memory lives on and that he is never forgotten.  I try to spread awareness in hopes that one day, no other family will have to experience this.

Remember, there is no way you're supposed to grieve.  You need to do what you need to do to get through and to survive.  It is normal to go back to previous stages of grief, to skip them, be in more than one at once,  or to go out of order.  Cry, scream, and take time to yourself.  It's okay.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

"God Needed Another Angel"

"God Needed Another Angel"

Let me tell you...  This is one of the worst things you can say to a grieving mother, whether they're in their first days of grieving or years down the road.  We don't want to be told that GOD took our child from us.  I know a lot of people panic and don't know what to say, and I am sure they say this with the best of intentions, but please don't.  I am over three years into my loss, and I still don't like this saying at all.

It is incredibly difficult to find the right words when your friend or family member has lost their child.  Unfortunately, there isn't much anyone can say to make us feel better.  Having a child ripped from your arms puts you into a paralyzing shock and frankly, most of us aren't able to process anything for the first several days.  After I lost Jayden, I didn't eat, sleep, or talk to anyone but my mom for about 4 days.  My mom was the only person I had that offered me any kind of real support, and she was in a different country.  She talked about Jayden and she did her best to get me to take care of myself, all over the phone.  This is the absolute best advice I can offer anyone who is trying to support a grieving parent.  Offer to babysit other children, bring food, and promote self care.  The fact that I was not physically caring for myself anymore, only worsened my mental state.  Most of all, please don't act like our child never existed.  Remember our child.  The only time I could cry after losing Jayden was when people talked about him.  Perhaps my response only encouraged people to keep his name under lock and key, but it made me feel good to know I wasn't the only one thinking about him.

I know it is tricky finding to correct reaction to a friend who lost their child, but be there for them.  Let them know if they need you, you're only a call away.  Most of all, don't use the cliches like "God needed another angel", or "he/she's in a better place".  Although it may be true, and we all want to believe our child is in Heaven, it really hurts to hear things like that.  Just honor our child's memory and help us take care of ourselves.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Jayden's First Birthday

One year ago, at 9:42am we welcomed this beautiful baby boy into the world!! Jayden Charles Smelt weighed 7lb, 8oz and 18.5in long. He was immediately whisked away from us and even though I didn't see him until several hours after he was born, I was overwhelmed with love and joy!! Even with his broken heart, he was completely perfect!! Happy birthday, Jayden!! I wish you were here to celebrate with us, but we will be sending you a bunch of balloons. We love and miss you so, so, so, so much!!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Jayden's 2/3 birthday

Today Jayden would have been 8 months old.  Today was tough.  I can't believe 8 whole months ago I
gave birth to a perfect baby!!

We brought some of Jayden's toys and went to sit with him for quite a while this afternoon.  Every time we go up there, it is calm.  Within in a few minutes, the wind starts to blow.  All of his pin wheels spin and spin.  We sat and talked for a while before we left.  Every time we leave we tell him bye, we miss him, we love him and we always beep the car horn (with the exception of once when there was a service going on).

Happy 2/3 birthday, Jayden!  I wish you were here, but I hope you are having a blast.
We love and miss you!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Your friends

Hi Jayden.
I talked to Ethan's mommy again tonight, and it made me hope you guys are up there playing together.  I know you two were meant to be friends!!  I hope you are up there with Rowan, Evan, Caiden and all of the other heart kids too.  Make sure you all keep an extra close eye on the ones here still fighting, and all of us missing you.  We all love you!!  Have a goodnight and give each other hugs!

Good night, baby boy!!

Good night my sweet Jayden!  I love you and I miss you so, so much!!  I wish you were here with me
and daddy, but I know you're okay now.  I hope you are tucked in nice and tight.  Sweet dreams.  
Good night, Jayden.  We love you!!!!!