Sunday, July 29, 2012

Natalie's 7th Birthday

Today would have been Natalie's 7th birthday. I was doing OK in the days leading up to it. I thought I was getting to a better place in my grief. But, today has been really rough. I can't seem to stop crying. I killed a few hours watching a Harry Potter movie double feature with the kids. Gabriel slept on my lap through much of it, which was such a wonderful gift. There's nothing a mother loves more than cradling her sleeping child. But, we can't watch Harry Potter all day and as soon as the movie ended, I started to cry again. After a few minutes to myself rocking in the glider up in what used to be Natalie's room (now Gabriel's), I got the sudden urge to tidy up her garden. Talk about therapeutic! Clipping deadheads off the butterfly bush was so peaceful and pulling up pesky weeds and making it more beautiful really helped. A little white butterfly came along as I was trimming. Very nice! Tonight we will have dinner and a special butterfly-shaped cake. I'll post some pictures later.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Blueberry Time!

With the warm spring, rain in May, and sun in June, it's a bumper crop of blueberries this year - and they're ready weeks earlier than normal. We have gone picking twice already: last Friday with just me and the kids and Sunday with Chris, too. What a joy to see Gabriel gorging himself on these delicious, healthy little gems, which of course, were Natalie's favorite! We stuffed ourselves the first day at Gianetti's in Franklin, MA and only brought home 3 1/2 lbs. We went to Harmony Farms on Sunday, where we picked nearly 16 lbs to build up our winter supply. The berries were sweet and enormous (as Chris said, they were BOUS's "Berries of Unusual Size" in homage to one of our favorite movies, The Princess Bride - which gave me a good chuckle.) At times, I picked as fast as I could, emptying clusters of berries into my bucket. Other times, I carefully selected the berries I wanted to eat with loving thoughts of Natalie, my blueberry girl. "This one's for you, sweet girl," I'd think to myself as I popped it into my mouth.

I took a bowl of blueberries to The Compassionate Friends meeting on Monday night and was greeted so warmly with several people coming up to me saying, "I knew you were here before I even saw you because Natalie's blueberries are here!" Everyone referred to them as "Natalie's blueberries," which made me feel really good. I told the story of how she would eat them, one by one and hum with joy after each one. I think of her humming and it makes me happy and sad both at the same time. I've already started looking for a blueberry recipe to make on her birthday this year. Maybe I won't be so paralyzed as last year. It will be what it will be.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Since March 18, 2007, I have dreaded and loathed this month. Each year as it rolls around, I get a tightening in my throat and an overall sense of gloom descends upon the world. This year, March 1 was frought with nasty, slushy miserable weather. It had snowed a day or two before and it was rainy and slushy, just like the last day of Natalie's life. As I lay nursing Gabriel before he went to sleep, I suddenly started crying, I mean uncontrollably crying. I missed Natalie. The depth of the missing and the longing and the yearning cannot be conveyed in words. It is something I feel deep in every cell of my body and soul. Since Gabriel's birth, nursing has been a big grief trigger for me. I started thinking about why I was crying like this, when I hadn't done so in quite awhile. I literally couldn't stop and I tried to keep it hushed so I didn't disturb my little boy who was contentedly nursing away, getting sleepy and ready to go night-night. Then I realized: It's March. The weather sucked today. It sucked just like it did on March 17, 2007, the last day of Natalie's life. I had taken the girls outside briefly so I could clear the slushy mess off the front steps for the mailman. Natalie didn't want to put on her snowsuit, so I let her go out in her boots, coat, and hat. She didn't like it and kept fussing for me to pick her up. It's hard to shovel snow while holding a 24-lb toddler, so I made Natalie wait until I could pick her up. Then I did and all was better again for her. Roslyn wanted to play, but Natalie just stood in the snow, looking forlorn. She didn't like it. We stayed out for a bit longer and then I convinced Roslyn to go back inside and Natalie was happy about that.

And so, today is March 7 - 11 more days to go until the 18th, which will mark the 5th anniversary of my beautiful baby's passing. This year it falls on a Sunday, just like in 2007. It has been a rough week so far, but Chris and I are both doing the best we can to be kind to ourselves and each other. There's nothing we can do about it, except hang in there and keep on living. It's just a rough one this year. Five years seems like such a long, long time and I miss her more and more.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February 7th

February 7th is one of the most special days of my life. It's the day I gave birth to my first baby, Roslyn Grace. She arrived on a blizzardy Friday morning that I'll never forget. We've had the pleasure of celebrating nine more birthdays with her since that day in 2003: some years with small gatherings of friends and some with big parties.

In 2007, Roslyn's birthday was different. We celebrated it on the 6th because Chris had to work late on the 7th. We went out to dinner to Bugaboo Creek (Roslyn's then favorite birthday place because they would sing to you and let you "kiss the moose," a big hand puppet, pictured here). Natalie had come down with a mild fever and we gave her some ibuprophen and she felt better and we had a fun family outing. (We did also have a party the following weekend.)

The next day, on Roslyn's actual birthday, I was home with the girls. We had just finished lunch. Natalie was still feverish. I was holding her in one arm while reaching to fill up a cup of water for her. She reached for the water and as I put the cup to her lips, she suddenly started convulsing. Her head arched back as her little body jerked uncontrollably. I was terrified and quickly called her pediatrician. They told me to call 911, which I did immediately. The paramedics arrived a few minutes later and by this time, Natalie's seizure had ended and she was sobbing in my arms, utterly exhausted. They checked her over and recommended we take her to the ER. I didn't have our car that day, so Roslyn, Natalie, and I all piled into the ambulance (I think they were both still in their pjs!). The doctors at the hospital told me that she'd had a febrile seizure. I had never heard of such a thing. They said it was quite common, that about 1 in 5 children have one before the age of 5. (I just read an article in Parents magazine yesterday that says now it's 1 in 4 kids.) Natalie's episode lasted for about 2-3 minutes, which they said was common. They assured me she did not suffer any brain damage and that there would be no long-term effects from the experience. They said that if she were to get another fever, to keep it under control with tylenol or ibuprophen.

It was a terrifying experience. I held Natalie for hours and hours. She sobbed and nursed and sobbed and nursed, and then finally passed out. Roslyn (then 4) was a trooper, too, and made the best of it watching TV in the ER examination room.

A little over five weeks later, Natalie died.

The doctors have all assured me that there is no connection between Natalie's febrile seizure and her death. This includes pediatricians, the Medical Examiner, and Dr. Krous from the SUDC program. I'm sure they are all right about that. Still, I can't escape the feeling that this was the beginning of the end for my precious girl. In my heart and soul, these two events are linked, and I don't think that will ever change.

I feel like the Universe keeps testing me
This year, Gabriel came down with a fever. When? On Roslyn's birthday, of course! It was 104 at one point, which caused me to: a) freak out, and b) question the accuracy of the thermometer because he didn't feel that hot or act that sick. (I still don't know if it was accurate because I couldn't find our other thermometer to compare it to. However, I took my own temperature with it and it registered 97.7 - normal.)

I couldn't help but feel that the universe keeps testing me. Why did he have to get sick with a fever on that day? Why? I know there's no answer and it's just a random coincidence. (Random, random, random - just like Natalie dieing.) Really, I do know that. But, it didn't prevent me from reliving that day in 2007 over and over again - and feel an uncomfortable sense of dread for my son. I have resigned to the fact that I will always worry for my children and I suspect that will be the case for the rest of my life.

Thankfully, Gabriel is fine. I gave him a dose of ibuprophen at bedtime. He had the fever for three days and then it went away, to be replaced by a cough and a nose that won't stop running. Bless his little heart, he comes up to me and says "nose" when he wants me to wipe it. Such a sweetiepie.