Transition is often difficult.
Moving from one thing or place to a new and different thing or place is hard. I think that’s because change is hard. No matter what state you’re transitioning from or to, it’s as if humans don’t do change well. We become accustomed to things. When a transition occurs it throws us off kilter. Our equilibrium is altered. The balance is lost. Once the new thing or place is landed upon and becomes stable, we regain our balance and settle in. Between the two points though, during transition, things are hard.
My transition home was, at times, unbearable. My heart had broken and some of it didn’t follow me home.
Oh exhaustion. What a tough night. We got our van back from the repair shop. Reuben took the kids for lunch and dropped me off at the hospital. I went in to drop off some clothes, a mobile (David's Christmas present) to another mother where it would be put to good use, and say goodbye to some mom's and their babies.
I saw two nurses I adored (they couldn't primary because they were charge nurses). They were both shocked. They had no idea. They cried with me in the hall and hugged me. They told me how much they loved my son. There were other moms there comforting me and telling me they'd pray for me.
I also met with the social worker. She gave me the clay molds and told me to wait to see them with Reuben. I made plans for David's memorial with the funeral home, something no mother should ever have to do. Being in the hospital was torturous. The social worker said many parents don’t go back because it's too hard. It's the only place your baby has ever lived. It was disgustingly difficult. I sobbed and walked through the hallway whispering to David how much I loved him, carrying his clay imprints. People stared but I continued on. I couldn't stop.
When we got back to Easter Seal we sat as a family to look at the clay molds. They turned out perfectt. We cried in the family lounge looking at David's tiny feet and hands. Every finger and toe was perfect. Thank you, thank you. Such a wonderful gift. We all cried. It was especially hard for Kiana. She "just wanted David back." Sweet girl.
When we got back to the Easter Seal Josh cried for the first time about David. He finally realized David wasn't coming home with us. Josh had looked forward to sharing his toys, his clothes, his bed and playing hockey with David. Not to be. Josh didn’t fully comprehend everything. He asked why David got sick, how the sickness got in his tummy (something the doctors don't fully understand so how do you explain?) and he asked if they tried to get it out. When we told him they did their best to remove it, Josh asked if they used sticks to reach down into his tummy to get it out. He couldn’t fully wrap his mind around it but emotionally he was in tune with what was going on.
The night of the 5th was another difficult night. I stayed awake for so long before going to bed. I was slowly learning the quiet times were the toughest. The fifth was the first day I didn't see my sweet David since he was born. The next day, we’d leave without him.
I will never forget you sweet baby. I miss you everyday sweet honey. Mommy love you too much little baby.
We woke up in the morning and packed all of our stuff and my life for the last 2+ months into the van. We cried as we said our goodbyes to the Easter Seal. I knew I’d miss that place. Not because I loved the room or anything but more because of what it represented.
As we left the Vancouver area I said, "Say goodbye to Vancouver." Josh squealed with joy. Josh was not a fan of "Mister Seals," and he was happy to have me going home with them this time, unlike all their previous visits. Mya and Kiana immediately started to cry. We were going home without David. I just didn't see this in our future and either did the girls. I started to cry. I thought I would become hysterical about leaving. I had feared this moment since I left the hospital the day before but Reuben looked at me and said, "We aren't leaving him behind. He's already gone. He's in heaven now." They were comforting words, I think, mostly because it was the truth. He wasn't left behind, alone or scared. He was watching over us as we left the only place we'd ever known him in. Vancouver will always hold a special place in my heart because of that.
If you've never driven the Coquihalla, or the Highway Through Hell (as it's known on TV), it was something of a miracle that everyone who traveresed the winter driving conditions many times over the course of David's life, did so safely. When we arrived home, I was grateful we made another safe trip.
I feared coming home. Could I handle the walk up the stairs to our complex without lugging David in a car seat with us? Would our home feel empty without him? I made it up the stairs and into our house without a single tear which shocked even me. I noticed the kids looked at Reuben and I when something sad occured, checking for our reaction.
We unloaded our van and began to unpack but it was too big of a job to be completed that evening. I put all of David's things in a tote. A temporary holding spot until we could buy a chest. I looked over all of his things: his arm pressure cuff; his blankets, outfits and books; the clay molds and hand/foot prints; and the hat and booties he wore the day he passed away. I opened the bag and immediately started to cry. They smelled like him. We didn't have a chance to "smell" David often because he spent 99% of his time in an enclosed incubator. The last two days, however, we spent a lot of time holding him and he smelled of lemon. The adhesive remover they used to take tape off in the NICU has this lemony smell and that's what he smelled of. I called Reuben to come so he could smell it too. I think Mya thought we had lost our minds smelling these booties but that small little thing was so important to me.
I remembered that I had a fingernail clipping in a piece of tape (again that probably sounds weird) and I couldn't find it. I started to panic. I had lost it. I was nearing frantic looking for this minute piece of tape and Reuben said, "Don't worry, we'll find it." "No we won't," I said, "It's lost. We'll never find something that small. And you didn't even get to see it. It could be in a thousand places." Then I realized I was verging on hysterical. Deep breath. It's lost. I did my best to find it but with no luck. Normally something like that wouldn't bother me but it was my tipping point. I said to myself, "Relax," and I did. We might never find it in his mound of stuff. It was likely gone forever but I refused to let it eat me up inside.
It was getting late and I was starting to unravel. I wanted to write in my journal because, for some reason, I had an irrational fear that I would forget everything. I'd forget his smell, what he looked like and everything we'd been through. Writing in my journal and looking at his pictures and mementos comforted me. It guaranteed I wouldn’t forget. But to recount all that had happened over the past few days was agonizing. I knew I was going to lose my mind (and I did) so I told Reuben to keep the kids out of our bedroom. I didn't want them to see me in such a state. I grabbed a box of tissues, my pen and notebook and started writing. I cried so hard I was balled up on the ground with my forehead on the floor, rocking back and forth. I sobbed and wrote, determined for David's story to be told fully and honestly so everyone would know of his strength. It took me hours of writing through my tears to finally get everything on paper.
When I was done I snuck into the kids' room to say goodnight. Sleep for Reuben and I, however, did not come easy. I lay in bed for hours thinking about what could have been.
The process of mourning our son consisted of more than mourning the two months we had with David. We also mourned all that could have been. We mourned his never learning how to talk or walk; we mourned his never going to kindergarten or graduating; we also mourned never seeing him on a soccer field or ice rink; we mourned, too, the missed smiles, laughter and hugs; we mourned the fantastic man I'm sure he would have grown to be.
As I fell asleep, I knew I was a better person for having been his mother. I also knew the transition home would take far more than moving boxes and writing in a journal.
Pieces of me were missing.
How can you find your footing on the other side of such change and newness when those pieces can’t ever be put back together? I wasn’t just transitioning home, I was transitioning to a new me and it was difficult.