What helps?

Hundreds and possibly thousands of messages.

Instagram and Facebook and text and words. Hugs and gifts. All poured out with love and concern. All given with the most caring of hearts. All sharing the same sentiment.

“I don’t know what to say.”

The truth is, nothing helps and everything hurts. The truth is the words are all pain. Pain in love and pain in suffering and pain in loss. Everything hurts.

I’m so sorry.

I hate this for you.

I can’t imagine.

I wish we could change it.

I wish we could bring him back.

I see you.

I feel you.

I hear you.

I love Rory. I miss him with you.

Everything hurts like the gaping open wound that it is. Everything hurts every moment. There is no balm or salve. There is no bandaid. There is no healing, save time.

But that same truth? The same one is that everything helps. Every single word of memory, of concern, of caring. Every single time I know and feel and believe that someone remembers Rory with me.

Nothing helps and everything helps.

When you have gone through this most terrible of terribles, and been on this journey – you are given a perspective that no one wants to have. You are given a gift that everyone you know has spent their entire life avoiding, fearing, worrying, manouvering around. Thanking all that is bigger than they are for not having.

The perspective is this: There is beauty in all things painful. There is pain in all things beautiful.

You will never again see pain without noticing the beauty. You will never again see beauty without also seeing the pain.

Some of you are lucky enough to have gained this perspective with us. Lucky enough to not have to have lost your own child to see this new facet of the gem of life.

It is a perspective I did not want, and would give back in a moment… but I am thankful for the view it has provided me.

RoryKai

Oh, hello.

Always, always I am drawn here again.

Where I can put words down on the page.  Where I can see my thoughts leap out of my mind and take physical form.  Where I can capture how I feel, put a name to it, and then release it.

Always.

Strange to come back to writing, after many months of not.  Strange to sit down at this familiar place, and be aware that there are giant gaps in the history of me.  Strange, knowing that, were someone to find me for the first time, they would have no idea what is going on.  So I guess some background is in order.

I’m Mandy.  I’m married to Brock.  We’ve been growing up together and raising children in North Carolina for the last eleven years.  I am a photographer, studying to be a midwife.  I homeschool my kids, of which there are four.  Ronan has a poets soul and a mischievous smile – he is 8.  Ruby sets the world on fire with her kindness and her joy – she is 6.  Ryder is every single bit a powerhouse – of love, of energy, of kindness, of bravery – he is 4.  Rory has eyes that are dark and knowing, to the depths of his soul; he’s filled with a calm being, an intense joy – he died when he was 19 months old.

An interesting paragraph that begins with “I am Mandy,” and ends with ‘my baby died.’

That feels like my whole life right now.  All encompassing, entirely enveloping, completely smothering.  Grief and sadness and sorrow and loss.  I am Mandy, and my baby died.

It has been five weeks since he died.  Rory slipped away unnoticed while our family was cleaning out the attic, and he drowned.  I found him, and did CPR until the ambulance arrived.  The team in the emergency room was able to get a heartbeat.  We airlifted him to the children’s hospital where he spent 24 hours under the most amazing care of the most incredible human beings on the planet in the pediatric ICU.  We held him and cried when they told us his lungs were not going to get better; there was nothing else we could do.  We held him and cried when they removed the tubes that were keeping him alive.  We held him and cried as he left.

It has been five weeks, and it feels like a hundred years and mere seconds in the same instant.  I can’t believe he’s gone, and I sometimes struggle to believe he was real.

Sometimes, I feel like that sweet, beautiful baby boy (whom I can still smell if I try hard enough) was really just an incredible dream that we all were lucky enough to dream together for a while – and then we woke up.

So where am I standing now?

Alive.  Feeling like maybe I shouldn’t be.  Struggling with positive emotions and negative ones.  Knowing Rory wouldn’t want us to be sad, and yet reeling with the guilt of joy.  Breathing, and breathing deeply.

Working at walking forward.  Always forward.  Even when it’s hard.

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It Never Stops Hurting

When my brain keeps coming back to something over and over again, that means it’s time to blog about it.

There is no way that I can claim to know how it feels to lose a child.  My son is 20 months old, happy and healthy.  While I have been through several miscarriages, it still doesn’t shine a candle on the grief that a parent experiences with the loss of a baby.  I was offered a glimpse of what that pain is like by the Spohrs after they lost their daughter, Maddie; when Katie Granju lost her teenage son, Henry – but you and I… we still never understand.

I meet so many amazing people through the course of my work.  Even on my worst nights, when things are so busy, when I can taste the stress of the amount of exams I have to do and the pressure to get them done, there is always someone that shines through.  There is always a story that I can’t help but remember, even if I only speak with the person for a few short minutes.

And I have learned that it never stops hurting.

This weekend, I scanned a sweet older man that had suffered a stroke.  We couldn’t talk during the exam because of the nature of the study, but I stood in the hallway with him while we waited for the transporter to come pick him up.  He told me of his four children, and how they all had three letter names.  He told me how exciting and wonderful it was to raise three girls, and how thrilled he was to finally have a boy.

His tone changed, then, when he told me that he’d lost one of his girls.  His favorite, he said, she was bright and sweet.  He told me she had melanoma, and they found it.  They removed it, and said they got it all.  The declared her Cancer free… and she passed away three months later.  His eyes filled with tears as he told me of losing his 42 year old daughter, and I realized it doesn’t matter how old your children are – they are still your babies.  He said he would never get over it.

Speaking with this man reminded me of another father I had the priveledge of meeting many months earlier.  His story still shines out in my mind, despite how long it’s been.  Same situation – we were waiting for the transporters to come bring him back to the room while we talked.  He asked if he could tell me about his daughter and I said of course!  He told me about his wife’s labor, and how excited they were to bring her home.  He described her bright eyes, and her sweet nature.  He told me exactly how much he loved her, how he loved to hold her and play with her.  Then he told me that she had gotten sick… just a cold, with a fever.  They took her to the doctor, who said to make sure she had lots to drink and she would be fine.  Tears poured out of his eyes as he told me they woke with her between them the following morning, and found her cold.  She had passed away quietly in the night… and their little girl was gone.  I held his hand as he remembered his sweet baby girl, who died suddenly when she was only 3 months old.  It was nearly 70 years earlier, and he still loved her.  It still hurt him as though it were yesterday.

Hug your babies, mommas.  Hold them tightly.  Remember every moment, and be thankful they are with you.  Because you never forget…

…and it never stops hurting.

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Disclaimer:  I am an Ultrasound Tech at a busy hospital.  My stories are purposefully vague with no personal information nor identifiers to protect patient HIPAA privacy.