Frozen

Yesterday, as I stood outside on an early fall afternoon, I watched my dogs run around under the enormous maple trees in our front yard. The trees have been turning colors and I’m not nearly as excited about it as I usually am. Fall has always been my favorite season, but I feel as though my life has frozen since my son has been gone. I often have to remind myself that it is actually September, because I feel as though it should still be mid June.The last two months have been a complete blur. I feel as though I live in a haze, I go to work every day, and do chores at home. We pay our bills on time, and have dinner every night, but it feels like a dream, a fog, or more realistically, a nightmare.

Last night, as I watched my crazy girls run at full speed around my front yard, I gazed up at the trees I’ve always loved so much. They’re beginning to turn into the gorgeous fall tones I’ve always loved. The seasons changing is hard for me. I feel like I am leaving my sweet boy in the past. 

As I watched the leaves fall, I admired the cool breeze. I had opened all the windows in the house so we could enjoy the cool weather. For a brief second, I thought I heard a baby cry from Skylar’s room. I glanced at the green curtains blowing in the breeze and felt excitement, as I knew my baby needed me, and I was going to go pick him up and love on him. I used to be so excited to hold him. 

I then remembered this couldn’t be true. My boy was gone, and has been for months. Hearing him cry sometimes is usually something that wakes me up at night. I think it’s my hormones or something. Its as if my body knows there should be a baby in my life. 

I came back inside, and sat on the couch as I opened up my phone and scrolled through the pictures I have of my sweet boy. I stared at his perfect features, my emotions were yet again, so intense that I literally felt nauseated. As I looked at his pictures, and remembered how it felt to hold him, I felt very real, physical pain. Because my arms are so very empty, they literally hurt sometimes. My chest hurts as my heart breaks all over again. My throat burns as I choke back tears, and sometimes it’s even heard to breathe.

The world I’m in has been very dark lately, as I suppose I am entering the depression phase of the grief process. I don’t write as often as I did, because in the past I have tried very hard to share only positivity. I think quite a bit of my deep sadness branches from the seasons changing. Saturday will be my birthday. Last year for my birthday, I was so very sad that I was not yet a mommy.. yet here I am, back at square one, feeling the same way. 

Last October, I got pregnant. Last November, at thanksgiving, we announced to our family that we were finally having a baby. And last Christmas, we shared it with the world. These next few months will be very hard for me. In the changing seasons, I will be leaving my only baby behind.

I went to see one of my doctors recently because of deep depression and memory lapses. Both or which, are normal for what I’m going through. But, at my visit, she asked me if I had talked to anyone about how bad I’ve been feeling. My family doctor that has known me for as long as I can remember. I was honest with her when I said no. I have been shielding everyone in my life, including my best friends, my parents, and my husband, from how very bad I have been feeling. I have been pulling myself together for the sake of everyone else. I have been putting on a fake smile, and hiding all my pain. My doctor stressed that this will not help me. If I can handle being told my son was gone while still thinking I felt movement, if I can handle being in labor for 20 hours, if I can handle giving my son away to be cremated, everyone else should be able to handle my very raw emotion. I’ve since decided to share my darkest parts. My physical and emotional pain that comes with missing my baby boy with literally every fiber of my soul is something I will no longer hide.

Two and a half months ago I lost my son. People often tell me that one day, I will be a mommy, one day, I will have my happy ending. Though I do often wish I could fast forward to the next chapter in my life, I often also worry that it will never happen. Even if I do get to have another, who is to say something bad won’t happen in the third trimester again, or at birth, or while they’re an infant, or when they’re a teenager? I live in fear that I will never have a happy ending. I sometimes feel very lost, isolated, and alone. My world is filled with pain and fear, and it seems even antidepressants may not help me. 

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When I first found out my boy was gone, he was still in my belly. Looking back now, it really is hard to believe I’ve been through as much as I have. Sometimes it doesn’t even seem real. It’s almost as if the last six weeks of my life have been a terrible dream that won’t end. Often people don’t know what to say. There is one thing most people do find the bravery to say, that my sweet Skylar is now in heaven. When I found out he was gone, and before I was in labor, I recall thinking I wasn’t sure if there was a God, or even a heaven, because surely no God would willingly put someone through this. 

My opinion of God was changed pretty quickly. When the pastor from our church came to see us after my sweet Skylar was born, he changed my heart. When I told him about how angry I was, and how God could have just as easily just told me “no” when I asked for a baby, he understood. He looked at me with tender eyes as he said “but wasn’t he beautiful? Aren’t you glad you had the time you did with him?” 

My entire outlook had been changed in an instant. My precious baby boy was a miracle. Though I would have given literally everything to have more time with him, I still wouldn’t change having him for the world. Before I even left the hospital, I knew there was a God. I didn’t know much about him still, but that was simply because I didn’t have the need to know him. Life has always been so good to me. That is, until my worst nightmare came true.

In the first days that I was home, so many people reached out to us. So many of them mentioning that our son was now in heaven. This of course, was something that I wanted to believe. The idea of my sons existence ending just as quickly as it began was simply something I couldn’t handle. Thus, I began looking into heaven. 

In the few short weeks it’s been since I’ve lost my sweet boy, I’ve read stories, books, and even bits of the Bible. I find so much comfort in thinking that what people say is true. That maybe, just like mommies point out their babies in the nursery, claiming how cute they are, maybe my sweet boy is pointing at me saying “look, there’s my mommy! Isn’t she pretty?” 

From the small amount I have learned about heaven so far, there are no doubts that I will do literally anything to get there. I’ve also found quite a bit of comfort in learning about God. All the questions I had in the beginning, about why God allowed my baby boy to be taken from me, or why so soon, I’ve found answers for each and every one of them. 

I’ve learned to accept why these things happen, and I’ve learned to have hope for what my life has in store. I do find myself scared sometimes, because I know it can be concerning to look forward to the next life as much as I do, but it’s only because I know where I’ll be going, and who is there.

I’ve found such comfort in learning all I can about heaven, and all things related. Doing anything to get there will bring me comfort as well. It is rare that a child gets to save their parent, but my Skylar has turned me toward the lord. My faith is far stronger than it has ever been. My sweet boy has saved me. His little hands now guide me toward the light. It is unclear if I would have made it into heaven before, but I will do anything to get there now.

Family

Most people define family as the people that are of blood relation to you. Some, are fortunate to have family members that are a bit more than that. The people that choose to love you are far more precious than the ones that feel obligated to. Because let’s face it, we all have family members we sometimes wish we weren’t related to. My family is different than most. My immediate family is phenomenal, but the rest are, at times questionable. I haven’t spoken to my maternal grandmother in eleven years, and it’s not at my will. It’s a choice she made, and she now behaves as though I do not exist, in the most literal way you can imagine. 

Other family members live so very far away. People say “you love the one you’re near”, and I’m sure the fact that they’re thousands of miles away, and we haven’t seen each other in years is why they don’t know when my birthday is. 

As an adult, these things don’t bother me. I know the majority of my family love me, and for the others, I’m better off without them. When I was younger, having such a small circle was something I had trouble with. But, god blessed me with people who, though aren’t blood related, love me more than I could ever deserve. For example, my “Grandparents”.

My best friend brought me to church with her when we were freshman in high school, just months after my family ties were severed with my maternal grandmother and all those she could convince to join her. This church was filled with some of the most incredible people, some of them have had such strong impacts on my life. 

I recall being upset one Sunday morning, because the service that day involved something special for grandparents and their grandchildren. I walked out of the worship room, and right into the chest of the sweetest man I’ve ever known. He had a heart of gold, and the best hugs I’ve ever gotten. He would often wrap his long arms around my shoulders and bury my face in his white beard, calling me “sugar” as he hugged me so tight I couldn’t breathe, and I loved every second of it. His name was George. 

As I literally ran into him that morning, tears in my eyes. He asked me what I was upset about. “I don’t have any grandparents”, I said, crying as if my world had ended. Teenage hormones are intense. Without asking why, or what to do, he simply grabbed me tight in one of those magnificent hugs, and said “baby, I’ll be your granddaddy”, and the rest is history. He would grab me up every chance he had, and profess to anyone that would listen how beautiful his granddaughter was, and how proud he was of me. I’ll never forget the way his cologne smelled on my hair after he got done loving on me. 

The moment he said he would be my grandpa, I diddnt understand how serious he was. My heart was so full when he and his wife, my grandma, showed up at my high school graduation. I remember being so upset when no family members showed, but they did. They brought me flowers, and took pictures with me. No one would have ever known they weren’t really related to me. No one else is as lucky as I am, because my grandparents chose me. 

When I got married, their names were on the programs. Our brothers were ushers, and my grandma was seated just like Michael’s were. They sat in the front row when I got married, and no one could have known how lucky I was, because that sweet southern man in the front row, in his bright white cowboy hat, and cowboy boots, was my grandpa. That beautiful woman on his arm, in her dark blue dress I helped her pick out, with a smile on her face so big she brightened the room, she was my grandma. Her name is Dorothy.

My grandpa is in heaven now, a few years ago he passed away, and I cried more at his funeral than I ever had. He was my granddaddy, and loved me more than most anyone. He was a magnificent man, and I’m so lucky to have known him so well. I am lucky he called me his granddaughter.

In the years since he’s been gone, that sweet woman he volunteered to be my grandma has shown me love I don’t deserve. She will drop everything to make sure I get a hug when she sees me, and they’re not unlike grandpas were. She squeezes me so tight, and lately she will just hold on to me, telling me how much she loves me. I thank god for her every moment I can. She is as honest as they come, and her faith is unwavering. I often try to be more like her. 

When I was in labor at the hospital, she was one of the first ones there. As she walked into the room, she came right to me. My faith had been so questioned that day. I was so angry, and I was sure no God would do this to me. I remember wanting to see her so deeply, and that very minute she walked in the door. As she hugged me tighter than she ever had, I asked her the one question I hadn’t the strength to ask anyone else. “How could God do this to me?” I thought, if anyone had an answer, it would be her. 

As my face was still buried in her shoulder, she told me she didn’t know. She had no explanation for why these things happen. But, her words comforted me. She told me I would get through this, that I was strong. She reminded me how much she loved me. I then realized how lucky I was to have her in a whole different way. I had always been so guarded, but I could be exactly who I was with her, and she would never love me any less. 

When my sweet Skylar was born, she was there. She heard me cry harder than I ever have as I held my first baby boy, and realized no matter how hard I wanted him to, he was never going to open his eyes. She was one of the first people to see him. She stayed there at the hospital the entire time I was in labor. At 2:17 am she walked into that hospital room and it filled me with so much love. 

When I talk about my grandmother, it’s her. She’s been there for me at every eventful moment of my life. When we announced our pregnancy, her reaction is the one I think of, and it is one I will never forget. She screamed with so much joy that it literally startled me. When I think back to when we told everyone what we were having, it is her voice I hear, when I think “it’s a boy!” 

When I question my faith, it is her I look to. Because she has been there for me. She loves me so much, and she doesn’t have to. Family is not defined by who’s blood runs through your veins. Family is defined by who loves you unconditionally. Family is who is there for you no matter what. Family is those who are proud to have you, and will claim you as theirs to whoever will listen. 

Relationships 

When tragedy strikes your life, it’s amazing, the reactions you get from those around you. Some relationships grow, and others fall. I’ve noticed that some people embrace you, fighting tears for your sake, and wish you well. Often, people will offer to help you in any way they can. Others, don’t know what to say.
If it takes a village to raise a child, imagine the hurt that follows, when that very child is lost. My village is hurting, just as I am. Michael and I have become so humbled at the large amount of outpouring love we’ve seen over the past month since we lost our sweet baby boy. I’m in awe of the people in my life. However, some people have disappeared.

Where there are relationships that have grown, others have dwindled. Some people that were so very close to me, have become ghosts. Some acquaintances now, won’t even speak to me. At first, I understood the change, I understood the hesitation to come to me in comfort as so many had. I had assumed it was just hard for them. But, as time goes on, it seems to hurt worse.

I am grateful for the friends I have, the people that brought us food, the friends that came to sit and cry with me when I needed it. Some even go out of their way, just to make me laugh. There are some that I’ve grown closer with, friends that reach out to me often, to be sure I’m okay. I am so fortunate for the people that have stayed by my side. I just can’t help but wonder, about the people that have disappeared, and why.

But, I’ve never had trouble letting go. My parents had always found such humor in my lack of tolerance for things. I’ve never had time for those who would turn their backs on me. Life is too short, and no one who has been given the power to hurt me and does, will ever be given that power again. I’ve always been so careful to never hurt someone’s feelings, because you never know what others are going through. Therefore, if someone is hurtful, I have trouble coming back from it, what if there was something I was going through? What if I needed them?

When tragedy strikes your life, it is never expected. Imagine being in an argument with close friends just as it happens. People that were so close to you, people you told everything to, suddenly decided they were no longer there for you when you did nothing wrong. Imagine your closest friends no longer speaking to you for weeks, and you having no idea why. Then, being told your baby’s heart was no longer beating.

Imagine the shock. Have you ever lost something dear to you, even just for a moment? You turn around in the grocery store and realize your kiddo is missing. Maybe you walk into your backyard and notice your furry best friend is gone. Or maybe someone calls and says your mother is sick. How does that feel? When your heart skips a beat, when your stomach instantly knots so hard that it sends bile into your throat. In panic, maybe you can’t breathe, maybe you can’t speak, maybe you can’t stand, or walk.

What do you do?

After the ultrasound tech said those words that echo in every nightmare I’ve had sine it happened, “there’s no heartbeat”. She asked if there was anyone she could call for me, if I needed my phone. I didn’t know how to tell Skylar’s Daddy, my husband, that his baby was gone. I knew I must tell my mama in person, as she would not handle it well. Who else, did I want to speak with, she asked.. I wanted my friends.

Imagine how that feels. Imagine sitting in a dark ultrasound room alone, as the ultrasound tech went to get the doctor. Imagine sitting there, looking at your son on the screen, but not being able to touch your stomach like you always used to, because of how angry you are. You’ve failed the one person you loved more than life itself. Imagine how hard it is to breathe.

Imagine, once you get home from the hospital, and you announce to the world how your life has suddenly turned so dark. Imagine hearing from everyone, even the ones that were angry at you. But, some don’t reach out. Some, are invited to a friends house to help you feel better, but don’t show. Some coworkers avoid you in the hall at work, and haven’t said a word to you since you’ve returned.

I try to not be resentful. I try to understand. But sometimes, when I look back on these relationships, it is hard. When I find it bringing me down, I turn to the friends that have grown closer since. The people that reach out to me to be sure I’m okay. I turn to the friends I’ve had for years that I’ve grown so much closer with over the last month. Of course, I’ve lost so much, but I’m always sure to look at how much I’ve gained.

I am fortunate. There are so many remarkable people in my life, and everything I’ve been through has only made me stronger. I have a wonderful family, and an incredible husband who was there for me through it all. Maybe the ones that can’t spend time with me right now are just struggling. I’m always careful, you never know what others are going through.

Compassion

In the years that followed graduating high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. That is, until a woman I now call my grandmother insisted I belong in the medical field. My ‘grandma’ who is of no blood relation to me, had been an RN for years. I valued her opinion far more than others, as she knows me sometimes better than I know myself.
Instantly, I knew I must try my luck within a local doctors office, as I trusted my grandmother and her opinion. After all, she has claimed me as her own for years, and loves me even though she has no obligation to. I am so lucky to have her. But, the story of our relationship is for another day. 

I have now worked in the medical field for over six years. When my grandma mentioned how good I would do in this line of work, she spoke of it with such joy and excitement. I had worked at the doctors office for less than a month and knew she was right. I now work at a different office, and have changed roles through the years, but my feelings have never changed. I belong in a place where I can help people, where I can put my compassion to good use. 

On a rainy day in June, I was released from the hospital. My beautiful son had been born sleeping early that morning. As requested, my doctors allowed me to go home as soon as they knew I would be okay. I had lost so much that day, but there were also so many things I had gained. 

I was in the hospital for 36 hours, and in labor for 20. I met many people in my time there. So many came to love on us, care for us, and offer their help in what would be the roughest day of our lives. The nurses assigned to my care were remarkable. I often think of them now, and how grateful for them I am. I strongly believe that the only reason I made it through this nightmare was because of them, and their compassion. 

At this hospital, they have a nurse that specializes in cases like mine. She only visits with women like me, who will go home empty handed. I recall, at my doctors appointment when they told me my baby boy was gone, they didn’t want me to leave until I spoke with her. My, how badly I wanted to leave, I needed my husband. But, I’m glad they persisted. I remember thinking to myself, how could anyone want to do what she does? How could she handle this? I remember asking her this, though I don’t recall her response. I then remember telling her how much of a blessing she was. She was there for me from the moment my world turned upside down. Her name is Bonnie. 

I had to go home and wait until the hospital had a room for me. It would be over 12 hours. Once the hospital called, at 4:21 the next morning, Michael and I headed for the hospital. I was admitted an hour later, and who else would be there, but sweet Bonnie. She came in early that day, just for me. The entire time I was there, I remember feeling such relief every time she walked into our room. She helped us with everything from funeral arrangements, to the labor process. She made everything seem so much less scary.

She wasn’t the only nurse that helped me through the roughest days of my life, there were several more. I remember thinking about the ladies that helped me, and what they must have been going through. Their jobs were usually filled with joy, as they often welcomed little lives into the world every day. How hard it must have been, to walk into my room, and feel so much sorrow. My, how much they saw me cry. 

Talking with my family about my time in the hospital, I continue to learn about things the nurses had done for my family members, not just myself. Food, blankets, socks, one even got my little brother urine specimen cups and saline syringes for his contacts. Not only am I grateful for everything they did for me, but I feel so much relief when I know my family was taken care of, as well. I spent so much of my time worrying about them, and how miserable it must have been to spend so much time there, just for me. 

As each one of the nurses left me for the last time before I left for home, they all hugged me so sincerely. They all wished me so well, each one hurting for me. I’ve since gotten a card signed by them all in the mail. They did several other things I’m so grateful for, they did clay castings of our boys hands and feet, and got locks of his hair. They were phenomenal people. I feel so fortunate to have been cared for by every one of them. They are the reason I made it through it all.

I recall holding the clay casting of Skylar’s foot, as we pulled out of the parking lot. My eyes, so swollen, burning, and exhausted that crying no longer seemed possible. I remember thinking about sweet Bonnie, and all the things she had done for us to try to make this easier, like the clay I held in my hand, an exact replica of the toes I had dreamt about kissing, but never did. 

In that moment, I didn’t cry with the idea that we were going home empty handed. I didn’t weep at the thought that we were leaving our son in that hospital, or what might have been. I didn’t dwell on the fact that in the car behind us, a couple fought about getting their new baby into the car, and didn’t know how lucky they were. The only thing that went through my mind was Bonnie, and how deeply I felt I needed to do for others, what she had done for me.

I want to help mommies like me.

I want to be a nurse. 

I’m starting school in October, and helping women like me is what I was supposed to do with my life. 

Inspire

Two very close friends of mine are getting married this fall. Today, I was at her bridal shower. I remember being so excited about going, because I am of course so thrilled about them getting married. The thought never crossed my mind that at a bridal shower, there are women. Women often come with babies, either pregnant or infants. Both of which were there, and both are a ‘trigger’ for me, meaning they can throw me into a tailspin of emotion without warning. As I leave this shower, I did tear up a tiny bit on my way to my car, but I managed to pull it back together. As I did, a glimmer of pride snuck in, I made it. I had only made it through this because of one reason. Compassion.

At this shower, the mother of the bride was there, and she is a saint. Generally in this kind of setting, things can get a bit awkward. Often, you find yourself sitting alone for a moment, while everyone socializes. Luckily, the mother of the bride, who should have been soaking up the experience of her only daughters first bridal shower, instead stuck to me like glue. It was obvious she could see my struggles, and she cared. She cared enough to have concern for me, on a day she should have been nothing but happy. I now find myself feeling bad about bringing darkness into a day that should have been so happy for her and her daughter.

As we talked a bit about my recent experience with loosing my baby boy, she complimented my strength, as so many have recently. She also mentioned she admired my writing, and said I’ve inspired her. That’s a word I hadn’t yet heard, inspired.

To inspire is to ‘fill someone with the urge to feel or do something, especially something creative’.

If I’ve inspired this wonderful woman, with whom I’m not all that close with, who else have I inspired?

Since I’ve been home from the hospital, I’ve been thinking I wanted to do something, something in honor of our sweet boy. If I’ve inspired anyone, I ask that they do a random act of kindness in memory of this sweet boy of mine. Long before my life was stricken with tragedy, I always wished there were more compassion in the world, more people doing nice things for one another, more people that care.

If you choose to do something in his memory, please let me know about it. Rather than my days being filled with sadness, as so many are. It would be wonderful to hear stories about how nice things are being done to make life on this earth a little brighter.

What if my wish, in memory of my sweet Skylar, managed to brighten the world around me. That, would be the only thing that could really make all of this any better.

A Rose By Any Other Name

Skylar Franklin

When the labor and delivery nurse asked me if we had a name for our son, I couldn’t speak. Tears welled up in my eyes, and the lump in my throat wouldn’t allow it.

I heard my husband tell the nurse our sons name. It then became so real. It’s astonishing how quickly your life plans can change.

We had just begun the labor induction process. It would be an estimated 24 hours before I would get to see my sons face, but we already knew his eyes would never open.

We had such a hard time choosing a name. I had collected a long list of possible names, with the intention of listing them in rapid fire at my husband the next time I caught him unoccupied. 

Skylar

When I said his name, amongst the list of several he said, “that one”, and I was sold. 

The idea of picking our sons name was so exciting. I had waited my whole life for this.

Franklin

It was the middle name of my grandfather. He had died when my mom was 16. She always talked about her daddy as if he had hung the moon. Using his name was a precious token to me, I’d never met him, but from what I had heard, he was loving and kind. Carrying on the name of someone like him was important to me.

I remember the morning before we shared his chosen name with our family, I laid in bed saying it over and over in my mind. I imagined what he would look like, oh how I couldn’t wait to see his face.

I rolled over to my sweet husband, Michael, and said our sons name with conviction. “I’m a southern girl” I said, “I have to make sure it sounds good when I yell at him” 

He saw the uncertainty in my face.

“You better make up your mind”, he said. My husband, though sweet, has always believed in though love. Plus, he already knew we had made the right choice.

I said our sons name again, and I remember thinking to myself, that’s him, that’s his name. We’ve named our son. I was so excited to be a mommy.

Three days after he was born, my tattoo artist had me verify the correct spelling just before he began marking that very name into my skin permanently. 

Oh, how I love the way it sounds. That’s his name, my only son, our boy.

Skylar Franklin.

My memories of him aren’t always sad. I remember my entire pregnancy as the happiest time in my life. The anxiety I had over such big decisions now, seem so silly.

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