Remembering Gregory

Complete and total darkness.

A gaping hole in my heart.

The feeling of having the wind knocked out of me over and over for 48 hours straight.

Taking deep breaths, only to realize I cannot breathe deeply enough to eliminate the pain I feel.

Photo Credit


When I remember February 28 through March 2 of 2013 — these are some of the things I remember. I’ll never forget how it felt when I heard the ultrasound technician say that she could not locate a heartbeat at my mid-pregnancy ultrasound. I’ll never forget talking to my doctor on the phone as he tried to comfort me but also let me know what we could/should do to move forward. I will always remember grappling with the idea that for a period of time (probably about 10 days) I had carried Gregory’s body, even though God had already called him Home.

Honestly, I still try to think about those 10 days and figure out if I could have known something was wrong. The only thing I come back to is how terrible I felt on the Thursday night a week before the ultrasound. We were having a snow event in Kansas City and I was staying in a hotel so I could be available at work the next day. I’d eaten the dinner provided and had the worst heartburn and stomach ache I had ever had while pregnant. And I was incredibly tired. The whole pregnancy with Gregory I was tired. And I kept playing it off: “What mom of 5, plus 1 in her belly, isn’t tired?!?” Even my doctor admitted that he passed off my complaints of fatigue in that fashion.

In the end, it didn’t matter if I could have known sooner that something was wrong. Ultimately, the infection that claimed Gregory’s life was lethal, even if it had “resolved” as the bloodwork showed. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I could never have done anything to effect a different outcome. I simply did what I was called to do as a mother — I loved my baby fully from his conception until his natural death — and assisted in the creation of another soul for Christ.

I pray and ask Gregory to pray for me often. I ask him to pray for me to be a better mother to his siblings, that I can raise them to join him someday in Heaven. I ask him to pray for his siblings, too. When I “talk” to him, I remind him how much his siblings love him. I tell him how his siblings remember him. Dominic remembers that he has a brother in Heaven. Helen has asked about Gregory from time to time. Dani has included Gregory in her writing in the past. Vincent was too small to remember, but he knows there’s an extra birth stone on my “ring with all the kids on it” (my mother’s ring) and he’s heard the other kids point to it and say, “That’s Gregory.” Sarah, being the oldest and, quite honestly, the more private of my children when it comes to emotional expression, doesn’t say much. But I know somewhere in there she also has a love for her baby brother.

Of course, I don’t need a day like “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day” to remember my sixth child, my third son. (I would imagine that Breast Cancer Survivors don’t need the month of October to remember what they went through either.) Every day there is a way that I remember Gregory. Sometimes I simply glance at my ring and I’m reminded instantly. Everyday that I use a physical Rosary to pray the Rosary, I think of Gregory.

A beautiful gift from Gregory’s godparents

I have pictures and memorabilia the hospital gave me so I can remember what size Gregory was when I delivered his body. I don’t need them, of course, to remember how his whole hand fit on the fingerprint pad of my index finger. Even though his head was tiny, his facial features were already so much like his siblings.

 

No, I don’t need a special day to remember that I cried and my heart ached for so long as I worked through the seemingly endless grief of losing a child before I was ready. And try as I might, I still haven’t had an overwhelming peace that I understand God’s ways in this. I know that understanding will most likely only come when I meet God face-to-face at the end of my life.

I suppose having a “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day” gives me an outlet to write about Gregory, to share my memories publicly, and to share his brief life and the love for him as a member of our family. I go back and forth about how much I should or shouldn’t talk about Gregory. When people ask me how many kids I have, I typically say that I have five. Because in the physical realm of this world, that is what people see. Especially when I have just met a person, it seems awkward to launch into a story about my sixth child who is no longer with us. I’m okay with that. Only those who know me personally would “get it” when I say I have six children. But on a day like this, I can openly acknowledge Gregory — and all the unfulfilled desires of my heart that are made evident in that acknowledgement. It’s true that I feel like someone is missing at times from our family — but then I realize it’s not that he is missing from our family, he is simply with us in another way. He’s praying for us and he is happy and united with God.

Sometimes I think about our (very) human ideas (with our earthly attachments…) of Heaven. I’d like to think that my grandparents are in Heaven and they see Gregory and welcomed him when he came. My grandmother had two children that didn’t survive to adulthood (one stillbirth and one child who died when she was 4). I’d like to think that they were there, too. and the babies lost in pregnancy from my siblings. Even Craig’s Dad, who passed away 5 years ago — I’d like to think he is there showing Gregory “the ropes” of Heaven life. Oh, and how can I forget Aunt Bea?!? She loved children and babies. Perhaps she and Uncle Alex hang out with Gregory and she makes him her Fudge. Haha. that idea really makes me smile.

I don’t need a special day to remember Gregory. But, Gregory is someone worth remembering on a special day.

The Feast of St. Gregory Comes Again

The text came through while I was driving to work. It came from Rebecca and she was letting me know she would offer Mass for Craig’s and my intentions today on the Feast of St. Gregory the Great. The notification of a Tweet from Rae with similar sentiments also came through this morning. And I’m thankful that others remember my baby with me.

For some reason, it makes me happy that Gregory’s Feast day falls 6 months after his birth/death day. No, not exactly…but close enough (March 1, September 3…pretty close, right?) It gives me a chance to pause and to ask my sweet baby boy in Heaven to pray for me. I think about him every day not matter what, but when the kids have their birthdays and their baptism days, those are extra special days. It seems only fitting that Gregory would have a special day, too.

It is interesting how Gregory penetrates my consciousness anymore. I think of him often every day. I have his birth stone on my Mother’s ring which always reminds me.

A couple of weeks ago, during Mass, the Communion Hymn was “On Eagle’s Wings.” I sobbed, right there in the pew after receiving the Eucharist, for the first time in what seemed like many months. It had been a very long time since I had cried at Mass while missing my Gregory. It took me by surprise. But not really. Life has continued over the last 18 months, but never as though he had not lived in my womb for 5 months. He is always there in the background. I think of my six children, the five I can see and hear and touch and hug and hold–And the one that I am missing and simply left to reflect: “He would be walking by now,” or “I bet he would have had fun doing that with his brothers.”

On Friday evening I came home from work to find this sitting on the desk:

Dominic drew 6 people (I found “people”=”children” 🙂 )

I knew this was a Kindergarten picture, so I called Dominic over and ask him who he had drawn on the paper. He pointed to each and was naming himself and his siblings and then he pointed to the 2nd one from the left and said, “That’s the baby. You know, the one we were going to have. His name is Gregory.” It was one of the sweetest things ever for a momma to hear. I told Dominic that it made me happy that he drew Gregory with all the other kids and Dominic said, “Yeah, that is why I said there are 6 people in my family, because Gregory is in my family, too.” I am so grateful he remembers his baby brother that is not here with us. And it makes me happy for him to give voice to his remembrance.

Someday, I hope and pray, all of my kids will be together in Heaven. I envision a circle of them all holding hands and a swell of happiness as they enjoy being together at last. I’m grateful for the friends — near and far — who send me sweet messages of love when they think of my baby. The sadness has lessened over these months and I am also thankful for that.

There are times I come back to this blog and I search my posts for Gregory and read the sadness and longing and grief in the words I wrote in the months following his death. I’m glad I have the record of it and I am also relieved not to feel so sad all the time anymore. There is a bit of sadness still, but it diminishes more with time to where the feeling is more longing to be with my child and not so much a sadness that he has passed. An understanding has replaced that sadness — that someday, God willing, I will have the opportunity to be in the presence of God and Gregory, and I will feel complete and whole.

to my baby boy, Gregory: The hole in my heart still aches, my arms still long to embrace you, and I miss you. I love you.

 

 

Just Another Day

Today could have been just another day. Actually, it is just another day to everyone but me, I think. There are many things that can distract me today, but they don’t.

I completed a triathlon for the first time yesterday. (More on that later.)

My two-week vacation ends today.

I have friends moving, everyone is getting back-to-school shopping started (at least) right now. I’m looking through the kids’ uniforms, trying to decide what more is needed for the coming school year. I’m cleaning up, trying to get the budget back in order and the kitchen back in order and our bedroom back in order.

But, alas, the undercurrent of today is not gone. I was due to deliver Gregory a year ago, today. My last blogpost was a week and a half ago as my oldest child turned 13. Today could have been a 1-year Happy Birthday post. Or something.

It’s strange. I still think of Gregory every day, but it doesn’t really sting anymore. I still miss him, but…I have an appreciation and an acceptance for the family we are with him in Heaven. I suppose that is part of the healing process and I don’t think it bothers me that it doesn’t sting so much. 

I think I’ll take a trip up to the cemetery some time today, just to go and “see” him on what could have been his birthday. 

But other than that, and to anyone else, it will look like just another day.

Gregory – A Year Now Has Passed

A year ago today I found out Gregory had died and went into the hospital that evening. I delivered Gregory into the arms of Jesus on March 1, 2013. Of course, his soul was already there from about 10 days before that, but the physical delivery is what happened a year ago.

A day never passes that I don’t think about him and miss him. At least once an hour, I would imagine, I think of him. Losing him has shown me just how much I think about all of my children…it’s a constant…and he’s no different.

In the days following Gregory’s funeral, Rebecca, my dear friend over at The Road Home and Gregory’s godmother , sent me the following video from Mercy Me. I actually waited almost a week to watch it, but I was glad I did. It did make me cry then and it does now, too, but in a good way.


I stumbled upon this song by Daughtry a little later. It was so perfect and even now, feels that way still. I always imagine a little mini-Craig running around — because most of my kids look like their dad as babies. But the words of this song are so true, “Not a day goes by, that I don’t think of you, (Gregory).”



And this song, is for my “Precious Child.”



It is now 5:00 and last year I was finalizing arrangements for the kids and making our way to the hospital. I had spent 5 hours coming to grips with the fact that I had carried my son 10 days further than his life had extended. And the sadness; it was overwhelming. And that heavy heart hung around for another 5-6 months.

But then, I finally felt able to breathe again. I remember it distinctly…about a week into August, I could finally breathe a full, deep breath and not feel like it might be my last. My youngest sister announced her pregnancy with her first child in October and I was shocked to realize it was the first time I was truly happy at the news of someone else having a baby. I was so grateful that God filled my heart again for someone else.

This afternoon, a package came in the mail. Of course, Rebecca and her husband were so very thoughtful and sent us a beautiful creation that could be hung from the chandelier in our dining room. Here are two pictures:

Aquamarine is the March birth stone
I’m glad there is a chandelier in this house 🙂


Craig and I spent some time at the cemetery today. You know, it would have been easy to pass on the Memorial marker. It was an added cost, and how often will we have time to go up there? But…I’m really glad we got it and that it was placed before the anniversary of his birth/death. We need it there. We need to have that place to go. It was good to visit there today and I know it won’t be the last time we go there.

The Memorial Marker where Gregory was laid


I have received such an out-pouring of love and support from blog-readers, friends and family over the past year. I appreciate more than anyone can know that I was allowed to grieve openly. It’s such a hard thing, I think, to grieve a child who never was able to be born, but it’s important to acknowledge that person and everything he was and is to the parents and family. At this time, I am filled with gratitude at the empathy and understanding I have experienced from so many in the last 12 months: our priest, our parish and school community, our family and friends. Even our children here on Earth with us — who had to watch their mother cry for much of the last year, were such a great support for me. And the counseling I received through my therapist was helpful and how could I forget my awesome doctor and his staff? They hadn’t seen me since March 8 when I walked in there in November and they were so tender and caring with me and asked how I was doing.

2013 was a rough year and I experienced loss on a whole new level. But I was able to process it and get through it all (with amazing support) in a healthy way. I feel ready to tackle the future and know that I will never forget my baby.




Keep the Joy Amidst the Grief

This week started kind of slow. And it doesn’t appear to be speeding up much. Oh sure, we’re just as busy as we always are. Work, School, workouts, activities for the kids, homework and we threw in beginning to potty-train Vincent into the mix, too.

I can’t deny that Friday’s date looms heavy on my my heart. I know we delivered Gregory on March 1, but February 28 was the day that I went in for the ultrasound and found out that Gregory had already died.

It’s funny being a year removed. So much has changed…but so many emotions are still there, just buried and faded.

A year later, here I am, active, healthy, living my life with my family as full as I can with our busy schedules. I’ve lost about 43 pounds since last year, I’ve gotten heavily involved in Crossfit and am taking new challenges by the horns every day.

And I think…where would I be had Gregory not died? What if he were here with us? He would be about 7 months old, most likely starting some table foods, probably trying to crawl to keep up with Vincent. Financially, our family would be in a very different place as we would be juggling daycare for two small children (again) plus providing formula and diapers. Since Vincent is just now potty-training, we’d have two kids in diapers for quite a span of time which would also impact the financial situation. Emotionally, we’d be in a different place, too. We might not have the grasp on this Gift of Life that we do as a result of our suffering.

God has always provided the Grace to get through whatever came our way, whether it was another child, or a financial struggle, or emotional turmoil. I feel blessed that growing through suffering the loss of my child is possible. Of course, Gregory is not with us. And so, Vincent acts like “the baby” as he is. My other children do not think of Gregory often, or at least I don’t know it if they do. And somehow, I find that I feel content with my status as a mother of five + 1 (in Heaven).

 



I remember the days and weeks following February 28 last year and sometimes the tears well up in my eyes as I remember how long I cried. For some reason, the other day, I thought of our first night at home after delivering Gregory and the loud sobs and the punches in the gut I felt all night and the ache in my heart that didn’t go away. Even now, I can still remember quite vividly the feeling in my chest — it was like a “silent scream” you might do when you are dreaming a bad dream that makes you scream/cry.

These days, I don’t cry all the time. However, I think of Gregory every single day — many times every single day — but I don’t cry every day for him. I have one of the plants we received from family in my office and one, received from Gregory’s godparents, at home. Both plants, when I see them, remind me of my baby. It’s a small miracle both plants are still alive since Craig and I have never been able to keep anything but our babies alive once they come home with us. I have Gregory’s birth stone (March) on my Mother’s Ring, so many times a day, I see it and I always think of him. I have the items the hospital sent home with us along with my letter to Gregory from the day after printed out. I have the pictures they took. I don’t always pull them out, but every so often I will…just so that I can look at him.

As Friday draws closer, it seems I lack focus, but I suppose that is to be expected. I would imagine in the years to come, it will get a little better. Will I always want to take that day off work? Or will I be okay, over time, with keeping a normal schedule? I don’t know. I plan to head up to the cemetery on Friday to see the Memorial that has been placed for Gregory there. Our visit is long overdue, but I’m grateful we’ll actually know where he is now that the Memorial has been placed. Craig and I will spend the day together. The girls have school and I’ve arranged for the boys to go to daycare that day. We’ll get a Crossfit workout in, go to the cemetery and maybe go to a movie or just hang out and do nothing.


I do miss Gregory, but at the same time, I find that I am grateful for the short time I did have with him. I remember those sweet, short months of thinking about whether he would be a boy or a girl. I still chuckle at the fact that I figured it had to be a boy because God knows how much symmetry mean to me and having three girls and then three boys would just be perfect for me. I had fun coming up with potential names (Victoria for a girl; I thought of Victor for a boy along with Gregory). I wondered what we’d do about our vehicle situation (Get a huge 12-passenger van? Or stick it out with the two vehicles we had?) and I thought about how we’d fit all three boys in one bedroom. 

Yes, we really did have some good times there, thinking of the future and planning for a new baby. I don’t want to lose sight of the joy Gregory’s pregnancy brought me. I may have been tired, but I was happy. We may have been (a little) surprised, but we spent 4 months in joyful expectation. God blessed us a sixth time. And like every other time, it was so much more than we could have ever have anticipated or felt that we deserved.

A Year Ago

I was taken by surprise the other day when I mentioned perhaps taking February 28 off work this year. The tears came quickly and I had to swallow and push them down. My boss has been completely supportive and never even a little bit awkward about our loss of Gregory last year. I didn’t expect to fight back tears when I mentioned perhaps wanting the day off. 

I was reading through some of my posts from last year before we found out about Gregory’s passing and I was really struggling with Lent. I had messed up on a Friday and eaten meat for breakfast. I hadn’t figured out just what kind of sacrifice I should make for Lent. To be honest, I was kind of a mess…and that was BEFORE I knew about Gregory’s death.

In hindsight, it seems so perfect, you know? There I was, feeling sorry for myself, not doing very good at being Catholic during Lent. I was really struggling. I was feeling alone, spiritually. I didn’t really know what to make of it. I think I was just floundering — flapping and flailing (as my father would say) — not knowing what to do, how to pray, and feeling like a really bad person because of it.

Then, February 28 happened. February 28 was the date I went in for my mid-pregnancy ultrasound. Craig was going to go with me, but hadn’t felt well and I just figured it was routine — I’ve done many of these on my own. But they didn’t find Gregory’s heartbeat and determined he must have died about 9-10 days earlier.

My world completely stood still for a day or two. And it moved so slowly for awhile after that. 

It’s funny when I think about it because when I have given birth to each of my children — that is the way it was. The moment each of them came into this world — I remember that moment and it seemed to last forever, and I love that. 

And, so it was the same when I gave birth to my baby boy, Gregory, who was still. I remember that moment, always, and the pain in my heart and the tears that ran down my face. I remember shaking with sobs and looking at my husband who was doing the same. I remember feeling my doctor’s hand on my shoulder and that he didn’t have anything to say…and that he was crying with us. And the nurses and all the other medical staff in the room were sad with us.

Before I sat down to write this, I hadn’t decided whether to take February 28 off work. But I think I have now. I think I will. Just because I will think about Gregory all day on that day and on March 1. I know I will. It makes sense — often on the birthdays of my children, I think about them all day long — but it’s happy and I don’t feel the need to take a day away from work (since they are usually in school anyway). But with the happy memories, it doesn’t distract me or make working more difficult. But I fear it will be more difficult to work on February 28 this year.

It will be a year since his passing February 28/March 1. A milestone. I’m happy to say that the grave marker has been placed and I look forward to seeing it in person (the weather/snow has been awful and prevented a trip, even if we would have had time). I’ll go there for sure on March 1, maybe on February 28, too. 

We got the letter letting us know Gregory’s Memorial had been placed.

It’s been almost a year, and though the pain doesn’t rise to the surface as often, it’s still there. I miss him. I miss what he would have been for us. I miss what my family would have been with him here. I do miss all that.

But, I also see what we are with Gregory in Heaven, too. I see my children, who have watched me grieve this year, draw closer to me. I see my son, Dominic, who lights up at the name of Gregory when he hears it. I see my husband and me, feeling comfortable and stable with our family as it is right now. 

When all this happened, I struggled to see how this fit with what God had planned for us. I think sometimes what a leg up I’ve gotten to have a child in the presence of God interceding for me and I wonder how badly I must have needed it. 

A year ago, I was confused, trying to figure out an adequate sacrifice for Lent. But it was okay. Lent was oh, so hard last year. Easter was not particularly joyful for me last year. But through this past year, I see that sometimes, you just don’t have to come up with it on your own. Sometimes, dealing with whatever is in front of you…is enough.

 


"Most" Posts of 2013 — A Link Up!




I learned about this lovely link-up a couple of weeks ago (from Rosie!) and finally had the time to sit down and put it together! Linking up with the beautiful Sarah at amongstlovelythings.com.

My Post with the most clicks is a dead-heat right now between Gregory Hughes – 3/1/2013 and one particular Quick Takes Post (#61). It happens to be one of my posts where I marvel at the growth in the relationships I have with my children. The Quick Takes is one click ahead as I type…so, I guess that’s the Post with the Most…Clicks.

I guess it’s fine for the QT post to win the Post with the Most…Clicks, because Gregory’s post is the Post with the Most…Comments.

The post with the best picture was difficult for me to decide. I wanted to go the route of continuing to remember Gregory (with my post, Real — and I really do love the picture in there), but it’s important, too, to show and note that our family continued to LIVE and LOVE together this year, so I think the best pictures can be found either on this Monday Mumbles – 61 post or this post titled An Update in Pictures. Many of those ended up on our Christmas card. 🙂

A couple of the posts I have already shared have been the hardest (ever!!) to write. But this Quick Takes post where I shared a very personal discernment was difficult for a variety of reasons. First, it is personal. Second, I wanted so badly for our discernment to come out differently…I wanted God to say “Yes” to another baby for us, but it just wasn’t in the cards. But learning to see the joy in the result of that personal discernment has been comforting.

My personal favorite post is this one where I shared a book that my sweet Helen wrote for me: Helen Told Me She Wrote A Book. I think it’s my favorite because it reminds me of how sweet my children can be. It is something I can go and read when I’ve been feeling like I’m not the best mom sometimes. Our children love us so sweetly and unconditionally. They deserve the same from us. And this post recharges me in that respect when I read it.

So, there you go. My Posts with the Most!

Be sure to go and check out all the other great posts bloggers shared! (I plan to spend some time on my New Year’s Day off work doing just that!)

Thank you, Sarah, for hosting such a fun link-up!