Ryan was here ...

My not-so-sweet nothings, mostly comprised of my feelings at losing my two-day-old son, Ryan David, to congenital heart defects, and to celebrate the arrival of Ryan's healthy little sister, Megan Elizabeth, and hopefully welcome another little miracle into our brood in July 2010.

Monday, October 31, 2005


Since Ryan's death, I've thought a lot about the other two angels who quietly stepped into and out of my life. The oldest would've turned seven this past July and the second would've turned one right about now.

I'm beginning to really despise the contraction, "would've." Everything these days seems to be filled with too many would'ves ...

... Ryan would've been dressed as a panda cub this Halloween, even though he would've been only three months old.

... Angel baby #1 would've been in second grade in school and would've been the protector of his or her younger siblings.

... Angel baby #2 would've just celebrated his or her first birthday and would've been just starting to walk.

It seems so foreign to me at times that I would've had three children if everything would've worked out the way I had hoped and dreamed. But, instead, I sit here grieving the deaths of all three of them, wondering what in the world went wrong that none of them are here for me to love and laugh with.

I would've been the best mom to all three of them if I had been given half the chance. Honestly, I would've ...

Monday, October 24, 2005

"From Ryan"

This past Saturday, Mike and I ran numerous errands that made the day a perfect family outing sort of day. And even though my little Ryan wasn't sitting in the back seat, strapped into his car seat and enjoying the stops along the way, he was definitely with us in spirit.

One of the errands was to get my rings checked at the jewelry store. I've got a life-time warranty on my bridal set, as long as I have my rings checked every six months. It's usually a very uneventful visit - I window-shop while the clerk checks that the settings on my rings are intact and stable - but Saturday's visit was a little different.

As I was moving from one display case to the next, admiring the stunning pieces of jewelry I can only dream of owning, I suddently noticed this white, wintery-looking stuffed bear that was displayed throughout the store. He was wearing a knit cap with matching mittens and he had many "twins" who were as equally cute and cuddly.

I stood by one of these bears, stroking its little paw, wondering what its significance would be in here, in a store like this. Certainly didn't seem like the sort of place to purchase a stuffed bear!

As I was getting acquainted with this little bear, I heard Mike's voice in the background, involved in a conversation with the clerk who was checking my rings. My feeling was that something was wrong with my rings, but as I got closer to the two of them, they were actually talking about the bears.

The clerk explained that these bears are part of a holiday "drive." When one of these bears is purchased, the proceeds go to the children's ward at the local hospital. But, you can also donate the bear and include a personalized "To/From" tag with it. Mike and I were all over this idea since we saw first-hand during our many trips to the NICU to visit Ryan, which took us through the children's ward, that these kids have a really rough time with their illnesses, let alone how difficult and lonely it must be for them to be hospitalized during the holidays.

We purchased our bear and decided he'd have a happy home in the warm embrace of a child at the hospital. When the clerk handed Mike the gift tag to fill out, I knew instantly that I wanted this bear to be from Ryan. It didn't matter that we wouldn't know which child received this bear. To me, it only mattered who it was from.

As if he had plucked the idea from my head, Mike wrote "From Ryan" on the gift tag and looked at me with a half-smile, waiting for my approval. In my usual sappy fashion, I burst into tears in the middle of the store, but managed to give my seal approval with a nod of my head.

Once we attached the gift tag to the bag, we slid the fluffy bear inside the bag and placed everything in the donation box below the cash register. The clerk gave me my rings - which were checked out just fine - and Mike took my hand as we walked out of the store, with me still sniffling and wiping my eyes.

I guess it ended up being a good family day after all.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Strange twist of fate

In 1997, in my "previous life" - when I was married to my first husband - I bred my Samoyed, Sasha. She gave birth to five polar-bear-cub-looking puppies. (Cute doesn't even begin to describe how they looked!) All but one of the pups went to new owners, and the one remaining pup, Toby, stayed with us.

When my ex and I split in 1998, it was agreed that I'd take Sasha and he'd take Toby. I hated splitting them up, too, but it was the best situation that the ex and I could come up with.

In 1999, I moved from Pennsylvania to Florida, and again moved in 2001 to North Carolina. I've only seen Toby once since 1999, but my ex does give me updates every so often, just so I know that he's okay.

Last month I found out that my ex's current marriage is in crisis and he and his wife are separated. Their house sold four days after being placed on the real estate market, so my ex has been scrambling, trying to find a good home for Toby.

Oddly enough, I kept thinking about Toby yesterday and decided to send my ex an e-mail, asking about Toby. He called me a few minutes later and asked if I could "take" Toby - either temporarily (for a year or so) or permanently.

Once I told Mike, he was all for it. We had to put Sasha down on March 26, and since then, we've been missing having a dog in the house. Originally, we were going to wait till Ryan was born so we could pick out a new dog as a family. Needless to say, that plan got shot to shit, so we've remained dog-less longer than expected.

I'm really happy at the thought of having Toby again, but at the same time, I'm really sad about it. Don't get me wrong - I truly want to provide Toby with a stable, loving home - but this isn't exactly the type of homecoming I was expecting. I figured I'd be spending this time trying to decide where to set up a portable crib or baby swing, not figure out where to put the dog's bowls or wonder if the dog will try to go dining at the litterbox buffet.

I just don't know what's wrong with me today. I should be bubbling over from giddiness at this news, and instead, it keeps reminding me of what I've lost and what I'll forever be missing.

Well, at least Toby will be around for me to dote on and baby-talk to. That's as good as it gets right now ...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Snapping back into reality

Why do the silliest of things bring memories rushing back into our minds? I will never figure this out!

I had yet another episode of this yesterday when I discovered a rubber band in the pocket of my jeans. ...

I call this particular pair of jeans my "fat" jeans. Though I'm still quite far from being svelte, I wore these jeans when I was 20 lbs. heavier and never got rid of them. They're roomy and soft and totally broken in. Plus, I was able to wear these jeans through the first six months of my pregnancy with Ryan. I decided to wear these jeans again yesterday because I was feeling like a bloated mess due to my "monthly bill" and knew I wouldn't feel restricted the way I would in my regular pants.

After a visit to the restroom, I was putting myself back together, pushing my pockets back into position when I discovered "something" in my pocket. I wasn't sure what was in there, so I scooped out the contents of my pocket. When I opened my hand, there was a sizable tuft of lint, a "to do" list for myself, and a rubber band.

And it suddenly hit me why there was a rubber band in my pocket.

In order to wear these jeans with my ever-expanding Ryan belly, it became necessary to loop a rubber band through the button hole and slide the loop over the metal button, expanding the waistband just enough to make the jeans wearable. After I was finished wearing them, I'd tuck the rubber band in the right-hand pocket for the next time.

This rubber band had remained in that pocket through several laundry-washings and pocket-emptyings.

I looked at it for a few seconds and decided it needed to go back into my pocket for safekeeping.

As I was getting ready for bed last night, I instinctively reached into my pockets and again discovered this rubber band. I looked at it, smiled to myself, and played with it, wondering what I should do with this quirky reminder of happier times.

I walked into Ryan's room, opened his keepsake box, and placed the rubber band next to one of the "It's A Boy" bubble-gum cigars I had put aside when we found out we were having a little boy. Content that I had found the perfect place for this unusual memento, I said goodnight to Ryan and hopped into bed.

Now I'll know where to find that silly rubber band if and when I need to accommodate a bulging baby belly in the future, fingers crossed.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I will remember you

To my two tiny angels and my beloved angel, Ryan:

Mommy loves you and will remember you, always.

Friday, October 14, 2005


What a bizarre week it's been, and I'm so very glad the weekend is just around the corner!

Wednesday was incredibly tough for me emotionally, and I slid right back into that horrible, gut-wrenching pit of gloom. I hadn't sobbed that hard since those first days after Ryan's death! I don't know what brought it on - probably nothing and everything.

I guess I finally had one of those anger moments that I was warned about. Somehow I had managed to dodge that particular emotion - or at least, not deal with a full-blown bout of it - till Wednesday night. Thankfully, Mike helped to hold me up (figuratively and literally) and made sure I had plenty of tissues. He let me cry and babble for hours, listening to every crazy word I uttered and never rushing me along. He's not just a wonderful husband, but a wonderful person, too.

By Thursday morning, I was feeling more balanced and ready to take on the day.

I had a lunch date with a gal from the chatboard I frequent and it was so nice! (I just have to remember in the future not to plan a real-life meet-up when I've only got an hour.) It wasn't nearly enough time to blab and to get to know one another, other than what we know from our chatboard posts. And it was nice to not have to explain my crazy mood swings. She knows about everything that happened with Ryan, and, like the other gals from the chat board, has been so supportive and understanding.

And, today seems to be moving along rather well, too. It's my short workday and it's payday - what could be better?!

I think I hear the doctor calling for some shopping as therapy. I probably should. I haven't treated myself in a very long time, so a shopping spree is long overdue.

Hopefully Ryan will give his momma some much-needed advice on the newest fall fashions ...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Whoosh-whoosh ...

I couldn't stop myself.

When I found the recording of Ryan's heartbeat on my computer, I just had to hear it again. It's only 12 seconds long, but I could've listened to it forever. I had never imagined a sound could be so comforting.

But, now I suddenly want to put my fist through a wall. I'm so upset and angry (and selfish, I suppose) that my sweet baby isn't here with me, where he should be. And I can't take comfort in hearing he's "in a better place." At the moment, I can't think of a better place for him to be than in my arms.

This is just so unfair. And why do I today, after nine weeks, suddenly wonder what I could've done to deserve this horrible, inconsolable pain?

What could anybody ever do to deserve this unending torture that I'm living day in and day out?

Makes me wonder if this is really what hell is all about. Sure feels like it could be ...

Monday, October 10, 2005

Stripped of my title once again

I have been having a hard enough time accepting the title of mommy when I don't think I've earned it, but it's different when someone in the outside world actually says that I'm not a mom and truly means it.

I've been at my current job almost two years, so all of my co-workers have been riding the bumpy pregnancy roller coaster right along with me. Well, they've riden enough of the ride to know what Mike and I have been through and enough to know that a little bit of tact and compassion aren't too much to ask from them right now.

When Ryan first died, my boss told me to take as much time as I needed and to not worry about work. He didn't need to tell me twice! You see, he's an asshole - simply put. I have never asked this self-centered, hypocritical bastard for a favor of any sort, so when he granted me unlimited leave, I wasn't about to question him or his motive. In my book, I was owed that time off. I had earned it, in more ways than one.

I spent eight weeks home after Ryan's death. That's it.

Sure ... maybe I didn't have dirty diapers to change or bottles to prepare during those eight weeks, but I was far from doing nothing. I was recovering from my C-section, which was a bigger deal than I had ever thought it would be. And, the biggest healing of all: trying to recover from the devastating and unexpected death of my newborn son.

I thought all of my co-workers understood this - especially the gal, DD, who I work with directly - but I was wrong.

DD made a comment three days after Ryan's memorial service that she couldn't understand why I wasn't back at work ... it's not like I was doing anything. I didn't have a baby to take care of or anything.

Excuse me?

Apparently, me being a grieving mother wasn't justification for taking an "eight-week vacation."

Yet again, I'm reminded how I've supposedly taken advantage of a perk reserved for real moms whose babies haven't died.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Happy 2 months ...

I've spent the majority of my day thinking about and talking about my beloved Ryan.

He would've been 2 months old today.

I wonder how different he'd look from the images that are frozen in my mind.

I really wish I knew ...

I do hope he's spending his 2-month birthday with another precious angel who's 7 months old today ...

I really, really hope they're spending their day together, playing as little boys should.

Mike and I toasted to these two angels at dinner ... and I also burned a candle in memory of them both.

It was the least I could do ...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Angels among us

Okay, I'm convinced that yesterday was not a coincidence. There was a specific reason I kept replaying Ryan's final moments in the NICU - other than what might be a usual part of grieving - because too many other things happened later yesterday that were related to those stressful times spent with Ryan in the NICU.

I was feeling especially emotional after writing yesterday's entry and decided I'd talk to one of my "co-workers."

This co-worker is actually my boss' wife, Janet. As much as I dislike my boss, I adore his wife. She's a genuinely sweet and thoughtful person, with never a bad thing to say about anyone. She used to be a nurse, so, naturally, she kept a close eye on me during my pregnancy. It was nice, actually; it was the closest I'll ever have to a mother keeping watch over me. Janet was one of two visitors I had after delivering Ryan. She was also one of the people to find out early on when Ryan passed. And, I felt comfortable going to her since she's a mom and would partly understand the difficult day I was having.

I explained to Janet about my recurring NICU episodes and remembering what the nurse said to me on that last phone call when Ryan died. She reminded me that she has several friends who are nurses in the NICU. (I then remembered that, several months earlier, she had mentioned her nursing friends during some random conversation just before Ryan's birth.) Janet explained that one of her closest friends, Terry, has been the head nurse in the NICU for nearly 20 years and that Terry makes the urgent phone calls to parents when their child is in grave condition. And, Terry's husband is a customer where I work - who I work with quite often - so he also knew about me and that I was expecting. In a flash, I put all the pieces together in my mind and realized that Janet's friend had delivered that phone call which forever changed my life.

I couldn't hold back the tears any longer after making that realization. Janet got up and gave me a warm hug and she, too, was sniffling and fighting back the tears. We sat down, and she explained that a few hours before Ryan passed away, she had spoken to Terry and, without divulging specific details, Terry had explained that Ryan wasn't doing well and asked Janet to pray really hard for him. Then, the morning after Ryan passed, Terry called Janet and was crying, so Janet just knew that the news about Ryan wasn't good. Again, Terry wouldn't give Janet specifics, but she encouraged Janet to call me. ...

I told Janet how wonderful the NICU nurses were to Ryan and how Mike and I truly feel they are angels. I went on to explain how especially sensitive and incredibly caring Ryan's three NICU nurses were. During Ryan's final moments, they were beside us, crying along with us. They were so sympathetic and sad that they weren't able to help Ryan more than they did. They were the ones who gave me the time I had with Ryan, and I know they did everything they absolutely could to save him. Before my hospital discharge, two of these nurses came to my room to present Mike and me with a keepsake box containing Ryan's belongings - not that a NICU newborn has many belongings. Again, both of them sobbed while telling us about the box's contents. I was especially touched when the one nurse - the one who cared for Ryan the longest - asked if she could say a short prayer. Her gesture was so touching and beautiful, and it was at that moment that I realized she had gone beyond "just doing her job."

Janet looked at me with tears in her eyes and told me that Ryan was a very special baby. She told me that Terry, who also decides which NICU nurses care for which babies, will occasionally receive a phone call from one her nurses asking to care for a new baby that has come into the unit. Well, when Ryan was admitted, almost half of the NICU nurses requested to take care of my beloved little boy. Terry explained to Janet that this was so unusual, but something was drawing these nurses - including herself - to Ryan and wanting to help him in any way possible.

Suddenly, I was crying happy and sad tears.

Mike and I had always thought that Ryan was special and people were drawn to him, but we just figured we were being proud parents, thinking our son was the best son ever. But, to actually hear that people were drawn to Ryan made my heart smile. ...

When my workday was finally finished, I was relieved that I didn't need to bottle up this emotion any longer and could finally be the in the comfort of my house for two whole days. But, I received a pleasant and unexpected surprise waiting in the mailbox when I arrived at home.

There was a purple envelope, quite obviously the envelope to some sort of greeting card. The return address was barely legible, but all I had to make out was the first line to know that it was from the hospital. Immediately, I could feel that huge lump forming in my throat again, so I took a deep breath as I opened the card.

It was a sympathy card from Ryan's NICU nurses. Each had written their own separate and touching message to us and to Ryan. There was also a smaller card enclosed inside which contained a small gold ring attached by a small purple bow. (I'm guessing the ring represents the circle of life and the purple bow signifies mourning or bravery - I'm not sure.)

I guess the little card in itself isn't a huge deal - a sweet and tangible memento at best - but I suppose seeing it and knowing what it represents brought on another rush of emotion. Next thing I knew, I was standing in my kitchen sobbing uncontrollably.

It felt wonderful to know that my brave little son affected so many people in his short time here. It does help me to better accept that God had grander plans for my beloved angel than to just be my earthly son. ...

Friday, October 07, 2005

That dreaded phone call ...

I had a rather unusual flashback to Ryan's last day, and I just can't shake off the horrible feeling I'm reliving yet again.

I can't figure out why this particular memory keeps re-playing itself in my mind. It's not that it's the most terrible thing that happened concerning Ryan, but it certainly isn't a good thing, either. And I don't think something happened in my outside world to trigger it. It literally came out of nowhere.

While I was in the hospital, I had always dreaded hearing the phone ring in my room. The hospital has distinctive rings in place: one ring is an inside call within the hospital and two rings is an outside call. Fortunately, I did receive more two-ring calls than one-ringers, but it's the one-ring calls that rattled me everytime.

I keep remembering two very specific one-ring calls regarding Ryan's condition. Both calls were from the NICU and caught me completely off guard. The nurse on the other end of the phone expressed no specific emotion, but made it painfully clear with her words that my presence in the NICU was urgently needed.

Plain as day, I can still hear these words ... "Mrs. O____, is your husband there with you? Your baby boy isn't doing well. You need to come here right away."

Both of those calls came through while Mike was handling our life outside of the hopsital and the NICU. Everytime he'd leave, I'd pray that nothing would happen while he was gone; he needed to be there if, heaven forbid, Ryan took a turn for the worse. As my luck would have it, each of these frightening calls came through when I was in my hospital room alone, faced with unnerving news about my baby. I was still recovering from my C-section, so I couldn't make the quarter-mile trek to the NICU without being in a wheelchair. I was at the mercy of a nurse who hopefully understood my predicament and would react accordingly. I was frantic, knowing Mike needed to be there, but I was helpless to get him there any quicker than the driving gods would allow. All I could do was pray that my baby would be able to hang on long enough till daddy returned safely to the hospital to be by his side.

The last of those two-ringer calls and the circumstances that followed will haunt me till the day I die. I never - not even in my worst nightmares - envisioned that my final time with my little boy would be spent surrounded by a multitude of doctors and nurses fighting a losing battle. Or, that Ryan would be connected to so many machines and monitors that I wouldn't be able to cradle him, and instead could only comfort and soothe my boy by running my hand over his angelic little head where I wouldn't interfere in the efforts of the doctors. All I wanted to do was scoop him up out of that bassinet, hold him as tightly as possible, and take off running ...

I don't know why I keep thinking about that - it certainly wouldn't have done any good or changed anything if I had done that. Maybe it was my mommy instinct trying to take over, trying to protect him by safely tucking him in my arms, shielding him from the perils of the outside world.

I'm so, so sorry I couldn't protect you and keep you safe, Ryan. I wanted nothing more than to do that again, as I had for those wonderful nine months prior ...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

1 part Happy, 2 parts Sad

Motherhood has changed me in many good ways: I'm more compassionate, patient, giddy, content, upbeat, and most times, joyful.

It has also changed me in many not-so-good ways: I'm much more cynical, anxious, moody, insecure, pessimistic, and sometimes, downright sad.

The good ways are almost certainly influenced by Ryan's birth.

The not-so-good ways are most definitely influenced by Ryan's death.

These newest emotional "ingredients" don't seem to be blending too well, though. It's like trying to combine oil and water - they just aren't meant to mix.

I guess that's because giving birth to your baby one day and having him die two days later isn't supposed to mix.

Okay ... who fucked up my recipe?

Monday, October 03, 2005

Have a nice day

Today was my first day back to work since August 5.

I hadn't seen any of my co-workers since Ryan's memorial service and had spoken with only a couple of them by telephone. My desk was exactly as it was the day I left, just with an extra layer of dust for me to clear away. My calendar was still tacked on the August page, with all the special days and appointments clearly marked. Pinned to my cube wall was a picture of me taken by a co-worker just two weeks before Ryan's birth. There was even an ultrasound picture and a Doppler recording of his heartbeat still saved on my computer's desktop. A flood of messages came pouring into my work e-mail account - most of them dating back to the beginning of August - inquiring about the status of "Mr. Peanut." And, instead of my greetings being met with waves and smiles, my hello's were met with sorrowful looks of "I'm sorry."

Awkward. Heart-breaking. Frustrating. Sad. Miserable. Lonely. Painful. Tough.

That's how my day was.