Sam would be 2 years old today

My sweet Sam, two years already since you left us. We’re at this point now where our sense of time is getting distorted. In a way, it feels like an eternity ago since I was taking my weekly pregnancy pictures and putting together the nursery, full of excitement. Yet those two years escaped through our fingers in the blink of an eye. And as that moment when I held my perfect little boy is distancing itself further and further from the present that I’m in, my heart still aches like it was yesterday. Forever broken. I picked up the pieces little by little, and I’m getting there slowly. But it will never be intact again. Fractured, at best. Most likely forever incomplete.

Today, Sam would be celebrating his second birthday. We’d be having cake this afternoon, decorating the house with balloons, handing presents and taking happy pictures. Our birthday boy would be going to kindergarten with his brand new little backpack and his lunchbox, in which I would have secretly added a few surprise treats for his special day. He would be so big already. I would proudly make him sit on the couch and prep Emery next to him so I could take a beautiful picture of my two boys. But alas, this reality will never be.

Today, instead, we took Emery with us to decorate Sam’s headstone. It’s a terrible thing when your child’s birthday is a sad date. I remember last year – his first birthday – being particularly hard, yet healing in away. Once I passed the one year milestone, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt like I had gone through the grief and trauma like a warrior, and proudly concluded: “I survived”. I felt like the rest of the road would be going up from that point on, instead of going down. And it did. Things only got better afterwards. But only to a certain point. I feel like I will never get all the way up that giant mountain where I once happily stood. There’s only so far up I can go after having lost my little boy. I’m not at my maximum yet; there is still a bit of a way to go. But life will never be like before. Even our wedding memories are tainted with the loss of Sam. We were so excited to start a family when we got married. We couldn’t wait for our first little one. It’s all we talked about during our honeymoon. I was looking at our pictures from Aruba the other day, and I felt something sad about them. It’s almost like Sam was already there in a way. We were so ready for him.

Last year, I was so emotional that I completely failed to come up with something nice to put on his grave. I spent weeks trying to come up with the perfect flowers, the perfect stuffed animal. My mind felt so chaotic that I didn’t even manage to make any decision about it in the end. And I remember feeling so frustrated with myself as we stood there in front of him with nothing nearly as special as I had hoped to bring him on his very first birthday in Heaven. Anyone who knows me personally will tell you that this is nothing like me. I’m the decision maker in most situations, and everyone around me usually leans on my strength and sense of practicality. So to be this indecisive and then failing to produce any result is completely out of my character. That’s when you know something is really wrong with me.

This year, I feel like I’ve got my head back on my shoulders somewhat. The ideas occurred to me naturally. I put a few pretty things together and improved the little angel Gert’s aunt placed on Sam’s grave when he was buried. The angel’s blonde hair, which matched Sam’s, had completely faded under the sun. I gave it a fresh coat of paint. I added a beautiful “2” on his brown teddy bear, which I take back home regularly to wash.

(I removed the last name digitally, for obvious reasons.)

Today, Sam’s stone looked pretty and that made me happy. Happy second birthday in Heaven, sweet Sam. We miss you so much and think about you every day. 💕

Merry Christmas 2015

Is it too late to wish you a merry Christmas?

chihuahua christmas hat tiny small tree dog puppy cute outfit clothes 2015 pure breed short hair smooth coat beige cream white

I tried so hard to give a shit this year, but then I obviously failed miserably. I’m just glad we were invited to my brother-in-law’s place on Christmas eve, so at least I didn’t have to plan or organize anything myself. I had already decided that we wouldn’t be inviting anyone over anyway. So this kind of solved it perfectly. Now Gert wants to invite his parents over on New Year’s eve, and I’m just like “yeah, no.” I’m sorry, it’s nothing against them personally. I do enjoy their company. But I was just really REALLY looking forward to a nice cozy pyjama evening with lots of finger food in front of the TV.

I got to see everybody’s lovely family pictures with their children and babies in front of their Christmas tree plastered all over the internet. Just what I needed! 😒 Ever since Sam passed away, I just can’t deal with happy family portraits anymore. I guess that’s the cross I’m doomed to bear for the rest of my life now. The fact that our family portraits, no matter how many children we have in the future, will never be complete. There will always be a little boy missing by our side. And it doesn’t get easier with time. When I think of how big he would be right now, and how much fun he would have had playing with his new toys … It chokes me up so badly that I have to block those thoughts out of my head and quickly think of something else. Sometimes I manage, sometimes I don’t.

I put quite a lot of effort into Christmas and New Year’s celebrations last year. I guess I felt like I had to force it and fake it, just to get me through the pain of it all. Now that I’m in a less extreme survival mode, I basically just feel like not putting any energy into any of it. I hardly found any motivation to put a decent outfit together on Christmas Eve. My hair looked kinda shitty, my makeup was very basic. And my brother-in-law’s Christmas tree was all black with black Christmas ornaments and everything, which I found ironically appropriate for me that day.

So I basically have zero pictures of our Christmas this year. Maybe I will take some on New Year. After all, I am pretty fucking happy to see 2015 go! What a shitty year it was! Good riddance 2015. You were CRAP. 💩

Thinking of Sam

I don’t know why it hit me on Monday that Sam would have turned 14 months old that day. It seems like such a random age to think about. Perhaps because of the surreal situation here in the Brussels area at the moment. With Gert being home and us basically staying indoors, because 1) everything was closed, so there was nowhere to go to anyway, and 2) just to be on the safe side. I guess it gave me too much time to sit and think.

I was thinking of how lucky Sam would be not to have to go to daycare because I’m a stay-at-home. And how our little family would be safe right here, away from all the madness out there.

Coincidentally, I received these beautiful pins in the mail from Ireland:

Baby Loss Awareness Ireland pink blue ribbon pins babyloss stillborn stillbirth infant

I was referred to this website by another loss mom who happens to be the only fellow European mom in the support group I joined a while ago. It randomly struck me one day how our loss and grief cannot be seen by others. It’s not written on anyone’s face. And then I thought about how great it would be to have a symbolic ribbon to wear. Just like the pink ribbon for breast cancer, the red ribbon for HIV, etc. I’m obviously not looking to shove it in any random stranger’s face and get some awkward conversations rolling. But it is close to my heart. And who knows, maybe one day I will bump into another loss mom who knows the meaning of this pink & blue ribbon, and who will perhaps find comfort in knowing that she’s not alone. So I’m now proudly wearing what I’ve decided to call my “Sam pin”. A little ribbon to remember him by, and to show my support to whoever has been struck – in one way or another – by the loss of a child.

A big thanks to Linda who sent these to me, along with a very sweet personal note. I will wear my ribbon with pride and love!

Baby Loss Awareness Ireland pink blue ribbon pins babyloss stillborn stillbirth infant

Feeling Better

Everything is starting to feel more peaceful at home now that Sam’s first birthday is behind us. I think the fact that the weather’s been so sunny since Thursday is probably helping. Nevertheless, this was an important milestone, and the chaotic pain and grief is starting to settle into something more steady and manageable. Granted, this whole grieving process has had so many ups and downs without any logic to it … I could very well face some more difficult times again in the future. But for now, I feel okay.

I’m back to putting some energy into our interior. Next on my list: to hang more frames on the walls. My “Sowing the seeds of love” frame by Thomas Barbey is already in place. I don’t know why I love this picture so much. And I can guarantee you I DID NOT pay anything near the prices listed on the artist’s website. Holy crap! I got it at a craft store in Greensboro, North Carolina about 10 years ago for less than $50, if I remember well. Looks like I got a pretty good deal back then. Now I was thinking “Blown Away” would go nicely together with “Sowing the seeds of love“, so I would have both Paris and London. But there’s no way I could afford it. :-( I didn’t even check out shipping to Belgium. I bet it would double the total. Oh well!

Meanwhile, Jules the cat is still the king of his imaginary castle …

european white interior cat pale northern europe scandinavian style walls curtains big antique cherry wood furniture dining room table chairs living room

We still haven’t figured out how he gets up there. He always seems to do it when we’re not looking!

julesthecat cat on top cabinet cupboard cherry wood dining room furniture cupboard white interior decoration europe european northern scandinavian style

home evening light julesthecat cat on top cabinet cupboard cherry wood dining room furniture cupboard white interior decoration europe european northern scandinavian style

Always staring at Wolf the dog … probably secretly plotting the perfect murder.

home evening light ceiling julesthecat cat on top cabinet cupboard cherry wood dining room furniture cupboard white interior decoration europe european northern scandinavian style

Anyway, September is almost over. It’s been bittersweet. It also made me realize how traumatic it’s been, as I can recall absolutely everything I was doing on most days of this month last year. It’s going to take many years before it all starts to fade, I think. I’m so thankful for the flowers and little keepsakes that people put on Sam’s grave this week. I didn’t think anyone was even going to remember his birthday. (my faith in people clearly needs to go up a notch).

And the sweet card I received from one of my best friends is still standing on the piano in our living room. It will all eventually be neatly stored into Sam’s box. Nothing gets thrown away. ♥

Sam would be 1 year old today

sam stillbirth stillborn born silent first year anniversary one birthday grieving loss baby

Today was a shitty day. As I had figured it would be. Although I wasn’t quite sure what to expect … It ended up being a strange mix of sadness, not really knowing what to do with myself, and flashbacks from my nightmarish hospital stay when I gave birth to Sam. When I got up, I decided to spend my morning in the nursery. It’s still intact. Some people may find it weird, but to me, it’s been a very therapeutic room to spend time in. I actually still add new stuff in there every once in a while. I keep perfecting the decoration. And although all the things that are specific to Sam have been neatly stored into a box, it still stands there on top of the wardrobe and I do open it every once in a while.

Sam's box ikea nursery

I grabbed it this morning and went through absolutely everything. Then I saw the two onesies I had purchased for his birth … I hadn’t even thought of them in months. One of them was meant to be used for his birth announcement. As he was due around the end of September, there was no way to know if he would end up being a September baby or an October baby. I loved those calendar shirts from the moment I saw them, so I purchased both months and packed them in my hospital bag, together with red thread and a needle; ready to be used. I remember quickly putting them away when I came back home from the hospital last year. It was so heartbreaking. I realized this morning that there’s no way I could ever re-use any of them. Not only are they too sentimental, but they are specifically from the 2014 calendar. So even if we ever end up having another September or October baby, the days wouldn’t match anyway. So … I decided to circle his birthday after all. What more appropriate day than today, right?

birth announcement onesie sleeper baby outfit tshirt cotton month september october calendar cross stitch circled date red circle

calendar baby onesie september month announcement birth white cotton shirt

He may never wear it, but it’s still his birthday outfit and it’s finally complete; as it was meant to be when I bought it.

The nursery looks as sunny and happy as ever. I swear there is such a good vibe in there. I sit there quite often, just looking around, thinking about everything, and always trying to come up with new ideas to make it prettier and more practical. I guess it’s my way of looking forward, no matter what.

yellow green gender neutral nursery wood forrest theme boy girl baby room bedroom crib wooden furniture white

I still need to find a big white mirror to hang above the crib. And the big plastic box between the crib and the changing table needs to be replaced by some piece of furniture. Regardless, the room was ready to be used. We were so ready for Sam.

yellow green pastel white nursery gender neutral baby room bedroom boy girl wooden furniture ikea cute soft pale

I had initially planned to pack up all the linens so they wouldn’t catch any dust. But a whole year has passed now, and I still haven’t managed to do it. At this point, I think I’ll just leave it like this. And if we ever have another baby, then I’ll just throw it all in the washing machine. The only thing I protected with a plastic cover are the newborn diapers that had been unpacked on the shelf last year. They were ready to be grabbed and used. That’s how confident we were about Sam’s safe arrival. :-(

I will say though: I’m glad we made the nursery completely gender neutral. It was already with the idea in mind that we’d probably have more than one baby, so it had to suit “all” our children (oh the optimism). But at least it made it less painful after we lost Sam. I had never looked at it as “Sam’s room”. To me, it was our family nursery. Meant to be used in a perfect equal way for different babies. We already had our strategy in place: as soon as our first would either outgrow the nursery, or that another baby would be on the way (whichever happened first), the elder child would then move up to a bigger room upstairs. Basically freeing up the nursery for the next baby to come. Maybe that’s why I find it such a happy, comforting room. And although Sam never used it, I feel like there’s a little piece of him that will forever be present. But not in a sad way.

yellow green blue white wood nursery gender neutral baby boy girl sunny pale pastel soft colors ikea

The clothes I left in the wardrobe are those I’d feel okay reusing. Those that were specifically Sam’s were put in his box this past Winter. There’s still some boyish stuff in there. I guess only the future will tell whether they’ll someday be replaced by pink or actually be used as is.

baby closet wardrobe clothes onesies socks shoes sleepers stuff shelf hanger

You wouldn’t believe how much of it is old and second hand. I always loved the fact that we hardly bought anything new, and yet it all blended so nicely into one consistent style. Half of it is from my own bedroom, and some of the toys are toys I played with myself several decades ago.

yellow green gender neutral white pastel pale nursery sunny baby boy girl ikea wooden furniture decoration interior room

The other half is from Ikea. Parenting on a budget at its finest …

ikea crib baby blue cloud pillow owl stuffed toy animal blanket yellow green gender neutral nursery baby room mobile bears butterflies

baby mobile crib stuffed teddy bear animal butterfly wings blue nursery bed

It dawned on me today that the mobile above the crib is a perfect symbol of Sam, as it represents three teddy bears dressed up as butterflies. We always associated brown teddy bears with Sam, because as soon as he was born, the nurse laid one next to him. And it’s actually on his portrait picture we took, and which now stands on his headstone. And the announcement cards we made after he was born featured a crying teddy bear, as well as a poem about a teddy bear keeping a stillborn baby company. Then, when we went to the memorial organized by our clinic, they gave us a glass butterfly with Sam’s last and first name on it. I loved it immediately and it still hangs at the nursery’s window:

glass butterfly colorful red purple memorial baby stillbirth stillborn in memory of Sam

It always reminds me of an incident that happened the day after we received it. We had gone to Gert’s parents’ house to show them Sam’s butterfly. And as we were standing there in the living room, their butterfly shaped Tiffany lamp suddenly switched itself on. Just like that. We all stood there speechless, not really knowing how to react. Gert’s dad walked up to it and inspected it from top to bottom, then shrugged and turned it off. I feel like that was the one moment Sam was saying hello. Teddy bears and butterflies will forever be associated with him.

I also kept the glass “bluebird of hope” that I received from a lovely neighbor after losing Sam. It remains in the nursery for now. But obviously, if there’s ever a baby in this room, then those items will be moved elsewhere.

glass bluebird of hope blue bird statue carving finland

One of my best friends sent us a card to tell us she was thinking of Sam today. And I was surprised to find new flowers on his grave this afternoon. I’m still not sure who put them there. One of them was most likely from Gert’s brother and his family, as I seemed to recognize a handcrafted heart in the same style as Sam’s initial that was made by his daughter several months ago. I’ll have to ask them and thank them. It felt so good to know that people hadn’t forgotten about Sam this year. It made this crappy day a little less crappy.