tbt 8.16.13 'one year later'

22 August 2014

I'm not quite sure how i made it this far. I truly did not think I would survive this long without Hayden- I thought for sure I would die of a broken heart, just like elderly couples who are madly in love are said to do. 
I remember the first few weeks and months just dragging on and thinking my god, make it stop. Make the pain just stop. And there are several times I still feel this way.
I remember being so torn as to where I should be- there were times I thought Rob and I should split up- one parenting Jackson here, and the other in heaven with Hayden.
I remember the day after Hayden passed away- we were out on our deck and I told Rob we needed to adopt a 5 month old baby immediately. The aches in my chest were so intense that I literally could not breathe and needed a baby lying there- since that is where Hayden spent the majority of his time when not forced to be in a hospital bed. The next day I told Rob we needed to have another baby right away. The following day I told him we could never have a child again.
The weeks after Hayden passed away, we received so many packages in the mail- it was unreal. The UPS man was at our house at least three to four times a week- sometimes twice in one day. I remember one day in particular we got three packages and after the UPS man left, I sat with Jackson on the couch and just stared at the boxes thinking wow- we are so loved and cared for-most of it by complete strangers- if only all this love could bring him back, I know everyone would do that for us if only they could. And then I looked at the packages again and one of the boxes was a rectangle, and all of a sudden it hit me- it was the perfect size for Hayden. So I ran to the kitchen and grabbed the scissors thinking maybe just maybe someone finally found a way to bring him back to me. Of course I know that can't be- but I was so incredibly desperate at the time, and the mind can do some pretty crazy things. I was embarrassed when I opened the box and of course my happy Hayden wasn't there- how could I have possibly even thought that?? But again, desperation for your child who is gone is something only another parent like me can understand.
The thought of visiting hours in heaven entered my mind for months. And the only way for me to calm down from wishing so hard that were true was to remind myself that if there were visiting hours, I would probably never come back for fear it would end- and how unfair that would be to Jackson.
I remember getting angry often and thinking- we are in the 21st century- how can we not figure out a way to bring people back from heaven?? Why has this not been worked out yet? and truly really not understanding it…
The reason I am telling you all of these random stories is because so many people have told me time will heal this pain, time will make it better. It has been a year since Hayden was literally ripped away from my family and I can tell you that time has not healed the pain- what it has done is taught me how to handle and manage the pain. The insane thoughts don’t come nearly as often- I don’t want to adopt a 5 month old, but whenever I think of Hayden, he is and always will be 5 months old. I still wish there were visiting hours in heaven, but not with the same intensity that I had before- now I just fantasize about it and what I would do with my time if allowed. I no longer think Rob and I should split up our parenting duties- although it still breaks my heart that Hayden is up there without us, he is with our grandparents and God- and I truly believe he is happy, watching over us, and waiting for us to join him when it is our time. Jackson needs us much more than Hayden ever will at this point. I no longer look at rectangle packages and run to the kitchen for scissors- I know how ridiculous that is and acknowledge that, but I am still so desperate to have my son back- and if someone thought they had a way that could possibly make it happen, I’d do it in a heartbeat- even if it was completely ridiculous.
I’ve changed more in the past year than I have in the past 30. When Hayden died, a large part of me died too. I don’t smile as often or laugh as hard, I cry every single day- sometimes just a tear, sometimes I can’t seem to pull myself together. For a long time I didn’t know who to be friends with- or if I even wanted friends at all. I couldn’t relate to anyone I knew- my best friends had no idea what I was going through, my heart friends still had their warriors and so they no longer knew what I was feeling, the only people I felt I belonged with were heart angel moms- and that’s the ultimate worst group of people to relate to- a group no one wants to join- but as we have all said, are so thankful it exists. I sometimes still feel like they are the only people I can truly relate to. I have lost friends and gained some. For the first 6 months or so there were only a handful of people I would even spend time with for more than an hour- because sometimes that’s all I could handle without completely loosing my shit- an hour. And there were only a few people I felt comfortable completely loosing it in front of. I often find I don’t know how to act in social settings in general anymore- what to say, how to engage. Sometimes I can’t focus on conversations people are having with me- because all I can do is think of Hayden and cant figure out why anyone would want to talk about anything else. Other times I cant even imagine talking in public about him because I would cry at the thought of him and wouldn’t be able to speak anyways.
People don’t know how to treat me either- should they mention Hayden? Talk about the weather? Ask about Jackson? People are afraid of me and it is often uncomfortable. I remember going out to dinner with some friends maybe 3 months after Hayden died and we sat there and chatted about anything and everything- except Hayden. It was so bizarre to me I didn’t know how to handle it. Here I was finally going out of my element to see these people and for the 2.5 hours we were together, we spoke of Hayden for 2 minutes maybe. And then there are the friends who try to make it like what happened is ok- the always positive friends who say things like ‘well thank god for Jackson’ or ‘your so strong, I could never be as strong as you if my child died’ or something else that really is as bad as talking about the weather.
All I want is for someone to ask me about Hayden- and not be afraid of what I might tell them. I want to talk about him and I want him to live on and be remembered. I agree I am not an easy person to be friends with anymore- and understand why a lot of people who in previous times of my life were considered my close friends are now people I rarely speak to, or even some I don’t at all. I understand, but it still hurts. I have honestly found out, as cliché as it sounds, who my true friends are. And feel lucky with the ones who have stuck around.  
In college, my roommate had a running tally of how many nights in a row I went out to the bars- it was our joke and thinking back on it now makes me smile. I think of how my life is and if that chalkboard were here now I would have run out of space on it months ago tallying up the amount of nights I sat in my garage or backyard with a bottle of wine and a pack of cigarettes and on my phone to my best friend(s) for three hours at a clip. I started smoking 3 days after Hayden died. I had such a craving for something and I knew it was Hayden but knew I couldn’t fulfill that craving so I started smoking- again. I had quit both times I was pregnant and started back in between Jackson and getting pregnant with Hayden. Once I had Hayden I was just so busy I guess- but I never craved another cigarette and I never had a drink (a full one anyway) as I always felt fulfilled with my life and didn’t need my usual vices anymore-until Hayden died. Then they became my therapy and most nights the only way I would fall asleep. The nights became so unbearably hard that I would find myself starting to get anxiety and fear the hours in between Jackson going to bed…and me finally falling asleep. It was as if 8pm hit, and my body had given up- used all the strength I had to just survive and function the past 12 hours and I could no longer survive the rest of the day without my vices. I would find myself excusing this behavior by allowing myself whatever I needed to get through the day…and night.  
I have changed as a parent as well. Luckily I learned from Hayden before he died to cherish every moment with your kids- housework, laundry, and every thing else can wait- spending time with them was my top priority- and still is. Yes, I clean my house, and I wash my clothes- but I don’t let it control me anymore. Life is not measured by the cleanliness of my house, but rather by the happiness of my children. And by the way, I still have two children- and when we have another child, we will have three children, and so on. My parents have 6 grand children, not 5- etc- leaving Hayden out of that equation is like removing him from our family and that is just impossible…
Since Hayden died, I am now scared. to. death. that Jackson will be taken from me too. I was always somewhat fearful of that I guess in the back of my mind- but I don’t think I ever truly believed anything this tragic could happen to me or anyone I knew. But it most certainly can and I live in fear every single day at the thought of that happening. Sometimes I think God will test me- again. I’ve caught myself saying ‘if Jackson weren’t here I don’t know what I would do’ and then I stop myself- because I fear God will test me and take him from me just to see what I really would do.
I am certain I will never be the same again- how can I be when half of me is no longer physically here. I find I no longer have patience with others useless drama and find it incredibly irritating when anyone in my life does anything that causes it- as if Hayden’s life and the fragility of it all has taught them nothing. I find the ease in which I am able to ‘write people off’ alarming and surprising, but since Hayden died, I just don’t have the time or energy for it anymore. I’m not as friendly, I’m not as kind and not as engaged in other peoples lives as I was before- I have in a way become a selfish person and often forget that other people have problems in their lives too. My empathy towards others sucks-and I truly hate that and feel guilty for it. I almost laugh at this point when in the rare times I do check the  newsfeed in facebook and see people complain about their child not sleeping through the night, or having too many sports practices to go to, or not enough time for themselves- blah blah blah. I guess its mostly jealousy that some people still live such a simple life where those are truly their biggest complaints at that moment. And they are entitled, but I struggle with it. I remember watching The Bachelorette this past season and towards the end the Bachelorette makes a comment after the guy she fell in love with ends up leaving and says something like ‘this is the worst feeling in the world’ and without hesitation I looked up at the TV and said something on the lines of ‘your child didn’t die so you have no idea what the worst feeling in the world feels like’ and then I looked at Rob and just had to laugh at myself- again, my empathy towards others just sucks. I don’t know if my life will ever feel right, or fulfilled or perfect again. I can’t imagine it ever will- but thinking that it won’t is just too painful- to know I could live for another 60 years without him is such an unbearable thought- to know it has only been a year that I have survived without him makes me often fear the many, many years to come. It’s the strangest feeling to no longer fear death but moreso life- and to actually get tears of joy in my eyes at the thought of when it is finally time to be reunited with Hayden. I look forward to that and welcome it with open arms. I’m in no way encouraging it, just that when it happens, I welcome it and picture him greeting me with his big smile and orange hair.
Jackson has changed too. He reverted back within a day after Hayden died to the mama’s boy that was unfortunately forced to grow up a bit faster than he wanted when Hayden and I spent that month in the hospital after only being home for 10 days. He’s struggled with Hayden’s death- gone through his own fazes of confusion, sadness, anger. He’s been in art therapy for over 6 months- and lately has been communicating his feelings to me much better than he had. The greatest gift Jackson can give to me in this life is to never forget Hayden and to forever honor his memory. Jackson still dreams of Hayden and prays for his heart and his head to feel better every single night- the same prayer he’s been saying for over 17 months. I don’t know how long he will dream of Hayden or how long he will pray for him- but every day it makes me smile and cry- and I hope it never ends. He has become my protector - constantly giving me kisses all day long- on my arms, my hand, my legs- any part of my body he can reach at any given moment. He makes sure I have food, that I have a pillow and blanket when I am resting on the couch, that I am taking care of myself and that I am happy- and it is because of him that I am able to be happy. This four-year-old boy has become a caretaker for his grieving mother. He is the most amazing 4 year-old I have ever known. Yes, he still gets time outs, picks his nose and wipes it on my couch, still gets toys taken away- because he is in fact a 4-year-old boy- thankfully- but he and his brother are my heroes- equally-and for very different reasons.
I can’t and won’t speak for Rob in the way it has changed his life, but I know that I can say that Hayden’s death has forever changed this family- in so many ways- but one thing has remained a constant- we are surviving it all and doing it together- picking each other up and placing one foot in front of the other. 
So, how exactly did we get through this unimaginable year- first and foremost, we have each other, and that is huge- but we also still have Hayden. That little amazing baby has sent us so many signs that he is with us. For a long time, the only signs I noticed were heart clouds- sometimes I wouldn’t see one for weeks, other times I’d see three in one day- and Hayden knew when I needed them. They make me smile and give me a sense of warmth that I cannot explain. I’ve tuned Jackson into it and he will often yell up to me in the front seat as I’m driving- ‘mommy I see a heart- Hayden’s saying hi!’ and he too gets excited at the site of them. I try to get as many as I can on camera but sometimes they are gone by the time I get it out. He’s apparently still camera shy :)
Right before Mother’s Day I went to see a medium- and she told me Hayden sends me white butterflies- me being a skeptic I argued and said ‘no he doesn’t he sends me heart clouds’- she then said, ‘well, he’s telling me to tell you to keep your eye out for them.’ I kid you not, white butterflies have popped up all over the place since then. Mostly when Jackson is frolicking in the yard or at the park or with his friends- here out of nowhere comes a small white butterfly dancing in the air with him- and to me it represents them playing together. Jackson is also hip to these signs from Hayden and gets so incredibly excited when he sees one- telling anyone around that Hayden is saying hi and that he loves us. So…maybe the medium was full of shit, but maybe she wasn’t. And I don’t care either way- the feeling I get when I see Jackson chasing around a white butterfly and playing with Hayden fills me with a happiness I rarely get these days and I know it comes from Hayden and that’s all that matters to me.

We have also been so blessed like I mentioned earlier with a great support system. We are so incredibly thankful for all the Hayden fans out there- family, friends and complete strangers- who have helped us with the only thing I know to do- and that is raise awareness for Hayden and the other children out there who are fighting CHD’s or have sadly also lost their fight. We have had a crazy successful first 10 months and are so thankful to all of you for your dedication along with us- it speaks volumes- we recognize who you are and are so grateful that you have chosen to support us in this way- it has not gone unnoticed and truly has shown us that you care.  So when you read this and think ‘I wish there was someway I could help take away their pain’- this is how- help us raise awareness with our foundation- it doesn’t take away the pain, but it lets us know that Hayden was important to your life too, and that brings us joy. 

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