One room in our house contains a toddler bed, baseball decor on the walls, and piles and boxes of baby stuff. We were using that room as a collection site until we needed to rearrange after Reece was born. The plan was for our middle son to take up residence in that room once Reece was sleeping in a crib. It was a bit of a catch-all space. Boxes of newborn-sized diapers, a bouncey seat (bought just for Reece), a play mat (also new), baby clothes, blankets, a car seat and two bases, a mobile, a bath seat, and an infant insert for my baby carrier were piled high. When Reece died, we shut the door on that room for a long time. Touching those things made me cry. When Reece bear was brought to us, my sons and I used the baby things for a day. It was the first time I could touch them and not melt into tears.
Recently, a dear friend, expecting her first baby, offered to buy those items we had bought and collected for baby Reece. I sorted through Reece’s things and helped her load her vehicle. I taught her about the LATCH system in her new car. I sent her a link about washing cloth diapers. I loaned her my copy of Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. I hugged her and her growing belly and sent her on her way. I cried on and off for about three hours until my husband joined us at home. The most raw realization came when I worked out the math and it struck me that he would have outgrown many of these items before my friend’s baby would have even needed them. My heart ached for Reece.
There isn’t ever a right time to send away the baby stuff. It will hurt no matter what. Knowing he is my last baby, letting go of the physical things really cement that our family is done increasing. I would have loved to see him using that giraffe bouncey seat until he was trying to sit up in it. I wanted to use those FuzziBunz diapers until his milk-fat thighs stretched the elastic to gasping. But his physical form isn’t here on Earth with us.
So what does a woman do with hundreds of dollars she earned from selling her last baby’s things? Go shopping. Spend all of it. Embrace a wildly indulgent feeling of self. Retail therapy won’t heal a broken heart, but it will cover it up in pretty fabric for a night. Would I have ever been ready to let go of the baby stuff? I don’t know. But hanging on to it doesn’t help me either. I’d rather someone I love use it in joy than it sit here in my house wrapped in grey sadness.
With new clothes, including a new swimming suit (post-partum non-nursing bodies are weird shapes), we packed our van we bought for Reece and took a vacation. For three days, we enjoyed time with my sisters and their families. Our boys got to play with their cousins and for one blissful night, they had a sleepover while Hubs and I just got to relax. We were asleep before 10:30pm. We are a really wild couple, huh?
There were a few wounds on the trip: it was not all bliss. Our first morning there, we all went down to breakfast before 7am. Our two boys poked at their pancakes while I watched a daddy and his two young children one table over. We had been sitting there about fifteen minutes when the mom came lumbering in, tired but smiling, with a tiny baby boy wrapped to her chest. I could feel myself staring. A front row seat to the life I was expecting and didn’t get. We cut breakfast short. Later at the gym (yes, we like to exercise while on vacation), as I was beginning my post-run yoga flow, a glowing healthy beautiful woman plopped down with her friend. She was very very pregnant but seemed unhindered by her belly. She was me, just four short months ago. Smiling and sweating and full of life. I stretched back into downward dog and felt the tears just start to roll.
No matter where we go, we cannot escape the fact that our son died. There isn’t items we can save, or money we can spend, or miles we can drive that will change what has happened to our family. We are minus one. The best we can do is continue living, love our living sons and make memories with them,
and honor our son who died. My grief will never end just as my love for my three sons will never end. Loving Reece can take on many forms. Loving my friend and her growing family, loving myself, loving my sisters and my nieces and nephew,
loving my husband are all ways to spread the love I had saved and collected for Reece. Just like a brightly-colored bouncey seat, love should not be shut in a room and wrapped in sadness. It should be shared and used in joy.