Wednesday, June 15, 2016

June 12th

Dates have always been important to me, and June 12th is a big day in the Congdon household.

Five years ago on June 12th, 2011 we found out that we were unexpectedly going to have a baby! We were parents!

The week that followed was full of excitement and slight panic and taking deep breaths and realizing our lives were about to change forever, though we couldn't possibly imagine how much that was true.

And now look at the size of him, eating ice cream almost exactly five years later!

Two years ago on June 12th, 2014 I went in for an ultrasound to check my fluid levels with baby boy number two - because I was measuring big, as usual (#chubbyCongdonbabies). Thomas decided at the last minute to come, too. I will never forget the kindness and joyfulness of the ultrasound tech. She said, "let's measure these fluid levels quick, and then we can play with baby!". Once she was done measuring, she took lots of time (which I know was not part of her job) to show us his sweet chubby face - he had some CHEEKS. We checked to make sure he was still a boy. He was so big at this point ("now, be aware that this is only an estimate but it looks like you might have a 9 pounder!" she said.. and she was right!), that we could only really see one body part at a time. She found his hands and he was waving at us - I can still see it in my mind, his chubby little hand waving on that screen.

The sweetest, chubbiest cheeks

The week and a half that followed were filled with a growing excitement. I am forever grateful to that sweet ultrasound tech - she filled me with joy and excitement to meet this sweet baby boy who was waving at us from my womb. She breathed new life into me after a long, difficult pregnancy... with long work hours and grad school for Thomas, lots of solo parenting for me, house hunting, house buying, moving, sickness, bedrest, house problems... I had hardly had time to be excited. But we were actually going to have a sweet baby! He waved at us! Judah was going to meet his long-awaited baby brother! I finally washed tiny clothes, packed the diaper bag, got out all the baby gear, installed the car seat.

We had no idea that June 12th, 2014 would be the last time we would see Theodore alive. That a last minute ultrasound to check fluid levels would be such a blessing and a memory to cling to.

June will always be the month we became parents, and the month we went through something no parent should have to bear. Walking through June, and life, is a tender mix of joy and sorrow... sorrow and joy. You can't know one without knowing the other, not on this earth.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Dear Theodore (1 year old)

6/23/2015 - One year old in heaven

Dear Theodore,

I'm nearly two months late in writing this down, but it has been running through my head constantly. My sweet one year old little boy, my heart is broken and missing you. Your first birthday happened in the midst of much craziness - we had just found out about baby sister's cyst, so we had multiple appointments with specialists and had to switch providers in order to birth her in a hospital instead of the birth center. I was in a car accident two days after your birthday and then your little sister was born just eight days after your birthday. I carried you every second in my heart and my thoughts, but there was not a time for me to sit and write your letter.

Subconsciously I knew that your first birthday would be in the middle of lots of activity, so I did a lot of grieving in the months and weeks leading up to it... I felt the weight of grief very heavily again. The actual day of your birthday was the one peaceful and calm day that week... there were no appointments, and I was able to do the few things I had planned on doing. I took flowers and chocolates to the birth center where you were born, I wrote thank-you notes (that I still need to mail, yikes!), and we visited your grave with the freshly laid gravestone. Nana and Grandad took us out for dinner, and Nana made you the perfect cake for a one-year-old little boy. I wasn't sure if I wanted to sing "Happy Birthday" or not... but Judah started singing it to you all by himself when he saw the cake with the candle lit, so we sang it with him and it was perfect. You were born at 8:46pm, so we went outside after we ate some cake and lit sparklers in the backyard around that time. I wasn't sure leading up to the 23rd what it would look like or even what I wanted it to look like, but it really was just what I didn't know I wanted. So many wonderful people participated in "Theodore's Thank You Day" and did acts of kindness in your memory - it brought peace and joy to my heart to see/hear/read about the things people did. The very next morning we were back to appointments and craziness, but I'm so grateful that God gave us the special, peaceful day that I was hoping for on your birthday. It was enough to get me through those few crazy weeks surrounding baby sister's birth.

I cannot believe that it has been a year... a long year since I birthed you and held you and kissed you for six of the shortest and longest hours on earth. You were such a big boy, 9lbs 12oz! You looked a month old at birth, so chubby and roly poly. I will always desperately wish for more time with you, to see you grow and change, to know you at one year old. As Judah likes to say "Baby Theodore is not a baby anymore, he is a big boy in heaven!"

I don't really know what else to say, just that we miss you so very much. I'm realizing more and more that no matter what our family looks like, there will always be you missing. And that is an ache that we will carry until we meet again - some days it is so very achy.

Happy First Birthday, my sweet Theodore. I am thankful for the peaceful day that it was here on earth, and that every day for you is like the best birthday ever... but I still wish that your face was covered in chocolate cake, and that we could all be laughing at how adorable you are.

Love, Momma, Papa, Judah, and Nella

The last "monthly sticker" balloons - 12 months old.

Visiting your grave

Judah always runs and lets balloons go in the field by your grave.

Birthday cake (chocolate, picked by your big brother)

Sparkler fun outside

We lit a sky lantern, and tied it to the fence so it wouldn't float away (fire hazard!)

Chocolate and flowers for the wonderful people at the birth center you were born at

Thank you notes (still writing them... and still need to mail them!)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Dear Theodore {11 months}

5/23/2015 - Eleven months in heaven

Dear Theodore,

Here we are, just a month before your first birthday in heaven. There were many times during the early days after you were born when reaching a year of grief seemed like an impossibility - how could we get through that much sadness, all those milestones and months without you. But here we are, and it's crept up on me in these final weeks of your little sister's pregnancy. I feel unprepared and unsure of how to celebrate you and desperately miss you at the same time. Your first birthday falls right in the middle of the week that baby sister will be arriving. We didn't necessarily plan it or want it that way, but that is how it has worked out. Navigating the joy of meeting her, and the pain of missing you and wishing you were blowing out your first candle... all in the same week.

Our days are pretty normal, almost a year after you were born. The fact that you lived and died far too soon is integrated into our lives, it's part of our story... not so shocking and jarring and all-consuming as it was in the beginning. But there will always be moments of shock and disbelief. One afternoon not long ago I feel asleep on the couch during Judah's nap, and my mind was in that sort of twilight between sleeping and waking. I thought of you and your birth and death and was in a state of total shock once again - did that really happen? Did I really give birth to you, my perfect but not breathing son? How? Why?

One of the hard things, which happens often, are the questions that all mothers are asked. Is this your first baby? How many children do you have? How old are they?... I get the "Is this your first baby?" question whenever I go anywhere without Judah. I say "No, actually it's my third" and kind of hope the questions stop there. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. Recently I was picking up our take-out order at a little Chinese restaurant, and a sweet older Chinese lady continued the questions... How old are your children? Boys or girls? And what is the baby? ... I smiled and said "My oldest boy is three, my second boy would be almost one, and the baby is a girl, due very soon". She didn't pick up on the "would be" and it was way for me to include all my children without raising more questions. And it made me feel like a normal mom, including you in the list. It's a hard thing to navigate though, how much to say so that I feel like I'm being true to myself and honoring you... and how much to not say to avoid the inevitible pain and unwanted comments.

Perhaps harder, though, is when people just innocently assume that baby girl is my second baby, and there is no easy or appropriate way to correct them. Or when someone confuses Judah by asking "Are you having a baby brother or a baby sister?" because in his mind, he has both. And he does. He often answers baby brother, even though he knows we're having a little girl... I think to protect your memory. He understands that baby sister is a different baby. It's just hard for him to grasp that you are not here with us.  He asks frequently if baby sister is going to live in heaven when she is born, to which we tell him "We hope that baby sister is going to come home and grow up with us!". He also often says things like "I miss baby Theodore. I wish I could play with him. He would like my firetrucks! He plays firetrucks in heaven with Jesus. Can we go see him there? Why did he have to go to heaven?" ... Oh, how I wish I could watch the two of you play firetrucks. I'm just so sad that you two will never get to be brothers on this earth.

We recently got a little red wagon and took Judah for a walk in it. Everytime I looked back to check on him, I wished you were strapped into the other little seat. I bet you would just have loved it, sitting like a big boy with your big brother. I know you are having so much more fun than we could ever imagine in heaven, but I still long for you to be here on earth having fun with us. I want to watch you figure out how to blow out a candle, and make a complete mess of your first cupcake, just like Judah did.

I miss you, little Theodore. This month I will work on your special wall in our room... full of your pictures and poems, your teddy bears, things that remind us of you. I want to have it all set up by your birthday. With baby sister coming and all the busyness of the next couple of weeks and months, I want you to have your own little spot. I'm not sure yet what we will do on your birthday, I know it will be in the middle of a crazy week... but I want to make space for celebrating all that you are in our family. Judah said recently "We should have a cake for baby Theodore's birthday!" - so we will definitely be having cake. Not an hour goes by that I don't think of you, not a second that you aren't carried close to my heart.

We love you, our little almost-one-year-old Theodore. One year in heaven for you, one year on earth for us - as opposite as it could possibly be. I'm glad you're the one in heaven with Jesus, wanting for nothing. A parent always wants the best for their child, and you have the very best.

Love, Momma, Papa, Judah, and baby sister


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