These will be the last photos of Brandon Tetsuya Alrhain, our darling fourth child and third son. It was taken last night as he slept in my lap around 3 am. He passed away suddenly while sleeping this morning between 7 am and 11:30. The coroners’ results are not in but it was probably SIDS. He was only 11 weeks and 3 days old. Just over 2.5 months old.
Brandon joins his brother, Damien Antonio Henry, whom we lost to full term stillbirth on the 5th of September, 2013.
My last memories of him are of his bright-eyed gaze up at me as he nursed this morning, then him drifting off to sleep in my arms. I kissed him before placing him in his little ‘Brandon Box’, which he loved to sleep in. I watched him squirm himself comfortable and settle again. then lay down to sleep a little myself.
We are devastated by his death and are praying desperately that he is in heaven safe and sound. He hadn’t yet been baptised.
I can’t think of anything else to say.
Shadowdancer / Cutelildrow
ps: thank you for reassuring me, and thank you for your kind thoughts. On a somewhat technical note; if you registered for the site, please leave a comment somewhere because I’ve been having ridiculous amounts of spam.
Thoughts at 4 am in the morning
(I…need to ramble. So I don’t collapse. So I can stay sane for my two older children.)
I’m awake again. It’s 4 am again. I’m sitting in the chair where I’d taken those photos up there, that last sleepless night. I hadn’t gotten up and gone to bed, after my darling Rhys had kissed me goodnight, kissed our boy goodnight, and gone ahead to bed because he has early mornings.
I had sat here, reading about the Hugo stuff, responding to some comments; but most of my focus was on the little boy in my lap, watching him sleep deeply, soundly. Brandon had had a night where he’d been colicky a few nights prior, and my sleep schedule, which follows his, had been thrown into the US Central timezone again. I kept thinking, I’ll stay here a little longer, let him sleep a bit more. I’ll get up when he wakes up for a feed or needs a nappy change, and of course, when he woke for his 3-4 am feed, my legs had gone numb enough that I didn’t trust myself to get up and not lose my balance or trip. So I fed him, and cuddled him and petted him till he drifted back off to sleep and the next thing I knew, two hours had passed and Rhys was looking down at us again, and asked if I had fallen asleep in the chair in my work area. I cheerfully told him that I hadn’t gone to sleep, and since our boy was now awake again and not yet crying, could he please change the wee one’s diaper while I got the feeling back in my legs? Rhys did and I unfolded my legs and suffered pins and needles for a few minutes; I’m tiny and my feet don’t touch the ground if I sit in a chair.
Rhys came to fetch me after he’d changed our boy’s diaper, carrying him. He settled us in bed and continued to get ready for work while I lay on my side, curled protectively around Brandon while he had breakfast, his eyes, those beautiful dark gray eyes, looking up at me as I talked to him.
Rhys came back to us when he was ready and in uniform. He kissed us both again, and left for work. I lay there in our bed, singing to Brandon, who was looking up at me. I sang, petted his soft silky hair, caressed his cheek, my song made up and not rhyming at all.
Close your eyes my boy, it’s time to go to sleep,
Close your eyes, my love, it’s time to dream,
Sleep, sleep, sleep, my joy, my darling,
It’s time for bed, it’s time to dream,
Close your eyes, it’s time to go to sleep.
And after a while, he did, still nursing. My singing became humming, and when he was deep asleep and full, Brandon let go of my breast. I held him until I started becoming sleepy, and put him in that cardboard box, the third one, because he didn’t like the wide open space of his cot. I’d hit on the idea of putting layers of soft blankets and towels to make a firm, small mattress and put it in the first “Brandon Box” shortly after he’d been brought home from the hospital, so I could put him in bed with me for sleep without risking rolling over him. We changed boxes as he outgrew them.
Brandon died knowing nothing but love and being cherished by all around him. His last memories were of his mummy and daddy taking care of him. The most pain he’d ever experienced at that point probably had been from a diaper rash, or getting that soft, downy little cheek of his prickled by Daddy’s stubble.
His last day had been full of love; at no point was he ever alone or without minding or attention. If I had to put him in his bassinet in the work area, Aff (the nickname of our housemate, David) would come out of his room and pick him up and chat with him and cuddle him, having already made the observation that the ‘tiny human’ didn’t like not being held or thinking he was alone. Aff had nicknamed Brandon ‘the bundle of rage’ because of how vocal Brandon would get if he didn’t get Mummy feeds or cuddles in ‘time’, or expressed his displeasure and discomfort at having a full nappy. That last day, Brandon lay listening to his eldest brother, Vincent, reading him The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. Brandon didn’t let him finish, he got hungry and let us know he wanted nomnoms. I told Vincent that he could finish reading to him later. Their big sister, Runé, had been put to the task of browning meat for dinner. When she was done, she came over to where I was sitting in my computer work area to sing ‘Brandon~!’ and kiss and nuzzle the top of his head before wandering off to do her own thing. I think she and Vincent played video games.
After Rhys and I came home from the hospital yesterday, Vincent told me mournfully that he never got to finish reading to Brandon. “Now he’s gone.”
We spent the evening talking, crying. This isn’t the first time my family has been touched by death, and already the coping mechanisms are kicking in, even as I sit here ears still pricked and alert for the snuffling grumbly noises that tell me, “Mummy, I want cuddles, hugs, love and food” that I know I will never hear again.
The truth is, I wonder if the coping mechanisms ever really stopped working. We’d lost Damien to a full term stillbirth, and just as we lost Brandon, it was a sudden stop to joy.
Rhys and I went to the hospital, the children just finishing their preparations for school, Aff had come out to ask if Vincent had gotten all his things together so he could walk Vincent to school. The air was full of excitement; the kids kissed my belly as I stood in the foyer; I’d felt Damien moving right before another contraction took the wind out of my lungs. Rhys and I drove to the hospital, got up to the birth suite, and the midwife went to listen to Damien’s heartbeat. There wasn’t any. She thought her doppler thingy was faulty, got a different one. Same result. She hit the emergency button, and in seconds an ultrasound was wheeled in. I remember seeing the screen, saw that there was no movement, and knew even before the doctor said that he had no heartbeat, that he had passed, and the poor doctor burst into tears and the other doctor had to take over.
And Rhys and I knew that it was already too late; that even if we cut me open and pulled him out right the and there, he’d been without oxygen for too long; the drive to the hospital was long enough, just long enough. Our son would have been a vegetable.
We cried, but had periods of being quiet and calm enough to talk and make decisions, even as I laboured. I remember telling Rhys that I’d glimpsed a young red-headed man – either a junior doctor or nurse who had been part of the team that rushed into our birthing room – turn gray when the first doctor said ‘there is no heartbeat.’ I remember saying that my stupid, stupid brain had gone in this weird disconnected part of me, even as I’d started screaming, Oh. So that isn’t just a description in a book. And somehow, we both let out watery giggles that sounded like we were on the verge of hysteria. When we were holding our beautiful, perfect son, we both observed, separately and on our own, that it was too quiet for a birthing room.
It’s those little pockets of surreal clarity that stick with us the most. Somehow.
That’s why, when Brandon was pulled from my womb, when I heard his first utterly indignant wail, I felt something inside of me unclench. And I cherished every. Single. Time. I heard his crying, his voice. His eyes gazing, glaring, staring into the world.
I knew when I saw Brandon that it was too late, but I tried to do CPR anyway. That weird disconnected part of my brain, that I don’t think ever reconnected to the rest of me since we’d lost Damien, was what started taking down what I saw, ‘the doctor will ask, look, remember’ while the rest of me shattered and I screamed.
Everyone tried. They tried their best even though it was futile, that it was far, far too late, even in the ambulance, even at the hospital.
I’m numb. I hurt. Yet that numb, cool, disconnected part of me… already is cataloguing all the little things that need to happen next. And I cry, in short little bursts, because when I cry, it’s all mucous and tears and I can’t breathe so it stops the crying. I can’t cry the way I need to. So I …follow this need to do something. So here I am.
Turns out I’m not alone in having developed that. Aff focused on taking care of Vincent and Runé, dealing with the people who had to get things for the coroner, worrying about things like food. Rhys is also thinking of other practicalities, things going on a mental list.
I hadn’t written about Damien in public before, because I know someone out there would celebrate his death, be joyous in my loss and pain, because that person hates me, and I know from his actions over the last several years.
Now it doesn’t matter. I know he can’t hurt my sons any more. Yamamanama is an empty shell, because he can threaten my loved ones, my children, for the sake of his ideology or delusions. The love that I’ve been surrounded by overcomes all his petty, empty hatred.
So I write about my sons. I write about my love, my loss and grief. And for the first time I can fully acknowledge what my friends on this cold, cruel Internet have done for me.
Foxfier and Mary Catelli were the ones who encouraged me to go read the Mad Genius Club and According To Hoyt, some months after I’d lost Damien. “To keep you from losing hope,” they said. Those places on the web, they told me, were good for that.
So I did, and they were right. I started commenting after finding out that Yama was banned from there for his own actions and insanity, and he couldn’t harass me there.
The people I found at Monster Hunter Nation, at According To Hoyt, at Mad Genius Club, without most of them knowing it, helped me heal, by being themselves, commenting on the same things I find interesting, the same things I enjoy. There were grand arguments, but only the real trolls were ever kicked out, and that was rare, those events. Disagreements would flare hot, but that wasn’t any different from the sibling squabbles I remembered. You yelled at each other, then later you apologized, or cooled off, and everything was okay again.
They encouraged me to revisit that little dream I had of writing.
That resulted in Sparrowind.
I had taken a copy to read to my son Brandon while he was still in the hospital, and I only got halfway through it one day. I never got to finish reading it to him.
And now I never will.
But somehow, I don’t feel like I did before; that crushing despair, that feeling my inner light had gone out. I figure, it’s a combination of shock, and the bitter, unwanted experience of prior baby-death that tells me, tells us, you’ll make it. Just keep going.
I can’t stop. This pain will never go away. Those holes in my heart will never ever go away, and I will never stop pining for the sons I never will see grow up.
And it’s 7:35 am.
Its been a day.
I have to keep moving. Take one step at a time. Today will be busy. I cannot allow myself to stop. If I do this pain -what a small word for what I am feeling!- will break me. I keep thinking, When going through hell, keep moving.
We have lost two beautiful sons, in succession. One, we never saw take a breath, we never saw him open his eyes. We peeked – he had grey eyes too. We never heard his voice. Brandon was taken from us, but at least we had a little while, and started to get to know him. And oh, how we looked forward to getting to know him.
It would have been a wonderful adventure.
The above is the photo I had been planning to write a baby post with, talking mommy chatter about how Brandon’d grown, showing how much he’d chubbed up, how much he’d changed, how much more vocal he had gotten. How he had started to coo, how Brandon was actively trying to communicate, even though he had no words. He’d started responding with cooing; sometimes his upset crying would devolve to sulky-sounding complaints, complete with expressions. The way he would ‘tell on’ Mummy, to his Daddy or Aff, because sometimes, I’d not be able to pick him up immediately, and he’d already howled.
I’ll probably lie back down, even though the bedroom, the whole house, feels too quiet, too empty now. Rhys has gone back to work, to update them, to find out about some stuff, sort things out. The kids are asleep in Vincent’s room; we allowed them to sleep together in the same bed. I looked in earlier, they were hugging each other, with the little stuffed toy dragon that we call the Damien Dragon (it’s about the same size as Damien was, when held in our arms) lying between them. Vincent and I have one each; Runé didn’t want one. Rhys dressed mine up in one of Brandon’s little preemie shirts last night. The label reads “Tiny premie baby” for the size.
There is a lot to do.
I need to keep moving. Or the hurt will eat me alive.
But I won’t forget a single moment that has been.