I am doing something very difficult right now. On June 19th, 2017, it will be exactly one year since our son Charlie was born. Stillborn. Died. Was baptised. Everything. His whole life. And I am planning a party.
Well, not exactly a party. What would you call it? A get-together? A memorial picnic? A celebration? I don't know. It's complicated and emotional and weird. There are a few things that are fact, though:
- Charlie was born on the 19th. Fact. He may have died 2 or 3 days earlier, but no matter what, this day is his birth-day.
- We also had our priest baptise him, and the only day that was an option, given our circumstances, was that day.
- I love Charlie, we love Charlie, and we want to honor him and our memories of him.
|(credit to a Facebook group - I think it was "Mommies with Angels" - for posting this)|
So, I'm planning a thing for him:
- and it's easy: Just reserve a picnic shelter, buy a cake, and send out an email to friends and family. Keep it small, keep it simple.
- and it's hard: I want a thing for him, but what do I want? A memorial? A party? Happy? Sad? I DON'T KNOW!!! And every little thing that goes wrong or is complicated becomes majorly upsetting (there is no map of the park to help me pick out the shelter, I finally get this blog post done but it ends up deleted and I have to re-write it from scratch...), and I'm emotional and ambivalent about every part of it.
|A little boy angel for my little boy angel.|
I absolutely REFUSE to hide from this day. I REFUSE to let it scare me out of remembering my boy with love and smiles and happiness. Who am I refusing? I don't know. Me? My fear? My grief? My anxiety and depression? I WILL remember my son, and how much I love him, and his sweet little nose, and hands, and big feet, and eyelashes, and the way he smelled. I WILL. And I will do it on my terms.
|Forget-me-nots, from Charlie's memorial garden|
So what did I decide? I decided that it's Charlie's birthday. I want to remember him sweetly, so we will make it a birthday party. Small, low-stress, but still: a party, with cake and decorations and balloons (with tiger stripes 🐯!). He's my son, and we want the best for him. And since we are memory-keeper parents, that means a party with a focus on his memory, so we'll have photo albums and mementos there too. And Pookie, of course!
|Sometimes things gather significance in unexpected ways. This bottle's expiration date seemed important. I kept the bottle.|
And speaking of Pookie, it's Pookie's "half-birthday" on the 23rd (since we got him on December 23rd last year). But since he's an avatar for Charlie, of a sort, it's basically his birthday, too. So when my sister mentioned that there were picture books with a character named Pookie, and I then realized we actually had one that was thematically perfect, I was THRILLED!
|Our Pookster, reading to us.|
So will this be an emotional weekend, since it ties Father's Day, Charlie's birthday, Charlie's death, and Charlie's baptism all into one? Yes, most assuredly yes. But we will be remembering our dear little one, who will be a part of us for the rest of our lives. So it will be good, even when it is hard. And we have out-of-town family visiting for the weekend to support us and be a part of this, and they have made it clear that they are flexible to whatever we plan and whatever we need. And we have supportive in-town family, helping with some of the party planning and party supplies. The friends who are coming are all really close and/or have lost babies too, and are also all understanding. It will be the best First Birthday we can make it.
You may be wondering whether I'd like you to bring up Charlie's birthday. You may be wondering how to talk about it if you do. Yes, absolutely, I would love to have you bring it up. You see, even it it makes me tear up, you aren't "reminding me" that he died - I know that anyway and can't forget. What you are doing instead, is showing me that YOU remember him. And please, say his name. Call him Charlie, Charles, Charlie Warner, Charles Peacock Warner... I don't care. Those are all his name, and the point is that you remember him too. The rest is just window dressing.
Most sincerely yours,
Infant loss resource document: www.tinyurl.com/infantloss