Friday, October 28, 2016

Special Hearts For Those That Break

It has been seven weeks since John passed. Seven weeks that feel more like ten years. Only seven weeks. In that short amount of time so much has happened, and so much has changed.

It has only been seven weeks since I held John last, but it feels like I never got the chance to hold him at all.

It scares me to realize just how quickly we moved on. Not in the sense that we have left our baby behind, but more like we just went on with life. Almost as if he had never been here. And it happened so quickly. I think about him constantly, I know we all do. But it is like he is this little shadow in the past. Was here, but never really here. I don't know how to put into words the feeling I have when I think about him being gone.



But there is this other feeling I can't shake. This feeling like every day we don't have him, is one day further away from his existence. I know he was real. I know he existed. I bear the pain of his loss. I held his squishy little body in my arms. Kissed his sweet face every chance I got. But there are times that it seems like he wasn't real almost. I just can't put it into words. Maybe if anyone reading this has experienced this kind of loss, they know what I am trying to say.

It's like a really bad dream, only it is real life. Our very real nightmare.

Having these feelings makes me incredibly sad. These aren't the terms in which I want to think of John, just the anxieties I carry now that he is gone. Along with about a million others. Like did he know we were there that day? He was already brain dead by the time I got to see him again, so the realist in me knows he wasn't aware of his surroundings, but the ever hopeful loving Aunt in me believes he knows we were there. That he knows we were loving on him in the flesh while we could and catching the pieces of our broken hearts that were falling with every little touch, every little kiss.

It eats at me that the very last time we got to hold and love on such an incredible little guy...he was gone. I wanted to hold him forever. I want him in my arms now. The trauma of our loss rears its ugly head more often than we care to admit.

We had to take Mom to Shands for a biopsy today. Shands was the last place we held John. Shands is where he technically passed away, but he was gone long before he made it there. Sitting here now makes my heart race and feel like the million shards it broke into are being shot across my chest. The trauma. That's what I'm talking about. The recognized symptoms that our bodies are dealing with trauma, maybe not from physical pain, but from spiritual.

The staff here are still amazing. I will never be able to put into words how fortunate we were to have these people here for our baby when he needed them most. We take peace in knowing that even though there was nothing they could have done, they absolutely did everything they could to save him. They held our hands, held us, answered any questions, and made one of the most difficult days of our lives...easier. It takes a special kind of loving heart to work PICU. Not because they lose babies, but because they have to deal with those that are suffering the greatest loss any person can ever experience. Special hearts.

Truly special hearts.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Our Lil' Pumpkin King

Every year, since Scarlett's first Halloween, we have made a trip to Dunnellon in Florida to the Pickin' Patch. This is a great place to take your family and enjoy some fall festivities. They have live pumpkins on the vine that you can cut yourself to take home and decorate. They also have a hayride, hay slides for kids, a corn maze, a sunflower field, and all kinds of good fun for the family. They have it set up beautifully for photo opportunities as well. I always make sure to take advantage of the scenery to get snaps of the kids.

It is priced so affordably that it is more than worth the trip. Anyone three and up is $3.00 and the pumpkins range from $4.00 to $30.00 plus. They have ornamental pumpkins, jack-o-lantern pumpkins, sunflowers, white pumpkins (which are BEAUTIFUL), and they also sell gourds. There are rows upon rows of pumpkins! The kids love it!

It's become a tradition for our family.

This year would have been John's first trip. He was so tiny and new last year that there was no way he could have gone, but this year...he would have been walking and us a go for our money! It was overwhelmingly heartbreaking when we decided to go this year because we wouldn't get to take him. I have dubbed him Our Lil' Pumpkin King.

Preparing for a day trip like this with my kids is a challenge (Every mom just nodded.), so yesterday as I was getting things gathered, I dug up my camera. As I was scrolling through pictures, I found images of the day John was born. Laid out in all his naked glory, red face from screaming! How I cried...cry now thinking of his fat little self. As I sat there an idea popped into my head. What if we took some pictures of John with us to the pumpkin patch, and took pictures of him doing all the things he missed. Then my dear friend anxiety stopped me in my tracts! What if his Mommy doesn't like that idea?!

I have been very raw and honest in my blogs, but I also withhold a lot out of respect for my sister's privacy. Everything I do, I run by her, so I did the same with the picture idea. She loved it, told me she wanted the prints.

So load up, and away we go!

When we arrived we grabbed a wagon. They have tons of wagons there for customers to use. My first thought was John's little chunky butt should be sitting in the wagon with Evan. It was hard. His little ghost is everywhere. So I decided to take a picture of John riding in the wagon. It just isn't the same, but it was so profound to us nonetheless.

As we made our way through the ornamental pumpkins, I snapped a couple of pictures of Scarlett and Evan sitting on these big crazy things, and decided to snap some of them holding John's picture. I can't explain that empty chest feeling that consumes your heart. That's what we got. Pictures of pictures.

As we made our way through the patch I took countless pictures. Each time we stopped it took a few minutes, and it seemed we tied up the photo op areas more than anyone...but it's like people knew. They didn't ask. They didn't rush us, and they never got impatient. I suppose if you see a family taking pictures of a picture of a baby, it's safe to assume it's because he is not with them anymore.

Scarlett and Evan were thrilled to include John in our day. They both loved him so much.

At times, I caught Mommy standing off in the near distance with that far away something is missing look. I felt so guilty. Watching my babies run and play. Getting to love and hug on them all day. While she gets pictures of pictures. Never once has she given me reason to feel this way, I just do. It's something I will have to learn how to deal with. And even though her heart probably weighed a million pounds yesterday, she loved on the kids and enjoyed a beautiful fall day with us.

Missing John just doesn't describe the pain we feel. Virginia described it as an ache in her arms, sometimes physical, and most definitely internal. That accurately sums it up. Our arms are as empty as our hearts, yet we made it through another day. We made another great and happy memory, even through the pain, and John was with us even if not in person.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tenderly Sisters

Growing up, Angela and Virginia, were awful towards me. They were mean and picked on me. I was the baby so it was their job I suppose. I share this hoping that if you were the baby, you can sympathize with me, and if you were an older sibling...well you probably laughed and nodded. Older siblings are evil. Intrinsic truth. Just kidding, but not really.

But for as mean as they were, I always knew someone had my back. No matter what happened I had two allies in my corner at all times. And people knew that they were mean, so I never had to use them as the guard dogs they were. They might have been mean to me...but no one else would ever get away with it. And because there were three girls, our Dad raised us to be tough and opinionated. It bites him in the ass to this day.

 Angela and I were close coming up because we were closer in age, so we had more in common. We played with similar toys. Enjoyed outdoor adventures. As we aged and began to figure out who we were, we didn't spend as much time together. I was a social bug and Angela would rather stay at home and chill. That being said, our midnight banter in her room while snacking or painting toenails are some of my most treasured memories.

Virginia is five years older than I am, so I was always the frumpy little sister she was forced to drag along. I admired her though. I might have annoyed the life out of her at times, but to me...she was the coolest. Even during her Goth phase, and that was pretty awful. She excelled in school, she didn't take crap from people, she spoke her opinion assuredly, and knew what she wanted in life. What little girl wouldn't look up to that?

We are all three very different people, with very different personalities. It is amazing to me that for 12 years we shared a room, and lived to tell about it. As different as we all are, we have always had a strong bond as sisters. I attribute that to the fact that  we were all we had growing up. Most of our family lives in Kentucky. We didn't have cousins to run and play with, and we didn't have neighbor kids to play with since we lived on a farm, so we were all there was. We share a bond that many siblings don't because not only were we forced to be sisters...but we were forced to be friends. If we only knew then that what we have is something to be treasured.

As we grew up, and life began to change we all drifted into our own lives. Virginia became a mother and got married, Angela moved to Kentucky to start a new life, and I settled into my own relationship and started a family. Each always in contact with the others, but always apart it seemed. When Angela decided to move back from Kentucky we were all happy to have our little family back together. At this point I already had Scarlett, and Dustin and I were working on Evan.

Angela missed my pregnancy and delivery with Scarlett because she lived up north. She was there for Evan every step of the way. She watched Evan for us when I went back to work, and they hit it off. They ran tit for tat in their terror, and still do. I was petty enough at one point that when Angela got pregnant with John, I worried she would treat Evan differently. But she didn't. And I regret feeling that way towards John, especially after I met him, and even more so now that he is gone.

We all worried over Angela and her pregnancy, but she did amazing. We really worried about delivery since she has zero pain tolerance, but yet again, she did amazing. There is something magical that happened during John's delivery. During my deliveries and Virginia's, we were not all present. Angela missed Scarlett's, Mom and Virginia waited outside Evan's so other people could be there, and Virginia had a c-section. John's birth was the first time that all of the Smith women were in the room for delivery.

It was amazing. It was my first live birth, and for as gross as it was, I was mesmerized watching John come into this world. I cried. I cried not only because this beautiful little creature came into our lives, but at the beauty of the moment. All of us standing there watching that moment when a woman experiences the greatest pain and greatest love she will ever feel in all the world. And John was her greatest love.

John brought our family back into focus. Virginia and I were so in love with this little fat nugget of adorableness! We gave each other nieces and nephews, and we love them just as much, but there was something about John. Something about his sweet little soul. And he was the baby. Like me. We knew he would get hell from the older kids, but we would love and protect him no matter what. He was everyone's baby. I think that's what the spark was with this child.

And that's why it has been so difficult to lose him. The spark in our family went out. Extinguished by someone's careless actions. Our baby is gone. The baby is gone.

Going through something like this can make or break a family. Even though the spark is out, John left a burning fire. As sisters, there is no doubt that this has brought us closer. We have shared and lived through the hardest thing we've ever done, watching one of us bury her baby. That really does change you. Even with our broken hearts, Virginia and I have stood in front of Angela, shielding as much as we can. It was my turn as the little sister, to stand up and unburden my older sister. Taking care of as much as we can. Helping her through what we can. We can't fix this, but we would if we could. We can't end her pain, but we can share it with her. We are one big broken heart, that at times can be found sitting in the floor of Angela's closet crying and laughing. How else do we survive if we don't lean on each other?

We are sisters. Their hurt is my hurt. And this time...there is nothing I can do. That kind of hurt...there are just no words. So I just love them tenderly. And love them strong. We are forever and always tenderly sisters.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Do We Say Goodbye?

How do we say goodbye when we had just begun to say hello? I don't want to say goodbye. We shouldn't have ever had to say goodbye.

Since we lost John, this thought runs through my head. This and "why".

We were just beginning to learn who John was, who he was going to be.

I dream about him being an adult and what he would have looked like. I've actually had the same dream of him as an adult twice since he passed. I dream that there is a tall and broad shouldered man standing in front of me on what looks like a beach pier. He seems a little intimidating at first and when I ask him who he is and what he wants...he just smiles. The sweetest most breathtaking baby face smile. I know, as soon as he smiles, who he is. He is handsome and built like a tank. (Side note: I guess since John was always off the growth charts, and we assumed he was going to be a big boy...that plays into my dreams.) As soon as he smiles I feel his warmth and love rush over me, feel that rush now just talking about it. Then he embraces me. It feels like I stand there in his arms forever, but it is always short lived. He tells me "Hi Aunt Wizza." and then I wake up. That's all I get and it's not enough. I want the real John. I want to know who he will be when he grows up. I want to know what he would have looked like and felt like when hugging me as a gown man.

We don't get that. What we did get was precious and irreplaceable, but just not enough. It will never be enough.

I also have the repeat dream of he and I playing on the beach. There is no one around, not another soul. It's just me and him. The sand and the sea and a beautiful sunset. We play at the edge of the water, before the sun disappears I wake up. That's when waking up really is the hardest. You go from having him in your arms again, to nothing. No baby. He should be here. I should be holding him and loving on him.

He should be here.

There are even times I catch myself forgetting he has passed. On a couple of different occasions I've been pulling into my Mom's house (that's where he and Mommy live) and the thought runs across my mind..."I'm gonna run in and squeeze fat man, and head home"...

It's torture. Once again the weight of the world falls on your head and you remember, he's dead. You don't get to squeeze him ever again. Does that ever stop? That constant want for someone that isn't there.

There is a hole in my chest. It's about two foot and 30 pounds. I will never be able to fill it. There are times it turns into a black hole and it feels like it will consume me.

What hurts most is that this is how I feel, just his ever adoring it must be for Mommy?

Did you know he took his first couple of official steps just two days before he passed? He crawled all over and into everything. Papa has a drawer on the table beside his chair and if it was open, it was fair game. Papa actually drilled a hole in it, and placed a nail inside to keep fat stuff out! That little nail rests in John's hand now. Along with about a million other things he had to have so we could let him leave this world. We wanted him prepared. The faces the fellows at the funeral home made when I held up a 3 inch nail requesting to have it placed in his hand! Ha! I laugh now just thinking about it...hope you got a chuckle too!

We got to see some milestones and will NEVER witness others. We treasure what we did get. Like seeing his little ham self sitting on the floor smiling up at us after doing something devious!

When I started thinking about this blog one of the first things I thought about was what my last memory of John, prior to his injury, did I have???

The kids and I went to Mom's for a surprise two nights before he was hurt. She was having something and cornbread. All I remember is cornbread. John was tearing it up, not that he didn't tear everything else up, but he loved cornbread...and well everything but in this instance it was cornbread. I remember blowing him kisses from the other end of the table, and his big sweet smile returned with bread and all falling out. Making eyes at me from across the table. Once Mommy got him out of his high chair he crawled straight to me. I sat him on the table and we loved and played for a while. I had on a necklace that he loved. It had a bead that spun inside another bead. He would take his little fat finger and spin the bead. Then down he went and on to the next thing!

I left that necklace with him. I tried to put it on the day we went to make his funeral arrangements and it almost broke me. I took it off knowing he would need it more than me and made sure to give it to the director. I had that necklace on the day he was hurt. While we were at the hospital, I took it off. I remember thinking it felt so heavy on my neck. I swore it was giving me a headache.

This child left our world in style. He had on some fancy duds, western camo boots, and all he would need to keep him entertained. He had toys, marbles, flashlights, Santa, jewelry, and all the love any child could ask for.

All we have are empty hearts, and bent souls. And the memories of a beautiful child that truly changed our world.

My baby laughing at me with my insane hair do.
Posted by Angela Smith on Sunday, June 5, 2016

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Beauty of Our Broken Hearts

I keep hearing myself say over and over again, "Some days are just going to be tougher than others."

Understatement of the year.

I have started and erased the beginning of this blog about four times now. I have a direction I want to go with it, but our life doesn't seem to be getting any easier to write about. I want to share our story, from my perspective at least, so that John isn't just a name on a stone, but a person. A baby we want to share with the world, even if the world has a hard time talking about him.

I don't understand why talking about John makes people so uncomfortable. Okay...maybe it is the blubbering and tears that make people uncomfortable, but we WANT to talk about our baby.

Talking about him keeps his smile alive in our memories, when the bad ones start to seep in. Talking about him helps put another little piece of tape on our shattered hearts. Talking about him lets the world know how incredible our little man was when all people want to focus on is what happened. Talking about him is just good.

I find myself struggling to remember what he smelled like. What his plump little hands felt like inside mine, how they felt against my lips. It's only been a month since I got to steal my last kiss and my very last cuddle. Every time I think about those precious final moments, a empty hole opens in my chest and I fight tears. To just have been able to press rewind... I loved squeezing his chunky self. Snatching him up and pressing every chubby inch against my chest. I'm starting to forget what he felt like. The little giggle that would escape his lips when I would blow raspberries under his chin. Do you know how much that haunts me? I don't want to forget. I'm so scared I will forget.

We can't get that back, but we are desperately clinging to those memories. That's all we have left. We have been prematurely robbed of the rest because someone was careless in caring for John.

That is what is so amazingly beautiful about our loss too. We don't get to make any more of those memories. We don't get any more kisses and snuggles. But what we do have are some of the most perfect moments in our lives. We have all of these beautiful intimate moments with the most precious gift you can receive. We were so blessed and graced to have John in our lives, even if only for a little while. But the endless amount of love, happiness, and sadness he brought our family is a rare and costly gem to behold in this evil world.

He was pure. Innocent. And all his love was too.

To know the innocent love of a child, and only their innocent know they only knew pure unadulterated love makes my heart happy and broken all over again every day. John never knew, and will never know that this is a dark scary place. He only knew all good things. He knew he had the best Mommy that loved him every second of every day. He knew he had a warm bed and clean snug jammies. He knew he had good food and always had good company. He knew that he was loved unconditionally, and that is all a child his age should know.

I miss John. Today is one of those tougher days. One of those days where getting out of bed was harder than anything I have done all year. One of those days where I cried the whole way to work because why our baby? One of those days where I would give anything for one more kiss. One of those days where I feel bitter and cold towards the world.

The kisses we got, we get to keep forever, but in our beautiful brokenness I also find myself being selfish. I want more kisses. I want more snuggles. More than that I want our chunk back. And I find the thought, why our baby, running through my head once again.

Losing John is like being a deep dark well, with this unbelievably bright light shining straight through the top right on your fragile water soaked skin. It feels so lonely, isolated and like you will never get out, and then there it is again...that light. It reminds you how amazing it is, how great it feels against your skin, and then its gone again. And you are damp and alone in the dark.

I cling to the light. As crazy as it sounds, I feel John in the sunshine. His radiant smile. The sun is so painfully present in our lives since his passing, so much so that I know it is him. On the day we buried our fat man, is was raining. Cloudy, yucky rain. I knew he was there with us, just as heartbroken to be leaving us. His tears truly falling down on us. But on his first birthday party, a day of immense joy and pain, the sun shone just as bright as could be...his grace embracing us. I take solace in the sun light.

I will go stretches where he isn't on my mind. A couple of hours where I am busy and John slips away. As soon as I think of him, its like reliving his loss all over again. We are constantly told that time will ease our pain, but I honestly don't think it will ease. Not because I don't want it to, but because you can never fix this kind of broken. You just learn to live with it but it does not go away. I would be scared if it went away.

I also won't stop talking about John for as long as I live. I have my own children, and they are every bit my world, but so was he. My goal is to show the world that talking about infant loss isn't bad, it's not traumatic to the families but instead what most of us want. We want to share our baby. We want you to know what happened to him.

More than anything we want you to know John.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Infant Loss Awareness: John William Smith

On Labor Day, September 5th I received what would be the worst phone call of my life at 6:04 pm.

I had just ordered chicken wings for dinner, and we were all about to load up to go get our dinner when my Mom called. She refused to speak to me, she only wanted to speak with Dustin. I knew she was scared, but I didn't know why, I also knew she was talking to him because she was worried I would panic. She was right to worry.

She told Dustin that my 11 month old nephew, John, had been injured significantly at the babysitters while Angela was at work. She told him it was a head injury and there was a bad brain bleed and that he was being taken via life flight from Monroe Regional in Ocala to Shands in Gainesville. This was all she knew and ask could we meet them at the hospital to take my Dad's truck home, as Angela (my sister, John's mother) had their car. I instantly called my Dad, knowing he would be able to explain better since my mom was so upset. He confirmed what Mom said and the first question I had was what had happened?

He didn't know.

I rushed and packed a bag, not knowing how long we might be at the hospital and Dustin drove me to my other sister's (Virginia) house so I could ride with them to the hospital to take Dad's truck home. Dustin took our two babies, and my niece(Virginia's daughter) to get dinner and back to our house since they had school the next day. We headed to the hospital, so unsure of what we were walking into.

When we arrived my Mom and Dad were standing at the corner outside of the children's emergency room waiting for us, and waiting for them to wheel John out to the helicopter. My Mom was crying and my Dad just looked scared. Their faces as we walked up will be forever etched in my mind. We stood there for a few minutes, when the doors opened, and they started to wheel our baby out. He had tubes and wires and people all over. One lady was pumping the oxygen for him while the others rolled his cart. A nurse walking out with Angela took a minute to briefly explain what was happening. She explained that when Angela walked in John was not breathing and did not have a pulse, they immediately administered CPR and got his heart beating again, but he was not breathing on his own. She also said that the CT scans showed a severe brain bleed and swelling. There was a detective present, as head injuries are reported immediately to the Sheriff where we live. Angela was in shock and we still had no idea what had happened.

The sight of John's little tiny body laying in that big hospital bed, with so much life support hooked to him devastated each of us. There are so many images of him over the course of the next 24 hours that play on a constant reel in my head. I work tirelessly to replace those with images of our happy fat man, but they are ghosts that will probably haunt us for the rest of our lives. I can't even begin to put into words how unreal and just unfair this has been.

My Mom told me that when she walked in they were on top of John administering CPR, and that Angela had carried her limp lifeless baby into the hospital in her arms. How do you fix that kind of broken heart? How do you help your sister cope with that? How do you help your Mom cope with that? If only there was a way to turn back time...

Once John was on his way to Shands, we then sorted out the vehicles. I rode with Mom, Dad and Angela, and Virginia and her husband took Dad's truck home, then followed us up there. We waited for what seemed like an eternity when they finally moved us into a small waiting room in the ER at Shands. They were trying to get John into a more stable condition, and run more scans before they came to speak with us.

When a young female doctor finally came in we were given a little bit more information, and some hope. She informed us that they were keeping John sedated because he had began to move, and they didn't want him to. She also ask what event had led to his injuries. The only answer we had was that he had fallen at the babysitters. She informed us that an injury to this extent was NOT from a simple fall. I asked about the severity of his injury and whether he would have brain damage once he came through. All she said was "if" he survived, yes...there would be severe brain damage. She also said that they were looking for abdominal bleeding, or another source of bleeding as they were having to give him transfusions due to significant blood loss. Then the detective came to speak with Angela again.

We joked about having a "helmet baby"... A little chunky butt that might need special care and a helping hand through life. We never thought the worst. We were ever hopeful that his movements were a good sign. We could not have been more wrong, and life could not have been more cruel. They had John listed at this point as stable but very critical and they were moving him to ICU while they waited for all of the test results.

They moved us to a new waiting room, where we stayed all night, all awake. We called every couple of hours for an update, all they told us was the doctor would meet with us when they had more information. It was the longest night of our lives. We cussed. We prayed. We cried. We laughed. But more than anything...we were absolutely frightened.

At approximately 4:30 the morning of September 6th, the pediatric ER surgeon on call came to meet with us, along with the neonatal neurologist. She started to explain just how severe his head injury was. The moment she sat down and began speaking, we all knew what she had to say but we never wanted to believe it. We didn't want to listen. After discussing the technical details of his injury, Angela finally interrupted and ask a question that rings as loud as alarms in my head to this very minute...

"Is my baby going to die?"

She hesitated.

She hesitated...

She did not say no, but she hesitated.

He was brain dead. There was nothing they could do. There was nothing anyone could do. Our baby was not going home with us. Angela was not taking her little man home. What was going on? How did this happen? We never thought this would be our family.

At this point, we were finally allowed to go in and see him.

It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done, walking into that room that morning...I still get sick to my stomach when I think about how scared I was. My little fat-man laying there, so broken, so hurt, and no answers. We couldn't even cuddle with his little tiny love muffin chunky body because there was much. We could hold his hand, kiss his sweet little warm face and touch his little square feet.

Those little moments that we got to steal in that room that day will be the best moments of my life. Getting the chance to love on him while we still could. While we could still feel his warmth. Feel his heartbeat.

He was just so beautiful. So perfect. I just don't understand. I would've given anything to trade places with that baby. Anything. We all would have.

Angela made some tough decisions that day, things no mother should ever have to decide.

She is amazing, and strong. And John got the best mommy ever while he was here. She loved and still loves that boy more than life. And oh how he loved his Mommy. We talk about his big beautiful smile, but it was never as beautiful as when he was looking at his Mommy. It tortures my heart that so many never got to see that smile for themselves, that they never will.

At 2:31 sister held her little man one last time as he passed. I will never be able to forget the sights or sounds. I will forever be haunted by her broken heart. I will never be as proud of her as I was in that moment. So strong. So in love. So beautifully broken. I wish I could have taken her pain in that moment, still wish I could take her pain in this very moment.

We all held him. Loved on him. Loved him. Kissed him. Talked to him. Stole whatever moments in the flesh that we had left with him. The nurse ask Angela if she wanted to bathe him, so we left her with him and my Dad while she gave her baby one last bath.

When we came back in he looked so perfect. Smelled like heaven. I wanted to scoop him up and run. I didn't want to leave him, but I knew we would have to so they could do what they needed with him.

We gave our final kisses. Said one more goodbye and left. Walking away was the hardest part. Leaving him all alone in a strange place with strange but amazing people.

I had to make a trip back up to the pediatric ICU to retrieve a cast they had made of John's hand and foot. We didn't know they would have it ready so quickly. I couldn't go in to get it. Thankfully the detective that had been with us went and got it for me. It killed me having to leave him a second time. I sat in the truck and cried. Screamed. I was suddenly very angry.

One thing I have to mention is just how amazing the people were at both MRMC and Shands. They were there for our family every step of the way, and answered all questions we had as best as they could. They even provided John with a beautifully knitted blue hat to keep his little head warm. If you have the ability to knit or sew, take  time to make some little hats or mitts and donate them to your local children's hospital. That little knitted hat meant the world to our family in a very hard time. I would love to hug and thank whomever made it. It was a little light in a world of darkness.

Since there is still an open investigation I cannot release any details surrounding the babysitter or the way in which he sustained the injuries. It was not malicious, but mistakes were made, and there will hopefully be consequences. Angela, bless the amazing woman she is, has been forgiving since the start. I'm trying to get there. I just can't. Not yet.

John was so beyond loved while he was in this world. Even though he was my nephew, it feels like I lost one of my own babies. And I know that the pain I feel is nothing compared to what Angela must feel. Every single one of us just loves that baby. The days following have been so incredibly difficult. My sister has been so strong and displayed a level of elegance I could never explain accordingly through words.

She decided to bury John on his first birthday, which was September 14th. He passed one week shy of his first birthday. That's how cruel life can be. That's why we still have so many unanswered questions. The reason I am sharing those horrid couple of days, is not to evoke a feeling of sadness from you, but to show the strength and endurance of our family, and of John's mommy. To show you that even when the world was crumbling around us, we held tight to our family, our love and supported each other.  Things like this can rip a family to shreds, but John brought this family together when he was born, and sealed our bond upon his passing. As bent as we are, we can't be broken. In a time when we could have been spewing hate, we chose to continue loving. That is what you see here, through all the pain, through all the heartbreak... there is still so much love.

I'm also sharing this today because the month of October is Pregnancy & Infant Loss awareness month. Not only is there a stigma when it comes to talking about miscarriage, but there is also this hush when people find out that someone has lost an infant. Yes, it is very hard to talk about what happened to John, but more than anything we love talking about him. The good, the bad, and the hardest part of all. If someone you know has recently lost a pregnancy or baby, just be their friend. Talk to them, don't avoid them. And more than anything, don't tell them they can always have more children.

John, and any child lost, whether we get to hold them or not, is absolutely devastating to an individual and their family. They are not replaceable.

Love your babies. Love your family. But more than anything, love everyone. There is enough sadness and heartache in this world.