I brushed my teeth this morning. The film that had built up on my teeth was starting to be distracting. No shower yet; my dry shampoo is working overtime. I already had a closet full of mourning-approved black clothing, thanks to its slimming effect on my plus size and all, but I have barely been able to take off the white tank top I was wearing when it happened. It still smells of him, from when I was doing CPR to no avail. My baby was dead. The very worst thing had happened.
I wish I could say this incident gave me perspective, that I learned not to take anything for granted, but I always counted my blessings every day. I knew how lucky I was and I said it often, constantly actually. I helped others in need. Donated to charities, ardent about animal rescues, stood with Wendy, collected baby items to give to other mamas in need.
No matter the issues that would pop up in my marriage or financial difficulties we faced, I knew I was the luckiest and led a charmed life. Of all the sins, I was least guilty of envy. My husband and I have friends and relatives of great means, yet even as I struggled, I didn't covet my neighbor's anything, because of every second of every day with my kids. Because of my baby.
Maksim Élan Lazear. His name means "greatest joy" and he was. He was the sweet little boy with the marble eyes. Baby Three-peat as we called him in utero, the baby that would bring everything together and complete us.
It all snapped into place on the day after Christmas in 2012, when my Sweet Baby Maks was born. He was always "Sweet Baby Maks." It practically became his full name; we always referred to him that way. He was bright-eyed and full of giggles. He loved being held. He loved strawberries. Just earlier that day, he and his older sister ate half a container of strawberries between the two of them at Costco. Costco, where my debit card was declined (blah blah blah bank issues), just one of many things that made it a bad day and made me say to my husband, "I hope this day doesn't keep spiraling but I am afraid it will."
Despite that exchange, I could never have imagined.
Back to that tank top. It's the last tangible thing I have of him. It smells of his vomit, bile from a barely digested dinner, mixed with all that water that poured out of his mouth with every chest compression. That may sound like an odd smell to treasure, but any mom knows that we savor every scent, the smell of our kids' heads, down to the gunk that accumulates between their toes.
I also still have his bib, unwashed, on my bedside. My last moments with him alive were spent watching him in his highchair, eating his oatmeal and frozen berries. Then my husband grabbed him up and carried him off to bath time. I last saw his smiling face as he rounded the corner down the hallway. I was making dinner, watching back episodes of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" on my husband's work laptop.
You would think I would never be able to watch that show again, but it’s actually been the only thing I can tolerate. I think it’s because it puts me in safe state, cocooned in those moments when my baby was still alive. That's how I found myself watching the latest episode less than a day after the tragedy. I watched it 8 times in a row. It seemed so ludicrous but at the same time, what else was there to do. Time doesn't stop, time cruelly marches on. You wonder how time can still go on when your whole world has shattered. But it does. It really does.
I was his mother. It was ultimately my fault. I failed him. There were so many people that loved him but that wasn't enough to save him. I was literally in the farthest point in the house from him. I couldn't have known but I should have.
What you think losing a child would be like is nothing like how it actually is. I didn't anticipate the anger. I am so angry. Anger overtakes the sadness. Anger is easier. Angry at the hospital social worker who kept lying to us saying they were still working on him when she knew he was dead. Angry at the hospital chaplain who said he was in a better place. There is no better place for a child than in the arms of parents that love him. Angry at the male charge nurse who started giving me some super creepy back rub as I was holding the hand of my gone child on the operating table. Angry that my husband left him alone, even for a minute, even with his sister in the tub, just to get their PJs and diapers all set. Angry that I was anywhere else than by his side at that time. That's all I have to say about that.
This is the first time in my life that I have not lived in a big city. I have only lived in Little Elm, Texas for seven months but instantly I could tell it was a community and in no time, I was leaving my doors unlocked, something that would have been unfathomable anywhere else I have ever lived. People were nice, people were generous and in kind, I became nicer and more generous. I missed city living, but I could see what a gift it would be for my kids to grow up in a place like this, a place where violent crime is non-existent, a place where idyllic childhoods are possible.
Little Elm is the place where the worst thing in my life happened, but it is the place where the people responded. "It takes a village" should be on the town seal. The community rallied around us instantly and thanks to social media, in particular our neighbors and a Facebook group I belonged to "Ladies of Little Elm," people knew who I was and sprang into action.
People took our loss into their hearts and gave of themselves to us. I cannot imagine such generosity of money, time and spirit from any exciting metropolis that I have previously lived in. If you are reading this, then thank you, thank you for giving.
True rock bottom is when feelings of grief are being pushed out by financial concern. My household was making it, but it was close every month. My husband works on commission, so while his company gave him bereavement leave, he would not be there making sales, so keeping a roof over our heads was a real concern and it tore me up inside to even be thinking of that in a time like this.
However, the donations that came in and continue to come in, have worked to ameliorate that concern. It has given us breathing room to truly grieve. I may not want to get out of bed, I may not be able to sleep, but at least I know that I will have a bed with a roof over it, to continue to fight my demons in.
I want to be alone. I don't want a hug. I am not receiving people. There will not be a funeral. That is my choice. But I do want to acknowledge those who have helped lift us up during this time. Thank you.