Unraveled

The moment he was taken I became someone new, my heart stopped beating, my life broke in two.
A broken, lonely person is all that remains.
My life isn’t mine, it’s a life I didn’t choose.

It’s as if my existence has been turned into a test, how much can i lose without losing my mind? Will i ever be able to see or will I remain blind?

I feel like a muse in a sick little game, there is no way for me to feel sane.

Dear God, what lessons are you trying to teach? Have I learned enough or should I hide my living children out of your reach?

I live in fear, I know I barely made it through, losing my baby was too much for me to bear.

The others, feel I should be alright, it’s been over 3 years they whisper to each other. She’s gone on and given him a brother.
Isn’t that enough to help her through this pain? What more does she want? When will she let go?

My response will always be the same, I want my son back. No his siblings are not enough, I will never be okay not without my son.

Everything unraveled, the moment he was taken,
for the rest of my life I will be foresaken

The end of our innocence

On Saturday April, 12, 2014 @ 10am we had our “Life Celebration” for Matthew. I still feel like a phony calling it that, I just wanted to make it less horrible for Caroline and truthfully for myself as well. I couldn’t handle it. I still can’t handle it. I feel condemned to an entire life of hell. Yes I love my daughter, my husband, my sister & brother, my parents….all of my family both blood related and related by marriage, however I want my son back. I feel helpless, I know I just need to live my life and try to move forward however I would love to just quit sometimes. I’m tired, I’m tired of pretending I’m okay, when in reality I’m no better than I was almost 5 years ago. I want to rest and relax but I can’t. I’m constantly frantic. I constantly have 3 million thoughts running through my head at the same time. I live my life waiting for the other shoe to drop. I wake up every morning with a lead ball in my stomach. Im waiting to see who will be stolen from me next. I haven’t felt peace in almost 5 years. Do you know how fucking hard it is to live like this? Peoples expectations of me are way too high, so I pretend. I pretend I’m happy. I pretend I’m not terrified. I pretend that my living children are enough. They aren’t. They aren’t enough. Call me selfish go ahead I’ve been called far worse and nothing that is said about me will come close to the way I feel about myself. I hate myself. I hate that I’m not a good enough mother to have kept my child alive. I should have known. I shouldn’t have assumed that I no longer needed an alarm clock because Matty will wake me up. I really spoke those words out loud the night before he died. I don’t deserve peace so I will never have any in my life.

My world ended when Matthew died. But I keep pretending to be okay. I’ve been handed a life sentence. I apply my happy face while I put on my make up. As much as I know that my life ended with his, I’m forced to remain on Earth and go through the motions. I don’t have a choice, I never had a choice. I’m not strong. I’m just really good at pretending. I’ve lived a million different lives, I can be whoever you want me to be.

I understand why woman say they lose friends after losing their child. Friends get tired of you not returning phone calls, of you not being able to go places where a baby is, of you not being the same person as before, I don’t blame them, trust me we get it. We don’t like who we’ve become any more than they do. They don’t understand, it’s not just a phone call, sometimes that simple task takes everything you have in you to complete. All that being said I guess I will get back to my sons funeral.

April 12th of 2014 was a beautiful day; weather wise at least. My sister and mother had taken Caroline and I out a few days prior to buy us new dresses. We were having difficulty finding something to wear so my mother said she was going to ask a sales associate. I said “yes please do. Ask them where they keep their selection of cloths for your child and brothers funeral” clearly that was uncalled for. My mother did and will do anything she can to help me. She was broken as well. I took my anger out on her and feel horrible about it. My mom has been one of the very few people who actually get that I won’t bounce back from Matthews death. We finally found something to wear. Caroline chose a white dress, my initial thought was to say no it needs to be a dark color however I decided that it is her brothers funeral and if she wants to wear white then she can. So both of my beautiful children wore white that day, Matthew in his christening outfit that was his daddy’s and Caroline in her white sundress.

As I got dressed that morning and tried to be strong I leaned over to buckle my shoe and my Saint Matthew medallion fell to the floor. I put it back on it’s chain and pulled and yanked to find the spot that made it fall….however it was on there securely. I know that was Matthew saying hi and I should have felt blessed for the contact and I did feel blessed but I was shaking, I was so so destroyed. There aren’t words to describe how I felt.

Immediate family met at the funeral home where if they had Michael’s permission they were allowed to say their goodbyes to our son. I didn’t want to go in that room. That was no longer my son, my son was already with Jesus. The owner of the funeral home wanted to speak with Michael and I he too had experienced a great loss and had some words of wisdom to bestow. That is a conversation that was meant only for my husband and I so I will not indulge any further on that. I will say that his words resonated with us and we do try to keep his advice close to our hearts.

When the time came for us to head to the church, Michael was asked if he wanted to close Matthews casket. Michael came & asked me if I would do it with him and although I did not want to I felt as if he asked because he needed me to be there. My sister asked if I wanted her to come with me and I said yes.  We entered the room and I don’t know what I was expecting but for some reason I found myself in a coherent state of shock. I walked over to the casket with my husband, took one look at our son and said “NO I CANT DO THIS, THAT IS NOT MY BABY. THAT’S NOT HIM. THAT IS NOT MY BABY”  I remember turning to look at my sister and saying “GET OUT OF HERE RIGHT NOW, ANN, GET OUT”! I was afraid for her to see him she after all had two of her own babies at home and I knew the vision would remain forever ingrained in her mind as it is mine. I wanted to protect someone from something and clearly I couldn’t really protect anyone from this horror. That however was the one thing I could do to save her from some part of this nightmare.

Michael and I closed his tiny casket and we all went outside while they pulled the hearse   around. Michael carried our son to the hearse. I will never forget the look on his face, it was one of defeat, sadness and heartbreak. For some reason I had our daughter sit in the car while he carried his tiny coffin to the hearse. I had zero capability to think ahead, or I would have realized that Caroline was going to see the coffin when we got to the church.

On our way to the church for some reason Michael and I did not drive in the same car. He drove with his father, step mother, and siblings. I drove with my parents, Caroline and one of Caroline’s friends. Michael and his family were directly behind the hearse, with me, Caroline and my parents behind them. We were about half way there when a car cut between the hearse and Michael’s family. The owner of the funeral home actually stopped the hearse and got out, however, I beat him to the car. My parents tried like hell to use those damn auto door locks to keep me inside but I don’t think anyone or anything could stop me from getting out. I ran over to the car, who’s window was open, and in a very firm but somehow controlled voice said “my 6 week old son is in that hearse you are a piece of shit, you’re in that much of a hurry that you have to cut off a hearse?” I’m sure I had more to say but my husband was out at that point and not as controlled as I was. He started yelling “YOU’RE GOING TO HELL STRAIGHT TO F#*CKING HELL YOU PIECE OF F#*CKING SHIT”. At that point John the owner of the funeral home had come over, he said something to the man, who looked ashamed of himself to say the least and was apologizing over and over. John turned to me and put his hand on my back and said (to my surprise) “good job, you’re a good mom, that’s why you are Matthew’s mother”. Everyone returned to their cars and we went to the church.

Dear Lord, the church, I don’t know where to begin. John told us that our son’s casket was going to be wheeled in first with Michael, Caroline and I following directly behind, my sister Ann was behind me, and truthfully that is all I remember about the placement of people. I have never in my life felt anything close to what I felt when it came time to walk inside. I remember thinking “keep your head up” over and over. Only God knows why that singular thought kept repeating itself in my head. Very likely it was a coping mechanism. A way for me to do what I do best and attempt to disassociate myself from what was happening. I remember very little from the time frame of when Matthew died and the days, following but there are random thoughts, events or comments that stick out, one being that as we walked into the church me thinking I should tell Caroline to hold her head high. I was about to say that to her but when I looked over she already had her head held high. I was shaking like a leaf, I remember that vividly. As we walked in there was a collective gasp. I imagine it was due to the size of the casket? I’m not sure. We walked into the church and it was PACKED, not just full but PACKED and of course everyone was looking at us. The casket was stopped at the top of the church aisle, and we were told to put a blanket over it. Just the 3 of us, Michael, Caroline and I. Dear God, it was horrible, so horrible nothing you can imagine will come close to helping you understand just how horrific that experience truly was. Caroline was hysterical she could hardly breath, I was no better, I remember saying over and over again to her “it’s okay baby, put the blankie on Matty”. I came very close to throwing up, I was shaking so badly and I felt so dizzy. When we got to the front pews, we were told to sit.

I do not remember much of the service, according to Ann, and my mother I almost passed out several times. Once apparently I was on my way down when Ann grabbed me and sat me down. I’m not sure if I was passing out or if I was so completely destroyed I no longer had the strength to hold my body up.

I do remember Father Sanella saying that the Immaculate Conception Church has existed for 138 years, and in a 138 years there has never been a sadder day. I remember him asking me several times if I would reconsider reading my eulogy, he really didn’t think it was a good idea for me to get up there and read. I, however, was hell bent on reading it. I don’t understand why I felt so strongly about it, but I did. After the point in the service where you turn to your “neighbor” and offer them a sign of peace, which I sat through staring at my son, while people walked up behind Michael, Caroline, Ann, my mother & I offering us peace…peace that we would never have again. Father told everyone that I had a few words to offer….another collective gasp went through the church. Apparently it was not expected.

The only way I can even come close to describing to you how it is that I actually got up there and read is to say, it wasn’t me. I honestly feel that another force or power took control at that point and lifted me up to the platform. With my husband standing beside me I read what I had written:

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Matthew Michael is my son, he will always be my son, there is no past tense. He is Michael’s son and Caroline’s brother. We love him, we will always love him.

I was chosen to be Matthew’s mother, Michael his father and Caroline his sister, we were chosen for a reason. Words will not surffice to express our overwhelming sadness and grief.

I need to believe there is a reason God chose us, as horrific as this is, I have to believe God has a plan for us in this.

Matthew was only six weeks old when he passed away, but he made a profound difference in so many lives, he is so special he didn’t need a lifetime to touch others.

As I said I need to believe there is a reason, it seems too cruel, but there is a plan in this, there is a reason we are all here today. I feel strongly that Matty’s message to us all is to hold on a little tighter, cherish our loved ones, and love without boundaries. We all have times in our lives when we get caught up in trivial gossip or don’t treat each other as kindly as we should. Many people have asked what they can do to help us, my answer is this, let us all treat each other better, let us please learn through Matthew how precious life is.

We had made plans, we had ideas for Matthew, but ultimately God had bigger plans, as much as it hurts I know it’s for a reason.

In this, my and any parents worst nightmare, my husband, daughter and I have seen not just great but amazing kindness from family, friends, neighbors, and complete strangers. This is where we gather our strength; strength we didn’t know we had.

We thank each and every one of you for being with us through this terribly difficult time and helping as best you can.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted”

Matthew 5:4 NIV

I don’t know how the hell I read that. I don’t know how the hell I wrote that to be honest or why I felt it was so important that I read a eulogy. It was though, it was VERY important to me that I did it. At least there is one thing I do not have to regret, like not holding him one last time. I remember crying through some of the reading, I remember walking down from the podium and I remember walking over and kissing my hand and placing it on Matthew’s casket. Honestly I want to throw up right now just remembering. The next thing that I remember is the service being over, and I was standing in the hallway that leads to the exit of the church. I looked up and my father in laws American Legion riders were all standing on either side of the hallway holding balloons, and prayer cards. It was amazing! The funeral home had orchestrated that for us, how they knew we would love a bunch of Harley riders standing there, as if to salute our son I will never know. Once everyone exited the church, we waited until the hearse was out of sight then I yelled “I LOVE YOU MATTHEW” and everyone let go of their balloons for Matty to catch in heaven. I stood there as a line of people formed to see me. I stood there a long time, I hugged everyone, I was starting to lose it big time, I found myself basically stumbling. It had gotten to be too much I needed to sit down or I was going down. During the time I spent thanking around 200 people I wondered where my daughter was, and how she was doing but I couldn’t get to her. I saw my then 12 year old brother in law standing near a few small trees that are next to the church. I didn’t think much of it, until I was told later that he saw about 4 balloons that had been caught in the branches and he stood there until they were at last taken by the wind and blown up to heaven. I found my daughter standing with friends when I asked how she is doing she quietly told me she thought that she was going to pass out when we let the balloons go. Her knees were weak, and she was dizzy. I hugged her and took her to get a juice box from the room in the church they were kind enough to let us use. I was again approached by more people and tried my best to greet each person however my mother saw that I was not doing well and really needed to sit down and she made sure that’s what I did.

My life is not my own anymore, I’m riddled with dreams and everyday live with awful flashbacks. I vividly see him that morning, the morning he passed, I see him in the hospital, I feel his cold body, I feel his stiff tongue as I tried to give him CPR. I live a nightmare, I can barley see past my own pain to help my family. That’s very sad, I can’t help my own family. I have failed in everyway possible. To say otherwise is a lie, and just being said to make me feel better. If you live with me you know I am a shattered, broken, shell of who I used to be.  I want the old me back I want my son back I want my innocence back. I want to be able to see a baby and not shudder and turn the other way, I want to be happy for my friends who have babies but most of all I want to be capable of at least realizing how different I am, not walk around thinking I’m doing this great job holding it all together only to be told that I’m a wreck and really need to get help…help that I’m already receiving but apparently isn’t working.

The fog that followed

We had Matthew christened, and were told the State Police were taking jurisdiction. I’m uncertain exactly what that means, or how it’s different from the local police having jurisdiction. I cognized that it meant the State Police wanted to talk to Michael and I in a little room while our families waited outside the room getting increasingly upset because they could hear cropped-img_47121.jpgus crying.The state police needed us to give them a rundown of what our Sunday was like. What we did. We told them in great detail about how it was a typical Sunday for us all. We did our usual stuff, hung out as a family, since Sunday is the only day Michael doesn’t work. We had dinner, then we got the stroller out and took Matty for a walk with Caroline. We came home hung out, around 9pm we gave Matty a bottle, and he fell asleep. We took him upstairs to say good night to his sister. I didn’t remember until Caroline told me but evidently I asked Caroline to hold Matty so I could use the bathroom. I don’t know why weeks after he passed away she felt the need to share this information with me. I’ve often wondered if perhaps it’s because she was a bit irritated to have to hold him; although I can’t for the life of me envision her feeling that way; and now lives with regret over having had any type emotion aside from happiness. Likely she mentioned it because that was the last time she saw her baby brother.

I didn’t hold a wake. I knew I wouldn’t have been able to handle it. I don’t know if it was the right decision for Caroline though. Perhaps she needed closure? I’ll never have an answer to this however, she won’t talk about anything regarding Matthew, even now almost 5 years later, Matthew is not a topic she will even entertain having a conversation about. She shuts down and because I have no idea how to handle the death of her brother with her I go along with it. I no longer mention Matty to her, and I mostly don’t mention him to their father either. Neither of them are open with their feelings so I shut my own emotions away as best I can in Pandora’s box as to keep everyone as happy as possible.

At any rate;  Matty was put in his rock and play in our bedroom next to my side of the bed about 10-10:30pm. We went to bed ourselves after he was settled.

Around 3am Matthew woke up screaming, it didn’t sound like his usual cry but I thought nothing about it until after he had died. Hindsight is 20/20. It’s also a bitch. It’s those very details that are enough to kill me over & over again.

Michael usually didn’t generally wake up with our children when they were infants, however this time he did. Not only did he wake up, but he actually got up out of bed and walked to my side of the bed leaned over Matty’s rock & play and said “what’s wrong little buddy”? He picked him up and rocked him while I made him a bottle. Then I leaned over and Michael handed Matthew to me, he hadn’t found solace In his fathers arms. He had been screaming the entire time but typical Matty calmed right down when he got into my arms and went right back to sleep…he LOVED to be held and snuggled especially by me or Caroline. Matty didn’t take his bottle, he didn’t want his bottle. He should have wanted it. It had been several hours since he had last eaten. I didn’t think much of it, I was tired and he seemed happy. I should’ve known something wasn’t right.

We explained to the police that Michael had woken up round 4:45am for work and Matthew was fine. He left for work at his usual time 5:15-5:30 am, he checked us both and all was well. 

 The more time that passed with us in that room, the more our family’s became upset. My mother in particular, she tried getting into the room. She was held aside by a nurse who tried to comfort her.

Our families knew we were destroyed, they didn’t want us to be harassed. They couldn’t hear what was being said all they could hear was crying.

The troopers were not unkind to us, the troopers didn’t harass us, they merely did their job. They asked the questions they had to ask, I was crying but any thought of Matthew made me hysterical in a way I never dreamed possible prior to that day. During the time that the police questioned us, I was completely coherent. I knew what was happening and I knew it was real. It is one of the few times during that week that my mind was able to fully grasp the magnitude of what was happening. It was a short lived clarity but at that time I knew I was leaving the hospital without my baby, I was never going to hold my baby again, I had lost half of my reason for living. I was furious. I was deeply disturbed. I was shaken to the very core and I knew my life was over.

For all intents and purposes life had ended but my goddamn body still lived. My heart continued to beat while my son’s body grew cold in a room somewhere in a hospital where no one knew how amazingly special he is. There is no past tense. Not today almost five years later. There is no past tense on my love for Matthew. There never will be. 

 The time came for us to go home, and I chose to ride back to my house with my sister, Ann. I don’t have the slightest idea who Michael drove back to the house with. What difference does it make? Nothing changes the end of the story.

Ann and I got into her car, she looked at me and said with tears in her eyes “Danielle it wasn’t Caroline” I knew exactly what prompted her to say it, years ago when I had just one child, that child being Caroline, I stated I would kill myself if anything ever happened to her. I was young, I was naive, I didn’t have another child. Ann was lost. She had no idea what to say. She had no idea what not to say. She only knew what any mother reading this knows; that I was fucked. I was never going to be okay again and nothing she said or didn’t say could or would change that. I had entered the unknown land that no mother ever wants to visit.

I told her I know, and started to cry. I wasn’t crying for me this time though, I was crying for Caroline. All I ever wanted was for her to have a happy childhood, I love her so much and the pain I feel that she was forced to endure such a horrendous event is enough to make me cry an eternity of tears. I assured Ann that she doesn’t need to worry, that Caroline has lost so much already and was such an intricate division of what transpired that morning that I could never make this any worse for her by hurting killing myself.

The day will come that Caroline will be the person reading these blogs. When that day arrives Caroline; please understand how very much I love you. Please know that I always wanted a better life for you. Please know you are the sole reason I’m alive to write this. You are the most beautiful soul I’ve ever known. I can’t ever allow you to misunderstand that it was the burden of your life that kept me on earth. It was the beauty of your existence my love. Nothing more. Nothing less.

I felt and still do feel like a failure; my babies, my dear sweet babies, one was no longer living, and the other has been traumatized. I couldn’t feel like any worse of a mother. My job is to keep them safe and guide them as they grow and develop and despite not having control over the situation, I will forever feel like I failed them both. If I had set an alarm on Sunday night, instead of thinking “why bother? There’s no need, Matty is always up and by the time the alert goes off he has already had a bottle and is napping. I don’t need an alarm” and then actually turning my alarm off after having that thought, maybe this would have never happened. I recognize what you’re thinking…I can’t blame myself. However every mother knows the incredible amount of guilt that motherhood gives you, you never feel like you have done enough for your children etc. That being said imagine how I feel, I know the reality is I could not have changed anything. I know I did  everything in my power to bring Matthew back to us, but still, that voice remains in the back of my mind, nagging me, taunting me, that somehow I should have known something wasn’t right. So as much as I know that Matthews death was out of my control, I see the broken, painful aftermath his death has caused to our entire family and I feel responsible. I brought him into the world, so I am the one who broke everyone’s heart.

 Upon our arrival home, we found there were several police officers standing out front of our house waiting.

Apparently, they had been there since Caroline and I had originally left, they told my husband they needed to gather some things from our bedroom. They removed the bed sheet, and I’m unsure what else; if anything they took. They gave condolences and they left (as far as I can remember that is what happened).

 I sat on my front steps smoking cigarette after cigarette. The day had started off with a sunny sky however clouds had begun to move in overhead. I remember thinking how befitting that was.

I was lost. I was so many emotions all at once I started to feel numb. My mind wasn’t capable of handling this level of pain and fear, nor was my mind capable of processing the traumatic events that had unfolded mere hours before so it shutdown amiss the terror. Leaving me alone, lost and terrified in a body I could do nothing but beg to stop working.

I didn’t know what to do with my hands….my hands who knew they were supposed to be carrying a baby, or making a bottle or changing a diaper.

Most people don’t realize just how many facets of ones’ life is impacted when they’ve lost their child.

Losing your baby is not just an emotional reaction, but also a physical one. Your arms literally ache to hold your baby, your body wakes you in the heart of the night to check on your baby, even though your mind knows your baby is no longer here on earth, your body does not. I can’t tell you how long I awoke in the middle of the night confused, searching for Matthew. In between, dream and reality, I would wake and walk from my bed to stand in the middle of my bedroom scanning the room for a child who no longer occupied any physical space here on earth. I would return to bed crying once the remnants of sleep had left my mind and reality set in. Some nights I felt a sadness so bone deep my soul ached, other nights I would be furious, on the nights when fury coursed through my veins I could no longer sleep, only simmer in anger without an outlet. Screaming into my pillows, until there was nothing left but tears which only further enraged me I would fall into a fitful sleep.

During the daylight hours my arms ached with pain. It’s a feeling too difficult to describe with words, but my body could not accept my child’s death and screamed at me in any imaginable way to go and find him. This is too much in the future though, returning to the morning of April 7, 2014:

I could not bring myself to go inside my house when we returned home. I could not bring myself to see anything that belonged to Matthew. I needed any trace of him moved upstairs to his bedroom. I understand that probably sounds quite harsh, however, it was the only way for me to make an attempt at coping.

The task of moving Matthews items was left to Michael, my father in law Tony, my brother Chris and my dad Eddie. They, along with our moms (Michael’s step mom Karen included) moved through the cupboards and drawers and rooms and moved everything out of immediate sight. Unfortunately it was all for naught. I still couldn’t bring myself to go inside, I was afraid. I don’t know what I was afraid of however I was terrified.

While sitting outside I watched two woman pull up in a car, they parked, got out and walked towards me. They introduced themselves, one of their names was Jen, the other I don’t remember. They said they were looking for Danielle Mazzeo, I told them I was her and they informed me that they work for DCF, Department of Children & Families. They were carrying a letter in their hand which Michael promptly took and put away.

I was horrified, I didn’t understand why they were at MY house, looking for ME. I understood when I was questioned by the police, I didn’t have any problem with answering their questions. They needed to be sure Matty was cared for and loved and that Caroline was in a safe environment, but DCF showing up was beyond my realm of comprehension, by this time, the entire day was more than I or any sane person for that matter was able to understand.

They stated they were there to ask some questions about Matthew. I can’t recollect what they asked I only know that I answered their questions. I remember them asking to speak to Caroline, who had decided she didn’t want to come home immediately when we left the hospital and instead went to her friend’s house around the corner (the same friend who had shown up to take her to school with her mom and sat in the hospital with us). I accepted this because how exactly do you say no to your child when they have just lost their baby brother and seen their mother lose her mind? In truth, I needed her home with me, but I lay my feelings aside and gave her space.

I told them she wasn’t home, and they said they don’t mind going to where she is. I didn’t trust them, I wasn’t allowing anyone to speak with her unless her father or I were present. This was again one of the rare moments in which my mind returned and I was able to understand reality. These moments were fleeting. My sister told them we can telephone them when she comes home and they can come back. I’m thankful she was there to help me handle that situation. They then walked inside to speak to Michael, they asked to see where Matthew was when he passed away, and asked him some questions. Before leaving they asked him if he had any questions for them and he inquired as to whether they knew of any programs that might help us pay for Matty’s services. They told him they would look into it.

My sister ended up calling DCF back not long after they went left, they had told her that if we needed anything to call them, and I’m told that at that point we did need something.

I’m told that I had completely lost any composure I may have had left. I was lashing out in anger and frustration, I was hysterical and inconsolable. No one knew how to handle this, they wanted to help, but what could they say or do? I stood screaming, then crying, then furiously screaming and crying attempting to hit anyone who came close to me, outside my house while my family stared in disbelief and fear trying to figure out what to do.

My mother in law, Karen led everyone into the house and left me outside with, my sister Ann, friend Kimberly and my mother, Grace.

Ann called DCF because she was at a loss, she didn’t know where else to turn she recognized that I needed help. DCF seemed equally stumped in regards to who might be able to help them with me. They suggested Ann call a priest and  supplied her the phone number for Father Al Capone.

He arrived almost promptly but truthfully it could have been hours for all I know. Nonetheless he was awe-inspiring, he made me feel safe, if only for a few short moments. He walked Michael and I through our house blessing each room, when we got to my room I stood shaking in the doorway. He didn’t pressure me to go inside, he continued blessing our home. I felt more at ease after speaking with him, but the moment he was out of sight, the fear and pain returned full force. I was back outside immediately, it started to get chilly and drizzle rain so my mom got me a blanket, my neighbor Chris, who was the same neighbor who came running out of his house to help me as I stood in the street screaming holding Matthews lifeless body, brought lawn chairs over.

I sat outside wrapped in a polka dot blanket, chain-smoking, and alternating between shaking and rocking. I looked at my sister Ann, who never left my side and told her that out of everyone I was handling this best. I really believed I was, however, she said: “Danielle I don’t think you can see yourself right now”. I now understand what she meant. I looked like I belonged in an asylum, I wasn’t coping, I was out of my mind. A simple shell of a person.

Soon after the priest left I called my friend (or someone did) and asked her to please bring Caroline back, at that point I needed to see her so badly I thought I would jump out of my skin. I needed to be sure she was okay, well as okay as she could be. When she arrived home, we all attempted to dry our eyes and hold it together in front of her. I refused to cry in front of her, I didn’t want her to see me so sad, what I didn’t understand until a few days later was that by remaining emotionless in front of her I wasn’t giving her permission to grieve. Thankfully our pediatrician helped me understand that by doing so, I may cause her more harm than good.

I had called him to tell him what happened, nonetheless, he already knew as did both his receptionists. Dr. Andonian is an amazing pediatrician. He operates a small practice in Lexington, it is only him and his two receptionist and the 3 of them are incredible. When I called Dr. Andonian I’m certain he wasn’t sitting around awaiting my call. He’s been our pediatrician since Caroline was born, and every time I’ve visited his office he has a steady stream of patients coming and going from his office, however he got on the phone immediately and spoke to me for at least a half hour. He helped me see why I should cry around Caroline and offered such sincere condolences it was clear he too was heartbroken. To this day, Matthew remains Dr. Andonian’s only patient lost to SIDS.

When Caroline arrived home, hours after the rest of us had returned from the hospital I was still unable to go inside our home. At that point neighbors had begun to return home from work and had somehow learned of Matthews passing. God bless each of them. If I were them I would have averted my eyes, and ran inside to avoid speaking to me. Not a single person did that. Each of them came and sat next to me hugging me and crying with me for a period of time. How long exactly I couldn’t begin to tell you, and it truly makes no difference. What matters is their outpouring of support and love.

My sister (again I think it was my sister) called DCF to inform them that Caroline was back and that they can come by. Michael, Caroline and I sat on the front steps waiting for them. This time only the woman Jen came, she told Caroline that there are people she can talk to and that her school will know and whenever she needs a break she can tell them and they will let her go sit in an office or something. As she was leaving Jen took $100 dollars out of her bag and handed it to Michael explaining that she and the other woman she was with earlier want us to have it to put towards our son’s services. We tried to say no but she insisted.

As day began to creep towards evening it was clear I needed to go into my house, I’m unsure when it was that I did finally go inside. I was still so terrified that I remained on the first floor. I avoided the stairs leading to the second floor, I would not go anywhere near my bedroom.

I told Michael that I would never be able to sleep on our bed again, he agreed so we decided that at some point we would buy a new bed, in the meanwhile Caroline, Michael, and I slept on the couch for weeks if not a month.

The following day Michael and I (who mind you have NEVER had to plan a funeral or be part of planning one) were informed that we needed to go and meet at the funeral home. I wasn’t aware we had a funeral home, but apparently, my mother had contacted one. Michael went upstairs into our closet and picked out some clothes for me since I would not go inside my room. I suppose it wasn’t the easiest task considering it was only 6 weeks after I had given birth therefore I had very few items that fit my body, and to wear any type of maternity cloths was completely out of the question as far as I was concerned. I feel compelled to express how  amazing my husband was to me during these first initial days, weeks and months. I would not have been able to do what was being forced upon me if not for him. He’s been my rock. He handled things I know nothing about, I was too out of it to function properly. I flew from one extreme to the next without warning. One minute I would be on the floor hysterically crying, to the point of hyperventilating , and the next minute I was so full of rage I thought I would explode. I didn’t have control over a single aspect of my life. I was being forced to plan my child’s funeral and the truth is I was angry that my body would not stop living, or that I had not been marred in some way so others could see how shattered I was, looking exactly the same didn’t seem right to me. It still doesn’t.

During that time I fought the urge to kill myself too many times to count. I had a plan in place for how I would accomplish the sweet release I craved, I wanted to have a slow painful drowning. I wanted to tie cinder blocks to my ankles and slide off the retaining wall into the Merrimack River which passes behind my house. However I knew every time I looked at Caroline that I was incapable of inflicting more pain upon her by following through on my well thought out plan.  It simply wasn’t an option. Caroline still needed her mom, I couldn’t fail her a second time.

It was in those moments when I came to understand that I was to be living in purgatory.

 I think Michael used me as his coping mechanism. He focused his energy on me, therefore he did not have to deal with his own emotions. He didn’t do this to be selfish, he did this because one of us needed to be capable of functioning for Caroline, it came at a great cost to him however, I would not see that until several years later when our marriage started to fall apart.  I will love him until the end of my days for his love and devotion to my well-being during that time.

The morning of April 8, 2014 on my sisters 33rd birthday, Michael, me, his dad, his stepmom, both my parents and my sister went to the funeral home. McDonough Funeral Home in Lowell. A nurse at the hospital had suggested them to my mom when she handed her a “memory box”. I don’t know what is inside that box, I didn’t know this box existed until almost a year after Matthew passed away. My mother knew enough to keep it with her until I was more stable. In fact, I do not have the box in my possession, it remains with my mother and father. 

Michael and I could not have been directed to a better place. We arrived and we all sat in a room going over what type of service we wanted for Matthew. Michael and I agreed that there wouldn’t a be wake, we could not emotionally handle it, nor did we feel our daughter would be able to. We wanted a “Life Celebration”, I wanted balloons, I did not want flowers everywhere. We both felt strongly that no one spend money on flowers that if they wanted to do something then in leu of flowers they should make a contribution to the SIDS foundation in Boston. 

I sat through almost all of this meeting, with only one outburst. I don’t know what set me off I know I was signing a form that probably was regarding our final decisions for Matthews body when I ended up yelling “F*#k” and throwing a pen. I apologized at once, I was embarrassed to have behaved that way. We were just about through when the man, Jack, helping us asked what Matthew should wear? All of a sudden I realized where I was and what I was doing there, and I couldn’t handle it. I lost it, I began crying and yelling “NO, NO…NO I WILL NOT DO THIS! NOT MY BABY NO!” I was led out of the funeral home by my father, crying all the way out the door saying  “DADDY, NO, DADDY PLEASE HELP ME, I CANT DO THIS, I WONT DO THIS, DADDY PLEASE DONT MAKE ME, NOT MY MATTY, PLEASE. PLEASE DONT MAKE ME DO THIS DADDY” He spoke to me in a way he had never spoken before, He said he was so sorry he wishes he could take it all away, he wishes I could go back to being happy, to having my baby, his grandson, but he can’t and he is sorry but I have to do this. We were joined by Michael and everyone else shortly after I was led away. I had reached my decision; my son should wear, his father’s christening outfit that is what he was supposed to wear when he went to church for his christening which I had begun planning so that is what he would wear. 

It had been a little more than 24 hours since Matthew died, and I already felt like a lifetime had passed me by. I felt ancient, defeated, broken and angrier than you could imagine. Why had God chosen my son? Why couldn’t he have chosen me instead? Doesn’t he know that all of this goes against the natural order of life? Doesn’t he know that parents are not supposed to plan their child’s funeral? What have I done to deserve this? 

The Day my world went black

It was a Monday. My world ended on a Monday while everyone else was getting ready to start their week, I was trying to figure out what happened. Am I still dreaming? I don’t understand what’s happening. I want to die. I can’t do this. I want to die. Please let me die. I can’t take this pain. It’s not even been an hour and I don’t know how I am supposed to live without him. Oh god I have to tell Caroline. What am I going to say to Caroline? Is this real? This can’t be real. I can’t breathe. I have to die. But there was no beautiful release from the depths of hell I had just started to live in. I couldn’t save myself anymore than I could have saved him. I had entered my own personal hell. No one could help me. I had plummeted far past any sadness or pain I had experienced before. I had entered an area of horror and pain I was entirely unaware existed and there was no coming back

Sunday April 6, 2014

The day was like every other day. The weather was nice, spring was close by. We had taken Matty with us to pick Caroline up at her friends house. He met her friends parents, who we were friendly with at the time, but not very close with. We became much closer in the weeks that followed. It’s still strange to me the people who are with you at your lowest point in life. It’s never who you expect.

We came home and we went for a walk. The rest of our day and night we spent sitting around just hanging out.

We put the kids to bed a little late considering it was a school night for Caroline but not exceedingly late. We went to bed after the kids fell asleep. Matthew had his bottle before he fell asleep.

April 7, 2014

I woke up at 3:30am. Matty was screaming. His scream didn’t sound like his usual scream. My husband Michael woke up and walked around the bed to the rock & play where Matty had been sleeping. He picked him up and said “what’s wrong little buddy?”

Matty continued to scream. I got him a bottle and Michael handed him to me. He instantly stopped screaming. He wasn’t interested in his bottle. He should have wanted his bottle. I didn’t think much of it. We all went back to sleep.

Yes, I was co-sleeping, and yes I am aware of what is said regarding co sleeping, however I am an enormous supporter of co-sleeping. I understand that many people feel differently about it and I absolutely respect their feelings. We all need to do what’s best for our families. What works for me may not work for you and that’s okay. That being said, I am not okay with anyone attacking me for my feelings and choices regarding co-sleeping. I co-slept with our oldest daughter, I did so with both of my boys. One died. I don’t feel that co-sleeping had a thing to do with his death.

Michael woke up for work around 4:45am. He checked on Matty and he was fine. Michael checked Matty again before he left at 5:20-5:30am and again Matty was fine. I woke up at 6:40am and before I opened my eyes I sensed that something was terribly wrong. I don’t know how to describe it but I knew, in those first few seconds between sleep & reality alarm bells were wailing in my head. I could tell by the position of the sun in the sky that it was later than Matty generally woke up. I remember thinking that Caroline slept through the night for the first time at 6 weeks. Matty was 6 weeks and 4 days old. Perhaps? But no. Those bells couldn’t be silenced. It will always astound me how many thoughts I had in mere seconds. Absolutely incredible.

Matty was lying about 8-12inches away from me to the left side. Matty was put to sleep propped ever so slightly on his side. He was a gassy little guy. I didn’t use any pillows or rolled up blankets to keep him propped up. I know better than that. There is such a thing as safe co sleeping.

Matty was no longer on his side. Matty was facedown. I didn’t understand. I picked him up. I knew immediately. I knew he was gone. But I couldn’t help myself I had to try to bring him back. I screamed. I screamed “NO! NO MATTHEW! NO BABY NO” his body was warm, there was a small amount of blood coming from his nose. He had purple blotches on the lower left quadrant of his jaw and upper left corner of his forehead. His body felt a bit rigid. I will never forget the way the weight of his body felt in my arms. It haunts me to this day.

I started chest compressions. I picked up my phone to call 911. I couldn’t unlock the screen. I was playing with my phone the day before and saw it had a facial recognition lock so I had turned it on to see how it works. I never turned it off. Now I’m trying to save my son. I can’t unlock my phone because I can not stop looking at him long enough for the phone to unlock. After several attempts I finally got it unlocked. I called 911 as I continued chest compressions. I did chest compressions while holding the phone between my ear and shoulder, carrying my son down to the first floor. The 911 operator told me to give him rescue breaths. His jaw was difficult to open, I gave him several breaths, I pulled back and screamed again. There was more blood coming from his nose. I was on autopilot. I was disconnected from what was happening. I wouldn’t have been able to function otherwise. I needed to function. I needed to save my baby. Oh God! Caroline. My daughter was 8 and a half years old and sleeping upstairs. I remember two prayers I repeated in my head over and over again, “Dear god, please bring him back to me” “dear god, please don’t let Caroline wake up to see this”. I heard sirens, I ran to the street with Matthew in my arms. I don’t remember this, but my neighbor Chris said I was screaming “SOMEBODY HELP ME” “MY BABY SOMEONE HELP ME” Chris came running outside. He and the ambulance reached me at the same time. The paramedics took Matthew. I didn’t tell him I love him. I didn’t tell him he’s one half of what keeps my world spinning, his sister being the other half. I never kissed him goodbye. The paramedics spoke very little that I remember. I only remember hearing one of them say “we’re going to Lowell General” my heart lifted a bit. Lowell General has a pediatric department. They must think there’s a chance. The next thing I heard was “scratch that, we’re going to Saints” and I knew. I knew what I knew before, that he was gone. That my precious baby Matthew was not coming back.

I knew I still had to deal with Caroline. What was I going to tell an 8 year old little girl who had been waiting her whole life for a sibling? How do you break your child’s heart? What do you say? I was back in my house. I don’t know how or when that happened. I was sitting on my couch. The police were talking to me. I didn’t understand a single question they asked. I stared at them. My neighbor Chris asked me if Caroline sleeps upstairs. I nodded yes. Three police officers walked upstairs to her bedroom and checked that she was truly asleep as I had apparently claimed she was. To this day I have no idea why I wasn’t brought to the hospital with Matthew. I have no idea how the police knew I had another child in my house.

The officers came back downstairs, satisfied that she was sleeping. Caroline woke up when she heard her bedroom door closing. She got dressed for school. The police were asking me questions. I only remember being asked if I am married. I nodded yes. An officer told me I need to call my husband. I was once again faced with unlocking my phone. I stood holding my phone, motionless, lost. How? I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to work my phone. Chris came to the rescue again and helped me unlock it, and dialed the numbers I gave him. Michael answered. He was oblivious. He didn’t know that life was over. I hesitated then said (according to Michael, I don’t remember any of this) “He’s gone. Matthew is gone” then I handed the phone off to an officer. He told Michael that he has to come home right now. To drive safely and try to stay calm.

I was asked if there’s anyone else I should call. I nodded yes. I called my mom with Chris’ help. She didn’t answer. I called my sister. She told me that I said “Matty wasn’t breathing I called 911…call everyone”

The police were talking to me again. I couldn’t answer their questions I didn’t know the answers. I didn’t understand even the most basic of concepts. Caroline came down the stairs. She was dressed for school. She saw all the police officers, paramedics, & EMT’s and became hysterical. She was crying. She was scared. She had no idea what had happened yet. She started calling for me between sobbing like I had never heard or seen from her before. I’ll never forget the sound of her scared crying voice calling to me “MAMA MAMMMAAA”.

The sound of her voice brought me back from wherever my mind had crawled to escape this unbelievable pain and soul crushing grief. I stood up, I stood face to face with Caroline and put my hands on her shoulders and said “Matty wasn’t breathing. Momma had to call 911″ she was crying hysterically. My heart had completely shattered. I hugged her and said over and over again ” I love you, I’m sorry I love you Caroline. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry baby”

The police were watching me. I realized I needed to stop apologizing for something I had no control over in the first place. I stopped talking and Caroline pulled away.

She was calming down, a tiny bit but it was something. Chris told me that after I spoke to Caroline I really lost it. He said I was asked to put shoes on but I couldn’t remember where I kept shoes. My friend Nancy and her two daughters showed up to pick Caroline up for school just as they always did. She asked me what happened. I said I don’t know. I started spinning in circles very slowly saying “Caroline, Caroline our baby is dead oh god our baby is gone. Caroline. Caroline. Caroline what are we going to do? Our baby is dead”. I didn’t know what I was saying or doing. I wish I hadn’t lost it so badly. I wish I hadn’t made it that much more difficult on poor Caroline. I was told that they were bringing me to the hospital. I was brought outside at some point. I don’t know when any of that occurred or how it occurred. I only remember standing in front of a gurney while an EMT loaded Caroline into the back of an ambulance. I tried to speak. I tried to tell them to get her out of there. That this is all unnecessary. That she shouldn’t have to ride back there. And then I was put on the gurney. I tried again. I shook my head no. The EMT told me it was necessary and started to strap me down. I kept shaking my head. My words wouldn’t come. I wasn’t making sense when words did find their way out. My words didn’t match my thoughts.

We drove to the end of the street I live on to our destination…the hospital.

The storm had only just begun and I had already, metaphorically speaking, died a thousand times over.