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Rocco Joseph: Part 2

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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Rocco Joseph: Part 2

Suddenly I was making decisions about burials and funeral homes and looking at blurry pictures of my baby and I remember pressing the button for the nurse, wanting it to be the stop button. I wanted to freeze everything and not make any of those decisions. I wanted to hold him again and take better pictures. The nurse came in and said it was too late. He was already sent down for the autopsy. I was absolutely devastated. What was I thinking giving him back? Why didn't I hold him while she took the pictures so I could make sure they turned out? Why didn't I understand that once he was gone, he was really gone? I didn't want to go home. I couldn't bear to leave him. Once I left, that was it. I would have to face my kids and life as this person I didn't want to be. I didn't want to be the daughter, friend, neighbor, wife, mother whose baby died. Every part of my identity was overshadowed with this new identity and I hated it.

When I got home, my kids' faces registered relief. I had asked my mom and sisters to get rid of anything maternity or baby-related and my mom took it a step further and organized my whole house. I found out later the reason my kids were relieved was because when they were getting rid of things out of my closet, Nico and Belle walked in and with a scared face, Belle asked, "Is my mom not coming home?" Just the thought of what she might have been thinking guts me. How quickly something like death changes how you think. They probably never thought their mom would die but because the baby did, maybe moms sometimes die too. The worst part of losing a baby so late in the pregnancy is that your body doesn't know the baby died. When my milk came in, I lost it. It was the beginning of a postpartum depression that I had not experienced before. Thank God for my parents and my sisters for being there for my kids when I couldn't be. They came over any chance they could to help me with them or make sure I was okay. My neighbor and friend organized meals for us for almost two months. It was the biggest help with something I didn't know I would need at the time but ended up saving us. Another good friend had a bracelet made with Rocco's initials on it. How I treasured that bracelet because it was the only thing I had that I could outwardly show that he existed. So much support.

While making the arrangements for the memorial, I started feeling pretty bad. I was still in a lot of pain and I couldn't walk from the bed to the bathroom without feeling like I was going to pass out. I went back to the doctor who sent me back to the ER for an ultrasound (which after delivering a baby two days before should be considered torture) and they found that they had not removed all of the placenta. WHAT?? All I could think was, Are you freaking kidding me? I needed to have emergency surgery. I did and of course it couldn't just go smoothly. I had to have a breathing treatment after because I was having a hard time breathing and then I had to stay in the hospital. All I could think about was how scared my kids had to have been when they got home from school and I wasn't there.

We decided to cremate Rocco and the best decision I made, because I was having a hard time with the whole thought of having to bury him, was to keep some of his ashes in a ceramic heart with "Rocky" written on it. On December 23, 2007, my family piled into the house of a priest who had been a family friend of ours since I was little. He said the blessing or whatever priests say when they do a memorial. We left there and decided to bury his ashes on a baseball field (named after my dad). Our thought was that Nico and Tommy both played baseball so most likely Rocky would have too so it seemed fitting for his ashes to be buried there. Of course it was the coldest day of the year so letting go of the balloons that we all had was rushed because we were all freezing. I gave everyone a name card that said "Rocky" and a ceramic angel to remember him by. I hate that memory. I hate when you have something planned in your head and it seems like exactly the right thing to do but then when you actually do it, it is all wrong. I have come to terms with it because no matter what I did that day, it would have felt wrong. It wasn't supposed to be happening. A big funeral seemed like too much to put my other kids through. Doing nothing and willing it to all go away wouldn't have worked either so that was the best I could think of. I have never appreciated being from the tight knit family that I was from more than during that time.

I didn't want to be Sad Mommy. I didn't want my kids to look back and have Rocco dying be a defining moment for them. I didn't want them to say, "My mom was happy and then the baby died and she was never the same. Nothing was the same after December 7, 2007." I put a smile on my face and tried to keep things normal. We decided that we weren't going to go crazy for Christmas but then the baby died so to compensate, I bought them a lot more useless stuff to fill the void (thank God for internet shopping and express shipping). Christmas was hard to get through but on Christmas Eve, when we drove up to our house, we saw about 50 luminaries on our lawn. It was absolutely the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. I cried as I saw how many people were praying and thinking of us and watched my kids' faces as they read who they were from. I had very little faith in anything at that point and knowing I had all of those people believing for me helped me feel at peace for the first time since I went into that ER.

I was always on the overprotective side with my kids but after everything that happened, the overprotectiveness was at an all time high. Kids would call and want to have playdates with them and I'd make up some excuse but the real reason was that I was afraid to let them out of my sight. I tried to go back to my normal life but several times, I went to Target and had a panic attack and had to leave. I couldn't pass the baby clothes or the maternity clothes without my chest tightening up, my feet feeling like lead and the room spinning. I would be fine and then the thought of how the last time I was there, I was pregnant would come into my head and I'd have to leave. I left many carts filled with things in those first few weeks. I was terrified of running into people for fear I would have to explain what happened, so I avoided going out.

Between my friends and family that wouldn't allow me to crawl under a rock and not come out and an old friend that I was back in touch with, I was able to be a mom to my other kids. I hope they all know how much I love them for that. For either the help or the distraction, they helped me through one of the worst times in my life.


At June 6, 2011 at 3:44 AM , Blogger lamb said...

AnnMarie, I just caught up on your blog again yesterday and though I have been reading through my google reader, I just had to come on here and make a comment. My heart aches for what you went through. I cried through this post just imaging how much pain you were in. also, I somehow missed the post with the video of you and Leo talking about CF. you are so strong and don't give yourself enough credit. you are such a great mom to not allow the disease to take over your children's lives. thank you for sharing such personal things through your writing. btw I love the name you picked out and being Italian myself, Rocco was my grandpa's name and it is my uncle's name as well.

At June 6, 2011 at 12:26 PM , Blogger AnnMarie said...

Thanks, Lori, for all your kind words. It was my great grandfather's name, too. I just couldn't keep writing without telling this part. It felt like I was hiding it.


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