My friends like to joke that I go into hibernation in the winter. They aren’t that far off. I ran into one of my neighbors at the grocery store the other day and she really seemed shocked to see me. Almost like she hadn’t seen me all winter! But the truth of the matter is, I do the bare minimum in the winter. I don’t like being cold….I hate it! I don’t have a thyroid so when I feel cold, it is multiplied by 1000. I have the gift of feeling obnoxiously freezing all of the time. So I actually stay inside most of the winter. As a result of all of these factors, winter becomes my most dreaded and isolating time of year. Then there is the fact that winter stirs up all the emotions of when I lost my boy. I am not sure I will ever feel kindly towards that season. Read More
It was around 11:30 on Sunday night when I started to feel that all too familiar sting…the cyclical sting that comes on those special days and anniversaries. I realized that exactly 3 years before that very moment I had been getting prepped for my cesarean. I had unexpectedly gone into labor at 31 weeks 5 days with the triplets and my OB saw that my babies were coming whether I was ready or not. Read More
It was two years ago, right before the 5K and the babies first birthday. We were finishing up Hayes’ second round of chemo and I was still feeling naively optimistic. All I cared about was getting out of the hospital for the 5K and celebrating the babies. Hayes was sleeping in his hospital crib and I was sitting on the fold out plastic couch in my daily “uniform”….sweats. We were in the corner room of the cancer unit. There was a double door to get into our room and you couldn’t hear a sound. We were completely closed off from the world in our little corner that overlooked the Salt Lake Valley. Read More
The past few weeks, I lay my babies down for their daily naps and inevitably, they end up talking to each other under their doors across the halls. At first it is really sweet and then all hell breaks loose and Heath is kicking the door….laying on his back, pounding the door with his feet. Yesterday was another one of those days and I found myself feeling more and more angry with each loud kick of his door….sometimes I just need a break from my kids, I will be honest! So needless to say I was frustrated. Read More
Let me start out this post with a preemptive warning that I actually believe that toddler “education” is not something to stress about. When Bo was 18 months old, he was no joke, a baby genius. He said his first word at 7 months and his words skyrocketed after that. He was literally reading by 3 years old. I will be honest. I was kind of cocky about it and I sort of took credit for his success. I read books with him, worked on his sounds, colors and shapes and pretty much, from what I could tell, I had created a baby prodigy. All the signs pointed to his genius mom.
Then Mia was born. I took the exact same steps with her. I began reading her books and “testing” her on her knowledge and bless her sweet heart….she wasn’t a baby genius. In fact, not only could she not read by the time kindergarten rolled around, but she honestly knew maybe 5 of her letters, if that. Mia ended up doing fine and actually is super smart now. What I came to realize was that I actually didn’t have as big of an impact as I thought. I feel like kids cognitive interests will be perked when they are ready. So then what the heck is the point of trying to teach them at all?!
I decided that teaching my babies is actually the perfect opportunity to spend time with them and for them to spend time together. Maybe they aren’t becoming baby geniuses but the time together is kind of perfect! There is a lot of laughter, a lot of bribing and frankly, sometimes a little toddler tantrum thrown in the mix. But at least I am exposing them and giving them the opportunity to learn. It can’t hurt!
There are a few things that help me find success. First of all, high chairs are key for most of the activities! I can strap them in and they can’t get easily distracted with toys. Second off, I bribe them. Their bribes of choice lately are suckers. They will list off the parts of the face like Einsteins if they see a sucker on the horizon. It actually is kind of how I am with Peanut Butter M&M’s, but I digress. And thirdly, we sing A LOT! I wouldn’t necessarily say my voice is the voice of an angel but it motivates them enough to have me wondering if maybe it is!
Another activity I have found success with is stringing Cheerios on spaghetti noodles or skewers. This keeps them busy forever! Supposedly it helps with fine motor skills but it also will provide you with at least 10 minutes of quiet time. Que the Coke Zero and peanut butter M&M’s.
Last thing I usually do is work on colors. I usually draw about 6 different colored circles on a paper. I then have them sort fruit loops into coordinating colored circles. I have found that these things have worked for us. Even if it is just small things to help them follow directions, I feel like I am helping them become somewhat decent members of society.
Let me know if you try any of these. I am curious to know if it works for other kids. And if you have different ideas, I am always on the hunt for more!
I first found Sarah a few months after losing my sweet Hayes. It was through her social media, @AliceAndAfter, that I was able to hear about her story and her beautiful Alice. I immediately reached out to her, my heart shattered for her and I felt immense love for this person I had never physically met. We shared a similar experience that drew me to her. Losing a child is the worst thing you can have in common with someone, but it is also a beautiful connection. A thread that connects people that understand each other in a way that is deeper than other relationships. Although we lost our babies so very differently, I still feel that invisible thread with her, that pull that says, “I get it, my friend.” Meeting Sarah has given me hope and she has helped remind me that we can still have happiness through the pain and darkness. She is a shining example of finding love and light through loss. Here is her advice for still having a reason to hope.
There is no darkness more potent than that which surrounds you after losing a child. Completely blinded, it’s nearly impossible to navigate the unfamiliar terrain around you. Unavoidably, you will stumble, and you will fall, but you don’t have to be lost forever in the blackness of grief. So how can we adjust? How can we see again and move forward to have productive, purposeful lives? How can we find joy in our newly obscure surroundings? It has been proposed by many theologians, scientists and philosophers that darkness is simply the absence of light. That darkness is not an opposing force to light, but rather, the absence thereof and thus simply a void that immediately surrenders to its counterpart.
This may be true in science, but in grief, darkness is all too real. It will fight back. It relentlessly fixates on your soul, and must be deliberately and consistently evicted. To me it holds true that the only thing equipped to dispel that entrenched dimness in our souls, is light.
So how can we adjust? How can we see again and move forward to have productive, purposeful lives? How can we find joy in our newly obscure surroundings?
1.) Small bits of light can illuminate large spaces- I remember the day my daughter Alice passed away, I was completely shattered. Her death was abrupt, and unexpected. There was no warning, and there was no goodbye. She was taken from me and took with her more of my heart than I could operate without. I couldn’t see the path before me. I was completely blinded by my grief. I couldn’t imagine it. How I could endure this impossible trial before me, while also being engulfed by darkness? The answer is, I couldn’t.
I wasn’t prepared to invite large amounts of light in, but I found bits and pieces I could appreciate. I would allow in just enough to light my path. I thought about how my husband and I spent the last few days of her life home. I marveled at how my husband was on a break from school, allowing him to appreciate her last few weeks with us. I wept in the arms of my family members and noticed when they wept in return. I felt like I was walking along the edge of a cliff with only my cell phone light to guide me, but at the time it was enough to help me not fall.
3.) Allow those who know the path to guide and inspire you- The moment I realized Alice had passed away, I knew I needed to talk to my sister. I needed her wisdom and her comfort. She raced down to my home in the severe snowstorm on that January morning and held me in her arms. I took great comfort in having her near. We had always been close, but our bond had been renewed and solidified that morning because now we had both lost our oldest children, our first daughters. She also gave me hope because although she still carried her grief with her, she also had a functional life which included genuine happiness. Her rainbow baby Norah brought her immense joy that I knew I would be able to find again someday, somehow. Her circumstances were vastly different than mine, but she knew how to navigate the road on which I had never walked. She truly guided me through intense terrain that I wouldn’t have been able to handle on my own.
I also immediately joined a Facebook group called Utah SIDS Parents. I had never met these women, but they ran to my aid. They took me by the hand, and led me down the path. At times, I think they carried me. I didn’t know these women, but I could tell they were anxious and willing to help. I was afraid to open up to them. They were strangers. But I took a risk and I shared with them my darkest moments. They sympathized in a way no one else could have. It allowed me to reframe my thinking. Losing Alice thrust me into a bleak position. Even though I couldn’t see others beside me on the dark path, I was not there alone. There were other mothers finding their way alongside me.
3.) Allow the darkness its time- Just as the Earth has a night and a day, I believe that our souls also benefit from the separation, and the allotted time for each. There are moments I choose to fight the darkness in my mind with light, but there are times when I allow it to be heard. I often find if I literally schedule a time to feel the depths of my sorrow, they become less haunting in unwanted moments because I have allowed them a release. I admit, there are still times when the darkness overcomes me no matter how hard I try to suppress it. This isn’t a failure. The sun does not always shine. Allow yourself to feel what you need to, when you need to, and when it passes, try to invite the happiness.
With that said, allow yourself time to feel joy. The Earth’s brightness at noon does not discredit the darkness of the night. Your happiness will not void your grief. Embrace joy when it comes even if it is in strange or unexpected moments. Your child would want you to experience joy, and all children relish in joy. They would want your life to be filled with light and laughter and not be governed by sorrow and hardship.
4.) Take it slow- Any living creature immersed in an environment void of light becomes averse to the brightness. If you expose them to too much, too quickly, they will be blinded or they will flee. I’ve experienced this so many times in the summer when emerging from my dark basement to the outdoors. The dramatic juxtaposition of luminosity doesn’t enhance my ability to see, it inhibits it. Don’t try to force yourself to enjoy the sunniest, brightest of days, when you are just emerging from the darkest abyss. Just as your eyes need time to adjust, so does your psyche.
Losing a child is an indescribable, horrific experience. I wish it didn’t happen to anyone, but since it does, let’s help each other along the way. The road is dark, but the only way is through so invite small pieces of light to illuminate your way, allow those who know the path to guide and inspire you. Always allow yourself to time for the light and the darkness. Remember this is not a race. The depth of your sorrow will be the depth of your love, and therefore healing will take time. Be patient enough to let yourself take it slow. You will make it through, but only if you bring along with you, a light.
Lately, after the babies go to bed, I am more than likely alone. Bo and Steve are usually at football and Mia and Wes are out playing in the neighborhood, soaking in the last bit of joy that summer has to offer their childhood. My favorite thing to do lately is to sit in my backyard. I watch the sun sink lower in the sky, feel the warmth of the air, listen to the squirrels chirp in the trees and I just sit. I could do it for hours. From the outside, it looks like a whole lot of nothing, but this is where I go to soul search.
I watched him from across the room. He was wearing his perfect, un-walked in, black converse. He basically wore them for decoration, but they also kept his ankles steady during physical therapy when he practiced putting weight on his feet. He leaned up with his hands against the large red exercise ball and proudly “stood” on his chemo, weak froggy legs. I was so incredibly proud and clapped and cheered for Hayes, recognizing that he was doing something harder than I have ever done myself. Reese and Heath walked into the playroom and clapped along with me, not knowing the reason for the show of excitement. Heath walked over to the exercise ball and slapped it with his little hands and Hayes laughed. He was participating in play time with his triplet brother and sister and we were all overjoyed. He was making up for lost time and I was so happy. I had dreamed of this forever.
I remember, I was quickly pulled down from that excitement when the physical therapist explained that Hayes wasn’t progressing as quickly as she would like to see. She told me that she thought Hayes was going to need a walker. She was hopeful that he would respond well to the challenge, but it broke my heart. She told me that within the next month or so, Hayes would need to be fitted for his walker. My sweet boy was cancer free so why did it feel like life wasn’t catching up to the news of normalcy? I decided I didn’t want to believe her and so I shut it away to the back of my mind.
Every so often, my mind would drift to the worry. What if Hayes never knew how to walk? What if he never ate food like all of the other kids? What if he never got to participate in regular childhood activities? Sometimes these worries would consume me to the point of tears. I would get so frustrated for him. I would always have to remind myself of the incredible blessing that Hayes had with built in best friends. Regardless of the circumstances of his physical abilities, Heath and Reese were always going to accept him and love him as he was. Reese was a built in little mom and Heath was a bulldog. He was going to be fine. He would always be protected.
Looking back on that anxiety, I realize how completely ridiculous those worries were. I would give anything to see him grow now. I realize that none of those physical setbacks mattered…he was here! Who cares if he was going to spend his childhood in a walker, or eat through a feeding tube? In hindsight, it obviously didn’t matter. But, it is easy to get hung up on those fears, the worries that those dreams we envision for our children won’t come to fruition. Stepping back and seeing the bigger picture, now I am able to appreciate that Hayes was enough exactly as he was.
It is a reminder to me that my job as a mother is to encourage my children and help them to realize that no matter what they accomplish in life, they are enough. My job is to teach them to be proudly aunthentic. They are my greatest gifts. I hope Hayes knows this. I hope he knows how proud I am of him, how lucky I am to be his mom. I hope he knows that every accomplishment he made in his short life was enough. He is and always will be the strongest person I know.
The 4th of July has once again come and gone. It has always been one of my favorite holidays. When I was little, I went to an elementary school that drove patriotism hard. Every day began with the class standing, with our hands over our heart and reciting the pledge of allegiance in unison in both English and French. I am not quite sure what speaking the pledge of allegiance in French has to do with being a proud American, but I can still recite it, nonetheless. “Je promet une allégeance au drapeau des États-Unis d’Amérique….” See, I am such a patriot. But, I digress. I have studied the beginnings of America and have read up on our founding fathers. I recognize the sacrifices that have been made for me and my children. My dad was a soldier in the Vietnam war. I really am proud to be an American, whole heartedly.
When Steve and I first got married, his hero was Pat Tillman. He was amazed that someone in the NFL would give up a million dollar contract in order to sacrifice and fight for our country. In this day and age, it is extremely uncommon to see someone forego fame and fortune in order to serve. So needless to say, Pat Tillman quickly became a hero to both of us. So much so for Steve that he wanted to name our first born Tillman. While I appreciated the meaning and hero behind the name, I just couldn’t jump on board with that idea. When we were pregnant with Wes, Steve once again tried to push for the name Tillman, and I shot it down again. Finally, when we were pregnant with the triplets, Steve convinced me it was time. So we agreed on the plan to give baby B, Heath, the middle name of Tillman. The problem I soon realized was that our sweet baby C needed a strong middle name as well.
Hayes needed a patriotic middle name to match his brother, so we brainstormed. But, nothing felt right. How can you top Tillman…one of Steve’s greatest heroes?! One night, near the end of my pregnancy, Steve took me on a date to the movie American Sniper. I cried through the entire thing. It was beautiful and powerful and the story of Chris Kyle truly moved me. As the credits rolled at the end, I remember so clearly, leaning over to Steve, wiping the tears from my cheek and whispering, “Hayes’ middle name needs to be Kyle.” It was like the stars had aligned and it all made sense. Both our boys would be named after men that were true heroes.
It is incredibly inspiring to me that Hayes was named after such a legend. So fitting. We obviously had no idea at the time that Hayes was going to change the world, but how perfect that one hero be named after another hero…both of their names etched in stone, forever. Hayes Kyle Tate, my own little 20 month legend.
Two years ago yesterday we brought our babies home from the NICU. It is stirring up all kinds of emotions for me. As you may notice, I call my babies “babies” still. Honestly, I hate to admit it, but they actually are toddlers and a stage of my life that I love is quickly coming to a close! Mothering babies is honestly a joy to me. I could have 100 babies and it wouldn’t be enough. I had just finished up delivering my Triplets and my OBGYN asked me if I wanted my tubes tied while I was laying on the surgical table still open from the c-section. I of course said “Yes” because what woman in her right mind has babies 4, 5 & 6, all at once mind you, and doesn’t feel satisfied.
I remember the babies were in the NICU and I mourned, literally cried over being done having babies. I HAD 3 BABIES!!! Well, I still feel that I want more and now birthing babies is impossible. Ugh!! I seriously probably have issues! Addicted to having babies has got to be an actual issue that I have.
I digress though, it is time to start getting rid of baby items and I have been able to reflect on the items that seriously saved us during infancy with the triplets. The things that I am telling you about were life changing. We could not have made it through the chaos that is triplets without each of these. And in most cases, 3 of each of these!
First off, my babies all had acid reflux. I had three angry and uncomfortable babies. I am telling you now, if you are expecting a baby, you NEED the rock n play in your life. Your baby will be the happiest baby in the neighborhood. We had all three babies sleeping through the night by 3 months and I owe it all to the Fisher Price Auto Rock-N-Play. I am willing to give mothering credit where it is due and it is not due to me. No questions asked, Hands Down!
Next, when you have multiples, as it turns out, feeding them is kind of hard. I only have 2 boobs so one baby was always angry during feeding time. After about a month I realized that I couldn’t nurse 3 babies. I felt guilty, but I just physically could not grow a third boob! So I pumped while the babies took bottles filled with my milk. The beautiful discovery was boppy pillows. I would lay my babies on their sides, put a bottle in their mouths and have it propped in. GAME. CHANGER! Get one now!
And on that same note, like I said, I would pump while I fed my babies. Because I needed my hands while I pumped, I got hands free pumping bras, aka sexy, I am leaking milk out of my boobs, bra. Great for a night out on the town also! Because pumping and feeding babies took so long, this is the only way I could do it.
The next thing is Aden and Anais swaddling blankets. These are THE best and I can say that because I am definitely a swaddling expert. Not kidding. I could get a doctorate in swaddling, for sure. I remember when Bo was a baby and I swaddled him literally until he was 11 months old. He was a giant baby so when I swaddled him he looked like a yardstick. I joked that when he went to college his roommate was going to have to swaddle him before bed. He slept so much better when he was swaddled so I dreaded the day he was done.
Aden and Anais Swaddling Blankets
So have you seen these frightening little things? They are from Sweden and they are pretty awesome. So bear with me, they sound frightening because you actually suck the snot out of their noses, but it never goes into your mouth. It just sucks it into this little storage bottle! Gross I know. It really is, but you know how frustrating it is when your baby can’t breathe?! This saves you!
Next items were for when the babies were a little older. If you have ever seen a triplet stroller, you know how annoying they are. Wide and heavy and SO expensive! $1000 expensive. I could not justify such a huge expense for something that was going to be used for such a short amount of time. We already had a double stroller and after researching endlessly I found this amazing contraption that hooks onto the back of most strollers. You can turn a single stroller into a double and a double stroller into a triple. It is amazing. Plus it has a seatbelt so that your little humans can’t escape! So so worth it, I am telling you!
I got this extender for the handle so that my feet didn’t run into the little cart. I think it is worth it!
Last recommendation I have is the Snuza baby monitor. When the triplets were first born they spent 45 days in the NICU. They were hooked up to monitors the whole time so when it was time to bring them home I was scared to death to not have those monitors to rely on. To ease my mind I bought 3 of these. They monitor movement and breathing and an alarm will sound if for some reason they aren’t ok. They are pricy but so worth it! Steve at first thought I was being crazy, but I am sure looking back he is on board!