Saturday, March 01, 2008

Elijah's Technicolor Dream Quilt

AED (isn't that clever of me? I have broken my life so easily into two bits, before and After Elijah Died, that it only makes sense to give it its own acronym), his clothes and toys were stashed in the garage. We had asked family to put it there, right after I took down the crib and nearly choked on the air around me while doing so.
Three different friends offered to help me go through his things, and each one of them bailed on me when it came time to help. (I don't hold it against them - it was too heavy.)

I couldn't do it alone. I wasn't even sure I could do it. And why? What would I do with all of his clothes and toys? Put them in a box to pull out once a year and cry over, like the other people on my dead kids email list had done? (btw, dead kid email list = bad juju for one who already relives the death of one's own child, because dead kid email list fills one in on all the ways one's child could die that one never even thought of.)

Hell if I knew. One of my friends claims to have found me upstairs with a baby book in my hands, in the days immediately following Elijah's death. She told me that I looked at her and shook my head, saying that I couldn't find anything in there about what to do when your baby died. I don't recall that moment, which strikes absolutely nothing against its validity.

A few good nuggets came out of that dead kid email list. One mother had had her child's favorite clothes cut up and made into a quilt. But the quiltmaker told her that she could/would never do that again. It was too depressing.

I contacted a friend of mine who happened to be a quilter and also a very tender-hearted person. She immediately offered to make the quilt. And she would not charge me. She said that if this was any help to me at all, it was the least she could give.

Of course, now this meant that I had to go through his things. At this point, I was regularly seeing therapist friend for grief counseling and general bitch and cope sessions. I was frustrated because I was having trouble getting pregnant and had even claimed to her that I was convinced it was because of my inability to move forward in any way. Not that I knew what that even meant. What if felt like to me at the time was letting go of him.

Which is why I didn't really want to move forward through the grief.

I had told her that, even if I didn't believe it, I had to go through the clothes or I would remain stuck there forever. Maybe just going through the motions of letting go could trick fate into giving me a baby.

When I told her about the quilt, she said, "Okay then! We must go through his clothes so she can make it! When can you bring the boxes down so we can do it? I have nobody coming next Tuesday after four - bring them then and we can take as long as we need to."

Okay then, Tuesday it was.

The following Tuesday I brought two boxes of clothes to her office.

She pulled each one out separately, and asked me when he had worn it. We decided which ones were special enough to make it into the quilt. Each little shirt had a story. The traveling elephants suit, which he wore whenever we flew for some reason.

The little jumpsuit he wore every day in Hawaii, because it weighed nothing, and reminded me of little man pajamas.

The little fleece outfit that I bought at Olde Navel for our trip back east at Christmas - I bought it in the girls department because the boys version was sports-related and inappropriate for my little softie.

The snowflake print union suit that reminded me of dishes from the sixties and was a hand-me-down from a friend who loved it just as much but still let me cut it up.

The blue and white star and puppy jammies which were a preemie size and the only thing that really fit him well for the first three months of his life.

The striped onesie which we put him in all the time because the colors matched his eyes perfectly.

It took us two and a half hours. We both cried quite a bit, but we finished the job. I felt better. We had a box for the quilt and another box that she would drop off at the shelter - we decided that I didn't really want to see those clothes on a friend or family member's child, so we made them gone.

The next day, I drove over to the quilter's house and told her The Stories of the clothes. I left the box there with her.

About six weeks later, we would figure out that this was Bubbles' conception date.

About seven weeks later, as I was about to go to my appointment and share this incredible news with therapist friend, I would receive a phone call telling me that therapist friend had died suddenly just the day before. This was the end of grief counseling for me. I know I have mentioned her before, but it really was so insane that it happened that way - losing her left me hanging by a thread that was already dangerously thin and weak. I credit the pregnancy as my survival.

A few months after I had dropped off the box of baby clothes, my friend called me to tell me that she had finished the quilt. I couldn't believe she had done it so quickly! Turns out, it was not only an emotionally challenging project to take on, but also an engineering nightmare. Apparently, cotton knits are very difficult to sew together.

But behold! The quilt:

I am very grateful for this. And yes, sometimes I do wrap myself in it and cry a bit.


nailgirl said...

Oh G, It's beautiful. Bless your friend for doing it for you.

nailgirl said...
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nailgirl said...
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Mrs. Who said...

What a beautiful and special thing to do. I am so sorry for your loss.

mamadaisy said...

what a wonderful idea. thank you for sharing the stories.

Nancy said...

Dear Gwendolyn,

I am so happy to have made that quilt for you, and embarrassed that I complained about the engineering bit. I do apologize for that; it wasn't necessary to tell you. In fact, I had forgotten that part.

I am happy to see the quilt again. And I love being reminded of the sweet bits (the stories) of the quilt.

Such love going to and from Elijah.

Love, Nancy

Kristen said...

Such an awesome quilt and what a wonderful way to celebrate Elijah. Thank you for sharing. I wish you so much peace and hope. You are such an incredibly strong woman.

Anonymous said...

Such an awesome quilt and what a wonderful way to celebrate Elijah. Thank you for sharing. I wish you so much peace and hope. You are such an incredibly strong woman.

MaryP said...

I came skipping over here to let you know I'd finished the meme you tagged me for ... and now I'm crying all over the place. So is my husband, the old softie. But they're good tears. What a beautiful story, what a beautiful quilt. What you've been through.

Thanks for sharing it.

Trish said...

I just found your blog a week or so ago through Figs, Lavender & Cheese and I am so glad I did. Your stories are both beautiful and sad and although it feels almost intrusive to know so much about someone you don't know at all, you help me remember the important parts of being a mama, not just all the work involved. Thank you! (And my kiddos thank you for all the extra hugs that have come their way just lately!)

Tracey said...

Gwen, that is simply a lovely quilt. I'm so sorry....

Beth said...

Hi Gwen,

Beautiful quilt. I've got one, too. I mean, what else are we going to do with those cloths? Fold 'em up in big rubbermaid bins and never look at them? I love having something I can get my hands on and wrap up in, too.

Mama Drama Jenny, the Bloggess said...

It's beautiful.

Gretchen said...

Beautiful, indeed.

Thanks so much for sharing it.

Shannon and Carey said...

Beautiful. I looked at every square. I like the frogs. How you treasure this.
-Shannon in Austin

Carrie aka Alli's mom from LissAngels said...

I LOVE THIS!! I only wish I had one done for my sweet angel baby! (come to think of it I do have so things I couldn't bear to part with... maybe someday Alli will have a Technicolor Dream Quilt too)
Btw.. March is a b*tch for me also.. My baby girl would be turning FIVE!!! on the 26th.. It sucks! The "unfairness" of it all!!
Thanks for sharing!!