March 29, 2011

9+ Months

Well, it's officially been over nine months since Cale was born. Maybe that doesn't seem too significant, but I was worried about that day (the nine month mark) since early on in this whole grief journey. I always thought it would be a tough milestone to hit because it meant that every day after would mean I've lived longer without Cale than I did with him. And that didn't sit well with me for awhile.

But the closer I got to the date the less it bothered me. For one I didn't think about it too much, but when I did I realized that after he was born came the harsh reality that my whole life would be lived without him. And it's only without him here physically. And sometimes that hurts more than others. Sometimes I ache for the little boy I never got to know. But he's with me all the time regardless of if he's standing (or crawling) in front of me. He's in my heart for the rest of my life and that's something that nine months or nine years can't change.

"Before you were born I carried you under my heart. From the moment you arrived in this world until the moment I leave it, I will always carry you in my heart."

March 26, 2011

Baby Shower

A year ago today my friend Jodi threw me a baby shower. I didn't even remember the date, but was looking through pictures of my time with Cale as I often do when I'm missing him and I noticed that the baby shower fell on 3/27. It made me a little sad, but mostly just got me thinking. Thinking of how much has changed in a year when our lives are same from the outside looking in. From the outside we are still a family of two, waiting for a little boy to join us in a couple months. But from the inside we are so very changed, never to be the same again. I'll never be grateful for what happened to Cale, but rather grateful for what happened as a result of him, of the good that will (and already has) come from his time with us.

As I looked through these pictures I was reminded that Cale was loved, even before he was here. And that brings me a little comfort, especially as we draw closer to another milestone - 3/28, nine months from when Cale was born. It comforts me because I know Cale was loved every day of his life. And I know he's loved now and always will be.

Cale's brother is loved too. And it amazes me how my love for both of them is stronger because of each of them individually. If it weren't for Cale, I wouldn't have a baby kicking me as I type this. And I hope one day soon I can dress that baby in those cute clothes from my shower, or that sweet monkey towel in the picture. For now I'm grateful for the kicks I'm feeling, for the love people had for Cale, and the love that he continues to bring to his family.

March 25, 2011

Death and Taxes

I filed our taxes yesterday and in doing so was reminded about that old saying how nothing is certain except death and taxes. I was torn as to how I wanted to file our taxes; I could take them on post and get them done for free, but part of me was nervous about that as I know how Soldiers get detailed out to support the tax center - so it's not really a professional (don't get me wrong, I'm sure they get lots of training and probably are very competent, especially by this point), but regardless, I was still leery about it. I could attempt to do them on my own as Miles does every year, but that intimidated me. Or I could just pay and take them to HR Block. Well I decided that I shouldn't let taxes intimidate me and could at least see if it was something I could manage.

So I log on to HR Block and start answering the questions like our names, socials, etc. Then I was asked to check the block for all that apply regarding our status from 2010. This is what it looked like:

Ugh. Slap in the face. Yes, I had a baby, but I can't claim him as a dependent for tax purposes. And yes, there was a death in the family, but how do I answer that without a Social Security Number? Without first explaining that the death occured before life outside the womb? Without explaining all of these complicated things. . . to my computer.

So I don't check either of those boxes and figured I would just end up taking our taxes in to get help filing them, but wanted to go through all the questions first to make sure I had all the right documents. I finish the federal portion and move on to the state taxes portion. Being military, we don't pay state taxes for either of the states we are residents of, but if we claim residency on the tax form, we'd owe money. Confusing. And then one of the very first questions asked in the Arizona Tax portion was if any of the following apply: "had a stillbirth in 2010."  It really caught me off guard. The next question was "Do you have the certificate of birth resulting in stillbirth issued from the state of Arizona?" well, this doesn't apply since Cale wasn't born in AZ, but AZ is my home of record. More confusion. Time to get help.

So I ended up taking our taxes to HR Block. The questions about stillbirth didn't come up as Miles and I were listed as non-residents of our states since the military is not taxed. And even though we are living in GA, where Cale was born, we aren't residents so don't file GA taxes. And the questions about babies (and death) didn't come up as I answered no to having any dependents at home.

It sucks. Taxes alone suck. But just having a reminder of what should have been, how we should be answering those questions, makes an already sucky situation, even suckier.

But I will make the best of the situation as we've continued to try to do for the last almost nine months. I think I'll do that by buying myself a present when our refund comes in. I think that's fair :)

March 21, 2011

Borrowed Time

When Miles came back home to escort Daren and attend his funeral services, we knew it wouldn't be for very long and he would soon return to Disneyland (as my friend Katie put it). We knew that our time together was essentially borrowed time. But depending on your views, religious or otherwise, our day-to-day lives are really just borrowed time.

It's bittersweet to have been together. We're thankful to have time with each other, but we both would rather that Miles never needed to come home. While he was home, the baby's movements really picked up and became more noticeable. Those moments have been so special to share and have helped get us anxious for his arrival. In fact, lately I'm becoming almost too anxious. I want to enjoy my pregnancy as much as possible, but if I could just fast forward, I would. It's wonderful and terrifying and sometimes just hard to handle. But, as we have certainly learned since last June, we'll get through it, one day at a time, and there's no telling when things can change, so even when it's hard you have to make the most of the borrowed time you have.

March 15, 2011

Happy Things

In the midst of all that has happened, it's nice to be able to enjoy moments of happiness. To just enjoy moments period. Sometimes it takes a continuous effort to enjoy even the smallest things, but we try to remind ourselves of all that we can be thankful for  . . .and enjoy them.

Today was one of those days that didn't take much effort. I had a doctor's appointment that went really well and we got to spend over thirty minutes getting wonderful glimpses of our little guy. Despite the nerves that accompany most of my appointments, it's impossible to see him on the screen, knowing that he's growing and developing just as he should, and not enjoy every second of it.

Here are a couple of pictures from the appointment.

Today's appointment helped remind me that there is always something to be happy about. Even as I type this, our sweet baby is kicking up a storm, tickling the right side of my belly. I love it. I love him and we can't wait to meet him.

March 10, 2011

New Normal

After we lost Cale we heard a lot about a "new normal" and how it will take time to find it. You will eventually go on with your life after a loss or tragedy, or any momentous event for that matter, not just the sad ones. In the process of finding your new normal you are in this weird limbo stage in life. Where life is moving forward around you, but you don't feel like you are moving with it. For me, it was hard to even want to "move on." I felt like moving on meant I was leaving something behind and I wasn't ready to do that. But what I realized is that moving on in life doesn't mean you are leaving anything behind. You find a way to live your life with all that has happened.

These last two weeks have been busy and very emotional, especially for Miles and his family. There were two beautiful funeral services for Daren, one in Wisconsin and one at West Point. There was also a short, but touching service for the burial at West Point this past Monday. Sadly, Daren is in good company. Located two spots down from him is a friend of mine and Miles - Nick Dewhirst. Nick was killed in Afghanistan in July 2008. We were able to visit Nick for a little bit before Daren's service began. There is comfort in knowing that Daren is with other heroes, other people who gave their lives in service to this country and that they are all in a place where they will always be remembered and honored, even long after we, their friends and family, are all gone from this earth.

In the time it takes for Miles' family to find their new normal, I can only hope that the wonderful outpouring of support they've received in the last two weeks continues in the weeks and months (and years) to follow. Losing Cale was {hopefully} the hardest thing I've had to go through and ever will (I can't imagine much worse), but I lost a son I never got to know. Daren was with his family for almost 25 years. If you Google his name, you can read endless articles about him and get just a small glimpse at what an impact he had on so many. I know, firsthand, that it will NEVER get old for people to tell Miles and his family how sorry they are for their loss, or how they think of their son, their brother, from time to time, how they are thinking of them, praying for them, etc. So if you are reading this and you know them, please don't ever stop reaching out. Be the support that they will need to find their new normal. And if you don't know his family, don't feel that you can't reach out. There are so many other ways to help bring even the smallest bit of comfort to a grieving family. It doesn't have to be Daren's family either. Unfortunately, since Daren died, there have been thirteen other US Soldiers who have been killed in Afghanistan during combat. Thirteen other families are grieving the loss of their son, their brother, cousin, uncle, brother-in-law, nephew, etc. People all over the country, all over the world, are struggling to find their new normal. And it's not just those who have lost someone who was killed in action, maybe it was a grand-parent, a teenager, a baby. Every day someone is struggling just to get through the day and it's ok to help them. Because tomorrow it could be you.

So, after my little ramble, I've included some information about a Memorial Fund that has been established in honor of Daren. He wanted to help set up scholarships for wrestler's at his high school as well as help wounded Soldiers. But I didn't write all that to try to guilt anyone into making a donation. I wrote it in the hopes that you share the sentiment with others (heck, feel free to share the blog), and hopefully people will never stop reaching out, never stop acknowledging Daren and the way he lived his life, and that random acts of kindness and small gestures of love will help bring peace to all those with heavy hearts.

Daren M. Hidalgo Memorial Fund
US Bank (#182374571624)
2040 West Silvernail Road
Pewaukee, WI 53072
*Donations can be mailed to the above or made at any US Bank - all you have to do is give them Daren's name.