That Big Green Tractor
Written By: Dawn Bennett
After I introduce myself and tell a little about myself and my family, I sit down and watch for the stares. I feel like I will always get them, no matter who is in the crowd. Friends or strangers, I always wonder just what people really think every time they hear me introduce myself. Really, it's pretty normal, except for the last sentence.
“I'm Dawn. I am married to Adam, and we have two little ones. Zoe is two and a half. Knox would be 16 months, but he died of SIDS in August 2009 at four months.”
As I watch for the impending stares, that never actually come, I still want to stand up, interrupt whoever is talking and scream with rage that my when my baby died, he didn't just leave. He was ripped from my arms, and sometimes I can't hold myself together long enough to talk about him.
At home, Zoe is getting curious about her brother and where he went. She loves to talk about him, and even though it's been eleven months, I still can't bear to answer her when she asks me things like:
“Where's my baby Knaw (Knox), Mommy? Can he come play [with] me?”
It quickly turns into her comforting me. It shouldn't be this way.
“No cry, Mommy. Knaw (Knox) in Heaven!” She is always chipper as can be about it, like there is nothing wrong with that, and it's been this way for so long that we should all be okay.
The compassion of a two year old is astonishing. Through the death of her baby brother, she has been unfortunate enough to learn how to comfort people.
To her, one year is a lifetime, but to me, it feels like it was just yesterday that his dad and I were sitting in Seattle Children's Hospital Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, waiting to be told if our baby had any chance to survive. They told me that I was lucky to have found him when I did, and I definitely made it possible for him to live this long. Obviously, it wasn't good enough. He still died.
Since birth, he was always perfect. When he was born on April 10th 2009, we were both enamored with emotion when our second child arrived into the world. We have always known we wanted four children, and his birth paved the road to our perfect future. When he was born, I noticed he had a special saddle-shaped spot, where his little button nose met his forehead. My lips always fit perfectly there for gentle kisses to his face. As he got older, when I would kiss the special spot, he would light up and grin with joy to have me so close to him.
On August 17th, his sister was taking her morning nap, while I baked bread. He was in his swing, watching me sing and dance around the kitchen like a goof, attempting to weasel as many adorable little grins as I could out of him. After putting the bread aside to rise, I remember scooping him up and dancing with him around the living room, while Jason Aldean's 'Big Green Tractor' played on the radio. After playing, we settled down, his sister got up from her morning nap, and it was time for his afternoon nap. About 1:00, I swaddled him up, gave him a kiss and told him to stop smiling at me, we had plenty of time for that later, he needed to sleep now. If I had known that we didn't have plenty of time for his smiles, I would have let him stay up with us, crabby baby or not.
Once he was airlifted to Seattle Children's Hospital, Knox's little body couldn't handle all of the trauma it had been through, and we were forced to either wait for his body to crash on its own, or let him go peacefully. Thirteen hours after my world started crashing, I realized that he had come back and hung on, all so his Daddy could see and talk with him one last time. Adam was at work when he got the frantic call from me, telling him Knox wasn't breathing, before the police officer gently took the phone and filled him in while I bawled on the floor as I watched EMT's frantically try to save my baby.
The next few days were a blur. I vaguely remember making a few calls to friends to tell them what happened. We had amazing family and friends who played liaison between us and the rest of the world. With much love and encouragement, Adam and I were able to plan a remembrance service and celebration of life for our little boy and bring his cremated body home.
The next few weeks were worse. Life settled down for almost everyone around us, except for our close family and friends. We were invited to a barbeque by some friends who meant well, and I was shocked and angry that they could even have a barbeque when this had just happened to us. I was blinded by how much anger I had. In my rage, I threw away all of Knox's belongings; from his clothes and bottles, to his bassinet and bathtub—even the crib he'd never slept in. I was very lucky that one of my amazing friends had asked me to give her any outfits of his which brought me special memories. She took those from me, to keep me from throwing them out, as well.
About three weeks after Knox died, I was trying to get on with my life. Adam needed to get back to work, and Zoe needed some stability. I was still a stay-at-home mom, even if I didn't care anymore. We went to a playgroup where I had lots of friends and support, and Zoe had lots of other children to play with. I left that playgroup early, drove home in hysterics, with the Big, Green Tractor song on repeat. I have always heard that life isn't fair. It has never been my place to judge or tell other people how to parent their children; in my grief, I've become much more aware of how people treat their children, especially since I can't have all of mine with me ever again. My judgment and criticism of other people was making me bitter and angry toward the world.
It's been just about a year now, and my anger has gradually turned into sporadic bursts of being upset and mad. It almost always ends with tears. I have no person to be angry at. I have nowhere to go to just feel better. There is nothing I can do to make myself forget. I look at other people in my house and see his face in each person. I even see him in the mirror some days. The friend who took his clothes from me made me a beautiful quilt I can look at and hold when I miss him so much that it hurts to breathe. It still smells like him. I can't wait until I get to snuggle up with my baby boy again. I want him to tell me how proud he is of me for being strong enough to tell other families who were hurting so much about him, and that I didn't worry about the stares when I told people who never knew a loss so devastating all about my blue-eyed, chubby-cheeked little boy, and the saddle-shaped spot just above his nose, where my lips always fit so perfectly.
Dawn Bennett is a young wife and mother of two children. Her daughter Zoe is 2 ½. She lost her son Knox, in August 2009 due to SIDS. She loves writing and paper crafting. Through the tragedy of losing a child, she is dedicated to helping other families who have been affected by SIDS.
You can contact her through her blog, www.dawnsaddiction.blogspot.com.