Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Remembering Pillow

for Remembering Eleni

I started this project just weeks after Eleni died, after unpacking her dresser and sorting through her clothes.  Soon I had a pile of pieces too stained to keep, but too precious to throw away.  They are ones that remind me of particular times.  They are each a memory.

Remembering Pillow

The baby knits don't fray, so they're perfect for applique, even reverse applique.  I cut two identical sets of rectangles from her clothes, to become memory pillows for myself and for my mother.  Brandon was by my side during the most traumatic moments, but my mother shared many of the happy ones.  She ventured with me on therapy trips, in hospitalizations and spent many days at my home, caring for baby.  These memories are her memories too.  Survivors must share stories.

Remembering Pillow

At first I thought the words would say "peace" and "love" on my pillow and "joy" and "hope" on my mother's.  I was trying to untangle emotions swirling after her death.  But, as time passed, I wanted the words to tie more directly to Eleni.  I tried to think of words that described her, but I truly barely knew her.  It is a very bad thing not to know your child.  It is better, slightly better, if someone else knows her.  It is the worse thing if no one could know her because she could not be herself.

Remembering Pillow

So, there are not many words to describe Eleni, but I chose "sweet baby" and my mother chose "baby love."  Words that fit on a pillow.  Our best words, but just words.

I thought when I shared this finished pillow I would talk about how I haven't much needed a pillow for remembering.  Not yet.  Being pregnant is an evolving reminder.  There is more to say here.  But then I realized that though each fabric tells a small story (and they are rather small, perhaps dull), I may not be able to recount these tales 4, 5, 6 years from now.  So, perhaps I ought to record them.

Remembering Pillow

From top left...

*Gray Floral and the matching Plum Floral ("e") - a set of onesies I bought early autumn (7 months).  Shopping for Eleni had many rules:  zippers and crotch snap closures would interfere with access to her belly for frequent feedings.  Cute hoods or other fanciful designs aren't comfortable to lay upon.  Mostly, she sleeps.  When I came home from shopping, I bitterly chopped off the onesie snaps to transform the bodysuits into shirts.  The waffle weave caused the fabrics to shrink, to bounce up higher and shorter than optimal.  New and practically ruined. 

*Pink Apples - a top my mother gave to Eleni that looked so cute with her green diapers.  Something I reached for often during an exciting time (5 months) when she appeared to be making volitional movements and learning to roll over.

*Rose Asterisks + the solid Rose below ("e") - a lovely kimono sleep set by Tea, which my mom scored at a second hand shop.   Perfect for my lounge baby, comfortable and warm in winter (10 months).  Eleni wore this set so often, including when we journeyed to Charleston for our last lengthy hospitalization.  Mom and I took her in early January, desperate to find professionals who could speak authoritatively about her complex medical condition.  And they did.  They told me how serious was her struggle, offered a few last-ditch interventions and, with us, hoped for best.

*Blue diamonds + solid Yellow (bottom left corner) - a very stylish ensemble gifted to me by a dear old friend.  The last gift Eleni received before she was born.  The last time I floated in eager expectation of a healthy, happy little girl.  A relic of innocence.

*Tiny Blue/Purple Floral - A pretty little onesie-turned-shirt which had a sweet ribbon bow at the neck.  Perfect with her blue or purple diapers (6 months).  I remember her wearing this when Rachel, her speech therapist, would come to our home.  Baby please swallow, baby please move your tongue, move your jaw, can you look at me, baby?  The time she touched diluted lemon juice to Eleni's tongue, and she actually puckered her mouth!

*Blue Denim ("s") - Jeggings.  My baby wore jeggings.  It was a mark of the time.  They fit her when she was just months old.  They fit her when she was 10 months old.  They stretched.  She grew.  They always seemed comfortable.  All admired her style.

*Green Polka Dot ("w") - The day I came to visit her, for the very last time, at the hospital.  After the night we called 911 because she wasn't breathing.  After the night I told my father-in-law, "Do you realize she could stop breathing at any time?"  After the night the bipap machine gave us new hope for future stability.  The hospital couldn't do a thing for us and they knew it.  I took her home, discharge straight from the PICU.  I slipped her green polka dot shirt over her slender arms, careful not to squeeze the IV bruise on her tiny hand.  It was the first time, the last time she wore that shirt.  I took her home.

*Navy/White Stripe ("t") - Slightly sparkly pants I bought before she was born, as a fancy little set.  An indulgence in smug expectation of happy holidays to come.  Those pre-birth purchases so irked and angered me after her trauma.  But, by the time the holidays arrived (9 months) I had finally adopted a version of acceptance.  Yes, she is a pretty baby.  And, yes, I enjoy dressing her.

*Gray Pleated Stripe + Cream Floral Pleated/Lace (bottom line) - a onesie set that retained its bodysuit persona, saved for ABM therapy lessons in Chicago that fall (6-7 months).  As Eleni bends and moves in the therapist's talented hands, I'll let nothing get in the way.  No shirts shall ride up.  No socks obscure her baby toes.  She has been fed.  She has slept.  I deliver her optimally prepared for a miracle.  And I'm watching on the edge of my seat.

*Magenta Hearts ("b") - A silly little onesie she wore to ABM in Florida.  We didn't know, she or I, that those were our very best days (5 months).  With seeming strength and eagerness, she flipped and flung her body about "rolling".  She practiced being a "good lizzard", lifting her head when lying on her belly.  The boat rocking game.  These moments of clear volition, when I was helping her do what she wanted, were the beginnings of our connection.

Remembering Pillow

*Solid Aqua Picot ("a") + Solid Coral Picot ("Y") - pretty colored shirts for my pretty baby (9 months).  I know how to shop, how to chop off the snaps and make due.  And, finally, first food stains!  From her fish oil supplement.

*Lavender Polka Dot ("b") - She's just come home from the NICU.  She's our baby, home, for the first time.  I dress her in onesies (snapped close) and baby leg warmers during the day.  She looks like a sweet ballerina baby in soft lavender dots.  She sleeps like all babies should at her age, no wires or monitors yet.  The future is possibility.

*Teal Stripe - Pants in a three piece sweater set I bought second hand before she was born, meant to be worn her first autumn.  I hardly ever put that on her as it mostly never fit right.  Like all baby clothes purchased so far in advance and like all plans inscribed in our hearts, some never work out. 

*Pale Pink Doggies - Another pre-birth purchase, but this one fit right into our lives.  I remember hemming and hawing over the sleeper at the store - a dog print?  Am I sure?  This wee sleeper fit her soon after she came home from NICU (1 month) and never gave me bad vibes, unlike so much of the rest.  Perhaps the dogs, all so different, reflect my new reality.  Our story is not like the others.  Our task will be to find a way to allow it as our own.

*Pink/Blue NICU Stripe - Do other moms save a NICU hat?  I suspect most do.  The other NICU moms tell me of their trying time in the past tense, singular: their trial, the time their child was threatened, how she came out all right.  From the first I don't trust these stories.  I have a canny sense, despite all hopeful research and the treasuring of stories to the contrary, that our trial is only beginning.  That our threat remains.  I witness the ramifications multiply, and know deep in my heart that there is no guarantee all will right.

*****************************

I'll see my mom later this week and be happy to give her the "baby love" pillow.  We need these memory markers to salve our soul as we anticipate the new baby.  We need these things to prove to ourselves that Eleni is forever in our hearts, though not in our arms.  Not to remember, not yet, but to declare our memories still.


53 comments:

  1. How beautifully written, what insight into snippets of Eleni's life. I can see why she chose you to be her mom- your love for her shines through all you did and is here in your words.

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  2. Beautiful little memory pillows Rachel. I'm so glad you've written down the stories with each piece of clothing. So many memories in each piece containing all the emotions. Much love to you xx

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  3. So beautifully done! I love the reverse applique letters.

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  4. What a beautiful, but painful tribute. I have followed your path and even in a very small way tried to help you with donations for Eleni's care. You are wonderful at telling the story of her life. You say you didn't know her, but I think you knew the most important things. In spite of all the things you couldn't understand, you tried, you took action whenever you could. She came to you because you would do those things. You remember her in happiness, in sadness, in hope and despair, but you remember her. The strength you have shown is inspirational. Thanks for being you.

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  5. How beautifully you shared these sweet and painful at the same time memories. Sitting here in tears recalling my own losses over the years. Lovely tribute to your daughter who unfortunately was not here long enough to reveal who she was. Thank you for sharing this project

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  6. Oh my goodness. This was just so special to read. I hope you found a way to print this out in some lovely form to give to your Mother when you give her the baby love pillow. Much love and many blessings to you as you weave your way through the next few months of your maternity travels. xoxo

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  7. Nobody knew your baby better than you. I keep you and your family in my prayers.

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  8. You have the biggest, truest heart, Rachel. I just found your blog recently, and I enjoy it so much--even though I often read through tears. You are so creative, and it amazes me how much you accomplish with all you have on your plate.

    Thank you for sharing so candidly.
    Blessings,
    Jan

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  9. Everything you do is done with so much love and care. I think it is wise to record these feelings and memories now. They do fade with time and that is as it should be but your pain will fade, too, and then you will find comfort in these details again.

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  10. Thank you so much for sharing your memories. I suspect it was helpful to you to sound them out, but mostly it helps those of us who need to know about Eleni and about your lives before, during, and after Eleni, so we can maybe be helpful to you and surely to someone else in our lives who will go through a similar trial. God bless you!

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  11. What a wonderful and amazing way to create a memory! I know she will live forever in your hearts as everyone lives forever who has been loved.
    Greetings from Germany, Rike

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  12. You tell your story with beauty, honesty and power.

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  13. It's gorgeous. So very sweet, just like Eleni.

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  14. This is incredible that you made these. I just love how you made them, so perfect for hugging, and putting your face into. This was brilliant that you recorded all of these treasured pieces. (Wow, I imagine how lovely it would be for any family that experienced such life and tragedy like all of you did, to make a pillow like this and help them place stories with the pieces)
    I miss Eleni, I know you do too. She is safe now, healed and growing.
    I am really happy all of you have another baby to love coming soon. I am so happy you made your momma a pillow too. She was a brave gramma.

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  15. You have managed to find beauty in all the pain. What a thoughtful and very creative way to honor and remember her.

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  16. It's important to do what you need to do to remember and to grieve. All grieving is a personal journey but the pillows and written reminders are all part of your process. We just 'lost' our 19 month grandson to a cross country move with his drug addicted mother. We were his primary caregivers from the time of his birth and we are devastated. I've started a quilt and this is part of my process. We may never see him again, but he will always be remembered by us and we did all we could for him while he was with us. Life may not be fair, but the intermittent joy makes it worthwhile.

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    2. Rewriting my reply due to some silly auto corrections. What I wanted to say is that I am so sorry to read about the loss of your grandson. What a painful time this must be. I hope he is ok and that, at some point, you will be with him again. Take care.

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  17. Both your remembering pillows and your words are lovely! Thank you for sharing.

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  18. We have friends who lost their first child at just a few months old. He would be an adult now, but he is ever remembered, even by his younger siblings who didn't know him. We forget small details from long ago even about those who are still with us, but I think we never forget those who touch our heart. May it be so for you.

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  19. Your writing pries open my heart too. Sending you love.

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  20. Your words are precious and so elegantly written. Eleni blessed you as well as you were blessed with her. The pillows are a sweet reminder of that. Hugs to you!

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  21. Precious memories, unseen angels
    Sent from somewhere to my soul
    How they linger ever near me
    And the sacred past unfold

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  22. Rachel, the pillows are lovely. I love reading your beautifully written posts. Thank you for sharing your process with us as you grieve the tremendous loss of Eleni.

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  23. Beautiful. Beautiful baby. Beautiful pillows. Beautifully written. ❤️

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  24. Just darling, Rachel! Too perfect for words. You are clever and thoughtful, loving and kind.

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  25. Such a beautiful post Rachel! So much thought went into buying Eleni’s clothes, into choosing the pieces for the Remembering Pillow, into describing your memories. I love that you made Eleni’s grandmother a pillow too and I’m sure that the two of you knew Eleni and she loved you both in a very special way.

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  26. What a fantastic keepsake of your beautiful baby. Thank you for sharing your story, I'm so sorry for your loss.

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  27. How very perfect, and beautifully shared. I have a few articles of clothing of my daughter's left, that I need to do something with. This gives me the courage to cut into them. Hugs and prayers, sweet Rachel. Prayers for a continued healthy pregnancy & childbirth.

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  28. The pillows are beautiful, Rachel, and the memories are so precious. I'm glad you recorded them so that you will remember the significance of each fabric in years to come, and that you shared them here with us. Eleni was precious and loved around the world. Thank you for sharing her and your heart with us.

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  29. I applaud you for being able to share such intimate stories. My daughter spent 3 months in the NICU bouncing back and forth from the specialty hospital to one closer to our home. She is 24 years old now and has a permanent, severe disability but is cognitively okay. I never had anyone like your mother to share the burden of bad times or good. I rarely speak to anyone about the old struggles or our current challenges. So, it seems like you're in a much better place emotionally. I'll pray for your continued healing of such a deep loss.

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    1. Sherry, it is because of my mother and other friends who have allowed me to talk out all these things that I am in a better place. For me, communication is key to sanity. I wish that for you! If you can't talk to your local friends, have you looked at only chat groups? There is a Facebook group Hope for HIE that is very active and supportive, in case your daughter's injury was due to oxygen deprivation, like Eleni's.

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  30. many hugs for you. my heart goes out to you. so beautifully written & sewn...

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  31. Just sending a hug. Elena and your entire family were in our prayers while she was here with you, and we continue to pray for you and the baby girl inside you now. Thank you for sharing your memories with us.

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  32. Missing words to describe what I feel.
    I like the pillows a lot.

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  33. beautiful baby
    beautiful memories
    beautiful keepsake

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  34. Beautifully written and you were so right to record the memories now while they are still fresh. You made beautiful keepsakes for yourself and your mother. Well done.

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  35. Beautiful. My thoughts are with you and your family.

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  36. Thank you for sharing Eleni's story with us, while she was with you. I never met her, but I will never forget her. These pillows are such a pretty postscript and a beautiful memorial of her time here.

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  37. My heart aches for you, Rachel, but thank you so much for sharing Eleni with us. You speak of her so beautifully and allow us to love her with you. Your pillows are a wonderful tribute and reminder of her beautiful life...

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  38. Rachel, these are exquisite and so very touching! Thank you for sharing these bittersweet creations from the heart.🍎

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  39. Beautiful pillows. Beautiful words. Beautiful child remembered..

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  40. Although I've read and cried along with your posts, I've never commented on the posts about Eleni because I'm not a mother, and I didn't feel like I could ever totally understand the magnitude of what you were and are going through, so I didn't feel like I should say anything. And I'm not even sure why I'm commenting now, but thank you for sharing your story, and the memories, even though I'd guess it was not easy. Even though I'm not a mother, your honesty and openness about what you've been going through has given me some insight and more understanding and empathy for other women who find themselves in a similar situation.

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    1. Thanks for speaking up, Anne. I'm grateful every time I hear how Eleni's life impacted others positively.

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  41. I love that you made a pillow out of Eleni's clothes to have a memory and I love even more that you made one for your mum, too.

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  42. Oh this one brings a lump to my throat Rachel. I'm going to come back and read this thoroughly when I have time to myself. Such a wonderful expression of love and you'll definitely thank yourself in year to come for recording all those memories xxxxxx

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  43. Beautiful pillows for you and your Mum. To give your memories a place, in your head, on paper or here on these pillows is a good thing for now and for later.
    I probably told you before but I admire you for how you write about Eleni.
    Groetjes
    Annemieke

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  44. Beautiful pillows for you and your Mum. To give your memories a place, in your head, on paper or here on these pillows is a good thing for now and for later.
    I probably told you before but I admire you for how you write about Eleni.
    Groetjes
    Annemieke

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