Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Diaper Bag

If you read here regularly, you know that I have struggled with what, if anything to do with Hudson’s diaper bag, which holds all the clothes she was wearing on May 10, the day she was admitted to the hospital and diagnosed with the infection that would take her life. Her maroon fleece sweatshirt with flowers embroidered on it, navy pants with whales on them, a light turquoise polo-style shirt with puffed sleeves, a pair of socks, and her little pink Nike tennis shoes, a Christmas gift from her Grandma that she wore every day. Plus diapers, wipes, and the other usual things one finds in a diaper bag. And the discharge report from the pediatrician from the morning of May 10, ordering us to return the next day to check in. An appointment we would not make it to, for by that time, Hudson was in a coma from which she would never wake.

Again and again, I tried to somehow deal with the diaper bag, which sat under Hudson’s memorial table in her playroom for nearly a year. I tried to deal with it when I rearranged that room to accommodate my new sewing habit. And again when I washed all of Jackson’s clothes and all the other baby gear we would be reusing for him. And again when I finally organized the nursery the day before I went into labor with Jackson. But again and again, I couldn’t bring myself to empty it.

So when Jackson was born, I still had not done anything with the diaper bag. And I also couldn’t bring myself to buy a new one, because it just seemed so wasteful. So for those first few days, when we went to the pediatrician, we took some diapers and wipes in a ratty old tote bag from our rather large collection. The next week, we were preparing for our first trip to North Carolina. I realized in the days leading up to the trip that we really needed the diaper bag and I kept promising myself that I would empty it so we could use it. By the night before we were supposed to leave, I still hadn’t done anything with it. Ed offered to help, saying we could do it together, and I said that would be fine, but still, it didn’t get done. I told him we’d have to deal with it in the morning before we left. The next morning, as I got out of the shower, he came into the bathroom and asked me what I wanted to do with something that was in the bag—I can’t even remember what. I told him I was surprised he had started taking it apart without me. He said that he had put the pediatrician’s report in the recycle bin—I didn’t want that, did I? I said, “I don’t know” and before I knew it, I just burst into tears. He felt awful and so did I. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t bring myself to empty the damn thing. He said we didn’t have to, and so we didn’t. I did, however, finally move it out of the playroom and into the closet in the nursery. I don’t know if that was really any kind of progress, though.

So on the way out of town, we stopped at Buy Buy Baby and bought another one. I tried to find one that I liked that was different from the one we already had, but ended up buying an identical bag—it had all the features I liked and was simple. There was a reason I had bought it in the first place. And I liked it just as much this time as I had before.

Last Wednesday, I picked Ed up from work because he had several large things he needed to bring home that would have been unmanageable on the train. I took Jackson upstairs to say hello to a few of Ed’s colleagues who had not yet met him. I took the diaper bag with me in the stroller basket, knowing I might need it while I was up there. Somehow, it didn’t make it back home with us. We have no idea where it got left behind, but it is lost. There was nothing of real value in it except the nursing cover that I used when Hudson was little, but that has only sentimental value, as I have abandoned those things altogether this go round.

So we were left yet again with no diaper bag. Again, I threw some diapers and wipes and a burp cloth into a tote bag in a pinch yesterday when I had to go out. I’d been trying to decide if losing the brand new replacement diaper bag somehow meant that we were just supposed to use Hudson’s.

Ed’s folks are in town this weekend and this morning we were getting ready to head out for the day. I was changing Jackson’s diaper in the nursery and Ed came in and asked where the makeshift diaper bag was so that he could refill it. I sighed and said, “I’ll just go ahead and empty Hudson’s and we can use that.” I walked over to the closet and bent down to pick it up, and honestly, it was almost like how people say their lives flashed before their eyes. I touched the bag and felt almost electrified—in an instant, I mentally catalogued its contents and flipped through a series of sad images conjured by them. And then dissolved into tears again. I dropped it and said, “This is crazy! It is a totally visceral reaction!”  Needless to say, we left it there and took the makeshift bag with us today. 

I theorized before that maybe keeping the diaper bag like it is somehow preserves a moment in time for me, a moment before all hell broke loose and our lives changed forever, a moment when Hudson was here. Or maybe it’s just another form of denial—as long as I don’t empty that bag, there’s still some crazy possibility that Hudson can come back and we can use it again for her. Or maybe it’s just a PTSD-like reaction.

I don’t know what it is, but I don’t guess it matters, either. I don’t think I’m ever going to empty it. So it’s time to buy another one. Again.


  1. It just isn't time to get rid of it. You will know when and if you need to let it go.

  2. I imagine Hudson would be proud to have her baby brother use anything that had belonged to her. I am sure she would want to share. I think she would be very proud, like big sisters always are, when they know they have helped care for the new baby. I think Jackson could only benefit from any thing tangible that he could share with his sister. I am sorry this is so hard.

  3. I say this in love: Don't force it, Mandy. You will know if/when it is the "right" time
    to clean it out. Give yourself time and don't beat yourself up about it.
    In addition to the loss of your beautiful girl you have undergone enormous changes lately. Be kind and gentle on yourself. Sending hugs.


  4. I think Britney is very wise. There is no need to push this. There's no 'should' about it, so just trust yourself to know when and if you're ready to do something with that bag. Or it can just stay how it is, you know? There are no rules for this hard balance you're seeking.
    Much love.

  5. If it costs you so much agony and pain then let it be. Go and buy another one, Mandy. You need a diaper bag but I don't think you have to use Hudson's. Certain thinks cannot be explained or analyzed, they just are.

    Perhaps there comes a time when you feel it is right to empty it, perhaps it will always stay in that closet the way it is now.

    There is no need to force something that you are clearly not ready to do. Go, buy a diaper bag :)

    Jana F./Singapore

  6. Mandy, you will empty it, if and when you are ready. Letting go of stuff is a surprisingly long, hard process. In this as with all aspects of grieving (and mothering) do what feels right. I'm sorry, though, that it is so hard.

  7. Jana is right in saying that some things can't be analyzed or explained...they just ARE...and as such, we just need to let them be and cease wondering why. I have a box of cards from Matt's memorial service sitting on my dining room has been sitting there for one year, ever since I started sending out the cards and his picture to people who had not been able to attend the service. Why do I seem to NOT be able to pick it up and put it away? It's not that big a box---why on earth has it not long ago been moved into a closet? I have no idea...for some reason I walk past it every single day, often thinking to myself "I need to take that box upstairs," and yet---nothing. So I'm not going to try to figure it out...I'm just going to let it sit there, until the day comes that I can move it and have that be OK. It makes no sense...but then, nothing about ANY of this makes any sense.


  8. Every time I read about this bag I tend to have the same reaction.. buy another one and leave this one as it it. I don't know why.. I can't explain it, but still there it is.
    I am thinking of you my friend....

  9. Have to agree with everyone else -- don't force yourself to do anything you don't want to do. Leave the bag as it is. Purchase another one. You will do whatever you want to do with Hudson's bag if and when you decide to do something with it. Love -

  10. Mandy, I can so relate to this post. I still have things of Savannah's that I can't bring myself to open, touch, look at or deal with..after years. They are simply suspended in time...and thats ok!

    Your diaper bag isn't just a diaper's pain associated with losing Husdon, it has bits of Hudson attached to it and emotions and flash backs to what you endured. I wouldn't have been brave enough to open it either.

    On the journey of grief, there are no rule, just whatever feels right and keeps your head above water.

    Sending love to you and a kiss to your precious Jackson.
    Diana x

  11. I will echo the others. You're not up against some sort of timer or race that requires you to empty the diaper bag. Just let it be and treat yourself to a new bag.


  12. It has been two years since my son died. His diaper bag is exactly the same as it was as we took him to the PICU. It even has containers of very expired sweet potatoes. We have since had another child...and a new diaper bag:) It is so hard to decide what to reuse with a rainbow baby. And whatever choice you make will be the right one:)

  13. Mandy, I have a pair of excellent $150 shoes that I bought when I was pregnant with Hector, that were hands down the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned, particularly during pregnancy when my feet hurt all the time. I never spend that much money on shoes. But I have not worn them since I lost Hector, and I finally just gave them away. It was wasteful and irrational to do that, probably, but I could not wear those shoes. I wore them to the hospital and dragged them from room to room in a bag -- from triage to high-risk maternity to the delivery room back to maternity and to the ICU and back -- and I wore them home, but then I took them off and that was that.

    I did not have the same connection to those shoes that you have to Hudson's bag -- I did not have any happy memories, I just hate the sight of them -- but everybody is right, there are no shoulds here. I needed to not wear those shoes, and maybe you need to keep Hudson's bag the way it is.

    Much love to you.

  14. Sending you hugs. Everyone else has said what I feel, only much more eloquently than I would have.

  15. Mandy, it sounds like reusing Hudson's diaper bag just isn't right for you at this time (if ever). If that means buying 10 more diapers bags, so be it. There is nothing wrong with never ever emptying out Hudson's diaper bag. You have done the hard work of integrating Jackson into your lives and Hudson's room, and I see no reason why you can't keep one thing that belonged to her unchanged and preserved.

  16. I'm so sorry Mandy :( I agree with everyone who has posted - leave Hudson's diaper bag as it is and get another one for Jackson. You may never be ready to empty Hudson's bag, and if that's the case, so be it. I cannot even fathom how hard it was for you to even attempt to empty it...I wish you didn't have to go through this. Love you.

  17. Every time you've mentioned the diaper bag, I've thought, "Why?" Why does it need to be emptied? Why do you need to go though that? Why can't your little time capsule go on existing? Why shouldn't it be perfectly fine to save that diaper bag --as is--as a reminder of Hudson?

    Be gentle on yourself, Mandy. :)