By Victoria Austin
I joined the Londonderry, NH, MOMS Club after leaving my full-time job, when my second child, son Clyde, was born. Coming from a neighboring town that didn’t have an active mom’s group, I was welcomed to this chapter with open arms in the Fall of 2019. Attending weekly meetups, I started strong relationships with the moms in the group. After about 6 or 7 months had passed, I was approached by the President of the Club at the time to inquire if I would consider volunteering as President for the 2020-2021 term. I agreed, and coordinated successful, pandemic-friendly, weekly and monthly meetups. I received feedback such as, ’This was a great idea, we never did this before with the Club.’
With an unfortunate and unexpected turn in my life, my now 16 month old son passed unexpectedly in October, 2020. My neighbor started a Meal Train and many members of our local chapter signed up to bring food throughout the following months. They not only brought homemade food for me and my husband, who have dietary restrictions, but made sure the food was child friendly for my 3yr-old daughter, Abigail. They also included desserts and books/toys/crafts/distractions for my daughter, going above and beyond the Meal Train. Another member put together a ‘Friendship Book, From the MOMS Club Kids’, she coordinated drawings from other children in the Club and bounded together in a book for my daughter. The Club came together, whether we were close friends or not, they were there for me and my family to support us through the most horrible next few months of our lives.
Unfortunately, with the holidays and cold New England weather sinking in, the outdoor ‘Covid friendly’ meetups soon dissipated and there was a lacking of the social support that was so needed for both myself and my daughter. At the time of Clyde’s death, my sister started a GoFundMe page: In Honor of Clyde, for Abigail. We thought we could use the funds for specialized counseling for Abigail. What we didn’t realize was what Abigail really needed, social support. With staying home full time, paying for pre-school was not on the top of our budget list. Thankfully, I had the idea to draw on the GoFundMe funds to enroll Abigail in pre-school soon after the lonely holiday months. She currently attends two mornings a week and is already enrolled for this coming September at three mornings a week.
Through hours and days of searching for an in-person counselor, who would work with a three year old during the pandemic, nonetheless, I was able to find a qualified counselor who is meeting with Abigail in person twice a month. Many counselors have gone to telehealth, though, I did not see how a counselor could work successfully with a three year old via telehealth. I searched endlessly and was able to find in person counselors not only for Abigail, but for myself and my husband as well. Being able to go to a third party place, outside the home, to focus and talk about something that was so traumatic for all of us in our home, has been beneficial in many ways.
With Spring on the horizon, I am hopeful our chapter is able to draw members to attend outdoor meetups again. The social implications of the pandemic, on top of the grief we have endured over the past 5 months, have been difficult. However, I am glad to have met such a welcoming group who really stepped up for our family in a time of need.
I was still nursing Clyde at the time he passed. That was yet another struggle to overcome. https://milkbankne.org/2020/12/remembering-clyde-through-milk-donation/
Below is my original post on my personal FB page about what I have been feeling. Clyde’s cause of death is still pending, which is what I am referring to ‘we still don’t have answers’.
What I feel and see more is your non presence, where you should be present. I hope you know the day I went back to work after you were born, I knew it didn’t feel right and I needed to be home with you and your sister. A few weeks later, I did just that. You were breastfed and then fed all homemade baby food, mostly from farm fresh and local produce. We made the best of summer 2020 visiting farms, cherry, blueberry, peach, apple picking. You ate blueberries and peaches and apples straight from the source and you loved it. You would sit next to a bag of freshly picked peaches and take a bite from each peach and put it back in the bag. Your sister dances and sings around the house and you would be there to observe and learn. You took your first confident steps in-between me and Dad just a week prior to you leaving us. I took you on a tour of NH that same week, we went pumpkin picking and we visited the cow farm where we get your cow milk and saw where the milk comes from, your eyes were wide open at all the cows. You had your first taste of chocolate milk, from the source. The scenic fall foliage was vibrant and your sister kept saying how pretty it was, I hope you were thinking the same and taking in all the beautiful Fall New England colors. That night I put you down, I went back in your room an hour later to change you, because somehow I knew, you needed to be more comfortable that night. Five months has passed and we still don’t have answers but I’m searching for an answer everyday.
[Editor’s Note: Our hearts and love go out to Victoria and her family as they deal with their unexpected and tragic loss. We appreciate all the support the chapter was able to give them during the added difficulties of the pandemic, and thank Victoria for sharing her story and feelings. We hope her story will help other chapters, should one of their members be faced with a similar situation.]