To so many tired mothers, these are funny. I sort of get it. I remember those sleepless nights and foggy days. But seriously, that was nothing. I would gladly take all the fatigue in the world to have my baby in my arms right now. And what do these memes imply to the grieving parent? That somehow we are inferior because we were not able to keep our child alive?
Monday January 8, 2018 is an odd sort of coincidental date of triggering thoughts and feelings. First, it is a Monday, marking 35 weeks since Corva was delivered. Second, this 8th of January marks 8 months since the birth of my youngest daughter.
Although Corva was born on her due date, technically she was inside me for 38 weeks. This means that in three weeks, on Monday January 29 (or, likely, Saturday January 27th), Corva will have been dead for as long as she was alive
This weekend was particularly difficult for me. With the days lining up precisely as they did in May 2017, I was reminded on Friday January 5th that Friday May 5th was my last day of work. And on Saturday January 6th I remembered that on Saturday May 6th I insisted that my husband go to urgent care after days of illness and severe abdominal pain. On Sunday January 7th I remembered that on Sunday May 7th I picked my husband up from the hospital after his night spent in observation, conscious of the fact that the very next day was my due date, oblivious to the fact that my daughter had likely already passed away. Last night I recalled that 8 months ago, I fell asleep cuddling with my then-3-year old only to awaken in the night with labor pains. I wasn’t concerned only excited. Was she moving? I don’t recall, though now I can say, likely not; testing indicates Corva likely passed a couple days prior to birth.
This is how I mark time now. By Mondays and 8ths. And I wonder if it will always be this way.
Woke up and wished that I was dead
With an aching in my head
I lay motionless in bed
I thought of you and where you’d gone
And let the world spin madly on.
The sun rose at 4:18 am on Monday May 8, 2017. I awoke several hours later, though I’m not certain of the exact time. I was in labor, excited to meet my baby girl, oblivious to the fact that her heart had already stopped. And although Corva was born at 3:24 PM it was the darkest moment of my life. Ever. On that spring day, in the drizzly mid-afternoon, I was submerged into my own winter solstice. The sun set three hours and seventeen minutes after delivery, the world’s darkness emulating my own.
Sun standing still. The winter solstice occurs today, December 21 at 11:27 AM. It is the shortest day of the year where I live, which makes it the darkest–only 8 hours and 47 minutes of daylight. This morning the sun rose at 7:09 AM and tonight it will set at 3:57 PM. But tomorrow the daylight extends by six seconds. And the next day by eleven seconds. And the next day by sixteen seconds. Bit by bit, the days lengthen, the sun burns later into the evening hours.
I have been living in darkness for 32 weeks now. In the very beginning, those darkest of days, I couldn’t even imagine light. I couldn’t fathom how I would survive such pain. But, gradually, light re-enters my life. It isn’t very much light– a candle as opposed to floodlights–and yet I am beginning to feel a little bit of hope. Some days.
And in 20 weeks, on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 there will be 14 hours and 35 minutes of daylight, reaching toward the summer solstice.
I still believe in summer days.
The seasons always change
And life will find a way.
Tonight, at the dinner table, my husband, told me that Holly had her baby (2nd boy). I couldn’t even respond. I didn’t ask what his name is or how much he weighs. I didn’t ask anything. And it’s not because I wish her baby would die. It’s not that. It’s that I am so incredibly sad that my baby is missing from me.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, we took Astoria to Magic Kingdom. In the middle of Adventureland, a woman was screaming her child’s name, stretching her neck in an unnatural way, her eyes were frantic, her voice was panicky. I almost started crying.
One day I was attempting to explain the story–Christmas version–of Jesus to Astoria Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past the name Jesus as she kept chanting “Jesus Beezus, Beezus, Jesus.” (We’ve been reading quite a bit of Ramona lately).
At gymnastics practice, a girl slammed her fingers in the door leading from the parent observation room into the gym. The scream silenced the buzz of the observation room. I had a difficult time holding my tears back.
Astoria is recovering from pink eye. Last night I went to the pharmacy to pick up her prescription. The pharmacist asked if she was the only child in the house. Yes. Then he went on to explain that when there are babies in the home, infected with pink eye from school-aged siblings, that’s the bigger concern. Well, at least Corva can’t get pinkeye, I thought to myself wryly.
A few weeks ago, my husband had beers with Holly’s husband. The next morning he remarked “Holly says she misses you.”
And I thought: me too. I miss me too.
In the weeks leading up to the winter holiday season, I saw social media posts and blog posts on “surviving grief during the holidays.” Other “loss moms” hosted “live chats”. But I had no idea how the holidays would hit me. After all, I have minimal memories with Corva. Perhaps that is what makes baby-loss such a different type of loss. One year ago, I was 18 weeks pregnant. I didn’t yet know if we would have a baby boy or another girl (although Astoria desperately wanted a sister and vowed that a brother would go to the dungeon!) While pregnant, I shopped, wrapped, and assembled an ice castle! I dreamt of what the holiday season would be for our family one year later. I certainly never imagined that I would be grieving the death of my precious baby.
Honestly, I was rooting for skipping Christmas this year. It’s just too painful to think about what “should have been”. But Astoria is at such an age where Christmas is so magical and she is so excited. I don’t believe I have ever put my tree up this early in the season.
Christmas looks a bit different for me this year. I spent a good amount of time attempting to create a holiday photo card on Shutterfly the other day. But feeling neither merry nor happy, I couldn’t come up with a good phrase for the card. I was going to say something about peace, but I’m not feeling very peaceful either. So then I just said, fuck it.
But we have a tree. And plans to bake cookies for Santa. My daughter wears a Santa hat and skips around the house singing “Jingle Bells.” So this is Christmas 2017.
How have holidays changed for you in your post-grief life?
*WARNING: POTENTIALLY OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE
I’ve never been much for swearing but I’ve noticed that since Corva died, I’ve been much more willing to let a fuck fly from my mouth. Usually under my breath and never in front of my living daughter, but still….
I wonder if this stems from anger? Grief? Or just the realization that after one delivers a dead baby, bad language is futile.
How the fuck did this happen?
What the fuck? My baby died.
Why the fuck?
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
I know I am living–surviving really–your worst nightmare. You know, the one when your baby dies; when the doctor looks you in the eye and confirms what your gut is already screaming “there is no heartbeat.” That’s what they say, typically, because saying “your baby is dead” sounds callous, though it is the truth.
But your baby didn’t die. You’re not living the nightmare called child loss. Your baby is snuggled on your chest, bum in the air, drowsy from nursing. Your baby is waking you, like clock-work, at 2:00 am every 24 hours. Your baby is dozing in your wrap while you read a book with your older child.
I couldn’t go to your baby shower. I couldn’t watch you unwrap gifts in your pregnancy glory, listen to the guests ooh and aah over all the tiny clothes. Once you had him, I couldn’t hold him. I don’t want to hold your baby–the last baby I held was my own, the one who never opened her eyes, whose tiny hand never clutched my finger. I cannot listen to you complain about sleepless nights or sore nipples, or returning to work after maternity leave. What I wouldn’t give to have those problems. Instead, I’m on Day 180 of crying.
So even though you’ve done nothing, you’ve done everything. You did what I could not do. You had a baby and you were able to bring your baby home, alive. And that is why our friendship will never be the same again. I did not want to change. I did not choose for my baby to die.
This is just me, surviving.