Thursday, May 26, 2011

Right Where I Am: One Year, Four Months and 17 Days

This post is part of an amazing project started by Angie for the babyloss community. Check out her post to see what it's all about, and follow us on the path.


January of 2010 was the beginning of my new life. When we found out Calla had died, I stopped understanding language for a short while; when they told me I'd have to deliver a dead baby, I couldn't make those words work in a sentence together. When C told me it was really real, I knew it was true, because he would never lie to me, but, again, it didn't compute.

After she died I never thought I'd smile, or be happy, or be a whole person ever again. I remember coming home and posting something on FB, only because everyone there knew I was pregnant, and I couldn't bear anyone asking about the baby. I remember crying myself to sleep, crying myself awake in the morning, crying in the shower, the bathroom, the car, while doing laundry . . . I just knew I'd never smile or be happy again. How could I?

I was totally wrecked in so many ways. I'd pushed my dead daughter out of my body--how could I ever forgive my physical self for that? I remember saying some crazy things in the hospital, things about all that work, getting fat, being in pain, for nothing. Looking back I almost feel ashamed. But in those moments, it was my truth. I felt cheated and stung and I didn't know how to process what was happening.

C said it perfectly, that no one should know what it feels like to hold their dead child.

In fact, I don't really remember wanting to be happy at all. I couldn't eat, I could barely sleep, I hated myself, my brain and my body. I drank. A lot. I bought tons of clothes I didn't need and didn't fit into, but those packages arriving every day were a distraction from the knife in my throat.  C and I would go out to dinner, and I would squeeze myself into some semblance of a normal outfit. We'd cry. Just look across the table at each other and shake our heads and drop our eyes.


We also had E. Who, at the time, was 18 months old. Which meant I couldn't just stay in bed all day, no matter if I wanted to or not. And while I hesitate to place all my happiness on my child, he truly saved me. I do not say that lightly. He needed me to be his mother, even though I was desperately sad. And so I acted like his mother, showed up, played trucks. Amazingly, just by acting like a normal mother again helped me almost feel like one again, eventually.

So where am I now?

That's a difficult question for me to answer. In so many ways, in a much better place. One day, a few months out from Calla's birth, I laughed. Really, really hard. I don't remember at what, but I instantly felt both guilty and relieved. To be honest, hardcore grieving is exhausting work. Necessary and inevitable work. And that laugh was building up for a long time. After that I laughed a little more, more often, all while still being bone-deep devastated.

Also, I became pregnant with our third child, baby O, just two months after Calla died and was born. And their birthdays are exactly 10 months apart. To the day. Which is . . . an emotional challenge. So 2010 was a year-long adventure in grief, anxiety, disbelief, heartbreak and joy.

Much like the rest of my life is shaping up to be.

Right now, I work on balancing my sadness with the happiness in my life. It feels like I think of Calla nearly every minute of every day. People tell me all the time that baby O looks so much like his older brother. Calla was a dark/curly-haired girl, but I wonder if those dark curls would have given way to shiny blonde hair like E.  I wonder what my life would be like with one truck-loving three-year-old and a one-and-a-half-year-old girl who is so into . . . what?

It makes me sad that she's not here with us. It makes me deliriously happy that baby O is here, he made it here safely, he brings so much joy to our lives. It makes me confused, often, that this is my life.  It hurts when people refer to O as our "second." It makes my heart feel warm when someone talks about Calla, asks how I'm doing, lets me know I'm not the only person who remembers her.

I remember those early, dark days after Calla's birth with a mix of dread and, well, possibly fondness? Only because I was closer to her, closer to the rawness of her birth then. We are moving forward as a family, and while we all get older and evolve, she'll always be a bitty baby. That's a hard truth for me.

But overall I feel better about LIFE, not better about her death. Her death will always be a terrible part of my history. I will love and miss her forever. But she's a part of our family, in a way I never could have imagined. I can laugh again. I can eat again. I find joy in every day, probably more now than ever before. I am not a perfect parent, despite my best efforts.

Emotionally, I am beginning to heal. And healing does not mean "getting over it" or forgetting her. It just means, to me, that I can look at the butt ruffle on a pink baby swimsuit without hyperventilating. I can look at the older boy/younger girl families and not want to run into traffic. But like I said, I'm still at the beginning. So many everyday-life-type things bring the tears flooding back; somedays a sparkly sneaker is all it takes to send me diving under the covers. And yet, that's okay, too.

So much love to any and all who walk this path, no matter where you may be. Know that I'm holding your hand along the way, and please hold mine back.


  1. I believe that my C is the only think that kept me on the straight and narrow after R died. It's almost like I skipped a stage of this whole process (at least for a while). The day R died, we rushed back to C's room at the NICU and found her trapped inside her enormous hat. I probably should have been worried furious but she just looked so hilariously angry that we had to laugh. And that's kind of how it's been ever since.

    I get such a strong feeling of someone who really embraces life from everything I read on your blog. And it just hurts my heart that such a lovely person lost her daughter.

  2. Wow, E aside of course, so much of this was true for me as well. And now having an 18 month old myself, I have a much stronger sense of just how difficult those early days must have been for you when your life still had to go in ways that mine really didn't have to. If I wanted to cry in bed all day, I could. I admire you for the way you kept going, even though I know you had no other choice.
    I still distinctly remember the first thing I said (after wailing, screaming and shouting out random expletives) was "how are you going to get IT out of me?" I couldn't compute. In some ways, I still don't think I can. I can't believe I had to push out a dead baby. How on earth did I ever do that? I've never even pushed out a live one!
    And yep, in the hospital, I said many of the same things. It was when the "why me" really started and I felt gutted and cheated and like the most pathetic creature to have ever walked the face of this earth. Saying I felt like a failure doesn't even come close to what it was like, but I know you understand.
    Like you, I also cried everywhere in those early days. And I never thought those tears would stop. But they did, slowly. They of course still come, but the lows associated with those tears are easier to navigate now.
    I'm still amazed by all your accomplished in 2010. It makes my head spin when I really stop to think about it.
    I think you're amazing, MB and I'm so glad to have found you.

  3. I related to so much of this post, even the shopping part. I tried to fill that hole. Overall I feel better about LIFE, not better about her death. Exactly it. This is. It is easy to think that acceptance is about being okay with her death, when really it is about coming to a place where you accept that is a reality you can't change. Thank you for participating and your sharing your journey always. I am so grateful to have found you and your blog in the darkness. We are kindred spirits, I believe. XO

  4. Holding your hand.. your heart.. remembering always.

  5. This is my first visit to your blog, via Angie. A wonderful post.
    My living children pulled me through those early days too, i understand how your E did the same.
    I'd love to hold your hand. x

  6. This struck me: But overall I feel better about LIFE, not better about her death. That and your description of healing. I always hesitate before using the word healing because I think to too many people it means "moved on," "all better," when it means I am able to feel joy along with my happiness again. Here keeping you company on the path.

  7. I'm so sorry for the loss of your daughter, Calla. You chose a beautiful name for her.

    My heart breaks for you. I am not surprised that you had difficulty understanding language, back in January 2010.

    And, as Sally has already said, all you accomplished in that year just makes my head spin. Truly an emotional challenge as you say. No joke.

    a one-and-a-half-year-old girl who is so into . . . what?
    This still stops me in my tracks although my own little girl would be nearly three now. That I will never, ever know.

    And looking back with fondness almost? I think I understand that.

    Thank you for posting. x

  8. Thank you so much for posting. I love what you write about healing and about the mix of sadness and happiness. It rings very true.

  9. Reaching out, holding your hand.

    overall I feel better about LIFE, not better about her death

    Yes. I'm there too.

  10. I'm working on finding that balance between sadness and happiness too...Such hard work it has turned out to be.

  11. I will always be holding yours, Mary Beth. I relate so much to this post. I felt like I was reading mine in a lot of ways, only without any living children. It's always surprising, yet amazing how similar our journeys all are. Thank you for writing and sharing. ((Hugs))

  12. "C said it perfectly, that no one should know what it feels like to hold their dead child."

    I couldn't agree more. I felt so lucky to have my oldest child when my 2nd died.

    Wonderful post.

  13. I'm visiting via Angie's project.

    My older children saved me too - I sort of hope they don't know how much because, as you say, that's a heavy burdon for them to shoulder but they did so, not by anything they did, but just by existing and being here and alive.

    I absolutely agree with C. "no one should know what it feels like to hold their dead child." They really. really. should not.

  14. I'm here from Angie's great project - albeit a bit late.

    I'm sorry your daughter isn't here in your arms, what a beautiful name Calla is. You really had everything in 2010! I refer to those early days as 'the dark days' and know exactly what you mean by remembering them with a mix of dread and fondness.

    Thank you for shining a light just up ahead of me and thank you for sharing where you are now, holding your hand

  15. Oh my dear...I so appreciate what you have to say and where you are. ((hugs))

  16. This post was so damn FULL. Thanks for sharing. We had a 2 year old when our second died at 38.5 weeks, so I can feel so much of your emotion. Thanks for taking part in this project.

  17. Hi, I've come over from Angie's project (allbeit quite late).
    This is all so powerful.
    I know what you mean about E saving you. I have 3 older boys that I had to continue to mother, almost immediately and constantly think I wouldn't have made it. But that's like those who haven't lost a child saying to us "I don't know how you do it, I wouldn't be able to", but you just do, hey. I sometimes wish I had the time to wallow in it a bit more. Never be without them of course, but be able to stay in bed all day and cry. Navigating this often overwhelming grief along with parenting the ones already here is so exhausting and you had another. Wow!
    Calla is a beautiful name and I'm so sorry she's not here with you.