I have been dreading this date for a few weeks now, I realised it was coming just before our last Sands meeting when I quickly calculated how long it has been for us should there (heaven forbid) be new faces. It was at that moment I realised in a few weeks she would have been dead longer than she was ever alive…and that hurt. A LOT.
I remember reaching 9months with Ethan & Megan, how exciting it was that they’d been out longer than they were in, how many milestones we’d had and how now as we got out the 9-12 month wardrobe for them we were on the last leg of of the 1st year, it was only 3 months til their birthday, 3months til we had had them a whole year, would they walk before or after? Soon they would no longer be babes but toddlers; independent, mischievous and demonstrating a whole host of new skills. I was happy with how I looked (9 months on 9 months off) and basically 9 months is usually such a positive and happy phase of the post natal period, but not for me, I still feel a little flabby (though i’m only like 5 or 6 lbs heavier that before I ever had kids) and I certainly feel far from excited. Like every month that passes I do feel a little stronger, a little more confident to share my baby with others and very few tears (if any) when I do. I have had a few less tears shed this month for our loss and less heavy days too. Yes it hurts, yes its tragic yes if I think too much I cannot bear it but I know I am healing…it is a slow process but healing is present.
The difference this time though is there is a new level of grief, if you can call it that, it is the turning point that she has been gone longer than she was here. It doesn’t make me weep, sob or really have any emotion, to do those things would be understandable and have an obvious explanation. Instead I feel dull, I feel pain yes, but the very fact that she has been dead longer than she lived is a fact that I cannot wrap my mind or feelings around. I know she still lives on the other side, I don’t doubt that, but I am referring to her physically being here with us and from now on time takes her further away than the brief moments she was here in our lives and it is that that is a huge thing to wrap my mind around let alone something to let my heart feel. I rarely let myself think of it all, talk of it all because it still hurts too much and feels too sad and raw. When I talk, share it, think of it, it is the portions I can deal with…the memories I can handle, the ones that no longer make me cry. I cannot for a long time or in extended conversation talk of the details and fully remember and feel that I had a beautiful baby girl that never came home, that never smiled, cried or looked at us, that I barely held her before we had to lay her to rest. This story when stripped of the “Trisomy 18” and “Still birth” awareness is tragic, heartbreaking and awfully hard to have gone through.
By the 28th day of pregnancy her heart was formed, a teeny beating heart and living thing inside of me. At this stage, most probably a week or 2 before I took a test she already had CHD, she already had a chromosome defect and from then on every time her cells split or she grew a little more an extra 18th chromosome came along too. Of course we knew none of this until 20 & 30 weeks but that made no difference to the fact she was ours, 3rd child and second daughter. For 9 months I carried her, fought for her, hoped and prayed for her. I accepted her and her diagnosis and from then dreamt of life with an Edwards baby, life as a heart mummy and eventually having to say goodbye but at almost exactly 9 months gestation goodbye came too soon and my birth story became a still birth. I was robbed of baby snuggles, feeding options, changing bags, baby groups and the experience of fully sharing my birth story. I was given pain, heartbreak, anger, confusion, tears and inability to comprehend it all or be me, I feel jealousy or complete heartache before joy at the sight of babies and the announcements of pregnancy and living babies…this is not me and to be happy for people around me takes effort and energy. I am left feeling lonely, isolated, hurt and confused around babies and pregnancy as a result – every level of life and my relationships are affected because she couldn’t stay and more so because she was gone too soon.
Whilst healing is present and things in some ways hurt a little less, happiness is still often a concious decision and a joyful life takes effort and work. I am constantly working at this and finding ways to have positive experiences or to turn our grief and desire to never forget her into something more positive, for these reasons we now have a new story in our family. It is something that I basically made up to help the children understand that she still lives but we cannot see her right now. I tell them that whenever we see a Poppy or fields of Poppy’s it is because she has been there and left them to help us remember her and to tell us she was here. Wherever we go that we see them we talk of her and delight that she is around us or that she must have been to visit whilst we were asleep or just before we arrived, you may think its nice like we do or you may think its nonsense and whack, but whatever you think you should know it has helped a lot, and that was the purpose, especially with this turn from having her for a little while to her been gone longer than she was ever here.
On holiday Poppy’s lined the road leading to the camp site and to hear the kids shout “look mummy Poppy has been on holiday too” made us smile and brought us Joy. Ethan also noticed that the was a huge field of them as we came into land and commented on how she was welcoming us home! This has softened the blow of loss for all of us and given a pleasant angle to not physically having her here. Of course my arms still feel empty and I wish every day to know my baby and see her grow but my heart aches a little less imagining that she is still close and perhaps at times coming along for the ride!
This week has been blessed, it has been joyful, we have been happy and have had endless hours of fun on holiday, but these moments never replace the loss that is ever present and on the 16th or every month I feel a piece of me missing and we are reminded its been another month since we said goodbye.
Our lives perhaps for the present and near future will be this roller coaster of wonderful highs and then the painful lows of anniversary’s, memories, reminders and general acceptance of what has happened, but we never give up or let it destroy us (which I can see and at times feel how easy that could happen) I cry when I need to and do not feel guilt to be happy, there are lots of things to figure out still and situations I constantly have to learn to deal with that crop up and are hard because of my loss but I am getting there slowly…its hard that she has gone now longer than I had her, I can’t dwell on it as I can’t make sense of it all but I do hope healing will mean one day I can and one day I can feel happy for and about things like I used to without the energy it currently takes.