Today marks 9 months since the horrific day that I learned my daughter's heart had stopped beating. The silent Doppler, the still heart on the ultrasound, reporting to the hospital and starting labor knowing my daughter was dead. Basically, the stuff nightmares are made of.
Nine months ago, my world collapsed. I got through those initial horrific moments the best I could, although there's always things I will wish I had done differently. But my grief has changed me in ways that I'm just beginning to recognize now.
I seem to be an introvert now. I talk less. I'd rather surround myself with fewer people. Big groups make me anxious. I wonder if eventually, the extrovert in me will work itself back to the surface, but I am beginning to think not. I miss the old me, but I don't think she's coming back.
I was thinking the other day about how I used to have so many friends. Never the popular girl, but always a whole lot of people I kept in touch with. I was really good at keeping in touch. I'd tell each friend from college how our ten other friends are doing. I'm losing that I know. It's not important to me anymore, or maybe I just don't have the energy for it. And while I miss my friends, I more often feel uncomfortable when I am forced to be social. You want to talk about stillbirth, dead babies, or grief? I could talk all day. But small talk still makes me want to scream. I think of my closest friend, my college roommate, and how much she also lost on November 5th. Because in a way, she lost me too then. I know she's scared she's never going to get me back. I'm just grateful that she continues to hang in there for me, texting and sending brownies and letting me know she's thinking of us, even though I can't seem to respond besides a "thanks." I think about how many connections I've made to other BLMs and how they hold me up and support me and read my mind and give me perspective and make me laugh and know that doesn't mean I'm "healed." And I think, well, you still do have a lot of friends, but it sure looks different than it did before.
I think about Lydie all the time. All the time. As C.S. Lewis writes, "Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything." She's engrained in me. I find I don't even cry that often anymore, it's just a constant ache. Sometimes it's stabbing; sometimes it's duller. But it's always there. She is always there.
Here's what I have realized: I wouldn't wish this on anyone. Carrying a healthy baby to almost full-term, thinking she is going to be born alive in a few weeks. Learning she has died inside you, due to an "accident." The horrors that came at that moment and after. Starting labor, knowing that your perfect baby has died. Giving birth and hearing only your own screams because your baby is silent. Holding your dead daughter all afternoon and watching her decompose before your eyes. Being forced to turn your back on that daughter and leave the hospital without her. Bleeding for days and days afterwards, with no baby in sight. Picking up the urn holding your daughter at the funeral home. Your milk coming in with no baby to feed. The cruelest joke: Your body didn't know your baby was dead. Night sweats due to hormone changes. An empty nursery. Other babies everywhere.
And the never-ending missing, the never-ending grief.
I wouldn't wish it on anyone.
And yet, if given the option, I wouldn't wish it away. Because, I couldn't wish Lydia away.
And yet, Lydie is my daughter. A member of our family.
I can't wish her away. I would never wish her away. Any more than I'd wish away my living son.
And so instead, I live with my grief. And my love for her. And I mother her the best I can, even though she's not here. I'm still learning what that looks like.
My uncle handed Justin a CD at Lydie's tree dedication a few weeks ago. "Listen to it when you're alone and have some time," he warned us. I did. And in the song "Who you'd be today," by Kenny Chesney, I heard this line, "I wonder: what would you name your babies?" And it.broke.me.down.
I hadn't wondered that one yet. I hadn't yet wondered what she'd name her babies. I've wondered a million other things about Lydie, but not yet that one.
The loss is never-ending.
I usually try not to think about what she would be doing now. I try not to imagine what our lives should/could/would be like. It's too painful. But on Monday, as I went back to work after my summer off, I couldn't help think about how it was supposed to be Lydie's first day of daycare. Her first day of school. I took a photo of Ben, looking so grown up, in his running shoes, wearing his backpack. That picture is supposed to look different. His sister should have been in it. Crawling around at his feet. I went to work and thought about how I should be spending all day worrying about Lydie, wondering how she is doing.
She wasn't supposed to start school until she was 8 months old. I worked so hard to figure out the details of a long maternity leave.
A long maternity leave that never happened.
And now I'm faced with figuring out details of another maternity leave, when I have no faith, no confidence that my third child will be born alive. No confidence to make any plans for this child.
I wish I could be one of the people who believes that lightning won't strike twice. To truly believe it was that it was fluke. To believe this baby is coming home with us.
The joy of pregnancy has been stolen from me, with so much else. Joy has been replaced by fear.
I had a doctor's appointment yesterday, and Bowie looked fine. And then I cried the whole way to work. Because this shouldn't be the way it is. I should be breastfeeding my baby and trying to get my two-year-old to pee in the potty one more time before getting out the door. I shouldn't be pregnant, scared shitless that this baby is going to die too.
Nine months of missing. A lifetime of missing to go.
Hard to believe it's already been 9 months.
Hard to believe it's only been 9 months.
Love you, Lydie.