Mabel would be two weeks today. I woke up at 5:30am with a stomach ache, which calmed down and I thought to myself as I lay awake for a bit afterwards, I can be awake for 6:25- this is good. I feel back to sleep a little after six. I was sad that I missed the time, but I think my mind was still thinking about it. I dreamt of Mabel. She was a day or two old and I held her in my arms. She was the baby I held after she had died- quiet, motionless, eyes closed, wrapped in her white blanket wearing her pink hat. But she was warm and alive. As I held her she let out a small cry, opened her eyes and began to nurse. The dream was quick and lasted only a few seconds but spotlighted all that I want right now.
On this day, Mabel’s two-week anniversary, rather than wondering “is my baby getting enough milk?” or “When will she be discharged from the NICU?” I am struggling with other questions.
How do I say it?
I had a baby and my baby died. My baby passed. (Passed what?) I lost my baby. (Where did she go?) I had a baby and she lived for six hours. (and then what happened?) Her birthday was also her death day. So what do I say- the day Mabel was born? The day Mabel died? The day Mabel came? The day we met Mabel? Mabel’s day? The day Mabel was? Was it the best day of my life or the worst day?
Where do I belong?
Friends with kids, friends without kids. I’m in that club no one wants to belong to, between two worlds. I was on the cusp of changing worlds. I was about to be the ultimate friend with kids- we had not only committed to a baby (big commitment), but a child with Down Syndrome who might never move away from home. And committed to a child who could require daily dialysis and vent care for years. We kind of made the ultimate commitment. But now we have no commitment. We are free again. If I had a child before Mabel, I would still be a friend with kids, but where am I now?
How do I rejoin the real world?
I’m often better when I’m around people. I can usually talk very easily about Mabel and her story. I’m sure people are often surprised how composed I am when talking about Mabel. It’s because I save my real tears- the raw, hot, unstoppable tears- for the early mornings and late nights, when I’m alone or with Chris. Sometimes when we are with groups, I’m quieter, more reserved than I ever have been. I like certain aspects of a group- I like that others can carry on a conversation and I can listen, contributing only when necessary. That I’m not responsible for the conversation going forward. I have trouble contributing because in my mind, life has stopped. The world as I knew it and as I know it has stopped. I am no longer pregnant- that world is gone. And I am not caring for a baby like I should naturally after being pregnant- that world is gone. Though others are talking, it’s all I can think about at times. And these big groups are not usually the venue to talk about Mabel and how we are doing in our grieving process. How to I re-engage? How do I join the conversation? How do I rejoin the world?
Who has a baby shower at a bar?
I wrote yesterday about how I was uncertain about going out for happy hour with friends, but I was going to try. We went to a restaurant not far from our house, which was a nice treat because we live a good bit outside of the nearby city- a schlep for most of our friends. And since it’s not a city restaurant, it’s usually pretty low key. We gathered with friends in the bar area at a table and I was working on simply being present. And then the table next to us starts filling up. First middle aged men, then a more diverse group- younger and older women. And then one younger woman starts opening presents- baby clothes and diapers. It was a freakin’ baby shower in a bar. On a Friday night. Really? There’s a whole restaurant side of this place and they were squeezing twelve people around a table meant for six so they could be in the bar. I was able to sit so I couldn’t see them, but I knew what was happening. We had already ordered food and drink, so we stayed. I didn’t cry then. I was just really really annoyed. When we left, the tears found me. I cried because the night was overwhelming. Just being out was a big deal. I cried because this was the first of many times I’ll be surprised by something baby related that hurts me in the deep gut. I cried because maybe this was a sign that I shouldn’t have been out at a bar two weeks after my baby died. I cried because who has a baby shower in a bar?
When does it get better?
Yesterday I began reading another blog- one written by a mother who lost her baby a day after birth several years ago. I was bouncing around reading her posts- skipping ahead to one, two, three months post birth. I wanted to see when it got better for her. The hard thing about reading blogs is that they don’t always represent the whole picture. We blog about the hard and the memorable stuff, not the mundane. Though I write about the pain I felt seeing a baby shower at a bar, I don’t write about laughing about a Barbie story over ice cream with friends. I have those moments too. This woman’s blog described her grief over months and months- and then I stopped reading. I know I will always grieve my child. I read the posts closer to the birth of her son, so I could relate to what she was feeling in the time I am in now. When does it get better- I’m not sure, but I know it’ll get different.