My arms are aching. In the seven months since Mabel died I have not felt any urge or desire to hold a baby. When an opportunity has presented itself, I have felt panic. I’ve talked with my therapist about what exactly I am afraid of and I’m not totally sure. I’ve been afraid of how I will feel is the closest answer I have. I’m afraid I will cry and be sent back emotionally to the early days and I’ll never recover. I’m afraid I won’t cry and by not doing so would be doing a disservice to Mabel. I’m afraid I’ll really enjoy the feeling, again not honoring Mabel. I feel like holding a baby is a betrayal to my dead daughter.
Mabel was the last baby I’ve held. If and when I hold another baby, I won’t be able to make that statement. Now it’s been seven months and so it’s become a thing you know? If I held a baby soon after my loss, I wouldn’t be thinking much of it.
When I was talking with my sister she asked me “What is a baby to you?” She was asking how old a kid has to be for me to not see them as a baby. At the time I had answered “three.” At three, they are little people, talking with personalities. Though that is not totally true for me anymore. Sometimes seeing a three year old is hard, watching a mom parent her in a way I will never parent Mabel. In that way, all kids can be hard, depending on who they are and my mood. And sometimes they can be easy. I’ve held a five year old and cuddled. I’ve held a two year old who did not want to say goodbye to me. These were both ok times of my choosing and they felt good.
Last month, I walked into an exam room and my patient held her one year old daughter on her lap. When she saw me walk in, trailed by the doctor who was shadowing me, she moved to put her daughter down. The stroller was just a few feet away, but I saw her struggle trying to juggle the baby and maneuvering in a paper gown. In another world (like in the “before”) I would have stepped forward to help her put her child into the stroller. Instead I stepped back, as far as I could while remaining professional, terrified she was going to hand me the baby. I reassured myself if she did reach out or ask for help, I could defer to the doc that was with me, but the panic I felt stayed with me to this day. I’m not ready to hold a baby, but when I am, I want it to be planned and my own choice.
Lately I’ve been feeling a strong desire to hold a baby, but there is no baby I want to hold. I want to hold my baby. I want so badly to feel that bottom heavy weight of a newborn, to be overheated by the sticky sweet sweat of a sleeping six month old on my chest. I used to love holding babies- I was a natural, comfortable with their little bodies- and I miss that. How do I balance thee feelings- wanting something to fill my arms but only wanting that something to be my own baby?
Have you held a baby since your loss? How did you feel? If you’ve lost someone other than a baby, do you have any parallels?