Dear sweet, innocent, past self,
You will not believe where life has taken us and what life has taken from us. If I stood in front of you today, my most innocent self that doesn’t know that healthy babies can die for no reason at all, and told you our story of child loss and grief, you would probably cower in fear of the pain we are about to experience, and you would be so right to do so.
You will not think it possible for us to have endured all that we have suffered from.
But, we have. When it happened, we couldn’t see how we could survive ten days, and now here we are, writing you from ten years away.
If I could tell myself anything during the early days, it would be to look after yourself. When your child dies the very fundamental foundation of your being shifts. Nothing will ever be as it was, and it will seem like you have been swallowed into a bottomless pit where your body is in a constant dark free fall. You’re just trying to survive when the world has been taken from under you. It is difficult to focus on much.
We won’t remember much from those early days. I think it’s a survival instinct so that our post-traumatic riddled brain can’t bring us back there at will. Those first few weeks will be wrought with chaos. We won’t know up from down. The skin under our eyes will be raw from crying. Our cheeks will literally scab over from the assault of the salty tears constantly flowing over them. Our body will be exhausted from the physical toll of childbirth. We will bleed for weeks. Our breasts will ache from the milk our body mistakenly made for a baby that has died. Each drop will be a painful reminder of all that we’ve lost. We will experience loss and heartbreak and will encounter them over and over again. We will wonder why becoming a mother is so hard for us when it seems to be so easy for others. We will learn to hate our body all over again for its betrayal. We will look in the mirror and see the weapon that killed our baby, and we will struggle with that for the rest of our life because of what that awful doctor will tell us. We will question whether a living child will ever be our reality.
The days, weeks, and months that follow should be about us: discovering who we are, and what we’ll become. A lot will change in the years ahead. We will become a mother to two more children. It will take a lot of patience and understanding to bring them into the world. But they will be everything we ever dreamed of. Our marriage will end. We are not the same person we were before. We will learn to honour our feelings and in turn, will learn to accept ourselves better.
In the early days, there will be people who walked this path before us that reach out, who will try to tell us about our future selves and how we will never get over the pain but we will grow around it until it becomes a steady part of who we are. We won’t believe them. We’ll feel angry that they dare think we won’t exist in despair for eternity over the loss of our dear baby girl. We will think there is no way they could have loved their baby as much as we loved ours. They couldn’t possibly come back from this level of grief if they did. It will be years before we can see that happening in ourselves, and we will morph into the one reaching out to other mothers just beginning this journey. We will try to tell them about their future selves. We will remember those women before us and how they tried to give us hope that we could endure, and try to be that for the ones coming after us.
We will find ways to honour our sweet Everlee every day. She will be woven into the fabric of our being. She will be the lens through which we see the world. We will become our own strength.
There may be others to help us, but we will lose many friends along the way who just can’t deal with us settling into our grief. People we thought would support us in our time of need will disappear. Some will betray us. Others still will run from our battered soul in fear and horror. The ones that matter stay, but we will learn that we are our only guarantee in life.
There are days when this will feel incredibly isolating, and there are days when this will empower us.
And then when we are ten years away from her loss, we will sit in front of our computer screen and write a letter to that dear sweet innocent version of ourself. We will reflect on where we have been. Where we have come from. Where we are going. And for the first time since the world fell from beneath our feet, we will truly know that we have survived.
We will not be the same. Ever. We will be better, in a tragic kind of way. Our daughter’s life will make us love more deeply, understand pain more fully, and embrace life because of its impermanence.
Your future self.