There are not many people who don’t know that I have an obsession with radio. I love listening to the witty banter of the morning show hosts, as they talk about the hot topics of the day with a local flare. On my morning commute to work I often find my mind engulfed in everything they have to say, and I’m mesmerized by the personal sagas of the guests they interview.
This morning while stopped at a red light on my way to work I was enjoying my morning ritual when a light blue Cadillac hearse crossed the intersection in front of me. There was nothing remarkable about the series of events that led the car to be in my path, but suddenly, I wasn’t in my car anymore, I was sitting in the back seat of the hearse. I was wearing a thick black cotton maternity/nursing dress that had gone slightly knobby from wear, and it was a little loose on my 4 day post partum body. And on the seat next to me was a small white box. My arm clutched around it. It was holding the dead body of my daughter. The last time I would ever hold her close. In a small white box, in the middle of the back seat of a pale blue hearse. Wearing a knobby black cotton dress. And my throat burned. And my eyes ached. And I could feel the texture of the box as I dug my fingernails in and held on like my life was in that box, because it was.
And then I blinked and my light turned green, the local hosts threw to their roving traffic reporter and I cleared my throat and kept on driving to work.
I feel like for the last number of months I’ve been disappointing everyone around me. I’ve been socially withdrawn, sleepless, irritable, and emotional. I’ve been generally unwell, getting sick more often than normal and fighting to stay connected to friends that I used to be able to rely on. I’ve probably been subconsciously pushing them away.
I’m standing in the ashes of who I used to be, and I’m afraid, because I can’t keep fighting these demons in my mind and in my dreams forever. I’ve been struggling silently, for longer than I care to admit. Maybe I’m weak, but when I struggle to connect, that’s when Im fighting the hardest.
I have two of the most amazing boys. They’re the joys of my life. My every ounce of life is in them – but in the quiet hours of the morning when sleep evades me and the nightmares taunt every corner of my mind, that’s when I’m Everlee’s mom. And I’m thinking about picking out the 64 box of crayola crayons with the sharpener in the back, and Barbie backpacks, and Sophia the First lunch boxes. Because she should be starting kindergarten. And I should be anxious about all of the upcoming milestones that children her age – the age she should be – are preparing for that she’ll never get to have. I’m thinking of the life she’s been robbed of, and the hurt that I still carry in my heart every single day because I am the mother of three but the parent to two. And am I punishing myself and withdrawing again because I feel like it’s my fault that she’s not here? Because even after all these years I still feel like people look at me as the girl with the dead baby? Or is it because my mind keeps racing and I keep playing out the life she never got to have in my head over and over and over and I don’t want to burden people with the constant ache that exists in every move I make?
And I miss her. God dammit, I miss her.
I’m sorry to everyone I’ve been letting down. But I just have these cobwebs and skeletons in my head that need clearing. I’ll be ok, but right now I’m just not.
I sometimes write about “Where I am right now” to centre myself. When life seems overwhelming and the grief starts to seem insurmountable again, I find solace in stepping back and re-evaluating how far I have come in my journey.
Everlee’s 5th birthday is creeping close. In those early days I couldn’t picture what life would be like in 5 hours, now here I am, half a decade from her. Half a decade away from kissing her sweet, perfect face. We should be excited about kinderstart and practicing French words at home. She should be holding up a little chalkboard sign describing her favorite things and wearing a sweet dress with bows in her hair.
My life will always have a movie running in the background of my mind, showing how things should be different. I always try to be stoic in my grief, giving no spoilers to my secret film. There’s a certain peace in being able to mention her name without biting back the tears. But every now and then I break. These last few weeks I have been broken. But time will move on. The hot pain will recede, the dull ache will take over and I’ll return to a place of being at peace with the hurt I live with. But for right now, I am broken, and I am consumed by how unfair it is that babies die and there is absolutely no justice in the loss.
She has two little brothers now. Two gorgeous boys who adore each other and are the best of friends. How would they interact? What would they like? Would Finnegan’s love of dolls be amplified by having his older sister with us? Would Seamus try to steal food from her plate and pull her hair? Little lives can’t be replaced. I always feel the sting when people call me a boy mom. I’m not. Not even close.
I feel like my grief makes people a lot more uncomfortable now, five years out. Like my sadness should have subsided and I should have made peace with her loss like it was just an event that happened and not an entire life that was lost. When I feel myself sliding backward into despair, I almost feel guilty like that isn’t supposed to happen anymore. And people aren’t really sure what to do with me. Handle with care? Tough love? Ignorance is bliss? I’m not really sure where to reach out when I need someone to fall into. I’ve long since abandoned the friendships that couldn’t withstand who I am now that I’m Everlee’s Mom, but I live in fear of exhausting those that have cared enough to love me in spite of the gaping hole in my existence. Sometimes I just feel so lost.
My heart may be healing, I may not be the same shattered person I was during those early days, but sweet girl I still miss you every single day and your little life, no matter how brief, still dictates every move I make. I miss you.
There are few questions people ask me that cause more stress than “so is he your only baby?”. They look at my youngest son adoringly, listening to him coo and giggle. They’re completely oblivious to the the fact that their simple small talk has driven a hot dagger into my chest. How do you answer that question when you have three children, but one is dead. I’m left to agonize: do I suck the air out of this conversation and tell them about my daughter? Or do I simply say “I have another boy at home”, and rely on double speak to avoid denying my daughter’s existence?
Everlee has become a part of the walls of my brain. She is woven into the fabric of my being. All thoughts are infused with her loss. Not in a horribly sad way, as they once were, but more like a lens through which I see things. I think a lot about my reaction to matters, in the grande scale of life, and especially in how I react to my boys and how life would be different with her here. I think about how her absence puts things into perspective. After you lose a baby, nothing is the same, is it? Not your everyday, ordinary existence. Not holidays or celebrations. Being alive is different in every single way.
I still live with a crushing sense of guilt about her loss. I can’t explain the guilt. I didn’t kill her. I didn’t do anything so that she would die. And yet still I feel guilt about her not being here. And I know that this is irrational.
When it comes to healing, so far, blogging has been a wonderful tool to work through my grief. Not just because of adding a complexity to my role as a parent, but because it is creative and it has allowed me to connect with others through technology. It has allowed me to realize that while talking about my dead child is still very much taboo in every day life, there are many more mothers just like me, clinging to the hope that some day someone will mention their baby’s name without being prompted to do so. And someone will ask how we are and really want to know. Because no matter how good of a day I’m having, I never will be ok. I will merely be existing in her absence.
October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. Every year during the week leading up to October 15th, I make an effort in my social media circles to shine a light on the statistics surrounding stillbirth – it continues to shock me that 1 in 200 pregnancies in North America end in stillbirth. And there have been no statistically significant reduction in stillbirth rates in the western world in 50 years. But I also want to take this week to reach out to my fellow baby lost mothers that have connected with me in the last 4 and a half years since I joined this sad club. Your stories have become a part of mine. There isn’t a day that goes by that you don’t cross my mind, for even the briefest of moments. I know that no matter how sad and lonely this path in life may seem, we all have each other. Caleb, Rose, Michael, Kara, Haven, Olivia, Oliver, Benjamin, Janet.. and the countless others, too many to name. These babies are precious. You are in my heart. Be gentle with yourselves.
I’ve become one of those mother’s I wrote about loathing.
Seamus is now 7.5 months old, and for the most part he’s the most lovable little boy.
Except at night.
He doesn’t sleep. I haven’t slept longer than a 45 minute stretch in a week. About 4 days ago I found myself complaining about my lack of sleep and how exhausting it is being his mother and how I just wanted a few hours rest. And I did so without much thought of consequence.
Later that night when I awoke for the third time before midnight from a quick slumber I was greeted by that crushing feeling that I am all too familiar with. I was swallowed by a swell of fresh grief. My daughter is dead. She’s gone. She isn’t coming back. Ever.
How dare I complain? How dare I become one of those mother’s that I cursed and swore on? I cried until there were scabs under my eyes wishing for nights like these, and now, here I am, wishing them away.
Being Seamus’s mother is difficult right now, but he will grow, and he will sleep eventually. Everlee won’t. These sleepless nights are hard but it will never compare how to how hard it is to be Everlee’s mom. It will never compare to those sleepless nights where my heart lurched in my chest, aching for the sound of a crying baby begging to be soothed.
The guilt over losing her makes me love every moment with my boys so fiercely that I don’t want to spare one second of my time with them. I have to cherish those ticks on the clock, even when they’re late at night.
No matter how tired I am, the next moment isn’t promised.
I feel like I’m living in limbo. Part of my life is normal. I’m Finnegan’s mom. I go to work, I do day care drop offs, I work the birthday party circuit on the weekends, and life is everything I could hope for.
Then reality sets in. And someone asks me about my pregnancy, or admires my glow, or reaches out to touch my swollen belly. No one feels the absolute kick to the guts I feel when they say “wouldn’t it be nice if you had a girl?”. Because they don’t get it. They don’t know pregnancy like I do. They don’t even see it as the ticking time bomb it is. The one that that so meticulously needs to be diffused. One wrong move, one slip and life blows up and I’m left tattered and broken again. No one sees the scars, or the hesitation marks, no one knows all of the rebuilding that had to take place so I could stand here holding this new life inside of me, again. A storm of a pregnancy so I can see that rainbow once more.
And I feel so guilty that this is how I feel about my child. I love this baby more than anything but I’m so scared to acknowledge it and give it the excitement and the joy it deserves. I hate that I’m scared to death to buy anything for them, because all I can picture is another bedroom in my house being made into a living tomb like Everlee’s was.
And what if something does happen and I have nothing? No memories, or hopes of memories to hold on to, what if I’m left with less than nothing? Then what?
It’s exhausting trying to react to people in a way that doesn’t make them feel awkward around me me, but at the same time honours Everlee and what I have gone through to get Finnegan. What if I’m asking too much of the universe to have two living babies? What if I’ve tempted fate?
I’m not sure how to handle the anxiety and the fear and still be the best mother I can be.
4 years ago this week I knew that Everlee was safely snugged in my belly. It would be weeks, of course, before the world knew she was there. But she was. She was my perfect little secret. Everything I had hoped and dreamed of my entire life. I remember the feeling that I had to protect that wee little life with everything I had.
And four years, the loss of my daughter, and the birth of my rainbow boy later here I am again. 16 and a half weeks pregnant for the third time in four years. My baby boy just turned two last week (where does the time go?!) and I’m expecting (and hoping for) his little brother or sister to arrive in December.
Pregnancy will never come without risk or worry. It won’t come without anxiety. It won’t come without the complete mistrust of my body and everything it’s supposed to do or not supposed to do. Emotionally paralyzed by fear. But I have the important job now again, one that I failed at once before and one that I was successful with once before – to keep this wee baby safe in my belly. I’m scared. No. I’m terrified. But seeing my son, and now knowing more than ever everything I missed with my daughter, I know it’s the most important job I will ever have. Being Everlee’s mom, and Finnegan’s mom is the hardest and most rewarding job I have ever had in my life – so here we go again.
The sadness in my eyes here will always haunt me. I’ve never shared this Picture publicly before. But this is the face of still birth. I am a completely different person than I had been 24 hours before. Your precious little life has taught so many people about families like ours, seeing pictures of you important.
Three years ago you made me a mother. I held my breath and hoped that against all odds I would hear your cry and prove them wrong. But the room was silent, and you took my breath away. Three long years learning to be a mother without you. I wonder every day who you would be, what you would look like, the things you would love… Questions never answered, dreams never realized and a lifetime of what ifs. But I do know this, in three years your short little life has touched more people than some people could ever hope for. You have changed my world Everlee. Thank you for making me a mother, and for making me proud every single day that despite the sadness and the heartache that you will forever be my baby. Happy third birthday sweet baby girl.
Three years ago I heard Everlee’s heartbeat for the last time, only to find out an hour later that it was gone forever. Life has changed forever since that moment, and I’ve struggled every day since to learn to be a mother without the beautiful little girl who made me one. I will miss you every second of every day as long as I live. So today I’ll mourn your death little girl, and tomorrow we’ll celebrate your birthday, because as utterly devastated as I am to not have you, I am forever grateful that I had you, and that you are my daughter. I love you Everlee.
It hit me smack in the face at 5am this morning. That hot, tight feeling in my chest. The fight or flight feeling. How I loathe you, February.
It’s occurred to me that this is the first time I’ll be working through this month. Her first birthday I was on bed rest. Her second I was on maternity leave. Her third birthday and life is “normal” again. As if anything in this life could ever be normal again.
There’s no wiggly baby in my belly this year. There’s no florida sunshine and disney magic. There’s just bleak, cold, unforgiving February. I guess mother nature knows how I feel.
It’s going to take some coaxing to get through this. Lots of deep breaths. Lots of snuggles from my little man. Lots of time with friends and as many distractions as I can find.
One foot in front of the other, one step at a time.