Reality Calling

Our daughter’s heart had stopped beating. The screen was motionless. So was I. Even the excruciating pain of the placental abruption I was experiencing was numbed by shock.  

The simple fact is, there is nothing like a stillbirth. There is nothing like going to the hospital thinking you are about to bring your baby home, only to have the incredible joy of pregnancy ripped away, leaving deep searing emptiness. There is nothing like knowing that you are still going to have to endure labour, and birth, and swollen breasts and weeks of bleeding. 

Only your baby will be dead.

Your labour will produce nothing but a beautiful shell of the precious person you have lived your life to protect. Your arms will be empty and there will be no way to soothe your aching soul. Ever. 

And that doesn’t even factor int he guilt. or the wondering. Or the pain. Soul shattering pain. It wasn’t only emotional, it was physical. My head hurt from sobbing. My eyes burned and felt raw as the scabs beneath them appeared beneath them from wiping all of the tears. My arms throbbed because she wasn’t physically there to fill them. They still do. Stillbirth didn’t just happen to me. Or to Everlee. It’s not passive. It doesn’t just happen. Your baby dies, and then you give birth. 

 And you’ve had a baby. But you don’t have a baby. 

When I was pregnant I was like every other excited mother. I signed up for lists, and coupons and Facebook groups. Now, every forgotten tick of a check box on an online purchase comes back to me when I least expect it, and I relive it all over again. 

Yesterday, while standing at the end of the counter waiting for my latte at Starbucks my phone rang. I picked up and a cheerful gentleman said “Mrs. McMeekin, My name is _______ and I contacted you back in May, we got your information from Thyme Maternity and I was wondering if you had given any more thought to the RESP that we had discussed for your baby. I see they should be about 6 months old now is that right?”

What this gentleman didn’t seem to recall was me falling to pieces on the phone with him back in May. He didn’t remember me telling him about Everlee passing away. He didn’t recall me begging him to take me off of his calling list.  

However, my hurt this time was rage. 

Standing at the end to the counter I tore into the man on the other end of the phone. I had told him in May to remove me from his list and he hadn’t done that. So now, I was standing in the one place where I still find some peace, and I am attacked from behind when I least expect it.  

Reality calling, just checking in to make sure that you know your daughter is still dead. Got it? ok. good.

As if I could forget. But life keeps seeming to want to remind me. Blow after blow to the face. As if I don’t think of it every second of the day. It’s been 205 endless days and nights that blur together in a sleepless haze. I don’t ask for the memories to come. They’re just there. I lie in bed every night and I birth her again and again and again. I hold her again and again for the first and last time. I feel that lingering ache that prevents me forgetting even for a second the nauseating reality of what has happened. 

It changed me. 

I try so hard to out on a smile and go out into the world and be the Rhonda everyone wants me to be. But it’s hard. and I hurt. And I’m exhausted. Sometimes pretending I’m ok is even harder than admitting I’m not.  

It still bothers me when people say I’m brave. Bravery is a choice. Living this, surviving it isn’t a choice. Its my responsibility to my daughter to keep going, because she cannot. If anything, it’s as Juliette Lewis said “The bravest thing I ever did was continuing my life when I wanted to die”. 

My daughter’s heart stopped beating. But mine beats for her now.

In my dreams

“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart for so long. If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can be together all the time.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Losing a child puts you in a place where the irrational can be completely and plausibly rational. It puts you in a place where you’re surrounded by all these crazy thoughts, and you know they’re crazy, but you can’t help listening to them and wondering if maybe they have a point, if maybe they are right after all. It puts you in a place where confusion is a normal, day-to-day thing. And then sometimes you come out of this crazy place and think, what just happened to me? Did I really think those things, feel those things? Was that me? How could I even think that?

And then you bury those thoughts and try to ignore them and go about your business, but they keep coming back to you at odd hours, and they hound you until you feel you really might be going crazy. And you’re not sure who you can talk to about it because what will they think? And then you just sit down one day and write about it and stop caring what people think, because it’s part of you and part of this life – this new normal you have to come to accept.

And it makes you feel so alone. Surrounded by people buy so horribly, awfully, utterly alone. My personality has always been to help other people and I feel like I’ve been spending so much time navigating other people through how to talk to me, and trying to make them feel comfortable around me that I so seldom spend time trying to navigate this dark and lonely place for myself. Perhaps that’s why I’m awake at night, because its really this only time I have to myself.

Or maybe it’s the dreams. I only have one. Reliving that night. The worst night in my life. And if my body knows when it sleeps that’s where it’s going, then why on earth would it ever let me sleep again? And worst of all, I usually wake up thinking I’m hearing her crying for me. As if she was here. But she never is. And I never get to hold her again in my dreams. Her cries always wake me up. If only I could sleep long enough that I’d get to hold her again.

Once you cross that threshold of grief, it changes you forever. You can’t have any of it back. You can’t unlearn the harsh lessons of grief. You struggle to find a “bright side.” It’s not like losing your first love or not getting that job you always dreamed of. You can’t just tell yourself, “If I try hard enough, I can do it. I can get what I want. I can succeed.” That doesn’t work after losing a baby. Because it wasn’t a matter of trying hard enough or believing in yourself. It was never in your power. You can’t control life and death. You can’t even try. She’s never ever ever ever ever coming home.

It’s still so incredibly hard for me to believe that she’s gone, but everyday I have the physical reminders on my own body that she was here. And no matter how brief and limited her life was, what’s unmistakable is the profound effect she has had on me. Everlee has changed everything I ever was and everything I will be. Now I just need to get to know myself and who I’m going to be all over again. Without Everlee.

When you lose a baby, you lose everything. You lose all the hopes and dreams you held over those ten months, you lose confidence, hope, courage, strength. Your sense of control. It’s all gone. All you have left to you is grief. It’s the only thing that’s real; everything else is just an illusion.