Since Eve died, I have not felt normal. And by "not normal," I mean that I have not felt like myself (which is probably good, because how can you stay the same after something so life-shattering?). I mean that I do not seem to fit.
At times, I haven't felt like a woman. I haven't even felt like a real person. I failed -- or something failed within me, or within her -- in this very basic act of procreation, and as a result I've often felt like I was expelled from the human race on the day I birthed my daughter's body.
It's been lonely, even though I know that I am not alone.
Lately I've been starting to feel more normal. I don't even know what "normal" means now, only that it is different from what normal was before, and that it feels good.
It started with watermelon.
They showed up in the grocery store as summer's heat descended, and I couldn't resist. We began buying watermelon regularly, and as soon as we got home from the store I'd set about slicing, nibbling while I cut the fruit into chunks.
There's something about cutting up watermelon that has felt very soothing to me, very healing. Very normal. Perhaps because it is methodical and physical, the same motions again and again. When I am cutting up watermelon, I somehow feel more strongly than at any other time that I am providing for my family, performing this very mundane act of love for my husband, my body, and the baby boy growing within.
Until watermelon came into season, I have not felt very normal. But with the fruit's advent, I could look forward to this handful of minutes each week, hands sticky with juice, and glory in the calm. No fear, no anxiety, and minimal sadness. Just being.
Over the last few weeks, however, these periods of normalcy have extended beyond the realm of watermelon dissection. They come upon me without warning, and in situations where I would not think to expect them:
Rocking a friend's sweet baby. Washing one of my children's clothes for the first time in my life. Enjoying burgers and conversation and deliciously silly games with more friends. Posing for maternity photos in the gleaming light of evening.
Had I considered these in advance (and for some of them I did), I would have expected each of these situations to make me feel more other, less normal. But instead they had the opposite effect. They made me feel like a person again. Like a woman, and like a mother. Like more than a shell. They made me feel loved, valued.
I feel like I fit again.
I am so grateful. Unspeakably so. It's hard to muster up and keep mustering up the energy to go on breathing when you feel like the air is wasted on something like you. It's hard to hold out for healing when you can't feel the hope of it.
There is another side to these feelings of normalcy that scares me a little.
Because the feelings of not-normal, as horrible as they are, connect me to my daughter. My grief is all that I get to have of her in this life. So I wonder -- as the birth of our second baby draws closer and the joy looms large, will I forget her? Will I pack her mementos away to make room for the living, the grief eclipsed by the exhilaration and terror of life with a newborn? And if I do, what does that say of me?
If grief is love, what does it mean when the only tears shed are tears of gratitude and joy? If I've found a place to fit, is there room enough for her? How can I be a mother to a dead child and a living child at the same time?
I have no answers.
No, that's not true. I have one -- that I love my children, both of them, with an excruciating, beautiful love that I never knew existed until I saw my daughter's face for the first time.
Somehow, that will have to be answer enough.