When the World Was Shattered

Eve's flower butterfly 

Well, it's here.  

On this day one year ago, we found out that our daughter had died before she was born.  

On this day, I found myself ushered into a community of shared grief that I never imagined existed. 

On this day, my heart and my sense of security (false though it was) were shattered.  We are still picking up the pieces.  

Honestly, I thought this day, the first anniversary of Eve's death, would be easier.  Even though I've been dreading this day for months, Jacob's arrival seemed to have eased the pain enough that I expected to navigate this first of the first anniversary days without tears.  But now I'm realizing that he was only distracting me from it.

I'm not ungrateful for that -- he is the best distraction a bereaved mama could hope for.  His life is a source of healing.  But his presence does not and will not and should not make up for Eve's absence.

And so the tears fell as I nursed him early this morning, remembering how November 18, 2011, unfolded.

I remember almost everything about that day with perfect clarity.  How I wore a sweater I hadn't worn in ages because it showed off my 31 week pregnant belly so perfectly.  How I ran errands as snow began to fall -- first to the bank, then to the craft store, and then to buy the Best Husband Ever a bread knife for his birthday.  How I was buoyed by the singular joy of pregnancy everywhere I went, how I shared our daughter's due date and how we hadn't yet decided on a name with the strangers who asked.

I remember coming home after my morning of errands, cars sliding all over the roads as the snow began to accumulate on the yet untreated roads.  I remember how I relaxed after a week of intense art-making, how the Best Husband Ever and I sipped hot cocoa and faced off in a computer game and watched Seinfeld together.

And then I remember how I noticed that our baby hadn't performed her usual nighttime tumblings.  How I tried to remember the last time I'd felt her move, and couldn't.  How I guzzled apple cider to try to wake her up, then called my doctor.  How my husband and I changed back out of our pajamas at 11:00 that night to travel through the still-falling snow to the hospital.

I remember checking in at the front desk of labor and delivery, how slow the receptionist seemed to be responding.  I remember how that was the first time I felt a nauseating flare of panic sweep through me, how I wanted to scream that my baby might not be okay and you have to help her now, damn it.  How we were ushered into a room and I giggled as I shyly slid out of the bathroom having changed into the open-backed hospital gown, the urgency somehow having left me as quickly as it came. 

I remember how the nurse searched and searched for the sound of a heartbeat.  How she said that the baby might be hiding, and I wondered how a baby could possibly have room left to hide in at 31 weeks.

I remember smiling at my doctor as she came into the room, how she didn't smile back but looked so, so worried.  How she, too, searched, this time via ultrasound, and found nothing.  How the perfect form of our baby was devastatingly still on the ultrasound machine's monitor.  How my doctor came to the side of the bed and told me what I could already see for myself.  How she and the doctor left me and my husband alone and the silence and questions were too much and all we could do was breathe and hold each other.

I remember how my doctor came back into the room after a little while to discuss our options.  I remember how appalled I felt when I realized that I would still have to deliver this baby, and how terrified I was of doing that.

I remember how my doctor shared that her first baby was stillborn, too, how he had died just like mine -- without warning, without known cause.  How grateful I felt that of all the doctors in the world we had this one who knew

I remember leaving the hospital feeling dazed and dizzy, knowing that we'd be coming back in one day to begin induction.  How those twenty-four hours stretched before me like an eternity of hell that I was not equipped to navigate.  (This is why I decided to donate books for Eve's first birthday -- to help other bereaved parents beat back this darkness, to make them feel a little less alone.)

How the nurse pressed a scrap of paper with the hospital's phone number into my husband's palm and said that she was so sorry, that we were in shock, that it was all so unfair.  How I clutched my husband's hand as we left. 

I remember how returning to our home made me feel sick at how much our lives had changed in the space of an hour.  How I couldn't sleep, the first night of weeks of insomnia.  How I was afraid to touch my belly, where death now resided. 

I remember how helpless, how alone I felt.  An abject loneliness that is deeper than words can tell.  That I still feel sometimes. 

I remember how I wanted to die, how I longed for it.  How I'd rather die than give birth to this tiny little being who'd barely lived.  How I wondered how we could go on after she was out of me, and how I could possibly survive giving birth to a dead person. 

The only thing I can't remember is when I felt her last kick.  This not-knowing will haunt me forever.

And now, here it is -- one year later.   

It doesn't feel like it's already been a year.  I can still taste the fear and shock and bitterness of it all so sharply. 

But we have survived.  Because of our friends from Before, and my new friends from After.  Because of the grace of God pulling me along when all I wanted was to lay down and die.

The one hope that lights my way through the endless grief of babyloss is that one year ago today, our daughter was born into the arms of God, never having tasted the pain that living in this world can bring.  I miss her and miss her and miss her, but I am so grateful for that. 

Happy Heavenly birthday, my sweet baby girl.  I love you.

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