Friday, January 20, 2012

I Miss Her Still

I visited my best friend last weekend and I held her new baby--just over two weeks old.  Ellie Kate is positively adorable, all blue eyes and blond fuzz and soft skin, and she slept draped across my chest, milk-drunk and lovely.  I held her and my eyes filled up with tears, and over the wheeze of the breast pump that my friend was using as she sat on the couch next to me, I patted that sweet, sleeping baby and said, "I'm so scared I'll never have this."

She told me that I will, and most of the time I almost believe her.

I am so, so grateful to be pregnant.  I think we honor the love we have for Eliza by wanting to have another baby.  She made us parents and it's a testament to her that we want so much another chance to raise a child, to have more of the joy of parenting and less of the sorrow.  I feel so lucky--so dangerously, cautiously, fearfully lucky--to be able to hold on to the hope that we will have another chance to experience those simple pleasures (and, yes, even the frustrations) of having a baby.

But I'll never have that chance with Eliza.

And as much as I already love the Deuce, as much as this baby is wanted and welcomed, this pregnancy has not changed for one moment how much I want Eliza back.

I still want THAT baby, my first baby, my sweet girl.

I want us to have THAT life, the one I thought for sure was meant to be, the one where we're like everybody else and we watch our kids grow up and our heartaches are far in the future.

I want us to be THOSE parents, the ones who never cradled a dead child, who never cried themselves to the point of oblivion, who never tasted the metallic chill of that sort of fear and loss.

And I think to myself, if I could trade it, if I could have a thirteen-month-old baby girl and not be pregnant again, I'd take that deal in second.

I know I won't always feel that way.  I've been assured by other moms who have endured a loss that a trade becomes unfathomable, and you just want ALL your kids (and really, is that too much to ask?).

I know that these hypothetical bargains with the universe are stupid and a waste of time and a kind of self-torture.  And why?  To prove how much I love Eliza?  To make myself feel guilty (guiltier?) for all the mixed feelings that accompany The Deuce?

It's just that I miss her.  And now that I'm pregnant, it's kind of like my grief has become more focused.  It's not so much about what I'll never have (although that fear is still very real), but it's about what I'll never have with her.

And really, it was always about that.  I wrote long ago about how even I was sort of stunned about how much I could love her as an individual and her own little person, when I'd never really known her outside my belly.  I knew all along, as we all know, that children are not replaceable or interchangeable.  But as my heart expands--cautiously, reluctantly even--to make room for the Deuce, as I let the hope of having another baby enter into my consciousness, I realize all over again how much we've lost that we can never get back.

Eliza is so many things to me, but she never gets to just be that sweet baby we brought home from the hospital, the one whose diapers we changed, and whose smile lit up our home.  She never gets to assert her little personality and develop her own little quirks.  She never gets to crack us up with her facial expressions, or astonish us with her brilliance, or delight us with her athletic prowess (as she undoubtedly would have, right?).  She is a precious symbol of unconditional love, she is our firstborn daughter and our Baby Duck, but she doesn't just get to be what we wanted most.  Our little girl.

As I've said before, I can't deny the many gifts that Eliza has brought to us.  The way she has connected me to other people, the way she has opened my eyes to the suffering that happens all around us, the way she showed me my capacity for love was beyond what I had even imagined.  I will be a better mom because of her.  I will be a better wife and daughter and sister and friend because of her.  I will be a more compassionate and understanding person because of her.  My love for The Deuce is shaped by having loved her.  I know that my life is richer and fuller and brighter and fiercer than it would be if I'd never loved and lost Eliza.

But my life will never be what it could have been if she were here.

Oh, I miss her.


Leslie said...

You re so right Brooke. We will never have the beautiful moments that we so desire to have with the children we have lost. Our lives are so different and though many of us would say that we are indeed better people then we were before the children. we would undoubtedly trade it in a heartbeat to have them alive in our arms.
I can assure you 150% that when Deuce arrives you will cherish and adore this child just as you do Eliza. It happens in the moment.. that millisecond when you hear that cry or they take their first breath- it is so hard to describe but your heart just divides.. when it happens (and it will) you will think to yourself.. ahhh- that is it. Sending hugs and love...

brianna said...

I totally get it.
It is so confusing to absolutely love and want back the baby you lost while simultaneously loving and longing for the baby who is still cooking. I still have these moments when I look at Clio and feel terribly guilty for missing her brother so much when I know full well that if he had lived she would never have existed.
Still, the heart makes room. I love them both. I want them both. I want something that is logically impossible. That is just a continuation of what I've felt for the last two years.

Caroline said...

Oh Brooke - this was so beautiful. I wish that Eliza got all those things too. And your desire for her to have them won't ever end. The first time I nursed Finn in the nursery, I was a mess. I sat there and rocked him and cried. All I could do was look at Cale's picture and wish so much that I had the same experience with him. And that's happened many more times. I'm so thankful for all these experiences, but WHY didn't I get them with my first baby?

But again, I think it goes back to what you said - just a sign of how much we love them. Our wants for them will never end. Nor should they.

Amelia said...

I understand.

Hope's Mama said...

This cracked my heart open, just a little bit wider.
So true, all of it.

B. Wilson said...

Sometimes what you writes just hits my heart in this perfect spot. That's what this post did for me.

I do completely understand everything-- except the holding the infant part. Eek! You are incredible. Thank you for sharing your heart. It's basically what my heart feels as well.

Janet said...

Oh, this is a beautiful and heartbreaking post.

People say to me things like "but you will have kids one day" and it just stings, because even if that is true, I don't want kids one day. I want MY KID, who is dead. I want my baby I already had, who was taken from me too soon. It's just not the same.

It sounds like your heart and your mind are in just the right place. Even if it is a very hard place to be sometimes.

Sara said...

Beautiful words. I wish she were here with you.

Lindsey said...

I feel this too.

Lindsey said...

I feel this too.

Renel said...

This post is just so perfect. We just want our babies. I have guilt...I am really good at guilt. When I was in the hospital waiting to give birth to Camille I said that if I had to choose, I am glad it was this baby and not Kai. FUCKING HELL! I know I hadn't met her yet, I didn't know she was Camille, I didn't know she was a girl. It didn't matter. I was trying to bargain with my grief thinking that this grief would be easier than a different grief...which just isn't true. We didn't choose.

The Deuce is wanted and loved and I know it feels like we would trade or swap or whatever, but really I think it is because we are protecting our hearts. You didn't have a choice. The new baby will fill your heart with so much love and joy and amazingly enough it will sit side by side with the love brokeness of not having Eliza. I know this only because my brokeness and love for Camille sits next to my love for Kai.

I wish we could have our daughters. One of my favorite poems by Emily Dickenson says:

"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me."

Brooke~ All we can do is hope, it is a beautiful thing. I think it is one of the things humans do best. Love to you.

Renel said...

I just wanted to comment on what Leslie said: "It happens in the moment.. that millisecond when you hear that cry or they take their first breath- it is so hard to describe but your heart just divides.. when it happens (and it will) you will think to yourself.. ahhh- that is it."

I was so affraid during my pregnancy with Camille that I wouldn't be able to love my second baby the way I loved my first baby, and then my baby died, I gave birth to her and even without the cry, my heart still divided and my heart opened to her and I loved her like no other child, not like my first child, I loved her completely and fully as my second child. I loved her. I can't wait for you to meet your baby.

AND now I am crying.

Tiffany said...

i understand completely. i was actually planning to blog about how much i miss him. that part just never changes. and even now i'm scared to death. ((hugs))

LauraJane said...

This post is perfect (do I write that in every post comment of yours?).

"She is a precious symbol of unconditional love, she is our firstborn daughter and our Baby Duck, but she doesn't just get to be what we wanted most. Our little girl."- this, exactly.

Addi's mom said...

Every.single.part of this post had me nodding along and then you said this "And I think to myself, if I could trade it, if I could have a thirteen-month-old baby girl and not be pregnant again, I'd take that deal in second". Thank you for saying that. It's so nice when others say it too. It's just how I feel. Beautiful always.