|image posted on Pinterest with a bad link--sorry|
And, no, this isn't a ploy to get everyone to wish me happy birthday--it's a happy day already, trust me. Not perfect by any means, but as close as I'll ever get.
This was the longest year of my life.
I guess birthdays tend to invite reflection (at least for the self-absorbed analytics in the crowd), and in the last few days I've found myself thinking a lot about where I was a year ago, and how glad I am to have come so far from there.
One year ago at this time, I was more than half a year out from the loss of Eliza, but the pain was still incredibly fresh. Six months is nothing when it comes to that kind of grief. I was still neck-deep in it. Life still hurt. Even simple pleasures (favorite foods, good movies, white wine...) also registered as Things I'd Never Share With Eliza, or things that didn't matter in comparison with the death of my baby. At best, they were minor distractions to keep the tears temporarily at bay.
Life was not sparkling. It was barely in color. I was going through the motions pretty well, but everything was forced and the effort was exhausting. This is evidenced by the fact that I can barely remember last summer. Looking back, it's foggy and soaked with tears. I cried every. single. day of last summer.
I was broken hearted, and also reaching the point where I started to wonder if I'd used up my quota of sympathetic understanding. I had friends tell me they thought I'd be "better" by now. People--friends and acquaintances and my in-laws--started asking when we were going to have another baby. I couldn't even talk about it because I didn't know WHY I wasn't pregnant (it wasn't for lack of trying, let me tell you) and I was devastated.
I couldn't let go of the fact that my perfectly planned life had fallen apart. I didn't want to make a new plan because I loved the old plan so much. I didn't know how to move forward with a life that felt like it would always be worse than it should have been. I was both utterly grief stricken and trying desperately to get pregnant again and it was a horrible place to be.
A year ago, I couldn't look at babies or pregnant women. I barely talked to my friends who had new babies or were expecting babies. In fact, I barely talked to my friends at all, except for a few die-hards (God love them) who kept calling and texting and e-mailing me anyway (thanks, guys).
A year ago I was teaching a class on banned books. It had its fun moments, but I wasn't really enjoying myself. I was still in survival mode, taking it one day at a time.
A year ago my family took a vacation to the wonders of Canada (Vancouver and Whistler) and being outdoors there was the first time since Eliza died that nature seemed beautiful and God seemed possible again.
A year ago I was making an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist because my biological clock had me in a PANIC. It may have been irrational, but it was nonetheless real for that.
A year ago I was seeing a grief counselor every other week. I was still sobbing my way through most appointments.
I wanted desperately to be pregnant and all I could think about was that something mysterious was wrong with me, and whatever had killed Eliza had also rendered me infertile and incapable of ever having a child.
A year ago, I was actively researching international and domestic adoption.
A year ago, I was in daily contact with three other moms who had lost babies and were trying to get pregnant again. No detail of grief, hope, or ovulation was too personal to share with those ladies, and their e-mails (along with texts and e-mails and blog comments from other BLMs) were quite possibly the only things that kept me sane.
A year ago, all I wanted for my birthday was another baby.
This year, she's here.
I can hardly believe it.
I say this not because I'm gloating or because I'm all better now or because life is sweet again (although in so many ways, it is). But because I want you to know that if you are in someplace that feels like the darkest, scariest, most hopeless place you could be, it is very possible that a year from now your life will have changed immeasurably.
A year is long enough to soften even the sharpest pain and make it bearable. It's long enough to give you to the confidence that your most important relationships can survive a tragedy. It's long enough to make it clear which friendships are worth hanging on to and which aren't. A year is long enough to make new friends that you'll have for a lifetime. It's long enough to adjust your expectations of certain family members, and to be pleasantly surprised by others.
It's long enough to have a positive pregnancy test, survive a stressful pregnancy, and bring home a healthy baby.
A year gave me enough time to really figure out that what I read somewhere is true--happiness and sadness are not two sides of the same coin. You don't experience only one or the other. You find a way to reside with them both. My joyful experience with Caroline in no way softens or cancels out the pain of losing Eliza. But in the same way, the trauma and grief of losing my little Eliza does not diminish or overshadow my happiness at having Caro here with us.
I don't know how that works. I didn't quite believe it when other people told me it worked that way. But it's true.
A year is long enough to prove that no matter how much time goes by, you'll never get over the heartbreak of your great loss, but you can get back to yourself.
And this year was enough time to get myself to a better place than I ever dared hope I'd be. (Although, of course, I was hoping for this all along.)
So hold on.
You never know where you'll be in a year.
|I'm putting this print up in Caroline's nursery. You can get the free printable here.|