There are so many moments when I feel so good. When I feel like the person that I've become since Eliza, because of Eliza, is exactly the person I was meant to be. When I feel like I've learned something and gained something from all of this, and even though the outcome was forged by pain, we're in such a beautiful place now, a place I can see with clarity and gratitude. I want to count my lucky stars but it would go on forever, and of all the stars, Eliza's is always the brightest and most beautiful.
There are moments when she feels like a whisper, a dream, a hope, a guiding light on the journey to creating our family. I feel like the lessons I've learned from losing Eliza, as hard-fought and devastating as they were, are valuable lessons, teaching moments, not the beginning of the end, but the start of something so much more than I could have ever imagined.
And then there are moments when I remember just how real, how tangible, how human she was. How alive she had been at one time. How cold her tiny little hands were.
I cannot believe I birthed a dead baby and then held in her my arms.
Forget all the should-haves and might-have-beens. The trauma of that reality makes me want to hold my breath until I pass out so I don't have to remember it. And also because me breathing when my baby wasn't felt like an incredible betrayal.
The weight of her--she was solid and substantial even though she weighed in at less than four pounds. The shape of her face. That damn button nose. Her long fingers, her soft jowly cheeks. She wasn't a figment. She was so damn real. And now she's gone. She's ashes and air and broken dreams and it makes me furious because she was a person with her own little body and soul and brain and personality and I never got to know what she was like outside my belly. And now all I know about her is that she liked root beer and Greek tragedies and she didn't care for pesto and it's not enough and it will never be enough.
She died and I held her and she was wrapped in a blanket and wearing a hat and I never took off her hat because I didn't want her to be cold.
Oh my God. You guys. My baby died. I had a beautiful baby girl and she died and we don't know why.
My brain does not want to accept that truth. I do not want this to be my life. This life of gratitude and hope and metaphysical thinking and asking hard questions and accepting there are no good answers. I'm not a good enough person for that life. I don't want to be compassionate and helpful and kind and understanding and changed-in-good-ways because of her death. I just want her to be alive.
I'm angry. I want the smug, safe, comfortable life where tragedy happens to other people, not to me, and certainly not to my baby. I want to be naive and innocent and stupid and happy. I don't want Christmas to be loaded with grief coming in on the flipside. I don't want to be so damn angry that all the things we can do with Caroline this year, things we're looking forward to doing--photos and Santa and carols and gifts--we should have been doing for the last two years with her sister.
I know Christmas is about magic and miracles. It's about hope and love in the dust and hay of a stable. It's about a world that is lost and in pain finding an unexpected pathway to something greater and more beautiful than they had imagined--and doing so through the birth of a baby.
But none of that makes Christmas easy, especially coming as it does on the heels of my heartbreak.
Two years ago, that baby in the manger was like a dagger in my heart. A virgin could have a baby without any medical care in a freaking barnyard and THAT baby lives to grow up! (Yes, I was jealous of the Virgin Mary. I'm not proud of it. Grief is ugly and stupid and relentless.)
This year, I put up our nativity scene, surrounded by my choir of angels, and I could handle the baby Jesus. After all, he grew up to be a pretty decent guy. And his mom's heart was broken, too, so it's not like I can really stay mad at Mary these days. So I guess I've made some improvement since one of the major aspects of Christianity no longer upsets me? It's the missing two-year-old who should be singing "Away in a Manger" that still makes me cry.
I say I lost eighteen months of my life to grief, and I mean it. Those were months when I didn't want to leave my house. When the only places I went were work, the grocery store, and then--finally--to yoga classes and coffee shops with (childless) friends. Those were months when I couldn't bear to have conversations with some of my best friends. When seeing babies and hearing about pregnancies made my chest constrict with jealousy and my stomach clench in sorrow. When every baby shower thrown before the baby was born felt like a personal slap in the face, like they were saying, "It happened to you but it won't happen to me!" Those were months I watched countless hours of TV, needing the noise because it hurt to much to listen to what was in my own head--an interminable chant: "I want my baby."
And that's not to say that magically, eighteen months later I had another baby and all was well and my grief was over. Because things are SO MUCH better and often really, really great and I feel lucky and happy and sometimes even shallow and superficially so, which is awesome because I never thought I'd get here again. But even with the rainbow, it's not all sunshine, you know?
And you know what? I'm pissed off about that too. Because Caroline's babyhood shouldn't be shadowed or drizzled or overcast with my heartbreak. And maybe our lives today are quieter and easier and lovelier because we are so grateful for her, and maybe her tiny little hands (always warm) have worked their own miracles in helping me recover from Eliza's loss, but STILL. It is so damn unfair.
And I know I'm just like every other sot who nods sagely and says, "Oh, life is hard. We all must suffer." and then cries foul when it happens to me because obviously I meant everyone else should suffer and I should just, you know, have a rough day at work and that should be it for me.
But today. Two days out from the bleakest anniversary I can imagine, the sparkle is fading fast and I am feeling so, so sad.