Saturday, February 16, 2013

Either/Or vs. Both/And

Here's something that I haven't written about at all:

If we hadn't lost Eliza, Zuzu wouldn't be here.

I've never said it out loud.  I don't really like to let myself think it, although it's definitely ticked through my consciousness on more than one occasion.

The thing is, they are far enough apart that they could both be sisters.  And that lends itself its own special ache.  Many of my friends have kids who are 18 months apart--or less.  Eliza and Zuzu would have been about 18 months apart, which is totally possible, whether or not we would have been "trying" again.  

We would not have been trying again because we wanted our kids to be two and a half to three years apart.  You know, Plan A.

But maybe it could have been a happy accident?  An unexpected surprise?

Because maybe my hormones wouldn't have been out of whack because I wouldn't have been drowning in grief and anxiety?  And I would have been ovulating without help?  (Because I did technically have some medical assistance in getting pregnant with Zuzu.)

If I imagine my life with now-two-year-old Eliza, I would be pregnant with her sibling right about now.  I always thought she'd have a little brother (I guess because I had a little brother?  So that was easy for me to imagine?).  But even when I indulge in a fantasy of life where Eliza is here, it never feels possible for her to be here with Zuzu.  

As much as I just want to wish for both my kids, there is a part of me that is certain if we had Eliza here with us, we wouldn't have THIS baby.  We wouldn't have delightful and incorrigible Zuzu.

* * * 

The whole time I was pregnant, I loved the Deuce.  But I still would have traded being pregnant again (ever) for getting Eliza back.

These are impossible choices--the ones we make up and imagine just to torture ourselves--but I do wonder... If given the opportunity, could I knowingly give up Zuzu for a life with Eliza, a life without grief?

One look at this face... and you've got to know that my answer is a resounding no.  I would have to have them both.

The thing is, I obviously didn't choose to have Zuzu instead of Eliza, but sometimes it feels like I had to give up Eliza in order to get Zuzu.  And that just sucks.

I don't like to think about that because it feels so unfair and horrible.

There's a reason Meryl Streep won an Oscar for Sophie's Choice.  Because it's an impossible choice.  Because of course your babies aren't interchangeable.  Because the most horrific torture you could inflict on someone else is making her choose between her children.  

The whole point of it hurting so much to imagine these impossible trade-offs is that I can't replace one with the other because I know the other would have been so different, so dreamy and funny and wild in her own special way.

And for the rest of my life, it's my fate to marvel at Zuzu and to wonder about Eliza and who she would have been.

That part is always going to be sad, but overall, this is a life I can live with.  Hell, it's a life I'm lucky to have!  Zuzu is pretty damn marvelous, after all.

It's just not anywhere close to the life I had once thought was mine, and under all the grief and all the lessons and all the gifts and all the appreciation and all the love, I'm still really fucking pissed off that I got shortchanged when so many people didn't, that I had to make an trade and accept an either/or when I SHOULD have gotten a both/and.

* * * 

The truth is that if we hadn't lost Eliza, we wouldn't have Zuzu.

But the opposite is also true:  If we hadn't had Eliza, we wouldn't have Zuzu.

It's just that we still want them both.  Eliza's loss will never be okay or acceptable or anything but the greatest tragedy of my life.

Even so, in the moments when I can get beyond my sadness, I can see how lucky we are to have loved them both.

Eliza taught me how to love a baby I didn't get to keep.  And it's precisely because of her and how much we loved her that we wanted to have another baby.

And this one I hope to hold on to as long as possible.


  1. I was just talking about this yesterday! How when thinking about the trade. Your also thinking of trading for a life without grief which is a bargaining chip many people do not grasp the value of. I hate thinking about this too because there is never a fair or right or acceptable answer. Our hearts are greedy. We want all our children... But then it makes me think of the 4 million eggs I was born with and who all of them might be and what small planet I could populate with all those beauties. I'm so beyond in love with Harlow, but I only get the opportunity to love her because her sister died. Because even if Camille had lived each baby is a miracle of timing. Sex and sperm and seconds of just right moments that would have been different, leading to a different baby who I know I would also love. The maze of thoughts is crazy making. Sometimes I just have stop because there is no changing what is... And what is, is beautiful and wonderful. There is only wishing for them both to be in our arms.

  2. Oh I know. Luke and Olivia are 20 or so months apart. So it's possible in theory but she was a 23 weeker! If she had lived I think I would have been so scarred by all the NICU stuff for months and months that I would have been extremely hesitant to try again-EVER. Not that losing her wasn't traumatic, obviously it was, but for a lot of ttc I had this "I already lost our baby, I don't care if this kills me this time, I have nothing left to lose" attitude.

    It is hard to ponder about.

    LOVE those pictures.

  3. Beautiful.

    I wish you had both your girls. I wish I had both my boys. Always will, no matter how impossible that is in real life or my "Plan A" life. Thank God the "Plan B" life is still pretty great.

  4. Thank you so much for how you ended this post... that you have Zuzu BECAUSE you had Eliza. Because the joy of pregnancy with her and the joy you expected and knew you would have had being her mom made you want to try again, and brought about Zuzu. This is going to be something I will cling to someday when I (hopefully) have a living child. Brooke you've given me so much.

  5. I'm beginning to think you're psychic. Because Brandy and I were just chatting about this very same thing a couple days ago. That I remember those exact moments (and the post I wrote) about having straight-up traded Grace for Jack when I was pregnant with her, if it meant he could have lived... And now, now I know this girl who loves boobies and smiles at me every morning and who toots and then looks in disbelief at me (!!!) I just couldn't trade them. I can't even fathom how I could arrange things to mean we could have had both, I can only imagine that it would be just too much joy to handle. But there is no other way to think about it because I still hate that we're charged with this eternal grief for a missing baby and yet are so richly rewarded (? Is that even the right word?) with these rainbow babies who literally and figuratively light up our lives.

  6. I just re-read this aloud to Scott. And now I'm crying. Sophie's Choice? YES! And Feeling like Jack was the price we had to pay for Grace? YES! And Eliza teaching you (and Jack I) how to love a baby I couldn't keep? ABS-SO-FREAKING LOUTELY!

  7. I think about this too. I think we all do. It is so hard. I have to give myself a pep talk: I try to tell myself that there is no point in asking myself whether I would change the way things are. I cannot go back and choose only one of my children. I cannot go back in history to change anything at all, good or bad. Bear already died and I cannot change that. Though I still desperately wish I could. I am not choosing Bode over Bear. I am choosing to love and savor and enjoy Bode because that is what I can do. He is who I have right now to shower with love. No one asks other mothers which of their children they would have had if they had to choose. Even the thought of asking a mother that seems absurd. And yet we ask that of ourselves and it is so painful.

    I wish you had both your girls. I wish I had both my boys. Oh SO much!

  8. I think about this all the time. We lost our babies and had our rainbow babies right around the same time, and I can easily say if Ava had lived, Lily probably wouldn't be here. I have felt guilty for even thinking it too.

  9. I think we make if-then statements because after losing one child we love the next in a different way. If you had two living children, you wouldn't think how would they be different if you had just conceived a month earlier or a month later with a different egg. It's hard to imagine being without your rainbow just as he or she is because you didn't want to live another day without your rainbow. Maybe.

    I have been having some nondescript icky feelings lately about other people's pregnancies, and I really connected to what you said about being so angry to get shortchanged when so many other people didn't. It doesn't seem right to be envious about someone else's NOT loss, because that's sort of like wishing they would have a loss. And sometimes I wish that, which is really not a very nice or productive feeling to have!

    Thanks for your posts, Brooke. I have been reading a lot even though I don't comment often. You're a few months ahead of me in both loss and rainbow love, and you've really helped me at times. By the way, I totally thought the Deuce was a boy, too. And of course you would have loved a boy as much as you love Zuzu, but...I lost a boy and was REALLY happy to have another boy. Yep, I said it.

  10. The key thing is to never let our rainbows feel guilty for their existence. My rainbow is only a month old, and yet I already worry about this. No way can I ever allow him to feel like his big brother Elias had to die so he could live. Survivors guilt is a very real thing that I worry about for both my rainbow and Elias's twin sister. And yet the solid reality is that my rainbow would NOT be here had Elias lived...No way would we have gotten preggo - would have been insanely careful NOT to, with 16 month old twins! Like you I have a hard time processing this and figuring out what to do in my mind and my heart with this knowledge. Xo - Lindsay

  11. I've read a lot of bereaved moms talk about this very issue, knowing that if they hadn't lost a baby, the subsequent wouldn't be. . .and how awful that is to even think about. I know that there is not an answer to this internal puzzle, and that you're not alone in this experience.

  12. This is my favorite post ever. Until the next one. But seriously, this is pretty much the premise of the class I'm facilitating right now and it's awesome. I love it.

  13. Brooke, this is a beautiful expression of your feelings. Both of your girls are lucky to have such a compassionate mother.

    I recently read a book by Joan Chittister - "The Story of Ruth: Twelve Moments in Every Woman's Life." It's based on the Book of Ruth (Chittister is nun) and the moments are things like loss, change, transformation, recognition, insight. I really enjoyed it. The chapter on loss really brought to mind some of your posts here. I would recommend the book to you, if that's not presumptuous. It's really easy to read. Anyway, one of Chittister's comments in the chapter on loss is "when all is said and done, we discover that what loss really leaves us with is new beginnings."

  14. I get knots in my stomach when I think about this...when we were pregnant with William & Ethan we always said it was one and done...two babies for the price of one. Had they lived there would be no Maxwell...I can't imagine life without him so reconciling my want for my twins and the son I have is so complicated.

    I think it's safe to say that children we miss have given us all a unique appreciation for the babies we get to snuggle.

  15. We wanted about a three year gap, and there is almost three years exactly between Hope and Juliet, so sometimes I wonder if I was supposed to have my two girls, and that Angus in the middle was the big surprise gift here, the baby we were never supposed to have. And of course I can't imagine my life without him, the little boy who brought me back to life and reinstated my motherhood. But he'd never have been born. That egg...... well that egg would have never been fertilised, I would have never grown a baby again so soon. I only had a 15 month gap between Hope and Angus, and I really don't even think there would have been a happy accident.
    I have thought about it all a lot over the years, and it always does my head in. There is no easy way to look at any of it, but one thing is for sure, I just want them all, damn it.

  16. My boys are 23 months apart. Clearly long enough that we could/would planned them that way. I only planned to have one so I know that V would never have been had we not lost C. And now that V is 8 months old, I have been bombarded with the incessant and stupid question of when I'm going to have another. It's tiresome and even though I know it's supposed to be the it thing to sit and talk with other moms about babies and sleep patterns and what not, I find myself avoiding the mommies all together. Too many questions and not enough of the right answers to satisfy the social convention. Boo! The one thing I think about all the time is that I firmly believe that I am a better mother to V because I lost C. I take nothing for granted. I would rather spend my day playing hide and seek and peek a boo than cleaning floors or doing the dishes. I would rather build blocks and make baby food than play on facebook/other social media. One of my fellow coworkers made the comment to me the other day that she would love to be me for a day because I view parenting and the world so differently. She doesn't know of my grief and when she said this I gave her the saddest smile because it hit me so hard that this view point I have is out of love for a child that was, but never got to be. Emotional. It's so good to know that other people have these same thoughts running rampant through their brains. I'm sorry that any of us had a reason to. Much love, Missy

  17. Yeah, the dead baby math never adds up. I try not to do it often. Wishing we had all our babies.

  18. I feel like I cant properly comment, as I don't have a child here, on the other side - in my arms - to compare these feelings to. But I just wanted to say you hit the nail on the head.

    I think about this stuff constantly. I think about how it will never all add up. I think about how lucky everyone else is who gets to have all their children alive. I think about how I'll never really be able to connect with anyone that has all their children, alive and in tow.

    Either / or. Both / and.

    God. Just impossible.

  19. I am so behind - just reading a few of your posts I've missed. Nodding as I read this one - I also struggle with the fact that Ginny wouldn't exist if we hadn't lost Elizabeth. Then I read, "If we hadn't had Eliza, we wouldn't have Zuzu." and I start crying. Because of course. That is true as well, and beautiful in its own way.