Last year, I had strep throat on Eliza's birthday and I actually think that was easier. Feeling physically shitty was a distraction. I've come to realize that what I really need is at least two days of bed rest and not having to be a functioning person on the 5th and 6th of December. Unfortunately, that's just not entirely possible.
I thought I was doing ok after spending a good weekend with friends in Kansas City, but the sadness started settling in on the drive home. Monday at work... And suddenly I was ugly crying in my office.
So on Tuesday, I gave up on life, asked a colleague to collect my students' final essays and went home to put on pajamas and weep intermittently while watching Gilmore Girls and finalizing my last exam. I also managed to take Cooper for a walk and take a pair of shoes to get repaired, but otherwise I just made a butt imprint on the couch. I thought I might be able to work on Christmas gifts/wrapping, but I had zero motivation.
It just hit me hard that she would be such a little PERSON at age 6 with her own ideas and thoughts and comments about the world and I'm missing that and missing conversations with her and oh. my. god. My baby died. My baby died. How is that even possible?
One of my dark secrets for a long time was that if I could go back and never get pregnant with Eliza at all, I thought I would have made that choice. It was so hard for me to separate the pain from the happiness that I would gladly have given up all of that anticipatory joy of pregnancy, knowing it would only lead to disappointment.
One gift of distance is that it allows me to remember some moments of happiness without seeing them as completely tainted by the grief that would follow. I'm trying to separate my love from her loss. It often feels impossible to pull them apart, but I'm trying to reframe things a little bit.
Last night when I was talking to Zu about Eliza's birthday, she said, "Can we have a celebration?" and then she said, "What kind of treats and cupcakes did Eliza like when she was a baby?"
Yesterday morning our stupid elf was hanging out on Eliza's picture and we talked about her birthday again and Zuzu said, "I wish she could be alive." and I could tell that it was kind of a dramatic performance rather than a real wish, but it still got the tears rolling.
Also she suggested we ask Santa to use his magic to give Eliza a candy cane that would bring her back to life. #greatideas
Late yesterday afternoon, I shook myself out of my stupor. David was going to be picking up the girls from class, so I planned to run out to get birthday treats to have after dinner before we went out to the vigil. But then David called because he had a flat tire and it had a hole in it, so I ended up having to pick up the girls and meet him there.
Which would have been fine, except I wanted to run to Target to pick up a few things for the family that was adopted by my university for Christmas (as I told Zuzu, trying not to cry, "I can't buy shoes for Eliza, so I'm buying shoes for these kids instead.") and then I'd forgotten our candles, so I wanted to run home to get them (I should have just bought more at Target, but I was not thinking clearly), and that put us behind schedule. Instead of a nice dinner with special treats, the girls ate Target snack bar popcorn and breakfast bars for dinner, then had scrambled eggs and cereal as a bedtime snack. #qualityparenting
Also Coco had to pee at Target because Coco ALWAYS pees at Target and then since we were all going, I decided to go, too. I'm sure the other women in the bathroom especially enjoyed the LOUD conversation from our stall:
Zuzu: You going pee pee or poo poo, Mommy?
Me in a whisper: Shh, honey. I just have to pee.
Coco at top volume: Poo-poo?
Me: Shh! No!
Zuzu: I hear your tinkles!
Coco: Twinkle twinkle! Good job!
Meanwhile, at Jiffy Lube, the guy working there overheard part of David's conversation with me, when David was explaining that it would take an hour so he'd just have to meet me there. The Jiffy Lube guy asked David where he was headed, and David told him.
An hour later, after the tire was repaired, they didn't charge him anything for it. Isn't that a sweet act of kindness?
I'm glad David got to talk about Eliza, even just with the guy at Jiffy Lube, because I think part of the reason that six years feels so hard is that with fewer people directly acknowledging her birthday each year, talking about it (and her) starts to feel less and less acceptable, especially since there's nothing new to say and everybody has heard it already. How long can I keep asking people to be sad with me? It must be exhausting for them.
At the same time, people are always willing to celebrate good things. A new job! A regular living birthday! A great haircut! The end of the semester!
Why can't we recognize and acknowledge heartache as well as happiness?
The vigil was nice, even with me feeling a bit frantic and rushed, and I'm glad we went. David got there early enough to place a flower on the angel for our girl, and I was happy that he did that. At least Eliza has one parent who can get places on time.
As always, I'm so grateful for the texts and the e-mails and the blog comments and the love and the prayers and the good thoughts (even if you didn't tell me about them) and the candle lightings and the acts of kindness and the donations in her name.
I don't know where I'd be today if it weren't for you all who read the blog and comment or email me. Probably institutionalized. So, thank you. xoxoxo