Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Thoughts Deep and Shallow

I had the most amazing experience on Sunday.

After someone had an accident that went right through the “water resistant” mattress pad, I knew I needed one of the plastic mattress covers that are completely waterproof. I ordered it on the Target app as we were leaving church. I selected “pick up at store” and then I chose “deliver to car.” We had brunch and a play date with friends, then I opened the Target app and told them “I’m on my way.” I allowed the GPS to track me in the app and it KNEW when I arrived at the store. By the time I parked in the clearly marked “pick up here” parking spot at the store, a Target employee was walking the mattress cover to my car. 

I signed for it and left and I didn’t have to get my kids out of their car seats. It was AMAZING!

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This week at church was a child dedication service. I had seen this announcement weeks ago, but we missed three weeks of church in a row in November--one or the other of the girls woke up on a Saturday running a temperature two weeks in a row, and then we didn't go on Thanksgiving weekend when we had family in town. Anyway, it was not on my radar and then I got to church on Sunday and saw it in the bulletin: 9:30am Service: Child Dedication.

My heart kind of flipped. This is precisely the kind of service I have deliberately skipped for the past eight years. It has felt too difficult, too tender, too emotional. Certainly not something I would have decided on purpose to sit through the first weekend in December.

But we were there. Well, David stayed home to do some yard work, but Zuzu and I were there, and Coco was already in the preschool room. (At our church, kids in kindergarten and older sit in the service for the first fifteen minutes so they are there for the opening greeting and the "Time for All Ages" story time. After that, we sing the children out of the sanctuary to their classes with a song that goes, "From you I receive, to you I give, together we share, and from this we live," which is a little tradition that I love.)

I looked at the order of service, took a deep breath, and decided I could do this. I didn't need to run to the bathroom and hide. I could manage to sit through the dedication. It was a mix of ages--not just babies--and some of the kids and parents I knew, and I told myself it would be fine.

And it was.

I was sitting in a row with a good friend of mine and her son and daughter. Her son is in kindergarten and her daughter is a second grader--she is just a few weeks older than Eliza would have been.

There were five seats in the row, and five of us sitting there. Zuzu sat on the end of the row, then me, then my friend's daughter, then an empty chair, and my friend sat on the other end, holding her son on her lap.

And I had this moment of sitting there, noting the spacing that we hadn't planned, watching Zuzu play quietly with the stuffy she'd brought, watching my friend's daughter draw in her little notebook, imagining what it would be like if it were my second grader on my left and my first grader on my right. What if that were my normal? What if that were every day life? What if a child dedication was just one more little event at church instead of something that made my heart seize up? What if every December didn't feel start with me feeling like I have to gulp enough oxygen to get through the hours when I know I'll feel like I can't breathe? What if life were just that simple?

And then it was back to real life. The child dedication was lovely. It did not make me cry. We sang the kids out to Sunday school and we sat through the service and then we joined that same friend and her family for brunch and playtime at her house that was--as we could have expected--was noisy and hectic and left little time for actual talking, but was still a really nice moment of connection that I needed at the start of this week.

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Eliza's eighth birthday is two days away. I sent an e-mail to Zuzu's teacher because I'm not sure whether Zuzu will talk about Eliza at school, but I wanted her to be prepared and aware of the situation if it comes up. I got a lovely response from her, which of course made me cry.

Sometimes I feel that old anger flare up, that feeling that, okay, yes, we've survived this great loss and we've been lucky enough to have two more amazing children who are here and healthy and alive and yet WHY did my baby have to die? Why does my life have to be complicated by this grief? Why do I have feel this extra level of complicated feelings about ALL OF THE THINGS ALL OF THE TIME?  Why am I e-mailing my first grader's teacher to let her know that it's possible my daughter will mention her dead sister's birthday this week? Why is this my life? Why can't it just be simple and easy?

And I know it's never simple or easy.  I know it may look that way, but everyone's story is more complicated and messier and uglier than we could possibly know. These stories emerge slowly, a comment here "When my mom died..." a remark there, "After my first marriage ended..." or "When I got my diagnosis..." and I realize that everyone gets their share of hurt and sad. (Don't they? Because if there's anyone who's still missing out on that completely, than I am definitely angry and jealous about it.)

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This year, I don't feel like I've been super emotional, but I think grief is manifesting itself as exhaustion (I see you, Grief! I know your tricks.). I feel really tired. I did all the things in November to get ready for December and I'm relieved I did because I'm definitely not productive right now. My plan for tonight is to go home, light a fire in the fireplace, watch the snow fall, and read. Or maybe just sleep.

I've already gotten some messages from people thinking of Eliza, recognizing my grief season, sharing it due to their own losses, and I'm just so grateful. For those of you still reading this ancient blog, for those of you who have shared your stories with me, for those of you who light a candle for my girl and hold Eliza in your hearts.

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I went to a concert last Friday with a new-ish friend who has also become a very dear, kindred spirit kind of friend and one of the songs they performed in concert was "For the Better" from Wicked. This song never fails to bring tears to my eyes. It makes me think of all the ways I've been shaped by being Eliza's mom--by knowing and loving her, and by all the people I've been led to because of her, including this friend, all of the babyloss moms I've e-mailed or connected with, and pretty much all of you reading this.

I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn.

And we are led to those
Who help us most to grow if we let them.
And we help them in return.

Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you.

Like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes the sun,
Like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through the wood.

Who can say if I've been changed for the better
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good.



21 comments:

  1. Thinking of you Brooke. Been reading for years and I always think of Eliza this time of year. My grandfather lost his wife and son in childbirth in 1962. He was never the same. He found joy later, but when he died my mom found his box with his wedding and honeymoon photos and all of the photos of his wife and her death paperwork. I know keep them as I can’t bear to throw them away, even though he’s gone.
    Thinking of your beautiful Eliza on her 8th birthday.

    Kelley

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    1. Thank you, Kelley. Your grandfather's life seems perfect evidence of all the joy and pain a heart can hold.

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    2. I hope to visit his wife and son’s grave site when I can (it’s out of state but not far.) Just as a testament that even if his family is gone, she won’t be forgotten or baby Gregory. I never knew this until my grandfather passed, and now so many things make sense in hindsight. His loss and the way he married my grandmother and adopted my mom....makes me love him even more.

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  2. I am holding Eliza close to my heart as we near her birthday.
    That Target pickup sounds awesome! My cyber Monday Target order of lights I needed to decorate house and tree (90% of old ones didn’t work grrr) got caught in computer system and I finally got notice saying they’d be delivered 12/13 even though they were in stock. I had to go to Home Depot. You win Target this time 😉
    Hugs, my friend. I wish your celebration looked so different this week.

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    1. Thank you for thinking of Eliza. That's the weird thing about grief--how it just sneaks in amidst the runs to Target and the putting up of Christmas lights.

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  3. March is for daffodilsDecember 4, 2018 at 10:45 PM

    "Why do I have feel this extra level of complicated feelings about ALL OF THE THINGS ALL OF THE TIME?" yes yes yes

    I'll be thinking of you and your sweet Eliza on the 6th. It's a funny day for us. St Nicholas for the kids, the anniversary of my grandmother's death, a mix of happy-sad like all the other days. I'll remember Eliza, she will be part of how I acknowledge the happy-sad of December 6. And I'm sending lots of love to you, Brooke, and gratefulness for your generosity in sharing Eliza and yourself and helping so many of us along the way. Though we would have wished it so different, Eliza's impact on the world is immeasurable.

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    1. The happy-sad of December. And the complicated feelings. All the yeses. Glad I'm not the only one. xo

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  4. Thinking of you all and Eliza. 💜

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  5. Remembering Eliza with you. I hope the day is as gentle as can be.

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    1. xoxo. Monique, your voice was such a guide for me in the early days. I'm so grateful to you.

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  6. I found your blog in the late summer/early autumn of 2011. At first, I was intrigued by your story because we had certain things in common - we are the same age, got our PhDs in the same year, work similar jobs, have similar interests, etc. But I had no idea what a comfort your blog would become. When I started reading, I hadn't yet tried to get pregnant. Over the following years, my husband and I did start trying, without success. I sought medical help, I took Clomid, I suffered an early miscarriage, I went through three rounds of IVF. All along, I found your posts - ALL your posts, whether happy, sad, serious, or silly - a great source of comfort.

    A year ago, I got pregnant. At that point, your blog - especially the posts written during the months you were pregnant with Zuzu - became an even greater comfort to me as I navigated a fearful pregnancy. I was so afraid that after so much trouble getting pregnant, something would go wrong and I would lose my baby. But knowing that you had got through not one but two stressful pregnancies helped me - both in terms of recognising that not all pregnancies are easy emotionally (and that's okay), and physically, in terms of kick counts, NSTs, and inductions. My son arrived safe and sound (after an unexpected c-section in August). Thank you for writing, and for making your story (ALL of your story - the happy, the sad, the serious, the silly) accessible to others. Your writing and this blog is a gift. As Dec 6 dawns, I will be thinking of you and Eliza.

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    1. Thank you for sharing this. It's astonishing to me how complicated making a family can be for most of us, and how that history gets so quickly covered up once the baby is here. I'm glad your baby boy got here safely and I'm so grateful that you're thinking of my Eliza, too.

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  7. from a random person on the internet who reads your blog but rarely comments - i'm thinking of you and eliza today. i'm sorry life is just so freaking unfair.

    my daughter would have been 6 in november, and grief definitely manifested itself as exhaustion for me this year, too. with some anger and despair - i have a good life, a son now - but it will just never be okay that my baby died and i'll never get to know who she would have grown into.

    thank you for continuing to write and share. wishing you a peaceful, gentle day and season.

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    1. Thank you for this. I'm so sorry about the loss of your daughter. It is exhausting and unfair. And yet we make a good life out of it, too. Sending love your way.

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  8. Thinking of you today. I found your blog almost exactly a year ago and Eliza's story has continued to make me a more grateful parent as my little girl enters toddlerhood.

    I lit a candle and prayed for your family at St. Patrick's church in San Francisco today. Be kind to yourselves.

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    1. Thank you so much for this! I love the thought of a candle lit for her in San Francisco.

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  9. I've been thinking of Eliza and the rest of your family this week. Sending you light.

    I'm right there with you on the frustration with grief, and I'm especially feeling that now that I'm in a maternal and child health program because I get so emotionally invested when we get near the subject of stillbirth. That said, my kids have both made friends this year whose lives have been touched by cancer. One lost his mother last year, so that has helped me shrug off my own pity. I've been wondering whether my family is some sort of grief magnet.

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    1. I think that those of us touched by grief just have had the curtain pulled back--you're not a magnet. You just see it where others are willfully blind.

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  10. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers!

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  11. I’ve read you since 2011 when I was on bed rest for pre eclampsia and have read you failthfully since. An acquaintance of mine just delivered a stillborn baby yesterday, I know better how to be there for her because of your blog. Thinking of you this month!

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