Wednesday, February 15, 2012

On Choosing Love Again

A few years ago, my best friend gave me this art print.  It hangs in our hallway, across from our frame gallery, between the bathroom door and the linen closet.  I see it every morning.

It's about big love,
she professed
and letting go...
and bulging vulnerable hearts
...and the honest truth

And the profound choice we make everyday
to Live our Lives
in color
and choose

That print meant a lot to me when I first received it.  I think it was a birthday gift.  I opened it several months after David and I had just found our way through a rough spot in our marriage and discovered, miraculously, that we were still in love.  In fact, we were in it to win it.  In spite of what we'd been through, I knew there wasn't a fight or a disappointment that could make me stop loving this guy.  And I knew, as I never had before, that love is a verb.  It's not a feeling.  It's the action that you take every day, when you choose to love the person you're with (or you don't).

At least, that's what love was for me at that time.  I thought then that our early marital issues were going to be the hardest thing we'd ever face.  I thought if we got through that, we'd make it through anything.  I thought we'd bruised each other's hearts and then we'd fixed them and now we were going to live happily ever after.

I look at the huge tear in the middle of this heart print, the way it's stitched together with silver thread and tied with green tassels, and I know the difference between a bruise and a break.  I feel the physical pain in my chest, the bottomless ache of missing my baby girl.  I know that the heartbreak of losing Eliza is something that neither of us will ever fully recover from.  We'll just learn to live with it.  But nobody tells you HOW to do that, HOW you learn to live after the death of your baby.  HOW you move from going through the motions to actually feeling alive, or how long that takes.

(It takes a long time.)

I realized yesterday morning--Valentine's Day--as I brushed my teeth and looked at the print hanging in the hallway, that this is how you do it.

You choose love.

Even when your heart is broken, you let go of fear and you make yourself vulnerable and you take the risk of choosing love again.  It's a choice, a deliberate action, and it is a profound one.  Because it would be so, so easy to stay small and mean and angry for a very long time.  Like forever.  (And some days I think I make that choice instead.)

I remember telling someone--another bereaved mother who'd had a stillborn baby--that we were trying to get pregnant again, and she said, "Oh, that's good.  That's brave of you."  

I dismissed that comment, because there was nothing BRAVE about how I was feeling.  Desperate, panicked, anxious, any of those adjectives would have applied.  Brave was something I couldn't even consider.  I was trying to get pregnant again (lordy, was I trying) but I hadn't really let go of the fear.

I think now, though, that opening yourself up to the possibility of having another baby, or resigning yourself to the understanding that you won't try to have another baby, both of those are profound choices and huge acts of love.  Either way, your life has gone down a path you never wanted to travel, a path you would have resisted with every fiber of your being, kicking and screaming if you'd been given the option.  Either way, you have to find a way to look forward, to sort through the pain until you find a reason to go on.  And in order to go forward, you have to let go of something.  Not your loved one, but maybe your fear of leaving them behind.

I wanted another baby, and I know that I'm lucky to have that possibility.  Luckier than many who are equally or more deserving.  I wanted another baby because Eliza had made me a mom and that experience had changed me forever.  It was like my heart knew, even though it never really occurred to my brain, that while one child cannot replace another, the only thing that helps this kind of hurt is to experience more love.  Another love won't leave Eliza behind.  How could it, when she's wedged in that tender, broken, beautiful spot in the center of my heart?  The one that's stitched up with silver thread?

Love-after-loss can come from expanding your family through birth or adoption, from reconnecting with your spouse, from reaching out to others who are grieving, from volunteering, from going to support groups, from doing good in memory of your lost loved ones, and (I think) from trying to put down in words all of the love (and sorrow) that you feel.  I guess we all turn to love when we make these connections, when we reach out to others, when we try to articulate our pain so we can name what other people might be feeling too.  

We choose love, again and again, even though we're scared and we're hurt and we're vulnerable, even though it's what got us into this mess of grief in the first place.  In fact, maybe we choose love because we're scared and we're hurt and we're vulnerable.  And maybe we know--or our hearts do--that it's the big risks that bring the big rewards.

And now I'm here.  Yesterday was Valentine's Day.  Our second Valentine's Day without Eliza. (Would you believe I have no memory of Valentine's day last year?  None whatsoever.)  I'm twenty weeks pregnant with the Deuce.  I'm scared out of my mind because my heart is so, so vulnerable.  

But David and I made this choice.  We chose love again.  

Whatever your love looks like, I hope your heart is bulging and vulnerable, too.  


  1. Brooke, this is the most touching BLM post I've read so far in my journey. It's perfect, and beautiful, and spot on. It completely captures what I haven't been able to put into words. The message is so important for our families and friends to read and digest, so that they UNDERSTAND how hard it is for those of us who lost our babies to wrap our heads and hearts around that need to try again (or the need not to try, for those who make that decision). Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  2. Choosing love, no matter the end result, has always lead to my very best decisions in life. Miles, Cale, Finn...Loves of my life. Roscoe too.

  3. "I dismissed that comment, because there was nothing BRAVE about how I was feeling. Desperate, panicked, anxious, any of those adjectives would have applied. Brave was something I couldn't even consider. I was trying to get pregnant again (lordy, was I trying) but I hadn't really let go of the fear."

    Brooke, it is my belief that we are the most brave when we do things that we most fear. I think you ARE brave. And I am brave. We all are. Because we are continuing on IN SPITE of our fears.

    Thanks for this post. And a belated Happy Valentines Day to you and David!


  4. Yes to all of this.. so well said. We love again, we try again, we reach out again.. for hope. xo...

  5. Amen to all of this. Choosing love, choosing to risk it all to love once again... Its a choice everyday.

  6. And I'm crying. Absolutely beautifully written.

  7. wow. this is so profound and puts into words somethings i've been trying to express myself.

    "It was like my heart knew, even though it never really occurred to my brain, that while one child cannot replace another, the only thing that helps this kind of hurt is to experience more love."


  8. This is perfectly written and beautifully captures my feelings. Thank you!

    Yeah for being 20 weeks!!!

  9. This is beautiful, Brooke. It sums up so well what I remember of being pregnant the second time. And I think what I like about it especially is the idea that you don't just choose love one time - it's something you keep (hopefully) doing.

    My fingers are crossed for your bulging and vulnerable heart.

  10. You always seem to write the very best posts. This was just beautiful and yes, we choose love again!

  11. Oh my friend... most definitely.

    I choose love. Elliot, Andrew, Benjamin. Love love love love.

  12. What a wonderfully written post! It is brave to live after losing a baby, no matter how you chose to live, but the simple act of showing up to life is brave. And I like how you point out that loving another baby afterwards is healing, even though not replacing the lost baby. I did not know how to say it to people without sounding like I encourage them to just replace the baby, which I never would. But I did want to point out that having Emma after losing Adrian, my son, has healed me so wonderfully of my desperation and emptiness.