Saturday, July 28, 2012

What a Difference a Year Makes

image posted on Pinterest with a bad link--sorry
It's my birthday.  Another year older, wiser, sadder, happier.  

And, no, this isn't a ploy to get everyone to wish me happy birthday--it's a happy day already, trust me.  Not perfect by any means, but as close as I'll ever get.

This was the longest year of my life.

I guess birthdays tend to invite reflection (at least for the self-absorbed analytics in the crowd), and in the last few days I've found myself thinking a lot about where I was a year ago, and how glad I am to have come so far from there.

One year ago at this time, I was more than half a year out from the loss of Eliza, but the pain was still incredibly fresh.  Six months is nothing when it comes to that kind of grief.  I was still neck-deep in it.  Life still hurt.  Even simple pleasures (favorite foods, good movies, white wine...) also registered as Things I'd Never Share With Eliza, or things that didn't matter in comparison with the death of my baby.  At best, they were minor distractions to keep the tears temporarily at bay.

Life was not sparkling.  It was barely in color.  I was going through the motions pretty well, but everything was forced and the effort was exhausting.  This is evidenced by the fact that I can barely remember last summer.  Looking back, it's foggy and soaked with tears.  I cried every. single. day of last summer.

I was broken hearted, and also reaching the point where I started to wonder if I'd used up my quota of sympathetic understanding.  I had friends tell me they thought I'd be "better" by now.  People--friends and acquaintances and my in-laws--started asking when we were going to have another baby.  I couldn't even talk about it because I didn't know WHY I wasn't pregnant (it wasn't for lack of trying, let me tell you) and I was devastated.

I couldn't let go of the fact that my perfectly planned life had fallen apart.  I didn't want to make a new plan because I loved the old plan so much.  I didn't know how to move forward with a life that felt like it would always be worse than it should have been. I was both utterly grief stricken and trying desperately to get pregnant again and it was a horrible place to be.

A year ago, I couldn't look at babies or pregnant women.  I barely talked to my friends who had new babies or were expecting babies.  In fact, I barely talked to my friends at all, except for a few die-hards (God love them) who kept calling and texting and e-mailing me anyway (thanks, guys).

A year ago I was teaching a class on banned books.  It had its fun moments, but I wasn't really enjoying myself.  I was still in survival mode, taking it one day at a time.

A year ago my family took a vacation to the wonders of Canada (Vancouver and Whistler) and being outdoors there was the first time since Eliza died that nature seemed beautiful and God seemed possible again.

A year ago I was making an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist because my biological clock had me in a PANIC.  It may have been irrational, but it was nonetheless real for that.

A year ago I was seeing a grief counselor every other week.  I was still sobbing my way through most appointments.

I wanted desperately to be pregnant and all I could think about was that something mysterious was wrong with me, and whatever had killed Eliza had also rendered me infertile and incapable of ever having a child.

A year ago, I was actively researching international and domestic adoption.

A year ago, I was in daily contact with three other moms who had lost babies and were trying to get pregnant again.  No detail of grief, hope, or ovulation was too personal to share with those ladies, and their e-mails (along with texts and e-mails and blog comments from other BLMs) were quite possibly the only things that kept me sane.

A year ago, all I wanted for my birthday was another baby.

This year, she's here.  

I can hardly believe it.

I say this not because I'm gloating or because I'm all better now or because life is sweet again (although in so many ways, it is).  But because I want you to know that if you are in someplace that feels like the darkest, scariest, most hopeless place you could be, it is very possible that a year from now your life will have changed immeasurably. 

A year is long enough to soften even the sharpest pain and make it bearable.  It's long enough to give you to the confidence that your most important relationships can survive a tragedy.  It's long enough to make it clear which friendships are worth hanging on to and which aren't.  A year is long enough to make new friends that you'll have for a lifetime.  It's long enough to adjust your expectations of certain family members, and to be pleasantly surprised by others.  

It's long enough to have a positive pregnancy test, survive a stressful pregnancy, and bring home a healthy baby.  

A year gave me enough time to really figure out that what I read somewhere is true--happiness and sadness are not two sides of the same coin.  You don't experience only one or the other.  You find a way to reside with them both.  My joyful experience with Caroline in no way softens or cancels out the pain of losing Eliza. But in the same way, the trauma and grief of losing my little Eliza does not diminish or overshadow my happiness at having Caro here with us.

I don't know how that works.  I didn't quite believe it when other people told me it worked that way.  But it's true.  

A year is long enough to prove that no matter how much time goes by, you'll never get over the heartbreak of your great loss, but you can get back to yourself.  

And this year was enough time to get myself to a better place than I ever dared hope I'd be.  (Although, of course, I was hoping for this all along.)

So hold on.

You never know where you'll be in a year.

I'm putting this print up in Caroline's nursery.  You can get the free printable here.


  1. Happy birthday, sweet girl. This post was wonderful.

  2. Happy Birthday Brooke, I loved reading this post.
    Here's to another year, whatever it may bring :)

  3. I really needed this today. Thanks. I bawled my eyes out when you said you didn't want to make a new plan because you loved the old plan so much. That is exactly where I am right now. It gave me hope after I kept reading. Happy Birthday!

  4. I am so glad this birthday is better. My birthday was about 3 months after Camille died and the worst birthday ever... Obviously. I hope for the things you hoped for ... I hope that my birthday this year is filled with the fruition of that hope. I am so glad Caro is here to fill your heart with love. I wish Eliza was here as well. I do believe that we should celebrate what we do have. There is so much to be thankful for even with the tragedy of our loss. Happy birthday.

  5. Happy birthday! I'm in the awful trying to get pregnant (and afraid that I can't) phase, and this gave me hope. I even mentioned adoption to my husband recently. I'm glad that the past year has brought so much healing for you.

  6. Thank you.

    I hope you have a wonderful birthday.

  7. You have me in tears here bc this is exactly what I've tried to write about but couldn't find the words to do so nearly as eloquently. It makes sense when I read it here, and it even helped me understand it better even though it's something I'm experiencing. Thank you. And I'm sure I will be referencing this post and your words very soon.

  8. Here's to another year of smiles, tears and so much hope.
    My dad always says about birthdays, "getting older is okay; it's better than the alternative." There are times in this past year+ that I have questioned that sentiment. But alas, the moments of hope for a brighter future far outweigh those of desperation. Happy birthday and thank you for a lovely reminder that the future is not ours to see and oh how sweet it can be.

  9. Happy birthday! This was a wonderful post, as always.

  10. What a beautiful post. Happy birthday.

  11. Happy birthday!

    It is amazing how much, good and bad, can happen in a year.

    I was just thinking the other day about how conflicted you were about the cycle that became Caro and the great advice your mom gave you about what if you did it vs what if you didn't. So glad you did.

  12. It's an honor and a gift to see you through and into another year. With lots of love. xoxo

  13. Happy birthday. Awesome post.
    My birthday was four weeks after Hope's, so you can just imagine what a fun fest that day was. I so hoped to be holding a baby in my arms by the next birthday, but I fell just a few weeks shy of that, and was about 30 weeks pregnant at the time. It was a better birthday sure, but I was still in that incredibly difficult holding pattern. The two that have followed, with babes in arms, have been up there with the best birthdays of my life (though nothing will ever really come close to turning 27 at Oktoberfest in Germany in 2006!!) Not perfect by any means, like you say, but pretty damn close. And let me tell you, it gets better. When your kids get older and more in to birthdays and they can help you blow out the candles, well that is just all kinds of cool.
    Again, happy birthday to you.

  14. Happy birthday! Thank you for your post. We lost our little boy 6 weeks ago & it gives me hope that although I will never be the same, that thing will get better. Thank you for giving me hope!

  15. Yup, right back at you.

    Happy birthday you beautiful lady!

  16. I'm in love with this post and I'm sharing it. Because this post could change someone's life. I would have done anything to read something like this when I was being abused. Thanks for putting it out there.

  17. Happy Birthday, too. ;)

    And no worries, I'm not sharing it on Facebook. (That is my biggest fear so I assume it's everyone's.)

  18. "So hold on.

    You never know where you'll be in a year."

    Thank you for that Brooke and I hope you have a wonderful day.

    My birthday is 10 days after Ava's birthday, so I only pray for perspective such as yours on my birthday. I can't say I want to celebrate it ever again. It does give hope to know what a year can do.

  19. I was sitting in church this morning, and the first thing that was spoken was this very quote. I pulled out my phone and scrolled down to this image and showed it to my husband and we smiled.

    Happy Birthday.

  20. Happy birthday! Hope the coming year is wonderful.

  21. Beautifully said. I'm so glad this was a much happier birthday. I felt so many of the same things. I hope we never experience another birthday or year as difficult as last.

  22. Happy birthday, Brooke! : ) So very true... the days sometimes seem to crawl, but then you look back and a year has gone by (& then another, and then another...) and you realize how far you've come.

  23. Happy Birthday! You give me hope as I lost my baby girl Trinity in Feb when I was 40 Weeks 3 days pregnant . She was stillborn. It is still so fresh for me but you give me hope. Thank you for your beautiful writing.

  24. I needed to read this because at six months out I feel so many of the feelings you describe from your birthday last year. I am so very glad that this year is so much better for you, so happy Caroline is here, safe, and still, always, so sorry Eliza isn't. Thank you for writing this. It helps.

  25. Yes and yes and yes. I'm right there with you. Thanks for outlining how it does get so much better, even though it doesn't. Happy Birthday. =)