Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sparkle and Fade

There are so many moments when I feel so good.  When I feel like the person that I've become since Eliza, because of Eliza, is exactly the person I was meant to be.  When I feel like I've learned something and gained something from all of this, and even though the outcome was forged by pain, we're in such a beautiful place now, a place I can see with clarity and gratitude.  I want to count my lucky stars but it would go on forever, and of all the stars, Eliza's is always the brightest and most beautiful.

There are moments when she feels like a whisper, a dream, a hope, a guiding light on the journey to creating our family.  I feel like the lessons I've learned from losing Eliza, as hard-fought and devastating as they were, are valuable lessons, teaching moments, not the beginning of the end, but the start of something so much more than I could have ever imagined.

And then there are moments when I remember just how real, how tangible, how human she was.  How alive she had been at one time.  How cold her tiny little hands were.

I cannot believe I birthed a dead baby and then held in her my arms.

Forget all the should-haves and might-have-beens.  The trauma of that reality makes me want to hold my breath until I pass out so I don't have to remember it.  And also because me breathing when my baby wasn't felt like an incredible betrayal.

The weight of her--she was solid and substantial even though she weighed in at less than four pounds.  The shape of her face.  That damn button nose.  Her long fingers, her soft jowly cheeks.  She wasn't a figment.  She was so damn real.  And now she's gone.  She's ashes and air and broken dreams and it makes me furious because she was a person with her own little body and soul and brain and personality and I never got to know what she was like outside my belly.  And now all I know about her is that she liked root beer and Greek tragedies and she didn't care for pesto and it's not enough and it will never be enough.

She died and I held her and she was wrapped in a blanket and wearing a hat and I never took off her hat because I didn't want her to be cold.


Oh my God.  You guys.  My baby died.  I had a beautiful baby girl and she died and we don't know why.

My brain does not want to accept that truth.  I do not want this to be my life.  This life of gratitude and hope and metaphysical thinking and asking hard questions and accepting there are no good answers.  I'm not a good enough person for that life.  I don't want to be compassionate and helpful and kind and understanding and changed-in-good-ways because of her death.  I just want her to be alive.

I'm angry.  I want the smug, safe, comfortable life where tragedy happens to other people, not to me, and certainly not to my baby.  I want to be naive and innocent and stupid and happy.  I don't want Christmas to be loaded with grief coming in on the flipside.  I don't want to be so damn angry that all the things we can do with Caroline this year, things we're looking forward to doing--photos and Santa and carols and gifts--we should have been doing for the last two years with her sister.

I know Christmas is about magic and miracles.  It's about hope and love in the dust and hay of a stable.  It's about a world that is lost and in pain finding an unexpected pathway to something greater and more beautiful than they had imagined--and doing so through the birth of a baby.

But none of that makes Christmas easy, especially coming as it does on the heels of my heartbreak.

Two years ago, that baby in the manger was like a dagger in my heart.  A virgin could have a baby without any medical care in a freaking barnyard and THAT baby lives to grow up!  (Yes, I was jealous of the Virgin Mary.  I'm not proud of it.  Grief is ugly and stupid and relentless.)

This year, I put up our nativity scene, surrounded by my choir of angels, and I could handle the baby Jesus.  After all, he grew up to be a pretty decent guy.  And his mom's heart was broken, too, so it's not like I can really stay mad at Mary these days.  So I guess I've made some improvement since one of the major aspects of Christianity no longer upsets me?  It's the missing two-year-old who should be singing "Away in a Manger" that still makes me cry.

I say I lost eighteen months of my life to grief, and I mean it.  Those were months when I didn't want to leave my house. When the only places I went were work, the grocery store, and then--finally--to yoga classes and coffee shops with (childless) friends. Those were months when I couldn't bear to have conversations with some of my best friends.  When seeing babies and hearing about pregnancies made my chest constrict with jealousy and my stomach clench in sorrow.  When every baby shower thrown before the baby was born felt like a personal slap in the face, like they were saying, "It happened to you but it won't happen to me!"  Those were months I watched countless hours of TV, needing the noise because it hurt to much to listen to what was in my own head--an interminable chant: "I want my baby."

And that's not to say that magically, eighteen months later I had another baby and all was well and my grief was over.  Because things are SO MUCH better and often really, really great and I feel lucky and happy and sometimes even shallow and superficially so, which is awesome because I never thought I'd get here again.  But even with the rainbow, it's not all sunshine, you know?

And you know what?  I'm pissed off about that too.  Because Caroline's babyhood shouldn't be shadowed or drizzled or overcast with my heartbreak.  And maybe our lives today are quieter and easier and lovelier because we are so grateful for her, and maybe her tiny little hands (always warm) have worked their own miracles in helping me recover from Eliza's loss, but STILL.  It is so damn unfair.

And I know I'm just like every other sot who nods sagely and says, "Oh, life is hard.  We all must suffer." and then cries foul when it happens to me because obviously I meant everyone else should suffer and I should just, you know, have a rough day at work and that should be it for me.

But today.  Two days out from the bleakest anniversary I can imagine, the sparkle is fading fast and I am feeling so, so sad.


  1. Brooke, I feel ya. It's incredibly unfair and you have communicated that eloquently and passionately.

  2. This may be one of your best posts yet. . .and you have a lot of good ones.

    When I look at the labels on the right side of your blog - I see all these beautiful and heartbreaking words (along with chickens and baseball), and the biggest one, the one that always stands out, is the most beautiful of them all - Eliza.

    She's not here to get loved on and kisses and take pictures with Santa, but she's certainly still here. Just in other ways.

    This doesn't have to be your season, or your month, to sparkle. We can see it anyway, but it will come back brighter. Eliza will make sure of that.

  3. So incredibly unfair. For everyone in your family. I so wish things were different.

  4. As your words always do, this touched my heart. But, this was a particularly poignant and touching post. I really related to this:

    "I cannot believe I birthed a dead baby and then held in her my arms.

    Forget all the should-haves and might-have-beens. The trauma of that reality makes me want to hold my breath until I pass out so I don't have to remember it."

    No woman should ever had to endure what we have been through.

    My thoughts are with you as you anticipate this somber anniversary in the midst of Caroline's first Christmas. I hope that you find a peaceful and comforting way to take it all in.


  5. It's so unfair. And it sucks. And I'm so sorry.

  6. And I'm crying.

    Because I'm less than a month out from what should be two years with my son, and yet a few days later it's confirmation that it's two years without him. I fucking hate that and I am so angry this is my life... That this is our lives... That we live and they didn't and I am so upset and mad and angry about that.

    Eliza was a whole person. A whole lot of living that didn't get to be done, and the big sister to a wonderful little girl and the daughter of two of the sweetest people possible, and yet it wasn't enough for her to be able to stay. Makes me furious.

    All this to say I agree. That I am mad alongside you. Missing all the babies who should have been two today/tomorrow/the next day..,


  7. Sending you lots and lots and lots of love B. (((((((((((((((((((((Hugs))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

  8. Grief has stolen so much of our lives and will continue to steal from us. I freaking hate it that this is really our lives. That we really have dead babies who had whole perfect bodies and now like you said are ashes and air. They were just too perfect and ill never understand why they were taken away. Never ever. Thinking of Eliza so much as she is so tightly wound in my love for Addi. I love your term "grief sisters" (well love/hate) but this place allowing us to connect and share our babies born and lost so close together is so helpful <3 love to you and Eliza.

  9. This is perhaps the most beautiful blog post I've ever read. It's so genuine and honest and amazing. I hate that you are sad and I wish I could hug you today. Your ability to articulate how you feel in such a beautiful way is, just..wow. You are in my prayers.

  10. I know....I'm so sorry.
    I'm so glad Caroline is here and I'm so sad Eliza is not.

    I don't have any living children, but I've always thought that we shouldn't shield kids from death and grief as they are such a part of life. We shield kids from it and then wonder why our society doesn't understand us in our baby-loss. Caroline is exposed to your grief and that is going to make her that much more compassionate of a person. ....basically...fear not!

    Peace, especially in the next few days as you remember the sorrow and pain of Eliza's death. I'm so sorry she isn't here to sing carols and squish her sister.

  11. You're right. It is the biggest betrayal that you breathed and she no longer did. I felt that so many times in the early months after we lost Georgie. Sometimes I still do, especially when I think of how much life is left for me.

    A day at a time.

    I have no words for you. So much of what's said when we are so sad just sounds so trite. I know that the drawing you showed us of Eliza--she was so beautiful. Her little sister looks like her.

    And I'm so sad for you too, Brooke. It's so DAMN unfair sometimes.

    Thinking of your sweet Eliza during this month of December.

  12. Yes, there is a lot to be pissed off about. Caroline's babyhood shouldn't be overcast and Eliza should be here. And though I only know you from this blog, I feel I 'know' you well enough to be quite sure that you would have been grateful for any child you would have had - this idea that bereavement makes us better or more appreciative parents - well, it can't be tested and I don't trust it and it is a rotten, rotten lesson to learn if it is true. I'll be thinking of you and of Eliza and of your whole family this week and sending love.

  13. This is such a great post that shows the reality after a loss. I am 19 months out from our loss trying to navigate life with a rainbow baby. You put words to how I feel every day. I want to hold my breath with you when I think about the fact that you birthed a dead baby. Its something that I still can't wrap my head around even though it happened to me. Praying for you this week and all the heartache that this time of year brings.

    I was also jealous of the virgin Mary. She got her son back after he was dead for just 3 days. I have since come to let that jealousy go and can finally put up a manger this year without wanting to throw the baby Jesus across the room....oh the irrational parts of grief...

  14. I've been reading your blog for a few months, since losing my full-term daughter Virginia in August. You do such a great job of articulating the thoughts that so many of us have. I can't tell you how much reading your beautiful words has helped me. Although I've held off commenting, I feel compelled to because this is one of your best posts yet. Thank you for being so open and sharing so much of your journey with us, and I hope you know how many women out there (like me) have benefitted from reading this blog and others like it. [Ok, I'll stop now before I start sounding stalker-ish].

    Big, HUGE hugs to you as you face Eliza's birthday.

  15. Your words took my breath away. I hate this, all of it, for every single one of us. Much love to you as you remember Eliza in the upcoming days.

  16. The week after Andrew died, we went to church because they were having a Christmas musical/play and my friend wrote the music for the show.

    You do a lot of weird shit when you are in shock.

    We sat in the very back with my swollen belly from just birthing my over-term baby {that was dead. omg. still crazy to me} and cried the entire time.

    The virgin Mary had a baby and he was alive. Images of babies flashed on the screen everywhere. And then this line sent me into an uncontrollable blubbering mess:

    "No mother should ever have to watch her baby die."

    I'm not kidding.

    Worst decision I could've made that night to go to that stupid musical. I was SO jealous of the Virgin Mary.

    I can go to church now and even sing the songs, but Christmas music IS pushing it.

    Love to you. I want to vomit a little right now as I look at the clock and realize that I'm less than 3 hours from the anniversary of the very worst day of my life. If I could sell the hours of the day tomorrow, I would.

  17. Wow, I love this post! I'm mad for you that you have to write a post like this, I wish you could be writing posts about your two year old and her baby sister. :( But, like everyone else, I'm so glad that you share your life with all of us. Hoping that the next few weeks are bearable.

  18. I'm so sorry that Eliza is not with you. Words seem so inadequate for the reality of your loss. Thinking of and praying for you.

  19. I rarely comment but wanted to pipe up after this incredible post. I came across your blog about two months after losing my son. I remember reading the posts you wrote two months out and just nodding my head in agreement. They were my thoughts turned into words. Now, here I am two days away from the six month mark still reading and still nodding. Thank you for being so real and so open about your journey. Praying for gentle days ahead!

  20. Keeping you, David, Eliza, and Caroline in my thoughts and prayers.

  21. Light and love to you and your babies.

  22. Oh my god. You guys. My baby died.

    I am a mess reading your post because Damn it. Our baby died and it is the most tragic horrendous thing that could happen to someone. Eliza and Camille Are real, we held them, we kissed them and we said goodbye.

    All the good in the world is not worth their death. I wish that it was different for us both. I know even though I'm coping better now than I was last year, I will never be better. This heart break is forever. Our mind plays tricks on us. Sometimes when I look at Harlow I wonder if this is how it was supposed to be??? But that's just my brain trying to grasp onto something to make Canille's death manageable. Because her death was so pointless and unexpected and without reason... That I try to make reason, find reason...,Harlow.?.?.? I don't think so, I think they are separate with links between them. Both chance to be conceived and grow and one chance death and once chance life.

    We are all such miracles. We need to celebrate our lives and our families lives... But what do we do with the deaths? We cry... Forever, we cry. Because we love them and we miss them. And their brief time here was not enough.

    Missing Eliza with you.

  23. Brooke, this was a beautiful post. Every.single.word. hit home with me. I felt all of it as if my own heart was speaking truths to me.

    I have nothing to add. I could quote it all, and say yes, yes, yes. I'm there. Here. Have been and will be in the places you've expressed.

    I'm so sorry. I'm still so sorry.

    And I don't know who I'm apologizing to. Myself? You? Him? And her? Our children. I'm sorry they aren't here as they were so supposed to be. I can't wrap my head around it...and my aching heart will never understand.

    You are on my mind. Your real, once alive, valuable, precious daughter is in my heart and on my mind.

    I cannot believe my son isn't here. I've corrected countless innocent minded people in this past week that my separation anxiety is a little different from the average new mother returning to work. I am separated from him yes, but not because he is at home with grandma - but because he died.

    And I am shocked all over again.

    Sending my love.

    You are an amazing mother.

  24. It is so damn unfair. Yes yes and yes. Thinking of you and Eliza always and forever~Missy

  25. I read your blog regularly but I don't think I've ever commented. Thank you so much for writing the way you do. I am horrible at being able to express myself through writing, and what you write about Eliza's loss resonates so clearly with me.

    I find myself nodding along, eyes welling up, because you are able to find the words to describe things that I feel but can't express in that way.

    I'm sorry you must face life without her. I'm sorry that any of us have. But I thank you for writing, as it benefits me too <3

  26. I am sitting here hugging my child- the warm, squirmy, breathing one and I cannot believe he is mine. And his brother is mine. And they are my life, my light and my love. Together, we are remembering beautiful Eliza.

  27. You brought me to tears and helped me appreciate my life in a new way. Hope you have a peaceful holiday remembering Eliza and celebrating with beautiful Caroline.

  28. It is so horribly unfair, and I am so sorry. I am thinking of you all.

  29. Still can't believe it has been two years...thinking of you and Eliza. I hope that there is one giant heavenly birthday party for all of the sweet babies that left us that terrible weekend.

  30. Oh Brooke. Once again I read no other comments so as not to color my own. I wish I could write the way you do. Express myself so as to encompass the complexity that is this experience with truth, grace, grit, a touch of humor, and...and all the emotion that shifts often but somehow is always the same. Horror. Disbelief. Gratitude. ANGER. A keen awareness of the sweetness of these days with our lovely rainbow girls.

    Isn't it...weird...how sometimes the reality hits you all over again. Like, it HAPPENED. For REAL. I think the only way to continue the remainder of your life is almost as if... it didn't. Like it was a bad, bad movie you were forced to watch once. Except it keeps showing up in your life. And the HURT and EMPTINESS that Eliza (and Anna and Elizabeth and Camille and on and on and on) left in their oh-so- beautiful-wakes...those feelings are what keeps her alive for me and simultaneously makes me want to die.

    Thank you for honoring your daughter, your experience...OUR experience...in such powerful and honest ways. I just love you.

    Eliza will especially be on my heart this week. We're with you, my friend.

  31. Oh my god, yes, yes, yes, yes. Every. Single. Word of this. Yes.

    I am so sorry she's not here with you, with us. I want her. I want him. I want our babies, here, now.

    Every. Single. Word.

    Thank you.

    With love. With light. With gratitude.

    Remembering Eliza and loving you and your family.


  32. This was a beautiful post. I feel like I could have said these words myself.

    I remember in the early months after losing our daughter (whose name is/was Caroline), telling my husband how mad I was because she was a whole person. A COMPLETE PERSON and she just died. And to be honest, I still have a really hard time reconciling that in my mind.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  33. I don't know how I came across your blog - I think it was random Googling. I couldn't stop reading your writing. You are an amazing, amazing writer. What you have gone through makes me heart ache.