Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Birthday Surprise.

The big move happens on Saturday.


So much to do.

I've definitely been feeling some nostalgia and anxiety about change.  For example, last night as David ate a late dinner of take out Mexican that I brought home for him after having dinner with friends, I stood three feet away from him folding laundry as we chatted about our day.  I won't be able to do that in the new house, where the laundry is on ANOTHER FLOOR!  So I'm having a lot of "love grows best in little houses" moments where I fear that we will be spread apart and spend the rest of our lives watching TV in different rooms and never speaking to each other.

I'm not sure how that would happen considering that the last time either of us watched TV, not counting David falling asleep to Sports Center or me turning on a rerun of Veronica Mars so that it plays in the background while I clean/pack/grade, was at least two weeks ago.  We're seriously not going to get to watch our favorite shows on our DVR before we move.  Sad face.

Anyway.  I'm definitely having some mixed feelings about moving to a bigger, multi-floored house. But what I've discovered--to my surprise, and evidently the surprise of many of my friends who have made a lot of guesses about how I would be feeling--is that my nostalgia is not as much about Eliza as I had expected.  Yes, I was pregnant with Eliza in that house, and I'm in love that that tree out front, and yes, we started to put Eliza's nursery together in that house, and yes, we came home from the hospital to that house.  But I just don't have that many tight associations between Eliza and that house specifically.  There are other places--the classroom where I was teaching the semester I was pregnant with her, the coffee shop where I'd grab dinner before our Bradley classes, the cloth diaper store where we registered--that I will forever avoid because the memories are too vivid and (now) too sad.  But leaving this house doesn't feel like leaving Eliza, (maybe because I was in the house for so long before getting pregnant with her, and have been there for a quite a while since then?).  At any rate, it's been a relief to realize that I'm not carrying a heavy load of grief on top of all my other anxieties and worries about moving.

What has been a bit of an unpleasant surprise is how hard it is for me to start planning Zuzu's first birthday.

Birthday parties are a big deal for me.  I have very fond memories of all my birthday parties as a kid and while my mom didn't get crazy, she always managed to throw us very cool and exciting and memorable parties (Double Dare!  Alf!  Private pool party!).  One of my favorite day dreams when I was pregnant with Eliza was birthday party planning.  Because she was a winter baby, I felt like it would be a bit of a challenge.  No pool party or picnic in the park.  I'd  have to get creative.  So I imagined throwing her a candlelight party, illuminated with twinkling white lights (and candles, obvy).  Going sledding or ice skating in Forest Park, followed by hot chocolate and roasting s'mores over tea lights.  An American Girls party, where I'd bust out my Kirsten doll (old school!) and give Eliza a new doll of her own.  One night David and I were at the movies, and a limo full of junior high kids showed up to see a movie--I commented to David that it would be such an awesome birthday party to do that.  I had plans you guys.  I couldn't wait to celebrate every milestone and every year of Eliza's life.

And when I lost her, I lost my life with her in it.  I lost the future that I had dreamed and planned.  I lost the birthday parties I'd imagined for my winter baby.  And believe me when I tell you I grieve for all of those things.  I miss my girl, but I also miss the life I would have had and the person I would have been if she were here.

Now I'm in this weird place, because I have this amazing, gorgeous, delightful summer baby who lights up my life, and I want to celebrate her.  If you haven't noticed, she's kind of awesome.  At least David and I think so.

But planning this party is hard.

Not hard in the sense of "What theme will I choose?" or "What food will I serve?" or "How many cookies to order?" (although those questions ARE hard!) but hard in the sense of OMG, this is actually a huge grief trigger for me.

I just didn't realize that looking online for first birthday invitations would make me cry.

I feel so beyond lucky to have the opportunity to throw this party, and I guess I am putting some pressure on myself because I want the party to demonstrate how FREAKING happy we are that this baby was born into our lives, kicking and screaming and breathing.

But I'm also really sad.  Sad that I should have two little girl birthday parties under my belt by now.  Sad that Eliza won't be there to "help" open the gifts and play with the balloons.

I went to dinner last night with friends and also discovered that I have a tendency not to talk about my grief so much these days.  Not that I don't feel it on a regular basis, but when I do, I'm far more likely to text or e-mail a friend I've met through this blog who has also experienced baby loss. It's just easier to talk about it with someone who really GETS it.  And I'm now in a place where I can talk about "normal" things with my other friends.  But last night I took a deep breath and I said, "I'm having a hard time planning Zuzu's party."  And I started to cry.

But I was glad we talked about it.  My friends acknowledged that all the major milestones Zuzu experiences will be bittersweet because Eliza's not here.  And they said that everyone who comes to Zuzu's party will also be thinking about Eliza, so it won't just be me.  And while I would never, ever want my grief to diminish the happiness that Zuzu experiences, they affirmed for me that it's also okay and normal for me to struggle with it ahead of time.

They also suggested that I might be feeling just a wee mite overwhelmed at the moment, what with the move, and final exams coming up, and a very overscheduled month of May ahead of me.

I think that's probably true, but when I started crying in the kitchen last night and David hugged me and asked what was wrong, I said, "I just miss Eliza."

Because when all those emotions and overwhelmed feelings blend together, the one that comes out on top is grief.

So I'm trying to take some deep breaths, focus on one thing at a time, and keep in mind that throwing Zuzu a great party won't be shortchanging Eliza.

Celebrating one daughter doesn't diminish the grief I feel for the other, but it doesn't have to amplify it, either.

One way or another, I'll get Zuzu's party put together.  And come June 29th, I can tell you I will be holding both my girls close in my heart.  One year with one sweet girl, two and a half years without the other.


  1. I totally get this. I don't even think I realized how much I was feeling this too, until I read it. Our rainbow baby, Zoey, has her first birthday coming up June 24 and I haven't been able to plan a thing. People keep asking me about it and I know I should be doing it, but I just can hardly think about it. I just always thought I would be planning parties for my son and, now, I don't know how to think about them for my daughter.

  2. I brought the boys up to school yesterday to see the baby chicks. When we got there, I brought Lo in to see David (kissing up to the new principal). I thought about Eliza, because Gray was with us, and I couldn't help thinking about how close they'd be in age. And I totally didn't think about that till we were in the office and he was being a stinker, kicking David's door and demanding to see the chicks. I don't even know what this has to do with this post except that I think other people still think of her at unexpected times too.

    Our friends lost a baby at 6 months pregnant and they didn't go overboard for their rainbow baby's first birthday (is that even possible?) but they had a really special party. The best, and most emotional part was a video they made, chronicling his first year. He was actually also born super early at 2 pounds, so of course I cried my face off.

    I can't wait to see what you do for Zuzu's party. :)

  3. I definitely get it. The birthdays, like most of this, do get a bit easier though still bittersweet. That first one is tough especially but also for me kind of a relief, that we had survived a whole year and could probably stop worrying about SIDS,etc., at least as much.

    If you are taking votes for theme, I vote for a rainbow theme!

  4. So lovely, this post. It's funny how the grief comes with unexpected things. So many times I've said those words - my own variation of "I just miss Eliza." For me, it's often just "I miss the baby".

    We'll all be thinking of Eliza and Zuzu with you. Always.

  5. This:
    Because when all those emotions and overwhelmed feelings blend together, the one that comes out on top is grief.

    Yes. Yes. Yes.


  6. I get this too. I've had a hard time with all the holidays, even with Bode here and experiencing his first everything...but a first birthday party is definitely at the top of this list of important, happy moments that also make me feel sad. And I hate that that sounds like I don't want to celebrate him because God knows I am in awe of every little thing about him every second. But I just can't do all the hoopla.

    Zuzu knows she is loved and adored every day. Whatever you do for her birthday will be great--whether a big themed party or simple family dinner. And Eliza will be loved, remembered and missed.

  7. I was talking with someone in my work place who knows about both my babies and she made a good observation. She zsaid the first birthday is all about the parents. The baby doesnt enjoy it as much. So, it kind of makes sense to wait for a fifth birthday to throw a big party with all lil kidos and gifts that the baby can enjoy. I liked the idea and I would say do not peessure yourself, just go with the flow. I am sure you will find great inspiration in your new home and it will turn out great.
    I miss lil Eliza and when I see things that remind me of Cutu, I remember her too! Sending you much love and hope this move will be easy. Let me know if I can help somehow.

  8. The pressure to plan something special is pretty heavy...and you are in the thick of so much right now...I can't even imagine! I know for us the party is of course a celebration of Maxwell, but there is also part of it that is a make-up for not having a baby shower and celebrating him before his arrival. It's also a meet-and-greet for family and friends that haven't had a chance too see M in person yet. It feels like its evolving into a bigger deal than it should be.

    And like you said, there should have been two other parties. Nothing feels worse these meats than should have been.

  9. I find that all my emotions come down to grief when I am overwhelmed or sad. Life is choatic, Lillian is sick, kitchen name it. I will suddenly find myself in the kitchen awash in tears saying "I miss Ava." It is as if in those chaotic moments the raw truth is the only one.

    Be gentle with yourself, friend. Try to not place too many expectations on yourself and I know her birthday will be simply beautiful.

  10. I'd been yearning for a "grown-up" house (i.e., one with multiple floors, rather than an apartment) for many years, and then shortly after Gwen was born we got one. And I found it wasn't all it was chalked up to be. Joel's office was in the attic, he spent most of his time there, I spent most of mine in Gwen's room, we basically never used the livingroom on the ground floor, and the kitchen was far enough away from wherever we were that you couldn't hear the buzzer on the oven or microwave. At night, I'd be in bed reading, he'd be upstairs working, and we basically never saw each other. We're now back in a single-floor apartment with all the rooms coming off one long hallway except for our bedroom which is off the livingroom, when I'm in bed reading there is line of sight to Joel's desk, and you can hear the microwave beep from anywhere in the house. I'm loving it.

  11. I will be thinking of Eliza and Zuzu both that day. Please take it easy with yourself as I know this is a busy/rough time on top of such a big milestone for Zuzu coming up.


  12. Missing my first has become more intense with "the big things" that happen with Theo. and right now, him being born, and making it home are pretty huge...and I miss Alexander with a vengeance. It's hard. Brutally hard.

    And I can only assume these waves will lessen with intensity, and hit their hardest with Theodores milestones.

    I always think of Eliza when I think if you... Caroline...your life...your family. I thnk about her, and I miss and love her too.

    Loving both your girls.

  13. Totally understandable. (((hugs)))

    And re: the laundry issue -- ours is in the basement too. I just throw everything from the dryer into a basket (well, I do put stuff on hangers that needs to be hung), bring it up into the living room, dump it out on the floor & sit and fold it there. A lot nicer & warmer than the basement. Dh pitches in too by folding his own socks & underwear.