Monday, June 17, 2013

Where I Am Now: Two Years + Six Months

It has been two and a half years.  Thirty months.  I'm still grieving.  I'll never stop being a bereaved parent.  But I'm also living again, and that life feels easier and lighter than I ever thought it could.  It has its moments, of course--prickles of sadness here and there, happy moments followed by a bittersweet chaser, and sometimes still the big, ugly cry for all we've lost and all that might have been.

And yet, it's easier to laugh.  Easier to see friends.  Easier to be around other kids.  Easier to talk about Eliza, and easier to rest quietly with her on my mind, which is perhaps the biggest change from a year ago.

I still love her like she's alive.  It continues to be a remarkable thing to me, that a baby who never took a breath could still have such a hold on my heart.  But she does.

Seeing little girls at the park--especially those with a certain kind of straight, light-brown, chin-length hair--between the ages of two and three, gives me a lump in my throat.  I don't cry.  I don't have to leave.  But I feel the sting of those tears sitting behind my eyes.

A couple of weeks ago we were visiting my parents and went to church with them.  A baby was being baptized.

I did not have to get up and leave.  I didn't love it.  I tasted some bitterness.  I might have whispered a snide comment or two to David.  I might have zoned out a little and not paid close attention to what was being said.  But I've had two and a half years to get used to the idea that my first baby died, and it appears that I am now capable of sitting through baptisms of babies who didn't die.  I'm still sort of astonished that this is possible.

Equally astonishing is the fact that two and a half years after my first baby died, I'm planning a birthday party.  Zuzu will be one year old in less than two weeks, and time continues to play tricks on me.

Elize died in December 2010.  Zuzu was born in June 2012.  And I'm still fuzzy about everything that happened in those eighteen months.  The year 2011 might as well have not existed for all I can remember of it.  Much of last year is a blur.  My grief for Eliza is both ancient and fresh.  And suddenly my rainbow baby has been here for an entire year.  My brain can't figure it out.

I'm finding a kind of balance.  I no longer feel like a freak when I'm out in public--like I need a black arm band to explain why I wince when I see a pregnant woman smugly rubbing her belly, why I can't make eye contact with the parent of new baby, why I'll pet any dog in the park before I'll peek into a baby stroller.  I can do these things and they don't hurt anymore.  Sometimes there's a sting, yes, but sometimes I do it without even thinking about it.  So sometimes I feel "normal" and other times I feel totally outside normal.

I try to remind myself that everyone has his or her share of sorrow, but the reality is that not all that many people know what it feels like to hold a dead baby, particularly their own loved and wanted firstborn child, so I definitely have my moments of dwelling in self-pity.  Two and a half years and one rainbow baby later, those moments are usually matched in frequency by appreciation of how lucky I am, but my sadness--though it's balanced pretty well these days--is never too far out of reach.

My friend Keleen talks about "The List of Broken Dreams," which are all of the things we wanted to do with our lost babies that we may or may not get to do with the rainbow babies.  It's thrilling to cross something off that list, but it's also a little heartbreaking--one more thing we've missed out on with Eliza even though we're not missing out on it entirely.  I've struggled with that list this year, because I want to celebrate Zuzu for her own merit--she's such a fascinating, hilarious, delightful little person all her own.  I usually find that while I can't keep reflecting for a moment or two on what I missed with Eliza, I almost always find myself caught up in the moment, enjoying Zuzu, and I think that's as good as it gets.

For example, I'll never think about Mommy & Me yoga without being a little wistful because I'd planned to go with Eliza.  But then I went with Zuzu and it was funny and ridiculous and not at all the magical zen experience that I'd expected (Zuzu literally motorboated my boobs during one class and we all just laughed because it was SO LOUD).  My reality will never quite align with the life I'd once imagined, but this reality can be awfully sweet (and funny) in its own right.  So I try to acknowledge that I miss Eliza, and then let myself enjoy Zuzu (or be embarrassed by her, either way).

I do find that I'm rushing milestones a little bit, and I know I'm not alone in this either.  As much as I wanted to savor and soak up every minute with Zuzu, I also was doing a lot of countdowns to milestones in my head.  And a lot of those milestones involved her living longer than babies I know who died.  It was like a sigh of relief when she lived a certain number of days, then weeks, then months.  Although I can't believe it's already been a year, you'll never hear me say that I'm sad my baby is growing up.  Sometimes I feel like I want her to grow up as fast as she can--before something happens to take her away from me.  I want all the days with her that I can get.

And do I need to even say that I'm so grateful for Zuzu?  She cracks me up and she exasperates me and she tests my patience and she melts my heart on a daily basis.  I feel privileged to be her mom and thrilled to plan her first birthday party.  But even still, there's part of me that wants to "catch up" to where Eliza would be, part of me that still feels like I'm a year and a half behind where I am supposed to be.

I continue to value the connections Eliza has brought me.  E-mails and comments from blog readers, growing friendships with other bereaved parents, deeper connections with certain people that I meet--these are gifts I'll never stop appreciating.  Almost all the friendships I had before Eliza remain intact, but a few are significantly changed, and I don't know if those changes would have happened anyway with the busy-ness of having kids, or if my grief created the wedge that caused a distance between us.  I've found it relatively easy to accept those changes--I think because I've gained new friends who truly understand what I've been through, and because after losing my daughter, the adjustment of a friendship seems like a relatively minor loss.  (Talk about a shitty way to get perspective:  The basement's flooding?  Well, at least nobody died.)

My relationship with David feels both solid and uplifting, and after our experience with trauma and grief, I think that we have survived for each other as much as anything else.  Losing a child and having another child has inevitably transformed our relationship, but I feel closer to him now than ever.  (For example, today I asked him if he'd seen my sewing scissors because I couldn't find them and he said no, but I KNEW he must have seen them and put them somewhere, so I tried to imagine where David would put a pair of scissors that I had DELIBERATELY left out and that he wanted put away, and I found them in the second place I looked.  So we're basically mind-melding.)  Watching him parent Zuzu makes my heart grow three sizes, and also ache with longing for the little girl he never got to play with.

As for my sweet Eliza girl, it has been two and a half years since I held her, and I miss her still.  I love her and I miss her.  I love her sister and I miss her.  I love her dad and I miss her.  I'm happy, but I miss her.

One Year Ago

Two Years Ago


  1. I got to cross another moment off my "list of broken dreams" this weekend. Letting Mason pick a raspberry off the vine at my mom's house. Summer 2011 I remember staring at those damn raspberries and wishing Addi was here to pick one. I still wish she was here, but getting to do that with her brother was something so much more than the act itself. I love that you got to take Zuzu to class and that she motor boated you! ha Also, I love that I am your friend. What a way to meet someone and yet I am so thankful for you, Zuzu and of course Eliza.

    2.5 years is much different than the early days and 2011...well the only reason I will know what happened is because of blogging. My friend Anneke refers to the year after your child dies as "the lost year" and it's so true.

    I loved the paragraph that says "Although I can't believe it's already been a year, you'll never hear me say that I'm sad my baby is growing up. Sometimes I feel like I want her to grow up as fast as she can--before something happens to take her away from me. I want all the days with her that I can get". I couldn't agree more, I'm always ready for that next stage hoping to get closer to where we would have been and knowing that each day is the greatest gift.

  2. I think much of this echoes my own sentiments, just a few months behind you. I read this and my first thought is that we somehow made it. We managed through the hell of 2011 and a freaked out 2012 until our next babes were born and now it's 2013 and we can sit through a god damn baptism and not want to dry heave all over the pews.

    peace to you dear friend, and to this blog...i hold you both in regard for the companionship and compassion offered.


  3. I couldn't agree with you more about 2011. Most of that year I don't remember. It's amazing what grief can do to the mind.

  4. I miss her for you, and am also happy for you too.

  5. i love zuzu and everything good that she has brought into your lives and my life. and i miss Eliza with a fierceness that can never be erased. it's so weird experiencing those 2 emotions at once. but it's our reality i suppose.

  6. *hugs* your story really breaks my heart. You'll never forget her and neither will anyone who's read your story.

  7. yep. I'm a few months behind you, but I"ve been feeling more "normal" than not lately. I also lost that year to grief, things I think happened one year ago, actually happened two years ago! I think I might always measure time in before Kayla and after Kayla. Thanks for taking the time to put your grief at 2.5 years into words

  8. Brooke, you touched me once again. I have had 2 miscarriages between children which is NOTHING like you have been through of course, and I was heartbroken so I can't imagine how horrible it was to lose your beautiful Eliza.

    I have commented before saying my grandfather lost his wife AND his son, full term to suspected eclampsia in the 1950's I believe. He never ever forgot them. He carried their obituary in his wallet until he died, long after he remarried my grandmother and had my mom.

    My neighbor lost her third baby and only son coming up on 8 years this July. She celebrates his birthday every year and the family spends the day together.

    This is why I read Brooke. You are THEIR voice. Hearing you talk about Eliza makes me think about my grandfather and how he must have felt about his son.

    I am just so, so sorry.


  9. Aside from my recent slip into the darker side of grieving... you pretty much hit the nail on the head with where I am as well.... Kristen died in November 2010. It still stings, but the pain isn't so raw, most days!
    Thank you for sharing!

  10. "I love her like she is still alive." I love that!! So true, never thought of it like that.

    Also, I totally get that you are trying to wrap your brain around having a 1yr old rainbow baby bc wow, how did we get here?! So crazy.

  11. "My brain can't figure it out."
    My hasn't either, and I'm not sure it ever will. And yet, there is balance and not having to leave, yes.

  12. It's such a strange place to be - that mix of happiness and missing and loving both your girls. You write about it so well. So much love to you.

  13. I love Andrew like he's still alive, too. I really don't think anyone else who has not lost a child in some way can possibly understand that. And yet, I desperately want them to understand that reality.

    I'd never thought of that as the list of broken dreams, but LORD. I really had quite the list. Sometimes I wish Benjamin were older, too. Actually, often. But not in the sense that I want him to be in elementary school already, but because I feel as though I'll always be trying to catch up to where we were supposed to be. Unintentionally, I guess, but still reality.

    And what you wrote here:
    Talk about a shitty way to get perspective: The basement's flooding? Well, at least nobody died.

    Yeah. I can't tell you that I've LITERALLY muttered those words. Shitty way to gain perspective, indeed.

    It's been an honor being your friend for the last 2.5 years. We're practically neighbors now having seen one another twice in that time, right? I mean, we did share lots of meals together. ;)

  14. I haven't had the proper time to come back to all these entries and comment - But I want you to know I'm reading, and I have SO MUCH I want to say about this post.

    It was beautiful to read. And I said, "yes yes yes" to so many statements. I know what you mean about wanting your baby to get older. I'm trying to live in the moment - but I'm so anxious to see Theo just live, live, and live some more. I literally feel like he has a timer on him, and one day it will be up, and I'll have to say goodbye.

    The thrill and heartbreak with the milestones.. yep. I hear you.

    I too pet the dog before admiring the baby...

    And you are so right in that everyone has their share of tragedy and loss... but not many people have birthed a dead baby. yep. that's for sure.

    I'm happy to have found you, wish it could have been over some sort of DIY blog link instead.

    Love to you Brooke

  15. It's funny - I have surrounded myself with so many babyloss parents that I almost forget sometimes that so few people really know what it is like to hold your dead baby. And then I tell someone new, who doesn't know, and the horror on their face reminds me: this s**t is f***ed up!!

    Thank you for sharing where you are, and for sharing Eliza over the years. She is loved, missed, and loved some more.

  16. Just want you to know I am thinking of your sweet Eliza today and sending a hug through the internet.

  17. So glad to see you taking part in this again. I also liked the paragraph about not being sad that she's growing up. Last fall, as moms all around us were mourning the return of their kids to school and how fast they were growing up and how they wished they could stay little, a fellow loss mom/blogger wrote, "I want to tell them that the saddest thing isn't watching them grow up, it's not getting to watch them grow up at all." Amen to that. Glad you can see how far you have come. P.S. One of the captcha words is "blessing."