Friday, June 27, 2014

34 Weeks 3 Days and the Wolf at the Door

You would think that three and a half years into this grief thing that I would start to learn a thing or two and, I dunno, be better prepared for grief triggers or something?

One of the the things I should know from experience and from talking to other bereaved parents is that the significant date--whether it's a child's birthday or some other anniversary--is often not as brutally difficult as the day that comes before it. Maybe it's because what we're truly grieving is the way things were that day, the day before everything fell apart and the whole world shifted forever.

But the other thing about grief is that no matter how familiar it becomes, it remains both unpredictable and irresistible. My friend Jess recently e-mailed me a link to an excerpt from an interview with Stephen Colbert (the real guy, not "Stephen Colbert" the character). He talks about grief in relation to losing his father and his two older brothers when he was ten years old. This is one of the things he says:

The interesting thing about grief, I think, is that it is its own size. It is not the size of you. It is its own size. And grief comes to you. You know what I mean? I've always liked that phrase He was visited by grief, because that's really what it is. Grief is its own thing. It's not like it's in me and I'm going to deal with it. It's a thing, and you have to be okay with its presence. If you try to ignore it, it will be like a wolf at your door.

That description of grief really resonates with me: "She was visited by grief." Not "She had a bad day." or "She was feeling sad." Grief is its own thing. And it shows up, sometimes when invited and sometimes when totally unexpected. And sometimes its presence is so familiar that it's almost comforting, offering a release of emotions that have been pent-up for too long. And sometimes it's a total bastard that just takes you out at the knees.

34 weeks and 3 days is how far along I was when I went into labor with Eliza. When, despite all my research and preparation, I had no effing idea what was going on with my body or my baby, and I could hardly believe how fast my labor progressed and how quickly my life turned upside down when that doctor looked at me with sympathetic eyes and said, "I'm sorry, but there's no heartbeat. I don't know when it happened, but your baby has died."

My baby. My Baby Duck. I had her for 34 weeks and 3 days and then she was gone. A loss completely unexpected and completely unexplained--how do we make this pregnancy go right when we don't know what went wrong?

Naturally, I was afraid today would be hard--34 weeks and 3 days into this pregnancy. Having one healthy baby has helped, but those fears aren't gone by any means. I'm not so naive that I think the worst couldn't happen again. I've dreaded this day of my pregnancy since the moment I saw two pink lines.

But of course I should have known it wouldn't be today, but instead last night when grief showed up and I fell apart. I lay in bed, feeling Rerun kick and squirm and push against me and I sobbed and wailed and bawled because how could I not have known something was wrong? How could my intellect and my intuition fail me and my baby so profoundly? How is it possible that I couldn't save her? How could I have continued to think everything was okay when it was so completely the opposite of that? How have we gone on without her? How did I ever survive losing my baby?

These questions have no answers, and my guilt and regrets have no limits. I can't pinpoint the particular moment with Eliza when everything turned to dust and ashes, but that doesn't mean that I don't wish every day I could go back and do something differently to keep her here with us.

And so grief visited me the day before I expected it (because I'm not good at learning lessons about how grief works, I guess), and it basically kicked my ass.

Today--THE day--was an easier day. I gave a midterm. I felt the baby kicking while my students took their exam. I had lunch and went to an estate sale with a friend. I came home to a napping baby and when she woke up we all walked to the park together. I did a kick count when we got home. We ate stir fry for dinner and Zuzu colored in her high chair and David and I decided to paint the kitchen next week. I cleaned up the little side table I bought at the estate sale. We put Zuzu to bed, and after being quite the daddy's girl these days, tonight when David put her in her crib and tried her pat her back, she said, "No, Daddy. Mama do my back." And so I rubbed her back and sang "Rock-a-bye" and now David's putting together her play kitchen and Cooper's snoozing on the sofa and I'm typing this and Rerun's moving around.

As days go, this was a good one.

Grief is still here, visiting. He's not kicking my ass, but he's made himself at home. I expect he'll linger for a while, probably accompanied by Fear and Dread and Anxiety--like a damn allegorical play. It's exhausting, yes, but you can't ignore grief. If nothing else, at least I've figured out that it's easier to acknowledge its presence than to try to pretend there's not a wolf at the door.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about the wolf at the door, and that you are only patting one little back. Thinking of you and your Eliza.

  2. I wondered. Have been meaning to write and ask how you're doing, knowing the witching hour approacheth, as it were. Not surprised to hear it was the night before, but sad and with some level of anxiety just the same. As I always am, I guess, when grief comes a-visiting en force to any of us. There's nothing brilliant to say except "I wish, too. And I know."
    Tonight as I prep for Cate's party (the antithesis of Zuzu's low-key one - I'll get there, but right now I'm tickled about going all out) I had to fight back a large wave of Anna grief. Wishing she were here, that I'd already done a two-year old party once, how much she'd love the cake I made and be more excited than her sister about most of it because she'd know what it all means in a different, more experienced way.
    I appreciate very much your borrowing of Stephen Colbert's phrase. It's true. That sucker Grief doesn't have much social grace, coming unbidden and usually with the intention of flooding your basement, or worse. Wolf at the door. Indeed.
    My breath catches over and over as I envision you laying on your bed last night, feeling the edges of insanity myself over the juxtaposition between Rerun so active and this very date in pregnancy when Eliza had gone so still. I HEAR you…how could we not know they were in trouble? That they would be leaving us soon if we didn't DO something? And god yes, how have we gone on without them…
    I always answer that question for myself with "Part of me has gone on, but part of me died there with her and I haul that sacred carcass of my soul around Lest anyone mistake this seemingly intact body and intact life for more than it is."
    I'm sorry it's so hard. (Understatement of the effing century. A truer statement - I'm sorry Eliza died and you will suffer the loss of her always.) I'm glad Rerun is so agreeable to being active and therein comforting. I'm glad you only have a few weeks to go before you meet him/her. I'm smiling as I think of the joy, hilarity and fulfillment that crazy wonderful Zuzu gives you and David. And I'm glad you continue to share your journey and your Eliza with us here.
    Much love.

  3. Brooke, I never comment as I just never know what to say, because you already say everything so perfectly, so truthfully, so recognisably, that it just renders me speechless somehow. But I'm always reading, and right now always wishing for you that Rerun gets to you safe and sound.

    The idea of grief 'visiting' really resonates with me. Not only does it have it's own size and shape and schedule but it is always changing its form so that you can never recognise it twice in a row - sometimes a menacing wolf, sometimes a little sweet bunny rabbit that catches you completely off guard. I can assure you you're not the only one who doesn't see it coming, though you've met it a thousand times before ...

    When I was pregnant with Alice I hoped for the anxiety that something was about to go terribly wrong would ease somewhat as the weeks passed, but at the same time I felt like I needed that anxiety to make sure I'd be more vigilant this time, because that recurring thought - 'how could I not have known' - is one that was never far from the surface.

    I, too, am sorry it is so hard. Xxxxxx

  4. This is SUCH a beautiful blog post, and it totally nails the feeling when grief is at your doorstep.

    I love that you're Caroline's preferred back rubber. I love that David is putting together her play kitchen. I hate that Eliza isn't there, begging to use it first. <3

    Possibly of interest, Stephen Colbert did an on-television eulogy to his mother when she passed away last year. It was beautiful.

  5. It's funny to read this because grief has also been visiting me and I'm just about to write about it. I think even if we each had 10 more pregnancies (perish the thought) that the day we found out we lost our firstborn would always be a hard one. Hang in there, that's what I'm trying to do.

  6. Oh, Brooke. I have to say that I am so damn glad I never plan to be pregnant again. Fear, Anxiety, Dread. I hope these next weeks can go by as quickly as possible for you, while still containing some of those lovely moments of pregnancy...those lovely moments you deserve to be able to enjoy unabashedly...Sending lots of love and hope and hugs.

  7. I normally follow along silently but my goodness, what a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your life, your joy, your grief, your Eliza with us.

  8. Such heart and sorrow in this post. As well as truth. When I approached "that time" with Lillian I had the added fear of my life now being on the line as well. I remember getting very quiet. I felt the need to shut everyone and everything out so I could listen. And in truth, in grief I do much the same.

    I have no words other than to say I am holding my breath along with you. And as always, carrying Eliza in my heart.

  9. Wow, what a way to put it. This really resonates. Prayers to you!

  10. This post really brought me back to those gripping times in my pregnancy with Theodore. God, I don't know if i'll ever do it again... but either way, it (the grief / the flashbacks) comes to you and you cant deny it.

    I've been thinking about you lots woman. I'm sending so much good energy for you and Rerun. C'mon August xox