Hello again. Having finished up with my first academic job, and now after a month on the road visiting family, we have arrived at our new home in the Deep South, and have fully unpacked. Packing up and moving and unpacking means as always encountering pieces of the past shoved away in boxes. I have succeeded now in making two moves without being the one to move the box of Natan’s very few and very tiny things. I think I have not opened it for over a year. Just the thought of it makes my eyes burn, but I think I will have to do it soon.
Since I revealed this blog on Facebook, three friends have told me about friends of theirs losing babies to stillbirth. One very dear friend delivered a baby safely, but was faced with a condition that killed the babies of friends I made through this blog. I’m grateful to be someone people can talk to.
I’m not the only model of someone like me, a woman who made it through loss and onto that subsequent child. I may not be the best. I have friends who are far more open about including their lost child in their life, who commemorate anniversaries, who remember their due dates, who do more than get cranky when the time comes near. After three and a half years, I’m a very reluctant griever. I’m actually kind of sick of it all.
Looking forward to a life remembering a baby who died is not a cheerful trajectory. Instead of imagining what will be, you think about what might have been. Your sleepless nights aren’t counterbalanced by snuggling. Your real estate in a cemetery or the urn on your bedside table (or in your closet) doesn’t make your flabby belly and unpredictable hormones worth it. You can’t share your labor war stories at a picnic even if yours would trump them all, or feel good about forgoing meds or how quickly your milk came in. The time you spent pregnant becomes unconditionally a prologue to the worst period of your life. The dichotomy could not be starker.
Samuel is becoming his own person now, with a sense of humor, funny facial expressions, interests and lacks of interest. He’s smart in many ways, adept at spinning around a room or swimming in circles, and also clumsy. He wants to make friends, and that has the fabulous side effect of bring other fun children and new people around our own age into our lives. Had he not been born and survived, I would have none of that. I enjoy my life with Samuel immensely and daily.
Yet still, often, if I’m alone, I feel vulnerable and fearful. This good life may be too fleeting. I’m very much aware of how it didn’t have to be this way. The incredibly long time I spent on bed rest, which left me with extra weight, weak hips, and a totally different perspective on my life and abilities, could have been for nothing. For more than one person I know, it didn’t end well. For us, though, it did.
Josh recently suggested I write a post about how I often expect the worst. Certainly that’s a new trait—new as in three and a half years old. It used to be very different for me. He used to be the pessimist. As recently as a week before Natan died, when the doctor I asked, “Am I in preterm labor?” responded, “Yes, I think so,” I didn’t think what I dreaded most could happen to me. It did.
I don’t walk around morose and sad. I’m quieter, slower to laugh, less confident. But overall, considering what could be, both given my personal history and more global concerns, I have it pretty darn good. I’m not sure I expect the worst. I just try to be prepared for it. I do probably panic unnecessarily, and often my feelings over a particular problem far outweigh its significance. Often because I’m thinking, if Natan had not died, I would not be in this place, would not have this problem.
It’s sad that I have less confidence. I didn’t deserve what happened, but I am humbled by it. I’m not the girl who left her interview with Harvard thinking, “They don’t deserve me.” (Bizarre, I know, misplaced most likely, but true.) It’s not that I expect the worst, really; it’s that I’m feeling as small as I actually am, and that means I don’t actually know what happens next.