I have a secret.
And it's not my hidden desire for bell bottoms to come back in style or the fact that I have five 'One Direction' songs in my iTunes. This is a different kind of secret, something I'd rather not know.
When you died I thought my world would end. Scratch that, I wanted my world to end.
I remember my family coming over that week. They were here everyday, in case I needed anything or wanted anything, or maybe they were just making sure I wasn't going to drive myself off a cliff somewhere I don't know, but they were here, and it helped.
I remember that first Saturday without you. We had just finished watching a movie, probably the second or third of the day. I didn't leave the couch much then, and I remember sitting up and being very confused and saying aloud, "Am I just supposed to keep watching TV?"
They all looked at me, sadly, and I don't think they knew what to say. I didn't know what to say, or how to say it, but I think I understand now. The more accurate version of my thoughts that afternoon.
It's a strange thing, when your baby dies. Your baby whom you never brought home. Your baby who never cried or nursed or took a breath. It's such a unique type of grief, because after you leave the hospital without them, after you drive home over that same overpass and the same songs are playing on the radio...and after you walk up those same stairs to that same door down the same hallway to that same room, it's all exactly as you left it. The bed is unmade and the bassinet is empty, as it had been two days before. The stretchy maternity pants still fill your dresser drawers and the wide, pink rattles with the white stripes and cushy handles still grace the nightstand, waiting for chubby hands they will never meet.
Every single thing is exactly the same.
And everything, everything about your life is different.
Two nights ago was our support group.
In the beginning, your father would accompany me to these monthly meetings. In the beginning when I was watching a lot of television on the couch, sporadically waking from the haze to silently beg for my old life. My parallel universe. The one where you're alive.
Now mostly I go alone, and it's not because I'm okay or because I'm over it or because I'm well-adjusted or that I don't need him. Our life is much different now. There are two little boys at home, and Kindergarten paperwork to be done and sack lunches to be packed. Lego Star Wars battleships need building and stuffy babies need rocking, and someone has to make dinner.
Since you died I have missed six meetings. Five when I was pregnant and showing and once when your brother was sick. I like to go because I hear things there that help me, things that others in this club say aloud to each other in the confines of our somber space, our lives without our babies. Last week was no exception. A newly bereaved father offered something that struck me. He explained that since his son died, friends, family, and colleagues have offered their condolences, and that most have said nice, helpful things. "I'm so sorry. I am keeping you in my prayers. Please let me know if you need anything." He expressed his gratitude for these people, and also for the others. The few who have said something else. "I'm so sorry. I am keeping you in my prayers. I will be there in two hours unless you tell me not to be."
And I thought of them when he said that. My two-hour people.
The people who sat with me for hours on that couch, leaving husbands and children and much anticipated DVR recordings and grading and escape behind, to be with me. My people at the hospital that morning, how they held you, dead in their arms, surely wanting to die or to run away and who cried the whole way home. How they remained, returned with coffee in the morning.
I thought of the family members and friends who came to your memorial ceremony, who couldn't have known what to say or how to help and still showed up, stood in the cold and held our hands. My dear friend who flew in from New York just to stand next to me in that hour, only to board another plane home the same day.
I can't help but be grateful. Although your death has forced the worst upon us, we have also been privy to the very best.
This secret of mine is a dark one. Its recognition is scary and morose and I'd give anything not to know it. Before you died I thought a pain of this magnitude would kill me, and now I have to know that it didn't.
I have to know that caramel bars still taste really good and that whiny five year-olds are still annoying. I have to know that you died and I still love horrible reality television and loathe grading research papers. That your father and I will still laugh uncontrollably when your brother tries to say the word portal and says port-hole instead, "will this fit in my port-hole?"
And I have to know that you can grow a life inside of you for eight months, feel her roll and kick and hiccup, and that after you deliver her lifeless body into a bed of shaking hands, and after you watch her ashes fill the ground beneath your feet, those same feet will still tap to "Come on, Eileen."
It doesn't make sense that life really, actually continues. The only people who know this to be true are those like me. The people all over the globe wearing name tags in circles around Kleenex boxes. The ones who bury their child and bravely take that first step from the cemetery grass, returning home to the familiar, stumbling, confused as to this secret. Life's progression, nearly seamless, in their absence.
And I guess I could protest it for the remainder of my days, sit idly by and watch everything take place without you here. Refusing the meringue and willing my lips closed in a perpetual rejection. I could stay angry and wronged and bitter forever, but somehow I doubt you'd have liked that.
And also because, chocolate.