Last weekend was rough. There's never any rhyme or reason to when it comes out of nowhere. I'll be dancing or drinking wine, it will be sunny and seventy five on a patio somewhere and it will hit me. My daughter died. I had to deliver her lifeless body in a cold hospital room as my husband cried beside me, and suddenly I want to go home.
It's strange, the handling of that part of the grief. The training required, like a marathon. I guess that's the perfect analogy because sometimes it feels like I'm running with no end in sight. Sometimes my head tells me to just stop, because every muscle aches and because I can't forget and I can't catch my breath, but my heart still tells me to go. So I go, but I'm not sure for how long.
I think people look at me now and assume that I'm fine. Actually, I'm certain some do because I can tell. Their eyes are different than this time last year. I'm sure they see your brother and that he perpetuates this notion. Because he's so adorable and perfect and miraculous. And I'm not sure which hurts more, that they look at him and forget about you, or that they think I have.
The other day your uncle spoke to my classes. We are learning about traumatic brain injury, and I doubt there is anything more applicable than his story.
I remember arriving to the emergency room that night, seeing him lying there. Watching him struggle to breathe before the intubation. Flailing chest and bleeding ears and eyes closed, and not knowing if they'd ever open again.
It feels strange reciting these injuries in my classroom, to the blank stares up at me, this lady with all the answers. Twelve bilateral rib fractures. Right temporal skull fracture. Cerebral edema. Hemopneumothorax. Left frontal parietal lobectomy. Ruptured ear drum. Broken scapula. Broken jaw.
I remember staring at one of the cuts on his face that night. A superficial wound in comparison, bleeding onto the muddy pillowcase and thinking how I wish we cared about that one. Because if we cared about that one it would mean the others weren't so bad. But they were. Very, very bad and so no one bothered to list the cut on his face with the others, and for some reason it was my focus.
When you died there was a HOUSE marathon on the hospital television. People were crying all around me, but I was concerned that Cuddy's mother's artificial hip was going to kill her. I was actually centered there for a time, while my induction progressed through the night. There were fleeting moments where I'd remember what was happening, that the very worst of all that I will (hopefully) ever endure, at 28, was happening right now. I could hear this voice in my head as she told me it was bad. Turn off the TV. This is really, really bad.
Only I couldn't. It was like some defense mechanism, that my mind wouldn't allow for the full comprehension. Not yet. It was like I was running beside myself, coaching her through but not really feeling anything, and these spurts of understanding would surface and permeate. And then later I would remember, and then I would feel it all.
After I delivered you, the placenta did not immediately follow as it should. They placed you in my arms and began to gently push on my stomach, and for the very briefest of moments there was a panicked thought. Was something wrong? Was I going to die? I remember thinking I hope not, in a sort of disconnected way. As I held you on my chest I thought it was a good sign. My concern. The forced recognition that while my daughter was limp and lifeless in my arms, somehow, for whatever reason, I still wanted to live.
Still, there are times when I question it. This weekend is the most recent example. How abruptly they enter. How rushed their alteration, these thoughts of you. How completely someone opening a card, can break my heart.
Why wasn't it me instead of you? Me, held by a tragic soul as its heart shattered into a million pieces on some foreign hospital floor. How is it possible that I might go on for another forty years, alongside this pain? This ever jarring, earth shattering, forever wound that I'm only just beginning to comprehend.
The next day I met a fellow loss mom for coffee. A dear, new friend. We talked of holding our still babies. Scoffed at how mediocre everything seems, how things we used to stress about seem so insignificant. Nagging deadlines and the awkwardness in the mundane, after such a horror as ours. We laughed about the plaguing anxiety and enjoyed our five dollar lattes. Four hours later, we hugged in the parking lot and went our separate ways. Only our ways aren't so separate at all. And although I know this pain, I also get to know that she's here, she's out there and in here with me forever.
I felt lighter that day, after conversations I'd have run from two years ago. Like I'd reclaimed something important, once again. A shock to the chest and a renewed fortitude.
And I am grateful now, to know that I can do both.
Feel my heart fall to shreds on the hardwood, and smell the coffee in the wings.