Recently I was accused of taking away from someone's happiness. I'd like to talk about it.
The other day I was joking with my friend, Christine. We were discussing the struggle that is receiving baby-related propaganda in the mail after losing a baby, and I said there are things us loss moms should be granted. Some of these things are certainly impossible: the guarantee that the rest of your children will outlive you, the ability to use the word "complete" in reference to your family, friends who (when you leave a difficult conversation) don't talk behind your back like self-absorbed seventh graders.
But some of these things could and SHOULD be a thing. Like for real.
For instance, there should be someone standing guard at every loss mom's mailbox. His assignment would begin whenever a child dies, and he stands there and reviews all communication prior to its entrance into each respective home. BuyBuyBaby coupons? Return to sender. Pediatric appointment reminder? Gone. Christmas card with adorable baby in pastel crocheted hat? Nope.
If it sounds bitter that's because it is. And that's because we get to be. We've buried our children and we get to be bitter; every one of us, to some extent, forever.
As a society, we can do much better by the bereaved. I accept that the world didn't stop when mine did. Trust me, I feel every turn but why the expectation to return to who I was before? Believe me when I say that a newborn baby is a happy thing. The happiest. Beyond most others, I appreciate and am grateful for each and every time a healthy, breathing baby is placed in someone's arms. But I am no longer the person you should ask about gender reveals or baby girl clothes or shower décor or birth plan ambiance. I wish I were still that person. I have tried to be her, for me and for you---it isn't possible. My daughter's baby shower was exactly one week ( perhaps to the minute) before her death. My concerns are less connected to what is worn home from the hospital and more tied to acronyms like BETA and AFP and NST and BPP. You don't want me in that discussion anymore. There are perfectly nice gifts that can be sent through the mail and besides, nobody likes a guest of the "drunk uncle" variety, snorting and rolling her eyes and hyperventilating next to the gingham printed napkins.
Frankly, I have earned my crazy. Did you know that I can't buy seasonal clothes for my six year-old more than four months in advance because it feels like a jinx? Do you feel the catch in my breath at the dinner reservation? The Census survey? How many will be attending? What happened to me, and to her, is horrific. It's as real as a panic attack mid-Target aisle. Her death is tragic and life-altering and forever, and while I would love to go back to the friend you knew, I make no apologies for who I am today because she made me this person. Denying that some words still feel like blades is to deny that she happened, and I will do that for no one.
Your life may not look like mine anymore, and that's okay. You don't have to visit memorial trees mid-Mother's Day. You don't have to cherish twelve dollar necklaces or stained sports bras. You don't have to fundraise for CuddleCots or meet the newly bereaved mom for coffee Saturday morning or fall to pieces writing the date on the whiteboard. You don't have to lean in but if we're going to remain friends you don't get to turn away. When I say my daughter's name, you don't get to imply that I'm taking ONE thing, from you.
I don't get to have her. I don't get to touch her or see her or hear her laugh. I don't get to braid her hair for the first day of school or tell her the music's too loud or toast her on her wedding day. I'll never tuck her in or make her cinnamon toast or sing to her at long stoplights, but I am allowed to love her. I'm allowed to talk about her, even when it warrants pause and even when it's sometimes uncomfortable. I make no apologies for telling you it hurts because it does. When I'm honest with you I am extending an olive branch; an opportunity for you to say I see you. I see you still loving her and missing her and I'm going to let you; even better, I'm going to do it with you.
So to those who see my honesty as a way to literally steal from their happiness, perhaps you should look less at what I'm doing with regards to what pleases you and more at what is actually making you happy. Is it the beautiful, healthy, kicking baby beneath your shirt or is it the recognition of that beautiful, healthy, kicking baby from the rest of the world?
Take it from someone who has learned that lesson the hard way: nothing trumps a heartbeat. And if it ever feels like something could, let me serve as the lone, devastating reminder that a pulse can be ripped from your hands as quickly as it appeared. So please, do not mock that lesson by implying that my daughter's name could ever take away from yours. Doing so is almost comical, but it's closer to disgusting. I cannot take your happiness. I can barely hold my own. Can you hear me? I can barely hold my own.