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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

After You.

***I am dedicating today's post to SHARE's Walk of Remembrance and the Wave of Light, in support of infertility and pregnancy and infant loss, and shattering the stigma.  Click here for a list of the amazing, courageous bloggers on the tour, leading up to Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day on October 15th***

Dear Josie,

The other day I drove three miles for a stolen brownie sundae.  With pecans. 

It was Sunday night.  It was jacket weather.  I got home and your brother read "The Magic Fish".  Afterwards I found three toddler shoes in the trashcan.  Your father and I put the boys to bed and ate ice cream and watched political coverage and fell asleep on the couch.  Every second was so beautifully ordinary, so nearly complete.  It's nights like this I can trick myself into believing we're normal. 

When I was little I would rack my brain for what bothered me most about a problem.  Rarely was it ever the "problem" itself, as I saw it.  Mostly it was my skewed version of reality, my fear of confrontation or my need for reassurance.  For weeks I could over-analyze and scrutinize and pick apart in an effort to logically explain it away; to overcome.  I have searched it now, with regards to you.  What bothers me most about your death?  It's not possible.

As a mother, I like to go first.  I like to make sure that it's safe; that it isn't too scary or too cold or too tight. I look both ways for the tiny feet behind me and I test the macaroni, blowing and waving onto spoons as chubby, impatient hands reach from their highchairs.  If there's a hit I'm going to take it.  If a tongue is to burn, it is mine.  When you died that was stolen from me.  There was no checking to see that the light was on, there was no holding your hand.  Despite all my worrying and fretting and nesting, you went before me in the scariest way into the most unknown place.  In an instant you were gone, and I am left to wonder, forever,  how it must have felt to leave us on your own. 

There's the concept of time now, which is also backwards. "Give it time," they say, but it makes no sense anymore.  When we visit you, standing above in our clasped hands and promises, I'm reminded that time is no longer something I trust or desire.  Without you, there is simply too much of it. 

There is also the perpetual confusion that is not knowing myself anymore, all the familiar edges and preferences;  what will upset me and who to avoid.  The unrecognizable ticks and triggers and meltdowns that grow and evolve as I do, and that I must own and face and circumnavigate.  Recently I've concluded that while it's all difficult, none of it hurts as much as the constant, nagging awareness of all you'll never do. This finite number in my head of everything you've ever touched, documented and sealed and packed away in time, never to be added upon. 

Sometimes I creep into the basement late at night to hold them, your things.  The  monogrammed rompers and leopard print Mary Janes I bought the moment the ultrasound confirmed I was to have a daughter.  The lone blanket to ever hold you , still and cold and the imprint of your head on the neon sports bra I'll never wash.  I turn them over in my hands and I wish that there were more of these threads and cracks and stains; more of these fading imperfections that exist because you did. 

Last month we hosted a trivia night to raise money for our local support group.  An idea that was nearly a year in the making, came to life on an otherwise unremarkable Saturday night. 

We began last fall by drafting a donation letter, myself and a few other local loss mothers.  Was it too cliché?  Too honest?  Could we efficiently depict what our lives had so traumatically become in a way that was also hopeful?  Was there enough emphasis on the gravely unfortunate necessity of our cause? We met for coffee and we typed words and we deleted them, and then we typed them again.  We sent them to hundreds of businesses.  We bought stamps and envelopes and made copies.  We procured an emcee, and we walked door to door in the rain and the cold and the heat.  We drafted professional email requests and navigated lengthy, corporate websites and with every rejection notice we tried our best not to cry, and then we did it all again. 

Gradually, slowly, they began to trickle in.  HUNDREDS of tangible goods and sought- after services and stories and hugs from perfect strangers who couldn't imagine and those who could relate.  We designed t-shirts with our babies' footprints in the middle and we made fliers and soundtracks and table guides.  We learned how to use a popcorn machine and we received THOUSANDS of dollars worth of silent auction items and raffle prizes and alcohol.  We displayed the most perfect, most beautiful centerpieces, asking local mothers for their childrens' stories, and we bought frames to secure them inside. We decorated pink and blue balloons and weighed them down with pink and blue drawstring bags and we walked around in shirts with their names on the back to remind everyone why we were there.

At the end of the night there was a number:  Twelve thousand six hundred and fifty-five dollars.   Every cent will meet the one hundred and forty local families whose dreams will end this year as ours did.  Silently and abruptly, in some foreign hospital room.  And when I think of all this money will do, and all it will touch, I can only admit that I've been wrong all this time.

Because there's a mother out there whose baby will receive a silver heart necklace to wear for the pictures she never saw coming.  There's a hospital bill to be halved and family counseling sessions that will happen that were otherwise unaffordable. There are cards in mailboxes for hearts that don't yet exist; open arms just bleeding to console and every fractional second of solace does not belong to us; it belongs to our babies. 

Perhaps your impact isn't so fixed.  And these traces of you that bring me to my knees, perhaps there's more to come. I see it now, and it helps.  I could send a thousand letters.  I could write the speeches, lift the fingers and the legs and the hearts but I won't accept the credit because it was never mine.

You touched every bit of it first.










***Thank you for reading, and for helping to #shatterthestigma surrounding infertility, and pregnancy and infant loss.  Be sure to check out Jen's beautiful piece from yesterday on the importance of sharing our stories of loss and love, and don't miss Jennifer's post coming this Thursday!  Lastly, please be sure to share your own Walk of Remembrance photos on social media, using the hashtag #ShareWalk2016, and join us in lighting a candle in remembrance of those we have lost at 7pm on October 15th, using #WaveofLight #pregnancyandinfantlossawareness ***