Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Our Invisible Child

This day marks a hard anniversary for our family. Nine years ago, on the ninth of January, our first child was born and our first child died. This year is proving to be a more difficult one. Maybe because it would have been her golden birthday, or maybe because it's just difficult. 

Lucy. We named her Lucy. Some days I accept her death and others I don't. The days go by as if nothing happened but something very big happened to us. I was twenty weeks pregnant when my amniotic fluid began leaking. They told us we had to deliver and they told us she would die. I could have the choice of holding onto her until my body naturally let go but that wasn't a guarantee. The longer the amniotic fluid leaked into my body, the higher the risk of septic infection and death for me. However I decided to continue, the doctors told us the baby would not survive. Without enough amniotic fluid, she could not develop lungs, so even though her little heart was beating inside me, she would not live. Labor was induced and it took three painful days for my body to let go. She had a heartbeat right up to the very end, I could hardly bare it. I felt like I was killing her. I would have rather died with her, if it weren't for Brett.  

That first night in the hospital, I couldn't sleep. The shock of the news was too much. Exhaustion had found Brett and he had drifted off to sleep in the cot next to my hospital bed, leaving me to my ugly thoughts. I remember how I couldn't stand being in that bed anymore. I had gotten up and went to the bathroom for lack of anything better to do with my time. On the way back to the bed I saw the rocking chair sitting by the window. The overwhelming thought hit me, the awful realization that I'd never get to rock my baby, never. I stood there and stared at it. Then I finally decided I was going to rock her, I was going to rock my baby. So, I sat in that rocking chair for a long time, with my hands on my belly. I held her as I rocked and cried. I didn't want to stop because I knew this would be it, she'd be gone and I'd have nothing to hold. But exhaustion finally took over and I found myself crawling into Brett's cot to spend that night. Just the three us together on a tiny cot, before they induced labor, before she was gone.

Years later these details are still with me and my initial fear of forgetting them won't happen, because it cannot. It's impossible to forget how it had just been Christmas and we had gotten all these cute little things for our baby. Only to watch Brett, a couple weeks later, packing these things away and crying so hard his shoulders shook. They would never get to be her things. Then, how could I forget the way he held her after she was born. He had ever so softly bounced her up and down, but quickly stopped and this very sad look took hold of his face. 

We'd entered into a depth of sadness so profound we were connected. Yes, there were sad family members and friends around us but it wasn't the same sadness. It wasn't THEIR baby, THEIR life. In moments of grief deep as this, you only find solace with those who have been in your shoes. They're shoes no one wants to wear but sadly some of us have to. You can see how an event such as this would not give you the luxury of fading away with the years. Truth be told, you don't want them to fade because it is all you got to have of your child. There was a time I wished it away, I wanted to forget but it's impossible. There is a very sad movie called "Rabbit Hole," where the grandmother explains how the grief never goes away. She says it's like a brick you carry around in your pocket. Sometimes you forget it's there but then you reach in, pat it and say "oh yeah, that." No matter what, you always feel the weight of that brick. 

We feel her absence. There are moments where you're looking in the rearview mirror and you want to see three little faces. There should've been three little faces. You catch yourself, unknowingly at first, keeping an eye on the children that were born around her birthday. You quietly look from the outside and watch them grow, all the while imagining what you should've had. You dream up your invisible daughter. We imagine her with blonde hair and blue eyes, like our Calvin. We know Lucy had Brett's chin, his nose and my lips. We know she wasn't meant to live but it doesn't stop your heart from wanting her here, from wanting to love her. 

I don't write this for your sympathy. I don't want your sympathy. You cannot console me and I don't need that. I write this for me and my love for Lucy. I write this for those who've gone through this kind of loss. I write this to acknowledge her, to remember her. 

I find comfort knowing Lucy's in the arms of the angels and my soul accepts that. But my human arms are human, they remain empty and it hurts. We wake up in the morning without that child in our home. We feel the absence and we selfishly want that child with us. I've found that I can write about her, talk about her with select family and friends and it's okay. I love saying or hearing her name. We find ourselves doing small things to remember her, like wearing pink. We wear a lot of pink, because that's the color of the blanket we held her in, for the first and only time. It's a way to quietly remember our invisible child.

We find ourselves missing her, we find ourselves thinking about what she'd be like. She has become our invisible child. Non-existent to most everyone else but she's with us always. Ariauna and Calvin know her story and we talk about her. She is apart of our lives in an invisible way. Surviving her death gave us strength. It showed us the fragility of life and the miracle of birth. 

On January 9th 2004, Lucy was born and died. Almost exactly a year later on January 7th 2005, Ariauna was born but there was a much different ending to that story. It was actually the beginning of a story. I can't think of a better way to spend that first and very difficult anniversary than to be holding a healthy and very much alive baby girl. It wasn't Lucy, it wouldn't replace Lucy but it was Lucy's sister. It was a wonderful feeling to hold Ariauna in my arms, bittersweet but wonderful. 

Because of Lucy's death, we cherish our children. Brett and I know what we lost and we're better parents for it, better people. There's a great sadness, but out of that came a great kind of love.