I went to lunch today, which was another “normal” thing that might as well have been cliff diving. It was hard just to drive up to the area near school and the hospital, which is not something I thought of beforehand. Up there is a whole additional world of things I haven’t faced yet. The last time I made the drive we had dinner with George and I was still in numb shock. The last time before that, I was in labor. I have been facing a lot of things at home, but this was a whole different animal. It is excruciating to relive those moments or have a sliver of those memories creep it. I cried for the last 15 miles of the drive…and I guess it can’t really be more than 25 miles total. I was having sushi with Neecers, which I thought would be a great easy reintroduction to alien things like lunch, doing my hair, and seeing people besides Chris and Aaron. The sushi place was packed, and for only the second time in my life that I can recall (this first being Costco right after I came home from the hospital) I was actually scared to be in a crowded place. That kind of insecurity never happened before Mara died. I felt better after we were able to sit down and just have conversation at our table. Neecers was a perfect friend to talk to and our lunch was really nice. I got a haircut on my way home. It felt wonderful to have someone taking care of me and to feel like I looked nice. I will take every happy moment I can get. Hey look, it’s me, looking like a normal person.
Sunday, September 23, 2012
Walking Aaron to school.
I went out to get some new pants that would be suitable for work. Maternity clothes are too big, my clothes are too small. A lumpy body is certainly a common post-partum problem, except that I have no one in my arms to show for it.
January 17th marked one month since Mara died. As I type this in September, it feels like a completely different lifetime, just like December 17th did. On this day in December, we were coming home from looking at Christmas lights and talking to my family on the phone. I had been having contractions since 4:30 and wishing she would come soon. She did, but our time together was much too short.
I had been dreading January 17th, the marker of the passing of time, and I imagined that I would spend it huddled in bed crying and hiding. But my good news is that I did not, and more importantly, it did not occur to me that I was not at the time. I did laundry, housework, yardwork, walked on the treadmill, and thought about Mara, but it was not until I closed Aaron’s door after saying goodnight to him that I remembered it was the one month marker of her death. At first I felt guilty, like I SHOULD have spent the day in bed, or at the very least in tears. But as I thought back through my day, I knew that I had spent the whole day thinking about Mara, like I always do, but it was not a day of despair, like others had been, and would be. Thinking about the night we lost her is still physically painful, as is the sharp ache of desire I have to hold her.
Another pretty good day. Ashley and Sarah and the girls were here too, because we wanted to do a family portrait while Rachel is visiting. The house was loud and rowdy and happy. Before all the photo adventures, I was taking my shower, and I became very sad at the idea of taking a family picture without Mara. The last time we took a family picture I was still pregnant, and we worked so hard to get my belly shown perfectly because we were trying to get a Christmas card shot. We got a good one that we used to make our cards, and the message on the card was about being excited to welcome the greatest Christmas gift of all. We never sent those, or any Christmas cards. They are still in my desk drawer. I thought about that in the shower today and about how I should be holding her in the family picture we would be taking today. I would have hundreds of photos of her already if she were here. I had imagined them all.
Here are some greats from today…including the fun goofy ones!
Today was completely different from yesterday. We had a full house because Chris’ oldest daughter Rachel came for a weekend visit. I stayed busy all day and did things that would have felt normal and fun in another life. Rachel helped me take down the Christmas village (I think January 14 is DEFEINITELY a record), we went shopping at Ikea for basement playroom furniture, and we went out to dinner. I thought today that maybe someday it will be possible to think about Mara and NOT cry. I need to remember days like today the next time I have a day like yesterday. The memory will remind me that it is right to feel hope for myself and our family. It helps to be around people and be busy, but I have to balance that with the time I need to spend alone.
Aaron fell asleep on our way home from dinner…but according to my records it was only 7:30 at night!
I had a horrible angry day today. Today I knew I had entered the ugly stage of my grieving. Shock had passed, and it was time for the tough work of feeling everything. I felt frustrated by well meaning sentiments from friends and loved ones who offered comfort by telling me that God has a plan, or that everything happens for a reason. It felt like they said those things because THEY found comfort in them, and they thought they might give me comfort too. I wasn’t upset at anybody, because people’s love and support made each day bearable, but I found no comfort in those words, and I was angry. I HAD A PLAN. Our FAMILY had a plan. Her name is Mara.
I used to believe that there was a purpose or a design for everything that happens. Through everything I have experienced, I have been able to focus on my own growth and appreciate the role each event or hardship has played in my life. But I guess you could call January 13 the day I changed my mind about that. Now I know that a child dying has no greater purpose, and it is not part of any plan. There is no silver lining. The kindness that people have shown us, the love and support we have received, the strengthened bond between me and Chris, the sharp focus of attention on Aaron, those are all good things. But they don’t make Mara’s death good, they don’t make it make sense, they don’t make it okay. None of it.
While I was out walking today in the clean and healing January air, I had a twisting collection of horrible ungrateful thoughts that raged around in my mind, and were hard to quiet. I felt like I had borne too much, and that I would never be able to recover from this. Why has this happened to us? I want to be happy, I want my daughter, I want my life the way I imagined it. We are good people, we work hard, we are loving, and I want to stop hurting. I didn’t have these thoughts for long before I felt wretched and ungrateful. Aaron is fine, after the seriousness of his surgery, he is in perfect health and I am so grateful. I am loved and close to my family, and comfortable and successful and have the career of my dreams. I am not ungrateful or unmindful of those things. But my heart is surely broken. It is impossible to imagine that these overwhelming feelings of despair will someday pass.
I realized today that I hadn’t had a single nightmare since the day Mara died. I have a nearly lifelong history of awful nightmares, some have been recurring since I was old enough to describe them to my parents. I find it odd that I haven’t had any about Mara or her death. Instead, sleeping is my only true relief these days. It’s as if the nightmare is when I’m awake, where the worst thing that could possibly happen has already happened. My brain can’t make room for any more pain, so I get a break while I sleep.
I had good moments today too. I knew today that I would definitely go back to work eventually, at least to see if I still have what it takes. It was a decision of immeasurable significance. I am very afraid of how it might go. I’m afraid that when I go back to work and start being around people again, they won’t like me as much as they did before. I am so sad now. So different, and quiet and still and sad. The things my friends liked about me before might be gone, or altered forever. I am not the same, I will never be the same as before Mara died. What if people look at me with sad eyes forever? What if the people I love only see me as a shell of who I was, and miss who I used to be before Mara died? Well if they did, they would be feeling exactly the same way I feel about myself. What if my relationships change, and I have that grief to bear too?
I have no appetite. I love to eat, I love food, but it is now one of many things that make no difference to me, and that I don’t enjoy anymore.
Here is Aaron with a gift Chris brought home from one of my former students with a letter so moving that I cry about it writing this post in September. She told me that I have lots of children, and hundreds of daughters, and that they were ready to support and comfort me as I had done for them.