It’s been sixteen months since my baby was born after my loss, and some things are just starting to become realities. Not all of the realities are as beautiful and sweet as my daughter herself, or the beautiful imagery and phrases used to describe her place in the family as the little beacon of light and hope after a storm and years of unknowns and stress.
Some of the realities of life aren’t pleasant, and some are. Sixteen months later, my life is very, very full of wonderful things, but I’m still struggling in lots of ways. The little puff of air that blows out the candles on the first birthday cake does not extinguish postpartum depression. The idea that the baby blues are temporary or should be gone by the time maternity leave (Wait a minute. What’s maternity leave?) is over is a joke.
The world seems to be my oyster, and I am fortunate and humbled to have tons of opportunities, lots of support, and many people who want to see me and my dreams succeed. The only enemy I have is myself.
I’ve started to explain to my daughter about the brother that came before her, and we look at the teddy bear in her room that proudly wears the name Hank across the chest. She points, and says, what’s that? Brother, I say. Hank. Sometimes she says it in her little voice. “Ank.” Yes, Elise, yes! Hank.
She’s sixteen months and she knows about loss. What other loss will she know about? Will she know about separation, and divorce, and loss of a family unit? Will she know loss of self, when she is old enough to question her own decision-making? When will she lose confidence in me for the first time? Will she know physical loss, if someone close to her should die?
Explaining loss to Elise is daunting. Trying to explain it to her while it’s still overwhelming to me is even harder. I’m doing this dance of parenting after loss, and it’s clumsy. No one offers lessons. I feel like I’m doing it by myself with a blindfold. Just when I feel like I can’t do it anymore, a little hand will reach out and grab onto mine, and I realize I’m not alone but instead someone’s guide on a twisty, turning, overgrown path. I squeeze the hand tight and we walk together, us two.
That’s my reality.