I wake with a jolt. Startled by the beginning of yet another day. The reality hits me hard and causes me to lose my breath each morning, the second I open my eyes. Seventy-six times so far, I’ve woken up like this, with the knowledge that it will never end. Forcing myself into life because I have to get through another day with such pain and sorrow, which is sadly experienced even along side the joys of my amazing girls here on Earth.
It’s still dark outside but I can’t sleep anymore. I raise myself out of my bed in one quick movement, almost ghost-like. I run directly to Norah’s room. I sit in her rocking chair and stare at her empty crib. I rock. I feel. I hurt. I cry out. My body begins to burn once again, with the continued yearning to feed her.
I feel nauseous.
I cry harder.
I embrace the pink kitty sleeper she wore, before her bath, just hours before her death. I smell her sweet scent through her spit up stains. This smell is the only physical sign of her life that I have left. I’ll never, ever wash this piece of clothing.
I weep. Loudly.
My chest burns harder. My stomach aches more. My eyes pour out tears, faster than ever.
The ache in my heart has returned. I’m thankful for the 18 days that I didn’t feel it, but it’s back. And it worries me. I wonder what type of physical changes are occurring in my heart. How has the blood flow changed? How have my vessels been affected? Why do I have to worry about these things now? Why do I have to know the number of days that I didn’t feel like I was going to have a heart attack? Why do I have to feel it again?
The good news, I still no longer feel the guilt, because love is all I’m capable of.
I’m having a really hard time hearing that I’m strong. That I’m brave. That time will heal. That my marriage can survive this. That my other kids need me. That I’m a warrior. My previous thoughts of “one day at a time,” one moment at a time,” “sixty more seconds,” are now just another trigger for my anger and my fears.
My mind can’t comprehend how people can wonder why I’m not “better” from all of the therapy I’m seeking. I’m saddened for those who are looking through the fence, asking how I am, and waiting for me to tell them that I’m all better. I feel so bad that I can’t give them that relief, but only those who have experienced this know that this trauma does not get better. This is not a virus or a wound, or even the type of loss that can heal over time. It’s the loss of my child. My baby. My healthy girl. My best surprise, who was ripped from my arms for no reason at all.
I keep reliving the day of Norah’s birth. I have vivid images of walking into the hospital before the sun was up, with our suitcases and her diaper bag; smiles on our faces, our hearts beating a little faster than usual. I have visions of me rolling on a birthing ball, experiencing each contraction fully and ferociously, and anxiously awaiting each exam to hear how things were progressing. Enduring each push, and soaking in each cheer of encouragement that my amazing husband gave to me, as he held my hand and gazed into my eyes while I pushed our baby into the world. I have visions of holding her and feeding her and learning all about every inch of her, as I cried tears of joy and tears of fear, from my hospital bed in the quietness of the night. I have visions of my girls meeting their baby sister for the first time – their faces, their eyes, their full hearts showing on the outside. I have visions of being pushed in the wheelchair to the lobby, as my husband went to get the car, and having countless people (even new parents) stopping to tell me how beautiful she was. I found it almost odd, yet so heartwarming. I was so proud and so thankful. We were like celebrities. Now I know why. I know that their eyes were drawn to her, to experience seeing a living angel. I just had no idea that an angel is what I was holding in my lap, and embracing in my heart.
I also have nightmarish, dark, haunting visions: of walking in to see my sweet baby dead in her crib; not being able to save her; being led to the trauma room where her tiny 12 1/2 pound body laid on a gigantic, cold, white bed, with tubes and IV lines, discolored from death, bruised from probable broken ribs, because so many amazing people were trying their hardest to bring her back; the ride home, with Hank and me in the backseat – staring out the window in complete shock; coming home with empty arms and having to tell her sisters that they will never see their baby sister again here on this Earth while telling them she was not sick, but her body had just stopped working; knowing that our tiny love’s skull and chest had to be cut open in order to have her precious organs removed to find out what happened, only to have no answers yet, except that she was “perfect and healthy”; looking at her lying in a box not much bigger than a dresser drawer, lifeless and cold, without blood or breath; smelling the decay of her flesh from within that coffin when I should be smelling the sweet scent of my baby in my arms, finding out that there are other medical tests which should be done on our other children to ensure that they won’t also experience a sudden death; feeling thankful for the doctor who went out of his way to find out these things, and give us the wonderful news that their results were normal; having your eight year old ask if the people at the funeral home threw her baby sister’s body in the garbage can after we left; having your five year old worry about who is changing her diaper in heaven; watching your husband withdraw and weep and express how lonely he is, and not have a clue on how to help him.
You see, I’m not strong or brave, I simply have no other choice. Taking one day at a time means I have to wake up like this approximately 17,000 more times, eventually with my other kids out of the house and me living as an elderly grieving mother, alone, after my husband is gone too.
We now have to fight so hard every single day for each other, for us, even when we’re out of energy, because we don’t want to be part of the 90% of couples who divorce after the death of their child.
I have to give my all to the girls when I’m out of all of my energy to give. Not being able to answer their questions, because I don’t even have answers for myself. Some days it takes everything in me to simply brush their hair or unpack their backpacks. I drive them around to therapy sessions, saddened that this is their life; that this is part of what is scheduled into their after school activities.
I’m frustrated with myself and my lack of ability to function normally. I had to return to the store nine times because I couldn’t follow a simple list of the school supplies they needed this year. Nine times.
I’m exhausted from grieving. I’m angry that this is the cross we have to bear. I’m in pain, physical and mental pain. I’m unable to give others any type of support.
I’m unable to care about other things in life, like the flow of school traffic or the planning of some future holiday event. I don’t care about those things because you know why? Because my child is gone. She is dead. So all I have the ability to do is just go with the flow and adjust to trivial shifts in life, and participate when I can, and stay home when I can’t, and just continue to feel thankful for another beat of our hearts and another breath from our lungs.
I need my Norah. I need my old life back. I need me. However, I keep reminding myself that those things are impossible and I’ll never fully heal. But I will continue to rely on God and faith, as I dig deeper within my soul to get through yet another day.
This is where my heart and my mind are.