October 4, 2018… a day I’ve been dreading for weeks.
Initially, I began dreading it when I looked at the calendar back in August (when I was finally able to look ahead again) because today I have a dentist appointment.
This dread isn’t because I don’t like going to the dentist. In fact, I love going to the dentist. But my last dental cleaning was six months ago, which means it included Norah.
I can’t remember much these days, due to the short term memory loss associated with traumatic grief and PTSD, but I remember that day. She was adorable, as always. The staff doted on her and happily congratulated me. They allowed her to lay on my chest during the appointment; she always did best when she was close to me. The dentist was thrilled with the condition of my gums for being newly postpartum – no pregnancy gingivitis. I remember walking out of there feeling relieved that we made it through an appointment without a feeding; she was still eating every 60-90 minutes and I wasn’t comfortable or coordinated enough yet to nurse her in public. She was such a good baby. And that day she remained content, just lying on my chest during the visit. We went home and snuggled on the couch for a few hours, as we always did during our alone time together, while I was still off of work. Thank you, God.
I haven’t been back to the dentist since she died. They don’t know. I’ll likely have to answer questions. They’ll likely regret having asked me.
“How’s the baby?” or “Where is the baby today?” Or the worst question of all, for which I have no idea how to answer and no energy to try, “How are you?”
(“She’s dead.” “She’s in Heaven.” “I’m… surviving.”)
I’ve sat in this anxiety for a while now, in order to get through it – from a mental health standpoint, that’s what I’ve learned you have to do to eventually make these feelings tolerable, and no longer visceral. My therapist describes it as learning to ride a bike – you fall at first, and again, and again, but eventually you stop falling and you begin to learn to pedal and control the riding with just some wobbly movements. After some time, you ride without wobbling. You always know there is potential to wobble or to fall, but you’re (mostly) able to control the ride.
I have spent so much time forcing myself to feel every ounce of the pain. (I want to get “better”; I want to do this work successfully.) I worked really hard to move my way through the pain and fears, but I still felt heavily unsettled. I dug deep into my brain, trying to find an association, a trigger, with dental visits, or teeth (teething maybe?), or something else that could directly cause me to mourn so heavily.
Then it occurred to me.
I looked at my calendar and counted. I counted over and over again to understand what I was seeing. There it was. Something I had never even thought about (I’m finding those “somethings” happen a lot when your kid is dead.) Today, Thursday, October 4, 2018, marks the day that Norah has been dead for as long as she was alive. Norah lived for 111 days and now she’s been in Heaven for 111 days. And my heart continues to break, all over again, as this song keeps playing in my head: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kPBzTxZQG5Q
I love you, Norah.
I can not wait to be with you again.
*Coincidentally, or maybe not, 111 is known as the angel number.*