It’s been over a month since I lost my baby at 17 weeks. I have felt a lot of things in that time; crushed, shattered, hopeless, confused, desperate, lonely, occasionally hopeful and peaceful, a forced sense of happiness. I have participated in regular things, gone back to work, treated myself, wallowed in grief, cried until I couldn’t breathe. I have tried very hard to find normal, but one feeling that didn’t make the list, was, in fact, normal.
Until suddenly, one day, without warning, without even noticing the change, I felt normal. Pensive, perhaps, thinking of my lost child, but that day I realized that I didn’t feel like I needed to cry, or even that I wanted to cry. I realized that I haven’t recounted each painful moment of losing her in I don’t know how many days. I realized that I am moving on and moving forward. I awoke with cramps a few days later, only to discover that my body had forgotten ever having been pregnant. My cycle had returned. I have finally found myself sleeping on my stomach again. I don’t rub my abdomen anymore when I think of her. I was so ill during pregnancy that I barely ate, and never snacked between meals. I caught myself sneaking a cookie from the freezer yesterday. And now my cycle has returned. My body is shedding the physical memory of carrying my child inside of me. Like some stamp on a library book, I feel like my body has marked this experience DISCARD. It’s over. Back to normal. Return to regularity.
So maybe I felt normal that day. But what came next was a lingering sense of guilt. Don’t you remember how much this hurt? I thought. Don’t you remember how much you said you loved her? I thought you could never get better? You said it hurt too much to heal. If you lose this pain, you drift further and further from your child. My brain throbbed with these accusations. All that I knew of my daughter was wrapped up in several months of symptoms, one ultrasound session, the flicker on the screen of a tiny beating heart, and a world of pain at our second session when that flicker was gone. Pain. Pain like I’ve never known before. The shocking hollowness of loss, the empty space inside that held hope and dreams and life, now filled to the brim with sadness. If you let go of this pain, you let go of your child, and then she never really meant all to you that you said she did. If you let her slip away again, you never loved her at all.
I numbed myself to the hurt, I didn’t cry, I didn’t seek refuge in sleep. I went about my day, telling myself this guilt is normal. I did the laundry. I wrote, I drew, I washed the dishes. Everyone feels this way, I thought. Everyone feels guilty moving on. And after all, surely this isn’t the end. The pain isn’t gone, it’s hiding, waiting for a trigger, but it will be back.
I tell myself all the things I want to hear, that I need to hear.
But I’m not very convincing.
The guilt overrides. The self doubt and the need to blame takes over. And when this happens to us, who do we blame the most? To whom do we point, accusatory finger shaking, eyes filled with rage and hate, for letting us down, for letting our child down, for moving on, and threatening to forget that baby we love so much? Who do we loathe for all this anguish?
The face in the mirror. That horrible creature who wasn’t strong enough. And never will be.
So, I felt normal. If only for a little while.
It feels like every step forward is a step further away. A step down a path that leads me away from a marker. Here lies the memory of little girl lost, never held in her mother’s arms, never to touch her daddy’s hands, only to flicker a moment in this world before burning out so fast. Each beat on the trail leads me away from here. Yes, this place of pain, but this place so close to my child. Is this pain what truly ties us? Without it, will her memory fade? Where does this trail lead? A sign ahead points towards the destination, in the distance, some dessicated place, riddled with smoke and ash, a deflated war zone. A place that once thrived, but now looks foreign and gutted, torn by the ravages of a battle between life and death. I glance up at the sign, riddled with bullet holes and smeared with dirt. The sign reads “Normal”.
Even normal isn’t really normal anymore.