The Strongest Tether

Lately, I’ve been in a conversation with a friend who lost a baby a few years ago, mid pregnancy, due to unforeseen complications. I offered my condolences and my own story of losing a baby due to a missed miscarriage at 17 weeks.

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That was almost two years ago, and that child’s rainbow sister will be one in May. I don’t think of my lost baby every day, anymore. Not even every week. I’ve come so far from that grieving soul I once was, crumpled in upon herself in bed. I look back and see that tear streaked face in my mind’s eye, and I have just a hint of a lump in my throat. That old familiar feeling, that heavy quilt of sorrow that wrapped herself around my shoulders, around my life, and pulled me deep into myself.  That sharp, aching pain, that itching feeling of anxiety, the need to run, scream, shout. Break. And the inability to do any of it, as the world held me fast to my spot, watching life go on for everyone else.

I don’t feel that pain, anymore. I think, sometimes, how different life could be. And I think of all the lessons I learned from my time with her, what she taught me, what I taught myself, and who I’ve become, so very different from who I would have been.

My life isn’t defined by my loss anymore, like it once was.

But this conversation had me revisiting my past, my memories and my loss.  I finally watched the Lifetime film Return to Zero today, while Pepper napped. It wasn’t long before I was reduced to tears, before my heart was aching and heavy, before that lump worked it’s way into my throat. Before I felt that old familiar pain again.

The film’s heroine, Maggie (Minnie Driver) makes mention of her attachment to pain. She tells a friend that she loves her pain, needs it, that it’s what connects her to the baby she has lost. That, without that pain, she is afraid she won’t have anything of him to hold onto.

I don’t live with daily pain, anymore. I live a happy life, full of smiles and giggles and sweet potato brownies and staying up too late watching Netflix, and after watching this film, I hugged Pepper so tightly when she awoke, and doused her with kisses. I think of my lost baby, and though my heart holds love for the child we never got to have, never got to hold, never got to bring home with us, I realized, today, as it slowly bubbled to the surface, that the pain is still there.

And despite all that love, for Pepper and for her never born older sister, I know it’s that pain that really does connect me to that tiny baby. Pain is the strongest tether.

I have written previously about my pain and how it felt like a friend to me, a crutch. I found myself clinging to it like a junkie desperate to feel. It felt good. It felt right to sting and burn. It felt like that only thing that mattered. I wanted the hurt and I needed the hurt, and only now, looking back, can I clearly see that being shattered, wounded, crushed and crumbled, in PAIN after being pregnant with my lost baby was the closest I could ever come to being pregnant with that baby again. If I got better…..I would lose her.

Now that years have passed and I live in a different world; one in which I am usually so tired at the end of the day from chasing Pepper about and/or digging rabbit poop that she’s found in the yard out of her mouth, I don’t spend time thinking of my loss. But when quiet moments flutter upon me, sometimes I can hear the tiny echo. A voice calling from the bottom of a well, the whisper of hurt. I know that, pain or no, that baby was mine, ours, and she always will be. I don’t need the pain to have her with me. I am her mother always; my journey as a mother having begun far earlier than the world suspects.

But, today, that pain found me again, if only briefly. She gripped me tightly in that dark and familiar bear hug, her claws retracted, but grazing my back gently, reminding me of her power.

She doesn’t control my days, and love shines brightly in my life, now.

But it truly is that pain that is the strongest tie to my lost baby. No matter how much love and acceptance I have, how far I’ve come, how much I’ve learned, it’s the hurt that holds fastest to my heart and brings me closest to the mother I was when I lost her. The mother I was when I first became a mother, when I became the type of mother with no child to hold. Pain ties me to that child with an unbreakable bond.

Today, that pain returned. Just a little bit.

And, strangely, darkly, unnervingly, it felt good. Like an old friend.

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