What do I do now?
She’s been gone longer than she was here, even counting the time she was inside me.
I’ve passed all of the first anniversaries: her ultrasound, the day she was born, the day she died on both the Jewish and Gregorian calendars.
We’ve anticipated her arrival.
Said hello, welcomed our second child to the big world.
Taken her outside to breathe fresh real air.
Buried her fragile little body in a tiny coffin in the ground.
Her box of memories is full, her photo album is made. Her special soft things in jars, still smelling a little bit like her. Everything put away in the trunk that sits next to me in the sunroom, keeping me company.
Her quilt is coming along, something I am not in a hurry to finish… When I work on it, I feel close to her.
I still haven’t framed and hung her photos, but I will… soon.
Her headstone has been made, set and unveiled. Flowers planted with her placenta. Her DNA and ours stored at the hospital for research. Her birth and death certificate are in a safe place with other family documents, confirming that she really did exist, always a part of our family.
We’ve moved away and settled into our new home across the country.
Our new chapter has begun.
Today I watched as two cicadas completely left their exoskeletons and began a new chapter in their new skins, so bright green they were almost turquoise. They hung there from the branches of a tree, clinging still to their old shells, transparent wings spread, contemplating new destinations, new purpose.
It was stunning… I’ve never seen anything like it. For three weeks now I’ve been listening to them singing their songs outside, surrounding me with constant tropical melodies. I’ve just never seen a cicada before, not even in a photo.
Everything changes, nothing stays the same.
Impermanence... I see it when I look in the mirror. I look different than I did last summer. I look different than I did two summers ago. I think I look different than I did a few months ago. I’ve reluctantly left my exoskeleton, sometimes hesitating to leave it completely behind. Longing for it, for simpler times.
My old shell consists of all the mes I’ve left behind, said goodbye to, willingly or not.
It’s this next place I’m not so sure about. This after the transformation place. I can so easily tell you how changed I am from the person I was before I knew Tikva. I can describe in vivid detail how she transformed me, and for the better. But I’m not exactly sure what that means for me now… now that I’ve been transformed by knowing, loving and losing my child. Now that I’ve undergone a change I never in a million years would have chosen. Now that I’ve gotten kind of used to this new person that I am.
How many children did you bring with you to Cincinnati? he asks my husband.
We have two children, but only one living. We’re here after a year off, since we lost our second child last summer, my husband answers.
I say nothing, look away even, let my husband tell him. Then I look at this new acquaintance and see the sadness and searching in his eyes as he looks at me then quickly looks down. I know what he wants to say. After a year, I am so aware of the sadness I’ve held in other people when they look at me after learning about Tikva. Some days I can take it better than others. This time I just notice it, allow the compassion to flow in silence. Nothing needs to be said.
I hoped to be carrying another child by now, but I’m not yet. Still, I can feel that child’s spirit close, waiting. Sometimes I can’t distinguish it from Tikva’s spirit. I don’t think that matters. Baby spirit energy is one and the same. I think it comes from one big well.
I watch my older daughter and feel how powerful is her desire to be a big sister to a living sibling.
I wish I had a sister to play with who wasn’t a spirit, she says.
Me too, I answer. Me too.
She would have a sibling who would be almost two right now, if I hadn’t miscarried in between her and Tikva. Then there would never have been a Tikva… Strange.
Tikva would be 14 months now, would probably be walking. She would be so beautiful, that I just know for sure.
For two and a half years we have wanted to give Dahlia a sibling… One who can play with her.
We still do.
It’s almost the new year on the Jewish calendar. The biggest time of the year. This is supposed to be a time of reflection, of going inwards, of making amends, making peace. I always find this time tumultuous inside, unsettling, unsettled. I guess that’s the point. I don’t know if I’m ready for a big time right now. I’m feeling especially un-Jewish right now, which is ironic as the wife of a future rabbi. Really, I just feel like climbing under the covers and not coming out until October. Until the new year, a new season.
Last year at High Holy Day services, less than two months after Tikva died, I alternated between sitting next to Dave in the sanctuary, crying, and running outside to cry alone. I resented everyone dancing in the aisles all around me. I felt no joy, no peace, no serenity. I felt isolated, empty, lost. Dave wrote angry messages to God in his journal. I did not fast on Yom Kippur. Dave and I got into a fight about something, I can’t even remember what. Afterwards I went with a friend to a candlelight vigil for babies who had died. It was one of the saddest days of those first few months after losing my Baby Girl.
I don’t feel especially compelled to fast this year either. I don’t feel especially inspired to do much that is Jewish, to be honest. Keeping kosher – in the limited way we’ve been doing so for several years – feels kind of trivial after what I’ve lived the past almost two years. That is not how I connect to something bigger, by eating my meat and my dairy separately… by fasting on Yom Kippur.
There is a new layer of sadness churning deeply in me right now, a layer I’m not quite ready to shed. A space I just need to exist in for a while. I’m not entirely sure what it’s all about, but I do know that it’s less tidy, more raw than I’ve felt in many months.
It’s not the part of me that wondered how I would ever survive losing my child, terrified at the thought of forever having to hold that experience. I’ve survived, relatively intact. But I’m not settled. In fact, I’m feeling rather unsettled right now. In a new kind of limbo, an in between place.
Now life goes on. Now life continues.
That’s it? It just continues? Just goes on, business as usual, except that I’m completely transformed in the middle of a world that hasn’t really changed much at all?
How come I have to adjust to the same old world around me, and no one has to adjust to me?
Because you’re not the majority.
I’m not? I know and know of so many parents who have lost babies, our numbers grow every day, and we’re still just a minority? But this is all I know. What am I supposed to do with the transformation I just went through? With this new self I am sort of used to and still getting acquainted with?
Tikva? Are you there? Are you still close? Is that you in the giant yellow and black butterfly I saw yesterday? In the turquoise under the transparent wings of the cicada? In the tiny bird eating an Oreo cookie outside the ice cream store yesterday?
What do I do now… still without you?
I will let myself cry for as long as I need. There are no rules around how long is enough before being done with the sorrow. You are never really done, are you? Here in this place, we know better than to create those kinds of boundaries. Here we feel what we need, when we need, how we need to.
I miss you, Tikva. I miss you differently now. But oh how I miss you still, my Tiny Love.
Where do you find yourself now? Are you comfortable here? Is it still new for you? Unsettling? Do you feel like an old hat? Transformed, for better or worse? What do things look like now, here, for you?