Today we welcome guest writer TracyOC from Mommicked. Her incredibly insightful, clever writing reflects the dichotomy of babylost grief—gratitude in a moment, the heartbreak of forever. In 2007, Tracy OC's twin daughters were born at thirty-two weeks, suffering from Twin-to-Twin Transfusion Syndrome. Her daughter C. lived. Her daughter R. died. —Angie
There is a hat sitting on my desk that is bound for Australia.
It seems so far from my little town on the east coast of the US—practically half a world away with totally different seasons and ecology. Then again, we’re practically next door neighbors if you consider the infinite and ever-expanding nature of the universe.
And there’s the hat itself that makes the world a little smaller. It is a gift for another babylost blogger, knitted in honor of the fourth anniversary of my daughter, R's, death.
R was born at thirty-two weeks, one minute before her identical twin sister, C. R died when she was twelve days old, worn down by the compounded effects of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome (TTTS), lower-than-expected birth weight, necrotizing enterocolitis and critical pulmonary valve stenosis. The day she died, a cardiologist stood over her bed in the NICU and said, "Sometimes the deck is just too stacked."
C was also smaller than the average thirty-two-weeker thanks to TTTS. But, even though her deck had also been pronounced ‘stacked’, she had a full complement of working parts and a deep well of baby rage. She graduated the NICU in three weeks—three pounds of piss and vinegar.
They were barely seven pounds together at birth yet, they encompass the full span of possibilities offered by parenthood. At the very least, they’re perched on the fence that defines the perimeter—almost died and almost lived.
"You never know where your kids will take you."
My mom had a friend who used to say that. Her sons traveled the world as members of a famous boys choir. C hasn't done much traveling yet but I can feel the potential hovering just out of sight like the bones of her adult self that are starting to push through the pudge of her four-and-a-half-year-old face. Soon she will become who she is going to be. Soon the small world that my husband, T, and I share with her will expand beyond birthday parties and three-on-three soccer matches and bikes with training wheels into an everything that I can’t even imagine. Because you never know.
When I think about R, at first, it feels like I know. She spent her entire life inside a plastic box. She was four pounds and sixteen and a quarter inches with blue eyes and curly, yellow hair. Her eyelashes were just starting to come in. She got to ride in an ambulance.
I can peer into the space where her possibilities ought to be and it looks like an empty pit. I know that there will be no travels, no victories, no failed adventures. Nothing is hovering in the shadows here.
Lately, R’s nothing seems to be the same size and shape as C’s everything.
They both fill all the space inside my head and push until I feel like my skull will shatter into dust and get carried away on the breeze.
And I wonder how different they are. Is a dead daughter the furthest thing imaginable from a living daughter? Or, when you consider the vast, unending possibilities of all existence, are they more like next door neighbors?
C’s body doesn’t give her entrée to every possible path. In fact, the body that she has is already limiting her possibilities. She’s never gonna be in a famous boys choir, anyway. Similarly, R’s lack of a body doesn’t completely cut her off from the human experience. She is loved. She is remembered.
I chose some fancy yarn for this hat that is bound for Australia—much fancier than I'd choose for a friend that I met through other circumstances. Special occasion yarn, if you will. The yarn is manufactured in Japan, Japanese silk spun with wool imported from, you guessed it, Australia.
This giant planet made small by the wonders of technology.
Sheep hair from one continent and fiber extruded from the salivary glands of moth larvae on another continent and jet airplanes and internet yarn stores and the blogosphere all twisted together by a mother who misses her daughter for another mother half a world away who misses her daughter too.
This giant planet made small by the most basic of all wishes.
R exists in a shadow world that is infinitely large and governed by things that I can't really explain. She is an ache in my soul, an unfillable void. But she is also every worthwhile thing that I’ve learned about grief and loss. She is a thread that runs all the way back to the earliest humans and on into the unending future, stitching me to the log ladies of folklore and the brilliant minds pushing at the frontier of modern medicine. She is a web that connects me to parents all over the world. She is a hat that is bound for Australia.
You never know where your kids will take you.
Have you connected with other grieving parents around the world? Have you had a chance to talk or visit them? What places have you "gone," figuratively or literally, since your baby or babies died? Where do you want to go? What other surprising connections have you made?