The other side

 Collage by  T.J.

Collage by T.J.

There was nothing to do after she died. My arms were empty, my milk wasted. Wilted food piled in the refrigerator, and dwindling sympathy cards sat cold in the mailbox. I had help then, and plenty of pity. It afforded me time to ponder what the plan might look like, when I was back in control of my destiny and such.

I should have been experiencing a magical time where I reveled in coos and burps between personal complaints about post-partum realities and cat naps. I should have been counting poops and pees. It’s supposed to be a time of mindless, exhaustive, duty-filled labors of love. Instead, it was deafening silence in the middle of the night. Everything was agony.

There was nothing to do, everything to feel.

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It’s easy to idealize the dream of the “other side” when you're in the pits of hell. I wasn’t sure how or if another baby would happen, and I surely did not want to put myself through pregnancy again. Nonetheless, I was obsessed. I made myself a lot of promises.

I would feel normal among the mothers again. I would diminish the shame I felt at what could have went wrong in me to create what went wrong in her. I would be back in the ring, speak the language again, rock the play dates and well-baby visits. I would overcome this depression, grief and anger once and for all. I would stop hiding away the day I re-emerged with a baby on my hip and a smile on my face, on the other side.

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Two years later, a new baby was ours. We had adopted, that tragically beautiful gift. The newborn disposition is intoxicating, and in that hospital room we became a family. My guarded heart melted.

But I’ve been chasing an illusion. This has only recently become clear to me. I thought another child would stitch some of my wounds closed. I thought she’d allow me to walk confidently into the next baby shower, ask spontaneous questions about the pregnancies of others, not cringe when I walked past the New Baby section of a greeting card aisle. I thought I would stop crying behind closed doors when so-and-so announced she was pregnant. That none of this resolved neatly is another revelation, another betrayal. What do you mean—it doesn’t all feel better when you have another baby?

She brings a routine to my day, requiring busy hands and a focused mind with bottles to empty, diapers to change, ear infections to diagnose and treat. She brings light, joy, purpose. She brings so much love. 

But she can’t erase, lessen, or fix what is there because her sister isn’t.

Time will do its work. I will shift and change. I may always see my children with a certain sadness, never truly at peace as non-bereaved parents may be. One is missing, and I see the blank space of her as clearly as I see any other physical bodies.

In being vulnerable enough to try and become a parent, again, here we are—again. I have attached myself to another life that I am scared to lose. There is no freedom on the other side. Subsequent baby or not, nothing heals loss. Time helps, but love lost is a forever-change.

 

Tell us about your journey post-loss. Are you taking a break from contemplating what comes next? Have subsequent life changes softened or altered how you relate to your bereavement?