The final picture
I snapped this picture minutes before Carlos and I left for our appointment where we found out Sylvia had died. I had taken an 8 mile walk that morning which usually rocked Sylvia to sleep and she usually didn’t move much for a bit after that. I also took a long bath to calm myself as I was so anxious to go into labor. I hadn’t noticed her move in a while, but thought nothing of it. I have looked at this picture a hundred times since then, so thankful I took it. Sylvia was no longer alive at this point I imagine, and within 30 minutes from the time this picture was taken our entire world would be flipped upside down..but the moment I took this, that look you see in my face? That is joy, happiness, hope, love and anticipation. That is a face I don’t know if I will see, perhaps ever, again. I was 40 weeks and 2 days pregnant and I felt on top of the world.
With future pregnancies it would be wonderful to have pictures where I can look at my face and see what I see in this picture. I don’t think it is possible, but it would be nice. With future pregnancies I imagine my face will look fearful, anxious and timid. Attempting to mask all of this, of course, will be happiness and excitement, but as horrible as it makes me feel to say this, I don’t know if those will be my forefront emotions, probably ever. There will be lots of smiles, happiness and joy but behind those smiles will be a world of hurt and fear. I will be terrified; paralyzed at moments. Even now, with very minimal thoughts, I can work myself into a complete state of anxiety. My heart rate and respiratory rate increase, my palms sweat, my stomach moves to my throat, I feel like I need to escape…its terrifyingly easy for me to go there mentally.
So what do I do? Because I know there must be future pregnancies and Sylvia will have siblings. Well, I can keep talking about it, processing, analyzing my fears, trying to minimize them, do pregnancy the only way I know how with a healthy diet and exercise and hope for the best…but thats what I did, and my daughter isn’t here. Thousands of people a day have horribly unhealthy pregnancies due to personal choices, socioeconomic status, physical limitations, whatever it may be, and give birth to healthy children. Carlos and I have never had the ‘poor us, why us’ mentality about this, so this is not coming from a victimized point of view. These are just facts that we live with. I did everything right, and our daughter died.
I have a lot of guilt. There are things I know I will never be able to convince myself are not my fault regarding her death, I will never feel like I told her I loved her enough, talked to her enough or kissed her enough, there are things my brain has blocked from my memory and seeing pictures seems like a dream. I have a lot of guilt as Sylvia’s mother. Sometimes when I feel myself getting too deep though, I pull up this picture. The picture above shows my excitement for labor, the hope I had for her future, the anticipation of her arrival and the love I had for her. I grew my best friend for 282 days, took her on adventures, dreamed about her, talked to her, got to know her, planned for her and passionately loved her. I try to remind myself, but sometimes need encouragement and reassurance from Carlos (and family…and friends…and our therapist…), that Sylvia dying had nothing to do with the amount I loved her.
Carlos and I have had lots of conversations where we talk about how we will probably always be chasing her. Its always a heart breaking conversation, or even just a thought, when we share it with each other or when it comes up. In writing this I realized I will also always be chasing the moment I captured in the above picture. Logically we know Sylvia will never come back and neither will that moment, but convincing our hearts has been devastatingly difficult.
So is this a lesson in living in the moment? Taking more pictures? On loving? On what? I keep writing hoping I will find something, some thought that resonates, some idea that clicks, words that make sense…and they don’t really. Though these entries are written with no one else in mind other than myself, Carlos and Sylvia I keep wondering if this entire thing will become too depressing for anyone, other than myself, to continue to read. People don’t seem to talk about babies dying, its uncomfortable, its unimaginable and its heart breaking. If you loose your husband you are a widow, if you loose your parents you are an orphan, but there is no word in our language for people who have lost a child. Death usually isn’t preceded by 10 months (2 years, 7 years, any amount) of anticipation, excitement and hope. But when a child dies that exactly what it is. What should have been the happiest day of our lives turned into terror. All the happy moments we looked forward to are now part of the worst day of our lives.
A good friend of mine who recently lost a baby and I were having a conversation last night in which she told me she will not be defined by her grieve and the power she feels in choosing her perspective. How powerfully simple that statement is. I will keep chasing, but I, like my friend so bravely encouraged, trust there is a purpose for our pain.