When I was 14 weeks pregnant Carlos and I went to a maternity store out of town during a weekend away. We bought me a couple items for me, giddy with excitement. The clerk asked us if we wanted to be a part of their mailing list. Of course we did! I scribbled our names and addresses down telling them all the details we knew at that time about our pregnancy. Going into that store, telling them our due date and talking about this thingthat was happening, it felt like the beginning stages of initiation into the parenting club. I remember feeling like absolute hell from morning sickness, but skipping out of the store with excitement, swinging the bag of our purchases, smiling from ear to ear.
There are a bunch of apps you can track your pregnancy with. They update you daily or weekly with what is developing or changing with the baby, forums to post to, and have links to articles regarding development, advice, workouts, recipes, tips and tricks and things to buy. The forums seemed like a bizarre, extra hormonal Facebook so I steered clear from those, but Carlos and I both enjoyed reading the updates and learning what was changing each week. It was all so fascinating for both of us. For at least the first 25-30 weeks we watched videos on fetal development weekly together. Usually it was the last thing we would do at night, curled up around my cell phone screen, on one of the rare nights we got to go to bed together.
When we came home from the hospital with no baby my email was overflowing with updates about my overdue baby from the apps I had downloaded. We had samples of formula in our mailbox (from third party sharing? I imagine?) from the maternity stores. Coupons and flyers for discounts on supplies, clothes and food for the new baby. Even yesterday, I got a brochure for a discount on baby announcements.
There is an option to ‘Report a Loss’ on the apps which I imagine directs you to forums and support groups, emails about how this isn’t your fault, how not to blame yourself, theories on why this happened, advice from moms who have ‘been there’… I couldn’t bring myself to click the button that my baby was ‘a loss’. I unsubscribed from all emails and deleted all apps in the following days, sobbing as I did so. And I cried as I threw away the flyer I received in the mail yesterday. I don’t feel anger when these things keep popping up, instead I think I would describe it as having a best friend unintentionally hurt your feelings. ‘Why did you do this? You should know better!’ I feel like everyone, everything, every situation around us should just ‘know‘ and be aware of what we are going through. Impossible and stupid, I know, but to emotionally feel like I am dying, barely able to function sometimes, but on the outside look like I am okay seems like the most ridiculous juxtaposition of all time. So far, in town, I have braved going to REI once, a grocery store once at 11:00 pm, a gas station twice, breakfast with friends early, lunch with Carlos and a friend at a table I felt semi-hidden at and dinner with friends very late in the dark back corner of a pathetically quiet bar. I have yet to go on my feed for social media and I rarely keep my phone on me. I know an incredible amount of pregnant women and women who delivered babies that would have been within weeks of Sylvia. I am so happy their babies are happy and healthy, but ours wasn’t, and its still too invasive to allow the images of what could have and should have been our reality into my space.
The only time I have felt, so far, what I would describe as being on the spectrum of anger, and even still, a very, very low level of anger, is when I am in public and suddenly it will occur to me that every other person in that room has no idea what is going on in my head. They have no idea I held my daughter’s lifeless body 23 days ago. They have no idea that I am haunted with images of Carlos’s face destroyed with pain and an unimaginable sadness. They have no idea, as a pregnant woman walks by me, that I feel like I have been slapped in the face. On the handful of times I have been in public in town I have almost wanted to scream at people what has happened to us. ‘Yes, table for two please, somewhere private…hows my day going?…Well, my baby died three weeks ago. She had lots and lots of dark curly hair, weighed 7 pounds 6.5 ounces and was perfect. But she is dead. I am consumed with grieve, I can barely go an hour without crying and I don’t know what the hell to do with myself. Yeah, my day is fucking great, thanks.’ And then what? Their horrified faces staring back, maybe slightly being able to understand if they are a parent or allowing them to mutter some generic phrase they have pulled from their back pocket about how sorry they are? Instead I put on the mask I’ve been wearing since she died, give my best smile, say, ‘Great! How’s your day going?’ And let them lead us to our table.
There is an ad for Amazon right now where a little baby is scared of the family’s golden retriever. The dad has an idea! He buys a lion costume for the dog from Amazon and the dog is able to meet the now happy, giggly baby. Carlos and I saw this commercial a couple days after Sylvia died and it destroyed us for the afternoon. How many times had we laughed and talked about how excited we were for Sylvia to meet and grow up with our huge lab shepard mix rescue puppy we had gotten when I was 34 weeks pregnant? Its like landmines. I am trying to cautiously make my way forward, terrified, and BOOM!another flyer comes in the mail. BOOM! a Pampers commercial singing a lullaby about hugs with images of tiny, healthy babies curled up on their mothers chests. BOOM! our waitress is pregnant. BOOM! I see anything purple, which reminds us of her. BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! A million reminders we didn’t even know existed.
It seems surreal that in 60 years Carlos and I will still be processing, grieving and crying; even having carried then a lifetime of more emotions, more happiness, more sadness, we will still be reeling over the death of Sylvia. A friend sent me a screen shot of a caption to an image that a mother posted who was grieving her baby’s death. There is an exert from her words that have stuck with me and sometimes give me a sense of peace. She said, ‘The heartache feels heavy but this pain, it is not a burden. Grace is worth of grieving over’.