One of my closest friends is pregnant and is due on February 21st, just 6 days after Eliana was born. Needless to say, we have had many discussions about the various emotional responses we’ve both had. I am both terrified and excited about the possibility of her child being born on the same day. What an incredible cyclical sort of irony there would be in that-a living testament to the reality that life goes on. It never occurred to me to ask, but I realize that her baby must have been conceived somewhere around the time that mine was dying.
To be honest, there are few people in this world that I could have been truly happy for if they had told me that news at that time. She happens to be one of them. It has been both painful and healing to watch her go through her pregnancy. It’s like watching a fuzzy movie of myself one year ago. The discomforts, the growth, the expectations, the waiting-all the things I went through at the same time I went through them, but from a distance.
Because it’s her, I don’t hate her for her pregnancy. I don’t hate her for her happiness, or for her complaints. Because it’s her, I don’t assume she is naive about the fact that sometimes babies die, and I know that she does not take this gift she’s been given for granted. She knows, and that makes all the difference.
I have a much harder time with strangers, or for that matter, with acquaintances who know I lost Eliana, but who never said anything to me about it. It may be unfair, since I don’t know for sure what has happened in their lives, whether they have ever lost a child. Unfair or not, I have to fight the resentment I feel over the thought that they don’t know how lucky they are, and anger over all the times I have to sit and listen to them griping about inconveniences I would give anything to have back. I want to scream at them to shut up and go hug their babies, that they might not have them tomorrow. But I don’t.
Would I have listened if some crazy lady had started ranting to me about appreciating my kids while I still had the chance? Would I have understood if a newly bereaved mom had cried to me to not wait until it was too late? Was I only able to truly let in the horrible, unbelievable truth of child death after it had already happened to me? Was it just too terrible for my mind to accept until I no longer had a choice, because I was living it?
Does my anger and resentment toward the clueless really just stem from jealousy over their lack of knowledge of this agony I now call my life? That may be it. I’m jealous-of not knowing, of not feeling, and of not understanding the grief of losing a child. I don’t want to know what this is like. I want to be clueless too.
I wish I could go back. I’d give up my greater empathy, my fundraising, my collection drives, what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown, who I’ve helped and all the people whose lives have been touched by my baby’s story. I’d give it all up to turn back the clock. It was too high a price. Losing Eliana is not worth whatever I may have gained from the experience of going through it. Selfishly enough, it’s also not worth whatever others may have gained from it.
Nobody is given a choice, though, about whether they want to go through hard things. I would certainly never have chosen for my child to die, no matter what good may result from it. And I suppose if I had been given a choice, I probably would have thought that going through my friend’s pregnancy, with it’s eerie deja vu timing, was way too hard too. Better to put it off-too hard to deal with right now. But as soon as she told me, the whole thing just felt right-difficult, but right.
And now, I’m greedy for this baby, so anxious for him to be born. I want to hold him in my arms and be comforted once again by the thought that most babies are healthy, that most babies don’t die. I need to cry on his little head, both in sadness over Eliana being gone, and in amazement over the miracle of birth and life. He is both a reminder of the past, and a hope for the future. I need to love him, but from a distance. I need to test out the waters of opening up my heart again to a baby, to work through the fears and confusion and guilt of loving again after losing her. I’m grateful to my friend for loving me enough to put up with all the weird, convoluted emotions I already feel for her little boy.
The people on the grief support forums have a term for a child born after they’ve lost one-a rainbow baby. That’s what this unborn child is to me. He may not be my rainbow baby, but he is the rainbow baby. He’s the baby born after Eliana, the baby that represents promise-promise for his parents, promise for me, promise for the future, and promise for the world. There will always be pain, but there will also always be joy that follows it, just like the rainbow after the rain. Sometimes it appears right away, and sometimes we have to wait a while to see it. It has been a long, rough storm, and I’m looking forward to seeing a rainbow.