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I wrote most of this in February, but couldn’t finish it for some reason, so I didn’t post it at the time. Anyway, here it is, late, but still the actual emotions I was feeling on Eliana’s second birthday.

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It has been two years today since Eliana died. It seems crazy to say that-crazy that it ever happened, crazy that it has gone by so fast, and crazy that I survived it. There were many times I would have eagerly chosen to actually go crazy. I told someone early on that I desperately wished I could just lose my mind, and be locked up somewhere, and to not have to think about what had happened or feel the pain of it. Apparently one cannot choose to be insane, though, as my brain and heart stayed firmly planted in excruciating reality.

So now, two years later, I suppose I’m happy that I stayed sane. I made it through. I am still making it through. Most days are pretty easy. Today was a little rougher than most. I thought I was doing so well. I thought about her frequently throughout the day, but stayed pretty calm. Then tonight I just lost it. That’s fine, I’ve been overdue for a good cry and a trip through Eliana’s memorial. I think it’s cleansing in a way. Embracing the pain when it’s unavoidable seems to make it slip away easier afterward.

In that vein, I’ve been thinking about those last days with her, the last hours, the last minutes-the pain of what was. I’ve also been thinking about how she would have been two right now, about the same age as Rebeckah was at that time, and that she might have been looking forward to another sibling being born any day now-all the pain of what wasn’t. And I’ve been thinking of those things that I’ve forgotten, or are fuzzy by now. I can’t remember any of the words the doctor said when he came to tell me she wasn’t going to make it. I can’t remember if I was standing up or sitting down. I can’t remember what I ate the night she died. I can’t remember who was with me when she had her CT scan done. I don’t suppose any of that really matters, but it bothers me just the same. How much more will I forget?

I do remember, though, the feel of her snuggled up next to me when she nursed. I remember the feel of her tiny hand in mine. I remember how silky soft her hair felt on my cheek. I hope the really important stuff stays with me forever. I find that the picture images in my head are extremely unclear, but the physical feelings are embedded deeply. I’m grateful that I can close my eyes and instantly bring up the feeling of her sleeping next to me.

Grieving is a rather crazy business even when you’re not crazy. I write letters to someone who’s not here. I put my deepest feelings out there for total strangers to scrutinize, in the hope that it will help someone. I pour out huge amounts of words, all because of someone who never spoke a single one. I see butterflies that other people don’t. Sometimes it seems like the craziest thing of all though, was that I was able to keep going, even when I wanted to curl up and die too.

When a child dies, there is so, so much that doesn’t make sense. The one thing that does, and the one thing that will last, even beyond the pain, is love. There is so much of it! It threatens to burst out of my chest when I think of her. I hear it pouring out in the letters from other parents living without their precious babies. It plasters the virtual walls of the grief forums. It comes choking out of the mouths at the support groups. It echos down the hallways of the hospitals. When you’re new to the grief, all you feel is the pain, but with a little distance, a little perspective, you can begin to see that it is all love. If we didn’t love so much, we wouldn’t grieve so hard, or so long. If that seems crazy to those who have never been through it, so be it. I’d rather be called crazy (or just plain wrong) than to give up any of the love I have for my child, even if that love is disguised as grief in the beginning.  How crazy would that be?

Right after Eliana died I was understandably desperate for a baby in my arms. I thought, and cried, and agonized over trying again right away. Some to whom I looked for advice said it would be a huge mistake, that I needed time to heal first. Others, mainly moms who did have another child soon after losing one, said it could be incredibly healing to have another baby as a comfort for the loss. I put it off, and procrastinated, and deliberated so long that I made a decision by default.

I also realized that I would not be able to handle the knowledge that a new baby would only be there because Eliana was not. My hat is off to all the women who handle it beautifully. I just knew that I wouldn’t. In the end, I decided to wait until at least the same amount of time had passed as there was between the other kids. That meant that according to my timeline, I was free to try around August.

Now, five months later, I am still paralyzed in fear over the very idea of it. I want a baby, of course. What I don’t want is the nine months of terror over the possibility of losing it. Knowing that one minute, day, or month of time could mean the difference between a healthy child and one that will die and destroy me with grief leaves me frozen, unable to move forward, and trapped by indecision. What if we pick the wrong moment? So again, I keep putting it off, and sit here wondering how long I can keep this up.

I’m not ancient, but I’m not getting any younger either. I know the chances of birth defects go up the longer I wait, and the chances of conceiving go down. It’s going on two years now since she came and went. Is it possible that another two years could come and go just as quickly and just as babyless because I’m too scared to take the chance?

I don’t know how to do this. I didn’t know how to make it through my grief. I don’t know how to make it through my fear. I don’t know how to make it through a pregnancy without going crazy. And I hate, hate, hate that the only way is to just do it. Here’s me having a conversation with Nike: Them-“Just do it.”  Me-“I can’t. I haven’t planned it out yet, and I can’t predict the outcome. I’d rather not do it, thanks.”

I of all people realize that grief and healing are a lifelong journey, not a destination or a goal. I’m not going to wake up one morning and be “okay” or “ready.” But it sure would be nice to feel a little bit more ready than I do right now. How long would I have to wait though? I’ve already been waiting a long time. Would that feeling of readiness ever actually materialize?

I am scared. I’m just so very scared because I know what it’s like to lose my child. Part of me says to just trust God.

But that’s what I did the last time.

One year ago, on February 15th, at 3:27 in the afternoon, Eliana Meredith entered our world. She was beautiful, and soft, and perfect, and an utter joy to me. As I sit here now, one year later, I hardly know what to say, or think. It is still so unbelievable to me that it all actually happened, or that it has been this long already. As much as I grieve and agonize over her death, though, I will never regret her birth. Even in my sadness, I will still celebrate her life. If my pain is the price of having been able to love her, no matter how briefly, then I will gladly pay it.

When I was pregnant with her I watched Steel Magnolias-I know, call me crazy. The line that stuck with me, that still sticks with me, is “I’d rather have five minutes of wonderful than a whole lifetime of nothing special.” I would rather have had my two months with Eliana, than to have never known her at all. It hurts that she’s gone. It hurts unimaginably, sometimes unbearably, but she was worth it. And now, one year later, sitting here without her and crying even while I write this, I can say that February 15th is a good day, a happy day. It was the day I met my precious Eliana, and that will always be something to celebrate.

Happy birthday, little one. I love you always. -Mommy

I’m in love. No, don’t call my husband please. The object of my affection is no threat to him. I’m in love with the rainbow baby. The day he was born I held him for …. about eight hours. Do you think that’s excessive? It was hard at first to be sure. I cried on the way to the hospital. I cried walking in. I cried in the elevator. I cried when I got to the room, and when I first held him. So much fear and joy and sadness and wonder, all tangled up together.

The worst part, though, was after the nurse gave him a bath. He was crying, so I went over and held his hand and stroked his head. Then it hit me forcibly that this was the same thing I used to do with Eliana-same overhead warmer, same hand holding and head stroking, same whispering that everything would be okay. It was like a knife in my heart, an instant transport back to those horrible, endless days and nights at her bedside. I stood there sobbing, onto my shoes instead of onto him, though. He was upset enough over the bath already. What a lucky little thing, too young to know that sometimes everything is not okay, not even close to okay.

The next day I was thinking about him, and musing about the fact that he is the first child besides our three girls that I have ever bonded with ….and then the panic set in. I’m moving! What in the world was I thinking? Why didn’t it occur to me beforehand that I would have to leave him? That if I allowed myself to love him, my heart would feel it as another loss? Should I have held back, built a nice safe wall to protect me from any more pain? Was I so anxious to love a baby again that I was foolish to do so with one I won’t even get to see very often? Should I have kept a tighter reign on my emotions? How did I not realize this until after I fell in love with him?

Interesting questions to be sure, but all a little too late. I love this baby, and it already hurts to think about leaving him. I don’t know why I’ve never had (or really tried to make) a connection with the other kids I could have been “Auntie” to, but I was finally ready to try it. Unfortunately, it seems I won’t get the chance now. When I said I wanted to love him from a distance, I didn’t mean from a whole state away. Any emotional distance I thought I was going to have went out the window the first time I held him. What do I do now? I’m in love with the rainbow baby, but I won’t get to see him grow up either.

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.

I thought this was just beautiful. It was written by Linn Keller, who recently read it as a eulogy for someone close to him who died. It paints such a heart-tugging picture, doesn’t it? Sadly, children are often end up being the forgotten grievers.

I am a child.img_3558-21
I stand alone on the playground in the gathering dusk.
I look around and I am sad, for my friend has been called home by a Wise and Loving Parent.
I know this — I know the Parent is both wise and loving, and I know my friend is safe and warm at home — and yes, I know I will see my friend again, in the dawning of the new day.
But I am a child.
A child understands one thing:
NOW!!
A child does not understand later, or perhaps, or tomorrow; a child exists in the moment, and I am a child.
I will see my friend again in the dawning of the new day, but to a child, tomorrow is forever, an eternity.
When one of our own is called in by that Wise and Loving Parent, we look around the playground and cry for them, for there is still light enough to play.  There is still light, there is time, but my friend is gone, and I must wait.

I was going through some of my old files a couple days ago, and I found this. I do not know who wrote it, so unfortunately I cannot give them credit. I’ll write more of my thoughts at the bottom, so you can read this first.

TO MY CHILD:
Just for this morning, I am going to smile when I
see your face and laugh when I feel like crying.
 
Just for this morning, I will let you choose what
you want to wear, and smile and say how perfect it is.
 
Just for this morning, I am going to step over the
laundry, and pick you up and take you to the park to play.
 
Just for this morning, I will leave the dishes in
the sink, and let you teach me how to put that puzzle 
of yours together.
 
Just for this afternoon, I will unplug the telephone
and keep the computer off, and sit with you in the 
backyard and blow bubbles.
 
Just for this afternoon, I will not yell once, 
not even a tiny grumble when you scream and whine 
for the ice cream truck, and I will buy you one 
if he comes by.
 
Just for this afternoon, I won't worry about what 
you are going to be when you grow up, or second guess 
every decision I have made where you are concerned.
 
Just for this afternoon, I will let you help me bake 
cookies, and I won't stand over you trying to fix them.
 
Just for this afternoon, I will take us to
McDonald's and buy us both a Happy Meal so you 
can have both toys.
 
Just for this evening, I will hold you in my arms
and tell you a story about how you were born and 
how much I love you.
 
Just for this evening, I will let you splash in the
tub and not get angry.
 
Just for this evening, I will let you stay up late
while we sit on the porch and count all the stars.
 
Just for this evening, I will snuggle beside you for
hours, and miss my favorite TV shows.
 
Just for this evening when I run my finger through 
your hair as you pray, I will simply be grateful 
that God has given me the greatest gift ever given.
 
I will think about the mothers and fathers who are 
searching for their missing children, the mothers 
and fathers who are visiting their children's graves 
instead of their bedrooms, and mothers and fathers 
who are in hospital rooms watching their children 
suffer senselessly, and screaming inside that they 
can't handle it anymore.
 
And when I kiss you good night I will hold you a 
little tighter, a little longer. It is then, that 
I will thank God for you, and ask him for nothing,
except one more day.............

I remember reading this years ago, and it always made me cry. The strange thing is, I didn’t shed a single tear when I read it this time. I don’t have to wonder in terror about how that would feel if it happened to me. It already has. I’ve experienced all the regrets, should haves, what ifs, fears, and pain, and grief. I live with it every day. Reading about it from the perspective of someone who hasn’t gone through it doesn’t seem to affect me now. I guess I’ve wept enough over the actual event that I don’t need to weep over the possibility of it happening. Imagination is much gentler than reality.

People frequently say things to me, that perhaps they truly believe are going to comfort me, or perhaps they truly don’t think before they speak. Either way, I’d like to dispel another myth. Here it is. The fact that I have living children does not make up for the one that is dead. The fact that I can have another baby does not make up for the one that is dead. The only thing these statements say to me is that the people who speak them really have no clue what they are talking about.

When someone makes one of these remarks, my first thought is usually something along the lines of “Okay, then how about you stick one of your hands out here and we’ll chop it off. Sure, it will hurt a little at first, but you should be able to get over it quickly because you do still have another hand, right? As a matter of fact, after some arbitrary amount of time (determined by me, not you) I do not want to hear you ever mention that you are having a difficult time dealing with the loss of your hand. Don’t ask me for help. You just need to be strong. No complaining. That will just tell me that you are ungrateful for the hand you have left. And would you mind terribly keeping your stump hidden? Looking at it makes me uncomfortable. Hey, where are you going?”

Do you see my point? Nobody would use that kind of reasoning when talking about their hands. Why in the world would that kind of logic apply to one of my children? Bottom line-it doesn’t. It doesn’t apply at all. It is faulty reasoning.

I love my living children. If I am lucky enough to be able to have another baby, I will love that child too. I love them so much it hurts. I love them more than my life itself. But they do not make up, could not ever make up, for my Eliana not being here. They are not machine parts, easily interchangeable. They are people. They are my children. I cannot swap one for another, and in doing so, somehow patch the hole in my heart. The Eliana size hole is there to stay. It cannot be filled with anything, or anyone else. I could have twenty s41588cb110832_5more children, and I would still grieve for my precious baby.

I miss her, will always miss her, much as I suspect you would miss one of your hands (or one of your children) if you happened to lose one of them. That which is precious cannot be replaced. It would be foolish to try. And it is foolish to ask me to do so.

Sensitive material-use caution please.

I went to Eliana’s hospital yesterday. I have a friend there who just had a tumor removed. There is plenty I could write about that, but this is a blog about my daughter so I’m going to stick to that. My friend was telling us about when she first went in and they had to put a tube down her throat. She told us how badly it hurt. And I was sitting there trying not to break down completely, because I was thinking of my poor little baby getting those tubes shoved up her nose and down her throat every few hours for two and a half weeks straight.

Of course she cried. Of course I knew she didn’t like it. But it was almost necessary for me to pretend that maybe it didn’t really hurt that bad. Hearing my friend speak the truth was like stabbing me in my heart. Oh, God, my poor baby. After a few days of that, her little nostrils would bleed each time they did it. And even though there was no alternative, I hate myself for allowing them to do it. And I hate that it was all for nothing. And I hate-HATE-that my poor baby was in pain and I couldn’t do anything about it. If her life couldn’t be spared, I wish her pain could have been. These times are unbearable for me not only because I can’t change her death, but because I can’t change those parts of her life either. If she was only allowed two months to live, why couldn’t they have been happy?

I ran into two of her doctors while I was there yesterday. One of them said “You did everything you could.” This may or may not be true, but either way I started bawling again. It seems that one of the worst parts of being a bereaved parent is the aching, unshakable feeling that somehow there was something more that I could have done. I should have done MORE. I should have done BETTER. That somehow if I had just tried a little harder, or prayed a little more sincerely, or researched more diligently, I could have protected my child from pain and death.

Logic plays no part here. Reasoning means nothing up against a mother’s love. I was supposed to take care of my baby, and didn’t. The other doctor, after we had talked for a few minutes, said “But you miss her.” And then she hugged me and let me cry on her. It wasn’t a question. It was a statement, and the truest one in my life right now. After all the talking, and crying, and remembering, and questioning, and agonizing, after everything it always comes down to “I just want my baby.” img_2333

I don’t really have a point to this post. It seems about as pointless as my Eliana’s suffering. Because neither her hurting, nor me writing about it, changes the fact that she is gone, and there is nothing I can do, or could have done, to change that fact. I know it’s obvious, and unnecessary to even say it again, but if there is a point to this, it’s simply that I miss my baby, and it tears me up inside to think about her being in pain. Pointless pain, because it did not result in her getting well. As my pain seems pointless, because it will never be enough to bring her back. I just miss my baby.

I wrote this poem on November 15th, the day Eliana would have turned nine months old. I scribbled most of it on a piece of scratch paper at the library while my living children played with the puzzles and books. As I sat there surrounded by the other children, some about the age Eliana should be, I just started thinking about all the things I miss. Not big dramatic things, but the everyday, simple things that mean the most when it’s too late and you can never do them again. I miss my baby so much. I’d give anything just to hold 254448-r1-01-23-2her little body against my chest again. Moms and Dads, love your babies. Love them every single day enough to last a lifetime, yours or theirs. You just never know when you might not get another chance to hug them and tell them you love them. Do it now. There are so many regrets. Don’t let this be one of them.

Try

By Deanna Parish


My arms cry

Long to hold you

Long to try

Desperate to do

What they should do

Asking why

You had to die.


My hands cry

Reach to protect you

Reach to try

Desperate to do

What they should do

Asking why

You had to die.


My fingers cry

Weep to touch you

Weep to try

Desperate to do

What they should do

Asking why

You had to die.


My breasts cry

Ache to nurse you

Ache to try

Desperate to do

What they should do

Asking why

You had to die.


My lips cry

Want to kiss you

Want to try

Desperate to do

What they should do

Asking why

You had to die.


My eyes cry

Burn to see you

Burn to try

Desperate to do

What they should do

Asking why

You had to die.

My ears cry

Strain to hear you

Strain to try

Desperate to do

What they should do

Asking why

You had to die.

My heart cries

Screams to love you

Screams to try

Desperate to do

What it should do

Asking why

You had to die


My soul cries

Searches to find you

Searches and cries

Desperate for you

Lost without you

Asking why

You had to die

My God cries

As He holds you

As He tries

To tell me to do

What I should do

Trust in Him through all the whys

And cling to those who didn’t die

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