Sunday, May 29, 2011

Right Where I Am: 12 years, 9 months

Angie, the brilliant creative mind behind the blog Still Life With Circles and other related blogs & projects, recently came up with the great idea to have bereaved moms (& dads) write about where they are now in their grief -- how far they've come (or not) & what life after loss is like for them at this point in time.

I have only read a fraction of the 40-odd posts linked to Angie's initial post for this project, but I suspect I am probably further along in my journey than most of the other writers: coming up to 13 years since August 1998.

I have written about this topic before, I think -- most notably on a guest post for Glow in the Woods two years ago. Most if not all of what I wrote there still applies.

Thirteen years later, Katie is still very much a part of our lives. I still miss her, and feel her absence, even though she was never really "here" in the conventional sense, & her prenatal existence less than 7 months.

We still visit the cemetery every weekend. Most times now, I don't cry, unless maybe it's Mother's Day or a special "anniversary" date or just a crappy day for whatever reason. Mostly I just feel sad & wistful about what might have been, & happy to be there, close to her for a little while. She is always with me, of course, but the cemetery is her special place, a quiet place where I can set aside all my other thoughts & obligations, and just be with her and focus on her and think about her for awhile, before resuming the regular rhythm of my life again.

But there is never a day that goes by that I'm not thinking about her in some way -- about my all-too-brief pregnancy and how it ended, about our struggles to conceive again, about how old she would be & what she would be doing now.

In that regard, of course, we have (Not So) Little Girl Next Door, six months younger than Katie would have been, to act as our constant yardstick. Last night, she and half dozen friends were whooping it up for several hours on the trampoline in the backyard, which I can see from my living room & bedroom windows. They were jumping and shrieking and giggling in youthful exuberance, well after dark, even after dh & I had settled into bed with books before going to sleep for the night. I wasn't sure whether to be sad, knowing that Katie would probably have been among them, had she been here, or secretly, smugly pleased, knowing that at least it wasn't MY daughter out there creating a ruckus in the neighbourhood ; ) and that's one thing I will never have to worry about.

Probably the biggest difference between my life 13 years ago and my life today, however, is that I am not a mother (to a living child). I wasn't then either, but I still hoped to be. I am almost 13 years older now -- 50 -- and I know now that the motherhood ship has sailed permanently, that I will never be a mother to Katie's brother or sister. I've had 12+ years to think about this, and write about it and adjust to this reality, but the truth is that I still sometimes feel like the odd woman out, even among other parents who have dealt with loss &/or infertility.

The vast majority of other bereaved parents who lose a child in pregnancy or infancy either already have a child, or go on to have another child, or maybe both. This doesn't minimize their loss in the least, of course (although outsiders to the world of grief might think it does, or should) -- but the fact is, they are still actively parenting and experiencing parenthood in all its joys & sorrows & frustrations (just not parenting the child they lost). The rhythm of their lives is very much the same as most people's -- but much different than mine and dh's. Their lives are full of bedtime stories and temper tantrums, soccer games and daycare arrangements. They will know, eventually, what it is to see a child celebrate a birthday, graduate from high school, leave home to go to college, maybe get married and have a child themselves some day. They will, more likely than not, have someone to worry about them and visit them in the nursing home and leave their most precious belongings to.

I will not.

Already, some of my peers -- my friends & cousins -- are becoming GRANDPARENTS, reminding me that not only did I completely miss the parenthood boat, there is another new, related phase of life that will not be mine to share with them. In many ways, my life (& my life with dh) has continued on exactly as it always has. Their lives have expanded and changed in ways that mine never has & never will.

At the same time, my life HAS changed -- just in more subtle ways, and in ways that parents who have never experienced loss will never know or understand. They may know the joys & pains of parenthood in a way that I never will. I have known grief, and I would never have welcomed it willingly into my life -- but it has brought unexpected gifts and richness to my life in ways I never could have imagined.

I have watched, sadly, as friends & relatives have become distant in the years since we lost Katie. At the same time, we have made wonderful new friends, both "in real life" and online, who have also struggled with infertility & childlessness and who have experienced the pain of perinatal loss, who understand us as perhaps no one else can. We've both developed much greater empathy and compassion for the pain & struggles of others, and not just in the sense of infertility and loss. We have given back to the support group that helped us so much, volunteering for more than 10 years, something that many of the parents who attended (who would also have made wonderful facilitators) just don't have time to do. We know that grief has the power to tear some marriages apart -- ours, thankfully, has survived and become stronger. We spend more time together than most couples we know. We appreciate the good things about our life together.

We have endured subtle and not-so-subtle digs over the years about how "it must be nice" to be able to sleep in late, to afford whatever new purchase someone is admiring, to be able to retire early, as we are planning with hope -- the unspoken implication being that we can have and do all of these things because we don't have children. They don't stop to consider -- will never know -- the awful price we paid to have the life we have now. (If they did, I don't think they would envy us quite so much.) We both know that there are much, much more important things in life than things, or money, or clawing our way up the corporate ladder. At the same time, though, I refuse to apologize for having some things that others don't (both material & non). I would give it all up gladly to have my daughter back, but since that isn't going to happen, I will gladly take whatever advantages & nice things life sends my way.

Almost 13 years later, my life IS better than it was, immediately post loss. I have survived.

But I still wish things were different. I still wish she was here.

18 comments:

  1. This is an incredible post. You are a fantastic writer.

    I am so sorry for your loss.

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  2. Loribeth, thank you. Thank you for sharing right where you are at 12 years and nine months. I feel privileged to know you and Katie through this community. Your writing always brings a new perspective to my life, and what you shared here is beautiful, because it expresses your love and mothering honestly. Much love to you. xo

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  3. It is the not being able to actively parent aspect of your story that truly breaks my heart. Having lost a firstborn myself, I did fear this for myself, but I obviously consider myself one of the very, very lucky ones, as we were able to welcome another little one a very short 15 months later.
    I love visiting here for the different perspective on life and loss and am so very glad you participated in Angie's wonderful project.
    We'll always remember Katie here, no matter how many more years pass and no matter how many people in your real life stay silent.
    xo

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  4. This is a rather lovely story of pain, recovery, and now gratitude for what you have, whilst never forgetting Katie. I feel honoured that you have shared it with us.

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  5. Thank you for this. As others have come to my blog to find out what life is like 3.5 years later, I have been reminded that the life we chose for ourselves, without other children is possible. It can be a good live, a life worth living, and I appreciate that.

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  6. After reading here for three years, I didn't know you went to the cemetery every weekend.

    Loribeth, your blog is the one that let me know I could survive.

    How I wish Katie was here to learn from you and jump on trampolines.

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  7. This is a beautiful tribute to Katie and to the way a parent's love endures. I wish Katie were here and I'm grateful that she brought you in touch with people like me.

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  8. I, too, remember finding you in my first months of grief, and being so grateful (I still am) for your voice in this space. I wish Katie was here with you, too.

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  9. Remembering Katie. I appreciate you sharing your experience and viewpoint - it has helps me understand some IRL women, and some online BLM's more in their difficult journey. Thank you.

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  10. Thank you for this post, Loribeth. It's really... well inspiring seems like a flippant word to use, but I am inspired by your grace and honesty

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  11. I tend to find myself skipping ahead to the future a lot these days. What is it going to be like in 5, 10, 15 years...living a life without him seems so daunting. Thank you for sharing that life while missing a child can and will be be wonderful again.

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  12. Beautiful post. I've often wondered how it is I can miss a person who was never really "here" in the conventional sense but it turns out that I can. It is a strange comfort to me that I am missing her 3 years later and will miss her 13 years later as you miss your Katie and 23 years later. Perhaps the very missing of them gives them some strange kind of existence, a "here-ness" almost.

    Thank you for sharing the rhythm of your life as it is now, all the voluntary work you and your husband have done must have made a world of difference to so many grieving parents.

    I'm sorry that your Katie isn't whooping it up on the trampoline with the girl next door. I wish she were here.

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  13. I've visiting from Angie's project, although I know of you and your daughter through Glow. I'm trying to make a comment on everyone's post in the project - to let them know how much their perspective is valued and appreciated. This is the first time I've found myself struggling with what to say because I am one of those who parented before and got to parent after and anything I try to say sounds, as Jess says, trite and flippant.

    But I'll try: I am very much appreciating the posts from people who are further along the path than I am and this one is no exception. I hope,in the fulness of time, that I might be a grandparent but, when Emma first died, it was one the things I remember feeling robbed of. Seeing her married, maybe, meeting her life partner, welcoming her children ... all of it gone.

    Your love for Katie is palpable in this post. Thank you for writing it.

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  14. thank you so much for sharing your story...I am so deeply sorry and just want to hug you...I just do not have the right words...but you shared all of you , you shared Katie and for that I am eternally grateful.

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  15. Hi LB ... just stopping in from the creme de la ... missed this one when it posted. I wish that I could at least take away the ignorance that you continue to receive from others. I want to run up and rap my knuckles on their temples and make them burn with shame for it. Even though I know we all have our blind spots ... the human condition. I just feel it begs for a point to be put on it. I feel all momma bear on your behalf. It gets more kid-glove treatment than it deserves ... while gentle and thoughtful you are still getting knocked about. Here's to equanimity, I suppose. And here's to the new year bringing you lovely, unexpected, good things.

    D.

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  16. You truly are an incredible writer. Thank you for sharing this post. I am so very sorry for your loss. It is unimaginable to me, someone who went through infertility but as I type this can hear my children laughing downstairs. Posts like this welcome me into the world I will never know but was scared to death to face. I am glad you are a survivor and you are so strong.

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