This post was written by Elizabeth.
I used to visit sadness, but now I live there.
I had that thought while lying in bed about three weeks after Obie passed away. The more I think about it, the more true it seems. I was always a softie with books and movies (that opening sequence of Up had me full on weeping). I cry when I hear or read about others' personal tragedies. Sometimes it seemed like I felt other people's pain more strongly than my own. Now I know it's just that really sad things hadn't happened to me yet.
The feelings I had were real then, I really did get sad and have big cries. And then I left it. I could go all the way in and be wrapped in sadness, and then I could back out and shut the door. Move on.
I can't do that anymore. I live in the sadness room now.
I tried to think about all the happy moments. I thought if I focused on them it would make the sadness melt away. How could I be overcome with devastation when I had so many happy memories? 33 days plus 7.5 months of pregnancy is a lot of happy memories, and who am I to complain about that? It was worth it, so I shouldn't be so sad.
How did 33 days start to seem like a long time? I remember how it happened. When they told us about Obie's omphalocele, I cried a lot. I kept repeating that I just wanted him to be OK. Then all the other testing came back and it seemed like things might be OK. We were gonna make it to OK.
Then he was born early. And stopped breathing. A lot. My bar was that he would be OK someday, even if he had to be in the NICU for months.
Then the MRI results came back. He would never be OK. I didn't consciously realize it, but we would never be OK either. The bar moved. The new bar was that he would make it home. He did. We made it! I was really happy about making that bar.
Usually we meet one goal, and we set another. I had to realize that our next goal was our last one for Obie. Our goal was for him to pass comfortably, surrounded by love. It's depressing and seems melodramatic, but it's my actual life. I can't escape it.
Even being this broken, this devastated, and this depressed, I can function. I can shower and go to work and even smile sometimes. I can pretend things are fine (sort of). People who don't know what happened probably just think I'm awkward or mean. People who do know what happened try to be nice, but it ultimately gets awkward. They can get away. I can't.
I bring it with me everywhere I go, this cloud of sadness. I'm scared to go to happy occasions to mark other people's life events, because I'm a strong believer that those events are about the people they're for. The wedding is for the couple, and nothing should detract from their happiness. The baby shower is for the parents, and nothing should tarnish that joy. I'm scared my cloud of sadness will darken what should be pure and bright. Even if I don't burst into tears, I'm still the childless mom. I'm sad. I feel sad and I represent sad things to other people. I feel the need to express myself, but I get sheepish because I know no one wants to receive what I'm putting out. I try not to post woeful updates, but I do post pictures of Obie every day on Instagram. For some reason I feel like it's OK to do that on Instagram since people can unfollow me if it bothers them. I won't care. Facebook is more utilitarian, and I don't want to inundate people daily with my sob story. Someday I'll run out of pictures to post. What then? Repeat? Find something else to obsess about? Retreat into online silence? It would be so easy to isolate completely.
I was so ready to be a mom to a living child. I was so ready to maintain my relationship with my husband, keep on keepin' on with no sleep, get back into an exercise routine, sing silly songs, video tape and document milestones, send pictures and gifts to family from the baby, do diaper laundry every day, figure out how to put the Boba wrap on by myself, rock the baby in my glider, encourage language development by responding when the baby made noises, video chat with far away friends, entertain visitors, take the baby to work to meet colleagues, go for walks in the park... I could go on for pages and pages without running out of things to say.
I was not ready for this.
It's both comforting and terrifying to know other people who've experienced child loss. Family friends I never knew lost a baby, Facebook connections, friends-of-friends... It wasn't something I ever really thought about before. Yes, it's rare, but it's not that rare. Especially not to me. I'm not alone, and there are people I can talk to - those I know and faceless people on internet pages. But that's just it, the fact that I'm not alone means that this happens. While it's not a high percentage, it's still a lot of people. A lot of babies missing from families. Some families I knew, but didn't know they weren't complete. Is that how I'll be someday? A lady that people don't know is missing a son?
So those are my choices. Sadness cloud or omitting my son. Forever.
Do I think people want to read this downer of a post? No, but I think it's important that I communicate that it isn't all the positive things we try to emphasize and focus on. I am not happy. I am not OK. I love my son, and when I think about him I can't help but smile. Being able to smile and have some glimmer of a positive feeling does not make any of it OK.
There's no resolution, or neatly wrapped up conclusion. I'm in the middle of it, and I expect it'll be that way for a while.