We’ve made it to the third trimester. I feel huge, sore, achy and lucky that I get to feel so uncomfortable. Your little sister is moving constantly and getting stronger everyday. With that comes much needed reassurance and a new wave of anxiety. I am hyperaware of her every move – the motion, the frequency, the strength – and hyperaware of every second she lays still, a result of the guilt I feel for potentially missing red flags that may have saved you.
Ever since our recent visit to the emergency room in December, I’ve been haunted by the trauma of that silent, knowing drive to the hospital on May 12th. The scenario was all too familiar: the panic, the frantic running out the door, the waiting to hear a heartbeat. As if I needed another slap in the face reminder that nothing is guaranteed. Message received, loud and clear.
Thankfully everything turned out well this time, but while the episode is over, the memory is still there, fueling an all-consuming fear of losing your sister too. The loss community would call this a “trigger,” a situation that reignites grief or exasperates fear/paranoia. I call it life.
A few weeks ago your Daddy and I attended a birthday party for one of our best friends. It was a great get together filled with many of my favorite people, their kids, easy conversation, and endless smiling. So why did I feel so utterly alone? It was our first real social outing since the hospital scare and I found myself longing for you more deeply than I had in months. I had imagined you being a part of these events and playing with these kids so many times. In the moment though, your absence was all I could see.
I listened as my friends talked and laughed about their kids; recounting hilarious one-liners, stories behind bumps & bruises, and milestones achieved. I realized that I felt alone because I was alone. I was the only mom at this party who smiled and laughed and listened with genuine interest about everyone else’s kids, but had no stories of my own to contribute. I didn’t belong to the same club they did…yet.
At one point, a bunch of the kids and Dads were having a dance party. I watched them scoop up their daughters and twirl them around while your Daddy stood there, his childless arms at his sides. The scene was so joyful and endearing, until it wasn’t anymore. I’m ashamed to admit that it crushed me to my very core. A trigger. Life was happening without you.
Your Daddy finally picked up your cousin and joined in on the fun. I tried to tell myself that it was ok because one day he’ll be able to dance with your sister. Yet, allowing myself to indulge in such fantasies felt dangerous, even though I believed with all my heart it was true.
This journey doesn’t have a roadmap, Ruby. From one day to the next, I’m really not sure how to navigate between my grief, fears, hopes or dreams. I do the best I can. I don’t want to live a life that’s dictated by grief, but I’ve found that there are times when the concept of living presently and with purpose must include moments of reflection on what’s been lost.
Even though I am not made of glass, I must remind myself that I’m not yet unbreakable. My wounds are too fresh.
And so, in addition to taking time to appreciate moments this year, I’m also making a commitment to self-preservation. I want to remain positive and strong, but I must also give myself permission to not always wear my happy face. I believe that “everything will be ok,” but I must also remind myself that it’s ok to not be “over it”…today or ever. I don’t want to be the person everyone feels like they have to walk on eggshells around, but the ones closest to me will understand.
At times, I’ve been worried that self-preservation meant that I was weak or giving in to grief, but there is strength and power that comes with being completely aware of how you’re feeling in a moment and facing that emotion head on.
This doesn’t mean I’m succumbing to my fears either. After all, “fear does not prevent death, it prevents life.” I know that being so afraid and anxious will not keep your sister safe and so I’m seeking out productive ways to deal with those feelings: a walk on the beach, some mindless TV, or writing to you seem to help.
I am choosing to be kind to myself. It’s the best way I can think to honor you while preparing to be the best mom I can be for your sister. I just want to make you both proud.
I love you, Ruby,
**This post is dedicated to Ellie Rae Wilson. #shinebright**