Category Archives: Grief

Rethinking baby showers

The first time I met with a therapist after Genevieve’s death, she told me to make a list of the steps I wanted to take to start leading a normal life again. Some of my early goals were: feel comfortable leaving my house and be happy for other people who have good news. I started therapy four months after Genevieve died, and even though I was leaving my house, I didn’t want to be. Every trip to the grocery store came with the possibility that I would see a happy pregnant lady or a newborn. Either of those things would leave me crying for the rest of the day.

As for being happy for my friends, that took much longer than I expected. I could not accept that good things kept happening to other people when my life had collapsed. It took me years to recover my generosity. I don’t think I really celebrated for anyone until Henry was born. Let’s all give thanks that he is here so that I no longer have to live as an evil troll (even though I totally earned that right).

My long-term goals, things that I wanted to accomplish in six to twelve months, were: be okay around babies and be emotionally ready to have another baby myself. I did start seeing friends who had babies, though I didn’t want to initially. And I was certainly ready for a baby. Going through that next pregnancy would be sheer terror no matter how long I waited.

One goal that I didn’t put on my list was to attend a baby shower. I swore off baby showers after Genevieve. Really, I wanted to avoid baby showers until my own children had kids. I couldn’t stomach the hope, people assuming that they would bring home a baby. And what could I say at such a party? Shower conversations inevitably turn to labor stories or memories of colicky newborns. And if your baby was born breathing, your labor doesn’t sound that bad to me. I imagined speaking up — ruining the party. Or, more likely, I would say nothing and then spend days fuming about the unfairness of it all.

Some friends of mine wanted to throw a shower after Henry was born, and I agreed. It was lovely. Everyone knew my story, so no pretending was required.

Now one of those friends who threw my shower is about to have a baby, and I am invited to the shower. I am going, and I bought the baby gift without tears. I didn’t even think of crying. I continue to be amazed at the way time can change me. Where once I saw pregnancy as a minefield, I now know that is true for only an unlucky few. (There are a lot of us, but statistically we are few.) And if everyone at that shower doesn’t know what I have been through, that’s okay. That is no betrayal of Genevieve. I know that I’m her mom.

I still get messages from mothers who have just gone through a stillbirth, and all I can say is keep going, keep going, keep going. Eventually, some of that dark space is going to fill with joy, enough joy that you will even be able to share it with others.

One day for remembering

Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. This one day seems so small in the face of what it is recognizing, but it is something, at least.

Greg and I went on a date a few days ago, and we were having a discussion about finding purpose in life, and a minute later I was crying over my pumpkin ravioli. I will spend every single day missing my daughter. And even though I’ve lived with that for more than three years, I still have moments where I’m not sure how to keep living with it.

Most of my hours are filled with chaos, joy, messes, reprimands. My life looks, and feels, mostly normal. But when we gather with all of the families in our neighborhood, and I see that gaggle of 3- and 4-year-olds (We are literally the only family without a preschooler.), I wonder who Genevieve would be chasing. Am I the only one remembering?

If you remember, light a candle tonight. And thank you.

Family of five minus one

We’ve been giving away Henry’s baby clothes as he has outgrown them, and soon we will have to decide what to do with the bouncer and baby toys. Most of our friends are done having babies, and they seem certain of their choice. I envy them.

When I was pregnant with Genevieve, I proclaimed to anyone who would listen that I was done having babies. Two was perfect. I could not possibly endure another round of nausea and backaches. Plus, Greg had decided after Eleanor’s arrival that he was happy with one. With some nudging from me, he agreed that a second was good, but I knew we were done after that. I am a very grumpy pregnant lady.

My experience with Genevieve rewrote my notion of what I could and could not survive. Turns out that I could get through another pregnancy, and a terrifying one at that. Not once during my pregnancy with Henry did I declare him my last baby. That seemed like a tempting of fate, and further, I had no idea how I would feel after having him.

In the first few months that Henry was home, Eleanor talked a lot about how life would be when we had the next baby. She doted on Henry but also was clear that she wanted a sister. This only reinforced my desire for her to have a living (Do I even need to say it?) sister.

I know many women who are close to their sisters. I know men who are close to their brothers. I don’t know any brothers and sisters who are very close. While I would be happy to give Henry a brother, it’s seeing young sisters together that stings. On a side note, I would love for “Frozen” to disappear even though Eleanor adores it. Darn movie makes me cry every time. Somehow I doubt those Disney executives considered the little girls in the audience who have sisters that have actually died.

I’ve heard women say that they knew their family was complete when they looked around the kitchen table and felt that everyone was there. I’m never going to have that. A lot of families don’t, either because of infertility or a child lost along the way.

But, there are a dozen reasons for us to be done having babies. I’d rather not deal with infertility again. We have a good balance of work and play right now. We have some hope of saving enough to pay for college. Maternity clothes are awful, and I’d like that closet space back. But most of all, I want to be present for these two kids. I’ve spent most of Eleanor’s life either pregnant or grieving. It is good to have a spontaneous game of tag, to draw a rainbow rather than a storm cloud with the sidewalk chalk, to give her my full attention. She needs a happy, healthy mom more than she needs a sister. And someday, I think, she will understand.

The kids

(Please pardon my naked Texan baby. It’s still summer here!)