Pictures of Before
Today I ran across this photo. It was taken by my husband in late September 2011. That’s me on the right, showing off the baby clothes I’d bought for the baby that we’d just found out was a girl. I had officially crossed the halfway point of the pregnancy, and was so excited to meet our daughter. I had no idea that in less than two months I’d be holding her, dead, in my arms, and then saying goodbye.
From the very beginning of this new life in which loss and grief are major players, I’ve had difficulty with such photographs. I love taking pictures, especially self-portraits, and I take them almost constantly. So when our daughter died abruptly and without known cause, it hurt to return from the hospital without our daughter and see the photographs from Before. I felt like they had betrayed me. Shouldn’t I have known that something so horrible was about to happen? Shouldn’t there have been a warning hidden within those photographs?
I combed through them, looking for some sort of sign of the horror that had come upon us so suddenly. I had taken pictures up until the day she died . . . but of course there were no warning signs in them when I searched them from my new life in After.
I think that one of the worst parts of babyloss is that there is no way to predict it. It is sudden and traumatic, and it shows us just how little control we have in this world — and that is terrifying. The photographs from Before, they highlight this devastating truth for me. When I look at these pictures now, it causes me pain to remember the naivete, the way that I never thought to question whether or not we’d have a happy ending to our first pregnancy.
That innocence is gone, and these photographs make me queasy with the hard-won knowledge that disaster strikes, and it can strike suddenly and unpredictably, and that it struck us, of all the people in the world.
I am left wondering — who is that young woman in the photograph, happily sorting the clothes she didn’t know her baby would never wear? Where has she gone, and who is the woman I’m becoming? Deep lines that weren’t there a year ago crease my face, and when I meet my eyes in the mirror they are too often filled with sadness and fatigue. I don’t much like taking my own picture anymore.
How do you feel about pictures from Before? Are they a comfort, or does it hurt to see them?