Guest post by Kim
After Mara died, I spent a
lifetime year confronting/realizing/being shocked by/planning for all the things that would hurt as I lived through them without her. Some of them were major milestones and holidays. I knew they were coming and I planned for them in my mind, and pitched myself into them headlong, because I don’t hide in my grief. But some of them were mundane, everyday life kinds of moments that I had no idea would hurt until I was already standing in them. And then it was too late to intentionally dive into them wrapped in my grief. I was plunged into them raw and unprepared and they choked me. These “things” that hurt, they are part of what else we lose when we lose a child. It’s not just a child we grieve, it is every dream and hope and plan we ever had about that child being in our lives. When a loved one dies, part of the grief is that you sense their absence where you expected them to be present, and this is no different when the loss is a baby, even if, like my Mara, it’s a baby who never took one breath or had one heartbeat on the outside of my body.
I will never forget the first day I walked my son to school after coming home from the hospital without his sister. Because, you see, I walked back home from dropping him off alone. Even now, and I imagine, forever, it will be one of the most cutting and bitter memories of my life. Instead of walking back from his school with a baby in a front pack, or pushing a stroller, headed home for a day of maternity leave bliss with my girl, I walked alone. It was, other than the walk out of the hospital doors without her, the most painful set of steps I have ever taken. I remember every sensory detail. And every day that I made that walk, the pain was there.
There were other things too, that hurt, that I never could have imagined. The first time I drove north on 95, which was the direction of the hospital, and my job, and the whole world that made up my previous life that I could never possibly fit back into the same way again. Or the first time someone asked if my son was my only child. It was my dentist, while her hand was in my mouth, and I said yes, for ease, and learned that I would NEVER ever do that again, or the first time I saw a parent with two kids, a boy and a girl, out for a walk, or my first trip to Costco, where everything was too bright and too crowded and too jagged and I was surrounded by mothers with strollers.
One of my dearest friends once told me that he thought it would take a year for things to start getting easier. That I would have to go through each “first” without her, and after that, maybe it would just be a dull pain, instead of a mind-numbing one. That made good sense to me and I looked forward to the time when that would be true.
We had another baby after Mara died. We became pregnant with Ayla six months after Mara’s death. And now, every single dream I had that died with Mara, is coming true again with Ayla. We walked my son to the bus… TOGETHER. And I walked back home with my girl, just like I had always imagined and I looked up at the sky and the complicated mess of emotions I felt is something I still can’t really describe. When I lost Mara, I had not known the depths that grief could reach into you and break you open. And now that Ayla is here, I am amazed every day that I can feel such joy in my mangled heart. But because it has been so mangled, it can’t experience joy the way it did before. Every one of my dreams that is now coming true is delivered with a sharp edge. The edge of loss. The edge of knowing what it felt like to grieve each moment so deeply, and to have the hole in my heart. There can never be one without the other. My gratitude is wide and deep, just as my grief was. They will always match.