This afternoon, I watched as my eleven-month-old crawled over to the play kitchen and pulled himself to stand. Delighted at his own ability, he turned around and flashed a big smile in my direction. As I looked at his chubby hands raised high in celebration and admired the cuteness that is his four little teeth, I couldn’t help but think that I couldn’t imagine my life without him and his adorable little grin. A millisecond later, my thoughts corrected themselves. Of course, I can imagine my life without him! After all, I live my life without his oldest sister here. That this wasn’t my very first thought showed me one thing that five years ago, I didn’t think was possible – I am getting through life without my daughter. Yes, there is life after baby loss.
Our first child, Ariella, was stillborn in January 2013. For the first couple of years, the grief was like a fog through which I saw everything. My next pregnancy, friends’ wedding, funerals, another pregnancy – all of these things were viewed through the fog of grief. Nothing happened that didn’t make me think of Ariella. Every moment, every event we attended made me think about all that we had lost when she died. My time was spent immersed in the baby loss world because that was where I was most understood. I didn’t feel alone when I read blogs by other loss mamas, or articles here on Still Standing. Attending support groups and writing blogs and articles became my lifeline. In those groups and on those websites, I wasn’t whispered about as “the one who had a stillborn baby”, I was proudly known as “Ariella’s mama.”
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But here I am, half a decade and three living children later. I find myself actively choosing other activities over support groups, scrolling past the loss-related blogs in my blog feed, and unfollowing baby loss pages on Facebook. At first, I had to remind myself that stepping back from the baby loss scene did not mean I was stepping away from my daughter. But now I know that it simply means that the fog has lifted and that grief is no longer at the forefront of my mind.
Nor does it mean that I have forgotten Ariella. I never could! When I meet new people, I still nervously anticipate the “how many children do you have” question, and I still feel worried when I get unexpected texts from pregnant friends, wondering if they are messaging because things have gone wrong. Life will never be the same as it was before Ariella’s death. But nor do I want it to be. I’m a better person and friend because of what she taught me and I’m glad that some good has come from her death.
Related: There Is Life After This
The day after we got home from the hospital, I received a card from an acquaintance who had lost her son many years before. In that card, she wrote that I would never get over Ariella’s death, but I would get through it. At the time, that was difficult to believe. But here I am, not just getting through, but thriving. And I know Ariella would be proud.
Photo by Valeriy Andrushko on Unsplash