Several times a week unforeseen moments remind me of what we’ve lost. Sometimes it’s just a poke, sometimes a shove to the chest, sometimes knocking me flat on my back. I’m sure they happen to my parents, I know they happen for Brad. We don’t often discuss them because we’re trying to protect each other from our pain, but once in a while it will come up. There have been a few that have stuck with me the last 2-3 weeks.
Last Saturday a local hospital hosted a ceremony for perinatal loss, to honor all those babies who were lost before they were born. There are so very few ways or times devoted to acknowledging Anna to anyone but ourselves, you want to take advantage of those you find. It was a combination of music, ceremony, prayer, and at the end, a release of doves for every child lost. All the children’s names were printed on a 4x4 card inserted within the program. That seemed to be the hardest part for Brad, seeing her name in print there. You don’t want to see your child’s name on what is essentially an obituary list. He looked it over for a few minutes, tucked in back inside the program and laid his hand on the program. I didn’t have to look at him to know he was losing it. I haven’t seen him like that in a long time. While heartbreaking, it felt ‘right’ somehow to grieve together again. Almost always we do it alone now. I know for myself I tear up or cry in the car on a very regular basis. It is unbearable to think about Brad feeling all the things I feel during a course of a day.
Then there was a student at school last week. It was play time and few of the kids were playing with a Potato Head set that included a few large potato heads and a couple small ones. I was sitting several feet away with another child, but well within earshot. I wasn’t paying a huge amount of attention until I heard the child say, “The Grandma is sad.” “Why is the Grandma sad?”, asked the teacher. “Because she thinks the baby died.” It was so unexpected, so out-of-sync with anything that had been said just before (or ever, for that matter), and said by a boy who had just walked up to the scene... I mean, where did that come from?! The things you could never anticipate. You’re going along, functional, doing your job, being present and involved, and BAM. Thankfully, the teacher was aware and sensitive enough to ask how I was doing within about 20 seconds, which by itself was helpful enough to carry me through the next several minutes.
Then there was the family at the park. I was all proud of myself for getting out and riding my bike in these last nice days of fall, and thought I saw neighbors at a local park that had just come over from dinner the week before. It was a couple whose husband had written one of the most painful and meaningful comments on our first website about how our girls were supposed to be best friends and how he was looking forward to trick-or-treating and sledding together. They had their second child, Annabelle, just 2 months before Anna. Anyway, they came to dinner without their kids so that we could have the hard conversations and emotions without filtering. I thought making an effort to say ‘hi’ while they obviously had their children with them at the park would be a good gesture in re-establishing some sense of normalcy in what is a difficult situation for everyone. Only it turned out not to be my neighbors at all! A random family. But there I was, the only other person around and had clearly had biked up specifically to say ‘hi’, so verbal interaction and explanation was necessary. But they had a baby girl, in a sweet sweet sleeper and little hat, on all fours playing in the sand while her Mom stood nearby and supervised. Somehow I just knew she was almost exactly Anna’s would-have-been age. I should have just kept moving, but I didn’t. I asked how old she was, and I know there was a very strange look on my face that got worse after she answered just as I thought she would. ‘That could be Anna. That could be me. Look how precious she is. At that fabulous stage of mobile but not standing steady. Exploring but not so much to be difficult to manage. Look at that darling hat, that outfit. That could sooo be Anna. Look what I’m missing. It’s right there....right there in front of me.’ It was only a few seconds, but enough for her mom to get uncomfortable and politely dismiss me with a “Well, have a good day!” Can’t blame her. I moved on, but still wish I’d said, “That’s how old my daughter would be.” It was opportunity missed to say that I have a daughter too, that she matters, that she was.