Mmmm, sixteen months today. I sit in her room and think of all we’ve been denied, the millions of moments we couldn’t have imagined, the thousands we did. I look at that picture of her in our arms and wonder for the umpteenth time what she’d look like now and know nothing I can conjure is close enough to even try. For the life of me I can’t construct an entire face. Just eyes surrounded by haze, or hair with a blurry features. An entire face is just that of another child’s I already know. Sippy cups and exploding language and mastering that ‘walking’ thing.
I spoke at an Infant Loss Symposium for Caregivers on Wednesday. Our NILMDTS photographer (and now friend) asked if I wanted to be a part of her presentation a couple months ago and I jumped at it. Talk about how important her pictures are to us? To a group of professionals who have the potential to make or break a couple’s experience in the loss of their child?? I’m SO there. Not surprisingly, it was an intense day. Upon seeing the agenda, I wanted to attend all the sessions, so we showed up at 8:00 with the participants and got to hear the parent panel (3 couples sharing their story, what they did and didn’t appreciate from the staff at the time, etc). Keynote speech by a respected physician who has worked with more of us bereft parents than she’d like, videos, pictures, meaningful quotes. It was so interesting to be there, having attended a hundred continuing education conferences myself as the professional and recipient, but to be the subject of the conference... educating caregivers on how to take care of us better. I still don’t know how to put it in words.
I haven’t told Anna’s story in that much detail in many, many months. This time all the infertility and adoption stuff took a back seat to the night she died. I recounted aloud (twice, we had both an AM and PM breakout session) that last week, last day, that night, and tidbits from the following days in the hospital. I got to share what a miracle she was, how psychologically absent both Brad and I were and how that’s how all we shocked and grieving parents are, how we need those nurses and chaplains and doctors and doulas to be our advocate and do everything we can’t possibly know or think of to do in the critical hours we have with our kids. How their words and behavior matter. How as part of the blessed few on the planet that ever witnessed our child’s existence on this earth that letting us know they will not forget him or her is ultimately the greatest gift. I shared with them how much our labor nurses mean to me still. How I will have Anna’s ashes, a couple of her outfits, and the letter written by one of the labor nurses the week she died cremated with me when the time comes.
I shared things I haven’t told anyone yet. Like that part about what I plan to have cremated with me. And how those pictures prove to me that in those 14 hours, I was a Mom. I can see it in my face. I got to be a Mom for 14 hours. I didn’t even consciously know I felt that way until it came out during my talk. It’s funny how even now I feel selfish about it, voraciously taking the opportunity to lay our story on a captive group of strangers. Part of me wonders if they left that breakout session thinking that my part was not the best use of time, wishing I’d talked less and Wendy more. But there is also a part of me that doesn’t care what they think, which is new. I usually care too much! And it comes from a defensive, protective, “My Daughter Is Important” place - I just got a total of 40 uninterrupted minutes to talk about her, and I’m taking it. No apologies. (Except to Wendy - her information is invaluable and I don’t think she got all the time needed or deserved around how to do bereavement photography if NILMDTS can’t be there.) Wendy aside, I feel perversely proud of myself for staking space and time for my daughter. Now there are roughly 50 more people who know She Was Here. I wonder how many more people I will introduce her to (force her on?) over the next 40 years. Because some time ago we officially landed in that space where you don’t talk about her anymore because everyone already knows. You talk about the things that ARE occurring, not the ones that aren’t. So there she lies, quietly, like a prized collector’s item only taken out of its case on the rare occasion you come across someone else with a similar passion, or an event featuring your particular penchant.
But I am grateful for the chance to again say aloud how important she is to me. How much I miss her. How she changed Brad and I. Not in those words but in the tears that fall and when I tell, really tell, her story.