Disclaimer; this is long, and not a particularly happy post.
Today is my daughter’s birthday. The daughter that is no longer with us. It’s a sad day for us in many ways. In other ways it’s no different from any other since we don’t just miss or think about her today. We do that every day.
For those of you that don’t know, Emily Rose was born August 19, 2004 and passed away the next day. I don’t recall the exact times. They were a blur then and I guess it never really mattered in the scheme of things. It was 36 hours – that, I do know. For most of that time I was post-anesthesia drugged, and aided with pain meds for my unusually long C-Section scar. When I could finally keep my eyes open, the nurses would not permit me to stand, walk, or even sit because I was still recovering from a five hour operation and had ten inches of stitches to think about. Well, at least they thought about them.
I only got to visit her once in the NICU right before they took her in for a procedure. I insisted upon it, but I had to do it from a stretcher – so it was awkward. I also insisted she be baptized and managed to get the priest who married me and Chris to come to the hospital and perform the baptism. Shortly after that she died.
It’s been eight years, but I’m still affected by many things from that experience. For instance I hate when I forget things, and not for the normal reasons. When you go in to a hospital to have a baby and leave with empty arms it’s about the most awful experience a parent could go through. Lonely, lost, chilled through, unsure, confused… A couple months after going through this, I was driving my car and got that ‘oh shit, did I turn off the stove?’ feeling. Then I checked for my purse, which is next to me. I know I’m forgetting something… then I realize no, I’m not. I’m missing something. My baby. It transports me back to leaving Columbia Presbyterian, and all those feelings are there again. I hate forgetting things. It probably explains why I pick details to death. Maybe. Who knows?
Another reminder from Columbia Pres., butterflies – beautiful, graceful, colorful, fun – the symbol the hospital used to mark the doors of the mom’s who were grieving. I suppose this was meant as an indicator to the staff so they would know how to conduct themselves. Most of the butterflies were the cardboard decorative type you’d find in a store. Mine was about a quarter of the size, hand drawn in pen, and on a piece of folded white copy paper. I guess they ran out of the others – depressing thought. Needless to say, I’m not overly fond of butterflies as symbols and patterns. I don’t have a problem with live butterflies, though. I’ve come along way since then; it’s only recently that I put clothing on Danielle that has a butterfly. They're just used on so many little girly things that they're hard to avoid completely. I push myself to get past it, but I’m very conscious of the effort it takes.
I also don’t do ‘Thank You’ cards well and finally figured out why. A few years ago while organizing a closet I came across the thank you cards my mom gave me at my baby shower – that took place a week or so before Emily was born. The cards matched the baby shower theme – nursery rhymes – and she had all the address labels printed, even gave me 60 or so stamps. They’re still sitting in my closet. So this little unfinished business still plagues me.
Another thing, I am so uncomfortable when someone asks me how many kids I have. And you know how often that happens – A LOT! I don’t usually ask anyone that question either, unless I’m just returning it. As far as answering questions go, this one I still stutter through. Feel guilty when I give the easy answer – two. Feel dishonest and evasive if I give my practiced answer – I have two with me. However, I would never come out and explain more either.
There are so many other ways this has affected me. Especially, I am coming to realize, my writing. I don’t like to feel things too intensely. Happy or sad. Don’t get me wrong, I feel things, I just don’t like extremes which are overwhelming. I prefer logic and seeing things from both sides – kind of neutralizes them a bit. But I see that I hold back a great deal. Mr. Spock is my idol.
So bottom line, this is with me every single day. Not just today. And though all of the above are negatives, I did learn a valuable lesson. The worst thing that happened to me is not the worst that could have happened. Or, has happened to someone else. I only had to sit through one perinatal bereavement meeting to realize that! I look at things differently in that respect; I never think I am alone and never say things couldn’t be worse.