Let’s talk about conceiving after the death of your child.
At this point, a year from his death, the world has returned to its rhythms. A year seems so terribly long ago to those not grieving. My grief isn’t something I wear like a badge on my sleeve. It’s invisible. If I go to the store, the cashier doesn’t look at my face and see “bereaved mother” stamped there. To the external world, to those that don’t know me, I look like everyone else.
Even to those who know me, a year is a long time. Surely, the grief is beginning to abate? Surely now, the good days at least equal the bad? Surely, there are moments of joy?
And yet, all that really exists is the slow swimming towards consciousness each morning, my soul like a lead weight, trying to pull me back towards sleep – because to wake is to face the demon that haunts my days. To wake is to acknowledge that here I am, forced to do it all over again … and again … and again.
To wake is to re-enter the world, to push myself out into that macrocosm of humanity, to smile, to move my limbs, to pretend that I am normal. And yet, every moment of normalcy, every thing that reminds me of the Before, once that ends, the rush of sorrow, of loss, of missing, rushes back in again, and I am leveled. I can’t be normal. I can only pretend.
My whole being cries out for my son. I see pictures, and I am aghast that it has been nearly a year since I held him, since he was warm and alive. There is no salve to soothe this pain.
In the midst of this, to find out that life is growing anew within me – unplanned, unprepared for, completely unexpected – what words can capture those emotions? I had grown accustomed to the idea, somewhat, of being a mother to three, one no longer living. And here now, this life within me, a beloved intruder in what was once the sacred home of my son.
To have to tell others this news – when I have known for 5 weeks, have seen that tiny, furious hummingbird heart on the ultrasound, the small life that has sprung up in this season of drought – it has plagued me. How to tell people? How to accept the smiles, the congratulations, the well-meaning joy of others – when there is no joy within me?
This baby is not a balm to my fragmented soul. I grieve, every second of every day, and to see the excitement in others causes a sting of pain. My James is gone, and he cannot be replaced. I am not magically happier, more contented, less grief-stricken, for this life growing within me.
I want to believe that I can feel joy again. I want to believe that when I see this baby’s face, I will smile and weep happy tears. But I fear that I will feel nothing. I sometimes think that James’s departure was also the departure of my joy.
To face it all again, the fatigue, the diabetes, a likely c-section at 39 weeks, and all the other slings and arrows of pregnancy, fills me with dread.
And yet, I haven’t explained it all. There is so much more that I cannot even find the words. Always before, as soon as I knew, as soon as that second line popped up, I shared the news with everyone in my life. Not because I was naive enough to think that nothing bad could ever happen, but because I love life, and I celebrate it, whenever it begins or ends. This time, I have waited, far longer than before, to make the news public. Not for fear of “something happening,” but because I cower before the glowing smiles and warm excitement of well-meaning friends and family.
Yet, I know that there is beauty in pain. It is a harsh, stark beauty, and one that I would gratefully return to the giver, if I had the choice. I do not have that choice, and I can’t refuse to see it. I know there will be beauty here too, when I am ready.
I’m just not ready. All I can see now are two bright blue eyes, a thatch of wild-brown hair, rosebud lips, small clenched hands, and rolls of elbow fat. How I miss him. Nothing can undo his loss. Nothing can fill this abyss of sadness. These wounds have not healed. No child can anneal the edges for me. And to tell others is to let them believe that, for a moment, I might be happy again. And how could this be?