October 1, 2015 6 minute read
As more time passes I am finding it much harder to cope with the loss of Millie. Initially, I was so comforted by the fact that she left this earthly world to be in heaven where she would never suffer at all. We received a book titled My Journey to Heaven by Marvin Besteman from my dad’s cousin which was extremely comforting. This book helped me to see a glimpse into heaven where I know my baby is so happy and being cared for so lovingly. But for some reason as more time passes I am having a harder time finding that place of comfort I was in initially. Where I once trusted in God’s plan, I am now finding myself more angry at Him. I am beginning to feel more self-pity and trying desperately to find a way out of it before the pity digs it’s claws into my soul. I think this self-pity is mostly compounded by the fact that we’ve also experienced an extreme loss of identity. We no longer know how to identify as parents, as a mom and a dad, when we don’t have a baby to care for.
We spent months during pregnancy getting ready for a baby but didn’t feel like parents or grasp the reality of parenthood until we learned that Millie was sick. We were suddenly catapulted into the world of parenthood during the third trimester of pregnancy, having to make very serious decisions and completely alter our lives for the safety and health of our little girl. We knew our journey into parenthood was not going to take the standard route and we would be forced into an even more stressful style of parenting than new parenthood naturally is. For almost 12 weeks we did experience the extremes of parenthood. We loved extremely, we cared extremely, we held on extremely, we trusted in God extremely and we made extreme decisions. However, never did we prepare to have the identity of ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ ripped away from us. While we know the title of ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ has not been taken from us, the rolls associated with those titles certainly have been ripped away.
We were preparing to HAVE a baby. We bought and received all the standard and fun baby stuff. I read tons of books and blogs. We painted and furnished a nursery. We interviewed a pediatrician and toured their facility. We studied how to have an unmedicated, natural delivery. We went to a car seat safety check. I taught my body to produce milk. But most of these things were for naught because we never (or only very briefly) got to use or experience them. It has been very painful to adjust to this reality. We had to remove the car seats from our vehicles and put the stroller in the basement. We had to call and cancel scheduled doctor’s appointments for Millie. I’m giving away food that will expire and will donate my breast milk to newborns-in-need. We are going back to work 1 month earlier than originally planned for our maternity/paternity leave. It has become awkward to be on maternity/paternity leave without a baby. We desperately needed this time to mourn and learn how to face our new reality but I don’t think I will ever really know how to exist in this state of ‘motherhood without a baby’.
Our loss of identity and new reality means that instead of learning the routines of a baby and suffering through sleep deprivation we get to go about our regular old lifestyles without complication. Instead of being rooted to our home to care for our infant, we got to go take a week-long trip to Savannah. While this trip was really enjoyable it was not restorative. It still hurt like hell because every new thing we did reminded me that we shouldn’t even be able to take this trip. I felt guilty walking around and smiling in pictures when my reality is that there is deep pain sitting right under the surface. I felt lonely walking around being tourists with all the other tourists yet no one understood the painful experience we just went through. On the outside we look like a regular, happy couple in town to celebrate a special occasion but on the inside my mind is screaming ‘WE JUST LOST OUR BABY GIRL!’ I couldn’t stand to step into the tourist shops and see baby clothing. I can’t even look in the direction of baby sections at stores because it hurts way too much to look at the things I can’t buy for my baby. I’m finding it very difficult to navigate the world around new mothers and pregnant women. Of course I am definitely happy for their joy and don’t want to take that away from them but it cuts deep into my soul that they get to have their baby and I don’t. Or the pain of seeing a pregnant woman and yearning desperately to be pregnant again where I could feel Millie moving, feel physically connected to her and know that I was helping to protect her from her illnesses.
I think my developing self-pity and anger at God stems from two things. Firstly, the fact that my body is still a cruel reminder that I should be a mother because I am still making milk, my incision is still tenderly healing and my abs are still trying to regain their strength. Secondly, the fact that I feel like time is causing my memories of Millie to fade. I worry that when I think of her in my mind I don’t see her but remember a picture of her taken with a camera. Her smell is fading from the things in our home and it’s harder to remember her sweet baby scent. Luckily I can still remember how she felt, especially how it felt to hold her against me. Because of this I know I cannot hold anyone else’s baby because I cannot let holding their baby interrupt my memories of holding Millie.
Overall, I am fearful of returning to work on Tuesday. It’s just another layer of how it doesn’t feel right to go about normal old life when our world has been so deeply shattered. It feels awkward to walk around letting strangers assume I live a regular life when in reality I am trying to figure out how to exist as a mother without a baby to hold. My emotions feel so ‘On’ or ‘Off’ and that I could burst into tears at any unforeseen moment. I certainly can’t walk around with a sign that explains my situation so I have to decide to pull it together quickly or risk explaining our situation and making strangers feel uncomfortable. It’s not just the other person that feels uncomfortable though, I get uncomfortable and confused feeling too. But then sometimes I feel perfectly fine and then begin to feel guilty for feeling fine. Ultimately, I have relied on having Heath by my side because he can help me cope during these moments of emotional collapse. Returning to work will mean no emotional crutch from my husband physically next to me anymore. Our loving family, friends and extended acquaintances that have always known about our situation are the support that helps me continue to navigate this new existence. You are the ones that are helping to comfort me as I try to reenter regular life. All of the cards and calls help to remind us that you care and acknowledge Millie’s special presence in our lives. We have received sweet gifts to help remind us of her and to remind me that love will help us survive this. I am continuing to read our devotional book and another book gifted to me by a friend titled I Will Carry You by Angie Smith to restore my faith in God’s plan. Furthermore, I am seeking out support groups and resources to help us connect with others that have been through this extreme life event. Overall, it helps to put a voice to the feelings and thoughts I have been experiencing and being honest and open has been my best therapy thus far. Thank you for letting me share our daughter, Millie Clara, her life, her death and our rolls as brand new parents.