If we were having tea, and you asked me how I’m doing, I’d say:
Most days, I’m doing OK. We’re doing OK. It comes in waves, this thing called grief. And 90 percent of the time, I really do feel at peace with everything — getting back into my routine and enjoying the simple pleasures of my not-too-exciting life. But the other 10 percent? A complete 180. Where routine is, well, routine — how can nothing have changed when everything has changed?
I’d also tell you that:
Mourning? It’s weird. And I don’t know how to do it. Because I’m not just mourning our daughter. I’m also mourning the fact that I don’t get to be a mom. Because I so badly wanted to be a mom. Emotionally, physically — all of that “allys” that you could name — I was ready.
I’d go on to say:
I’m sick of people telling me that I AM a mom and I’ll always be a mom. Because as true as it is — Penelope will always, always be my daughter and will forever have a place in my heart that is hers alone — it’s also not true. Because I don’t get to mother her and do all of the things moms get to do with their kids. You know, like watch them grow up and all of the wonderful things that entails. And I want people to tell me that it’s OK for me to feel like I missed out on that — even if they can’t understand. Because I
needdeserve time to mourn that, too.
And then I’d continue:
Sometimes I can’t remember how Penelope smelled or how her hair curled up in the back when it was wet or what her little toes felt like when I touched them (even though she hated it). So I get out the Johnson’s baby lotion. And I take a trip back in time. To that day when I got to bathe her and dress her and brush her hair. And it makes me so happy.
Then, I’d share with you that:
People ask me if I have kids, and I don’t know what to say. If I say “yes” then questions follow. How many? Boy or girl? How old is she? What’s she like? If I say “no” then I’m lying. If I say “I did” it just gets awkward and I end up comforting them as they try to apologize for simply making polite conversation.
Oh, and when you ask me how I’m feeling since, you know, I did have a baby, I’d tell you:
I feel great. My body’s well recovered — it loved being pregnant and giving birth wasn’t that bad, either. Plus, I apparently have a “beautiful uterus that looks perfectly recovered.”
And I’d let you know that:
I’m getting back into the gym and it feels good. But, you know, I’m kinda mad, too. Because my body doesn’t know what my mind knows. My mind knows there is no baby wanting to eat. But my body? Still wants to make milk for Penelope. Though, thankfully that’s finally slowing down. And having to stop working out and putting on a lot more weight than I would have liked while I was pregnant? Weight that is a lot harder to take off than I thought it would be? Not a problem at all because it meant a safe, healthy place for our baby to grow until she joined us. And I wasn’t beating myself up over it while I was pregnant. But, now, every time I work out, I’m reminded where every ounce came from and where every bit of fitness went. And it makes me sad.
And when you ask me if I’ve found someone to talk to, I’d respond:
You mean a therapist or a support group? No. Not yet. Maybe not ever. Time will tell. But I have found some amazing friends who also like tea. And talking. And listening. Who don’t judge me or tell me my feelings are wrong. Because feeling are feelings — nothing more, nothing less. And feelings are valid. And important. They let me cry and vent and be a wreck from time to time. And they don’t judge me for laughing or for being happy, either. Plus, there’s Mr. B. Pretty much the world’s best listener. Not to mention partner and friend. He’s my safe place.
But, mostly, I’d say:
I am at peace. Because Penelope? She was very, very sick. And she fought so hard — harder than I probably could have. But, it was just too big of a battle for her to fight — even though she had the very best team of doctors and nurses, family and friends. And she couldn’t fight anymore. She fought the good fight from the second she was born, and she was tired. I could see it in her face. When she looked at me, I could see it in her eyes. And she deserved a rest. She, too, deserved to find some peace. I’m comforted knowing that she knew best the things that Mr. B and I didn’t know — or couldn’t let ourselves know. So, yes, I am at peace. And I am moving forward. Because that is what Penelope would do.
And, finally, I’d bid you farewell — tears rolling down my face. I’d thank you for all of your love and kindness. Your support is what held Mr. B and me up as we walked this scary road, as we continue to walk this scary road. And then I’d hug you and be on my way, looking forward with a hopeful heart and faithful spirit. And a mug of tea in my hand. And I’d look back over my shoulder and say, “until next time, my friend. This story isn’t over yet.”