I fell apart when I least expected to, publicly, messily, embarrassingly. I held together through situations I thought would trigger me, stoic and detached.
By Kate C.
It has been two years since my husband and I left our home, eldest daughter, and entire support network behind on a last-minute flight to the Rocky Mountains. There, there was a doctor who would help us let our baby girl go. With a single injection, he released her spirit from its broken body, then, over the course of several days, safely, carefully, he released her body from mine, so that I didn’t have to follow my baby into the abyss. I birthed her, still and whole, exactly one week after an MRI shattered our world.
People sometimes ask me what that was like. I tell them to imagine what it would feel like. “That’s how bad it is.” I say. “It’s exactly as bad as you think it would be. It’s terrible.”
They look at me quizzically, as though to say, I can’t have it right. If it’s as bad as I think it would be, I wouldn’t be getting out of bed in the morning. I wouldn’t be able to carry on.
I answer their gaze. Yes you would.
I did carry on. I carried on through my crisis. Through my termination. I carried myself back home and I got up in the morning for my daughter. I carried on through my milk letting down. Through my follow-up appointments. I went through the motions. Every day I got up and walked my living daughter to the park, then the neighboring grocery store. Every day I planned and cooked a healthy dinner. Every night, my dreams woke me, and I lay awake, mind racing, waiting for the morning I wouldn’t be able to get up. Every morning I got up anyway. I started running at 5:00 every morning. I hate running. I ran anyway. I took care of my body because it was the only way I could think to survive.
I laughed and joked. I had to leave parties. I never knew what to expect from myself anymore, and learned to stop trying.
Eventually, I carried on through another pregnancy. Through a half a dozen level II ultrasounds. Through post traumatic stress syndrome. Through cognitive behavioral therapy. Through another birth and all the joyful, exhausting rigors of a healthy living, breathing baby.
It all looks very tidy on the outside. I’ve stopped falling apart at strange moments. A rainbow baby is a happy ending, isn’t she? It’s all over, isn’t it? So neat. So shiny.
I don’t need other people to understand anymore. I have long accepted that my grief is my experience, and mine alone. I embrace the solitude.