Her Heart and Mine. Together. [The First Day I Didn’t Cry]

I recently stumbled upon the story of Alana Marie Banerjee – a sweet baby girl who was born still at 39 weeks and 5 days. Truthfully, though I am living life as a baby loss mom, I can’t imagine the pain and sorrow felt by this mama. Every situation is different. I can say I understand the type of pain, loss and grief. In the last section of the blog post, Samantha, Alana’s mom, writes about how she and her husband are grieving, about how they are surviving after the death of their baby. I could copy and paste her writing to my blog and it would be an accurate portrayal of how I feel.

In particular, this paragraph:

“Everyone keeps asking how we’re doing, and we’re not really sure how to answer that question.  “Okay,” we say, or, “We’re hanging in there.”  The truth is, the grief comes and goes.  Sometimes it’s absolutely, devastatingly crushing, like a mountain of sorrow sitting on my chest, and sometimes it’s surprisingly, mercifully absent.  After all, it’s hard not to smile when you’re surrounded by the people you love, even if one of them is conspicuously absent.  But the gaping hole in our lives where Alana should be is never far from mind – we can push it to the side, for a time, but eventually it sucks us back in, laughing cruelly as we struggle just to stay afloat of our tears.” –Samantha Durante

Bill and I often respond to inquiries into our emotional state with “okay.” Recently, my typical response has been “alright” and that is immediately followed by, “We are surviving.” Barely. It is hard to answer the question. For me, if I say I’m doing well, good, fine, I feel like I’m lying. Day to day, I am doing “fine.” I am getting out of bed. I am getting dressed. Eating breakfast. Working. As the quote above says, I can push the grief to the side. I can be happy and have fun with those I love. But when the grief hits, it feels as fresh as that Sunday morning when they told us Joanna had no heartbeat.

In the first six weeks after Joanna died I didn’t go a single day without tears. The grief was too much to bear without allowing it to come out. Some days it manifested in anger (and still does – this is a very common reaction I have to many things), but every day it manifested in tears that sometimes could not be stopped. On top of great sadness and a wholly broken heart, I was dealing with the greatest “mama guilt” – Joanna’s death was my fault.

But then something happened.

I write Joanna’s name everywhere. In my journal. On my blog. In my notebook at work. In the shower* — and it was there that I was sent a message about two weeks ago. In the shower, I write Joanna’s name in the steam on the glass door. One day I wrote her name, as usual. And as I looked at her name so lovingly and beautifully written in cursive, a drop of water gently trickled down from the final “A” and stopped in front of my heart. And then I saw it. The droplet created a perfect heart shape. Her heart and mine. Together. And I knew it was a message from God, a message from Joanna – Joanna knew, knows, that I love her. She knows I did my best for her. And she doesn’t blame me, so I shouldn’t be blaming myself. And that was the first day I didn’t cry.

While most days are still teary, since that morning I have had a few days where the tears haven’t come (and since I am sharing feelings here, as my mom has heard from me a few times, I feel bad that I feel alright. I feel sad that I can make it through a day without crying; but I do want to learn to be happy in the memories of my sweet girl).

This past weekend and especially yesterday and today have been especially difficult. Very teary. Today marks eight weeks since the day I walked away from the hospital – with no baby. That’s the grief that “sucks us back in.” The grief that crushes on my drive home from work, alone with my thoughts and emptiness. Not to mention my heart has been hurting since learning of another mama whose baby was born still on Saturday at 28 weeks. Like I said earlier, I am living it, but somehow I still can’t imagine how she is feeling.

Likely similar to me, brokenhearted.

But surviving.

*It turns out other baby-loss mamas do this too…writing our babies’ names everywhere (or just in the shower). I met a woman on The Bump recently who writes her son’s name in the shower. He passed away in December, like Joanna. And this mama too, whose blog I found through Facebook. Finding people “like us” who have remembrance practices is good for the soul. Do you ever write the names of those you’ve lost as a way to remember? Where?

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The First Month

All posts below this one are from my original “married life” blog – Mrs J at Home. I wasn’t very good at keeping it updated, but recent events in my life, mainly the loss of my stillborn daughter at 25w5d, have made me want to share again. So, I changed the name of the blog, and here we go. Writing is both therapeutic for me, and a great way to encourage others who may be going through similar situations. Not to mention, it can help those around me understand how I am feeling and how I am grieving and healing. For an intro post to the original blog, check it out here.

As a starter post this time around (check out the About page for more), I wanted to share some of my heart. My grieving process. My thought process. I am a mother. I am a bereaved mother, and a mother with empty arms (read Joanna’s Story). When I hit the “one month” mark, I realized my heart was still breaking every day. I was sitting in my cubicle one day, unable to work. My mind was everywhere. My heartache was physically manifested in chest pain and an upset stomach. I took a few minutes to write what I was feeling. As I am approaching the “two month” mark next week, the feelings in this little writing below still hold true. Every day I am broken again. But I do feel the healing beginning…

One Month.

Today is January 29 and my heart is broken. I am trying to concentrate, but as I sit at work looking at my beautiful baby’s face on her last ultrasound picture, I wish for the chance to hold her again.

The truth is the heart can break. And just because it’s broken, that does not mean it cannot break again and again. It doesn’t need to be mended or healed first. Every day the pieces can just get smaller, more broken.

I once wrote a blog post in college about trying to heal heartbreak with Elmer’s glue. How you could take the heart and put it back together with Elmer’s, and that even though the cracks would come together and make the heart look whole, the glue, now invisible, would still be there. The heart, once broken, can never be the same.

Sometimes that’s what I think happens. Each day and night I cry tears of healing. The heart slowly comes back together, drying with Elmer’s glue (or just my tears, really). Then each morning I awake and know I am not dreaming; this is my life. I buried my baby after holding her in my arms. I kissed her goodbye when I should have been kissing her scrapes. I sang her a lullaby as a final love song when I should have been singing her to sleep each night. I rocked her, lifeless, when I should have been joyfully rocking her in the nursery each day. And when I wake each morning and remember the nightmare I am living, my heart breaks all over again.

People have said that I am strong. I am not sure they are right. I feel weak. I feel tired. I feel devastated. And I feel guilty.

First: guilt that I was not enough for Joanna. I could not keep her alive and she’s gone.

Second: guilt that it’s my fault. In my head, I know I did all I could for her; I know nothing I could do differently would save her. But in my mama’s heart, I am filled with sadness and disappointment in myself. How could I do this to my baby?

Third: guilt when I feel moments of happiness. How can I be happy when my daughter has died? How can I laugh when I will never hold my little girl again? Will she think I don’t miss her? That I don’t love her? Does she know I would do anything to change what happened?

From Moments Like These by Selah:

I’ve got a little girl in Heaven right now
Those streets of gold are her playground
[The time] she lived was enough to fall in love
She’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever let go of.