Reflections

A year ago today marked four weeks since I gave birth to Joanna, still, at just shy of 26 weeks.

That first month was so hard, as are the months that continue to come, season by season, without Joanna.

But if you had told me at the four-week mark that eventually I would not feel physical pain every day from the emptiness, I would never have believed you.

Around the two-month mark, you might have said that I would not cry every day from the sadness, but it seemed such an unlikely scenario.

At three months, I heard that I would not be angry forever from the injustice, that I would truly laugh again and feel pure joy. But it seemed like the feelings would be my daily routine.

If you had told me at the four-month mark that a time would come when happy memories of my pregnancy and Joanna’s birth would come more often than the sad days, I would have certainly rolled my eyes and pulled the covers back over my head.

Five months in you might have said, it will get easier, and I would have cried oceans of tears, telling you it hurt too badly to believe that could ever be true.

At six months, when people asked if I had any children, I didn’t know how to respond. Practice makes perfect, you might have said. I would have said there is no way to tell my story to people who don’t understand.

At seven, eight, nine months, as babies were born who weren’t even conceived before Joanna’s birthday, bitterness tried to make its way into the cracks of my heart. I fought to keep those cracks filled with my love for Joanna.

And you know? If you had told me I would laugh and celebrate and smile and love, and so sweetly ache for my baby on Joanna’s first birthday, and not hide under a blanket and cry, I absolutely would have laughed in your face.

But this year has gone by, and these changes have come. Tears do come less often, not because we miss her less, but because we have found our “new normal” – we have figured out how to live without Joanna in our arms, though always in our hearts.

I have found the right way to share with strangers the story of my daughter, a way that brings peace to my heart and a smile to my lips – a story where my happy memories of her outweigh the sad memories of her death.

There are days I still ache, days where my chest hurts, that physical manifestation of my broken heart. But I know that love and hope and healing are filling the cracks, and I know Joanna is happy we are healing.

 

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Pursuit of Happiness

What a rough week last week. 6 months. 26 weeks. Aching heart.

Faced with a 3-day weekend, I was thinking I’d spend my time alone, in the basement, binge-watching Food Network or HGTV.

This is typically what happens. Bill might do some work around the house. I might do some laundry or vacuum. But mainly, we stay home, quiet. Then, Bill will go to bed, since he works overnights. It’s a lot of time to myself, to be alone with my thoughts. To ponder what life might be like if Joanna had not died. To wonder if I could have done anything differently. To read our “Dear Joanna” tags. To sit in my grief and feel all the feelings that come with it, especially anger last week.

But I had a thought. If I am striving to reach happy, to find that place where we honor Joanna but we are happy more than we are sad, how am I helping myself by sitting alone in the basement? I decided on Thursday that Bill and I would #dosomethingfun (per my Instagram account) every day of the long weekend. We would try to get out and to be happy and to celebrate life – because though Joanna’s life with us was cut very, very short, we can still live for her, for us. We can still pursue happy.

And what a perfect weekend to do so – Independence Day.

Thursday we had dinner together, at the kitchen table. We had real conversation and good food. Together. Then, we went bowling and I won 3 of 5 games. Bill had the highest score of the night on our final game though.

Friday I met up with a friend from our support group for breakfast. It was nice to have the chance to get out of the house and talk to a friend who knows how I feel, but to be able to be together and talk about other topics too. Friday also brought sad news of a friend’s 17-week loss. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, to have your heart break so hard and so fresh in one moment of devastating news, and then to have it soothed by a friend who relates. By Friday night , I was ready for our #dosomethingfun – we went to the movies and saw Jurassic World. Ironically (?), our trip to the movies was free, as I remembered to use an unused gift card from my co-workers that they had given me after J died – something to get Bill and I out of the house together.

Saturday morning I got up and ready to go and as soon as Bill got home we headed out to Occoquan for kayaking. This is an activity we have enjoyed in the past and on vacations and have been meaning to do for a while now. We spent two hours on Occoquan River, listening to birds chirp and waters flow, admiring boats at the marinas we passed, taking selfies and, unbeknownst to us, getting sunburn on a very cloudy day. Afterward, we went home, ate some Smith’s hot dogs from home and had ice cream sandwiches. After Bill went to bed I spent the evening watching Call the Midwife (still not sure how I watch this show after what has happened to us, but it’s almost therapeutic) and comforting the dog because he is terrified of fireworks.

Finally on Sunday our #dosomethingfun was fishing! We have been talking about fishing for so long but haven’t gone. Saturday after kayaking we stopped at Dick’s for our licenses (and a Calia by Carrie Underwood workout headband that I have been eying since March). So Sunday we drove up to Manassas Battlefield Park and hiked down a trail to one of the small lakes. I caught the first fish (after Bill put a worm on the hook for me…) and he caught the second, which was about three times the size of mine. We didn’t stay long because the bugs were bad, but we had a good time just being out in the woods together. Peace. Quiet. Worms. Bluegill. And lots of love.

To some, I suppose this just sounds like a nice holiday weekend. To me, it was a huge success, a big step forward. And regardless of whether I end up taking a step or two back, because I am sure I will…I feel like this weekend was a win. We got out of the house. I didn’t hide…I flew! Bill and I spent time together doing things we love, things we haven’t done in a long time, things that are a part of who we are. I don’t think Joanna would want us to forget that we are a happy couple – competitive, fun-loving, adventurous. We can still be J’s parents, we can still grieve, but we can still pursue happy and have fun. That doesn’t detract from how much we miss her, it adds to the ways we honor her.

By living.

#dosomethingfun