January 21, 2013 ~ Steps Back into Life
Share about your first steps back into life. What helped you survive in the world outside as you took those first tender steps? Are there still tender areas for you today, living in a world that doesn’t embrace or understand the loss of a baby/child? How do you cope with those struggles? What advice would you offer those new to this walk to encourage and bring hope? How has this changed for you from the beginning? If you are in early grief, what do you fear/struggle with as you try to navigate a new normal….life without your baby?
For the first 3 1/2 years of our marriage, Matt was going to school at BYU-Idaho in the very small town of Rexburg, Idaho. I was pregnant with Cora there. I worked at a gas station/convenience store that would sell 40oz soda for $.60. Being a college town, you can imagine how busy we were because of that. And there were the regulars. It was amazing how many people came in multiple times a day for their soda.
So they knew me, and it was quite obvious that I was pregnant. Many of them knew I only had a few weeks left and were as excited as me. So I don’t think it surprised anyone when I left suddenly.
Only, they thought it was because I had a baby. Of course, I did “have a baby” in that I had gone through labor and delivery. But while all my coworkers knew that Cora died, none of the customers knew.
I of course took time off. But we were poor, and really needed my small income, and the company was small, and really needed someone working my shift, so I went back to work after only a little over a month of leave. I was apprehensive, but I honestly felt I needed to be doing something other than sitting at home staring at my empty nursery.
The first day I was asked 5 times how my baby was. My friend Bree was working with me, and started intercepting and explaining. But that didn’t stop the stab in the gut I felt every time the words were said. Or the guilt I felt when I saw the expression on their face. They were expecting happy news from me, not tragedy. I know it’s not really a rational thought, but I still felt guilty for it. I powered through, expecting it to get better. But there was one evening when a man with Down’s Syndrome came in with his caretaker shortly after I got in. My first job after I got in was to fill the ice reservoirs in the soda machines, so I was filling buckets with ice when he poked his head in the side room the ice maker chest was in. I had promised to bring a picture of Cora for him to see after she was born, and he was bubbling over with excitement. And of course, he didn’t understand what the term “stillborn” meant, so I had to explain to him that she died. And he started crying. And he hugged me and we just sobbed. His caretaker (I never did know if it was his brother or someone who was hired to care for him) was, of course, shocked and embarrassed until I explained. But that grief was too much for me. I had to lock myself in the restroom and cry for 15 minutes before I could get ahold of myself.
So when another job opportunity fell into my lap, I jumped on it. I needed to get away. I just could not move on when I had to keep explaining over and over and over that no, I didn’t have a baby at home.
In a way, I started my life over. I still kept in contact with a few of my friends I’d made over the course of that year, but mostly I was dealing with a completely separate group of people on a daily basis. People who didn’t look at me with pity in their eyes every time our eyes met. People to whom my loss was abstract, if they knew about it at all, because they didn’t *see* me pregnant or even feel my baby move.
Being around different people, doing different things every day, making my life not a constant reminder of being pregnant with Cora helped pull me out of the darkness, I think. I wasn’t going to go back to what I was before because my life was so different in so many other aspects as well.
I still get frustrated today, though, that people don’t understand that part of me isn’t ever going to go away. I have 3 living children now, and many people just expect me to be “better.” But I will always miss Cora, because she’s my daughter. A mother’s love for a child doesn’t require that child ever being seen, or known, or held while alive. A mother’s love just is, and it doesn’t go away. So my grief for her doesn’t either. I’ve come to a place of peace in my grief, and I wish that others could accept that I could be at peace and still be grieving, and not have something be “wrong.”