I asked my husband to write out his account of losing Chiara two years ago. I wanted to confirm my version of events, see what might be different, and wanted to be sure not to lose a single detail of our time with her. It was very hard for him to write her story. He carried a notebook in his bag for two years, to and from work, on vacation, every day, but he just couldn't write it down. Last week, on Chiara's second birthday, he furnished this poem he wrote, describing her birth. It brings tears every time I read it, but it's so beautiful, and it captures the moment perfectly.
Thank you, my Love. We'll forever share this memory of our dear daughter. It is my saddest moment, and while I would prefer instead that we welcomed her living and breathing and full of the promise of a beautiful life ahead, I am so grateful to have shared the sacred moments of her birth with you, to have made her with you, parented her with you (however briefly), and to mourn her with you. It is a privilege. Thank you for the gift of this poem.
Surrounded and yet
never more alone in our pain and fear
on the day we met you
and said goodbye.
From your hidden ocean world into ours
you came, like a human heart laid bare
but without vital rhythm
without a sound
without a breath
without the invisible orbiting hopes and dreams
projected onto children as a promise of our chance to touch the future.
Yours was only the present.
As we held your hands and rocked
and clutched at our chance to hold you and be with you as your parents.
Still, your birthday.
Forever after a day we will honor our loss
as it is all we still have.
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Here we are. Your day, two years later. We call it your birthday, and indeed you were born on this day, the only child I delivered naturally. Born sleeping, some say. Born dead is too hard, too harsh. Born still. Stillborn. Still born.
We waited in the hospital for you to come. I was terrified. What would you look like? What would we do when you came? Would it be physically painful? You came, and there was some pain. And there you were, a tiny, fully-formed baby girl, just so small. Perfect hands, perfect feet. We looked at you together, examined you closely. Held you, sang to you, took pictures of you, kept you with us overnight. You were not beautiful. That is terrible to say, but it is the truth. What is also true is that it did not matter how you looked. It did not matter at all. You were our darling baby girl and our hearts were broken.
I don’t know how we survived those moments, or any of the time since. I know that before we lost you, I had contemplated the death of a baby and thought that it would be impossible to survive. How is it that you are not so broken that you can never be repaired? How do you get up from the couch? Get out from under the blanket? How do you stop the giant tears, quell the voice that repeats, “dead baby, my baby, my baby, my baby…”.
Two years later, I cannot say exactly how we got here. If you saw us out at a restaurant, or walking down the street, you would not know what we’ve been through. You would not see any of the brokenness. We look normal (whatever that is). We look happy. And we are. There is so much happiness, so much joy. Your big and little brothers make every day an adventure and even when I am tired, or exasperated, I try to remember how lucky we are. We are so lucky. How can it be that we lost you, that we ache for you, and yet still feel lucky? Every time I feel it, I want to spit. Lucky? In some ways, yes. In a very big way, no. But maybe that is how we get better: one foot in front of the other and move forward, visit the therapist, the acupuncturist, the support group, the walk to remember, do the dishes, do the laundry, feed the dogs, feed the kids, vacuum, plant flowers, shovel snow, shop for groceries, go to work, exercise, read the blogs, write the blog, sleep, cry, yell, scream, repeat. Repeat over and over and time passes. One year. Now two.
Your baby girl is still gone. She is a memory, kept in a corner of your house, guarded by dragons, stars hung close by, candles, flowers in a little vase. She is a part of your every day, and she is not. Here, and not. Lucky, and not.
I miss you so much, my sweet baby girl. Your Mama, Daddy, and brothers all miss you so. You will never be forgotten.
Monday, August 11, 2014
We’d been packing for two days to leave on vacation. This sounds extreme, but we’re essentially camping. We have to pack everything in and out: food, water, clothes, books, lantern fuel, solar charger, kids, their stuff, life jackets, water toys, dogs, dog food, everything. The cars were packed, banana bread baked, plants watered, fridge cleared out, and I was crossing the last items off the to-do list and the to-pack list. I wandered into the bedroom and saw your blanket, your box, on their shelves next to the bed, and I dissolved into tears: the wet, sobby, moany kind. Two years ago at this time I was likely doing the same things, making the same lists. This was in a different house, in a different town, with you growing in my belly. At that point we knew something might be wrong with you, but not what. We feared we might lose you, feared for your safety, but still believed you would make it. We were doing all we could do: wait to see how you were growing, wait for more information. So we went on vacation, as planned.
Two years later, we have moved house, moved towns, had a new baby, your little brother. You are no longer inside me, but in a tiny bag, on a little shelf, in the northeast corner of our house. There are dragons placed there to protect you, stars to honor you, and flowers to show our love. It is not much for a beloved daughter, but what can we do for you now, but remember and love you? As I packed to leave you were on my mind, and now that it is time to go, I cannot leave you. We are all going: your big and little brothers, your Dad, our dogs, everyone is leaving this house and I cannot leave you alone here. So, I take you out of your urn, put your little bag of ashes into a pink silk bag that used to hold jewelry, put in a red leather heart from your shrine, tuck it all in a zippered make-up bag, and put you in my purse. You’re coming with us.
I see your Dad in the kitchen and collapse into him, “ I couldn’t leave her here. She’s coming with us.” And so you are with us. First on a last trip to the grocery store, then in the boat across to the island, and now on my dresser here. My mind tells me this is a little weird. My heart is simply glad to have what’s left of you close, glad to have us all together in the only way possible for now.