Ben and I purchased our first home last March. We were ready for more space, a quiet street, a yard, and a child to share it all with. Our house was a bit of a fixer upper. It didn’t require anything major…well, unless you call a new boiler and a bathroom renovation major. But other than that, it just needed some TLC.
Our plan was to get most of the main level done before our first baby arrived. It was March, there were no signs of a baby yet so we had plenty of time. Then July rolled around. We celebrated our 5 year anniversary and a few days later found out we were being blessed with the best gift ever…our baby, Elliot. It was time to really get moving on the rest of those projects.
My favorite project was the nursery. Big surprise, right? My goal was to create the most peaceful environment possible, not only in the nursery but throughout the entire house. I was so excited to put the final touches on the nursery in the weeks leading up to our due date. The only thing missing was our happy baby girl. It was just a matter of time though. Soon enough she would be there with us. In the evenings Ben and I would sit in her room, read aloud to her, and talk about all the things the three of us would do together. I would also go in the nursery during the day to peek in the drawers and closet. I loved looking at her clothes, shoes, soothies, blankets, and even her diapers. I still go into her nursery to look at everything, but with a new set of eyes.
After spending what seemed like the longest four days of my life in the hospital, it was time to leave. I was terrified to go home. But I also didn’t want to go anywhere else. When we arrived home there were newly planted pansies waiting for us in our front garden, courtesy of our mothers. It was nice to see some color on an otherwise dark, gloomy day. We pulled into the driveway and sat there for a few minutes, silently staring at the house. We weren’t sure if we were ready to be there, just the two of us. I was still in a haze. It still seemed like an awful dream. Soon I’d wake up and everything would be okay again. Elliot would still be dancing around in my belly. We’d still be together, the three of us. I don’t know how many times I tried to convince myself of that untruth.
Finally, we made our way into the house. It was so quiet. I didn’t know how we could live in a house that once held all of our hopes and dreams, a house that so quickly became a painful reminder of what was not really meant to be. Once we got settled I realized many of our memories of Elliot live in our house. In that moment, I made an agreement with myself; I will never live anywhere else because Elliot’s memory is alive in our house.
At first it was difficult to leave the house for long periods of time. I felt so far away from Elliot when I went out. On Easter we left to visit family. I remember feeling anxious for most of the day. I was too far away from my comfort zone. When we were driving home I finally reached my breaking point. I just couldn’t handle being away any longer. I sobbed as we made those last few turns and pulled up in front of the house. My relief was in the house, in Elliot’s room. The anxiety faded over time. Slowly I was able to take longer trips away from home and not feel so uneasy about it.
When Elliot first passed away, our house was decorated with sympathy cards, letters, and flowers. It was hard having the constant reminder that Elliot had really died. But still, I hated being away from it all. Even though we were incessantly reminded that she was gone, we were also reminded that she existed. That reminder trumps all others.
Now our house is decorated with photos of Elliot and other remembrance items. Elliot’s nursery remains unchanged, and will stay that way for quite a while. We are in no rush to put any of her things away. It is still her room. It is perfect for a little girl. Not just any little girl. It is perfect for Elliot. We’ve never once closed the door to her nursery. Seeing the door closed seems so much worse than facing the pain of having an “empty” room. We feel closer to Elliot when we’re in her room, so it isn’t truly empty, not to us at least.
Even though we feel Elliot around us all the time, we also feel her absence. I used to love waking up to a quiet house. But now it just makes every part of me hurt. Most mornings I am awake and out of bed first. I get up, go into Elliot’s room to say good morning and open her curtains. Then I make my way out to the kitchen. I often find myself stuck in front of the coffee maker, blinded by tears. I should be trying to quickly make the coffee before Elliot wakes up. She should be asleep in her crib, or snuggled up with her daddy in bed. I imagine how sweet that would be, the two of them cozy under the blankets. But then I am brought back to reality. The house that I love so dearly and never want to leave, is also the house that will always remind me of what should have been.