I often think about the “old” me vs. the “new” me. I have changed in so many ways since giving birth to my daughter at the end of March. I was so happy when I found out I was pregnant. I knew my life was about to change and there was no going back. I was ready. Without hesitation, I said goodbye to my former life, the even older version of me. I had waited so long for this new life. It included a child and more love than I ever imagined. A new me was about to emerge.
I was excited and scared at the same time. Another human being had just started growing inside my body. I read about the physical changes a woman goes through during pregnancy. I didn’t know if I could handle it. Of course I can! This is what my body is meant to do. That’s what I told myself and it made me feel better. I believed in my body. I trusted it.
My daughter lived in my womb for 41 weeks. I had the occasional nausea, sleepless nights due to heartburn and the constant need to pee, and severe hip flexor pain toward the end. But those things didn’t bother me. It was all for my daughter, so I didn’t mind any of it. I just dealt with it and reminded myself during those bouts of pain and discomfort that it wouldn’t last forever.
…it wouldn’t last forever. Those words haunt me now.
The emotional side of pregnancy and motherhood is what scared me the most. I was going to share my life with a new person. For so long it was my husband and me. I knew that dynamic. I knew how to be a wife. Now I had to learn how to be a mother. I wanted to do right by my child. I knew I would always have the best intentions for her, but would things turn out the way I wanted them to? The fact that I couldn’t answer that question scared me even more, but I was ready to try. I was ready to give everything I had to my unborn child.
Even though I had changed so much throughout my pregnancy, I knew I would change even more the day I saw my little girl’s face. If someone had told me a year ago, or even 5 months ago, just how different my life would be, I would not have believed them. My daughter would not survive, even at 41 weeks and 1 day, and I would be completely broken? No, not in a million years could I have imagined my life as it is now. I changed the day I found out my daughter died. I changed again when I held her in my arms. For better or worse, I am a different person now. But I am far from the woman I longed to become.
When Elliot died, I was stripped down and torn to pieces. I am in the process of putting myself back together. The old me was happy, carefree but also cautious, optimistic, hopeful, whole. I loved life and was excited about all it had to offer. The new me is trying to retain some of those qualities.
I am learning how to be happy again. Slowly but surely, I am finding the beauty in life again. I am trying to hang on to hope. There is a tiny thread with hope on the end. If you glance too quickly, you may not see it. But it’s there. On my good days, all of these things seem to be within reach. I don’t know if I will ever be able to say that I love life again, but I know I can love parts of it.
Then there are the other days, when I am angry and too scared to let happiness back in. I sometimes wonder how I could possibly be happy without Elliot in my arms. On those days, I am also afraid of hope.
I don’t want to get my hopes up, only to have them shattered to pieces again. Not when I know how quickly a young, innocent life can end without warning. I don’t know if I can trust my body again. I am scared. I think I will always be scared. Even if I am lucky enough to bring home a live baby someday, I will still be scared. I will always wonder how long until this child is taken from me.
Even though Elliot is not here physically, I feel her spiritual presence around me. I draw a lot of my strength from her. It is because of her that I am able to continue moving. On the good days and the bad days, she’s there with me, cheering me on or helping me up off the ground. I know I can always count on her to get me through the hard times. I know she smiles with me through the good times. She reminds me that it is okay to find happiness and hope again. My husband, family, and friends have all done the same for me. They have also carried me through this difficult journey. I am not alone in my sorrow. Their grief, support, and strength are things I acknowledge every day. I will always be grateful for them. They too are a very important part of my re-construction.
With all of the difficult life lessons I have learned through my experience, the one that has affected me the most, the one I know I will carry with me forever, is that true, unconditional love really does exist. Yes, my daughter died before she was born, but she is still my little girl. My love for her is as fierce and intense as it would have been had she lived. The new me knows a love the old me didn’t.
I know I will never feel whole again. I will love all my children, living or dead, just the same. But no matter how many living children I end up with, if I am lucky enough to have any, at least one will always be missing. My Elliot. Because she is not in my arms, there will always be a huge gaping hole in my heart. That damage can never be undone, no matter how hard I try to fix it. That’s what her absence has done to me. But Elliot herself, her life, her existence…she has filled my heart with love. That is the best gift a child can ever give her mother.
Shared on September 16, 2015