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Two-month old Hannah with her monster lovey.

Two-month old Hannah with her monster lovey.

Time is very strange. The days go by fast, but the weeks go by slowly. And then all of the sudden, I look up at the calendar and realize that Hannah will be two months old tomorrow.

It seems like it has taken ages for her to be two months old. But at the same time, it seems like only yesterday she was just one month old. It’s very peculiar.

She’s smiling a lot now, but she never seems to do it when I’ve got a camera in hand. She smiles at me and Geordie and especially at the hot-air balloons that my best friend Heather crocheted (or knit? honestly, I can’t tell the difference; sorry, Heather!). She loves those balloons. But most of the time, she has a serious-baby look on her face, like she’s not sure what’s going on but she’s going to do her best to figure it out.

She tolerates tummy time but isn’t thrilled with it. She gets frustrated when she can’t move the way she wants to, but she can move her head back and forth, and she’s successfully held it up for several seconds. On her back, she’s started throwing herself around a bit in attempts to turn herself up on her side. She’s very nearly got the hang of that, and it’s likely only a matter of days before she can do it whenever she wants.

Yesterday, she seemed to discover that her hands actually belong to her. She spent several minutes staring at them last night. She’s been rubbing her eyes when she’s sleepy. She hasn’t reached out to grab anything yet, but today she voluntarily clutched at my hand while we settling down for a bottle.

Her next doctor’s appointment is on Tuesday. I’m looking forward to seeing how she’s grown and how well she’s doing. I’m not looking forward to the shots. She’s not a very fussy baby, and she seems to take little injuries in stride (like when she scratches herself with her fingernails or when she face-plants the floor while trying to move her head around), but they’re so minor compared to shots. I have no idea how she’s going to react.

She sleeps in four-to-five hour stretches at night. Sometimes, she goes down easy. Sometimes, she doesn’t. As babies do. Some days, she naps well. Others, not so much. She’s fairly easy to entertain during the day, but in the evening, she wants more attention. Again, as babies do. She seems a very normal child.

Is it that normality that makes her so exceptional to me? I look at her sometimes and think, I have a daughter. A living, breathing daughter. It’s amazing. She’s amazing. And yet, she’s so normal. How strange.

It’s hard to explain. I don’t quite understand it myself. She’s so normal, so part of the every-day. But her mere existence in our lives is nothing short of miraculous. There were times in these past two years that I thought I would never be sitting here at my computer and every so often turning my head to make sure that my daughter is still sleeping quietly in her cradle. How very odd.

And how very wonderful.

You may have noticed that I do a lot of baking, but that I don’t seem to bake a lot of cookies. In fact, in the past sixteen months, I’ve baked a very limited amount of cookies, and they were all for Christmas or other celebrations. I haven’t really been able to bring myself to bake cookies for anything other than special occasions. It’s a little strange, because I used to bake cookies all the time.

No, actually, it’s not that strange. I have very good reasons for not baking cookies, and it’s only recently that I’ve thought about dealing with my anti-cookie mentality. You see, in addition to not baking them, I don’t eat them much either. But that’s mainly because the only cookies I’ll buy are Girl Scout cookies. And of those, I stick to the Thin Mints. I don’t see much point in buying cookies that I can make better. Except, I’m not making them, am I?

Here’s why: my daughter died.

A lot of my issues go back to that, don’t they? It seems like the perfect hang-up, doesn’t it? But I’ll tell you, this goes beyond mere grief. It goes beyond just feeling bad about not having my daughter with me.

As I said before, I used to bake cookies a lot. I even baked them when I lived in Japan, even though all I had was a tiny convection oven that allowed me to cook about a half-dozen cookies at once. It was okay, because I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed sharing American-style cookies with my students and co-workers. I even made cookies while I was pregnant. It gave me something to do. And while I was baking, I would daydream about the cookies I would bake with my growing child. I thought about all the family recipes I would share with her, about how I would teach her to enjoy cooking and baking, about passing along family traditions and lessons about eating healthy.

I did what so many mothers do: I daydreamed about my child and the experiences we would share. I had so much I wanted to do with her.

The Friday after what turned out to be our final pre-natal check-up, I became increasingly concerned about Lauren’s well-being. I’ve written of this, so many times, and it still hurts me to think of it. I remember those terror-filled days, those hours I spent confused and unsure and powerless, as vividly as though I lived them yesterday. That weekend was the worst of my life, three days of anguish, knowing that something was wrong but not wanting to believe it, not knowing what to do about it.

To keep my mind off my fears, I tried to distract myself by making peanut butter cookies. The process went slowly, much slower than ever. I had to stop periodically to grab tissues and cry out my frustrations. I tried to convince myself that making cookies would lift my spirits; I told myself that these were the last cookies I would make without my daughter as a helper. I imagined the nostalgic role peanut butter cookies would play in my life, the cookies I made before Lauren’s arrival. I imagined that she would be especially fond of these cookies.

I baked a dozen of them before I gave up, turned off the oven, stuck the rest of the batter in our tiny fridge, and crawled into bed to cry myself to sleep. The batter remained untouched all the rest of the weekend and on into the week. It was still sitting in the fridge while I was giving birth to my dead daughter, and it was still in the fridge when we came home with empty arms. My mother threw it away; I couldn’t even bear to touch the bowl.

Since then, I haven’t been able to look at a peanut butter cookie without feeling that hitch in my chest, that scratching my nose that is the warning sign of uncontrollable crying. I doubt very much I will ever eat one again. I certainly have no desire to.

Even now, nearly sixteen months later, I find if difficult to enjoy baking cookies. I manage at Christmas because they’re familiar traditions, and in the context of the holidays, they’re comforting in a way. But the making of them is not always enjoyable. The cupcakes I bake have no connection to Lauren when she was alive – they are monuments of my grief for her, separate from her memory – but cookies are like little mementos, reminders of what I had in my grasp, only to have it taken when I wanted it most.

Two weeks ago, I tried making lemon sugar cookies, and they failed miserably. They were not the soft and puffy cookies I had hoped for (and that were pictured along with the recipe); they were flat and crispy, quickly toughening up into a hard-to-chew disc of disappointment. Rather a fitting metaphor, I thought.

In another two weeks, the Tuesday with Dorie assignment will be cookies. I haven’t decided if I’m going to make them or not. Part of me wants to skip them, to not put myself through the trouble of it all. But another part of me wants to try them, to not give up on cookies yet. After all, these will be something I’ve not done before – like the cupcakes, they would be part of the healing process. That might make them worth the effort. Healing is part of grief. I know I will have to make cookies again sooner or later; I cannot live a life of avoidance, especially when it’s something as simple as a cookie.

Ah, but that’s just it. For me, there’s no such thing as a “simple cookie” any longer. And maybe not for a long time.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Not long ago at Glow in the Woods, a contributor offered up this question: Does life after the death of your child or children feel like water rushing past you? Or rather, do you feel swept away with life? Do you feel untethered, or grounded?

I’ve thought a lot about this question. Not because it’s difficult to answer but because of the answer. Emphatically: water rushing past me. Like I’m standing in a river, and I’m breaking the flow. Like everything is just sailing along by.

I wouldn’t say grounded exactly. That’s something else, something I don’t really feel. There’s a disconnect between me and the rest of the world sometimes. The best way to explain it is to use the river comparison. I’m standing in the river, but the tide has no effect on me. It doesn’t push me down or carry me along with it, but I don’t disrupt the flow either. Everything keeps on going without me.

As individualized as grief can be, it never surprises me that the babylost often experience similar feelings. I’m sure anyone who has lost someone vital to their lives has felt as I do, watching people as they go on with their daily existence and thinking, how can they keep going? How can life continue for others when I feel it crumbling all around me? How can they not realize that nothing is as it should be?

Human beings personalize things. When our worlds crumble, we look at others and marvel at their ability to go happily through life. We forget that, once upon a time, we could do that too. We forgot that we once lived a life without loss touching us with its cold, lifeless fingers. Now, wrapped up in its grip as we are, we don’t remember how it feels to be carefree and innocent.

I’ve never felt the jealousy that others of the babylost have expressed. That’s okay. And it’s okay that they have those feelings. But when I look at a woman with her baby, I feel no stab of envy. I wish Lauren was with me, yes, but at the same time, I’m glad this woman has her child. I can’t begrudge her that. I can’t feel angry that her child lived while mine died. I can’t feel anything but happiness that her baby lived, because it could have died. Had but one thing gone wrong, she would know what grief was. And I don’t wish that upon anyone.

So, yes, I sit and watch the world go by me, and I often feel as though it’s all apart from me, that I am a mere spectre, unable to touch the living who are unable to touch me.

But to be honest, I’ve felt like that even before Lauren died. Not always, and not so deeply as I feel it now, but this feeling of standing still as life flows around me is a familiar one. Perhaps that’s why I’ve adapted to it so well. Perhaps that’s why I can understand why people look at and through me and don’t even pause, because my grief is not their grief. And I’m glad for that.

In that post at Glow, the contributor likens grief to a glass building, but for me, it’s a sand dune. Not exactly a building, but it’s how it seems to me. Think of life as a great, sandy beach, with the water of life ebbing and flowing over it, sometimes destructive, other times creative. Grief builds itself into a dune, and with time, it will grow bigger or smaller, depending. It may rise up and engulf you. Or perhaps it will blow away with the winds of time, the sand distributed across the beach, leaving you to embrace life again.

But even so, it’s still there. It will always be there. No matter how strewn, how unformed it becomes, the grief will always be there. What we learn to do is tamp it back into place and smooth it over and know that it’s still there but that we can deal with it when it rises back out of the sand and forms dunes again.

Sara

I am a daughter and a sister, a wife and a friend. I am a reader and a writer, a dreamer and a realist, a teacher and a learner. I am the mother of a baby born sleeping. I am on a journey of healing, walking a path paved with tears and grief and hope.

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