Saturday, September 9, 2017

Hard Pills to Swallow

Almost five years have passed. FIVE. Half a decade.

It's been half a decade since I last held you, Luke. Since we last saw your face.

I've been thinking a lot about things that I've gotten the hang of over the past five years. Grief is a constant adjustment. It's always changing and life gets both more complicated and yet more simplified. I know the ropes. I know how it feels to see someone join this community of parents who've lost a baby. I know what to offer them. I have rote responses now for the questions that get asked to every parent everywhere.

"How many kids do you have?" they ask.
"Three," I say.
"Oh, how old are they?"
"My youngest is 18 months, my oldest is almost four, but I also had a son, who was stillborn."

And that usually kills a conversation. Sometimes it doesn't and I make a fast friend. I know I can say the words without crying (at least most of the time) and it makes me proud to be able to mention all of my kids in one statement. I've gotten past the point of caring how it makes the other person feel to talk about death, because my reality will always contain my dead firstborn. It's not something that I get to walk away from, or ever be OK with. He will always be gone. I will never have more memories of him to share with people. You were born, and you were not alive, but you still count as my child.

So I've learned how to swallow most of those pills. Over the past 5 years, I've figured out how to present myself and my circumstances to people. I also know that I can't put you away, Luke. You matter too much to me to tuck away into our past. I need people to know that you existed. That you were wanted and that living without you will always hurt. That a piece of my heart will always be missing. Sharing you, while hard, is my job as your mama. I don't have pictures or stories or baby books filled with your milestones, Luke, but I say your name. That pill is less hard to swallow now, five years out.

But some things still hurt. 

Babies are still named Luke. There will always be some that are the age he should be and I'll meet them over my lifetime. 

Babies are still being born on Luke's birthday.

Snooki has her friggin kid, and he's still alive.

Those are still hard pills to swallow. If there's one thing I understand now, 5 years out, it's that I might be bitter about some things forever. I didn't just lose you as a baby. I lost you being a 5 year old on your first day of school. I lost a little boy who might've played little league or loved karate. I lost a teenager who thinks his mom is the most annoying person in the world. And I lost a grown man who I'd hopefully get to see grow up and be a wonderful person.

I never got to see you grow, Luke. I never even got to see your chest rise and fall with air in your lungs. It was all just taken away.

All of that, but on the flip side, you were the first of the grandchildren born to my family. And now, there are 7 more. That's how much has happened in 5 years. And right now, it's hard to think about how empty our lives were when we lost you. But it's still hard to think about the fact that if you weren't gone, Lena and Lainey wouldn't be here. Our lives have diverged down so many different paths because of what happened to you. And it's brutal and beautiful at the same time.

The sun is lower in the sky--Literally as of this week. For me, it signals your birthday. Five years, sweet boy. At this time 5 years ago, I was in labor and we just wanted to meet you...even if you were already gone.

A death date before a birth date. That's still the hardest pill to swallow.