Friday, July 12, 2013

Five Months

On our mantel above the fireplace we have a bunch of framed family pictures. Some are Kemi and from our dating/engaged days, others are old family pictures of Kemi and I as kids, and some are of Evie or the three of us together. Evie LOVES for us to stand on the hearth holding her while she points to each picture (Beeeeeeee!!!) and demands to be told who is in each photo. And we label each one for her, again and again and again. "Mama and Papa. Grumpy, mama, and auntie when we were little girls. Nana and Uncle Ike and Papa when they were little boys." And down the row we go until everyone is labeled. Among the pictures there is a plaster mold of Celeste's hands and feet from the day she was born. Evie demands to know about this item, too.  "Yes, that's Celeste's hands and feet. That's your sister's."

I read something that Elizabeth Edwards once wrote about losing a child, and she described it as the blackboard of your life being erased. As you go through your life, you tack the little things, and some big things, onto this board of your life. Lifeguarding at the pool, your college acceptance letter, A best friend, meeting your spouse, a really bad haircut...whatever. And the bulletin board of your life fills up with each passing day. And then you lose a child. And in that instant, it's as if someone turned on a giant fan, and all those little scrap pieces of your life fly off that board and fall to the floor and there's nothing. None of it matters in the same way anymore. And that is what makes it so hard to keep going.  You're just paralyzed because you don't know where to start. There's nothing to tack anything else to.  Because comparatively, nothing matters.

Here we are, five months later. May as well be five days. My due date is now passed, and my little girl would be around a month old now.
Lately, when I talk about Celeste in a "surface-y" way, I can handle it. I can tell the story of that night now. I can relay the details the way Kemi can describe a basketball game. Just facts. I can even talk about Celeste on a regular basis. And I do. I love to.  I like to tell Evie about her.  I want Evie to grow up hearing about her sister in Heaven.  

But just because I can relay the details of our loss doesn't make me "better."  There are women who go to our Infant Loss Support Group who lost a child months, and in some cases, years, previous. And some would say that's weird. They should be over it. But I can tell you, you don't get over it. For those of you who have experienced childbirth, you can imagine. You can probably imagine what it must be like to have had those months anticipating finally meeting your child, and then, suddenly, that child is here, in your arms. And you're holding that baby, smelling that perfect baby smell. But in this case, that baby is not nursing, and growing, and thriving. That baby is finding her way toward Heaven. There are a million people in the room and everyone is somber and they keep listening to your child's heartbeat and tell you it's fading. And they tell you you might have an hour left. An hour.  And you feel like you're underwater because you're staring at this perfect and beautiful creation but you know she's leaving you.  You don't recover from that. You get changed forever from that.

So, that's where I'm at.  I am able to tell Celeste's story. And it isn't a burden, it is a joy. I love both my daughters, and I love to talk about both of them.  But if I let myself go beyond telling the "facts" and I start to think about what that felt like, then it's just too much. I can't "go there" unless I want to really really go there and get swallowed by that ocean and tumbled around and spit back out.  Sometimes, if I'm alone, I let it happen.  But I've learned to carefully control it. I think about you always, Celeste, and I miss you.

Please pray for us, St. Celeste. We miss you every second of every day.

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