It has come as a great surprise to me, and probably to others how much harder my sadness has felt with the holidays over and past. Of course my heart ached during the Christmas holiday with the missing presence of my two beautiful girls. I did most of my shopping online to avoid being around the crowds, but when I did head out to grab a few gifts, I would find myself wandering through the toy aisles wondering what I would be picking out for Charlotte and Maggie, or what their Christmas dresses would have looked like. But true to form I was able to bundle those feelings up and push them down and focus on making the holiday special for Sophie, and spreading as much Joy as I could humanly spread.
Christmas came and went, quickly the decorations came down, and then it was this overwhelming feeling of "now what". It hit me like a running in to a brick wall, the quiet of the house once Sophie was back at school (a time I often cherish) reminds me that this wasn't what we had planned - by now we should have had a baby in the house, filling the rooms with laughs, coos, and cries. I planned on being exhausted from feedings throughout the night, not because I cannot sleep being haunted by nightmares and sadness. Just as quickly as we packed up the Christmas stuff, we packed up the baby stuff we had pulled out of storage in preparation for Maggie. I couldn't look at the boxes filled with toys and equipment every time I pulled in the garage anymore. I have shoved the items that were special for her into drawers, tags still on, knowing the love that went into picking them out. My heart could not take seeing them, but I needed them close, to look at if I want and try and remember what hopes and dreams felt like.
I know that I don't often look it, I am incredibly good at faking it, but I cannot describe how I feel other than an empty soul going through the motions. I can laugh on cue, smile, tell funny stories, be apart of social situations, but in the background of my mind I constantly am thinking I have two dead children, two angels in Heaven, to precious parts of me I cannot physically hug and kiss. I irrationally panic sometimes thinking about their ashes buried at the church. I know it is a physical part of them that their soul is glorified in Heaven, a Heaven even I cannot fully appreciate the splendor, but I find myself wanting to claw open the their resting place, want to cover it with blankets, to protect it from the cold, the rain, the snow...because that is what mothers are supposed to do, protect their babies. It is never lost on me every time I drop Sophie off at school and I watch kids pile out of the cars that two of my babies will never pile out of my car and head joyfully into school, instead they are buried mere feet away, and their lives are only what I imagine they could have been.
In January with Sophie's approval we made the decision to move her room to where the nursery was and was supposed to continue to be. It just made sense, the room is bigger, the closet is bigger and I think we all needed a little change. I then set to work on repainting the room that used to be Sophie's. I carried on with the colors that I had planned for Maggie, much of the stuff already purchased just not put to use. It is now I guess our "quiet" room. I positioned the rocking chair so I can watch the sun set at night. Winter sunrises and sunsets are the best, I often feel as though it is the girls giving me a glimpse of Heaven so that I know they are ok. I get a sense of peace when I walk in but also am often overwhelmed with a wave of sadness for what could have been, for our dreams pulled out from under us not once, but twice.
My grief is complicated. Intertwined. I grieve the life that Charlotte never had, I grieve the life she won't get to continue, I grieve our infertility, I grieve the sudden loss of Maggie, never getting a chance to hold her in my arms alive. I also feel also feel an immense sense of guilt for my grief, knowing that they whole in Heaven in such a glorious place. How could I be so selfish and want them back from such a glorious place. But when I shared this with our priest, he reminded me how Mary weeped at the cross of Jesus when he died, how her heart was filled with sorrow even with knowing that this is how his life was to be. So I do find comfort in Mary, another mother, the greatest of mothers, for she too knows the suffering, weeping heart of a mother who has watched their child die.
My grief is also complicated because it is cluttered. It is both physically and emotionally cluttered. When Charlotte was born our lives ceased to exist as we had known. For the entire two years of her life we grieved the fact that she would not experience a typical life, we also physically stopped being able to manage our home as we used to be able to. We lived out of a hospital for over half of her life, decluttering and putting things away in their proper places ended the second she was born. It was something we didn't have the time or energy for. Then she passed away and things continued to get shoved in rooms, in closets. I wanted to hold on to every single thing that touched her, that was apart of her. Six months after she passed away we started infertility treatments which lasted for a year - no time then to keep things in order. Then we got pregnant with Maggie. The pregnancy took a huge toll on my body with all day morning sickness and my autoimmune disease flaring pain more than it ever has. Then Maggie died. In January I looked around at all the clutter of the last horrific years that filled our house. I decided that I no longer wanted to hold on to the things that surrounded me with bad memories. We have so many happy memories with both Charlotte and Maggie - pictures, ultrasound pictures, trips (I mean Maggie technically got to go to Disneyland since I was 3 months pregnant with her). I didn't need to save the catheter cap, every medicine cap I found, the things that reminded me of the suffering Charlotte endured, nor the things that triggered memories of the night Maggie died - I mean there are enough things in my life that trigger memories and panic attacks from that night, I don't need physical things to also remind me. And so has begun the great decluttering of our household. I know, I know this is all the trend now with the Netflix show recently airing this year - but she really does have something right. I mean looking at the calendar of nurses from Charlotte's last week at home doesn't make me think of our wonderful nurses we had, it reminds me how sick Charlotte was needing twenty four hour nursing care. The rugs in the bathroom you wouldn't think bring Joy, which I would argue they don't, but every time I looked at them I relived the first feelings of losing consciousness when the abruption started - so out they have gone. I haven't been able to go through of all the thing I have from Charlotte, Maggie, and my Dad - it is too overwhelming and takes my breath away, but for now they are in "special boxes" to sit and sort someday when my heart is ready. Putting them in the boxes tore at my heart too much to take on this task.
And so, I guess it is no wonder that January has been a hard month, it is time that I face the reality of my losses, the season of loss actually that started when my dad passed away, and continued with losing both Charlotte and Maggie. And still continues on after having what I have already known to be true solidified, it is no longer safe for me to carry my own child. The risks are too great to me and to any baby that might be conceived. A loss in itself, because as much as the pregnancy dismantled my body, it is something that I cherished and to know I will never feel the kick, twist, or turn of part of me inside of me is heartbreaking.
In addition to working through the accumulation of physical clutter, I am working on tackling the emotional clutter that has built up for the past five years. I am working hard to accept and be ok with the life that we have been given and currently have. Trying to work on believing that my worth in motherhood is not measured on the number of living children that I have, that I can be me. A cluttered me filled with grief, a weeping heart, the weight of sadness, but also be filled with joy, with grace, with gratitude, and with hope for the future that we have to live.
I think in all of this, I have begun to feel that Charlotte was sent to this Earth to change the world, and Maggie, well Maggie she was sent to this world to change me. While I am never meant to understand why my flesh and blood had to die to in order for these lessons to be learned, I know that they are lessons worth embracing and I embrace them with love, the love of a mother that knows no bounds and can love their children even when they cannot physically express that love to them in the flesh.
So I think you can see why my grief is so complicated - it is a time of great sadness where I miss my girls fiercely, and it is a time of rebirth, rediscovery, and redefining me. The me I was always supposed to be. Don't expect a great awakening anytime soon - this work is hard, exhausting, and will take time. For now I take comfort in Joy in my life that is a constant reminder of what I have despite what I am missing, and the Grace bestowed upon me as I work to figure out the purpose of me.