I have a lot of thoughts that keep me up at night. It’s been hard to sleep this year, after losing Lily and then losing Anika after taking so many precautions to keep her safe. I know that the past year has changed me and I know that right now I’m struggling with how to re-integrate myself into a world that I feel so far removed from given how much my life has changed.
At night I fight with the what if’s of my babies, what could I have done differently that could have led to us having a seven month old sleeping in a crib on the other side of the wall, and another still inside my belly right now at 28 weeks gestation, moving all around and growing and kicking and getting ready to meet the world in the new year? I think about my job and how can I find the strength within myself to give my all in that job, where there’s always at least one woman walking the halls with a belly swollen with life, and when I feel so betrayed by my own body? How can I return to the patience and calmness I drew on before to get through the day, when tears and anguish are so often bubbling just below the surface now? I feel like not only has the door to my own motherhood closed, but that I am in a crisis of self and I need to set my life on a new path in a new direction. I got approved for an unpaid leave of absence until September, and so I guess there’s a time limit on figuring out my new path, or if I will be able to return to the old one, and I lie awake at night and wonder if I’m making the right choice, or if there really is such a thing as a right or wrong choice given what David and I have gone through.
I know that common advice after experiencing a tragedy is not to make any life-changing decisions for at least six months after the tragedy occurs, but that just doesn’t seem like great advice to me. Our life has already been changed! David and I are invisible parents. There are reminders every day of the lives that we lost… We lived a lifetime on November 7, 2015, and again on September 17, 2016. But we didn’t just live Lily’s little life or Anika’s, David also lived his life as a dad, and I lived mine as a mom. It’s not the same as losing a sibling or a parent, it’s not the same as losing anyone who has lived their time on this earth and who has gone and seen and done and who told their story in full. It totally changed the path of our lives! And then we had to return to our apartment, to the place where we had been planning to make home for our babies. We had to buy urns instead of cribs. We had to figure out what to do with baby things that will never be used. Ultrasound pictures that had brought joy just days before were packed away because they were too painful to look at. The second bedroom we had planned on filling stays empty except for occasional guests.
We moved to this apartment because it was an affordable way to stay close to family while we raised our kids. Every decision we have made over the past two years was made under the assumption that we would have kids. We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy road, but we assumed that it would work out for us. We always knew that with my issues, we might not be parents and we made a back up plan right when I started fertility treatments that if we didn’t have a baby after three years of trying we’d stop. We would focus our attention and our goals on another dream. David and I both have always wanted to see the world. Both of us got tiny tastes of travel in our twenties, and we have been to Florida, Verginia, and BC already together and have loved those adventures! After two years, and two losses, we are trying to accept that we will from now on be invisible parents, we will always have the holes in our hearts that our daughters left, but why should we have to come home every day for at least six months to a place that is filled with the reminder of the life we planned but cant have? What difference will six months make?
We gave our notice at the end of September. We are leaving this apartment at the end of this month. We have been looking at our stuff and deciding what is worth keeping and what we can sell and what we can give away, and everything that we have sold has helped out friends and family and I know will make them happy. Everything we have given away has felt good to part with and everything that we are keeping means that we won’t be starting from absolute zero when we decide to settle down again.
I find myself awake at night wondering if we’re making a mistake. Wondering if we’re being irresponsible. Wondering if we shouldn’t just go to work and come home and have a roof over our heads and stability… Is it stupid for us to decide to take some time and be nomads, seeing what the world has to offer and figuring out who we are now that we are forever more invisible parents? Should we just pretend that the last two years of fertility treatments and heartbreak never happened? What is the responsible thing for us to do? Should we have waited six months for the dust to settle before making any decisions?
Lily and Anika never got to tell their stories, they never got to go, see and do. Their dad and mom were happy to have our adventure be life in suburban Ontario, with sleepless nights and diapers and potty training and laundry and teething and school and homework and life lessons and scraped knees and broken bones and young love and heartbreak and saying goodbye as they go, see and do. But I don’t think Lily and Anika would want us to just continue going through the motions and coming home to a two bedroom apartment, where one room is kept with the door open but hardly ever someone inside. I think they’d want us to take their memories with us, fold them into our new story and go and see and do in their honour.
I am excited to see the world with David. I am excited to figure out our path together. I am excited that he and I can embark on a new adventure! I know that time will change our grief. I know that we will settle into a new normal. I look forward to that.