I can't bring myself to say those words out loud. I kind of choke on them. 6 months seems like a weird milestone to mourn. But this also seems a fitting time to share some thoughts about life after loss. (Here's her story if you need a refresher).
The dreaded question
It's really incredible how quickly I can break out in a cold sweat. Often I panic and say "one." It seems to blurt out of my mouth before I can stop it.
It's the easy answer but it's the wrong one. I am a mother of 2. One of those 2 is just really, really easy to take care of right now.
If I do manage to answer "two" I pray they won't ask the natural follow-up question: "How old are they?" Poor souls. I have to tell them the truth, and I wish I could warn them first that things are about to get awkward.
The grief bucket
Then there's grief, Mr. Unpredictable. Grief isn't like I thought at all. I thought I would grieve a lot at first and then gradually just heal and move on, in a tidy linear fashion. It doesn't feel like that. It feels like a bucket that slowly fills up and then spills over in a fresh wave of sadness. In between spills I go about daily life and I lead a happy, full life. Over time the bucket does seem to fill up more slowly, but once it spills over the feelings are just as fresh as day 1.
Known and Unknown
I have to admit there's some fear wrapped up in the question, "What about the next?" After years of infertility and two miracle pregnancies, will I ever be pregnant again? And should I be that lucky, will my baby survive?
I should back up and explain that we chose to have an autopsy done on Sarah (is this too macabre to blog about? I'm a medical person and this is all very natural for me, so my apologies...). She had a condition called "multicystic encephalomalacia". That's a fancy term for extensive damage to the brain from massive oxygen depletion, due to infection or circulatory problems.
Put in plain terms, the most likely scenario is that, sometime during my second trimester, Sarah's cord got kinked or twisted, blocking blood flow for long enough to cause irreversible damage to her brain, but not long enough for her to pass away in utero. She had been perfect at the 20-week ultrasound.
Thus, as far as we know, there's no greater risk of this happening to us again as there is of it happening to anyone.
I'm still nervous.
This is probably an appropriate time to mention something else about Sarah. Her name was Sarah Emily, in honor of Isaac's twin sisters, Sarah and Emily, who passed away as babies. They had a shared blood supply, and due to complications of this, Emily was stillborn and Sarah, similar to our Sarah, had severe brain damage from the lack of blood flow. She lived about 7 months and then passed away as well.
We really felt like Sarah Emily was the right name for our daughter when we picked it after the gender ultrasound. It seemed so redemptive to imagine her living the full life they missed and honoring their memory in that way.
Instead, in one of life's ironies, we watched our Sarah follow a similar path as her sweet aunts. Perhaps this would be an opportunity to let bitterness in. But I see it differently. I think it's fitting that such pure, beautiful spirits as Sarah and Emily would have a namesake equally as pure and beautiful. Isaac's mom says she likes to picture the three of them up in heaven, dear friends, and jumping on beds like teenagers at a slumber party.
Closing the door on bitterness
Despite it all, though, I regard Sarah's life and passing as one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. It was a privilege to be in her presence, to be her mother, to give her life and love her, and then to send her peacefully back home.
That's how I keep the door (mostly) closed.
I used to see other parents losing children with health problems and think it mattered less to lose a "damaged" child than a normal one.
Here's the truth--I loved (and love) Sarah just as much as Mary. It's remarkable, really, since our time together was so short. That beautiful girl wasn't damaged goods. But the gift her health problems gave me was the ability to let go with fewer regrets. On days when I try to imagine life with her here, a chubby, laughing 6-month-old that's sitting up and grabbing my hair and learning to eat solids, I remember she wouldn't be doing those things. I can't wish she were here if it means keeping the body she came in.
I would have never chosen the past 6 months to happen as they did. But I'm forever grateful they happened anyway.