I didn’t start off on the greatest foot this morning. I somehow managed to hairspray my left eye instead of my hair. It stung a little, but my eyelashes looked amazing the rest of the day.
It’s little, absentminded things I find creeping into my days making me wonder if it’s a subconscious level of emotional protection. April is just around the corner and I still haven’t quite decided how I feel about it. Or if I want to.
When we lost Harlynn, I developed a love/hate relationship with April. That relationship never resolved. I loved and hated how every Wednesday for the remainder of the month, it would snow, just like the Wednesday I delivered her in the hospital room. The white, fluffy flakes silently falling and covering the ground were delicate, yet painful reminders of the life that was supposed to be, but had silently slipped away.
The hope of spring and of new life was met with tumultuous grief and mourning. New life, new growth, and the robin’s songs were traded for death, continuous tears, and sounds of a mother’s and father’s wailing.
On what would have been Harlynn’s first birthday, we had arranged to spread love and kindness in her memory. We also planned a cake-smash photo shoot as a family, since she never had the chance to do one herself. Instead, I was in the hospital again, drugged up on magnesium trying to stop the premature delivery of Little Man.
I don’t remember much of that hospital stay, other than the look on my doctor’s face when she realized his premature labor was coinciding with Harlynn’s day, and the incredible placement (by God) of our incredible nurse, who was also a loss mom. I couldn’t have made it through those days – or even the weeks ahead – without her care and empathy.
Since Harlynn’s first birthday went nothing like we had planned, and since I was moaning in pain and incoherent for most of it, I didn’t have a chance to experience it, grieve through it, or process it, even. My focus only intensified on getting Little Man into this world safely, and alive.
He was born, two weeks later, on the two-year anniversary of Grandma Lena’s passing. Grandma Lena was Brent’s grandma by blood, and my grandma by every other measure. We both loved her so much, and to have Little Man born on the day that marked her passing was bittersweet.
Last year was especially hard on me. With not having the ability or opportunity to process or cope with the first anniversary of Harlynn’s death, last year was two year’s worth of processing rolled into a matter of a few hours. I stayed up until (and then well past) 12:16 a.m., the time of her delivery. I remembered every single detail as best I could. Her weight upon my chest. Her head of hair. Her daddy holding her, longing and outright willing life back into her lungs.
All of the images, the memories, the emotions – joy, pain, sorrow, hope, ache, despair, redemption – flooded over me. I walked into the hallway in the middle of the night, put my hand on her picture on the wall, and wept. I rested my head against the frame and let my tears salt my cheeks as my shoulders shook against the wall. I was a wreck for a few days, holed up in grief and solitude while I tried to work through how any mother is supposed to function as normal when all of her children aren’t with her.
This year, I’m still not sure how I feel about April. For that matter, I’m still not sure how I feel about bereavement. I still, three years later, don’t understand how to be a mother in two different places at once. Here on earth for my living children, and with Harlynn in spirit.
There are some moments – some triggers – that take me right back to a particular feeling or experience in those first few moments and days after she died. There are other times I feel too far removed from those moments. I don’t live in the past, but I don’t reject any opportunity to remember as much as I can about those too few precious moments we got to spend with her.
I miss her intensely. Every moment of every day. My heart flutters every time her big sister mentions her name. I wonder how her little brother will know her as part of our family as he grows older and understands more.
I wonder if I’m changed for the better, or if the changes I’ve experienced since losing her are simply scars of my suffering. Have I grown at all? Has beauty risen from ashes with anything I’ve done since losing her?
When people see me, do they see any semblance of Val? Or do they only see the woman whose baby died?
I don’t have any answers. Three years later, I’m no more knowledgeable of my circumstance or my situation than I was the moment we learned what had happened. I do have more questions. I’m always asking questions.
But through asking the questions I find I’m piecing together a new picture. I’m using the same puzzle pieces, but they fit together entirely differently now. The picture has changed. It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s simply a different picture.
I still don’t know how I feel about April. Regardless, however, I can’t seem to stop these April showers of my tears.