‘First, you have to go through the first year’, they said to us. The first year wherein you have to do everything for the first time without your little one. Birthdays, holidays, Christmas, all these special occasions and celebrations. And after that: the second year. Then it will be different again. Still hard, but different.
We nodded, not understanding what they meant exactly. And we went on and did it. We lived through the first year. My own birthday was the first birthday after her death, with empty tummy and salty tears. Many birthdays and celebrations followed and now soon it will be hér time to have her birthday.
When we were confronted with the death of our baby girl, we were taken to the hospital’s social worker. ‘You need to call yourself in sick’, she said, ‘and you need to call the schools to tell what happened’. We sat there, dazed, amazed, thunderstruck. We absolutely did not realize how far reaching her death would be for us and to be honest, I thought it would get better soon.
I thought we just needed to grin and bear it. It is terrible, but life goes one. Life always goes on. That is what I expected. Or better: what I thought should happen. You just have to go trough it and then that’s it. But that did not happen. The soul of a human being is so much deeper, more complicated and unfathomable than I understood at that time.
Somewhere somehow in the past weeks, I started to count down, without realizing it. We started to live towards Amanda’s first birthday. One year ago tomorrow, we heard that she did not grow well. We were referred to the hospital where we heard that the situation was worrisome. One year ago tomorrow I started to really slow down.
Me. Slowing down. Me. These two don’t go well together. Even the burnout in the previous year before getting pregnant, had not made me really slow down. Even then I could not let go, let things be.
But now someone else’s life was at stake. I realized I would never forgive myself if, because of my busyness my child would be in danger, so I stopped. I took rest. I enjoyed being pregnant, feeling the little kicks and even expanding. I invited my kids and my Love to join, helped them to feel the signs of new life inside of me. These moments appeared later to be last weeks of her life and have taught me to leave housekeeping for what it was, to accept that a family of six is just messy and dusty. It taught me to pray ‘bless this mess’ even more.
It all happened such a short time ago, it seems. It is so deeply imprinted in my memory, that I almost can’t imagine that it is already nearly eleven months ago that she was born still, as they say. Stillborn, that sounds less harsh then the Dutch word ‘doodgeboren’ (‘deathborn’).
She was born still. So still. But I don’t think about that now. In my mind I have not yet arrived on her day of birth. I am currently in the days before that happened, when she was still making herself known by small kicks in my belly. The time that I thankfully made time to feel her and cherish her, not knowing that these would be my only chances to do that. And so I am counting down until the day that she was born.
First published in Dutch on February 18, 2018