I have a hole right in my center. Right in the place where a baby grew until 21 weeks. My baby. Juno. Right until she and I were torn apart. Our souls separated. And the hole: It has a life of its own. Growing and shrinking through the day. Sometimes, when I’m snuggling in bed between the my kids reading a book or watching their sleeping faces it shrinks to a pin hole. Like a little star ripped in my skin. The light shining through. Just a little empty right in the center of so much fullness and richness. And sometimes the hole is all I am. It grows out and out and expands until I disappear and all I am is the lack, the empty, the loss, the grief. I’m not allowed to fall apart. People need me. So I dance in the kitchen after everyone has gone to bed, wild and forceful to all the sad music I’ve ever loved. Tears flowing down my cheeks, I shake my hair and my head hard. Try to find a moment of oblivion. But I do it with headphones so as not to wake the kids. I only have a tiny space for all this sadness. I need to fit it in on the days they are both at school. To be needed is wonderful. It forces my feet to move, my hands to wash, my body up out of bed. To be needed can feel like being ripped apart trying to keep it all together. Like two people trying to share one body. Or one person and one empty hole. Inky black and nothing to fill it.
I spend all my alone time lately planning a trip to Disneyland for this summer. I read advice about how to fit in the most rides. I watch youtube videos. I look at picture after picture of beautiful blank hotel rooms. Pictures of the beach. I can hear the sound of the ocean. Wiping it all away. I look for a place so beautiful that no pain could live there. A place to hide. When I arrive, only a plane ride away, I will be free of this crushing weight. I will be the person I was before. And so I plan. Maps of our drive, pick the perfect rental car. I’m doing it. I’m taking care of the kids. I’m getting us out of here and to a place where I can be the mom they need again. Where I can watch them play with their baby dolls without choking back sobs. Where I can smile and laugh easily. They deserve it all. My two kids. My two living kids I can’t help but add from that dark place in my mind.
Slowly, I know it will start to be easier. The waves of sadness have more space between them. I rode my bike today and I smiled at the wind in my hair and the sun on my skin and I felt happy. My little three year old told me everything he knows about clouds and we had a picnic under a tree and I felt happy. And yet I just can’t seem to shake that feeling that I’m missing a person. That there should be one more soul in our little house.
A few weeks ago, we planned a memorial for our baby. We went camping on a lake and waited for the sun to go down. We filled water lanterns with fresh wildflowers. Trimming the stems and placing them carefully into each one. Hugo wants the yellow. Nola the blue. They are beautiful flowers. They look like they belong in a wicker basket. Fresh from some farmer’s market. The lanterns are made with a waxy looking white paper, translucent and delicate. In red we have written letters. “Dear Juno Pearl. I love you forever. Love your big sister.” They draw pictures of who they still call, “the new baby.” I write a letter. Filled with my grief. Filled with my longing. My whole body seems to cry out for you. My arms ache for you. My belly like a hollow drum. Sometimes, I still think I can feel the little kicks. Like a shadow, a ghostly bump. We wade into the cool water, sandy with sharp rocks and we each speak out to you as the sun sets. The edge of a peninsula with the trees all around us and a goose circling in a wide arc. The water like steel ripples as it moves and the lanterns are rested upon the water and floating away. Shane lights sparklers for the kids and they hold them up and solemnly say, “Goodbye baby Juno Pearl.”
At the last minute, I can’t bear to let the lanterns float away unprotected. Can’t bear the thought of someone finding them and Shane wades out and starts them on fire. I imagine the words going up with the smoke. Can you feel us? Our love? Our anguish? How we wished for you and how we don’t know how to release you. I stand in the water a long time. Watching what remains of the bottom of the lanterns floating away, covered with the shadow of flowers. Their color imperceptible in the low light. Goodbye my baby. Until I see you again. I have a dream of myself an old lady, dying in bed and as I fade I open my new eyes to your face. Not a baby but a grown woman. I see you perfect and smiling. Will you take my hand? Will you guide me onto the next room where you have already been? I hope you can still hear me now, knocking on the wall between us. Just like the little kicks I miss against the back of my navel. Knocking around on my ribs. Calling out your name with my heart. Saying goodbye but still holding on. My child, my daughter. I miss you. I love you.
Someone asked me a question that has been in my mind the past month. What is my daughter’s legacy? I make a list of all the gifts she has given me. She has taught me about accepting help. The absolute humility of opening to generosity from others. She has made the river of stories of loss flow from families all around me. Generously sharing with me their pain and their grief. Reaching their arms out to me and helping me feel less alone. She has pushed me closer. To my own mother. To my mother-in-law. To my husband. To my friends. To what is essential and true. She has pressed our family inwards. Made us aware of the love we share. In loving her, in grieving her, we are as one. Most of all, she has given me gratitude. I stare into the faces of my children. The lines of their lips, their jumps and runs, steps and gallops and I am in awe of them. She gave me new eyes. She remade my heart to see what I have taken for granted. Most of all, she gave me the chance to know her soul. To be her mom. Even in the short time we were given. I will always be grateful for that. For her bright, sweet light.
Featured Image: Aneta Hayne