One month. Zoe should be 1 month old today. I should be putting her in some cute little pose that I would repeat every month for the next 11 months to show how she’s grown. Okay, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t actually be doing that today. I was always at least a week behind in all of the monthly photos of the other kids (J with the dogs and C in a laundry basket) and there’s no reason why this one would be any different. So I’ll amend that to say that I should be *thinking* about how I need to find a cute pose for Zoe to replicate every month for the next 11 months to show how she’s grown.
And it’s a double whammy kind of day. Not only should she be celebrating her first month, but in a few short hours it will be exactly 3 weeks since we let her go.
I was fully expecting today to be a barely-able-to-function kind of day. But it’s not. I’m actually having a good day. Not the same type of good day I had pre-Zoe’s death, but a good day comparatively speaking. The tears I’ve shed have been good tears; healing tears. Not I-can’t-breathe-I-don’t-want-to-live tears. I’m thinking about Zoe with a smile. A sad smile, but a smile nonetheless. And the universe is really putting me to the test today, to see if I’m actually managing to cope. I saw not one but two very pregnant women who already have kids around C’s age today. One at Romp n Roll, a little gym we go to, and another at B&N while he was playing with the train set (can you say obsessed?? I let the kid play uninterrupted for 45 minutes straight and then when I told him it’s time to go he cried and cried and cried. And then during the entire 45 min drive home he just kept doing the sign for “more” and then repeating “choo choo…choo choo…” in the most pathetic voice ever). They both had kids that were within a month of being 2, just like C. This usually isn’t enough to barely contain my tears or leave (like seeing itty bitty babies Zoe’s age does), but it does bring me down a peg or two since all I can think about how that was me just one short month. Before. But not today. Today I was fine. Today I just smiled and wistfully wished for Zoe, wished for a month ago before it all went to shit. And then kept on going.
While we were in the mall “Three Little Birds” came on. I sang the chorus of that song over and over and over again to Zoe on her last day with us. “Don’t worry ’bout a thing, cause every little thing gonna be alright. Singin don’t worry bout a thing, cause every little thing gonna be alright.” And instead of bursting into tears, I smiled my sad smile again and sang it to C, a few tears sliding down my cheeks. My Zoe song. I know I’m reading way too much into it, but I couldn’t help but hope that Zoe sent me that song as a message–because everything little thing is going to be alright.
And then I came home and discovered Zoe’s birth certificate in the mail. We’ve been awaiting it’s arrival so we can take care of the final thing–getting her enrolled in DEERS so we can then disenroll her. So our “million dollar baby” (as we liked to joke about in the hospital) can be covered under our insurance. So we can receive her final gift to us–her life insurance policy. Which we haven’t decided for sure what we’re going to do with yet, but will probably donate it to a charity that helps cure/treat whatever heart condition she ended up having. Which hopefully the autopsy will be able to answer for us. But even opening that up and reading “Certificate of Live Birth for Zoe Lee Delp” and seeing all of the details didn’t send me into a complete tailspin. More sad thoughts, more sad tears and more sad smiles, but I’m still here. Still breathing. Still coping.
I think a lot of my ability to cope with everything today is because of a realization I had on Saturday afternoon. I was at the park with the kids when another family showed up. They had 3 kids, all slightly older than my three. The older girl was probably around 7, the boy about 3 and a little girl probably 1 1/2. Instead of looking at the carbon copy of what my family should be a year down the road and bursting into tears, I smiled. I thought, “That’s not going to be us anymore. And it’s awful and it’s not okay or right, but it is what it is.” And I felt calm and peaceful. Because it’s the truth. Someday we’ll have another kid (or, as I casually dropped into conversation with Jeff last night, 2 more children) and although he/she will never replace Zoe and although the age difference will be more than what I wanted this time around and although things will never be the way they should be, it is what it is. And nothing can change that. No amount of crying or wishing or hoping or dreaming can change the way things turned out. Like one of my BFFs oh-so-wisely pointed out to me, I’ll never be the same person I was before. Just like I wasn’t the same person after Jeff’s deployment as I was before (either time), or after having first J, and then C. This is my new normal. It’s not okay and it’s not right, but it is what it is. It doesn’t explain why it had to happen, why she had to leave this world and not get a chance to live her life, but the why doesn’t matter. Not really. And I can either step it up and be here for the kids and husband I’m fortunate enough to still have, or I can fail. And not only will failing not bring my precious baby girl back, but it will hurt everyone else. So really there is no choice at all.
That’s not to say that I’m done with the all-consuming grief I experienced last week. I know that there will still be plenty of times that it will be difficult to function, to think, to breathe. That I still need to learn to cope with my biggest obstacle: teeny tiny babies that belong to someone else. I just hope that those days will be fewer and farther between. That it won’t be a straight 72 hours of grief, like last week. That maybe the helpless “I’m drowning” feeling I experienced can be somewhat lessened by my newfound mantra: it is what it is.
I think another reason why I’m doing okay today is because I had a good weekend. It certainly seem like it was going to be on Saturday morning, but it ended that way for sure. I actually managed to talk to Jeff about how I was feeling and (unsuccessfully) coping. Which was something I hadn’t been able to do the previous three days. I knew that he wanted me to talk, that he was worried about me, that he knew I was barely holding on. But I just couldn’t. I didn’t want to. But we had a long conversation on Saturday night after the kids went to bed and it helped. It helped to talk about all of my fears and concerns and grief triggers. Of course it did.
On Saturday I also started researching grief counseling and infant loss support groups. I ordered 3 books about neonatal death from Amazon. I’m determined to get the help I need and try anything and everything to see what works best. I can’t allow myself to end up in the place I was last week. Unable to talk, to move, to do anything at all. To be completely overwhelmed by sadness and loss.
And then yesterday we had a wonderful family day. It started off by cleaning the house, which although I dread the task itself and usually procrastinate as long as possible, the finished product always makes me feel better. That and cleaning usually takes my mind off of everything except cursing my family for being such slobs (myself included). I mean come on J, toothpaste not just in and around the sink, but ground into the bathroom floor. And on the wall on the opposite side of the sink…how? HOW?!?!?! It was a lovely day so we took the dog for a walk around the neighborhood, stopping along the way to let the kids play at the playground and chat with some good neighbors. We drove up to Richmond and spent a few hours at Maymont, a wonderful free park with a petting zoo, wildlife exhibits and beautiful scenery. Then we went to a car show and checked out some SUV possibilities for the future (which is where I oh-so-casually informed Jeff that we were definitely going to need a large 7-seater since we’ll definitely be having two more children). We had dinner at a diner and then drove home. It was just nice to be together. To be out of the house, but not in a rush. To move at a slow pace and take our time. To be outside in the fresh air, the sun shining on us. Even J’s constant complaining and whining at Maymont that she was hot and tired (seriously we have the laziest child ever) didn’t get on my nerves like it usually does. Because even though there should be 5 of us, there aren’t. And even though it’s not how it should be, it can still be nice. It is what it is.