Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I am giddy in the night when I wake up with Fiona. I can't help it. I know in theory I am supposed to remain mellow and quiet to try to help her to know it's night time, but I can't help it. I am just beside myself, still, with disbelief and awe that she is here. I smile and coo at her, she laughs back at me, and then we collapse together onto the smooth sheets and fall asleep together.

This is a gift from Charlotte, a gift to a mother who really, certainly would not have laughed if Charlotte had woken her up an average of 7 times each night.

But seeing as how I never woke up once with her, you now find me laughing, laughing after my latest 57 minute stretch of sleep at 3 in the morning.

This is the gift that loss leaves behind, it liberates me.

What is interesting about this, also, is that I was not quite this way with Liam. Sometimes people ask me about what it was like to give birth to my next baby 11 months after Charlotte left us, and I answer them honestly. Having another baby was the most healing thing I've ever done, but I was still wild with grief when he was born, and felt almost deranged by the intensity of my emotional state both during the pregnancy and during the early months of his life. I was still so awfully bereft, so empty armed on the one hand; and then there was this boy who arrived so miraculously into my arms, he was safe, alive, sweet, and a needy human infant-- something with which I had previously had no experience. I was flummoxed by the intensity of his needs, by my introduction to sleep deprivation, by the mystery of the newborn's fragile nervous system. I was overwhelmed by the sudden loss of self that accompanies the birth of any baby that lives. I wondered where I had gone. With me, of course, had also gone these hours a day to pine away for Charlotte, and I yearned for her. I yearned for her, and I clung to him, and I grieved, and I loved him, and I tried to act like a semi-normal mother. It was a difficult act.
This is all to say that I spent a lot of time doing what I thought I "should" do with my new baby, he slept in a basket at the foot of my bed instead of in my arms, and sometimes rode in a stroller instead of on my chest, because I didn't know any mothers with living babies, and I didn't know that it was perfectly okay for me to do that. I was wound up so tightly that I didn't even have much of an instinct to follow. I was a whirlwind of sadness and joy wrapped up so tightly that I didn't know which way was up.

But we muddled through it, didn't we, and I sleep with him now sometimes, to make up for the nights I missed out on in his infancy. And now, years later, wound so much more loosely, I celebrate my ability to do whatever I damn well please.

Thanks, Charlotte.


Hope's Mama said...

Oh. My. God. I so needed to read this. You have no idea how much.
I think I need to send this post to some people I know, to explain precisely where I am at.
I can only hope Carol, that my story continues to mimic yours.
Thank you once again for making me feel 110 per cent normal.

Taking Heart said...

I love this.

kris said...

Carol, you remain one of my favorite writers. I've said it before, but it is relevant to this post. Someday, the mother I become will owe a debt of gratitude to you and Charlotte as well. I hope the Pioneer Valley is as ripe with impending spring as we are down here in the City.

Inanna said...

Our gone-babies teach us forever. This is the baby-loss mamas version of "I shall wear purple!" ;)

DaynaMae said...


Thank-you for this post. We've never met, but I've been reading your blog the past couple of months. My first-born died at birth six months ago and my husband and I are going to start trying to conceive another baby soon. Reading this encouraged me to hope that I might someday experience the joy you describe.

ezra'smommy said...

I second Sally's comment...I needed this post right now. Now with my living babe in my arms, I vacillate between the tightrope act you describe and the anything goes mama that I'd always hoped to be.

Birdies Mama said...

Yes. Yes. Our sweet babies whom we have lost have given us this gift...to laugh at hardly any sleep, to wear these precious miracles that we now hold, to sleep next to our children, to snuggle in a little bit closer and longer. It feels right, it feels natural. All of these things are gifts, realizations of what is so deep within us, a deeper love.