Birthdays have always been my favourite day of the year. It’s a celebration of life, and it’s a reminder of how fleeting and precious all of this is. Birthdays used to come at the end of a slow walk around the sun. Now I leap and run and cartwheel and fly. Life gets faster. But it also gets better.
Ever since Reya turned one in January, I had been meaning to share my thoughts and experiences of one year of motherhood. Since Mother’s day was just a few days ago, I thought I would sit down and recollect the peaks and valleys of this new life of mine.
And it is an absolutely new life for me. The day my baby was born, a mother was born too. It has not always been an easy journey. Motherhood has stretched me and grown me, and I will share with you my honest and uncensored feelings about some of the more challenging aspects of being a new parent too. Nevertheless, as deliriously exhausting as it is, this new phase of my life has been indescribably rewarding.
I have accompanied this blog post with some of my favourite mama-daughter photographs that Reya and I have taken together.
My daughter turned 6 months two days ago. 6 months of her. My life feels almost unrecognizable now. Everything is new – for the both of us. I felt this was a good time to reflect on the days following her birth – a precious time of my life that was equally chaotic as it was sacred – imprinted into the fabric of my soul forever more.
The last trimester of my pregnancy after loss was riddled with anxiety. I had never made it this far into pregnancy before. I thought to myself – if I can just make it to that point, the week where her sister died, and if things were still okay, then maybe I could finally relax. But instead, I felt a new layer of anxiety unearth itself around me, as I entered into parts of a pregnancy that I have never experienced before. With each day that passed, I fell deeper in love, and with each day that passed, I had more and more to lose. I was being seen at the high risk maternity clinic every week from 30 weeks, as we noticed that Reya’s growth was beginning to slow down. She had dropped from the 11th centile to the 6th to the 4th and then to the 2nd. Our doctor let us know that the chances of making it to the full 40 weeks was highly unlikely, and that we should prepare for a premature delivery. But he sounded optimistic, and he told us that she was a good size to be born, and that preemie babies at this gestation tend to do very well.
When I was pregnant with Reya, I attended the high risk maternity clinic every 1-2 weeks. During one of these appointments, as I walked down the hallway, I saw that the door to one of the examination rooms was open. Inside, there was a couple; the woman was sobbing into her hands, her husband’s eyes were dark and wet, and he was holding her.
I felt that woman’s pain that day, and I will always feel her pain. Because I was her, not too long ago. And I am coming to realize that no matter how much time passes, I will never be too far from that pain. The pain of losing your child.
I seem to have come down with the flu. I’m disappointed because I had so much work I was supposed to do today and now the thought of reading a textbook and answering question banks seems a little out of my reach for now.
Instead, I thought, maybe I should curl back up in bed and write to you. It’s been a while, and I am sorry for that. This whole year has been such a big beautiful mess. I haven’t much felt like myself a lot of the time. More like – carving a new/old self out of whatever remained after my daughter died.
One thing I have been throughout this year, however – is present. Life forced me to be. I can’t be anywhere else but now. I can’t be any way else but this.
I am pregnant again. I had shared the news of this pregnancy a few weeks ago on instagram, so this may not be new to you.
But it has been 28 weeks of growing a little sister for Mia.
Life has been floating by. I stopped writing and I stopped taking photographs. I just couldn’t find it in me. I think there was too much to feel and be a part of lately.
After Mia’s due date passed, I couldn’t quite come back from it. The day itself was as difficult as I had anticipated, but there was a heaviness in the weeks to follow that made life slow and tired. I feel forever changed, touched by death.
I spent a short time with my parents in BC. One afternoon I said to my mother “I am to you what Mia is to me. You must love me so much.”
My mom just smiled.
Slowly, I find myself coming back to my words.
And I wrote something about my daughter. It was too big to be a poem, and too small to be a story. So here it is, rough, but loved – a little piece of writing from my heart.
I waited for you, for a very long time, since the beginning of the winter, since the beginning of time. You promised you would come one summer, and that one day we would meet, one day we would fly together, and my heart would be complete.
I’ve asked some friends and they said they would consider me to be a positive person. In fact, as I walk this unimaginable path of the loss of our first unborn child, so many have told me they admire my positivity.
Even my husband often says that I’m a positive person.
But really, I’m not. I’m not a positive person.
…But I’m not a negative person either.
This experience is good for me.
It’s good for me because it turned my entire life into a giant question mark.
And I think it’s a good thing to feel like that from time to time.
I have seen how fragile life is. It was a topic that I had been contemplating before I became pregnant with Mia. It was a concept that had become illuminated in my life. And now I know it more deeply.
Last summer, I had been thinking about death and my own mortality a lot. For the first time, really. At the time I finally realized that I was walking through life like I was invincible to death. And I felt that was a foolish way to live when I understood that life is not promised to me.
Going through this journey with Mia has taught me that death is just as beautiful and just as necessary as birth.
And now, I see the gift of life.
In my mind, I picture two newborn babies. One, perhaps a child of my future, who is born alive. And the other, my Mia, who is born sleeping.
The difference between these two babies, the life that exists in one, and the life that is absent in the other, it is invisible. And yet it is everything.