Archive for category olivia
Sometimes I feel like this is the only place where I can lament my sweet, non-existent Olivia. Most of the time I don’t want to share anywhere anymore. Yet, I continue to be surprised by the reminders, the things that sneak in my heart and hurt a little more than normal.
Like, Valentine’s Day, for instance. Not typically a day meant for children, other than the cute little Valentine cards they share at school. Today’s spark didn’t start with that, though. I was filling in some family info on ancestry.com for my mom and paused on whether to add all my children. I almost didn’t because I didn’t want my mom to be sad the next time she logged in, but that’s no reason not to acknowledge a life so I went ahead and filled in my sibling’s kids, too, to make Olivia’s date of death a little less shocking.
What struck me was the imagery of father and mother with 2 girls beneath our names. The little pink profiles of what should’ve been my family. Although I love the sweet little pink profile asleep in her bed right now, there should be another one nearby.
Oh how it hurts to be reminded so casually of what should’ve been. It’s so cruel, what happened to us. I of course had to go look at her photos and they’re just so…horrible. So ugly. So the opposite of that adorable pink profile on ancestry.com. It’s such an unbearable thing we’ve learned to live with, and I’m struck by how easy it’s become to just go about my day like nothing ever happened until something just sticks. And pokes at me until I’m curled up in a ball trying to remember how to forget again.
This is who I am.
Well, I made it. The long anticipated weekend of sadness has passed without much ado about something really big to me. We were originally going to go out of town and hide, but we decided to be thankful after all and stay in town only planning to see one family per day. The idea was to spread the love out as much as possible so as to enjoy our time here and there rather than everywhere all at once but nowhere that matters. Hair standing on end, screaming from one suburb to the next.
I can’t believe it’s been a year. Last year I was sitting in this same living room with this same damn Christmas tree thinking about things like thank you cards for the checks to help pay for the memorial service, and how I was going to fall asleep without crying. This year I’m thinking about how to get Lily to fall asleep without crying and how much I love where we put the Christmas tree this year. I have changed over the course of the year, though. Somehow I’ve come out in the end – or more like just barely into the beginning – less predictable emotionally, more emotionally disruptive and wholly unstable than I was before. I’m less willing to be nice for the sake of being nice, much more willing to be angry. I’m often flustered, irrational, at fault. I said bitch on the phone to my mother the other day. I wasn’t calling her a bitch, but I said the word. And I wasn’t just repeating something someone else said – I meant to say bitch and I said what I meant. Because that’s what I do now. That’s how I roll. I say what I mean because…I mean it.
I raked and bagged up leaves in the front yard today, all by myself. Lily helped me, but I’m taking all the credit. David and our neighbor did it last year and I remember looking out the window at them like it was yesterday. Why does that day stand out? I was at the kitchen table, blogging, occasionally checking the soup I was cooking (or maybe it was bread I was baking), Lily was playing in and out, I was 8 months pregnant and browsing Etsy for new prints to hang on the wall in whichever room we ended up choosing for the baby. I could see them through the front window and remember feeling so safe. It was very sunny and crisp outside and so warm and cozy inside. David would take breaks and come in to drink some tea, give me a kiss, see what Lily was up to. Olivia felt so natural to me in that moment. One of my favorite memories with her. As a family, we were happy that day. I can remember lots of other times during that pregnancy where we were not a happy family. The Holmes’ were having trouble many, many other days. I had a lot of guilt after we lost Olivia that I cried her away with worry about our future. I truly did not think David and I would make it if we had another child. I’m still not sure. Things were not good. We were frayed to what we thought were our edges (we learned they were not). We were tired of trying to make peace and we saw no end to the struggle in our near future. We were this close (fingers pinched together) to giving up.
She saved us, is something I would say if I thought about it that way, which I don’t. I don’t consider myself the type of person who could stay happily married to someone through our child’s death, but not through her life. What kind of backwards love would that be?
I made a girl cry yesterday. I didn’t mean to, I honestly wasn’t thinking about how she might hear what I was saying. I talk about death so much now that I forget the rest of the world still tries desperately to ignore it as much as possible. It’s such a common topic in my household, I guess I’m a bit hardened. The girl is a coworker, she came to my desk to ask about a friend who’s mother recently passed away. See? Death. It’s everywhere; inescapable. How did I avoid it for so long?
My friend’s mother had been ill for quite some time. While I was out on leave after losing Olivia, she had been rushed to the emergency room twice with breathing problems. She had a tracheotomy and was on a breathing machine. She was on bed rest and just grateful that her first grandbaby could sit in her lap – with help, of course. I don’t believe it was a shock when she finally quit breathing for good. It may have been a sort of relief. But my friend talked about her mother constantly. She quoted her, bragged about her cooking, had her make pound cake for the office (when she was well enough to do so), she was definitely a mama’s girl. I couldn’t mention Lily without her telling me what her mother would say, or what her mother did when she did whatever Lily had done. On that front, I know my friend is devastated.
So Lily and I took her some food. I made the same thing I’d made when her grandmother died. Her mother had sent me a thank you asking for the recipe. I had considered that such a compliment, the way my friend regarded her mother’s cooking skills. But I never did give her that recipe. What a lazy asshole. The least I could do was make it for her this one last time.
As soon as I put Lily in her carseat to leave, she asked my friend a question. Why did your mommy die?
Because she was sick, my friend said. But she’s better now because she’s in heaven.
My baby sister was sick.
I know. Maybe my mommy can take care of your baby sister in heaven.
Lily lit up. Yes! she said. And they can take care of my buddy, too!
Buddy is the slug we found and put in her little insect house. He died in there, much to Lily’s dismay.
So I was telling my well-meaning coworker about the conversation because personally, I think it’s adorable and the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard.
My coworker apparently thought it was the saddest thing. She was obviously embarrassed, though, and I didn’t mean to do that to her. I kept thinking about going to her desk today to promise not to make her cry every time we talk (I’m new to the area so I didn’t want to give her the wrong impression).
Yet, somehow, for some reason, I just couldn’t do it. Because you know what? I don’t really think I’m sorry. I regret making her feel bad, of course, but I’m not sorry that she can’t deal with the subject of death. Death is a reality. It’s my reality. I’ve been through enough, dammit, I really don’t think I should have to apologize for it.
Does that make me cold?
I’m not sure if this requires an explanation but…I’ve said all along that the one thing Olivia has given me that will not be taken away is the desire to make things better. She’s given me the will and the heart to take control of my life and turn it into what I’ve always dreamed of. For myself…for my daughter…for my husband…for my future children…
So, I’ve written a mission statement, posted it on my wall and saved it in my phone so I can read it anytime I need focus.
I will be the type of wife and mother who supports without attempting to control. I will treat my husband as my equal and my daughter as her own person, not an extension of myself. I will serve my family by cooking for them, planning fulfilling activities with them on a regular basis and organizing our home in a way that allows everyone in our family to focus on obtaining happiness with clear minds. I will teach Lily how to think for herself and develop her own set of principles; I will help her develop her own script and to avoid relying on whatever default she is given by us or her environment.
I will work with the following characteristics in every situation: integrity, honesty, reliability, creativity, enthusiasm. I will make sure my work does not interfere with my personal life.
When it comes to our possessions, I will buy quality items we can afford and that are worth taking care of for years to come. I won’t forget that all things can be replaced; lives cannot.
I will strive to find joy in every situation – or at least look for the silver lining. And I won’t forget about the importance of physical closeness with my husband.
I will be open to friendships outside of my relationship with David by returning phone calls as well as kindness. I will look into people’s hearts for their sincerity and reflect that in my own heart. I will seek to understand differing opinions without judgment.
I will look for and be open to opportunities to provide service and contribute to my community; to show Lily that community service is an obligation, not just a nice thing to do.
Above all, I will remember that I deserve no more or no less than anyone else. Working with others is the best way to achieve common goals.
I will live my life according to these principles which are solid, do not fluctuate and cannot be violated. I will strive to live by them in all I do.
It’s actually quite a process coming up with a comprehensive list of everything meaningful in your life and then simmering it down until there’s no more liquid and you’re left with a rich, shimmering pan of thick, yummy goodness. I’m sharing because I believe when you say something out loud, it has more chance of coming true. Sort of like the stories we tell, or the ones we’ve been telling for so long we can’t remember if they’re actual memories or just pictures we’ve turned into stories, or stories we’ve heard that we think we remember. It’s all a blur the older I get.
What would you put in your mission statement?
Sometimes I forget. For just a second, when the ladies at work are talking about their new babies or their growing bellies, I let myself get caught up in the story, and I focus so much on when I experienced that (whatever “that” happens to be), I forget about Olivia. Though I’m not really forgetting about Olivia. I’m just pretending. For their benefit, of course.
It’s been 6 months since we lost her and at moments it still feels as recent as yesterday. I can still see her sweet face, her upturned nose and open mouth like a baby bird waiting to be fed. Her head full of dark brown, what looked to be curly, hair. She’s just as real today as the day she was born. I don’t know what day she died.
I still can’t believe she died.
It’s quite clear I’m going to be okay from all this. I already am. It’s quite clear that I have survived the loss of a child. But it still sounds so alien to hear and to say. I still don’t really relate to the status. Like when I’m talking about Olivia, I’m talking about someone else’s child. Someone else’s loss. Someone else’s tragedy.
I still don’t understand fully how this all works. Yet I’m living, breathing proof that it certainly does.
This life is a mystery I suppose I’ll be solving for the rest of it.
It could’ve been worse.
I still have Lily.
Those are my refrains. What are yours?