Friday, March 27, 2009


The grassy fields outside the window blurred together, the pavement flying out from under us as we sped toward...what, exactly? An answer. The moment of truth. The tears came and went, a torrential flood of uncertainty and fear in one moment, and a vast and empty absence in the next. My own mother's words of comfort drifted in and out of my consciousness, sticking sometimes, but otherwise lost in the overwhelming sense of doubt that had made a home in my heart over the past 12 hours. I was awed that a single phone call had changed everything, just like that.

I had been taken by surprise, and I resented it forcefully. I had always been one to expect the worst, in hopes of being surprised, but my careful expectations for the pregnancy had fallen on deaf ears all around me. Oh, you have nothing to worry about, they would say, confidently, their faith in the process affirmed by their own experiences, which, if not flawless, had certainly resulted in a healthy baby. I too, had naively begun to believe in my own invincibility. I was aware of many of the things that could go wrong, and I feared the ever looming possibility, but in a general way. Yes, those things happened, but they would happen to other people. Not me. Not my baby. I was young, healthy (enough), free of family history. There were people out there who didn't know they were pregnant until they went into labor, and their babies were fine. The odds were in my favor.

Oh, the odds, which I would soon come to loathe and then, eventually, cling to for the hope of the future. In the moment though, the odds were insensitive, irrelevant. Your tiny little life and the impact you would make could not be measured in numbers. For now, there was just raw emotion, fear. Love. We passed a flock of sheep and my eyes fell immediately on the mothers, guarding and nurturing their babies. My heart swelled, the tears beginning to spill, and the sight of them (because even they had healthy babies) begged the question that had been brewing since the night before: "Why me?"

We were late. The receptionist handed me a clipboard of paperwork to fill out and I planted myself in the waiting room, both of my parents at my side, to begin the wait. When I had finished the paperwork and we had still not been called, I turned to studying the pattern in the carpet, the glass artwork that hung on the wall, the couple who sat opposite us, holding hands. Were they here for the same reason? Was there someone else out there who was awaiting the final word on their baby's future? Certainly, there couldn't be.

Patricia had warned me that the genetic counselor might be overwhelming, scary, a woman of facts and little compassion. However, when Kathryn called my name and led us back to her office, her voice was soft and sympathetic. I felt immediately at ease. She planted a box of tissue in front of us as we took our seats. She warned us that she would be laying out the facts for us, drawing a picture of what the doctor would be looking for in our second, more detailed ultrasound. We listened attentively as she explained the varying degrees of severity in spina bifida, and a tiny bit of hope flickered to life in my heart. Maybe I could deal with this, maybe it was not severe, maybe all was not lost.

"It's also possible," she said, coming to the end of her explanation, "that we will look today and see that everything looks appropriate." My mom and I glanced at each other and sighed, relieved that she had even mentioned it as a possibility. We were hopeful, and yet there was an unspoken "but..." that seemed to follow her sentence. I knew it was not likely, and yet I clung to the hope that maybe you were okay, or even if there was spina bifida, it would be small, minor.

We were led to the darkened ultrasound room and I assumed my now familiar position on the table. The sonographer breezed in, cheerful, asking if we knew your sex yet and explaining her role in making the diagnosis. As she began sliding the probe around my belly, the flicker of hope in my heart grew brighter. There were your perfect arms, your perfect legs, your perfect heart and kidneys. I watched you, in awe, as you put your hands in front of your face, and then the tiny movements that shook your whole body.

"Oh, it looks like baby has hiccups!" The sonographer exclaimed. There you were, my daughter with the hiccups. It was the first time that you became very real, very precious, very...human. It was a moment I would later recount to Jesse with tears streaming uncontrollably down my face. It was the first thing that would inspire tears in his eyes, too.

And then it was over. The screen went blank and the sonographer went off to consult with the doctor. In a matter of minutes, he was joining us, soft spoken, with a look in his eyes that said it all. He perched on the stool beside me and put a hand on my knee, gentle, consoling me already for what he had not said yet.

The facts poured out and the flicker of hope was abruptly extinguished. He continued, that same look in his eyes, demonstrating on my own back the point that yours had not closed. They went over what this meant for your life, and it was not good news for you, my precious baby, the baby I had carried and dreamed of and planned for since the beginning of your existence in September.

And then? From a very gray area diagnosis, they asked me to make a very black and white decision. Either I would bring you into this life of hardship and challenges, or I wouldn't.

The air seemed to leave the room as the weight of the decision sunk in. How could I possibly be the one to take your life? And yet, how could I bring you into a body that was not properly designed for this world? How could I possibly decide?

Do not judge me for what I have done
For you have not walked in my shoes
She was not your daughter
You did not love her and long for her
As I did and do and always will

You did not feel her and plan for her
And know her and promise her that
You would always take care of her
As I did
She was my daughter

You did not hear the doctors say
That she would be sick
That she already was sick
And that she would be sick until
The day she died

You did not pray to God that the
Second ultrasound would confirm
Your hopes that she would be healthy
You did not see the tear
In the doctor’s eye when he
Confirmed the diagnosis

You did not pray to God for
Her to never have to suffer
For him to take her to Heaven
Where there is no pain
You did not feel her pain
I did
I am her mother

When you simply said to me
That I don’t have the right
To take her life
I know you did not feel my struggle
When you simply said to me
That I have to take her life
For her to be happy
I know you did not feel my struggle

I do not know what God wanted for her
I do not have His wisdom
And neither do you
I know that He loves me
I felt His love through the people He gave me
I know that God did feel my struggle

All I ask from you now
Is that you pray for my daughter
And do not judge me for what I have done
For you have not walked in my shoes
I am her mother

I Am Her Mother
By Joan Vander Male

Sunday, March 15, 2009

that moment

It still amazes me, the tiniest, most unexpected things that can bring on a downward spiral. Today I was heating a pot of water on the stove, the steam beginning to roll around me, when suddenly the memories of your birth rushed in, without warning. Or perhaps the more appropriate term would be your death, as it is that moment that I still agonize over.

The connection is not as random as it might seem. There was a moment, weeks ago, though it seems much longer, when I stood over a pot of boiling water, unable to stop the memories from flooding in. I remember standing there, trying to swallow the tears, because I had cried enough, and yet the memories kept coming in flashes: the moment you left my body, the nurse bringing you to me for the first time and asking if I wanted to see your defect, and why, why were you not alive? When did you go? I stood there, the steam billowing, the tears sliding down my cheeks unwillingly, and shook my head, as if to say, enough. Enough, enough, I can't take anymore.

The fact that you were not born alive was insignificant when I left the hospital. I knew going in that you were not going to live, one way or another. And even when the nurses told me that it was possible that you might be born alive, I did not expect it. I could not. I wouldn't. I was done with expectations, and when you were born lifeless, I was not surprised. It was okay.

It wasn't until days, weeks, later, boiling water on the stove, that I began to contemplate the moment that you died. Why did you die? Were you scared? Did you struggle? Suddenly, that unnoticed moment that your heart stopped beating consumed me, and I felt an overwhelming sense of failure.

I got my hair cut the other day. The woman snipped away for awhile before asking the question, the one I had dreaded, the one I had not prepared my answer for yet. "Do you have any children?" Maybe I should have just said no. But I felt the need to tell her, a random stranger, that I had lost you, my first and only baby. She gushed with sympathy and then told me that she, too, had lost her first baby, when she was 12 days old.

"That's worse," she said gravely, "after you get attached."

Is it, though? I don't and hope to never know both sides of the coin, but she got 12 days. She got to see life in her daughter's eyes and tell her she loved her before she left his world. She got memories. And as far as attachment? Maybe I am not in the majority, but my attachment began the moment that piece of plastic flashed the word 'Pregnant' at me. I began to exist because of you. There was still life as I knew it, but my priorities had changed. My sole purpose was to protect you, to give you the best, no matter what it took.

Did she have to decide that what was best for her daughter was to let her go? Probably not.
Does she have to live with the unique weight of guilt that comes with that? Probably not.
Is her loss worse, then? I can't say. It's almost like comparing apples to oranges.

In the days that followed the diagnosis, I would not listen to your heartbeat, I did not want another ultrasound. I wanted to believe that you were already leaving, that perhaps you were already gone.

And now, oh what I would give to hear your heart beating one more time. See you wiggling, hiccuping on the ultrasound screen, one more time. And I hate myself for not cherishing, clinging to, every last second I had with you.

But this life was not for you
though I learned from you
that beauty need only be a whisper.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

birth day

I awoke this morning, feeling a sense of significance about today, though I did not remember what it was right away. Slowly my mind chugged back into gear, until finally I remembered: my birthday. The 23rd annual celebration of the day I was delivered into this world, the day I first looked into my mother's eyes, the day I became my own separate entity and started walking my own path in this life.

I pulled myself out of bed with a struggle (it is always a struggle lately) and began the day, rejoining the world, as I do every day, with an odd sense of obligation. There was celebration to be had, there was family to embrace, and all of it came easily, with a smile that was genuine.

And yet...there was something missing. There is always something missing, isn't there? I don't know that it is you exactly, since I have come to accept that you are not going to share this life with me, that likely, you never were. Accepting it does not make it better though. In fact, the acceptance of your death has brought me a deep, underlying unhappiness, and still my mind gets caught up in that perpetual and illogical cycle of thoughts that follows the inevitable, unshakable question, "What if?"

My birthday is not the time for these endless, circular thoughts, or at least I wish it wasn't. But the thought remains that if things were different, you would have been here, sharing this day with me, hearing the joyful laughter and celebration from your cozy, warm little bubble inside my 30 week belly. If things were different, I would have been counting down the weeks until your arrival, preparing for the day of your birth, the moment I would look your eyes for the first time.

But things are not different, and perhaps part of the ache, the emptiness in my heart today, is that I will never get to bake you your 23rd birthday cake. I will never get to bring you balloons, call you at the moment you were born and tell you that 23 years ago, I was holding you for the first time, falling in love with you for the first time.

It saddens me that your birthday will never be a celebration. Your birth will forever be interchanged with your death, and how can ever I celebrate the loss of you? On your day, your January 9th, when we distinctly became two separate beings, I marveled at you. I swelled with pride that you were mine, I had created and birthed you, and yet you were leaving me, you were already gone.

I am learning to navigate this life without you, without the potential of you, but sometimes, especially on days like this, when laughter comes easily and the world is brighter, the gaping hole you left behind seems bigger, darker. Sometimes it is all I can do to keep from curling back into it. The grief is becoming comfortable now, instead of the other way around. At least when I am in that dark place, you are at the forefront. There is no going about my business or celebrating in the absence of you. You are all there is. Unfortunately, the dark place, the hole, is invisible to the rest of the world, and life continues to make demands of me that require me to step out, back into the light.

So here I am, standing at the starting line of my twenty-third year on this planet. It is a year, a birthday, that would have marked an entirely different beginning, if things were different. But no, if there is anything I have learned, it is that things just are, there is no getting around it.

I cannot wish it away. I wish I could.

Friday, March 13, 2009


As the tattoo gun buzzed into life today, I felt that sense of fear that has become all too familiar in the past months. I knew that pain was imminent and my reaction was unpredictable. As she began, the needle piercing and sliding over my skin, the pain was vivid, sharp, and there were moments when it felt almost unbearable. And then, just as quickly, it was over, only to return again, fresh and sharp, and I unable to escape. I started to draw parallels between it and my experience in the past months: the pain coming and going, the grief ebbing and flowing, and the moments when I thought maybe I wouldn't make it.

But I did, in both cases, and when she finished, she left me with a wound that has become the physical representation of the one in my heart, my soul. It is a wound I will care for and tend to and then watch as it slowly begins to heal. But the mark it leaves will be with me forever. It will be the announcement to the outside world that you have changed me, that you are here, in my heart, never to be forgotten.

And you are with me, always.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


The phone call came around 7:00. I'm not sure why or how I remember that except that it was the first moment of what has become known as my new life. The message from my midwife came shortly after I had tentatively announced that you were a girl to the world via Facebook status. Her voice was different, and the strained way she had said "I need to speak with you," made my heart jump immediately into my throat. I knew there was something wrong, though as I dialed her number, hands shaking, I tried to convince myself that it was something else. It was not the ultrasound, it could not have been.

She answered quickly, too quickly, and her voice was gentle, soft, too soft. She took a breath and mentioned the ultrasound, asked if Jesse was home. My heart was beating out of my chest and I stumbled to tell her that no, I was alone.

"I don't have the best news," she said, and the words hit me like bricks, I can still hear them now as clearly as if she were speaking to me. In the seconds between my strained response of "okay" and her next words I prayed that she was just going to tell me that I had placenta previa or something equally benign that would simply mean I could not birth at home, with her. I even imagined my sigh of relief, telling her I had been so afraid she was going to say something was wrong with the baby.

She asked if I wanted to wait until Jesse was there to hear the news, probably imagining my reaction, wailing, screaming, who could know? But I could not possibly imagine hanging up the phone without knowing. And so, she began, gently breaking the news that would change my entire world, though I didn't know it at the time.

I was doubled over, elbows on my knees, staring at a spot in the carpet that I can still point out if someone asks. The ultrasound showed signs of spina bifida, did I know what that was? Yes. No. I had heard of it but I did not know what it was. She explained that it was a neural tube defect, that your spine had not closed properly. My head spun, imagining what on earth I could have done to cause this. I needed another ultrasound, I needed a specialist, I needed...

I needed my mom. I held it together through the rest of the conversation without crying, practically rushing her off the phone so I would not show her my weakness, even though I could have. The second I hung up, I crumpled, I fell apart, sliding off the bed and onto the floor. The phone slipped from my hand and my face contorted and the river of tears began their journey, rolling down my face and spilling onto the carpet, transforming me.

No. No, this was not happening. This was the subject of my worst nightmares, the sort of thing I worried about needlessly. These things did not happen to young, healthy people with no risk factors. In fact, this was not my baby they were talking about. It was not you. They had to have mixed up the paperwork. The ultrasound technician did not know what she was doing. She had to be mistaken. Not you. Not you.

I wailed. In the silence and solitude of my home, with no one to hear me, I wailed. I did not even know what was to come, and yet I cried, harder than I had ever cried. I was already lost. In the next week, I would learn more about your condition than I wanted to know, I would be faced with the worst decision I could possibly fathom, and I would make it. But at that time, I didn't know what was to come. Somewhere, I knew it was the end, the beginning of the end, but I had no idea, really.

So that Sunday night, I clung to every ounce of hope I could muster. I googled. I cried. I waited. All I could do was wait.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

the aftermath

Morning crept through the heavy hospital curtains slowly that morning, nurses sneaking in and out with surprisingly little sound. I was uncomfortable. Although I had been detached from the IV and the incessant blood pressure monitor, the bones in my hip were now up close and personal with the metal contraption that allowed half of my bed to fall away on demand, and I could not bring myself to move. I was afraid to move. I had slept most of the night in that same position, you nestled in your blankets beside me. I was afraid if I turned over or even repositioned myself you would fall. It did not matter that you were not breathing, I had been acutely aware of your presence all night, and had arranged myself accordingly. I did sleep though, I must have, as somehow it had become 8:30 and a maroon colored box had appeared on the shelf next to me along with the breakfast I had chosen the day previously.

As my eyes began to flutter open more permanently, my thoughts were on getting out of that bed, that room, sooner than later. But Jesse was still sleeping, and I didn't want to wake him just yet. So I propped myself up on my elbow and leaned over you, studying every inch of your body once again. You were bruising and cold, and this was not at all how I wanted to remember you, but I could not pry myself away. Suddenly a wave of reality rushed over me, one that had not been there the previous day as we had passed you around and taken your pictures. It hit me, forcefully, that you were mine. You were my baby, and you were not living, you were not joining me in this world. Not this time.

The tears fell, silently at first, onto your tiny cheeks, like a river that I had no control of anymore. You were so still. I felt the emptiness in my belly expanding until it consumed every inch of me. I was empty and you were gone and now I was supposed to get up and go on? I swung my feet over the edge of the bed and sat up, separating you carefully from the bundle of blankets you were nestled in. I wrapped you in the tiny knitted blanket the nurses had given you (it was just your size), and cradled you in my hands, trying to commit every inch of you to memory.

I held you. I pulled you in close, holding you close to my heart, rocking you, as if you were the one who needed consoling. And the tears fell, my breath shook me, and the only words I could possibly manage to whisper to you, even though I knew you didn't hear me, you didn't need to hear me, were "I'm sorry." I'm sorry, I'm sorry. My baby. My baby.

"Should we call the nurse?" Jesse had appeared by my side, his presence simultaneously strong and comforting, his voice softer than usual. I nodded, feeling that I could not spend much more time in that room, but also knowing that you could not come with me, even though I wanted you to. More than anything, I wanted you to. But you were lying peacefully in my hands, too little, too fragile for this world, my baby bird who fell out of the nest. I kissed your tiny, freezing little head as he pushed the button and we began the process of leaving you forever.

The nurse buzzed in a few minutes later, all business and cheerfulness, with instructions to give me a shot and a handful of discharge papers. She warned me that the shot might be painful and I laughed. I felt untouchable, the pain in my heart so overwhelming that nothing physical could possibly compare. She mentioned the necklace that was in your memory box, the maroon one that had appeared overnight, and I went searching for it after she left again with the intention to return and collect you. It was a two piece ceramic heart--a small one inside of the bigger one, just the way you had lived inside of me, the way you would continue to live inside my heart. I separated them and tied the smaller one around your neck, placing your hands over it carefully.

"You hold on to that," I instructed you, feeling silly as I did so. And then the tears were falling all over again, as they would continue to for days, for weeks, perhaps forever. Soon the nurse was hovering in front of me, waiting.

"Are we ready?" She said softly, and I just looked at her. I would never be ready, not in this lifetime. I gathered you in your tiny knitted blanket, cradling you, my little handful of perfection, for the last time. The nurse gave me a small smile and said "as ready as you'll ever be, right?" I nodded and then I handed you over, just like that, into the nurses hands. I handed you to her and let you go forever. And she carried you away, leaving me to get dressed and rejoin the real world without you.

In the days and weeks that would follow, it was this moment that would haunt me more than any other, but at the time, I did not cry. Instead I took off my hospital gown and put on my real clothes, gathered my things and waited for my wheelchair escort to the front entrance. I resented the idea of being wheeled out of there. I had come this far and I was still standing, but I consented to the formality anyway. I was not broken, but I was tired. I felt eyes on me as I was pushed back down the endless halls, and I wondered how I must look. What did people think, seeing me pushed out of the labor and delivery ward, tear streaked and blank-stared, without my baby? The nurse stopped on our way to direct a small family to Labor and Delivery and I felt immensely small, especially from my perspective in the chair. I wanted to disappear.

Once again in the parking lot, I looked up at the grid of windows that now represented something different entirely. You were up there somewhere, and I was leaving you. This was it, it was really over now. As we navigated our way back the world, my eyes remained fixed on the building, watching it, watching you, getting further and further away. And when it was very far in the distance, about to disappear, I whispered "Bye Layla." And then it was gone, you were gone, slipping away into the distance forever.

I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
as long as I'm living,
my baby you'll be.

Monday, March 9, 2009

the 9th

Today is 2 months without you, my tiny girl. My heart is heavy, thinking of the time so quickly spreading between us. I looked at your pictures today, just to give you some time in my thoughts--real time where I focus only on you. Usually it is painful, but today I was able to look at your tiny body, zooming in on your tiny face (your hands, your perfect feet), and feel nothing but love and amazement.

You are mine forever, no matter how many months pass. I feel you with me today, in that special place in my heart, and I am thankful for your tiny life that changed mine forever. I love you sweet birdie.

Friday, March 6, 2009


I hit another dark spot in the last couple of weeks. I think there have been many contributing factors, including my hormones, which seem to be back on track for now.

The other day I was feeling so low and realized that I needed my mommy! I had days off and Jesse had to work, so I drove out to the coast to visit.

Something about being here, nestled and nourished in my mother's nest, my forever home, gives me this sense of clarity that simply cannot be achieved in the hustle and bustle of my everyday life in Salem. Lately, amidst the grief, I have had an overwhelming sense of being lost in my life. My entire world was uprooted and tossed around after January 9th, and I am struggling to discover what this means, what direction Layla is going to take me.

It hit me a couple of weeks ago that I want to be a midwife. In my darker days, there is doubt: in myself, my abilities, my determination. I often write it off in my mind with a string of excuses, all with the underlying theme of it being too hard. However, I can't shake it this time. There is a stirring in my soul that defies the excuses and the doubt in my mind. I think this is how you know you have found your calling. And if I have learned anything in the past 2 months, it is that I am strong and I can do hard things.

Today I stopped at the library on a complete whim. I trudged through the rain and into the warm building, feeling comforted by the rows and rows of books. I was looking for a specific book my midwife had recommended, but happened on a different one instead. The Diary of a Midwife. I stood in the aisle reading it, absorbing the words, unable to even allow myself to skim. She spoke of her own epiphany, and I recognized the same stirring in her soul that she was unable to shake. And then she put it so simply.... "There were two things I wanted to be in life: a mother and a midwife. That was it."

It rang so true that I almost lost it in the middle of the nonfiction section.

Which led me to my next realization: I need to have another baby, give birth the way I had always intended, as part of my preparation. I know that that will make for a longer road in the end, but it is all starting to fall together. I definitely need more time to grieve my Layla, but I feel that it is an essential piece in moving forward.

I am starting to dread the bad days, when I will doubt myself again, but I think having a bit of direction again will help.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I lingered under the covers that morning. It was the last morning I would awake with you in my belly, though I didn't think of it that way at the time. I couldn't. The past week had been a whirlwind. Still, somehow, a sense of calm had settled in. It would become the eye of the storm.

All the appointments, the tests, the phone calls, the overwhelming agony, the river of tears that had been cried, all of it was leading to that day. Thursday had arrived. I felt sick. I felt numb. Somehow, I pulled myself out from under my cocoon of blankets and set foot in the world again. One step and then another. Where did the strength come from?

Soon I found myself in the shower. It was our last shower together, though I didn't think of it that way at the time. The warm water washed over me, sliding over the curve of my belly, replacing the tears I wanted to cry but couldn't. I closed my eyes for a moment to ask for angels, or spirit guides, or whatever you want to call them, to please, be with me that day. To my surprise, I felt surrounded. It was almost as if I couldn't move, I was so tightly encircled.

The drive was solemn. The familiar straight stretch up I5 offered little in terms of distraction. It went too fast. Too soon we were navigating the streets of the last city you would ever be alive in, though I didn't think of it that way at the time. The tension in the car was palpable as we took wrong turns and backtracked, in a rush to meet a doctor on his lunch break. Finally, we were ushered into a tiny room with a papered table and handed a stack of paperwork. I filled in the blanks carelessly, weary of writing the same information so many times one week. Eventually the doctor slid into the room and retreated to his stool in the corner, slouching against the wall and chatting casually with us. A matter of moments and then he was leaving, a nurse entering with the information for our admittance to the hospital.

We had originally expected to be admitted at 7, but the nurse called us before we had even left the parking lot to let us know we could go up to Labor and Delivery whenever we wanted. I did not want to go yet. I didn't want to go at all. We said we would be there at 5.

We decided to go to the mall. It seemed surreal to be in the midst of normal people going about their every day lives. But we had to find something for you to wear. Eventually I found the sweetest little dress that would end up being much too big for you. It would be the only dress we would ever buy for you, though I didn't think of it that way at the time.

We ate lunch overlooking the ice rink that I spent many hours at as a little girl. It wasn't until I saw a little girl, all dressed up in a tutu and bright white skates, gliding along with her dad, that it hit me. It was Thursday. It was our last day together. I was never going to get to skate with you. We were going to the hospital in a handful of minutes and it would be the end. It would be over.

I lingered in the car, the hospital parking lot sprawled around me, the labor and delivery ward towering above me. I caught glimpses of balloons in the neatly stacked grid of windows and immediately felt like an outsider. My baby would not come with balloons. My heart swelled and the tears sprung to my eyes. I doubled over, holding on to my belly, wishing I could make you better, wishing harder than ever that I would wake up. It was the last time you would be in the car with me, though I didn't think of it that way at the time. I didn't want to go. I couldn't.

And yet, somehow, I opened the door and set foot in the last building you would ever be alive in, though I didn't think of it that way at the time. The hallways seemed endless as we made our way to the nurses station. We were taken to the very end of the hall, far away from the baby we had just heard crying and the joyful celebrations of other families. The last room. The last bed. The last hours.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

the beginning

I have been writing to Layla in a journal for awhile now. Something about the pen and paper is comforting, and so much of it is so personal, not necessarily for others to read or understand. At the same time, I am feeling the need to write about my experience in a way that it can be shared with others. I feel so alienated from the world at times. Sometimes I long for someone, anyone, to ask me what happened. I feel like maybe if I tell my story, it will feel more real. Each time it will sink in, just a little more, that this is not a terrible, drawn-out nightmare.

But no one does. And that's okay, because honestly? I would probably have a hard time talking about it unless I happened to be feeling particularly strong at the time. And yet...

There are so many moments. They come back to me in flashes, in waves, and there is no escaping them. It's as if there is something left there to process. Something I didn't feel quite enough the first time. The memories, quite honestly, haunt me. And sometimes I want to reach out and grab someone and make them understand, bring them with me to that place and make them feel the terror, the sadness. The heartbreak.

Last night I was feeling a physical heaviness in my heart. It was like there was something sitting on my chest. I decided to write to Layla before I went to bed, and was surprised at how much I had to say. A snippet of my letter:

"When I was on my way to work today, I started to really miss my old life. So much has changed. I have changed. I missed my old coworkers, I missed the feeling of knowing what I was doing with my life. I missed driving to work, singing, imagining you listening to my voice as we sped down the road.
I miss the happiness. I miss the innocence.
I miss the excitement and the countdown and my growing belly. I miss the midwife appointments on the calendar, the hours of research on cloth diapering and breastfeeding and cosleeping.
I miss the thoughts of you in between us in the bed. I miss contemplating whether you would have curls, whose nose you would have, what color your eyes would be. I will never know."

As I finished the last sentence, the tears came on so forcefully and violently that I could hardly catch my breath. I had not cried that way for a long time. It was hard to think back to the happy times, the innocent times, the times that have now culminated in my mind as my old life. The line between then and now is so drastic, the contrast so sharp. There is no going back.

There is a hole in my heart. I have accepted it. But it hurts. Every day. Every moment, even if it's just a little. It still hurts.