At the first support group meeting I went to, not quite three weeks after Sierra's death and birth, we did a writing exercise. The writing prompt was to look at a collection of hearts - glass, metal, cloth, wood, different colors and textures - and write about the state of your heart. Here's what I wrote:
In September of 1993, I was a first year student at Smith College, contemplating an exercise like this - the state of the heart. My writing that day was full of optimism. At this moment, the first thing that enters my mind on hearing the word heart is Sierra's heart on the ultrasound monitor - five weeks of it beating defiantly in spite of a placenta that was failing her - and then - the last week - nothing. It was so still. And now, almost three weeks later, I don't quite know what the state of my heart is. I don't know how to go forward from here. I miss her so much - she should still be in my belly. I suppose the obvious metaphor is one of the glass hearts on the table in front of me - glass breaks, shatters into sharp bits - but those glass hearts look strong at the same time - and I am finding strength I didn't know I had, through this whole experience, strength and patience, but I wish I didn't have to find it this way.
At first I had this real sense of "if I can birth a dead baby, I can do anything." It made me brave; I didn't care what people thought, and all the little day-to-day challenges in my life seemed manageable. But it didn't last. Now I feel anxious and overwhelmed by the little stuff, wanting to hide in my office at work, or better yet, stay in bed all day. But I don't stay in bed all day - Austin won't let me, and I'm very grateful for him. I guess I've found the way forward - just keep putting one foot in front of the other - but it sure is hard sometimes. I still know the strength is there, but, as I keep seeing on other blogs, the true test isn't birthing the dead baby, or holding her body, but living without her.
A friend told me recently that she could see that losing Sierra had changed me, that I was visibly sad. She knows me quite well, we talk a lot, and she lost her first husband 14 years ago and understands grief -but I thought I was the only one who noticed that even when I think I'm hiding my sadness, it's there in my eyes. Apparently I'm not as good at hiding it as I thought, but it was actually gratifying, in an odd way, to have someone notice that I've changed. I do think I've changed in positive ways too - I have gained strength - and patience, and compassion. But right now, I'm mostly just sad.