2018 began full of apprehension and uneasiness. I didn’t know how the year would go for us and that made me anxious. We hadn’t spoken of it much, because I wasn’t ready yet. I needed time before it became all consuming. I was scared, but I wasn’t willing to admit it yet.
I posted this on Instagram on January 1, 2018. I was coming off of a very busy work season. I was craving balance and knew 2018 would test me far more than I was sure I could handle. I posted this nine months before my husband was scheduled to deploy. I posted this trying to will myself into believing that if I just put us first, then I could do it. I could solo parent two young girls and work full time. I wanted to believe our marriage was up for the challenge and our family would be happy and thriving despite the circumstances by the time 2019 came.
What I didn’t know is that after posting this plea to the Universe it would stop and say, “hold my beer.” Just 25 days into 2018 our world would be flipped on its heads only to never be righted. Our baby would be dead.
2018 is mostly a fog. It’s almost as if we entered the hospital on January 25 only to be teleported to a new dimension on January 26. We left the hospital looking the same, albeit severely swollen eyes, but were completely different people.
For most of 2018 I walked around with a strange numbness. My body felt tingly most of the time. I walked through the motions of my former life feeling like I no longer belonged and someone was about to figure it out. I had conversations with people and thought, “Don’t you know my baby just died? Why would you think I’d care about that?” Every interaction, especially with new people, became an overly rehearsed nightmare in my head. “What if they ask how many kids I have? What will I say? What if they don’t ask at all? Should I just tell them my baby died?”
I cried all the time. I think if you took years 1985-2017 and put all my tears in a jar it wouldn’t compare to 2018. I’d get into my car and cry because there wasn’t two car seats in the back. I’d drive to work and cry because a love song made me think of my children. I’d leave work and cry because I couldn’t cry all day and had to let it out. I’d make dinner and cry. I’d go for walks and cry. I’d watch a parade and cry. I’d leave Piper with a sitter and cry. I’d workout and cry. I’d go to bed and cry. Even in my dreams I’d cry.
Needless to say I spent 2018 feeling exhausted. Most of the time I wondered if all this had really happened. It was as if I spent a year having an out of body experience. Surely I’d wake up and all would be fine, right? Wrong. All would not be fine. No matter the minutes, the hours, the days, the weeks, and the months that past. All would not be fine.
As my brain began to function a bit better in my new reality things started to shift again. Justin was getting ready to leave for a 10 month deployment. We had started to plan for this in 2017, but none of the planning and resiliency training included a course on…what to do if your spouse deploys the same year your baby dies. There are zero handbooks and brochures for this scenario.
So what do you do? You cry a bit more but you wake up each morning, you sometimes wash your hair, and you keep going. There literally is nothing else you can do other than to keep going.
There were times my mind had wondered if the deployment would be easier with just Piper. Those thoughts haunt me now. They leave me wondering if someone misunderstood my lack of confidence and took one of my children away. There are many other thoughts where those came from but if I let them all in they’d become debilitating.
Did I mention 2018 was exhausting? It was other things, too. In the deep waves of sorrow we also had people who helped tread water for us. Sometimes the unlikely people stepped up time and time again just to make sure we’d make it through that day. Many of our family, friends, and colleagues became invaluable beacons of support. People we barely knew or had not seen in years sent us notes and gifts. The kindness of others became encouraging in a time of great doubt.
My Top 9. It features some of the joy that was born out of the sadness of 2018. My tattoo, my vow to carry Estelle with me as long as a live, her Little Free Library that has offered an outlet for my parenting energy, the wave of light honoring all the babies of the beautiful mother’s I have connected with in 2018, and Piper. Without her I don’t know what state I’d be in today.
So, with all that said, #FU2018, and welcome 2019. I look forward to carrying Estelle into this next year with a bit more strength and energy that I didn’t have available in 2018. I’ll continue to love and parent both my girls to the best of my ability. I’ll support my grieving spouse with patience and compassion from afar and then again when we’re finally reunited. And, I will continue to share my story in an effort to help and connect with other moms, to ensure Estelle’s name is known, and to hopefully, one day, reduce the number of families who relate all too much.