My life forever changed the moment I set foot in the hospital.
I was nearly five months pregnant, in preterm labor and terrified. Things moved fast that Saturday afternoon and within hours of arriving, I was saying hello and goodbye to my baby girl.
Losing a baby causes you to lose a part of yourself. There’s no getting over it. No putting it behind you. Something inside you dies along with your child. Afterward, you might foolishly believe the worst is behind you. In actuality, it’s only the beginning of a series of other losses.
The things I lost after losing my baby are plentiful. They are both tangible and abstract. And entirely unexpected.
I know that losing my baby forever altered my sense of humor. It took some time to be able to even think about laughing again. How could anything be funny when your baby’s life has been snatched away? It felt cruel to allow myself to smile, let alone laugh. Over time, the ability returned. Slowly. Surely. But I will never fully recover. Years later, I still cannot laugh as freely, as quickly. Certain things—certain kinds of jokes—I can no longer find any humor in.
Once a horror movie buff, I lost my ability to enjoy being scared. I spent hours terrified of losing my baby, prior to her passing. Those were the hardest hours of my life and my body is still not done recovering. I wonder why anyone wants to be scared on purpose. I cringe at violence because violence is a part of my life now. I cannot see blood on the screen without seeing my own. I still can only watch scary movies in short snippets and mixed company.
I lost the ability to socialize. I hid for so long after my daughter died that it felt nearly impossible to get back to my formerly social self. I used to thrive on full calendars, having places to go and people to hang with. When my daughter passed, I hated everyone for even being alive. I couldn't grasp why they remained while she was gone. Everything people said just felt trite and pointless. Why was I even friends with anyone?
I don’t think I could truly relay how much I’ve lost since losing my baby.
It took months before I didn’t have a panic attack upon leaving my home. Even longer before I was able to finally start having normal-ish conversations with people. These days, I still get nervous at the prospect of socializing. I overcompensate by speaking with my hands or looking around the room, and I can tell others know I’m nervous. It’s a hard habit to break.
I lost sleep. So much sleep. I still lose sleep.
There were financial losses, too. Cremating my daughter cost a few hundred dollars, dollars we didn't have. We’d just finished moving to a new city. Only my husband was working at the time and he had just one week to grieve before having to return to work. Within a few months time, and just before Christmas, my husband’s contract ended. He’d struggled for some time to make the job work, just to keep us afloat, but his employer had no sympathy for a man who’d just held the ashes of his daughter.
I started a job at a marketing agency in the hopes of keeping us afloat but it didn’t make nearly enough money. When it came time to pay the rent, we came up short. The apartment management company listened to me when I went to their office and told them what had happened.
“We just lost our daughter a couple of months ago. My husband just lost his job. We only need a few more days. Please.”
We were handed a notice that said we either needed to pay in full now or leave within three days in order not to be evicted. We packed up our belongings in a U-Haul and drove back to Miami to move in with my parents.
So, we lost our apartment and, along with it, our independence. It was hard on both of us. Living under the microscope of your parents as an adult can be crippling to one’s confidence. Needing to tiptoe around the house. Shrink yourself in order not to take up too much room. Hiding parts of our identity for fear not only of judgment, but of losing the only roof we had over our heads. And, when I got pregnant again, I allowed myself to be consumed with my fears, which only served to infantilize me more around my parents.
It took a long time for us to get out and back on our feet. Years.
I don’t think I could truly relay how much I’ve lost since losing my baby. The ability to be carefree in pregnancy. The ability to parent my rainbow son without fear. The ability not to live with the repercussions of PTSD.
I lost time, so much time. I still lose time, dwelling on what might have been, what could have been. I’ve lost my patience with others and with myself. I’ve lost my ability to deal with and absorb bullshit. Maybe not all the things I lost are for the worse.
At the very least, I am stronger now than I have ever been before. I lost my complicated relationship to alcohol and lost my desire to drink regularly or heavily. I lost my desire to control everything, because I learned there’s just no real way to do that. And while it felt that for a while I was losing my sanity, I’ve also gained clarity, and the knowledge that it’s OK to reach out for help.
I have lost much, but I have also gained—gained perspective, gained insight, gained the ability to still love after the worst sort of heartbreak. It’s easy to lose oneself entirely to such pain, but for now, I continue to emerge, to grow, to live.
I owe her that much.