I have thought a lot about all that I have read and experienced in the last year, learning about grief, about dying and death, about living. I have read about the journeys of hundreds of women living after the death of their child or children. Some people get angry. Some turn inward. Some turn towards God. Some turn away from God. I don't know which I am quite yet. All of it? At different times? I sort of seem like more of me. More obnoxious, introverted, selfish, self-absorbed, more compassionate, more kind, more patient in some aspects, and less in others. More annoying and less present. And less annoying and more present.
I have a newborn now. And that is all anyone sees, as though the last year and four months of submerging in grief were a tour in the Nam. I remember being a few months out from Lucy's death, and walking through the market--an invisible depressed person. Two months prior, all people saw was a beautiful 20 month old with crystal blue eyes, and a pregnant mama, and then, Lucy died, and we became mostly invisible. I was one of those quiet, fat, middle-aged women that no one noticed. I didn't smile. I didn't engage in eye contact. I didn't flirt. I didn't make chitchat. I was just another extra in the movie of life. Another grieving person with no scene to fit into.
Now, I am a new mother, and people offer unsolicited advice as though this is my first child. People approach me beaming, peeking in the car seat, "Let me just see the baby for a second." Pregnant women ask me for car seat recommendations, and about my sling, and his weight now and at birth, and make allusions to how much my hoohah must have hurt. And I search behind their warm, open faces for the women ignoring me, squeezing their husbands hands a little tighter, holding their breath until I pass. Those are my people, even if they want nothing to do with me. I just want to cry with them and stop talking about this nonsense. I want my arm to gesture over Thor and Beezus and say, "This is not my whole story." I have never wanted a "My baby died" t-shirt more than now.
Last year, I resented the invisible woman, and now I cling to her. "Remember her?" I think, "She was so honest." She was the embodiment of Grief. That woman looked like me, lived in my house, but I didn't see her as me back then. I could almost sit back and watch her--dark circles under her eyes, drooping, baggy clothing and unwashed hair, like the scene in Annie Hall where Annie gets up during sex to draw. It was like that, getting up out of my body and watching myself shuffle through the market shopping for spinach and bread. But now, I can see that she is just as much me as this new mother, perhaps more so. When I find myself now succumbing to people's expectations of a doting new mother, ignoring their little barbs about sleep and two babies, and how we now have the perfect family ("One boy. One girl."), I say a silent prayer:
We were perfect then too. Two girls is perfect too, even if one is dead, because it is our family.
A older woman approached me last week in the popsicle aisle of the market. "Oh, my goodness, he is new. How old is he?"
"Ten days." I said.
"Well, enjoy it. It does go fast."
"Yes, I know."
"Is he your first?"
"No, no, he is my third."
"Oh, well, I should have talked to you a while ago. I would have stopped you at two. Now, you and your husband are outnumbered and you can't win anything now. Why, I just told someone at my church, I'd like to stop everyone at two, because after that, it is just impossible. I have five and well, you have to stop at two..." Blah, blah, blah...And she kept talking like this as my heart became more and more wrenched in her words, albeit, her kind, ignorant words, and I spat out my vitriol and tried to stop her incessant chatter.
"Well, my second child died, so we will only have two at home, so we aren't quite outnumbered, but how we wish for our three to be with us." She apologized, and blessed me and God is blessing me, she told me, and then she proceeded to follow me for another few aisles, and tell me about newborns, and sleeping, even as I said, "Oh, I don't mind the not sleeping, or the crying, as long as he is here." And I grew weary and resentful of her inability to take a fucking hint. "Don't you get it, lady? My whole perception of life is on a different planet than yours." My story is not simple anymore. Chitchat feels so unkind now, even when I know it is well-intentioned, even though my story is happy too.
I never thought this space was Lucy's space.
This blog is my space. It is why I named it something not Lucy-centric. I don't pretend Lucy lives here. Lucy is dead. Tragically, heartbreakingly dead. It is a strong, black period on the end of every sentence I write. This is where I process that fact. I pissed in the corner a long time ago and wrote about gnomes with almost no thought to my dead daughter. But in the way that nothing is wholly your own when you are a mother--not your body, your time, your conversation, or your diet--this space is Lucy's space too, if she wants it, and Bea's and Thor's and my husband's, and even the fucking dog if he happens to carry a corned beef into the art room after rummaging in the garbage and make me spaz out like a banshee on crack cocaine, not that that happened yesterday when I cleaned out our fridge. It is that damned dog's space too, when he demands it. Not that he does much, but you know what I mean, nothing is mine, even if it has my stink all over it.
After babies are born, people wonder what their blog space offers them. To me, I still need this space. I still grieve. I admit that my grieving and my mothering Thor are completely separate affairs. But I understand the need to create something new and different after the loss of a child and the birth of a new one, but here, I don't see this space as only Lucy's space. I will keep writing about my life, the life after the death of my Lucy, after the birth of my Thor. I have to be true to my own experience of the universe--live daughter, dead daughter, live son. The Lucy hole is not filled and never will be filled. I will always mourn my second daughter, I suppose. Perhaps not sobbing, tearing at my hair and making clicking noises like the old burqa-ed ladies, but I still internally click. Constantly.
I do not see grief in the same way as I did a year ago, or six months ago. Grief is not my shroud. Grief is my lens. I see the world in terms of suffering, of struggles between life and death and coming to terms with our own mortality through the mortality of those we love. Or maybe not simply my lens, perhaps more like grief is me. It is not a separate entity that has entered my previous innocent Angie shell. I am not a medium for Grief.
I am not raw, but I am not healed. I have accepted that she isn't coming back, and that will always make me sad. I will always have a sadness, because I will never have a second living daughter. She is dead. There is the period again, right at the end of everything. In some ways, I will never be cool with death. I will never be comfortable with the dying aspect of life. It makes it all so absurd and surreal and fucking difficult. I hate to get all existential on your ass, but you know, all so Sisyphean. Rock up. Rock down. Repeat.