Last year, around this time, I was at Panera Bread with a very close friend of mine whom I love to laugh with. When I say she is tremendously talented at making me cackle out loud, I do not exaggerate. The way our lives run, it is close to impossible for this friend and I to meet in person more than three times a year, if at all, but she was there in that very moment.
Of course, looking back, this was no accident. Interesting how somewhere inside me, I must have known, I needed her to be there with me. I needed to be there with her, innocent as a Panera Bread lunch date would seem.
Interesting also that, just under five years ago, pregnant, I can remember this odd week within which I kept looking for substitute teachers to cover my prenatal fitness classes for me. I was not ill. I just did not want to teach that particular time.
Very uncharacteristic of me to get someone to teach my classes in my place, when I wasn't sick or there wasn't some big emergency. I love what I do and I love to show up for the pregnant women my occupation serves.
Somehow, something inside me knew that I needed to be somewhere else that week. I couldn't put my finger on it at the time but I could not be with my pregnant students then, and so, got coverage a couple of days that week, just under five years ago.
I took that week off from teaching and being around those pregnant hopefuls. What fun it was to be pregnant together with my students, moving and sharing our pregnancies, while I encouraged them to connect with their experience. Regardless, I freed myself from teaching those few times that week.
We went to a wedding just days after my subs took over my classes. Erich, our boys and I headed across the country, on our family's first plane ride, to a favorite friend's wedding in Colorado.
We were in Heaven at the banquet, dancing, all five of us, my husband, our two boys and our little baby in my tummy. I remember so much dancing. Nico and I and my tummy. Cole in my arms and I and my tummy. Erich and the boys and I and my tummy. The dancing and the happiness are forever imprinted in my memory.
Within a week or so after we returned, we found out we had lost our little one in my tummy. Our Nico had named her Lala Nycks, fortuitously it seems, just a few weeks before, and that is our angel daughter's, their sister's, name.
We grieved the best way we knew as a family. We cried quietly alone and together. We sobbed outloud alone and together. We sat in silence. We talked things through. We listened. We told and retold her story. Our story. We prayed.
And then, apart from that, I lived a personal and independent hell late into the nights and early mornings, believing I was dying and would never recover from this death. I remember clearly how helpless I felt, clutching at my stomach, trying to revive what life was in there, a wretched rebellion against a truth I knew I was helpless, powerless to change.
I would sneak out of our bedroom in the middle of the night while Erich somehow slept, or maybe he didn't. Trying not to be resentful of his slumber, I tossed and turned, on the floor, writhing, entwined within the heart of the most unbearable pain I ever experienced. Had it been ancient times, I might have torn at my clothes and thrown dust in my hair.
My eyes burned scorching tears, as I watched grieving mothers put to words in these videos, what I could not even piece together. They voiced what I was unable to accept, as the keeper of this baby, that I could do nothing for my dead child within my womb. I could not feed her enough. I could not hold her with my body enough. I could not love her back to life. She was just gone. Eleven and a half weeks of hope, happiness and expectation, all of a sudden, stolen. A promise broken forever. And somehow, I was supposed to get through it.
Caring, uncomfortable friends, told me all the wrong things like, "It was for the best." Or, "It's been two weeks, are you feeling better now?" Even, "At least it happened early." All this good intention, these kind words, these wrong words, pouring salt into my shredded heart.
And, to be fair, when you lose a loved one, there are no right words. In fact, all you have is an empty gas tank before an expanse of desert. Nothing feels like anything can ever be right ever again.
For when is a mother a mother? And, if that life stops, when does she stop being a mother? I am the mother to three children; our two boys and our angel who didn't stay with us longer than eleven and a half weeks. I am the mother to the child no one else but my husband, children and I met.
Each time I was pregnant, before I even took the stick test, there was something inside me that shifted. A dizziness, an overturning. And, no, while I never suffered from morning sickness, not badly, I was not myself. I was already changing, becoming something else, something more.
Each time I have been pregnant, I knew I was holding within me a new hope for the world. Without question, I would do all I could to protect that child, that life that asked me to make room for him, for her. And, outside of my own power and circumstance, I knew I would somehow be able to step aside and manage to make way for him or her.
Sitting with my friend at Panera Bread last year around this time, I was supposed to be on my way to a walk. It was to be the first annual "Walk to Remember," sponsored by the Hygeia Foundation, a support for families who grieve the loss of a child. I was supposed to do that in my brain. I was supposed to show up.
I knew meeting with April that morning was going to make things, the time I had to get to the walk, tight. However, I continued to sit with her, unknowingly meeting a desperate thirst for distraction from the worstening chances that I would get there in time, or, as time continued to pass, at all.
I stared at her intensely all morning, I knew that, between our out loud cackling, not realizing that my determined gaze upon her face was sparing me from sudden death at the time. I clutched at her face with my eyes, like a child hangs onto a mother's leg when she is afraid to be left all alone in the world. And, an, "I'll see you soon," equates itself to, "I'll see you never."
Being nowhere else in the world but with this friend is what I needed, it seemed, in those very moments. I needed to be in the throws of the living and the laughing. When I looked away from her face, I would look at my watch or glance at my phone for directions to the walk. When I looked away from her face, I was reminded, I needed to get up and leave, if I ever meant to make that walk.
Peculiar how I seemed to know, somewhere inside, that I needed to miss this stroll. I couldn't face any of this until, I guess, I was caught in a moment when, cornered, I had to make a decision about how to proceed. I stopped laughing and I faced the music. And it was sad. The sad song was incomplete and the notes... somehow... wanted to hold steady but not play out any new ones. The sad song did not want to continue differently or, even, maybe, to find an end.
The familiar heart breaking tune did not want to include a memorial walk. Something inside me didn't want to hear through to the last note of this ballad. This walk was an invasive, discordant sound that did not flow well with our Lala Nycks stories.
These stories we repeated to one another, to help us get through our loss, I thought, were enough. As the story goes, Lala Nycks, our angel, wasn't ready to come to stay. She needed her angel wings still and, so excited to meet us, impatient even, she tried to come too early. So instead of living on on this earth, God took her back, where she could be safe to fly among us instead. That is the only song I was ready to sing.
And then, all of a sudden, no longer able to look my friend in the eye, I vocalized, "I don't really think I want to go on this walk, April."
She responded, all hysterics aside, "I know you don't, honey. And, it's okay."
I found the courage to poke around at the honesty that took cover deep within me, "I just feel like a traitor, you know? Like I should be there. All those women. So courageous. But... I... see... she's not dead, April. Not to us. She is our angel. She is with us. Everywhere. I don't want to grieve her with all those strangers. I want to hold her and her life... the way it has to be with us now. I can't go."
Amazing how, what got me through the horrific nights, was going to see me through to this next level of grief. I had heard, in one of the videos I took out at the library, that, the thing about miscarriage and the loss of a child is that, no matter how long it takes, "grief waits." You cannot fast forward your way out of it. You cannot resolve it all by writing your own ending in short hand. You need time. Your time to process and to live a new life through, step by step.
When I heard those words, I wanted to swim in my grief and "fast-forward" to the point at which I was "cured" of my deep sadness. Let me bathe in grief, I must have thought, until I am sopping wet with it, and the strong currents simply wash all of this pain away from me. Wash it from me, this unimaginable suffering that I will never ever know her, apart from my imaginings... wash it away from me, all of it so, we can sing our happy song that everyone, after all, is okay.
Something in me knew the next step was not to go on that walk. It was not at all. It was to fess up. Just like there was something in me that told me just before we miscarried, under five years ago, "Get some subs to cover these prenatal classes you teach. Do not stay here. This is not where you belong."
It was graceful protection. "You cannot be here now. Miscarriage in process, or, at least, on the way." Again and again, merciful grace.
If you truly don't believe there is a God, you have never seen His face. Or, you refuse to look beyond yourself and your own capabilities. But He is there, in every happy as well as every tragedy filled and knee-buckling moment. I wasn't capable, I was beyond what I could handle.
I wasn't even a believer then like I am now, but someone has been caring for my broken, mending heart. Someone was preparing, even before we lost Lala Nycks, to knit my undone fabric back together. And, in my dying, allowing the loss of my daughter to completely take a hold of me at this level, someone breathed His own life into mine.
And then, around this time last year, "You must be with laughing, hysterical, filled with life April right now, instead of driving over and making it in time for that walk. This is not for you."
This Sunday I will walk the 2nd Annual "Walk to Remember." I don't know what it will be like. But my heart has been peacefully preparing me to go these last few months, where I could not even manage at all last year.
Last year it was a dutiful, supportive, stand up with my sisters thing I thought I was supposed to do and, thank goodness, I realized and accepted I wasn't ready for that. I didn't want to be ready. Or, "one of them." I didn't want Lala Nycks to be just another lost child.
But, this year, somewhere within me, I know she and I aren't just another number. I can't imagine all that I will or won't experience on this walk this weekend. I really cannot. I don't know if I will be a wreck or quite alright. I do know this is where I am at with all of this. This is not a conclusion, rather a continuation.
And, Lala Nycks, she is my walking, well — flying, partner. This is the next threshold mother and daughter will walk through. This our next big opportunity to celebrate our life together, different as I imagined it would be, when I first heard her heartbeat. Different, but all our own.
Happy trails to us Lala Nycks. Bring those wings over here, my sweet sweet girl, and wrap me, your forever Mom, within their downy softness my angel, so I can feel your warmth in a big way, in this next way, on this nice walk of ours on Sunday.