It is nearly the end of April. Almost May. A little over three weeks until the one-year anniversary of Hudson’s death.
I am in a bit of a daze. Well, no, it’s a pretty significant daze. Near-constant anxiety over Jackson’s well-being. Total bewilderment about the looming reality that we will have a newborn again within the next few weeks. That sense of life hurtling me forward whether I like it or not. And, frankly, numbness.
Jess said the other day that she had a moment last week where she just wished she could skip over May and go straight to June. As many of you know, Jess’s mom died three years and ten days before Hudson did, in early May, under sadly similar circumstances.
I told her that I haven’t been really dreading the anniversary of Hudson’s death. She said she was glad. But the more I talked it through, the more I began to realize that I think I am just getting the benefit of the protective coating of shock all over again. The same protective barrier that allowed me to function at all during the days we spent in the hospital with Hudson and the days and weeks after her death—the force that allowed me to talk coherently with the doctor about brain death exams and autopsies, to hold my little girl’s lifeless body in my arms and say goodbye, to continue to get out of bed every day after that, to welcome visitors into our home, to smile and talk with them, to plan a memorial service for my 17-month-old child, and to do all the other seemingly impossible things I did—I think that same bubble has enveloped me now.
On the way home from North Carolina on Sunday, Ed and I were talking about our plans for May 13, when we are going to have a brief ceremony to remember our girl at the National Arboretum. As we talked, I felt like I was in a scene from a movie, one of those where the person is somehow standing outside herself in wonder, watching but unable to say anything. How could we possibly be planning to commemorate the anniversary of our daughter’s death? How could our daughter possibly have died? How could it possibly have been nearly a year since we last held her in our arms, saw her precious smile, heard her say words and laugh? How could we possibly be talking so matter-of-factly about who should do what when during yet another memorial for our daughter?
I don’t have the slightest clue how any of these things could be possible. I feel almost as disoriented as I did during those first days and weeks of living in this new world. And I guess I should be grateful for that.
Because if I could really grasp everything that lies in front of me during the next month, I don’t think I would even be able to stand up. The worsening PTSD-like reactions and flashbacks I’ve been having as we get closer to a year. The haunted feeling emanating from the memories attached to the next few weeks, which were the last we spent with her a year ago. Mother’s Day (I’ve lived eight Mother’s Days without my mother. Now I have to begin a lifetime of them without my child, too. How is that even possible?), which, in a terrible twist of fate, I will always have to remember as the day Hudson became ill. The actual anniversary. Final preparations for a new child to come home, preparations that mean letting go of and changing even more of the spaces in our home that used to be Hudson’s. Delivering a child in a hospital room exactly like the one where Hudson was born, perhaps even in the same room. Having nothing of my little girl with me in the hospital except memories and mementos. Conquering my terrible fear of all the things that could go wrong in the delivery and all the myriad things that threaten Jackson once he’s on the outside. Living through those hazy first days and weeks of life with a newborn and coming to terms with having less time to continue grieving. Losing Hudson all over again when her brother joins us without his big sister to welcome him.
Yes, I think I’ll be grateful for this bizarre numbness. It will lift soon enough, and just like the painful tingle in our limbs as they come back to life after being in one position for too long, the aftermath is going to hurt.