Today is Eric’s birthday.
On July 12, I gave birth to Olivia. It was an emergency induction, four weeks before her due date; the amniotic fluid was very low, and the only reason it was caught at all was because, after Eric, an ultrasound and fetal heartbeat monitoring for the last for weeks was routine procedure. Meaning that, in a very real way, Eric’s death saved Olivia’s life.
Eight weeks later, on his birthday, I still can’t come to terms with that.
I’ve had no trouble bonding with Olivia, but I miss Eric far more with Olivia to hold. I find myself seeing a thousand ways a day that I should have three children, not two; all the time knowing that I would not have had three, no matter what had happened. Without the monitoring, Olivia would very likely have been the one stillborn. So I am grateful, and every moment of gratitude breaks my heart. I didn’t choose, and I am still, and probably will always be, angry at whatever power did the choosing for me.
And still… I realized while I was in the hospital cuddling my new baby and watching all of our family visit Olivia for the first time, that in some tiny ways, I have found some kind of peace. I have felt for so long – for a year – that I can’t stop talking and thinking about Eric, that I alone seem obsessed, unable to let it go. Sitting there in that hospital room, though… It was a haunting feeling, one I will never forget. Eric was a ghost there, but he wasn’t haunting me. I saw so many people holding Olivia, and their eyes held the shadow of Eric. All they could really see was him, all those people who seemed to forget and “move on” and couldn’t bear to hear me even speak his name, who turned away from me: I saw Eric’s ghost hovering near. And to my complete astonishment, he was a presence to me no more and no less than Claire was. I thought of him, of course, just like I thought of Claire, but I was holding and cuddling Olivia, and never for one moment was she anything but herself. She’s still just herself. To so many people, she’s… the coda, in a way, the end of a story that started with Eric. But she’s not simply the “happy ending”. There was certainly a journey for ME, but it didn’t start with Eric, it started with Claire and the shock of Life with Children. (You parents know what I mean!) And I don’t know yet if it ends with Olivia. I do know that, while I struggle over and over to find a way to integrate Eric into the story alongside Claire and Olivia, he is simply one of my children. I suppose, in very many ways, that means I’ve come far from where I was when I started this.
But today, of course, is a different story. Today was about him. It was such an empty day; no family, no celebration, no stack of presents to wrap last night, and I am writing this rather than cleaning up after a party earlier today. But I smiled today. I laughed. I burned a candle for him, and I made a cake. I haven’t cried; I feel a little like I simply don’t have any tears left. Or perhaps it just hurts too much for tears, and they will come later, but today was a day of confusion; I didn’t expect not to know how to feel today.
125 hats. The big count. With the help of a lot of very generous, very special, very loving people, people I will be forever grateful to, we’ve made 125 hats – and a few extras – in a year. (Or rather, about nine months, but we’ll round up.) I spent a lot of time today thinking about what happens next. When I started this project, it was for a year, to help me grieve, to give me a way to shake my fist at the universe and force something good out of a situation that will never, ever be good. Now, though… I slowly began slipping other projects in, so I wasn’t ONLY knitting hats, but every time I do, I remember him and keep him close. I remind myself and him that I’ve never forgotten him, not for an instant, anymore than I could forget Claire or Olivia for an instant. I believe in this work, and it is the truest faith I have right now; I may never know if it does any real good, never talk to anyone who gets a hat, but I am certain that this needs to be done. So, I’ve decided that I will continue the Colored Halos project. In fact, I want to expand it. I want to look at making it an official, IRS recognized charity, so I can start to solicit yarns from yarn companies to use to make these hats, and to give to other people making hats. I am looking at whether it is possible to solicit hats, rather than money, on Kickstarter, to encourage people with beautiful, slightly-used, handmade baby hats they no longer need to donate them. (I know for a fact that sooner or later, I’ll end up with a box of handmade hats – not all of them made by myself – that I can’t bear to get rid of and will never have a use for again. I can’t be the only one, and donating them to a family or a baby who needs them most is the best use I can think of for them.) There’s a story behind that, by the way, but that’s for another post. I will continue to keep this blog up and running, as best I can with a toddler and an infant; it will be updated much less now, I am sure, but I will keep on posting patterns as I develop them, updates to the Colored Halo project in general, thanks for donations as I get them, and of course other events and news that are important or significant for raising awareness of stillbirth and SIDS. My own journey through grief is far from finished, but the worst part is over. Now, it’s time to focus more on Colored Halos itself, at least here.
125 hats. At the very least, I’d like to double that number by next year. It’s the only birthday gift I’ll ever be able to give him.
I love you, Eric. Happy Birthday.