"How did you get through it? How did you survive?"
This is something I hear very often, especially from people when they find out my baby died. My response is always the same;
"I just do."
I say this in present tense because it wasn't something I did, something that happened and now I am done. Coping with the death of my daughter, my oldest child, is something I deal with every day of my life.
Maybe it's because her Angel Day is on Monday, or maybe it's just because I can finally be introspective enough to answer the question...but I have been pondering this a lot lately. How do I do it?
Emma died around 4pm on Saturday, August 23, 2003. It was my in-law's 30th Anniversary, and we were at their house.
Jeremy's sister and her friend brought us back to our apartment that night. I know if we had to drive ourselves, I wouldn't be writing this right now.
As we stumbled in the back door of our apartment, it was so quiet. It had been like that many times before. We would come home from being out and Emma would have fallen asleep. Usually I would take her into our room and Jeremy would change her diaper while I nursed her so she wouldn't wake up. That night we didn't have to worry about that.
Her toys and clothes were everywhere, her diapers needed to be washed, there was blood on my shirt and the stink of death on me. Before we had done anything though, my darling took me by the shoulders and, looking me in the eye said, "Don't you dare leave me here alone. Promise me. Please don't leave me here by myself."
I promised him. That is how I made it through the early days.
Most people have funeral arrangements to make, not me. I couldn't do it. My fabulous in-laws did everything. They picked out her casket, bought her plane ticket, and made sure we ate. My family got us out there, picked out her plot and dressed her for the graveside service.
In the early days I got through as best I could. I had family around me and they lifted me up and helped me.
If I didn't mention my faith, I would be leaving out a huge part of my story. I believe that I will not only see Emma again someday, but after the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, there will be a resurrection. I believe that at that time, Emma will be resurrected as the baby she was and I will have the opportunity to raise her in a world free of temptation and sorrow, in a perfect world. That promise, that belief, has carried me through some very dark moments.
If I were to say that is all it has been, my faith, I would be lying. There have been times when my faith isn't enough and I just don't want to do this anymore. I have always said that religion and beliefs are great, but they won't fill my empty arms or empty my overfull breasts.
One month after Emma died, I became pregnant with Seth. I knew then that I was here for the long haul. I knew then that I would do everything I could to make her proud of me and to be a good Mama to her siblings.
In the last 7 years, I have had several different coping mechanisms. But the ones that stick, the ones that get me through the most difficult times are the ones that live in my house.
It's the late night nursings, kissing fat baby cheeks, tending to a scraped knee, brushing away crocodile tears. It is the spontaneous hugs, the "I love you's", the late night stories and memories we make. It's the first day of school, the first bike ride, the first steps and words. It's my hands in their hair, singing a soft lullabye. It's hearing, "Hello Mama!" at 3 am and just smiling because they're so happy to see me.
It's all the things I never got to do with Emma. All those things that I try so hard not to take for granted.
It's the look in his eyes when he tells me he loves me. It's walking through Time's Square eating cheesecake in the rain, it's snuggling up to my love and having him hold me when I cry.
So when you ask how I do it? How I survive? It's on love. I survive on love. The day Emma died a huge part of me died too. I never thought I would love again that way, but I do. The love I have for her brother, sisters and Dad help to heal my broken heart daily.
That is how I do it.