Within the first three months following the death of my newborn daughter, I participated in one baby shower, attended two first birthday parties, had multiple infants in and around my home, and watched not one, not two, but five of my closest friends take happy, healthy babies home from the hospital. And in the midst of my own life-altering experience, I purchased, wrapped, and mailed a gift to every one of those new babies, because they deserved one.
In the days and months after my daughter died, I didn’t run away or hide from babies at all. And this seemed to confuse most people around me.
By the questions I was asked and the looks of surprise when I held another baby, it was clear everyone expected me to avoid other children since I lost my own. Multiple people expressed the same sentiment. They told me “it must be so hard seeing other babies and hearing about other pregnancies.”
But for me it wasn’t. Because the truth is, holding another baby brought me great comfort. It gave me an opportunity to feel again what it felt like to hold my daughter. To remember how natural it was to talk to her in a silly high-pitched voice. How sweet it was to look into her eyes. Being around other babies, holding children, hearing about pregnancies—for me those weren’t the hardest moments.
It was literally every other moment that felt the hardest.
It was walking up the stairs at the end of each night that felt hard, because I was walking empty-handed when I should have been carrying my baby.
It was hard getting in and out of my car, because I’d glance into the back and see no car seat.
It was the quiet moments between my husband and me at dinner. Quiet moments that should rarely exist with a newborn in the house.
An afternoon nap, or a weekend spent bingeing on bad TV brought immense sadness and guilt. New moms shouldn’t have endless free time for self-care and relaxation. They should be caring for a child. My daughter should have filled those afternoons with feedings, and diaper changes, and long walks, and sleepless days.
It was hard going back to Target, not because I’d hear babies crying or see countless mothers pushing strollers, but because I no longer had a reason to walk through the baby section. I never ran out of my supply of diapers, and my daughter wasn’t alive to outgrow her clothes.
It was hard emptying a dishwasher with no bottles to put away, and stocking a fridge with no baby food.
So truth be told, seeing a pregnant woman or holding a baby or hearing about a friend who delivered a healthy baby wasn’t the hardest thing for me after losing my child. Those moments didn’t catch me off guard, or suddenly “remind me” that my daughter was not here, because that was never something I forgot. Her life, and the fact that my life continued without her was something I thought about in and between everything I did. And those moments were the hardest. The hundreds of little moments that made up every hour that filled every day. Because that is how often I think about my daughter. It is constant. It is every moment, and every moment is hard.