Today I’m sharing more of our story. How we got to where we are now and why we savor these moments of rest and grace. Some know our story, but many do not know the extensive crumbling that brought about a forged foundation. This time last year we were desperate to move. To move on, to move away.
We’d been living in a quaint tiny town, up on a hill in a blue gingerbread-style house, with our old black lab and our young yellow lab, and we’d been there two years since the day we got married. On snow days I’d walk down the street to visit my friends for hot chocolate, and for my midwifery appointments I’d walk to the other side of town. We lived the Mayberry life and we were happily content there, except that…
Our marriage underwent constant upheaval. We married late October 2012, Manly left three months later for military training February 2013, and he didn’t come home for seven months; when he finally came home he was detached and distant; I worked harder than I’d worked before, and my job as a therapist became a way of escape; we struggled to get by for five months, and then he left again for more training February 2014; he came home, we conceived Heidi unintentionally, and my spirit was crushed; I loved my work and I didn’t want to give it up, and I knew our marriage couldn’t survive the stresses of raising a child; our whole world turned upside down and we came crashing into it November 4, 2014.
While living in that quaint town we’d become accustomed to the traditional German air raid siren that alarmed whenever the town fire crew was dispatched. It was annoyingly frequent, especially since the town was on the edge of a major interstate, but Ian was a firefighter so we understood the protocol. That morning at 3am, we a cozy family of three, waking up to our daughter not breathing, screaming for help and hearing the siren… The ringing never left our ears after that night. Our gingerbread home was not safe anymore. And that town became haunted.
In the months before Heidi’s birth I’d spent hours picking out nursery items – saved on a craigslist crib, ordered linen bumpers from a Lithuanian Etsy shop, displayed my grandmother’s quilt, chose a comfortable and affordable rocking chair, refinished my mother’s vintage dresser, and littered the shelves with my favorite childhood toys. In the process I became attached to the future with Heidi, all the moments we’d share nursing in that room, playing with those dolls, and praying before bed. I only got to do those things once with her in that sanctuary of a nursery.
In the aftermath, months later, I told my friends that I may never have another child; I didn’t know if I could ever love another the way I’d loved Heidi. Yet we conceived three months after her death. In the throws of tumultuous grief – which looked like night terrors, fear of falling asleep till the sun rose, intense grueling hours of therapy, screaming matches, refusing to eat, reading about death and anger, daily emotional highs and lows – we began looking to buy our first home. We had to move away.
Were we trying to escape our pain? No, we knew we couldn’t do that. No matter where we’d live we knew our memories and our sorrows with Heidi would be part of us. Did we need a change of scenery? Yes, we knew that would help us cope with our lifelong grief. What was my biggest fear? That I would give birth to my second child in the same house I’d given birth to my first; I didn’t think I could handle it.
Looking back on all that’s happened in my life for the past three years – the difficult marriage and the loss of a child – could I have ever dared to dream that we would get to buy our own farmhouse, get to have a second daughter, get to settle in and hunker down and be a family? A real family? A natural, content, happy, down to earth family. Did I ever dream that it would come true? No. I couldn’t have dared. It all seemed too big a dream.
But, here I am, in this sweet place after all the heartache – hours of hot tears, swollen eyes that wouldn’t sleep, lungs that hurt from deep sobs, empty and lonely arms, dark despair that had no faraway light – and I am peaceful and I am grateful. This is a beautiful dream. And I drink it in every day.