I actually didn’t know about this day until this morning, when our dear next door neighbor, who also experienced stillbirth at full term, posted about it on Facebook. But alas, it turns out we have our own “holiday”, as she put it – a dismal, dreary kind of day that usually includes candlelit walks and I imagine, a fair amount of wine.
I don’t know if a day like today is more for those who have suffered such a loss, or for those who haven’t – a way to help them see, to know. Some kinds of grief aren’t easily validated in our culture, and people instinctively rush the healing process, moving on for the sake of the world around them. Many people never know about those around them who have lost a child, or at least never get a chance to acknowledge it.
And sure, a day like today is a chance to be intentional in my remembrance of Rowan, but truthfully, that could be any day for me. Sometimes, it’s the “landmark” days, like an anniversary, but often, it’s just a regular day. I find that many days contain associations that become triggers for memory. Sometimes, those memories feel comfortable and inviting; other times they feel more like a cobweb, sticky and fragile, like you aren’t sure where to put your foot next.
Coming home to this house, the house we were supposed to bring Rowan home to, is always hard. We’ve gone away several times since he was born, and returning is heavy. Still, it’s the “comfortable and inviting” kind of heavy…. like leaning against the chest of a dear friend that you know has to leave. As most of you know, our family has decided to move back to Portland, and so in a few weeks we will leave this house, forever. If we hadn’t made dear friends next door and down the street, we might never visit this neighborhood again. The thought of never again feeling the heaviness of this house where Rowan was supposed to nurse and cry and giggle and roll over is a thought I have to distract myself from. A part of him belongs here, a part that we will leave behind, whether we like it or not. This is the truth of journey, why pilgrimages exist.
Another association, one that is more “sticky and fragile”, is that Rowan’s due date was actually shared with Aiden’s birthday – July 13th. While this date hasn’t come around yet, when I think of it, I get a nervous feeling…. I feel brittle and snappy. I was anxious during my pregnancy that they would share a birthday, and now I feel anxious that Aiden’s birthday will always have a shadow over it, and that he will sense my withdrawal – my darkness – on a day that he needs me to shine bright. I also believe myself to be stronger than this, but it doesn’t change the feeling.
The days come and go, some are heavy and full of these associations, others are hopeful and sometimes even joyful, and there is no predicting which will be which. I recently surprised myself by making a joke about being able to help a friend out with breastfeeding, as I was probably still lactating. My friend said it was the “funniest sad thing she’d ever heard” and we laughed and cried together. Moments like that reassure me that a mental institution is not in my future, nor a bottle of vodka by the bedside (I’ll keep that downstairs, and it’s whiskey, thank you very much).
So today, Rowan, I remember you, not more than any other day, but with the solidarity of a million other memories finding power together. I hope a day like today can remind us all that we’re not alone.