The First Month

The first few days were described most by exhaustion. Between the exhaustion and the grief, I had no appetite and hardly ate anything. I just wanted to look at Abigail's pictures and think about her all the time. I was in a daze; I didn't want to do anything except talk or think about Abigail. I wasn't even interested in my other kids. I definitely cried, but was too spent to even do much of that. I didn't feel like I had the energy to do much of anything. The thought of getting things ready for the funeral services was overwhelming; where would I get the energy?

But any energy I did have was spent on reliving my time with Abigail. I spent a lot of time on the computer, posting her story on the T18 board, and working with her pictures. I made a Thank You card with pictures of Abigail to send to the nurses at the hospital. I also made a photo collage that I emailed to everyone so they could see how beautiful she was. Doing those things helped me keep reliving the good memories of Abigail. I felt so blessed to have had 5 days with her and that those days were filled with so many good memories. I didn't want to let go of that time.

I really wasn't functioning, and I was still hurting physically from my back injury, the c-section, and my milk having come in. I think I was in shock about what had happened. That is so odd because I had known for months that she would die, but living through it is different from knowing about it. But still, the euphoria and shock were protecting me from the worst of the pain; I was hurting but it didn't seem that bad.

Wednesday, September 4, 2002: The burial

We decided to have a private burial first, with a public service about 10 days later. I was concerned that the burial might be really hard for me because the public service was to share her and introduce her to our friends, but the burial, I thought, was only going to be sad. So I was dreading it. I had printed out some large photos of Abigail and framed them, and took two of them and the little pink lamb to place by the grave. We did not have an open casket; it was so small, smaller than the spray of flowers from the funeral home. But it was a beautiful, sunny day, and her grave is in a beautiful spot, in the shade next to the woods. It is kind of reminiscent of our backyard. Steve said a few words and read some scriptures. I didn't fall apart like I thought I might, but I was pretty sad. It started to hit me that it was my daughter we were burying.

Sunday, September 8, 2002

I was really looking forward to church on Sunday. We figured it would be emotional, but I wanted to see everyone again. And since so few people had gotten to meet Abigail, I wanted to tell them all about her. I was still feeling the "high" from the time with her that I didn't think we were going to get. Everyone was so glad to see us, and it was good to be back. But no one mentioned her. Not one person. And I wasn't sure how I was "supposed" to behave. Was I supposed to fall apart? Was I supposed to be at peace? Was I supposed to mention her? Was I supposed to act normal? This was my first experience with these questions, but I would soon become all too familiar with them. And it was my first time observing that I am now different, so different that some people are uncomfortable being with me.

I had taken a lot of pictures of Abigail to show off, but I hadn't gotten them out, even though I really wanted to show her off and talk about her. How could I talk or think about ANYTHING else but my baby; it had only been 1 week since she died! But I guess I wasn't comfortable mentioning her and getting out the pictures because I didn't know if I was "supposed to". So I just sat there in a daze and tried to hold it together. A few songs had made me get a little teary-eyed, but I did well overall. But that afternoon, I went into Sarah's bedroom alone and sat and the tears poured. I was really disappointed that I hadn't shown Abigail's pictures. I knew I needed to talk about her and show her pictures, but no one else knew it. They were taking my cue. And since I didn't mention her, no one else did. I was hoping they would ask to see pictures, but of course they wouldn't, since they didn't know what I wanted. I didn't realize it then, but from then on, the burden would be on me to let others know how I wanted them to behave. Oh, how heavy that burden can be!

So I decided that I would show the pictures after the evening service, whether it was "proper" or not. So afterwards, I got them out, and a lot of people got to look at them. It seemed like they were relieved that I got them out so they could talk about her too. And I got to talk about her and I felt a lot better.

Monday, September 9, 2002

A coworker called to see how I was doing. I really enjoyed telling her about Abigail and how things went. I appreciate that she is willing to call and ask questions and listen, because I really wanted to talk. I just needed to keep reliving the good memories of Abigail's life. Then two of our doctors called and told me how much they had learned from us. Amazing!

I was still feeling happy about her time with us and was really looking forward to Abigail's day when it would be all about her. I spent most of the week working on the letter about her and the other things we would be handing out at her service. I felt as if I was living underwater, though, because I felt so heavy and tired. Everything I prepared for her service was because I wanted to, but it all seemed to take so much effort.

Friday, September 13, 2002

We all went out on a friend's boat in the morning, then had lunch at the marina. We had everything ready for Abigail's service, which was the next day, and we wanted to try to take a break and get away. It was so relaxing, and it was a good change of scenery. It helped me appreciate our other 2 kids. But I can't say I really enjoyed it, because it didn't seem right to be enjoying things. And it made me so sad that no one seeing us could tell I had just had a baby and I should still have her. So I kind of went through the motions, but soon I just wanted to go home. And then I got really tense and paranoid that there might be a fire at home and that even though we had made several CD's of the pictures of Abigail, that they would all be lost in a fire. It was completely irrational, but I couldn't relax until we got home and I put one in the car until my parents had taken their copy home. It was crazy, but it would be unbearable if we lost all the photos.

Saturday, September 14, 2002

The memorial service was finally here! I had really been looking forward to it - a day with all of our friends and loved ones that was focused completely on Abigail. Steve and I were able to greet just about everyone before the service. The service was glorious, just as we had hoped. The songs were wonderful; and the poems made me cry as I expected. Singing "Jesus Loves Me" was really moving, because we could hear the kids really singing out, and it seemed so appropriate. When Steve did his message, I got more emotional, as did he. But he got through it. The final 2 songs were wonderful. So after it was over, I was able to again greet people, with teary eyes, but with joy. It was just as we had hoped, emotional but not sad. Because it was a celebration of Abigail's eternal life. And it was our chance for everyone to meet her.

After the lunch, where the ladies of our congregation put out an incredible spread of food, they told me they needed me in the foyer. There they gave me a card and gift. I, of course, started crying immediately. As if they hadn't already done enough! I opened the box and found a beautiful hard-shaped locket, inscribed with "An Angel from God" on the back. Inside, there is room for 4 tiny photos of Abigail. It was the perfect gift - a way to honor and remember Abigail and to remember their love and concern for me.

It was an exhilarating day, but tiring. I was surprised, then, when the wave of sadness passed over me that evening. I think it was due to the "high" of being with people who were hearing about Abigail and then getting home again - back to reality.  Back to life from now on, without her. A major letdown. I felt very lonely, very empty and depressed, but somehow I did not cry. I managed to deflect it since I didn't want to "ruin" the day with a depressed evening. I would soon become very familiar with deflecting my emotions and trying to hold things together during certain times.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002 

Today Steve and I took Sarah to story time at the library. I felt weird, never having been there, and knowing that they knew about Abigail. One woman had a baby with her. For the most part I handled it OK, but at one point I noticed she was nursing. That made my heart start to pound and I started to tear up and look around for a restroom or something. I resisted the urge to get up and run and somehow managed to not cry. But it was miserable. I had planned to try to do family things while I was on my maternity leave from work. But I hadn't considered that family things would likely involve other people's babies, and sometimes that can be so hard.

Friday, September 20, 2002

Today I went to have lunch with some people from work. I got there a little early and showed some friends pictures and the stuff from the service. They were really interested, and it was a very exhilarating afternoon, much like the service was. Once again, when I arrived home, I felt the wave of sadness again, the letdown after being with people who wanted to talk about my daughter. It's as if while I was there, talking with them, she was still alive. But once I got home, the truth hit me again.

Saturday, September 21, 2002 

Tonight Steve and I went to a Third Day concert in Akron to try to get out and relax. It was a beautiful evening, slightly cool, and sunny. It felt so strange to be in a setting like that - at a fun event. It was right next to Children's Hospital, so the proximity in time and location to our experiences there will forever tie that evening to Abigail. I felt like I had just crawled out of a hole and was surprised to find that life was still going on around me. It was a very surreal feeling. A few times as I looked around, I thought, "I shouldn't be here, since I should have a baby to take care of." But I also thought that no one around us could tell I just had a baby and what we had just been through, and that made me sad. It's such a paradox; I don't want people to be uncomfortable around me because of what I've been through but I also feel like shouting, "I just had a baby and she died."

I have to say that I kept watching one family with 2 little boys on a blanket down on the field. I could tell how much they loved their kids by how they were playing and wrestling with them. I was kind of jealous but I don't know why. Maybe because they looked so carefree since tragedy hasn't touched their family (but how do I know that?). I also noticed two LifeFlight Helicopters coming in to the hospital. The first time, it disturbed me a little. The next time I started to cry. I looked around and we were all at a concert while some family's life was being turned upside down because their child was really sick. I just never noticed that sort of thing before.

Sunday, September 22, 2002

We had some visitors at church today; we invited them to join us for lunch. As we ate, we talked about many things, including the concert the night before, but did not even mention Abigail. It had only been 3 weeks since she died! How could I go through a "normal" lunch and not mention the most important thing in my life? I was thinking of her every minute, but was being the minister's wife that important? Or was I really at peace with her death? Or was I just still in shock? The whole thing seems so unreal.

Monday, September 23, 2002  

We went out on the boat again. While we were out there, the chain on my locket broke. I didn't notice it right away, but I found it and the locket itself. I put them in my purse to get another chain later. But it was really strange: I almost starting crying. It wasn't lost or anything, but it was almost as if something happened to Abigail, I was so upset. It took me until we were almost home to get over it.

Monday, September 30, 2002

I was a little apprehensive as I went to get my hair cut. This was the first time since before Abigail was born, and I wasn't sure how I would react if the subject came up. Well, the young girl who was going to cut my hair asked if I had a boy or girl. I said a girl, born at the end of August. She said, "and everything's ok?" And I said, "actually, no, she died, but we knew about it beforehand."

I saw her kind of start, then she said, "the same thing happened to my sister about 2 months ago." Her sister had a very premature baby who died. So we were able to calmly talk about our experiences. It was wonderful for me to be able to ask and answer questions in a matter of fact way.

At the end of one month, I found that I was crying every day, but I was still reliving Abigail's life and was still so thankful for the time we had. But I didn't really need to function yet; other than church I wasn't doing anything. I was feeling somewhat at peace about her life and death, but I think there was a bigger element of shock involved than I realized, too.

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