I've never known how to refer to Ellison since then. It doesn't feel right to call her my daughter- because she isn't. She was, but now she isn't- she's someone else's daughter. But she was more than just a maybe-baby or our almost-baby...she was our baby for those days. And November 7, 2013 was the first of them. We were there when she was born; I watched through happy tears as Matt cut her umbilical cord. Those are the things that parents do- those were moments we thought we would treasure forever. The foundation to build a lifetime of memories upon. But then...we couldn't.
It's hard to know how I feel about that whole experience now. A friend asked me about it the other day- it was the first time anyone's asked me about it in a long time. She asked if I felt like I had healed from that loss, how I felt when I thought back on it- and then she immediately apologized and said "don't answer if it's too hard, this is probably totally inappropriate to even bring up." But it wasn't. As I told her- it no doubt would have been much more painful to discuss if I weren't sitting there with my forever child sleeping in my arms. I know that becoming Camilla's mother has healed my heart in ways I never would have imagined- absolutely, if I were still sitting here waiting to become a mommy, her question would have been infinitely more painful. We chatted for awhile, but I found that I really didn't know how to adequately sum up how I now feel about losing Ellison. To be honest, if I'm sitting around contemplating stuff, it's a lot more enjoyable to contemplate the good stuff- my life right now- and brush the hard stuff to the deep recesses of my memory. But sometimes it's healthy to pull out the hard stuff and process, so I've been doing some of that lately.
It's hard to describe how I feel, but I imagine it's very similar to what someone who experiences a miscarriage and then goes on to later get pregnant and deliver and raise a child feels. There's the obvious fact (in our case and probably in many cases where the two pregnancies occurred in a relatively short time frame) that if the first child hadn't been lost, the second one never would have come into existence. And while we are obviously absolutely freaking in love with Camilla and infinitely grateful for the gift of parenting her- I don't know, something about that perspective still rubs me a little bit wrong. I've typed and erased 40 different attempts at trying to explain what I mean, but nothing is coming out right- words, why do you fail me now?! I guess it feels like when you look at it from the 'losing X meant you gained Y, so it's fine' perspective, it kind of feels like 'the end justifies the means,' and that just feels really wrong. Also- I totally recognize that our loss was exactly that- our loss. I am not trying to imply that Ellison lost anything- as far as I know (and I hope and pray), she is being loved and cherished by her family every single day. So none of my ruminating is from the perspective that she lost out on some great life with us- not at all. And I am also not trying to equate our losing her with those who lose children to death- again, not at all the same type of loss. I just imagine that many of the emotions (and practical experiences) on my end are the same, and since far more people experience pregnancy loss than failed adoptions...it's just a comparison that flows pretty easily.
I'm writing and thinking in weird circles. If you're still trying to follow...good luck.
And so I've had a year to think and to mourn and to process and to grieve. Not shockingly, more healing has been accomplished in the last three months than in the first nine.
(Also, please check that timeline- Camilla was likely conceived the same week that Ellison was born. Tell me that doesn't make you raise an eyebrow. While I was drowning in tears, my forever baby was being knit together in her first mother's womb...)
I think about Ellison often. I wonder what she looks like, if she's still tiny for her age, if she is still called Ellison. I wonder how her mom is- how she ended up handling the many challenges that she was facing, how she has healed from the unusual and probably painful situations surrounding her daughter's birth and first few days of life. When I think about those days we spent together, I feel sad and a little bit sick, but I don't fall to pieces anymore. Again- I think that has more to do with the daughter in my arms and less to do with my amazing emotional health, but it's something.
She was born on 11/7/13. I was so incredibly excited because it was a date with all prime numbers. I love prime numbers- whenever I play the lottery, I pick prime numbers. I set my alarm (minute) times to be prime numbers (6:23 a.m. for the win!). So when she was born on an all-prime date, it seemed like such a sign. What're the odds? (No, seriously. Math geniuses: what ARE the odds?) But then...everything happened, and instead of 11/7 being a day of excitement and joy, now it's a day that reminds me of the deepest pain I've ever experienced.
I've rambled on for far too long, and I really have no conclusion. Today is her birthday. I miss her, but I feel weird doing that because somehow that seems insulting to Camilla, you know? And I don't want that. I am so grateful for sweet Millie. She is the child of my heart, an expression that doesn't even make sense but that comes into my brain every single day when I look at her. When I look back at a year ago and I consider what we went through, I'm most in awe of the fact that we survived. I didn't die, even though I felt like I would on many days...even though that doesn't even make sense, either. I didn't lose my mind or go insane or lose all hope or drown in my bitterness, although all of those things seemed possible at one time or another. I didn't do drugs! (Can I get a gold star?) It's just weird to live through something you really never thought you could. And I remember that in the days and weeks following our loss I said I could never go through this again. The pain is too much; it isn't worth it. And I thought that most likely I would not consider adoption again. Too hard. Not worth it.
But about four months later, I found that I was able to consider it. And two months after that, it was time to really decide: take a chance with another match? Or play it safe and avoid the potential pain. And some reckless part of me said to hell with it and said yes to J. And then for three months I worried every single day that I was setting myself up for another excruciating loss...was there any possible outcome that justified risking such pain?
As it turns out, the answer is yes. I feel like I'm saying this a lot lately, but Camilla is worth it.
Happy birthday, little Ellison. I'm sure we'll never meet again, but the two and a half days I spent with you changed me forever. I pray often that you are happy and healthy and surrounded with love. And I really hope that you appreciate your amazing all-prime birth date, you lucky duck.