Absence of Joy

Lila was synonymous with joy. Even before she arrived, she became our world. Everything around us changed. That sweet excitement transformed, and dictated, everything in our home: a room for her crib, a closet for her clothes, and even her own seat in our car. We could, and would, take her anywhere with us. We were finally going to fulfill our dream of becoming parents by having a baby girl.

But we never took her home. Not the way we were supposed to. She never slept in her room. She never wore her clothes. She never even saw her parents. And that last part breaks my heart every time. There was so much happiness, elation, and excitement that was tied to her. For a while, I didn’t know where else it existed in my life. Everything I loved before her, I still loved. Love was not erased where it existed, but she took so much of my love’s attention in a new, overwhelming way. She became such a focus of my love. An entirely different, new part of my heart was full thinking about her in my life. Then, it disappeared without her in my life. And that void was heavy. It still is heavy. There was (read: is, still) something so powerful about Lila. All the plans I made: the experiences I wanted to share with her, things I wanted to show her, and “I love yous” that I wanted to tell her. Her absence meant an absence of joy. Everything became past tense because there was no future. 

Within the first year of losing Lila, three babies were born in my family. That meant three separate pregnancy announcements, endless months of seeing three baby bumps grow, and enduring a strong, triggering pain that was so deep and indescribable that I had to hide from it because I was scared it would break me. What a hopelessly fucked up situation to find yourself in, as someone who’s baby was recently born still. I couldn’t participate closely, or even from afar. Inability to immerse in the incredible milestone of a loved one’s pregnancy will really make you feel like shit. I wanted to be there celebrating them, and their miracle, in the moment and beyond, but I mentally, emotionally, and physically couldn’t. I couldn’t find that joy. My family understood (as much as they possibly could) the complexities and darkness that I was navigating. I took space because I had to, not because I wanted to. This was the beginning of enduring triggers, continually revisiting trauma, and finding a way to survive in a life I’d never lived before losing her. A crash course, really. There was no way around this part of moving forward. I knew these pregnancies in my family would happen soon. But it was much sooner than I’d thought. 

It felt like my joy was taken from me and being given to everyone else. I know that’s not how the world works, but that’s how it felt then. Pregnancies, newborns — they were everywhere, inescapably everywhere. I felt so completely hopeless, sad, and angry. Hopeless that my baby died. Sad that I couldn’t be there for my friends and family expecting their babies. And angry, really angry, about the combination of those two things. Grief put a new lens on the world. Even now: nothing looks the same, nothing sounds the same, and nothing feels the same. I am four years, five months, and fourteen days removed from Lila’s death. I’m posting this on a Wednesday. She came into this world, silently, on a Wednesday. My beautiful baby girl. My first born.

She will always occupy a unique joy in my life that I’ll never get back. Ever. New joys have entered my life, but that doesn’t replace her joy. Nothing can, nothing ever will. I love you, Lila. Every single moment of every single day, forever. 

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