Sometimes the exhaustion sets in. The exhaustion that comes from carrying on, from patching together a ‘normal’ life and going out into the world every day as a ‘normal’ person. I was never conscious of trying to recreate ‘normal’ in my life or my self, but that seems to be what’s happened. I suppose because that’s what’s needed out there. My work needs me to be ‘normal,’ especially. I found an agenda from the year Anja was born yesterday. Three weeks after she died, I had 100 papers to mark as a teaching assistant in a grad program. I had a chapter of my dissertation due another week later. I remember feeling so angry – not exactly then, but a few weeks later and for a long time after – that there was no time to stop – or not enough time to stop – and sit with the grief, really let myself go deep into it. Of course, there was also a three-year-old big sister, heartbroken and confused, who needed me very badly. I still feel sick over how I must have failed her in those weeks when I just didn’t have enough to go around, and when all I wanted, really, was to close my eyes and get back to that hospital room, that brief brief time with a dead baby in my arms.
I took some time around her birthday, but it wasn’t enough. It’s never enough.Sometimes I just feel so worn down and I know it’s in large part from this five-year effort to keep going. To keep heading out into the world and making things work. I don’t have a lot of choice not to do this. We were never in a financial place (in one of the world’s most unaffordable cities) to get by on one of our salaries and I’ve worked so hard in a field where to take a break is career suicide that I’ve felt it was too big of a risk to stop at any point. I’m complaining, I know, and my point here is not to complain: it’s to acknowledge the effort. To acknowledge my own effort – and yours, if you are reading this – because no one else does. No one else ever seems to recognize the huge effort it takes to just keep on going.
I wrote an email to work colleagues saying I couldn’t attend an event – a very important one – on the 14th because it was the anniversary of my daughter’s birth and death. I wanted them to acknowledge how hard it must be to be five years without her, to acknowledge her, but instead one colleague told me it was fine that I couldn’t attend – she wouldn’t be there either; she was having a new washing machine delivered and since the old one had been giving her trouble for so long, and the delivery of the new one had already been postponed once, she really must stay home. New washing machine, dead baby, whatever.
I show up, day after day. For my students, for my colleagues, for my family, my children. These days, I am actually a pretty contented person much of the time – I don’t just show up most of the time: I engage, I enjoy, I take part. But sometimes, and especially at 6 am when I wake up before the kids and drink my coffee and check my email and think about all there is to do to keep going, I just feel so, so tired and want so badly to stop and spend just a little bit of time with my memory of her, those five hours in a hospital room with a dead baby that changed me forever and that matter so little to the way the world moves on around me.