The Dead Baby Box
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I took the week off of work together to clear out the clutter in our home. It was a whirlwind marathon of pulling all like items out, placing them onto the living room floor, and thanking each no longer needed item for its service.
We dutifully followed this process and donated many bags and boxes of our stuff. We then put everything we wanted to keep into its new uncluttered “home” within our home. There was a definite sense of triumph when we were done.
All of that may sound great, and it is. It was also a process we were dangerously unprepared for. You see, when you clear the clutter, you clear the chaos. Clearing the chaos naturally clears your mind.
Clearing your mind leads to facing your truths, and some of those truths are extremely painful.
It happened to be on the fourth day of our clutter reduction journey that I was faced with my painful truth. I had been careful to donate our belongings to places that served young single mothers and children’s hospitals.
I bristled at the notion of taking them to Goodwill. No, my useless to me things must go to places that will truly help others. They needed to go to those places because those places are a part of me. Caring for children is an essential part of who I am.
Between mid-July 2014 and the beginning of April 2015, I had been pregnant and miscarried three times. As a result, I had two D&Cs and one natural miscarriage.
I had been pregnant a total of five of those eight and a half months. My multiple miscarriage odyssey had taken about the same amount of time it takes to have one healthy baby. I did not have any of my babies. I was sad, and my body was tired.
I happen to be a schoolteacher, so I had the luxury of taking the summer of 2015 off from work without repercussion. I spent much of that summer crying it all out, asking my whys, and building myself up to start a new position the upcoming fall. It was time for change.
Fall 2015 I embraced the change. I love my new position, my colleagues, and new school. The community I work in is full of really amazing people. It’s been relatively easy to jump out of bed each day, put my makeup on, and flash a smile at everyone around me. In so many ways my new job has lifted me up and reminded me of strengths I’d forgotten I had.
This is why the fourth day of de-cluttering brought me to my knees. I hadn’t been expecting it.
Day four was concentrated on organizing our bedroom. The feelings started to bubble and rise when I had the idea to turn the shelf next to my side of the bed against the opposite wall. This allowed us the space to move our bed over several feet.
When I’d been blessed enough to have my daughter almost four years prior, her crib stayed on my side of the bed for a year. Her crib had occupied those several feet. That measurement had been being saved to place the crib there again, yet I had not consciously known I was doing that. That realization brought about the first of many thunderous soul cries that day.
Another cry came when I found a book at the bottom of that same shelf. It was What to Expect the First Year.
It had been nearly a year since the third miscarriage and subsequently nearly a year since we decided to stop trying for more children. Finding that book felt like a punch in the gut. It slapped me right across my not having any more children face.
I had been unable to carry any of those three babies to term. There was no use for that book in our house. That book was immediately thrown in the donate pile.
It was clear there was no joy in holding it. I didn’t even thank it. It just needed to be gone.
The most wrenching moment was when I looked up at the top shelf of the closet and realized it was time to face it. I had been avoiding it for four days.
My husband had suggested we stick with the book we’d read and follow the method we were using, which prescribed starting with our closet. I found ways to convince him that was not the best choice. I kept saying to him, “But I love my clothes! They mean way more to me than toiletries. We should definitely start with the bathroom.” He loves me, so he complied.
There was a reason I couldn’t face our room earlier in the week, especially our closet. Now that reason sat there staring me in the face.
Through tear filled eyes, I proclaimed, “I can’t look at that dead baby box anymore. It has to go.”
I was simultaneously appalled and relieved. Dead baby box? What? How could I call it that?
The answer was simple. I called it that because that’s what it was. There is no other less painful name for it. Its sole purpose was to hold the mementos of our babies that have died.
After the first miscarriage, I went and bought a pretty box. I placed inside pregnancy tests, ultrasound pictures, and the only outfit I had purchased. Then I placed the box on the top shelf of the closet.
I hadn’t been ready to let go. I proceeded to do the same for the second and third miscarriages. Each day that box stared down at me as I fell asleep at night. It had frequently been the first thing I saw each day as I woke in the morning.
Holding that box and its contents did not bring us joy. That box needed to go.
This cleaning spree was just a few weeks ago, and the emotions are still very raw. I have realized from this experience that I am both still grieving, and also have been experiencing low-grade Postpartum Depression.
Postpartum Depression had never occurred to me until now because I don’t have a baby.
I seem to be making it through each day doing a fine job at life. Why would I be experiencing that? But I am. Though I am enjoying my new job, I am tired at night and unable to motivate myself to do much.
I adore my two amazing children, but it has been hard to take blissful joy in them as I have before. I can see the ways in which I am not taking great care of myself, but it’s like I’m seeing it through a tunnel and don’t have the motivation to change it.
I am great at posting motivational quotes on social media, but I am lacking the follow through to believe them about myself in my quiet moments when it counts the most.
Writing and sharing this article is among my first steps toward true self-care. Though I have openly grieved these losses, this article is admittance that I am still not yet ready to be grieving on my own.
It is with all of the bravery and vulnerability I can muster that I say, I am not over it. I still need a support system.
And it is a process for me to accept there is no shame in that. I will take each day at a time, and I will put one step forward. I will continue to honor my experience as a mother and allow myself the space to grieve.
I will also accept that Postpartum Depression symptoms are not just the experience of mothers that were able to bring their sweet smelling newborns home with them. These symptoms can be experienced by any mother at anytime following her pregnancy or miscarriage.
And for that, I will honor my babies and give myself grace.
Desiree is a born creative, wife, mother, writer, Special Education teacher, and university instructor. She loves spirituality research and learning, karaoke, and searching for the world's best coconut milk latte one Independent coffee shop at a time.