What an amazing rollercoaster two months I’ve had. Probably the busiest in my seven years doing Bella Cucina Maria. Not only juggling my regular private work, but catering and part time cooking for the Canadian Permanent Mission. Honestly, as tired and wiped out as I am on December 16th – with at least seven more solid cooking days to go – I would not have it any other way.
Tonight I sit here typing, in the stillness of our house, with the lights out, except the Christmas tree. It’s so quiet. Larry is out for a bit at a friend’s house and I’m dialing down from an intense day. Many hours of cooking topped off with an emotional evening. I thought it might be interesting for my blog readers to see a different side of me. Most of you know me as Bella Cucina Maria through my catering and cooking classes, or Seasonal Chef though my LoHud blog. At home I’m just Maria: wife to Larry, step-mother to Elinor, and doggy mom to Cocoa. I’m full of love and (a lot!) of foibles for my family. That’s ok – they accept me for all that, and I am grateful.
Ten years ago, the day before my birthday, the incomprehensible happened: we lost the only child I would carry, at 33 weeks. It took two years of bereavement therapy and a complete change of career for me to get past the utter sadness and grief to move on. For me, not an easy feat. I am, by nature, a very happy person. So to be shrouded in darkness was like swimming in thick murky water. So unbearably hard. But I got through it, and at any moment willing to help another woman in the same situation. It’s hard to explain, unless you have experienced the same.
Tonight we attended the annual Perinatal Bereavement Memorial Service at Greenwich Hospital. For ten years we have been attending this beautiful service. It lasts only 30 minutes, for the most part, but with a room filled with people just like us. All parents of children born still, or children lost days after birth. It’s sad and uplifting at the same time. I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to mark the tenth anniversary of Nicholas moving in and out of our life so briefly. I’ve never had the strength to speak up, but decided to mark this milestone, this year. I also decided, very briefly, to not tell Larry. I was going to surprise him, but then thought better of that. Ultimately glad I did … I needed that extra little push tonight to stand up.
Don’t get me wrong, it was hard, very hard, but I’m glad I did. I don’t often speak about Nicholas, but truth be told, I had an amazing pregnancy. In fact, pretty much standard textbook. It was a shock not only to us, but everyone around us. But let’s face it, no one wants to hear about loss. It’s one of those uncomfortable conversations that is completely awkward, especially with people that have healthy children. So we just don’t mention it. It’s something just for us.
All that said, it is part of me, and Larry. Who we are, and what we have become. It’s special and important. So in the quiet of my house, gazing at our tree, and clearly ready for bed, I share my narration from this evening …
Hello, my name is Maria Reina. 2015 marks the tenth year since we lost our son Nicholas. He was born still the day before my 43rd birthday at 33 weeks. Needless to say, birthdays have never been the same for me. Though my husband Larry tries his level best to make then relatively happy occasions.
We have been coming to this service for ten years. There is something very comforting being in a place with people that have gone through the exact same thing, or something very similar. Many people said to me, after our loss, that they understood what I was going through. I remember thinking in those first couple of months, while the emotion was so raw and on the surface, how could you? I relived every single moment of labor and giving birth to him, every day, for a very long time. How could anyone understand that?
We kept trying to get pregnant, and did about 9 months later, but ended up losing that pregnancy very early on. After two years of trying and working with an amazing bereavement therapist, together we made the decision to move on from the fertility roller coaster. To use a cooking analogy, being a chef, my eggs had expired.
When I would see a child, lining up to Nicholas’ age, my chest would get tight, and I would feel like I was under water. Or if alone, without Larry around, I would hyperventilate, not being able to take a breath, looking at a baby or child.
People said it would get easier, and I suppose on some level it does, and it has. The raw pain has dulled a little, the edges soft and slightly out of focus.
Every now and then, usually on the day he came and left us, or when we do the annual March of Dimes March for Babies in his name, I allow myself go to that dark place in my heart. I think about what our life would be like had he lived. Nicholas would be ten. I might still be working in Human Resources, and not as a chef. We would be doing afterschool programs, little league games, music lessons, homework … a life so very different from the one we have now.
As a person I am generally very happy. I have a great life, an amazing, supportive husband, and a step-daughter that is a good and kind soul. Being gut-wrenchingly unhappy is not in my vernacular, and let me assure you, I was there when it happened. I look forward always, and not back. A life lived with “I wish I had” or “I should have” is not a good life, in my opinion.
Everyone has a path in this life. It’s up to us to find it, and make the most of it. Life is precious and short. I wish for you, for all of us in this room, peace and happiness. For those of you that have just suffered a loss I don’t mean to be insensitive. Take care of your emotional self and continue to look forward, while never forgetting.