The guilt that I feel for allowing my baby to die is my biggest struggle. Why was I able to carry and birth two healthy living daughters, but fail Gwyneth? Why didn’t I know that she was sick? How could I have not realized until it was too late? Was I too busy caring for Eloise? Did I spend too much time envisioning a future life with my husband and two daughters without paying attention to the present? Was I too busy working as a virtual assistant in the evenings to pay attention to her movements and my body? Did I lack that connection with my baby that I thought was so present at the time? The unanswered questions and wondering is excruciating. I’ve always been the type of person that needs an answer, a reason, for everything in life. I don’t like surprises, mysteries, or secrets. I once lost a pet frog as a kid and it still bothers me to this day. I don’t know what happened to the frog – it was gone from it’s cage, never seen again. I want to know WHY my baby died. I want to know WHEN she died and WHAT I could have done to prevent it. I want to know WHEN I will be back to the “old Ashley,” the person that I was before she died. What will I benefit from this information? Most likely, nothing. Answers will not bring Gwyneth back to life. They will not take away my sadness and emptiness. And, they may not be the answers that I am hoping to hear.
I do know, medically, why Gwyneth died. She died from Prenatal Onset Group B Strep Disease. Bacteria entered her lungs and she died from pneumonia. Her autopsy says so. It is extremely rare and neither doctors nor scientists are currently able to fully understand scientifically, how she contracted it. I had no signs or symptoms that anything was wrong with Gwyneth until she had already passed. I play those last few days of my pregnancy over and over again in my head, looking for signs I may have missed. I have yet to find any. But maybe I’m not looking hard enough. Sometimes I take a break from the analyzing as I feel my brain physically hurts from thinking and remembering.
If I and my body couldn’t protect Gwyneth, how can I protect Eloise and Violette? There are even more perils walking about in this crazy world than what a baby is exposed to in the womb. Every day this voice in the back of my head asks if TODAY will be the day that something terrible will happen to one of them. What deadly diseases will they be diagnosed with? I held my breath at their check-ups last week and asked the doctor twice, “So they are both completely healthy and fine?”
I can only do the absolute best that I can to take care of them. To feed them healthy food, to clothe them, to entertain them, to challenge their minds, to exercise their bodies, to supervise them always, to love and nurture them. However, I truly believed I was nurturing and growing Gwyneth to the best of my ability and my best just wasn’t enough.
Every day I relive the shock of the day I found out she had died. The darkness that suddenly surrounded me, as I fell backwards into it. I feel myself peering out of this darkness each day, but I am still inside, not yet able to come out. It’s weight is heavy and suffocating. No one else sees it. Not Ryan, my parents, siblings, or friends. It is something that I navigate through each day. When Violette holds my hand as she nurses, I get a little closer to the light. When Eloise joins me as I’m nursing saying, “Mommy, I lub you and Biolette,” I get closer still. I truly hope that I will reach that light. My girls propel me forward. Forward towards an understanding and a peace.
Parenting after losing a child is so difficult. I’m going to be honest. But it’s also healing. It reminds me of my missing Gwyneth, but shows me that youth and happiness is still alive in them. It gives me a purpose, even amidst all of my doubts and flaws. I am confident that my children love and believe in me (at least for now), even when I question myself. I believe that Gwyneth would have loved me too if she had lived. I hope she felt the love and connection that I felt for her in some way during her 40 weeks of life.