Saturday, December 12, 2015

12 DOC: Day Twelve: Chloë Sóleyjarmóðir

*This post is part of our Twelve Days of Christmas series. You can read more here.*

Three Christmases 
by Chloë Sóleyjarmóðir

Christmas Eve 2012.
We're spending the holiday at the family's cottage in Brittany and I'll be 24 in five days. For some reasons, I've always considered this birthday as a special one, a personal deadline of mine. I had promised myself a long time ago that i would be pregnant by then. And now I am! Three months into my first pregnancy, and I'm walking on sunshine, so excited to share my first Christmas with my child. My baby is perfect and I'm feeling fantastic, strong and proud, super confident - because pregnancy loss only happened in the first trimester, right ? I'm safe now, right?

If I'm a bit nervous, it's only about sharing the good news with my family. I don't want to hurt my uncle and my aunt - they're both in their forties, childless not by choice, and going through an uncertain adoption process, so i don't want to rub my happiness in their faces. But to be honest i don't feel guilty, either. I remember looking at them thinking - it's not like they really need children anyway. They're so happy already, so in love with each other, and they have such an exciting life, full of adventures, love and music !

I realize now that my reaction said much more about me than about them. I will never know if they secretly mourned the children they never had, or if their lives were truly full - but i know mine was empty. I had been dreaming about becoming a mother for the past ten years, feeling like my whole life was nothing but a path leading to that specific baby. 

Six months later, on the day my daughter was born, I felt relieved - saved, even - and I thought, no matter what happens now, I will always have my baby.

Christmas Eve 2013.
We're spending the holiday at the hospital and I'll be 25 in five days. Soley has been diagnosed with a brain tumor just three months ago. My friend who lives nearby lent us her apartment for the evening, so my parents and siblings could spend some times with us for Christmas. We take turns at Soley's bedside - she has been in pain since her last surgery last week, and we just started high dose chemo today.

I am exhausted, desperate, broken. This is definitely not the first Christmas I had planned for her. I couldn’t even find her a Santa Claus costume - for some reason, this tiny detail is sad. When I finally leave her with someone else to run to the apartment, I realize no one really planned the meal and there's not much to eat. Everyone is blaming each other for the fiasco. "It's not my fault", my little sister justifies herself. "I told you I was going to cook tomorrow's meal." I throw her a dirty passive-aggressive look. Yeah, nice to know that you'll all enjoy a nice meal tomorrow, while I'll be eating hospital food all alone. I'm disappointed and angry, mostly because I was hoping for some kind of Christmas truce. But there's no truce in cancer world.

The day after Christmas, Soley stops breathing and a very stressed medical team has to ventilate her. I ask if she is dying and for the first time, they don't say no. When they figure out she is having an intolerance to morphine, they push an antidote and she gets better by the hour. She sleeps through the whole afternoon, and most of the night. When she finally wakes up at 4 am, she looks fine and we play for a whole hour. It's like our own Christmas in the middle night.

The same day, the little boy in the room next to ours dies.

Christmas Eve 2014.
We're back to the cottage in Brittany and I'll be 26 in five days. Soley is not with us - she died seven months ago. But my uncle and my aunt are there. At about the same time my daughter was transferred to palliative care, their adoption process went through and they flew to South America to pick up two children. A little boy and a little girl, now running around the house, tearing their gifts paper. My head is spinning. I feel like the universe is mocking me, like I'm the butt of some sick joke. I can hear the voices in my head - "So you thought they didn't need children, hum? What about you? How bad do you need yours now?" 

So, so bad. So bad I can't breath.

The house is full of people but I've never felt so lonely. My uncle complains about his issues at work, the conversation goes on for hours and I feel like screaming. Are you f***ing kidding me?? My baby died! My baby is dead! Who cares about your stupid problems! But the world keeps on turning, like nothing happened.

I know it's not their fault, it's not even about them, really. I know they're doing their best. I can't say my family isn't supportive. They made a collage using Soley's pictures with their new children. My other aunt isn't afraid to ask questions about Soley, giving me the most precious gift: a space to talk about her. My little cousin even helps with the flying lantern release in her honor. 
Writing notes on our Soley paper lantern 
Yeah, I know they're doing their best. But their best is not enough. Nothing could be enough to ease this burning pain on Christmas eve. They got their Christmas miracle. I didn't. In the end, that's all there is to say. 

If this is your first Christmas after loss, here are my suggestions : Be gentle with yourself. Being around children, or just being around people, can be extra hard during the holidays. I know I shouldn't have put myself through it. Don’t fake the joy and the gratitude if you can’t find them in your heart. No one can expect this from you - not even yourself. 
~ ~ ~

Chloë Sóleyjarmóðir is 26, and a high school teacher. But before anything else, she's Soley's mom. Soley was diagnosed at age 3 months with an aggressive kind of brain cancer called ATRT. She showed an amazing fight through months of hospital and chemotherapy, but treatment was ineffective and she died at 11 months. Soley is her only baby, and remains her whole world. You can read about her story on her blog, Our Time in Cancer World. She also writes for Still Mothers


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