Not drowning

My mom said she learned how to swim.
Someone took her out in the lake and threw her off the boat.
That’s how she learned how to swim.
I said, “Mom, they weren’t trying to teach you how to swim.”

– Paula Poundstone

A few years ago I purchased “The Book of Awakening” by Mark Nepo. It’s a spiritual daybook and it has from time to time made me pause and contemplate some larger issue of life. 30 second reading, deep thoughts. Not too shabby.

Today’s entry led with the quote above.

It ended with these words:

“We don’t need something to go wrong in order to change.”

I am a positive person. I like to focus on good things, brighter outcomes, bigger pictures. I believe that people at their core are good, not evil. I occasionally am let down, but I prefer to expect the best from life.

When you lose a child, all of a sudden good things, brighter outcomes and bigger pictures go out the window. You expected the best and got the worst. No amount of positive thinking can undo your grief, bring back your baby. So you live in a general haze while you try to justify it: How could this happen to me? To us? To our child? This can’t have happened, I have the baby room ready. Our baby can’t be dead, she has a wardrobe full of shoes and socks and cute headbands. I washed her clothes with the baby-friendly detergent. Hudson can’t be gone, she has a crib, the baby monitors are charged. 

Perhaps not logical justifications for how this can’t be real life, this shouldn’t be your life… but somehow more useful than the broader comforts offered by people further from the situation:

God has a plan.
Everything happens for a reason.
Hudson was spared the evils of this world.

And I won’t lie to you, before we lost our baby, I believed some of those very things that now seem just ridiculous to me, poor consolation prizes in exchange for the life of our child.

There is this thing we do in our lives, this reframing of our circumstance to make it feel less wrong. You lose your job: When one door closes, another one opens. You wreck your car: At least no one was hurt. You break your neck: I appreciate my body more and am in better shape. 

There is no acceptable reframing of losing Hudson.

I won’t lie, I can see positives and things to be grateful for in the situation.

We have such an amazing family.
At least I have the Hubs – our love is even deeper now.
Now everything in life has a new perspective.
We’ll be better parents because of this.
We got those three days.

But I already knew our family was amazing. I already loved the Hubs like crazy, and had a healthy perspective on life. We were going to be amazing parents no matter what – and we were/are (that confusing state-of-parenthood question continues to affect my tense here). Hudson’s life deserved more than three days.

We deserved more than three days.

Losing Hudson was our “thrown off the side of a boat in the middle of the lake”, and because we didn’t drown, we are somehow expected to be okay at this point. Stronger, even. People will say, “Look how your life has changed because of her, look how you have changed because of her, life is more full, you are choosing to live in the present, you learned how to swim,” reframe, reframe, reframe. And I can appreciate these things. I can see these positives, accept our changed life, our changed selves.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t wish we hadn’t been thrown off the side of the boat.

Because I’m not a strong swimmer. I’m more of a doggy-paddler. I don’t feel stronger.

I feel wet and bedraggled and out of breath.

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