I spent a week in the hospital after Dorothy died so that my body could begin to recover from all that it had endured. I know my doctors wanted me to stay longer, but after a week I broke down and begged to be discharged. As long as I was in that hospital, my husband and I could not properly begin to grieve our daughter. My pleas were heard; they discharged me. It was then I realized that leaving meant I had to go home. I would have to go home without my daughter.
We walked in the door to our apartment around 7:00 in the evening. I carefully teetered up the stairs, Mike behind me every step of the way in case I fell. After all my body had endured, this was a real concern. I got to the top of the stairs and I just froze. My feet were leaden with the weight of my reality. My baby was never going to come home with me. I felt Mike’s arms encircle my rigid body and we wept. I don’t know how long we cried for but I knew, in that moment, that this place would never be home for me.
That apartment remained our residence through the next weeks and months. It was the place where we ate and slept and the place we returned to at the end of each day, but it was nothing more than a shelter for us. Our grief had stripped that place down to its most basic purpose. We didn’t really live there, we just survived there.
Then one day, I found myself in our bathroom looking down at a positive pregnancy test. I was facing another uncertain future, but there was only one thing I could be certain of: we needed to find a home. I owed it to my family, including Dorothy, to leave that place behind so that we could begin to live again.
It was a little over a month later when we closed on our new house. I woke up the morning of the closing full of anxiety. This was becoming very real. We were hours away from leaving this place behind and literally moving forward on this journey. All of a sudden, I realized that we were about to leave the only place Dorothy had ever lived. Her short time on this Earth was spent inside of me as I lived inside of that apartment. If we moved, was I leaving more than just this apartment behind? Was I leaving her there too?
After we closed, it was time to finish packing. At this point, my first trimester morning sickness was leaving me unable to do much of anything. All I could do was lay in bed, opening my eyes long enough to give my opinion on whether or not we needed to bring all 12 vases or what to do with the coffee table.
I could only find the energy to pack one box. It was Dorothy’s box; a cardboard carton in which I placed her memory box, the dozens of cards we received from loved ones, and the urn containing her ashes. I carefully and lovingly packed each item as if it were her because this was her. This was her box and these were her memories and it was time to bring them home.
Exactly one year has passed since we moved into our new house. In this past year we have done more than just survive, we have learned to live again. This is the house where we have continued to remember our first born daughter in our hearts, and it’s the house where we returned with our second born daughter in our arms. It’s the place where we became a family of four. It’s our home.