I am here.

 “Be who you are, where you are, in this moment.”

I typed these words hastily into a note on my phone, mid conversation, as they tumbled out of my mouth. I sat on the couch on my back deck, with Rashanna across from me, my dog curled up in the sun at her feet. We sat and talked and cried. It had been three weeks since I arrived at the hospital to deliver my baby girl, only to learn that she no longer had a heartbeat. Marie Evangeline Pike was stillborn at full term on Thursday, May 31, 2018.

As I confided in Rashanna and tried to make sense of this blow that has changed my life forever, my mind wandered to just a month earlier… we sat the same way but in the living room, my dog at her feet, with me perched on my yoga ball across the room. I bounced gently, feeling the weight of my belly and the press of my baby’s body against mine as we talked. This was our final work meeting before my planned maternity leave. Like all of our meetings, the conversation ebbed and flowed from day-to-day administrative tasks to our wildest hopes, fears, and dreams for ourselves and our business. We talked at length about how motherhood would change and inspire and challenge me in ways we couldn’t possibly predict. The thing we felt sure about was the strength of our inner voices, and that those voices would carry us through whatever changes were coming our way.

We were right to say that these changes were unpredictable.

In the eight weeks since I lost my daughter, I’ve been both terrified and invigorated by the workings of my mind. I have felt my inner voice become silent, abandoning me at my darkest hours and leaving me desperate, sobbing, “What is my purpose??” I have heard my inner voice speak clearly, in the wind on my skin and the sun on my cheeks and the pink flowers that bloom in the treetops, reminding me that I don’t just live for me - I also live for my husband and daughter and the babies who will know Marie as Big Sister. During my hardest days, I have cried to my husband, “I can’t feel her anywhere!” On my brightest days, I have poured my soul into writing about my vision of her...a warm light that glows in my heart and slips through the cracks and touches every inch of my spirit. Many times, all of this darkness and light swirls into a mass of complex grief where I can’t distinguish the anger from the gratitude or the fear from the hope, and I don’t know how to feel at all, other than lost. My inner voice gets mixed up in the chaos, drowned out by the noise, and nearly forgotten. When I can’t hear that voice, I try to remember that it is there, waiting. I remember the fire I once held inside. How it flourished with passion and purpose. Right now, that fire is reduced to a smolder, desperate to burn with the intensity I once knew.

But in that smolder lies hope.

I remember that in pain, breakthroughs are born. I remember that every day, I am re-learning the art of self-discovery. I remember that I am training to survive those moments when identity is lost, now and in the inevitable hardships to come. I come back to those words: “Be who you are, where you are, in this moment.” In my old life, I used to think up specific, layered mantras. Now, I simply whisper to myself, “I am here.” I know there are so many lessons and so many gifts that can rise from this pain, in the far away, sometimes unimaginable realm of “someday”. For now, I just need to live right here. One day, one hour, one minute at a time. Let pain in. Let peace in. Let life in. I am grateful to be taking this first challenging, yet important step back into the mission Rashanna and I believe so deeply in.

To be completely honest, I am terrified. I am terrified that this grief is too overpowering for me to show you silver linings. I am terrified of the fact that sometimes, there is no silver lining. I am terrified of the inevitable next trip into the darker recesses of my mind. I am terrified that I won’t be able to connect to the lighter side of my muse or write with the whimsy I once enjoyed. I am terrified that in moving forward, I might feel like I’m leaving my daughter behind. But as I recently shared in a post about my little Marie Evangeline, without fear there is no bravery. So today, I am afraid. But I also choose to be brave.