On wimpery and bravery both.
September 16, 2011

The day before I lost my first baby, I went to the library.  I checked out Shogun, by James Clavell.  Two months later, I returned Shogun without having ever opened it.  I couldn’t handle the idea of walking inside the library, seeing all those familiar faces as though nothing had changed.  EVERYTHING had changed.  So I returned the book in a drive-through receptacle instead.  It was nearly a year before I went back to pay the overdue fines.

About a week into my maternity leave with Charlotte, I made plans to visit with a friend at a local coffee shop.  When I got there, an old man was sitting at a table outside reading a battered copy of Shogun.

It had been over a year since my miscarriage, but time stood still when I saw that book.  I called my friend and asked to meet at the park across the street instead.  She brought smoothies.

The day before I lost Aurora, I went to the library.  I checked out traditional song books, imagined myself singing them to my girls.  They were one-week loans.  In the parking lot, while Charlotte climbed into her car-seat, I flipped through the pages of the books.  I smiled happily, stacked the books in the front seat, buckled my daughter in and drove home.

A week after the books were due, the library sent me an overdue notice.  Twice a week for three weeks I saw overdue notices in my mail.  The fines piled up.  Donald urged me to collect the books and bring them to the library, but I couldn’t handle the thought of going there at all.

Three weeks after Aurora’s death, I went back to the library.  My eyes were swollen from crying.  I stood in front of the building for a long time with my child on my hip, feeling lost and helpless and hollow.  It’s just a building, I told myself.  Just a box with a bunch of books inside.  But standing there, all I could think about were my two dead babies.  I only have one baby left, I thought.  Just you, I whispered as I kissed my toddler’s head.  Please, please don’t take my Charlotte.

I love this library, have loved it since I was four years old.  When I was a kid, I rode to this library on my bicycle.  I tucked myself into corners and read about ideas that shaped the woman I am today.  My entire life I have frequented this library, run my fingers along its shelves, lost myself in words.  I brought my daughter here before she was even a month old.

Four times I visited the library and each time I walked past the lawn and the statue and the benches.  I stood in front of the doors, watched them open and close, swallowing eager readers and spitting out people with bags full of books.  Then I turned away and took Charlotte to the park instead.  I know it’s silly, I told Donald in the dark, that it has nothing to do with the library.  But I only have one baby left.  I can’t lose her.  I can’t.

You love that library, he said.  Which is why you need to just walk inside.  It isn’t fair to yourself to avoid it for the rest of your life because of an unfortunate coincidence.

I know, I answered.  But I can’t lose her too.

The next morning I tried again.  I grabbed Charlotte’s hand and guided her through the parking lot.  I walked past the lawn and the statue and the benches.  I stood in front of the doors, swallowed hard, and thought about my daughter.  What would I want her to do in this situation?  I would want her to walk in.  I would want her to understand that this association was ridiculous.  I would point out to her that she’d slept in the same bed the night before she lost her babies, that she’d eaten at the same table, that she’d come home to the same house – but that wasn’t stopping her from sleeping and eating and calling a place home.  I would tell her that sometimes our brains play tricks on us, that sometimes we need to face our fears to banish them.  I would say: never turn away in fear, always do what you are most afraid of, because it might turn out to be something wonderful.

On my fifth visit, I walked inside.

“Hey there,” the librarian said as she walked around to give me a hug.  “I was wondering when you’d make it back.  We missed you around here.”

The truth is that even though my everything had changed, it was really nice to be back.  I missed the library too.

Next time, who knows?  Maybe I’ll even check out Shogun.


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  1. By Sarah on September 16, 2011

    shew Sarah, you sure have a way of putting things that let’s me feel, in a small way, what you feel. I think you are great.

  2. By Elin on September 16, 2011

    I hear you, and have felt the same way.  I was reading a book when I lost my first child to miscarriage.  The book was the second in a series, and I really enjoyed it, but I put it down and haven’t picked it up since.  I know it is silly, but it reminds me of a time to which I’d rather not return.  I’m proud of you for returning to the library.  I’m not sure I’ll ever pick that book up again, but if I do, I’ll remember your words and do it for my daughter…

    Thanks.

  3. By on September 16, 2011

    I am a professional dog groomer and the day my first started I had groomed the dog of my best client.  My second miscarriage started one day after grooming her dog again.  When I found out I was pregnant with my third it took 2 weeks before I would return her call to groom her dog.  After I groomed him I panicked for days waiting for it to start again. I am 18 weeks in now and I just recently groomed her dog for the last time because I am still scared to have something happen.  We had tears together and we are still friends, but I never told her about the other 2 and my connection to her dog with it. 

    I am glad you went back.

  4. By Rachel del grosso on September 18, 2011

    What a touching post. Wow.


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