But, the few days leading up to the presentations and the mornings of are an emotional mess. I don't really have difficulty speaking in front of large crowds - that's actually not a big deal for me. As a teacher, I have a lot of experience talking to people in big groups. I do get nervous that I'm presenting in front of medical professionals. I have no background in medicine and I feel very out of place trying to tell this community how to do their job. I realize that my perspective and experience are what make my presentation so important, but I still struggle with feeling worthy of being listened to. I am guessing that will come with time and more presentations. As I do this more and get more positive feedback, I will probably start feeling more confident in the importance and validity of my message.
What I don't think will ever get better, though, is how my heart feels as I prepare to present. The hardest part of these presentations is the reason why I am doing them. I organize my slides and I think of those days in the hospital. I think of all the things I was able to do and all the things I missed out on. I think of the living baby I didn't get to have and the silent one I didn't get to bring home. I write out notes on what I am going to say, and I miss her so much it physically hurts. Honest to goodness pain in my chest - an empty ache that radiates from the hollows of my heart. The morning of the last presentation, I was given breakfast before the symposium began. I sat there, alone at a big round table for ten, trying to will my hand to bring the fork to my mouth. I couldn't do it. The few bites I got in sat in my stomach like rocks. I could only think about how broken I felt. How absolutely empty. I was about to speak about stillbirth because my daughter was stillborn. The death of my first daughter brought me to that point in my life. It took everything in me to keep the tears clouding my vision from running down my cheeks. It took all of my strength to hold myself together and not crumble to pieces right there in Banquet Hall 2. As much as I love to bring a voice to our children, it takes a lot out of me.
It is hard feeling proud of something you do in direct relation to the death of your child. It's a really tough concept to come to terms with. Every speech, every email, every Facebook message related to the Letter to My Doctor Snowball, is both a stab and a salve, a paradox of pain and passion. People often tell me how strong I am to do this. To write about this journey. To speak about it so openly and publicly. And, maybe I am. But, it sure doesn't feel like it sometimes. Putting myself out there like I do, I just feel cracked open. An egg on the sidewalk trying to ooze myself back into my shattered shell while everyone stands around and watches.
The reality of loss is draining. I often feel like the only way I can do her justice is to give this blog and the loss community everything I have, but then I have nothing left for anyone else. Today is Piper's birthday. I have nothing planned because I spent the last week and a half organizing myself for my presentation yesterday. We will have her birthday party Saturday, but today is just another day. She's only two - she doesn't know. But, I just couldn't get it together because the symposium took everything I had. It's hard living in two worlds - shouting for my child who can't speak for herself while still giving my full love and attention to the daughter here beside me. The middle ground is thin and shaky and so hard to balance, and I am really tired.
I don't really have a point anymore to this post other than to just tell you that what I am doing is equal parts rewarding and painful. I guess I just wanted you to know.