Walking Down the Stairs: Even Good Days Hurt

By: Julz Richterman

Tragedy is a gas that seeps into every part of your life. Not only are you left remembering the “before” you, but you are haunted by the “should be” and “what if” you – the you who will never exist. You miss the person who never thought about these two opposing realities: the one you are living and the one that could have been. It trickles into the most mundane tasks. Even walking down the stairs, something I have done thousands of times before, brings a wave of emotions.

Every morning, I carry my 11-month-old son down the stairs with his 16-month-old sister trailing behind us. He strains to look over my shoulder so he can giggle at her walking down. She hasn’t mastered the stairs yet, but she thinks she’s a big girl and wants to do it herself. I keep one arm firmly wrapped around him and the other at the ready to catch her. She’s not paying attention to what she’s doing because she’s excited. Her brother starts squirming in my arm. Both of them know their grandmother is downstairs waiting for them.

We take a step down – I cherish the moment. We take another step – I think how fast time has flown. Another step – I flash forward to a time when they need to help me. Another step – I am back in the moment enjoying watching my son laugh and my daughter methodically rush down the stairs. We make it to the bottom. My 16-month-old runs to her grandmother and gives her a big hug. I put my 11-month-old down and he crawls over for his turn. I smile. Today is a good day.

But today is not this day. This will never happen because my 16-month-old didn’t live past my first trimester. This was simply the story that crossed my mind as I carried my 11-month-old son to the top of the stairs.

I begin our descent. A flash of a toddler crosses my mind. Would she know how to go down the stairs by now? Or would I be carrying them both? Would her brother find her funny? I keep one arm firmly wrapped around him and the other hugs him tighter. He watches my feet move and smiles. He starts squirming in my arms. He knows his grandmother is downstairs waiting for him.

I take a step down – I wonder if I could catch his sister while holding him. I take another step – I try to convince myself this question doesn’t matter, but I’m not buying it. Another step – Nothing is more painful than unanswered questions, and I wonder how many more I can possibly ask in my lifetime. Another step – I am back in the moment enjoying watching my son laugh when he sees his grandmother. We make it to the bottom. I put him down and he crawls over to hug her. They embrace. I flash to an image of her hugging two kids, but pull myself back almost immediately. I love watching their relationship grow. I smile.

Today is a good day – but even good days hurt.

About Julz Richterman

Julz is a freelance medical writer specializing in the mental health and technological aspects of fertility. Her 10+ years’ experience as a healthcare professional did not prepare her for the loss of her baby at the end of her first trimester in July 2021. She lived firsthand how limiting and broken the system can be, even for someone who knows how to navigate it well. However, she also experienced the continuous and unbroken compassion from her healthcare team, family, and friends.

A year after losing her baby, she gave birth to her rainbow baby. She credits both her children for giving her the courage to leave corporate life and start her own business freelancing. Now she uses her experience as both a healthcare professional and patient to ensure everyone feels connected and supported by making pregnancy loss and infertility conversations less taboo. To learn more about her, please visit her LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/gabrielle-julz-richterman.

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