The weeks leading up to Thomas' first birthday were horrible. Absolutely horrendous. I felt more unglued than I had in months and I worried that the weight of a year's worth of dealing with the sorrow of losing him was finally about to do me in.
In short, I was a basket case.
As his second birthday approaches, I find myself feeling that old familiar fragility that threatened to knock me off my axis last year. It's not as bad as it was 12 months ago, thank God, but it's there just the same.
I should have expected it, but stupidly I didn't. His first birthday put an official end to all the things we'd have to do, see, experience and feel for the first time. I breathed an enormous sigh of relief when the sun set on the anniversary of the day he died. In many ways, I actually started to breathe again; to live in a way I hadn't for a full year; to remember him for the sweet blessing he was and not just for the sorrow that engulfed us when we lost him.
And I never thought it would get that bad again.
And when I say "bad", I mean the aching, relentless torment of wanting, loving, having and losing playing out in your mind like an endless horror movie.
"Bad" is the ungodly pain of holding a child you know you're going to bury, and remembering that instead of the feeling of him rolling and kicking and living inside you.
"Bad" is hospital flashbacks triggered by something you can't identify that assault you out of the blue and drag you back to a desperate moment when you felt that hell had swallowed you whole.
"Bad" is standing in front of the bathroom mirror watching yourself cry and being shocked by a face twisted in agony that you barely recognize as your own.
I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that, by some miracle, so far it isn't as overwhelming as it was last year. And I can also take comfort in knowing that I survived so much worse, both when Thomas died and the whole year after.
If I did it then, I can do it now. And I can keep doing it year after year after year.
But oh God, I wish I didn't have to.