I had a nightmare.
At least I think it was a nightmare.
Sometimes PTSD makes it difficult to distinguish between what is a dream
and what is a flashback,
especially in the early moments after waking.
I dreamt of our camcorder.
Sounds silly, right?
It was a wedding shower gift from my bridesmaids.
I replayed in my mind all the discs we had created with it.
So many discs.
So many memories worth saving,
all contained to the first two years of our marriage.
Our trip down to Florida to see hub's family.
Long car rides with the camera rolling
as we cracked jokes and bantered nonsensically to break the monotony.
Images of my husband waking in the early hours of morning.
He hates to be recorded this way - I love it.
How intimate it is. How only I get to see him like this.
The two of us talking over my pregnant belly.
My mind played over the contents of each disc,
and then it stood in fear
before the one that we can't seem to watch again.
Less than an hour long.
It is her whole life.
There are scenes from my first induction.
That trip to the hospital was full of hope.
It failed and we went home empty handed and I felt it then.
In retrospect, though I had no way to know, I felt it.
It was a foreshadow of what was to come -
me staring longingly at the car seat in the back.
The empty car seat.
I felt it and it scared the life out of me.
Then came the scenes from a week later - her second induction.
Peyton was stubborn.
She wouldn't come out.
We still didn't know.
I had felt it on that car ride the week earlier,
but we didn't know.
At this point in the video,
we still thought we were having a take home child.
The images move on to the Operating Room.
Hubs telling me we had a girl.
Me looking at him in disbelief.
The anesthesiologist asking what her name was.
"Peyton," I uttered, even though it was not the name we had discussed and decided on.
These first five minutes of the video are joy filled.
Or at least as close to joy filled as any in her life.
I am in a haze,
a deep anesthesia induced haze,
but I feel joy.
I remember the fear and disorientation from the drugs.
The way my body shook violently.
I remember feeling that I was missing her birth in my fog.
But there was joy.
She was here.
She was fine.
The doctor told me she was perfect.
That scene ends.
Then, of course, the joy is lost.
The rest of the video details her degradation
from a perfect, pink little thing,
to one who is bruised and battered.
Our little Peyton, by the end of the hour,
is barely recognizable.
We watched the video right after she died.
Literally right after.
In those early days.
It might have been the night of her funeral.
I can't remember.
What I remember is that my parents were here,
and we sat together
and we watched it.
It was so hard
that we couldn't face it again.
So we put it away.
"Maybe each year on her birthday?" we said.
"Or her angelversary."
Neither has ever felt possible for us.
The videos ended.
The nightmare continued.
That's what my dream/flashback was focused on this morning.
On the after.
There are no videos after that one.
This, among all the other things listed, is what scared me the most.
There was life.
And then Peyton and her death.
And then grief.
Can one simultaneously live and grieve?
If you can, we haven't figured out how.
Maybe in a day to day way.
But never in a way that felt worthy of remembering.
Since her death there has been cause for documentation,
but no desire.
A cruise my parents took us on in the early months.
The birth of my nephew.
A camping trip.
It's as if we have been going through the motions but not really living them.
Seeing things but not experiencing them.
Breathing but not being.
I want to get back there.
I can feel that change happening inside of me.
I want to get back to that place
of wanting to remember where I am,
rather than just wanting to survive it.