Article on Grief

A friend who knows grief well shared this amazing article with me:

The One Thing No One Ever Says About Grieving

A few parts that really spoke to me:

Grief crowds the heart, eats up all your energy and chronically imposes upon your peace.  But grief isn’t some evil force that’s only there to cause pain, grief is escorting up an even deeper feeling, a truth about your life, what you value and what you need.  Perhaps how much you wanted something, how deeply you care about someone, how far you’ve come from where you were.

And

Please remember, the grief you’re experiencing is yours, and you can carry it with you for as long as you like. Let go of it only when you feel ready-enough, and if you never feel ready, that’s okay.

The author uses the metaphor of a looping path to describe how grief comes in spurts, only to be swallowed or numbed for a while, then it jumps up at us again, followed by more numbing.

Some losses are so exquisitely painful, in a way that no one else could ever fully understand, that no one would fault you for staying in the loop.

What really spoke to me was the permission to stay in the loop until you’re ready to get out of it. I go back and forth as to whether I’m ready or not. I’m still not entirely sure.

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Shittiest Birthday Ever

Today is my birthday. We lost our baby 553001473-lonely_birthdaytwo weeks ago, so this is pretty much the shittiest birthday ever. Three days ago was the shittiest birthday ever for my husband. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, Valentine’s Day (my due date was February 11)…. all of the holidays that will soon be upon us will be the shittiest ones we’ve ever had.

The due date for my first ever pregnancy was the day before our wedding anniversary in November, and my miscarriage of that pregnancy was the week before Mother’s Day. So, it’s safe to say that pretty much every holiday, birthday, and anniversary is ruined. Only my daughter’s August birthday is still safe.

I know things will get better over time. The main loss anniversaries will always hurt, and I’m pretty sure Fall is forever ruined for me, but I know I will eventually be able to celebrate my birthday and other holidays free of grief. I know it takes time. But right now, it really sucks.

I’m trying to take grieving one day at a time, but it’s hard not to think about the holidays coming up and how much they are going to suck this year. Next year will be better, I know. As will the year after that. But for next year or so, I’m anticipating lots of awful, sad celebrations.

Vulnerability

During today’s therapy session, we focused on vulnerability, specifically how I tend to never show it, even when I want or need to. Learning to be vulnerable with the people I love will be one of the most difficult things I will ever have to do. But I am willing and eager to try. With that in mind, I offer the following message to my loved ones:

You wouldn’t know it from my sturdy shell, but I’m a big mess inside. This whole infertility thing is a bitch. It is seriously screwing me up and I’m not handling it well. I feel like a failure most of the time. I don’t expect you to understand, but I hope you’ll try. Knowing that most of you have achieved healthy pregnancies easily and without medical intervention makes me jealous, angry, and bitter. It’s not your fault. It’s not my fault, either. It’s just how I feel.

I know we’re not a family that often talks about things like this, but if any of you have had trouble getting pregnant or suffered miscarriages, now would be the time to open up about it. I feel so alone and broken. I am scared that I will never have children, that I will spend the rest of my life unfulfilled as a mother. Please don’t say “You can always adopt.” I’m not sure we can. Adoption is expensive and isn’t without emotional pain. Please don’t point out that I’ll always have my nieces and nephews to spoil and take care of. As much as I love them, it’s not the same as having my own. And, please, for the love of whatever you consider holy, please don’t point out that not having children means we’ll have more time and money to spend on our hobbies and vacations. Those things are small consolation for never knowing the unconditional love of a child, for never having the opportunity to live forever by leaving small pieces of yourself behind. Besides, we would never truly enjoy those things without children to share them with. I realize that I may one day be forced to accept that I will never have children. That scares the shit out of me. I’m not sure I could do it. At this point, I’m pretty sure I would live out the remainder of my days a bitter, angry, joyless person. I’m working toward acceptance, but I’m not there yet.

As much as I love every last one of you, it’s really hard to be around you these days, especially around the holidays. Every time we gather together, I fear a pregnancy announcement. No, I haven’t forgotten that at one time it was me announcing my pregnancy at a family gathering. I still feel guilty for doing that, not because I miscarried the very next week and had to tell everyone, but because I now know much it must have hurt a certain family member to learn of my pregnancy. I’m not saying that you can’t share your happy news just because I’m a bitter infertile. I just want you to know that I may react with tears rather than joy. I also tense up every time someone starts talking about being pregnant, giving birth, or raising kids. Those conversations almost always include well-meaning, though insensitive comments like “Be glad you don’t know what it’s like to push a watermelon out of your vagina!” or “You’re so lucky you don’t have to clean up projectile vomit in the middle of the night!” Yes, I know, parenthood is exhausting, terrifying, and gross. But, it’s also wonderful, awe-inspiring, and deeply fulfilling. None of you would trade it for anything. I wouldn’t trade those 3 months of pregnancy, for they are the only thing that gives me any hope that I will one day hold my child in my arms.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to accept that I was a mother (I  am a mother? Do you ever really stop being a mother, even after all your children are gone?). I conceived and carried a baby for 3 months, and when he or she left my body, it was a birth of sorts. I had all sorts of plans and dreams for my child, just like any parent. I was researching birth plans, reviewing breastfeeding information, and considering day care options. M and I seriously discussed names, and even talked about guardianship should anything happen to us. But we didn’t get to follow through on any of that. Does that mean we’re not parents, that we were never parents, or that we’re just not parents anymore? I struggle with these questions all the time, so I don’t expect my family to know how to treat me when it comes to this part of my identity. What I do know is that I don’t want anyone to forget that I did, for a time, carry a life inside me, and that I losing that life was the worst thing to ever happen to me. I don’t want to be looked upon with pity or treated with kid gloves. But I do want you to understand how hard this is for me, and to know that my strong exterior is just a facade. 

My family won’t ever see this message, because they don’t know about my blog. This was more for my benefit, anyway. Call it a practice run, if you want. Will I have the courage to say a few of these things to my family in the coming weeks?

Taking Care of Me

One positive thing to come out of this whole awful journey is that I’ve learned to put myself before others. Under normal circumstances, that would be a very selfish statement, but in my case, it’s a breakthrough. You see, up until my miscarriage and subsequent infertility, I put everyone else’s needs first: friends, family, coworkers… even strangers at the grocery store. Someone who didn’t know me might have pegged me as a door mat, but that was not the case. I simply enjoyed the warm fuzzies I got from making life a little cheerier for someone else.

Immediately after my loss, I tried to stay the same, to always be there for others, whether a time of grief or celebration. It slowly occurred to me, however, that I just couldn’t. It was too hard to fight back tears, to remain composed, to pretend to be happy, to plan retorts for the inappropriate “it was meant to be” statements. And I really hated all the looks of pity. The first time I left a family gathering early, because I just couldn’t bear to be around babies and pregnant relatives, I felt enormously guilty, yet relieved. Guilty, because I was always the one to arrive first and leave last. I relished every moment I could spend with my loved ones, and in leaving early, I felt like I was telling my family that they weren’t important. Oh, but the rush of relief when I finally got out of there! I didn’t have to pretend anymore. I could slump over, head in my hands, and sob for as long as I needed. I could just be sad.

Eventually, I started feeling less guilty about skipping out early or missing family gatherings altogether. I now excuse myself from baby showers, walk away from conversations about pregnancy and kids, and I no longer engage pregnant women in conversation about their pregnancies. I’ve stopped making excuses, too. I’m taking care of myself, and if anyone has a problem with it, I’m happy to set them straight.

Milestones

When my loss was still new, the milestones of my failed pregnancy came fast and hard. I had not only marked the dates on my calendar for when each trimester started and when we expected to find out the baby’s sex, I had also burned those dates into my brain. So, even though I deleted them from my calendar, I would never forget. When those milestones came, I was a wreck. I was angry and sad all over again. Any progress I had made dealing with my grief was erased. Eventually, it got better. But there are still 2 big milestones that I will never forget. One is tomorrow, November 20, my estimated due date. I know babies are rarely ever born on their due dates, and it’s likely mine would not have been the exception. But it’s the only date I have to mark when my baby would have been born. I should have a one year old child. I should be planning her birthday party, picking out an adorable outfit for photographs, and baking the cake she would eat with her hands while we all laughed and took pictures. We wouldn’t have a large party, just immediate family. She wouldn’t even understand what was going on, but we would document each moment with hundreds of photographs.

When these milestones arrive, I feel like I’ve lost my baby all over again. I feel empty, angry, bitter, and sad. I can’t stop myself from daydreaming about our should-be life. I feel like I’m trapped in a parallel universe that only exists in my mind. Being there makes me so sad, but I can’t stay away. Every mother I know has said at some point, “I can’t imagine my life without my kids,” but I wonder if they have ever tried. Do they ever let their minds go there? Do they ever really try to imagine what life would be like if they were unable to have kids? I don’t think they do. I don’t think I would. Maybe I would consider it for a moment, but I would make myself shake it off, because it would be too awful to imagine. I wish I could stop daydreaming about what would have been (what should have been). I don’t think it’s good for me.