When I was staring down those first days home alone, without family, without Chris, I was starving for advice to help me get through the days. I wanted a handbook- this is how you do it. This is how you occupy your time. This is how you go on. Turns out, there is no such handbook. Now that I’m two months in and don’t dread every way in the way I used to, I can reflect a little on what has helped me.
Visits and dates with friends- They add structure. Something to get out of bed for. Some of these dates I show pictures and talk a lot about Mabel. Some of these dates we barely mention her. I’ve looked at houses with people. I’ve folded a friend’s laundry. I’ve cleaned my kitchen with a friend’s help. Anything to fill that baby-shaped space.
Writing– I write here. I write more than I post because some of it needs to be censored. Too raw. Too angry. Too hurtful. I write on a message board for babyloss parents. I write thank you notes. Knowing people are reading my words help keep Mabel’s memory alive for me.
Internet– for the good and the bad. I’ve found some support sites which have been helpful. Social media can be a good distraction, but with caution. I’ve had to unfollow a lot of people on facebook because seeing their beautiful children or their growing bellies hurts too much, reminding me of what is missing in my life. Chris recommended early on that I keep my laptop downstairs, which would force me to physically get out of bed each day if I wanted to surf or to write.
Exercise– at first I walked. It was slow as my pelvic bones were returning to their normal position. Then I added yoga (11 days). And modified bootcamp (2.5 weeks). The I started mixing in some light jogging (4 weeks). Exercise gives some structure to the day- especially if it’s a class. I now exercise just about every day. I try to sign up for morning classes so they give me something to get out of bed for.
TV and music– there’s no such thing as too much Friday Night Lights (though there are some “baby” storylines in it). In the absence of TV, when I need something to fill the quiet of the house but I can’t pay much attention to it, music will do. Sometimes I wonder what did we ever do without Pandora or Spotify. A friend made me a cd after I crowdsurfed pick-me-up songs on FB. And there is the radio. I find NPR especially helpful, hearing people talking. It’s distracting and makes the house really feel like someone is there.
Games– surprisingly my smartphone has helped me through some bad spells. I play a few games like scramble and bejeweled. When I’m upset and crying and need to stop (like if I have guests downstairs or am about to go into a party), I play a game of scramble. It works. Calms me down. Focuses my attention elsewhere.
Projects- I have a list of these, though the list stays relatively long. Finding motivation is the hard part. So I pick small projects or chores even- Cleaning one room of the house. Watering plants. Laundry. Helping a friend with a photo collage for a bridal shower. Mending Chris’s pants. When the weather gets nicer, I’m sure yardwork and gardening might play a role.
Thank yous– My therapist was happy to hear that I was writing thank yous to my care providers- those who nursed, midwifed or doctored me during my pregnancy and Mabel’s birth and short life. This not only takes up time, but it’s a nice reflection on what I remember fondly and what I value in my experience. Reminds me that there are things to be grateful for. I’ve been procrastinating about finishing them, only because I really enjoy writing them and want this project to last and last.
Plan a trip– After leaving an ultrasound a few weeks before I went into the hospital, the weight of what it would mean to have a baby requiring dialysis really hit Chris and I. There was a possibility we would never leave our home for vacation for years. We briefly entertained the idea of doing a quick weekend trip away before I was admitted, but logistics were too hard to make it happen. So we said to each other as we walked to the car, if our baby doesn’t live, we should go away. I knew I’d need a vacation from my grief. And if the worst did happen, a trip would give me something to look forward to, even superficially. So Chris and I are planned a long weekend in Florida. I also planned a trip to California- to spend time with friends and see my sister and her family. Finding flights, booking hotels, planning activities fills the time.
Make something that honors your baby– the first few days after Mabel came and went, I made a scrapbook. I displayed it at her wake so that the many people whom I wanted to show her to could see her and see her story. I’ve shown that scrapbook to many people since. I’m now working on a few other projects, which I will reveal later. If you buried your baby, plan her gravestone. Plan a memorial if you haven’t had one already. If you have a picture, make a baby announcement- send her picture to whoever you choose.
To those who have experienced the loss of a baby, what has helped you?