What am I so afraid of?

What am I so afraid of?

I am spending the week in North Carolina with my extended family. Nearly thirty of us are gathered for what used to be an annual family reunion and now is a more sporadic get together. This was this trip where I was supposed to be introducing my baby to all her relatives. Instead I am here trying to enjoy myself, despite the fact that my baby died, despite the reminder that this trip was supposed to be different, despite the presence of my newborn nephew.

What am I so afraid of?

My sister suggested that holding him might be the first step in getting over reluctance to hold a baby. I had talked to her about my concern about going back to delivering babies and she was trying to be helpful. The idea of holding a baby isn’t so much a phobia, but there is fear involved.

I’m afraid I’ll be taken back to the last moment I held a baby. I had been holding babies sometimes as frequent as daily because they often cross my path at work. When my coworkers had seen me with a baby on my hip as I talked to his mom, they have commented on how natural I looked. My friends have been amazed at how comfortable I was holding their little babies. But the very last baby I held was my own. She was dead.

I’m afraid holding a baby will bring me back to those moments of holding my dead daughter’s body. I’m afraid the weight of a small body in my arms will open up that place I have sewn up in my chest, the spot where I tucked away the hurt I felt relinquishing my baby. If you want to know what sadness is, listen to the sobs of a mother as she hands over her baby’s body to then nurse, never to hold her again. Ever.  I’m afraid those sobs will spill out and I’ll never be able to tuck them back in again.

Perhaps the weight and warmth will remind me of the few hours she was alive and I’ll be taken back to a brief time when I felt hope before it all came crashing down. I don’t like feeling hope these days because inevitably something happens and I fall. The more I had hoped, the further I fell. Going back to that moment of happiness and hope even for a moment will make returning to reality a hard fall.

I’m afraid my breasts will tingle and leak, the way some women who’ve had babies say theirs do when they hear a newborn. I’m afraid they won’t, proof that my baby didn’t live and I’m not a real mother.

I’m afraid of the rush of love I might feel for my nephew if I let myself and by doing that I am somehow betraying my daughter. I am not supposed to be happy around babies. I have so few things that keep me close to Mabel and right now grief is one of them. Letting that go, even for a moment, feels like I’m letting go of her.

Does my heart ache when I see that baby across the room, when I hear him gurgle and cry? Yes, of course. My heart aches for so many reason. I want my daughter. I want to be able to hold him without any emotional baggage. I want the life my sister has with this baby. I want things to be different.

What am I so afraid of?

I’m afraid I’ll be sad.

14 thoughts on “What am I so afraid of?

  1. I really understand how you feel about this. I used to love cuddling others’ babies but since Hugo, I can’t even bear to look at them. You just have to do what is right for you to get you through the pain of losing Mabel.xxx

    • I sitll have that urge to cuddle but there seems to be a wall in front of me I can’t get around yet. on the plus side I’ve spent more time around a baby than I have since mabel died.

  2. Meghan, this struck a fear in me as I can’t get enough of dear friend’s babies. Now I fear I’ve replaced my sorrow for Max. Baby loss is horrible and unnatural. My heart breaks for you, me, all of us. Thinking of you and your sweet Mabel.

    • it is so unnatural, right? We are supposed to be drawn towards babies, right? I heard on the radio that biologically kids are cute until age 6, so we are drawn to them and protect them. it’s weird to feel against my own basic biology.

  3. Although it is unfortunate that this NC vacation is missing Mabel and is not the family gathering you were envisioning when it was planned, you are fortunate to have a supportive family that is helping you face your fears and help you heal. Even though this trip is difficult, it sounds like some essential healing is taking place. You’re a strong, fearless mama.

  4. Meghan – I’m just thinking of you and wishing Mabel was there with you, that all these grief hurdles weren’t even part of your vocabulary, part of your “vacation”. You are brave enough to have gone on this trip, at all. You need to do what feels right and sanity-saving. Don’t let others persuade you with their can’t-possibly-know-what-this-is-like opinions, on what is best for you. If you feel like holding your nephew, you should try it. And, if you do it, I would recommend doing it without a huge crowd of family around to observe you… I just don’t think you can anticipate how you’ll react, and as loving as your family sounds, in my experience, you still may feel like you are under the microscope.

    • You nailed it- I can’t seem to not feel under the microscope. The nephew has left and part of me is sad I never held him. Though part of me is proud I was in the same space with him and did a lot of staring (in my mind I don’t think people noticed, except once). I think that was good therapy.

  5. Dear M, I have thought often about talking to you about therapeutic exposures and seeing this post encouraged me to speak now… if you ever want to talk more about what that involves and how you might go about it, just let me know and I can be as directive as you want me to be (i.e., not directive at all to totally instructive). It is entirely reasonable at this time that holding a baby is actually too “high” on your hierarchy of feared or avoided triggers (as in from lowest to highest, like a swimming pool from wading to deep end or like a ladder from lowest to highest rung) but it may be something to do in the future if you choose to. Remember where ever you are now in this process is where you are and there is no other place you should be. And you are NEVER a jerk for stating your needs. xoxo

    • thanks E. I feel like I took some steps int he right direction- waded into the water but didnt swim in the deep end. I have a lot more swimming to do in the future, especially with work. It’s hard because i would like him to be the first baby I hold. maybe I’ll be much more ready in a month but since my nephew is far away it wont be easy. It would have been convenient to be ready this week, but baby steps. I”m still wearing swimmies 🙂

  6. (Triggers, living child mention)It”s been a year and I have still not held another newborn in my arms and I still do not feel ready for this. I blogged about the fact that there are small mercies now and then and my colleague who had her baby around the same time as I had Zia had moved jobs. Well as colleague is now pregnant and it’s uncomfortable to even look at her, i cope, i manage, i turn down baby shower invites and that is all ok but i don’t think I will be ok holding a baby, not now anyway. I love holding my son, who will be five in a few weeks. That is natural, that is mothering, he has naturally grown and I am comfortable with Brady as Brady and Zia as Zia, there can’t be an in between right now.

    • It’s funny, my sister asked “what is a baby to you” (meaning how old a child equals a baby). I told her I’m ok once they get past three, they seem less babylike (it was an appropriate question after I avoided a family friend and her 9 month old). I loved spending time with my 3.5 year old niece and the snuggles I got there.

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