Gracious in Grief

I am not gracious.

There is an ideal bereaved mother image I have in my mind- she is gracious through her grief. Yes, she is sad and angry, but her feelings are directed in productive ways. Her anger is anger at the world in general, that circumstance would let her baby die. She is not angry at other people for having babies after her, for getting pregnant easily, for being joyful instead of scared in their own pregnancies. She is sad, but her sadness is pretty- the kind that makes people want to wrap their arms around her for comfort, not avoid because they don’t know what to do with such ugly sorrow. She understands how hard it is for others to understand babyloss and so gives them leeway when they do avoid. She is easy to forgive, understanding in others reactions and expressive of her grief in socially acceptable ways. She holds other babies easily, not thinking of how they remind her of her dead daughter. She can be genuinely happy for others in their family announcements, rather than cringing, cursing the world and letting her deep jealousy show. She is able to separate her loss from others gains- she does not see the face of her dead baby in those born around the same time as hers, she is able to return to work, full fledged caring for other women in their joys, while she suffers her sadness at home. She is like that bible verse, recited at weddings “She is patient, she is kind. She does not envy…” She is gracious in her grief.

I am not gracious.

Do you ever wish you could grieve differently?

A lunatic’s anger

Today I am angry. And jealous. But mostly angry.

I am angry at hearing the news that friends of ours are pregnant. Angry that they get to announce their pregnancy without fear or secrets. Angry that they have other kids. Angry that, by all appearances , they got pregnant easily. Angry that as their family grows, mine seems to stay the same- me, my husband and our dead daughter. Angry that their announcement is joyful and not full of trepidation, knowing all the awful that could happen, having seen what happened to me.

I know the more appropriate word would be jealous- I am envious of all these things. But I don’t particularly feel jealous. I really just feel angry.

I’m angry that by announcing their pregnancy they have shut me out. In truth, it is me who will be shutting them out. This is what I do- I avoid my pregnant friends and those with babies, mostly because I can not bear having my feelings of jealousy and pain be witnessed. I am angry that they are choosing pregnancy over my friendship.

These are the crazy, irrational emotions of a lunatic. What kind of miserable, venomous person could think this way? This anger is unfounded and unfair. This anger is wrong.

It lives in me and I am ashamed. Ashamed and angry.

This is my grief talking. I wouldn’t be angry if my daughter had not died.

Day 17: Explore/ Day 18: Gratitude

“That’s really hard,” my colleague sympathized after I told him some of the things I was struggling with, aside from the obvious babyloss.

“Yeah,” I said with tears stinging my eyes. “My life sucks.” Before he could respond, I continued, “No. that’s not true. My life doesn’t suck. I’m just unhappy right now. I have many things I’m grateful for.”

We are told constantly in the grief community that gratitude is an important part of healing. It is an exercise I try to practice often. I tried to find things to appreciate when I was still pregnant with Mabel and learned that she would likely die. I’ve done two weeks of publically finding 3 Good Things about my day. When I sit down and really explore my grief, where I am in the “process,” I am doing okay. I am sad- some days very very sad. I am angry and I am jealous. But I also am realistic.

I listen to audiobooks in the car and lately I have been drawn to memoirs about people who have survived tragedy- struggles far worse than mine, in my mind. A House in the Sky, a book about a journalist who was kidnapped in Somalia and held hostage for over a year and Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed: A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings, the story of Michelle Knight’s eleven years in captivity, surviving rape, beatings and starvation by the hands of her friend’s father. Some would call these books depressing and hard to read; I find them uplifting and grounding. They remind me to be grateful for the simple things: freedom, food, a life free of assault.

I have much to be grateful for. I have a supportive family (even if I don’t always respond to their support). My friends and coworkers are understanding and caring. I have a job, and though it may be very painful at times, I can find moments of fulfillment and in the very least it pays the bills. I have met some of the most compassionate and interesting babyloss moms, online and in person, through my journey and new friendships with some especially kindhearted individuals, who aren’t even in the club, have grown. I don’t want for any of my basics- food, freedom, safety- and I have many luxuries. I have a puppy who sits on my lap and licks my hands in affection. But most of all, I have someone who rubs my back when cry in hysterics, who laughs with me in the good times, who said yes to a baby with special needs, who shed tears when the doctors said she would die, who held my hand as we left the hospital empty-armed, who allows me to take all the time I need as I grieve, who visits her grave with me, who pushes me to be social but doesn’t force me into situations I’m not ready for, who wakes up in the middle of the night to take the puppy out when I’m sick, who is just so handsome. I am grateful for him.

#CaptureYourGrief

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Small moment of jealousy

“Oh hey!” I could hear my assistant greet my next patient. “You’re doing it again? How’s the baby?”

They were all smiles and celebrations.

“Great- he’s in the other room! How’s yours?”

The niceties were genuine and went back and forth for a few minutes. The patient and my assistant had been pregnant at the same time and so their faces were pleasant reminders of each other’s pregnancies.

I easedropped until I couldn’t take it anymore. I yearned to be in one of their shoes for just a moment. Sure, they each have their own struggles, but at that moment I was deaf to them.  All I could think of is not only did I lose my child, but I lost out on all the things that follow- the big and the little.   Oh, to be able to have a simple moment like that, remembering my pregnancy fondly with someone else and talking giddily over my living child.

Perhaps someday…

Do you have small moments of jealousy? What do you yearn for?

It’s like running a marathon

I can’t escape it- reminders everywhere.  The night before my due date a friend on facebook announced her pregnancy and now a belly photo follows.  At bootcamp the woman who owns the studio had her baby a week after I lost Mabel. And she’s got newborn pictures posted right next to the sign in board.  I went to a bridal shower (I’m a bridesmaid) yesterday, excited to have a day where I could focus on someone else, and another bridesmaid brought her 3-month old. I was warned ahead of time that she would and I thought I’d be fine. But seeing her in the parking lot carrying the baby carrier just reminded me that I should be doing the same but I’m empty handed.  And then there are those posts on fb about how grateful someone is for what they have. Or squeezing their kids a little tighter today. I certainly think pregnancy should be celebrated, newborns need to be near their mothers to nurse and people should be thankful for what they’re given.  These are things I would be doing too.  Heck, these are things under any other circumstances, I would be celebrating with my friends.  Even my latest distraction- Friday Night Lights- just had a plot line where a main character had a baby.  It all just feels like salt in my wounds.

I’m not saying these things shouldn’t happen.  People have every right to celebrate what they have- pregnancy and babies.  I hope no one sees this as an attack.  It’s just a frustration.  An unavoidable frustration.  Life goes on.  More people will get pregnant.  More babies will be born.  To borrow a phrase I used earlier in pregnancy- “This is our life now.”

 

I know the answer is to avoid. Get off facebook, don’t go to bootcamp, leave if I see a newborn. But these are all places that I need in a way- I need distraction and exercise.  I have already given up so much, why should I have to give up some things that used to make me happy?

 

When I get upset seeing pregnant women, hearing about their recent births or seeing them with their babies, it’s not because I necessarily resent them.  It’s just that I’m supposed to have all those things too.  I did what they did and how is it that I’m standing here empty handed?  Like someone who has never had a baby?  Before I had Mabel I was content being someone without kids.  But now I’m not content being in that category.  It’s like running a marathon- I ran the same race that everyone else did, but at the end I don’t get a medal.  I don’t get my photo taken.  I don’t get a rest.  Instead I’m told I have to run it all over again and no one will really know that I even ran the first one.  And they won’t tell me when they’ll even let me in the next race.  I have to wait.  And watch others as they cross the finish line and are rewarded and recognized for it.

The Worst

When I was trying to get pregnant, every time my period came I was so disappointed.  I thought that that was The Worst.   The worst thing possible.  I would see patients, pregnant and not even realizing how great it was.  Then when I became pregnant and had an ultrasound that suspected I was miscarrying, I thought, nope this is The Worst.  I went to work nauseous and devastated, carrying this secret. When we found a heartbeat a week later I was thrilled but had that constant fear of miscarriage in the first trimester. I knew what it felt like to think I was losing the pregnancy and going to work everyday.  I didn’t want that again.  I thought then that living those first trimester months in such anxiety was The Worst.  Then at the first trimester screen, the 13 week ultrasound that was supposed to give me reassurance, I was told that there was something wrong.  I thought those two days of waiting to see if my baby would have a chance at life were The Worst.  When I got the results it was Down Syndrome, at first there was a little relief, thinking at least my baby could live.  But learning the risk of stillbirth made me think that going through pregnancy worried about a 12-20% chance of loss was The Worst.  At 27 weeks, learning my baby’s kidneys were failing and lungs would be compromised and my risk of stillbirth skyrocketed, I thought that was The Worst.  Now that I’ve survived a pregnancy with the knowledge that my baby might die and then holding my tiny, warm baby in my arms as she took her last breathes, I know that that’s not The Worst.  I’ve learned that whatever life hands me there can be something worse.  I’m scared.  I’m scared that I might not get pregnant again.  That if I get pregnant I might miscarry.  That if I don’t miscarry, I might lose the baby later.  That I might lose Chris in someway.

I don’t dare say that losing Mabel was The Worst.  I don’t want to tempt fate that way.  Losing Mabel was and is awful beyond words, hurts in a place deep in my chest that I never knew existed, seems unsurmountable at times.  I wrote earlier in pregnancy that I didn’t dare complain about anything because I was just so happy to be pregnant.  I worried that if I complained, fate or the universe would take it all away.  Well, I don’t think I complained that much and look what happened.  I know that there are so many things we don’t have control over, but it just hurts when you want something so bad, have done everything right, have come so close and you don’t get it.  I tried to be a good person- to plan ahead, treat my body right, to say yes to everything that was handed to me.  Everything.  I thought that if you’re good to the universe, the universe will be good to you.  I’m still waiting for my good.

I’m angry.  Why did this happen to me?  Why do some people have babies they don’t even want?  That they didn’t have to work for?  Angry that I have to watch Chris play so brilliantly with other people’s kids, when he should have one of his own.  Angry that I have all this love, energy and devotion saved up for my child with special needs and medical issues and no outlet for it.  I’m jealous.  Jealous of the people who are sleep deprived because a baby wakes them up at 1am, 3 am and 5am.  I’m jealous of the women who wish they waited more time between their kids, to have the luxury of being stressed about the work of two kids.  I’m jealous of the women who are still pregnant, with the baby in their ribs and pushing on their bladder.  I’m sad.  I’m sad that I had to bury my baby. I’m sad that she only knew life on a ventilator.  I’m sad that my daughter will never see the inside of the home we bought just for her.  I’m sad she won’t snowboard or play in the fort her dad would make for her.  I’m scared.  Sacred to hope things will get better, because hope has disappointed me.  Scared of whatever “worst” life has in store for me.

I’m angry and jealous. I’m sad and scared.  And waiting for my good.

Jealousy vs Gratitude

“The things you take for granted, someone else is praying for”

I saw that quote a few times on facebook today and it just hit home.   Don’t know who said it, but it applies. It really applies.

Things I wish for that others may take for granted:

  • Waiting for my prenatal appointment without looking at the other pregnant women with jealousy
  • Going to an ultrasound with excitement rather than anxiety or dread
  • Responding to people’s comments on my pregnancy in a positive way rather than changing the subject
  • Being able to coo whole-heartedly at someone else’s baby
  • A (somewhat) worry free pregnancy
  • A baby shower
  • Shopping for baby clothes
  • Putting together a crib
  • Knowing that each discomfort of pregnancy is really something I’ll be rewarded for in the end with a healthy baby
  • Looking forward to labor as the last challenge before holding my baby rather than the last challenge before knowing my baby’s fate
  • Skin to skin after birth
  • Not worrying about a c-section
  • Not thinking about stillbirth, funerals, or deciding about cremation versus burial

Things I might be taking for granted that others may be wishing for:

  • The chance to be pregnant and not struggling with infertility
  • A loving supportive husband who views are in line with mine
  • Stable finances
  • My own good health
  • Not being on bedrest
  • A workplace that is supportive of my new needs- time off, reduced schedule, time for appointments.
  • A team of midwives who go the extra mile (this deserves another whole post)
  • An MFM team that is honest and allows me to be part of the decision making
  • My whole OB team that was positive about the DS diagnosis (no pressure to terminate, encouragement to breastfeed, etc)
  • Family and friends who check in, keep me distracted, allow me to just talk about it all.
  • An active baby