Facing Fears

 

“Being brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is having that fear but finding a way through it.” —Bear Grylls

A day of happiness for others is often intermingled with grief for me. So it was for my sister’s wedding.

I had a lot of anxiety about the ceremony, knowing the timing of the day versus the point in pregnancy. Even before pregnant I had anxiety around the date, knowing where I could be by the time April rolled around.  There was the pragmatic decision around what bridesmaid dress to wear, and I had two planned: one for being pregnant, and one if I was no longer pregnant. About two weeks before, I bought a third dress: maternity, that would display the tattoo on my back.

In the days after we arrived in my hometown, where the ceremony was to be held, I was frequently using my at-home heart rate monitor to listen for the baby. As we grew closer and were counting down the remaining hours, with thoughts of “nothing can go wrong at this point” I still thought “Me. I could go wrong. I could not find a heartbeat and immediately need to go to the emergency room.” Of course this has all been further compounded by the anterior placenta and lack of movement. I can only really feel when I lie quietly in my back in bed, and lying down all day was not exactly an option.

I had anticipatory stress the night before. Nothing to do with standing in front of people or my matron of honor speech or the day’s activities. I was stressed about what people might say to me, and what I might say in response. Stressed about triggers that might make me upset. I barely slept as the scenarios played out over and over in my mind. Muscles aching from a lack of my comfortable pillows to position my shape while I tried to sleep.

I feared the photos. Hundreds of images captured by the photographer and guests that I would never be able to erase if something happened. A friend who lost her son after being pregnant with him while a wedding told me that it was a way for him to be there: those are the only family photos in which he would ever be included. A different perspective.

During the short ceremony I had a moment where I had to work hard to fight back tears. My aunt was reading a poem with the words:

Today when someone you love has died
     or someone you never met has died
Today when someone you love has been born
     or someone you will not meet has been born….
Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
Today, let this light bless you
-Jane Hirschman, from ‘A Blessing for Wedding’
The reception seemed to be a never-ending parade of “When are you due?” and “How are you feeling?” Due in mid-August, sometimes appended with “if I make it that far.” Ger faced similar questions, questions he later said he wished he didn’t have to answer. “Physically feeling fine” was all I could muster, specific only to the concrete attributes. I gave that response once before: at a gathering when I was pregnant with Iris and wrought with anxiety. Physically fine, leaving unanswered “emotionally a mess.” Iris was gone about a week later. Further along now, excitement from others poured over and over me, and it made me upset.

A day marked by watching other pregnant women at the reception, laughing, dancing, even enjoying a few sips of wine while I hung back, feeling forlorn, and then feeling guilty over my inability to enjoy myself. Envious and bitter at their ease. My only goal was to hold it together, focus on myself, so as not to draw the focus of others.

After spending the last few days marked by my obvious pregnancy, the day after I felt decidedly not pregnant. No kicks or jabs to remind me. Just a tired face and tangled hair from the day’s celebration.

And now, after the wedding, a turned corner: reaching 24 weeks of pregnancy, a medical milestone in itself. The brink of viability. I found myself reading articles about babies born at 24 weeks who survive. Every week, the odds get better. That’s assuming that there is some sort of outward sign that delivery is needed, and not the random stopping of a beating heart.