Moving

“The pain, or the memory of pain, that here was literally sucked away by something nameless until only a void was left. The knowledge that this question was possible: pain that turns finally into emptiness. The knowledge that the same equation applied to everything, more or less.”
― Roberto Bolaño, 2666 

From the beginning, I had enough self-awareness that I knew I wanted to be mentally healthy.

I went to my first therapy session six days after learning that Nelle was gone.  It was at the suggestion of a friend.  She said “This is a lot to deal with.  Get yourself into therapy.” I have always tried to take care of myself, so the decision was a relatively easy one.  Knowing also that we wanted to attempt pregnancy again right away, I wanted to be in the best possible place.  I was unprepared for how encompassing the grief was, among so many other truths about profound grief, but I was determined to “work through it.”

If losing Nelle brought me to my knees, losing Iris flattened me.  Any shred of control that I thought I had, or any strides that I had made in coping were flung out the window.  That same friend visited me in the hospital as I suffered through labor for the second time in five months and she said “Get yourself some anti-depressants.  This is going to be too much.”  Again, wanting to take care of myself, I talked to my doctor and left the hospital with a prescription.

Wanting to take care of myself is one thing.  Having the energy and stamina to do so is another.  While I did pay close attention to my mental health, knowing that I have a family and work that depend on me, there are other aspects that I have admittedly let crumble.  I have not been eating well.  Consciously or unconsciously, I am not nourishing my body the way that I should.  I have no reason to now.  Upon losing Nelle, I was preparing my body for pregnancy again, eating balanced meals, drinking lots of water.  While pregnant, I take exquisite care of myself.  Now I just don’t care.  For the first two weeks after losing Iris, eating made me physically nauseous, so intense was my grief.  The two subsequent weeks, I am simply disinterested in food.

There are still days when I cannot face the world. Sadness and anxiety overtake me and I crawl into bed and pull a blanket over my head.  Those days have become fewer so I allow myself that space when I need it.  Yesterday was one of those days.  It may have been the intense morning yoga class that did me in.  It may have been because it was my younger son’s birthday and I was surrounded by memories in the form of baby photos.  I had a similar experience back in September when my older son had his birthday just a few weeks after losing Nelle.  Being upset by baby photos of my own children was unsettling.  To calm myself yesterday, I took an Epsom salt bath.  Then I took another bath in the afternoon.  Then I took a shower in the evening.  Hopeful that maybe somehow the water would energize me and wash away my feelings of heaviness.

From the beginning, I have struggled with the words “moving on.”

I was starting to crawl out of my grief a few months after losing Nelle.  Between being pregnant again and therapy, I could see beyond the days of unending sadness.  “Moving on” did not sit well with me, because “moving on” seemed to imply “forgetting.”  I could never forget, and I would never be the same.  We use the words “moving on” to describe leaving a job, or ending a relationship, or abandoning an argument.  I searched for another descriptor.  With all of the words that rattle around in my head all the time, I could not come up with anything that felt exactly right.  The best I could settle on was “moving forward.”  In “moving forward,” I am bringing grief with me.  When I move forward, I will have learned how to carry the additional weight of grief.

From the beginning, I have known that I would need to move forward, eventually.  It is incremental.  It is accepting that steps forward may also include falling down.  But I care enough for myself to grit my teeth and figure out how to get there, with grief as my companion.

On the Craft

“Writing is very much like watching a Polaroid develop.  You can’t – and in fact you’re not supposed to – know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing.”  -Anne Lamott

Harper Lee said: “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

To borrow from her words, and with no pretense that I am improving upon them, I will amend that to say: “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved writing.”

Or maybe: “Until I lost my babies, I never feared pregnancy.”  (As a not-unrelated side note, Harper Lee’s given first name was Nelle.  And she passed away just six days after Iris was born)

My first statement is not entirely true.  I did love writing once.  But that love evaporated in the practicality of being married young, working, and raising children.  Maybe it was more like holding my breath.  Now in the ugly aftermath that is Babyloss, I have found it to be as essential as breathing.

Yesterday, I asked my husband if he had been reading what I have been writing. His response was “some” followed by “Do you think you are being too open?”

I think he said it out of genuine concern for me, worried that I will over-share and say something that I later wish that I had kept to myself.  Or worried about what other people will think of me, being invited into the unforgiving world of grief, and likely thinking that I am something of a mess.

But my response to him was decisive:  Whether I am being “too open” or not, I’m not going to stop writing.  It is an additional form of therapy for me.  I need those deep breaths right now and upon each exhale, words pour out.  I haven’t given a lot of consideration to what other people think, because it is for me.  My way of coping.

I also will not shy away from saying that I think the anti-depressants have made this writing process easier.  When I started writing about grief back in September, I was often overcome with sadness and tears, to the point where I could barely keep my hands on the keyboard, or would need to take long moments to catch my breath.  Now I can be more clear in my thoughts.  At the same time, I worry about what that world looks like without the inflated sense of even-keel that the medication provides.

What does my writing look like without daily prompts about grief?  Do I go back to recounting the day-to-day events of our lives?  That was my original purpose, so that years from now I could remember what my life was like with small children.  All of this before I felt like I had any particular “story” to tell. Now I have a story, but I desperately wish I didn’t. I would give anything if my blog could have continued with the mundane descriptions of our lives, uninterrupted by grief.

I feel that I will need to grow myself, expand from grief writing.  I will go back to the previous daily musings, yes, but also feel that I cannot simply abandon talking about grief when it has become such an intertwined part of my life.  I have been slowly gathering a collection of my own prompts to use when the 30 days of grief writing is complete.  I don’t yet know what that looks like; We shall see where it leads.

After being awake at 3:00 a.m. when the prompt came in and forming a few paragraphs in the middle of the night, I fell into one of the deepest sleeps I have had in weeks.  I had a dream where I was attending a large gathering of people.  Someone mentioned a children’s book, to which I responded “Oh!  I have an extra copy of that book!  Let me get it for you.”  I went into the house and began to search.  I could not find the book on my shelf, but then realized I was in the wrong room.  For a moment, I panicked, because I could not remember where my own sons’ bedroom was located.  But then the layout of the house materialized in my head and I went to their shelf.  I still could not locate that book.  I began to tear the house apart looking but I never located it.  The story I was looking for could not be found.  Or perhaps it never existed.

Writing is easy.  Thinking is hard. Thinking requires planning and that is painful at the moment.  Writing happens often without thinking about it too much, or planning – simply sitting down with whatever is in my head at the moment.  Go.

Kindness

“Let me be to my sad self hereafter kind.”
-Peter Pouncey, Rules for Old Men Waiting: A Novel

I am weary and defeated, feeling that Life has put me through the wringer for the past six months.  Is it six months now?  Yes it is.  Nelle was born on September 4, 2015 – now six months ago.  Iris was born on February 13, 2016 – now three weeks ago.  How can I be kind to myself, other than the generic “take it easy”?

Forgive.  I could forgive myself for these losses and release any underlying guilt that I may be still harboring.  In reality though, I am about 90% there.  I have occasional moments of “coulda, woulda, shoulda” but after the battery of testing and doctors’ visits that I have been through, I know that there is nothing I could have done.  My head knows it clearly; I am trying to get my heart to catch up.  But full forgiveness is likely not going to bring me much relief since I am already so far into that journey.

Forget.  This would be the ultimate kindness, to wipe away all of the horrible memories and sensations of labor and delivery, twice.  I could then sleep more easily.  I could eliminate the anxiety.  But to forget would not honor my daughters.  To forget would be not acknowledging that they existed.  So I cannot grant myself this kindness, because it would remove the good with the bad.

Acceptance.  I could allow myself to accept what happened to me, and to our family.  But I can’t yet.  I am so, so angry at the situation and lack of answers.  Lack of answers is impossible to accept.  The medical community has failed me so completely.  I don’t even know where to place the blame for the lack of answers, since I have had an attentive and compassionate team of medical professionals working with me.  But at this point they have all shaken their heads in bewilderment and said “we don’t know, we cannot explain why this happened twice.”  That is very difficult to accept.

Without forgiveness, forgetting, or acceptance – what can I give myself that will ease this situation?  What kindness can I allow?

Time.  I can give myself time.  The pain will not always be raw.  Grief is not linear and will follow no pattern.  I can willingly let go of any preconceived notions of how long grieving will last.  I can shrug off societal pressures to “be ok.”  I can give myself space to take a deep breath.  I can give my body time to heal.  I can give my family time to learn how to move forward.  I can dedicate moments of time in my day to writing and talking about my grief.

I can be kind to myself with the gift of time.  I can view Time as a gift in this process, rather than a burden.  So far it has been a burden, as the days and hour creep by and I am a prisoner of flashbacks, a pounding heart, and a wandering mind.  Instead I can work on viewing Time as an antidote to the poison I’ve been forced to drink, and that with each passing day I am slowly improving.  Slowly.  Incrementally.  Sometimes sliding backwards.  Sometimes not even noticeable.

Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I’m not sure I could
They say time heals everything
But I’m still waiting
-Dixie Chicks