Uncomfortable

Today’s prompt had me reflecting on yesterday, pulling out a phrase and diving into it more, revealing more of the story.

The future isn’t what I imagined it would be.

Even though I reflect openly about where my grief has been and where I am in the present, I write very little about the future.  It is painful.  It is uncertain. It is uncomfortable.

This morning I did something else that made me uncomfortable.  In my Bikram yoga class, I shed my tank top and completed the class only in my sports bra. Lots of women do this, since the heat is so extreme. But I have always been hesitant to bare myself in this way. My stomach shows all of the signs of previous pregnancies.  The stretch marks are a road map of the journeys I have been on.  For the first few minutes, standing there in my pink sports bra, I was self-conscious and unbalanced. Eventually I realized that no one was looking at me: they were all focused on themselves.

So now I will do another thing that will make me uncomfortable and self-conscious today, and look into the future.

A few people have outright asked what the future looks like for us. Aloud, I answer with little hesitation, so I am not sure why writing it is so hard. Maybe because capturing the words makes it more permanent.  Maybe it is knowing that someday I can look back, reread, either with joy or further grief.

As a couple, we are on the same page with knowing that we will make one more attempt at a third child. Medically, we were told to wait at least six months. Since the last two pregnancies were back-to-back losses, the specialist wants to eliminate that as a variable by having us wait.

With no real answers as to why I had two second-trimester losses, after two uneventful pregnancies, a third attempt feels like Russian roulette.  Third time is a charm. Or bad things happen in threes.  Two live children and two dead children, a 50/50 chance.

Though I know that my body needs a rest after being pregnant for much of the past ten months, being forced to wait is an additional insult.  It is lengthening the total time I am spending in a state of anxiety and anticipation.  And dangling me in a holding pattern of helplessness.

I would approach a third pregnancy (or fifth, as it were) with little hope of a positive outcome.  My body, the incubator.  It is the only way I can protect myself, probably the only way I can cope.  My pregnancy with Iris was almost unbearable in its mixture of fear and hope.  Reducing hope in the equation would be my survival mechanism.

When I speak that strategy out loud, people have said, with incredulity “But how can you do that – how could you go through that?”  Because I have to try. Otherwise I will always wonder “What if?”  But in my mind, that would be it. A third loss would mean that a third child is not in the cards for us. I have to make peace with that.

That’s how I feel today.  Six months from now, who knows.  If I can climb out of this feeling of being underwater, where I cannot see or hear anything clearly, maybe I can put one foot in front of the other tomorrow. 

This Easter weekend has crept up in an unassuming way.  It hit me suddenly, from the side.  Thanksgiving, I had just found out that I was pregnant again.  Christmas was joyful in announcing my pregnancy.  My due date with Nelle passed, as did our 10-year wedding anniversary, with a focus on making it through the first trimester.  February 13 – Iris was born. February 14 – Valentine’s Day –  I didn’t even recognize that holiday.  Now we are upon an actual holiday where I must pay attention.  The only coping for the weekend comes in the form of activities to keep my mind occupied: the zoo, dinner with friends, brunch, play dates.  I float through all of these events, empty.

Pieces of the Whole

The writing prompt today was to look back through previous writing, to focus on how we begin to shape free-writing into a cohesive whole.  Rather than go back through my grief writing passages, I re-read everything else: from the day we lost Nelle back in September, through becoming pregnant again, through losing Iris in February through today.  I pulled out a line or two from various posts.  How can I string this experience together?  How can I make the words “fit” into something that makes sense?  I thought about rearranging them into something more fluid but then decided that as written, in the order written, most accurately reflects the ups-and-downs of grieving.  They are small pieces of a larger story.

I feel like the pieces of my life are still scattered around me.

Hard for me also is realizing that the world is moving on.

I found myself reserved, refusing to allow myself to really feel joy.

I nearly broke later in the evening,

I didn’t know it was possible to physically feel emotional pain.

The burden of needing to pick up and to keep going.

Over the weekend, I also took a hard fall while out walking and I ripped off the band-aid – trying to give my wound some fresh air.

Assume that we are all trying to do the best we can.

I just let it hang as a great unknown.

I spiraled downhill in the afternoon, leaving me choking on the lump in my throat and finally spilling into a flood of tears by the evening.

We have been packing away the last outward remnants of our grief.

I was able to enjoy the fall foliage.

My mind kept slipping back to those horrible days

My pain is fresh.  Other people have pain.  And the world keeps moving.

So the universe needs to give me a giant arm of support and a giant shoulder to cry on while I pray for strength.

We said our goodbyes beneath the sheltering oak.

If I can climb out of this feeling of being underwater, where I cannot see or hear anything clearly, maybe I can put one foot in front of the other tomorrow.

I do not have the appropriate words for the place I’m in now.

I noticed tonight as I emerged from my bath that I no longer have that horrible weighted feeling that I have been carrying around.

I did break, past tense.  I’m like a vase that fell and cracked.

I am comfortable with my grief.

The future isn’t what I had imagined it would be.

I have survived the worst experience of my life.  Though I am forever changed by it.

Outside it is foggy, which is a symbolic reflection of how I feel; like I am in a fog.

I’m resentful of people who have not experienced such pain and cannot begin to understand.

It hit me hard, and unexpectedly.

I am trying to fill the spaces in my day, because it is in quiet moments that I feel the worst.

I hate saying their names aloud, but I cannot avoid it.

I find myself simultaneously compelled and paralyzed by the thought of writing.

I do not believe that this horrible, life-altering thing happened to us so that we could understand some deeper wisdom of the universe, or emotionally grow as human beings, or that we have been dealt this hand for some past wrong.

Please universe.  I need a break.

I suppose it is a somewhat natural reflection after being thrown up against tragedy to wonder about meaning.

Maybe in time I will be able to respect my body again.

The rain has stopped.  The ground has had enough; it can’t absorb any more.

For Sleep

For Sleep-

Sleep eludes me.
Knotted blankets, twisted limbs
Sweat-soaked pillow
Darkness and silence
Positioned one way or another or another
It doesn’t matter.
Sleep always escapes
Too crafty for capture.
My mind churns
Loss and stress and fear
Tangled up in a never-ending bid
For my attention.
Teeth grinding, fists clenched
Eyes drooping, never closing.
No amount of pills or teas or tricks
Can fool my mind into resting.
And if by chance…
I win the battle and sleep is
In my possession
Then the nightmares begin,
Haunting, howling, ruthless
Gripping my throat until
I release my prisoner sleep
And push it away.
Leave me alone
Let me be
Let me sleep, a real sleep
A calm sleep
Where I can finally wake up
Restored.

Shifting

Silence

It has a sound, a fullness.
It’s heavy with sigh of tree,
and space between breaths.
It’s ripe with pause between birdsong
and crash of surf.
It’s golden they say.
But no one tells us it’s addictive.

― Angela Long

In the immediate aftermath of losing Iris, I felt alone.  Isolated.  If people do not know what to say to a woman after she has lost a baby, they definitely do not know what to say after she loses two babies.  The silence was deafening.

But then it shifted. As weeks have passed, people have crawled out of their discomfort and extended their caring.  Sometimes with an apology of “I’m sorry it has taken me so long to show up, but I’m here now.”  The examples of the shift have been evolving into a living, breathing being.

It is the friend who reminded me that I will always be the Mommy of my girls.

It was the meals dropped off and the offers to help with the kids.

It is the person who reached out, even though he admitted that it was awkward and he didn’t know what to say, but he acknowledged that silence was selfish.

It is the “thinking of you” card that arrived unexpectedly and put a smile on my face.

It is the group that wrapped their arms around me from afar.

It is the words of comfort, such as “I do not know what you are going through, but I wish I could take some of your pain away.”

It is the words of solidarity, such as “I do know what you are going through, because it happened to me too, and I know how much it hurts.”

It is the song “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” sent to me as a sweet reminder of a moment in our past and how long our friendship has existed.

It is gentle encouragement. When I feel alone or anxious, I can send a text and receive an immediate response of “I’m listening.”

It is intervening on my behalf when I am too tired or too upset to take on something myself.

It is the plant I received after losing Nelle that has now produced a surprise bloom.

It is the phone call from someone who had kept her story to herself for a long time, but wanted to share it with me to tell me that I am not alone.

It is a work email from someone I do not know well, letting me know that a large project is far less important than what I am going through.

There are the friends who have provided much-needed distractions in the form of Mom’s Night Out.

It is the friend who admitted that she did not know what to say, so instead sent me beautiful pictures to look at every day.

It is meeting me for a cup of coffee on short notice, just to give me a good end to a bad day

It is making time in the day for a phone call and listening to my heavy sobs and feelings of meaninglessness.

It is the friend who agreed to check in on me every few days to see how I am doing, and from there a friendship has further blossomed.

There messages from periphery friends, who took the time to say “I’m thinking of you” even without a history of regular interaction.

There are the gifts; small, beautiful tokens that I can carry with me or wear as daily positive reminders.

It is the comments on my writing, daily affirmations that someone is listening to my screams.

It is reserving judgment, allowing me the space to grieve out loud and tell my story without fear.

As I began to list everything out, I realized how blessed I am to have so many meaningful people in my life.  I have been lifted by their words and actions. I felt alone, but listing everything out made me realize that I am not alone. The list keeps growing. There are people holding me up and lending me their shoulders until I am strong enough to stop leaning into them.

Borrowing Love

Today’s prompt asked me to see myself through the eyes of Nelle and Iris.  How would they love me in this?  How would they care for me?  How would they see me?

Without ever having met my daughters, I decided to approach this from the perspective of all of my children and how we would handle as a family.  That either Nelle and Iris are with me, mourning the loss of another girl baby, or I have just one, either Nelle or Iris, and we are mourning the other.  I tried to be more nondescript and just looking at how “my children” care for me.

Children know.  They have an acute awareness for when their parent is in pain.  They might not fully understand it, but they rally as if to say “I am here with you.”

My living children have gathered around me.  Sometimes it is just reaching out to touch my hand when I am crying.  Other times, I when I think I can no longer laugh, they force it out of me with their silliness.  They are inquisitive.  They are brutally forthright, with simple statements like “I’m sad the baby died, Mommy.”  Small comfort that by being so young, that they do not grieve like I do.

They are my lifeblood.  Their innocence is palpable.

She knows that she is a reminder of the other who is not here.  It is like they were twins and one survived while the other did not.  She accepts that responsibility and carries it well.  She knows that I would never say those words out loud.  She looks at me sometimes, as if to say “It’s ok.  I know what you need, and I can be that for you.”

My living children travel with me as we move further away from today’s grief.

Five years from now… They understand the loss a little bit more.  They feel the absence of a sibling.

Ten years from now… We still celebrate the birthdays for all of my children, living and dead.  We light candles on Pregnancy & Infant Loss Remembrance Day (October 15th) every year.  We pray together on All Souls Day.

Fifteen years from now… They are teenagers, emerging into adulthood.  They pull away from me as they spread their wings.  I never let them forget the importance of remembering.

Twenty years from now… They are married and starting their own families.  I worry throughout the entire pregnancies, worried that I have passed along some genetic trait that will cause them the same pain that I have suffered.

Thirty years from now… We gather under the sheltering tree, where her ashes were scattered.  We cling to each other.  The tree grows and spreads, and our family grows and spreads.  The tree may have stretched in different directions over the years, but it is still firmly rooted in the earth.