I have words to describe my family members. Ger is steady, logical, my constant. Theo is inquisitive, my inventor, and always wants to please. Quentin is spunky, creative and determined. How do I describe the babies I never met? Generically, like precious or sweet? I can only say that they were mine. My babies. Continue reading
“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 diedor someone you never met has diedToday when someone you love has been bornor someone you will not meet has been born….
Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrowToday when someone steps into the heat of her first embraceToday, let this light bless you-Jane Hirschman, from ‘A Blessing for Wedding’
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.
Last year, I started a new tradition, in a conscious/unconscious way with our Halloween pumpkins.
Several years ago, I began to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project. A pumpkin outside of our house is painted teal, to make kids with food allergies aware that our house has non-food treats. I put a sign on our door about the Teal Pumpkin Project, to bring awareness to it, and have handed out Halloween pencils for years instead of candy. The first year, I actually had teal paint and painted a pumpkin. Last year, I was given some blue-ish pumpkins by my aunt so they served the purpose. Continue reading
“Grief is like the ocean, it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” -Vicki Harrison
One year ago today, I was looking at the ocean.
We were in Hawaii, celebrating the marriage of my uncles. I was 10 weeks pregnant with Nelle. I announced upon our arrival to our family present that we were having a baby girl. In the morning, discombobulated by the time zone change, we walked along the beach and watched the sun rise over the ocean. Later that day, I swam in the ocean for the first time, maternity suit flowing around my swelling abdomen.
A year ago, I never could have imagined that I would be here right now. I would have thought that I would be holding a five-month-old baby. I never thought that the vacation of our dreams would now be a reminder of where I was then, and where I am now. I can’t escape it. Every photo bears the signs of my pregnancy, hidden under the clothes I carefully chose.
I read an article recently about the misconceptions of grieving in western culture. One expectation was: the grieving need about a year to heal. Nelle was born on September 4, so here I am, not even 10 months past that first staggering loss. The article also said: People say year two is harder than year one. There is the shock, end of life arrangements and other business matters that often consume the first year and the grieving do not have the time actually to sit back and take the time to grieve. While pregnancy loss is very different in the “business matters” sense, I am hitting those “memories” entering of “where I was a year ago” that are not constantly invading my space.
A year ago, I was looking at the ocean. Now I am learning to stay afloat in the ocean of grief.
Grief is like the rain. Soft. Hard. Warm. Cold. Sometimes torrential and unrelenting. Sometimes so furious that we cannot see through the downpour. Sometimes it brings hail. Pelting, it causes permanent indentations in metal. We stay inside and watch the damaging shards of ice.
Sometimes it turns to snow, icy and unforgiving.
Sometimes it is light and warm, a gentle reminder that it is necessary to grow.
A little fall of rain
Can hardly hurt me now
…And rain will make the flowers grow.
-From Les Miserables
This summer is so different. I was expecting to be pregnant into July. Instead I am picking up the broken pieces from last summer. After learning something was wrong, losing Nelle, and becoming pregnant again, I neglected a lot. Our yard had unmistakable signs of neglect. Putting it back into order is both satisfying and painful. I winced as I picked up dead branches and laid down mulch, knowing exactly how the yard had gotten into this state eagerly look forward to my “On This Day” postings, reminders of this day one year ago, two years ago, and further back. Lately, it has become increasingly hard. The photos from a year ago remind me that I was about eight weeks pregnant. Family and close friends knew, but the world at large did not. My smile hid a delicious secret. It was a summer of nausea in June, relaxation in July, fear in August, and loss in September.
I am reminded of an event I attended last summer with some friends. One asked me if we were going to find out the gender. I responded that we were having a girl. I was restrained, even then, responding that I would be more excited when the nausea subsided. Always restrained, muted, protected, even with no reason to be.
So this has become a summer of repair. Focus on the house, and routine, and control when everything else is beyond my control. I had already planned on the things I “couldn’t do” because I was supposed to be pregnant/have a newborn. Instead, I’m throwing myself into everything I had set aside.
Last summer, the kids switched day care locations – same school, different town. Today, the first official day of summer camp, I was greeted by a teacher from their old school, who will be with them for the summer months. My excitement to see her was replaced with a pit in my stomach. At this time last year, last time I saw her, I was 8 weeks pregnant. She was aware of my pregnancy due to my excited children. Would she ask me about the baby, completely unaware? I prayed that she had the good sense not to say anything. Or maybe she’d forgotten.
That is this summer. Who knows what next will bring. I can’t even bring myself to look that far ahead.