The 20th is Hard

Today is the 20th. Not an extra special 20th, just the day that Odin would be 15 months. I’ve been doing really “well” lately and have been feeling more at peace, as I’ve mentioned in a couple of previous posts. I think that peace is still there, but some days the grief can feel new again. You can be living your life, just carrying on with the regular things and the gravity of what’s happened — even if it’s been 15 months  — hits like a ton of bricks. I’m having a hard time today so I’m writing as a way of distracting myself and trying to articulate my feelings.

There’s a bit of news that I’ve been torn about sharing that I’m going to bury in this post. As of tomorrow I will be 14 weeks pregnant. There, I said it. I don’t know who will read this but admitting it here seems like a good place to start. Our immediate families know and some close friends but it’s incredibly complicated this news. Dreading blind and exuberant “Congratulations!!” messages devoid of the weight of our loss and fearing that those who do not understand what pregnancy after loss (PAL) feels like will assume that we’re finally “moving on”. Or that the people who said “you’ll have another” will be free to say or think, “I told you so” not realizing that a pregnancy is not a guarantee of a healthy living child. The thing about announcing a PAL is that almost everything you do feels like tempting fate. Every good ultrasound or blood test (we’ve had a few already) brings a relief as if we’ve dodged a literal bullet. Every bit of positive news feels too good to be true; makes us question why things seem to be going so well. Even though for the average person a positive result is just expected and ordinary. For me what is a precious gift (my iron levels are okay! I got into the midwife clinic I applied to!) to other people is just a normal, regular part of an average pregnancy. What other people take for granted I realize I am infinitely lucky to have.

I’m not even sure I knew how much I appreciated this pregnancy and how my point of view had shifted until our 12 week scan a couple of weeks ago. With Odin, our 12-week scan was miserable. The tech was rough and Odin wasn’t in the right positions for her to get the measurements. After 45 minutes she sent me away to eat and I came back for her to try again for another 45 minutes. I remember feeling bruised and I barely remember seeing him on the monitor. (I’m trying not to weep as I recall that memory. I know it doesn’t mean anything about his eventual fate, but it does make me sad that that scan went so poorly and it was one of my only chances to see him alive.) With this scan, the baby was relatively still. So still that I expressed concern about it. The tech, who was kind, despite having some undesirable opinions about whether we should pay $30 for a cd of pictures, said, “Babies rest. They move and then they rest” with enough authority that I felt reassured. For some lucky reason I was positioned on the examining table in a way that I could see the screen for the entire procedure. It was an incredibly special few minutes for me. The tech also got me to cough a little to show me the baby’s movements. The tech jiggled the ultrasound wand against my belly as I coughed and the baby wiggled around and put an arm up as if to wave. N also got to come in and see after the measurements had been taken and by then the baby had changed positions and we could see her spine — which was weird but also fascinating (like a tiny little railroad!). The tech had me cough again so N could see her dance. No matter what happens in the future of this pregnancy I am so grateful for that scan. (I was weeping a few minutes ago but now I’m smiling and weeping.)

I have been referring to the baby as “she” for a couple of reasons, none of which are based on fact. One is that I feel so differently with this pregnancy that I’m just assuming that this baby is a girl (I felt nauseated 24/7 for weeks). The other is that I find it annoying to say “he or she” all the time and prefer not to refer to her as “baby”. The other reason is that when we found out I was pregnant my whole heart wanted this baby to be a boy. I knew deep down I would be happy either way as long as the baby was healthy and got to come home with us but I initially really struggled with the idea of a daughter. (Parents tend to have strong feelings one way or another about the sex of a subsequent child after loss.) After the scan, though, and seeing the baby for real I feel more ready for whatever sex the baby is. And the mystery will be solved in a few weeks.

The 20th is still hard, but now that I’ve written my confession I feel a little lighter. I think today I should do something for Odin. I’m not sure what, but I’ll come up with something.





Forgiveness, duh

I just wrote a few days ago, but I’ve been thinking more about why I’ve been feeling a little more at peace these days. Time, sure, is a part of it. But I think an even bigger part of feeling peace is letting go of (or loosening the grip on) some of the negative feelings (anger, especially). Slowly I’ve had this massive and seemingly obvious realization that people outside of this loss are never ever going to understand what this feels like. I’ve always known this, just as anyone who has held their baby and said goodbye knows it, too. But it feels a bit different now —  it’s less like a hopeless burden that no one will ever understand me and more of a this-is-a-fact epiphany.

For a long long time I would get so angry when people didn’t seem to understand me and would say or do the wrong things. There are many blog posts in the community about this. Hell, I’ve written them. When the grief is so raw and you’re so vulnerable — a gaping, bleeding wound — any wrong words or actions hurt so badly. It’s like I’ve said: Anger is easy. Being angry is so much easier than dealing with the complicated feelings that constantly bombard you when you’re trying to be a part of a world that has continued on, unfazed, after you’ve lived through an unimaginable hell. And when you’re bone-tired just from the effort of living it’s so easy to be let down. All you want is to be understood and it’s an impossible and vicious cycle of letdown.

On the other side of the letdown, presumably, is a person who is simultaneously dreading saying the wrong thing, wanting to comfort you, and trying to help. I am understanding and/or accepting this more and more now. I don’t want to make excuses for the people who’ve stuck their foot in their mouths because sometimes people legitimately say really really dumb things. (“It wasn’t meant to be.” “You’ll have another baby.”) But I know loss moms who returned to work by choice two weeks after the death of their baby while others only return after many months leave. I have seen women get pregnant a couple of months after their loss and others wait a year before trying. I know someone whose baby died many years ago and she refuses to this day to speak of it but I also know moms who want desperately to talk about their babies even if they died decades ago. Guessing what an individual might want or need is no easy task and I accept more and more that for most people trying is half the battle. And empathy is incredibly rare. I’m still having a hard time with the people who say nothing at all — who haven’t acknowledged our loss, but maybe that will come someday. I guess for now I just want to try and forgive myself for being so hard on people, and I also want to forgive people who have let me down. I want to use that energy and space for something else.

(Totally relevant sidebar: if you know someone who is going through something awful and you’re feeling stuck, or if you just want to do better for your friends and family, please read this book: “There is No Good Card for This: What to Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love” by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell. I wish I knew how to make it part of every school’s curriculum.)

I still and always will treasure those people who always seem to have the right thing to say. The ones who have consistently provided comfort; remembered dates; said Odin’s name. These people are a gift and they have shown me how to be a better friend, daughter, wife, and mother. But more and more I’m able to just forgive the wrong words and actions. It’s so much easier to let it go than to hold onto it. I know people (for the most part) are trying and they mean well. It just takes a while to accept that.