Insomnia and a Blessing

After Odin died I had a lot of trouble sleeping for a few months. I was prescribed a sleeping pill by my doctor that really helped me get through that period. Otherwise, I have been a boastfully good nighttime sleeper all my life. Until the third trimester of this pregnancy, that is. According to the internet, 75-80% of pregnant women experience insomnia at some stage (usually later on) in their pregnancies. I am always torn about complaining about my symptoms (unless it’s to N, whose patience, I’m convinced, goes unmatched by any other human on the planet) because underneath the back pain, breathlessness (I’m pretty sure I have pregnancy-related asthma now), and general fatigue I am so so grateful to be pregnant with baby girl. The insomnia, though, is really starting to mess with me.

Generally, my witching hours are 3-6am when I am wide awake staring into the darkness. I know there are rules and tricks to try for sleeplessness, but it feels very wrong to me to get out of bed in the middle of the night to putter or read. What if I could fall asleep if I just stayed in bed? I’m not sure how I manage to just lay there for 3 hours, but I do. And it’s getting harder and harder the more exhausted I am to keep my mind from wandering back to that delivery room where we spent our only time with our very missed baby boy. This insomnia feels like a cruel joke. The vicious cycle of being tired and then feeling rotten and being vulnerable to my emotions.

I stayed home from work today because I was feeling so anxious and tired and sad and weird. And maybe Halloween has something to do with it. Yet another kid-centric holiday that reminds us of what we’re missing. An 18-month-old in a dinosaur costume waddling around and giggling with a bit too much sugar in his tummy.

And even as I sit here writing this, I’m thinking that I’m not even saying anything worth reading. Exhaustion brings doubt. So, I’m going to cheat and use someone else’s words to wrap this up. A blessing sent to me a while ago by a dear friend whose baby died last year and who now has a living daughter.

Blessing for a Mother-to-be
John O’Donohue

Nothing could have prepared your heart to open like this. From beyond the skies and the stars this echo arrived inside you and started to pulse with life, each beat a tiny act of growth, traversing all our ancient shapes on its way home to itself.

Once it began, you were no longer your own. A new, more courageous you, offering itself in a new way to a presence you can sense but you have not seen or known.

It has made you feel alone in a way you never knew before, everyone else sees only from the outside what you feel and feed with every fibre of your being. Never have you traveled farther inward where words and thoughts become half-light unable to reach the fund of brightness strengthening inside the night of your womb. Like some primeval moon, your soul brightens the tides of essence that flow to your child. You know your life has changed forever, for in all the days and years to come, distance will never be able to cut you off from the one you now carry for nine months under your heart.

May you be blessed with quiet confidence that destiny will guide you and mind you. May the emerging spirit of your child imbibe encouragement and joy from the continuous music of your heart, so that it can grow with ease, expectant of wonder and welcome when its form is fully filled. And it makes it journey out to see you and settle at last relieved and glad in your arms.



Emotional Hangover

This past weekend was Thanksgiving in Canada so N and I headed north to my hometown to spend the weekend with my family. It was pretty low-key. The weather has been unseasonably warm for October so we were able to go for a nice walk in a conservation area. On Sunday we had a big family dinner with some extended family. It was a nice weekend. I slept a lot and I didn’t feel stressed or overwhelmed or sad the whole weekend.

Until we got home.

After some reflection, I think that spending so much time over the weekend talking about (and planning for) baby girl impacted me more than I realized while it was happening. And I don’t even know exactly what I mean by this. Everything was just so incredibly normal and maybe I need to be more mindful about how un-normal our situation is. In our own home we have reminders of Odin everywhere. It’s the place we mourn, remember, and love him freely. And not that we’re not free to talk about him with family, but it’s easy enough to slip into “normal” when you’re in a different space. I think I need to always allow our loss a little bit of space no matter what we’re doing or where we are and that will take conscious effort. While we were away from home we talked a lot about setting up the nursery. My mom gave me a bunch of clothes that she had bought for baby girl. At the big family dinner there was so much focus on me being pregnant. I was fine with all of this while it was happening but when I got home I fell apart. I couldn’t sleep. I sobbed inconsolably into the wee hours. Our reality crashed down on me and I missed Odin as if we had just said goodbye.

On the holiday Monday we went to visit our friends from support group whose baby boy was born ten days ago. They lost a son last August when my friend was 36-weeks pregnant. Given my state of mind, it maybe wasn’t the best choice to visit that day. Or maybe it was the best choice? I have no idea. Their baby boy, Leo, is perfect. I held him and cried for lots of obvious reasons but also for reasons I can’t fully articulate. It felt good to be with that little family. Seeing how they’re okay. Seeing that it’s possible to have room in your heart for two babies, even if one isn’t here to hold. They miss the son they lost and they are overjoyed at the presence of their new little one. Maybe that sounds incredibly obvious but it was something I needed to see and feel with my whole heart. Holding that tiny baby boy was both a high and a devastation that I can’t explain. I feel like an addict who has had a taste and now I want more. But I want that more to be Odin, and it can’t be. If it sounds impossibly complicated, it’s because it is. Holding Leo was a reminder of what we’ve lost, but also a reminder of what hope and joy feel like. My heart swelled and shattered in a giant wreck.

I wrote this on Tuesday (I think I’ve mentioned I hate Tuesdays at the best of times) and I couldn’t care or focus at work. I was on edge. Grumpy. My heart and my mind are so full and I can’t seem to snap out of it. (*Pause here to email therapist to set up appointment.) I know I won’t always feel as bad as I do right now because healing is not linear and grief doesn’t follow any rules. Holidays are always hard and they likely always will be. There will always be a missing piece.