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.

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Are You Expecting?

Someone asked me this for the first time a couple of days ago. I guess at 24-weeks even baggy clothes aren’t hiding the fact that pregnant very well anymore. The thing is, that statement is so weird to me. If there’s anything I’m not, it’s “expecting”. 

Generally, I feel like I’ve been doing pretty well lately, all things considered. I’ve had a bit of an emotional week which was instigated by some bad dreams on Sunday night (I’m laying in a hospital bed and a doctor says in a very matter of fact way, “Yes, of course. Your baby is dead.”) The dreams weren’t even what I would call nightmares (I’ve definitely had worse), but I woke up on Monday morning anxious and completely unsettled. And then, because I couldn’t feel her moving, I was convinced that baby girl was dead. And then I was drowning in deep grief, which is just something that happens sometimes. When a few tears fall, sometimes it leads to a flood.

My placenta is anterior, which is relatively common and not at all a cause for concern. The thing is, it means that I don’t feel bbg move very much. So it’s easy to panic that something is wrong. I’m sure women who haven’t experienced a loss also find having placenta anterior stressful, but in PAL it can be devastating. Since Monday, I’ve felt her bopping around a bit more consistently, which is something I’m grateful for.

I’ve decided this week to reactivate my Facebook account after many months away. I’ve realized that while I find most of what happens on that platform depleting, I miss the support and nourishment of the women in the online communities there — specifically a group calling Ending a Wanted Pregnancy. It’s a private group that you have to apply to get into, which makes it a very safe space. The admins are kind, intelligent, and thoughtful women whom I am grateful for. I’m glad to be back there, supporting other women and leaning on them with the things I know most people can’t relate to. It’s something I needed this week.

I’ve spoken before about the support of the loss community, both online and in-person. It’s incredible to me how many resources are actually out there; how much truly beautiful and insightful writing there is. There is a loss mom I follow on Instagram who posts often about her baby girl, Maeve, who died on June 10th, 2015. She and her husband have a YouTube channel and are very vocal about their loss and subsequent infertility. Joan is a gifted writer and I always appreciate what she shares. Earlier this week she posted a lengthy poem/letter about how sometimes her daydreams about Maeve feel like memories. I’ve gone back and read and reread it many times. I read a lot of emotional writing about infant loss, but I don’t typically cry over much of it anymore. I find it soothing to relate to what I read, but it doesn’t usually impact my ability to function. But Joan’s post affected me. I think it’s in part because I haven’t had the emotional strength to write/speak to Odin (something that still bothers me, but I know I will work towards) and she has clearly put so much thought into the life that she wanted to have with Maeve. The most thoughtful and impactful part of what she wrote, for me, was when she talked about the boy (or girl) who would marry the wrong person because Maeve is not here. (I’m tearing up just thinking about that again.) I sent Joan a message thanking her for her post and lamenting all of the things I will miss with my son. Her reply was short, simple, and beautiful. I won’t ever forget what she said and I think it might inspire and shape certain aspects of my grief journey going forward.

Her reply was, simply: “His whole life in your heart.”

Twenty-one and Six

On this day of my first pregnancy (21 weeks, 6 days) Odin was born. When you’re living in the dark timeline, the one that begins when your child’s life ends and yours continues, it’s hard to ignore these types of landmarks and dates. They’re the ones that remind you, despite the happiness or contentment you’re now capable of feeling, that your life is not exactly what it should be. Last year at this stage of my pregnancy I was admitted to the hospital and, 36 hours and 7 doses of misoprostol later, Odin was in our arms; his perfect (but tiny) outside disguising the fatal flaws within. Perfect chin, perfect nose, the littlest toes, fingers as delicate as thread. Our son.

From this point on, everything about pregnancy will be new to me. I know I will continue to balance missing Odin with the excitement and anticipation of meeting our baby girl (with a side of anxiety for good measure). I also know that grief and joy can live together and some days one wins out over the other, which is okay. It’s the price of great love when that love has nowhere to go.

Back in February I ordered a Molly Bear. Molly Bears is a company founded by a woman who lost her baby girl, Molly Christine, in 2010. Seven years and 26 volunteers later, they have produced over 11,000 bears and have shipped to 35 countries. Each Molly Bear is handmade and weighs exactly what your baby weighed. Initially, I had mixed feelings about ordering one, but decided to go for it after reading that other loss parents had found comfort in these bears. Ours arrived a few weeks ago and it’s so hard to describe how that bear makes me feel. At first glance, it’s very cute. It’s scruffy and brown like we had requested and has a red felt heart on its chest with “Odin” embroidered in it. And it weighs his exact 470 grams (which is just slightly over a pound).

When you hold your baby in your arms and you know it will be the first and last time, you do your best to try to remember everything. Aside from the endless and all-consuming love you’ll feel for your child for the rest of your life, these few moments are all you’ll have. You live a lifetime of loving and shared experiences in whatever short time you have with your baby before saying goodbye. And you don’t even know at the time that that’s what you’re doing. It’s impossible to prepare for that. Sometimes I try to go back and remember every excruciating moment just so I won’t forget. But forgetting is inevitable. The memories become less sharp and the images become blurred. I try. I try so hard to keep it all but I can’t, it’s just not possible. I read a quote from a poem called Grief by Stephen Dobyns a while ago that describes it so perfectly:

“Trying to remember you
is like carrying water
in my hands a long distance
across sand.”

When I held our Molly Bear I couldn’t believe the weight. I spent a lot of time checking my math and second-guessing that I had sent the right information. The bear felt so heavy to me. Eventually, I realized that the things I had been holding in my arms since Odin died (the stuffed bear from the hospital, his clothes, the blanket he was wrapped in) were all empty; nearly weightless. I had forgotten the weight of him. And I crumbled. I couldn’t believe that while Odin’s presence in our lives symbolically weighs so much, the reality of his physical weight had slipped away from me. I try so hard to keep it all but I can’t.

The bear is on Odin’s special shelf now, keeping safe guard of his ashes in the tiny brass urn. I haven’t picked it up since the day it arrived in the mail, but I am comforted to know that I can hold it and be reminded of what I try so hard to keep.

Everything is Fine

Last Tuesday was another long, emotional day. But our anatomy scan and the echocardiogram were both normal. Big relief? Yes. Lots of other stuff/feelings? Also, yes.

On Saturday we went to a cemetery with our support group friends for a memorial balloon release. Our friend’s son, Jude, should have been celebrating his second birthday that weekend. For the second year in a row, his parents organized a truly beautiful balloon release where friends and family tied messages for Jude to helium-filled balloons and released them together into a bright blue, cloudless sky. I’m tearing up just thinking about it now. There was a bubble machine, a photographer, and an elaborately decorated plot stone for Jude with toys, flowers, and brightly-coloured pinwheels. After the balloons were released, N and I spent time walking through the cemetery and reading the names and dates of the babies who have died. It was as sad as you can imagine, but what hit me the hardest was the fresh flowers at the stones for babies who died many years ago. There were dates like February 1999 with a fresh bouquet. February. This is September and not an obvious holiday or birthdate. To me these freshly-laid flowers are an affirmation of endless love. The grief of missing a child does not end, and the pain is not reserved for holidays and birthdays. I’m both comforted and overwhelmed by this.

After the balloon release we all headed to a nearby park for a catered picnic with games for the kids, face-painting, and even an ice-cream truck. Once again my emotions were all over the place. Jude’s parents put so much into this birthday party; a beautiful symbol of their love for him. And it crushed me that these incredible parents are here with all of this love but Jude is not here in their arms. It’s incredibly unfair.

Still reeling from the emotions of this last week, I’m feeling fragile. I’m definitely relieved about our test results and N and I have felt more comfortable talking about plans for the coming months (I’ve even signed up for a prenatal course. Gulp). But things are not easy. Nothing is straightforward. It’s not as simple as good test results = stress-free happy pregnancy. But we are trying.

 

Sun vs. Moon

At work today I had Nasa’s live stream of the eclipse on in the background while I worked. In the days leading up to this event I didn’t really think I was interested in it. But watching on the screen as the dark moon passed in front of the blazing sun, I couldn’t help but see the eclipse as a metaphor.

Sometimes the mind forgets what the heart remembers. I’ve definitely experienced this many times on my grief journey. And here, in my eighteenth week of (what we’re assuming so far) is a healthy pregnancy, I can feel it in my bones. That subtle shift; my heart remembering how close we are in this pregnancy to where it all ended with Odin.

At this point in my pregnancy with Odin I was still naively unaware of all of the bad things that can happen on the road to parenthood. I still assumed that getting pregnant meant bringing home a living baby. And, at this point in that pregnancy, everything was also medically normal. For this pregnancy, we got pretty good news a couple of weeks ago and, although I’ve been feeling sad for Odin and missing him a lot, I’ve also been feeling relieved and hopeful for this baby girl. Maybe too hopeful. When I think about our upcoming 19-week scan next week, that same scan that told us that Odin would die last April, I realize that the dark moon of anxiety is slowly creeping out in front of the blazing sun of hope. When I think about next week’s appointment, my palms get sweaty. What if we hoped too much? There is still a chance that the echocardiogram will uncover a heart defect. For many babies that do not live past birth, it is one undetected heart condition that seals their fate. It’s also possible that the part of our baby’s brain that was not yet developed enough two weeks ago could be fatally flawed.

Maybe we hoped too much. Maybe we talked about cribs and strollers too many times. Maybe our list of baby girl names is too long. Maybe we will lose another baby. We wouldn’t be the first people to lose a second baby and we wouldn’t be the last. It’s not that I think my thoughts are that powerful, it’s actually that I know they are not. Hoping does not mean that this baby will die just as much as worrying does not mean that she will live. We can’t know what the outcome will be, but we can do our best not to be blindsided. Somehow between our loss and what comes next we have to find a balance between hope and worry.

It might sound like I’m being negative. It might sound like I’m a mess. I’m actually not either of those things. I’m still in the world, a high-functioning griever going through a rough patch, poker-faced and not showing my cards. This is just what happens in the mind of a mother who is missing a baby and is bravely trying again; wading through the darkness of possibility and risking her heart again. Pregnancy after loss is incredibly complicated. More complicated than I ever imagined. There aren’t nearly as many resources out there for PAL as there are for infant loss and grieving, but I have found the Pregnancy After Loss Support website helpful. Here are just a couple of facts about PAL from that site:

“Women who are pregnant again after a loss are at an increased risk for postpartum anxiety and depression, even after having a subsequent successful pregnancy and birth.”

“Psychological distress during a subsequent pregnancy increases the risk of chances of preterm labor and low birth weight, as well as having a difficult time bonding with the baby born after loss.”

“A new pregnancy after a loss can activate a new layer of grief.”

We’re up against some heavy heavy things. But it’s helpful to know that there are other people out there who are sharing their experiences and that, again, we won’t be alone.

I would love nothing more than to pull out all of the self-care tricks I’ve got and put them into place until our appointment next week. I think an art project or making a belated Day of Hope flag might be helpful. But we have a big family wedding this weekend and that’s just the way life goes. (I actually just realized that it’s at the same place we visited just before Odin’s anatomy scan, which is a really weird coincidence that I’ll try not to be superstitious about.) I’m anxious about the wedding, though. We’ll be away from home for four days and N will have lots of inescapable obligations. I’m worried about the isolation of being surrounded by happy people, much like I felt in the early days after Odin died. And that becomes increasingly difficult as people find out (or notice) that I’m pregnant. It’s hard to navigate people’s “Congratulations!” with my instinct to say, “Yes, but. . .” (An instinct I bury beneath polite thank yous.) I’m horrible with smalltalk when I’m feeling overwhelmed like this (it makes my skin crawl?) so I’m hoping I can carve out some alone time to recharge. I know it’s going to wipe me out to be social for four days but maybe there will be some time for relaxing and enjoying a bit of what’s left of summer.

PS. I have therapy tomorrow morning.

 

Hello Grieving My Old Friend

Before I bury the lede: our ultrasound went well. It was an emotional day, for sure, and a long one. We were at the hospital for four hours and saw two technicians and our genetic specialist. I used every tool I’ve got to just get through the waiting around and wondering and I know N was pretty anxious even though he hid it pretty well. I’m sure it’s just as hard to go through the ultrasound as it is to sit (for 45 minutes) wondering what’s happening in the other room. When he was finally allowed to come in and see the screen for himself he looked pretty destroyed.

The technician I saw was actually the same woman who did our anatomy scan for Odin. (The follow-up one we had after we were flagged for issues.) She remembered me and I was both grateful and terrified to be in that room again, with the first person who knew that our lives were about to change in an unimaginable way. She was kind, but professional. She explained right away that we’d have to wait to talk to the doctor about the results but that she could tell us about the heartbeat and the sex. The baby was very active and it felt like it was taking a really long time. I did my best not to cry and to keep breathing. About halfway through she caught me fidgeting and asked if I was okay. And I said, “it’s just really hard not to try and read your face.” She was as reassuring as she could be and said, “for an early scan like this the baby is still very small so things are hard to see. I just have to look hard. I can’t tell you much but I will say this: things are very different this time.” And she said it in a way that let me read between the lines for her positive message. I relaxed just a little bit.

Eventually N was allowed to come in and the technician told us with a fair amount of confidence, given that the baby is still very small: it’s a girl. Once again we were able to see her moving around, legs crossed, bum view, profile (mouth opening and closing), hands waving and it was incredible. The technician purposely left her image on the screen and left the room so that we could take pictures in the cell-phone-free zone.

And then we waited.

And then we had another ultrasound done by a radiologist who said, “don’t worry! We just want some more pictures. Everything is okay.” I felt reassured, N looked worried.

And then we waited some more.

We eventually saw our genetic specialist (who is an angel on earth) and he walked us through the results. We both wish he had opened with “everything is okay!” but he eventually did get around to that after a bunch of clinical descriptions. It looks like our baby girl is okay. We will have another scan and an echocardiogram in a few weeks (Odin had a complex heart condition so they want to check on this baby’s heart) but so far everything looks normal.

Since that day I’ve run the gamut of emotions from relief and joy to extreme grief and sadness. It’s like all of the anxiety and worry that was taking up space in our hearts about this pregnancy has been released (or at least abated) and now my heart is full of sadness and I’m missing my boy so much. It’s been like the early days all over again. I’m back to thinking about his body and the weight of it in my arms. I’m back to crying when I look at his picture (beside my bed; I look at it every night before I go to sleep), I’m back to feeling overwhelmed by the idea of missing him until I die. Which leads to feeling guilty for not feeling grateful to have a healthy pregnancy, which leads to feeling guilty that I’m not my best self for this baby and for work and for my family and friends. Which leads to feeling isolated because of the complicated feelings. And then I worry about this baby and if I’ll resent her for not being Odin. Or that I’ll be able to love her like I love Odin. Basically, it’s a lot. It’s confusing and it’s sad. Now that people are finding out that we’re expecting a baby we’re getting lots of congratulations messages and inquiries about how we’re doing. And it’s so hard to reply sometimes. The feelings we feel are all over the place. We are happy and we are sad. I just have to go easy on myself and hope that people will understand (or at least accept) that they may not hear from us.

Rationally I realize that this, too, will pass. We have wonderful (personal and professional) support and I know I’ll work through this phase. It’s just so hard to see outside of a dark cloud when you’re this deep in it. I think part of what might help me is more journalling and maybe some kind of project for Odin. Something that I can focus on and feel like I’m doing for him. August 19th is The Day of Hope and last year I made a flag for Odin. I don’t know if I’ll have time to complete one this year, but maybe I’ll try. It’ll be a journey figuring out how to parent him and fit him into this new baby’s life but thinking about that is another way for us to include him in our lives, which I’m glad for.

The finished flag

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.

xo

 

 

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.

xo

Progress and Luggage

When I look back at the things I wrote more than a year ago with the idea that time makes pain an easier burden to carry in mind, I could almost be mad at myself for not believing it then. Of course it makes sense that in the early days of grief (and even for a whole year afterwards) I couldn’t even imagine a time when I would care about anything at all ever again. But the wise mothers, years out from their loss(es), who were a guiding light for me then, would have every right today to tell me, “I told you so”. (Obviously they would never do that.)

I have been feeling more at peace (or calm?) lately than I have ever felt before about losing Odin. It almost makes me sad to say that, but only almost. I realized this when I was having brunch with a couple of my loss mom friends last weekend. We were talking about how when we are in large groups of happy people we feel the most alone. L1 described feeling like a ghost around some of the people who she used to be closest to and even around her own family. And I can completely relate to that feeling. It’s awful. When the people who you’ve depended on your whole life; people who have known you for years or even decades just don’t seem to see you anymore it is devastating. And there’s really nothing you can do about it. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just part of the fallout and a secondary thing to mourn on top of the devastating loss of your baby. During that conversation, though, it occurred to me that the last few times I had been with large groups of people I hadn’t felt as isolated and I didn’t imagine screaming and running away. For many many months after we lost Odin I couldn’t sit at my in-laws’ dinner table with the family for a meal because it was just too much. Too much mindless chatter. Too much laughter. Too much noise. I would inevitably end up in tears and have to excuse myself. But the last time I was there, I got through the meal and felt okay. I still have a very low threshold for small-talk but aside from that unavoidable part of any family gathering, I realized that at the last wedding we went to (which was in May) I genuinely had fun. L2 talked about how her therapist suggested that to cope with social situations she “not bring everything [her experience]” with her. And I offered that at this point in my grief journey it’s less of an active choice to bring my baggage with me into a social setting whereas before I had no control over it. I used to be handcuffed to a massive bulging suitcase that sat in my lap and I couldn’t even see over it — now it feels more like a purse that I can hang on the back of my chair. At least most of the time anyway.

This is not to say that I am cured! Oh boy. This is, after all , The Longterm Project. One of my fears about “healing” is giving people permission to treat me like I didn’t live through the most horrible thing imaginable. I think that’s why it is hard (for me) to admit progress out loud. Giving the impression that I’m “over it” is terrifying. So even though I probably don’t need to, I’m going to give in to my paranoia and reiterate that there is no getting over this. Even a couple of nights ago I cried while N was playing the piano. He definitely plays some songs that tug at my heartstrings but that night it was the simple fact that Odin would never hear N play that made me incredibly sad. And I expect those moments to come for the rest of my life and I welcome them with an open heart.

And so, despite my resolve to hang onto my sadness (because it used to be the only way I felt connected to Odin), I feel like I’m just a little bit more capable of looking forward. Losing Odin has taught me that there are very few things in this life that we can control. But what I can do is imagine a future where Odin is still at the forefront of everything we do for as long as we are here to do it. I can live in a way that honours his memory and keeps him in my heart always. I can do things that would make him proud. And until my last breath I can be sure that he remains, as always, our beloved son.

The Weight of Wonder

I haven’t written in a while. I guess it’s partly because what they say is true. With time, grief becomes easier to carry. It becomes more like a familiar companion than a tormentor. And I guess when things are easier there’s less to be fired up about so I haven’t been as inspired to write. But tonight the moon is so bright that it doesn’t really seem like nighttime and I’m here, awake, wondering.

What would he look like?

Now that winter is at a safe distance and vitamin D levels are on the rise it feels a little more possible to make plans. Last summer we were in survival mode but this summer can be something different. I think I can imagine making it through an entire wedding or social event without being crushed by the loneliness of being surrounded by so many happy people.

But what would he sound like? What would make him laugh?

I’m less anxious about going to malls and parks and dodging the minefield of strollers and Baby Bjorns. I don’t think I’m likely to weep at the sound of a newborn’s cry anymore. I’m slightly less upset by pregnancy announcements and the sight of a pregnant woman doesn’t bother me much anymore.

But what would he feel like to hold now?

It’s true that I don’t cry as often anymore and that life’s routines are basically the same as they were a year ago (a fact which is difficult to consider. Time = black hole). It’s so easy to get caught up in those routines and before you know it the date on the calendar shocks you. I miss Odin every day but I feel like I’m doing alright.

But what would he call me?