Today marks the day I would have entered my third trimester. Instead of feeling my baby kick and laughing about how hot and uncomfortable it is to be heavily pregnant in the summer, I am flat-bellied and fighting the gremlins of envy. I’m not sure who’s winning. It depends on the day.
As I approach a time when I might conceive again, I weep as much for Bean and the thought of replacing him with another joy as I do the loss of my innocence, the emptiness of my belly, and fearing that if I ever get pregnant again, will I again tumble headlong into another unfortunate statistic?
What doesn’t kill me will make me stronger.
It’s been about 4 months and a week since I found out that my pregnancy had ended silently. I think this has been the longest year of my life. I think I have been tested more in the past 4 months than ever before. I don’t feel stronger. I feel broken, haphazardly stitching myself back together. I feel like a floppy rag doll with a crooked grin and unblinking eyes covered with a film of tears. The sad little boat I find myself sailing is still filling with water. Most days I am able to row, but there are long hours where I bail water frantically. There are fleeting moments when I feel like ramming my boat into the nearest rock, but I remind myself that then I’d have to swim to shore on the ever distant horizon, and that will take much longer than rowing and scooping water, and then rowing a little more.
I don’t have to get through this gracefully, I just have to get through it.
Instead of attending NP-SIL’s going away party today, I am in hiding. NP-SIL is so brilliant and lovely. When I called her to try to awkwardly explain So, you know I’ve been going through a hard time… not only did she completely understand (she knows from personal experience that grief can appear out of the blue) and respect how I feel (she’d been meaning to call me herself to say that she didn’t expect me to come), she sent my MIL home that evening with a gift certificate and a note to tell me to have a nice afternoon at a spa instead. I think she wins first prize for Best Sister-in-Law Ever.
I am so filled with shame and guilt, but it’s nothing to the depth of grief that has hit me this week. I had a great trip to North Carolina to see my dad and his girlfriend, and I took a break from my grief. Then, on the second of my two flights home, somewhere over New Mexico, the grief surged forward with a renewed intensity. It took a stronghold, wrapping me in its embrace, as if to say Ha! You thought you’d got rid of me for good did you? Fool’s you! I WIN. Stuck in seat 19A with nowhere to go, I pulled my kikoy from my bag and draped it over my head to shield my wet face from the man sitting next to me.
I’ve been trying to return grief’s embrace and dance with it but, like a persistent parasite, it has been hard to shake off. Save for the ridiculously fun distraction of going tubing on Mission Bay on July 4th, at best I’ve been low energy all week.
At worst, I crumpled into a seething heap. I knew my 2-year-old niece would be staying the night on Friday, and was grateful that my MIL picked her up instead of having P-SIL drop her off… but I had no idea that she would be such a grief trigger and wasn’t prepared for the new shockwave of anguish that her presence caused. I firmly believe that when you see a little kid your face should show them how pleased you are to see them, but I just couldn’t put on a happy face for her… So I stayed in my room with the door closed and I hated myself for not being able to go and say hello to her. I stalled heating up leftovers for dinner, hoping she would be in bed by the time DH and I were hungry, but I guess she goes to bed later than I thought she would. I managed to give her a smile and a deflated hello but, you know, kids are smart. I didn’t fool her, poor little thing.
My mood worsened. I was blinded by grief, a ball of disgusting rage. I wanted to tear my face off, shed my skin, and slither away. I opened the oven to take out the food. I overestimated how heavy the rack was, and to my horror, the main component of dinner, heating up in MIL’s vintage casserole pot, flew forward. I tried to catch it, but half the dinner splattered the oven door, and I watched in horror as the glass lid somersaulted in slow motion towards the floor. Maybe it’ll bounce the way Pyrex sometimes does I remember thinking as it fell. Smash! It broke into a thousand pieces, whereupon I threw down the oven glove in defeat. I hollered for DH and asked him to clean it up. I couldn’t stay pregnant, couldn’t miscarry properly, can’t heal, can’t get over this, can’t even make dinner. I couldn’t deal.
What other people think of me is none of my business.
Luckily, I later managed to find a replacement lid on eBay, but after I effectively ruined dinner, I wept like I haven’t in weeks. I looked over at my drooping peace lily, where I buried my Mizuko Bean, and gasped an apology. I’m sorry… I’m so, so sorry… I hugged myself and tried to calm myself down. It worked for a while, but then I’d start crying again in great heaves that shook my whole body. When I wiped my eyes, I was never able to fully dry them. I half-expected to see blood on the tissue, so much emotional pain I was in.
I hated the way I was feeling, hated that I couldn’t hide it, hated that I have no privacy, hated that I live with my parents-in-law, hated that I cause them to schedule their lives to accommodate my sensitivity, and hated that I negatively impact their lives so much and so often. Most of all, I hated myself. That little voice of doubt and cruel mischief kept whispering to me. Maybe you’re just not fit to be a parent. Maybe you miscarried because the universe or God thinks you have a shitload of crap to sort out first. Maybe DH is having second thoughts about TTC again. Maybe he needs a break from you, why else would he lie down in the middle of the evening? Maybe your mother is right: you should have started TTC years ago, so you have no one to blame but yourself.
I stole away to a darkened spare room and lay down on the floor clutching my Mizuko pebble. When I awoke some time later, I was stiff and sore, pink-faced and puffy-eyed. It was 11pm, and I was glad to creep into bed, but I had nightmares all night. I dreamt my NP-SIL was getting married and I was missing her wedding. Everyone was furious with me, someone shoved me, another person screamed in my face. Everyone was saying what a terrible person I was behind my back — but they didn’t know I was watching the wedding from the white rafters of the church and could hear everything. When I woke up this morning, I said It was just a dream… or was it?
Soften, Soothe, Allow…
Today I feel better. I feel sheepish for displaying my grief, but am glad it’s outside of my body for the time being. I feel guilty for not being able to go to my SIL’s farewell party, but am glad she understands and supports my decision. My back feels less tense after the massage I had, thanks to her generosity.
Sometimes I think the line between grief and depression is blurred*. I have moments of terrible thoughts, but I also have plenty of minutes where I think how much more I appreciate life now. I take joy in seeing the beauty of a flower, the amber evening scent of southern California’s shrubs, the sunset. Life has never seemed more valuable and precious. I see how precarious and fragile it is. I have terrible moments, but I keep going because there’s no other choice. So I keep charting and taking my prenatal vitamins, extra vitamin B6, and acupuncture herbs.
In quiet moments, I place my hands over my lower belly and send love and peace to my reproductive organs. I thank them for doing the best they could, and tell them to keep doing the best they can. I cheer on my ovaries and tell them, no pressure or anything, but it would be great to conceive this month. I grin to think that if I were to conceive this month, my due date would be April 9th. My birthday. I’m hoping for the best 36th birthday present ever.
* UPDATE: I just read the following on UnspokenGrief and am relieved to learn that it’s grief, not depression, that I am wrestling with:
Grief tends to be more trigger-related and situational after 2-3 months. For a large chunk of time you are functioning okay and feel relatively ‘better’ when around family, friends and in comfortable situations. It’s not until you get to the triggers that you begin to feel the symptoms of grief. Triggers can be dates, or leading up to dates, seeing a baby or pregnant woman, pregnancy announcements or television, songs — what ever it is for you.
– Via UnspokenGrief.com