This past Sunday was an anniversary.
But not the kind you celebrate with an extravagant weekend getaway.
If you’re like me, it’s the kind you await with anxious trepidation, wondering what sick emotional games your head and heart will play with you.
The bottle of Prometrium prescribed by the kind, helpful, and compassionate doctor on the other end of the phone with a sobbing, fretful, worried mother that night, one year ago last Sunday, still sits in my kitchen cabinet.
I still don’t have the heart to throw it away. Yet, I have no use for it. Seeing it reminds me of the baby. That’s not a great thing, but it’s not altogether a bad thing, either. It’s just… a thing thing.
Even though that first miscarriage ripped my heart out, and then I got an injection of Unexpected Hope only to suffer another Cosmic Sucker Punch, I have experienced a bit of healing in a whole year’s time.
But I don’t want to forget. And I don’t mean forget the babies (which I most certainly will not). I mean the pain.
There is something about the pain that is left after something that tears at your heart so fiercely. There is something about it that I don’t want to lose.
That sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
Perhaps it’s just the idea that this pain is the only thing I have left of this baby (of both of these babies), and the thought of letting go of it and moving on is just… well, shitty. Unpoetic as it may be, that is the best word for it. Letting go of that pain feels shitty.
If I can smile all day long every day (even when I’m looking at the damned bottle in the kitchen cabinet), then it feels as though I have nothing left of them. As if it does not matter that they were here one moment and then gone the next.
Fault me for it if you will, but nutty as it sounds – this pain is a tragically beautiful thing, and I don’t plan on letting go of it until I am holding my babies somewhere. Whether that is in some eternal dream or Heaven, or wherever else… that’s when I’ll release this gnawing grief.
Until then, that very pain helps me appreciate every hug, flower, and ray of light in this world. Because I’m a foolish girl, and when the light of the sun shines too prettily for too long, I have a tendency to take everything that’s good in my life for granted.
This pain? The way it lingers and sometimes flares up? It taps me on the shoulder and says, “Be grateful, woman.” It’s my reminder.
I refuse to even want to let go of that.
This past Sunday, I planted flowers for our lost babies, who we call Taylor and Davin.
They were purple alyssum, a choice made in order to simultaneously bow my head to another soul that was spirited away too soon.
I could want to be numbed (and some nights, I kind of am) or I could wish for complete healing, to leave these feelings behind and forget them.
Instead I’m going to hold onto what’s left of this pain, and when it feels the most raw, I’m going to try as hard as I can to turn that prism of pain toward the light, so that it creates the most beautiful rainbow I can make that effer shoot out.
It’s that time of the month when I’m more emotional than usual. More sad. More stressed. More angry. More prone to tears, what ifs, and blank stares.
Recently, a long-time and very dear friend of mine named Jenny sent me an email that carries important words, and good advice. I asked her permission to share it with you all, and she agreed.
So, for any of you out there who are feeling, have felt, or will feel the same way I do right now, maybe you’ll find something here that helps you turn it around, or just to deal with it more effectively. Or maybe just to make it through another day without feeling like giving up.
I know you didn’t ask for any advice, and so against my better judgment I’m going to offer some without solicitation, and I hope you’ll forgive me for doing so. You know my story, you know about all my failed pregnancies. Five years ago, I was struggling. My life wasn’t turning out like I wanted. I had dead babies instead of living ones. I had no answers and no health insurance to help me find answers. I had crazy moods and baby hamster hairballs in the shower drain and an empty womb and it wasn’t what I had planned. All my friends were on their 3rd or 4th child by then. I was tired of going to other people’s baby showers. I was broken hearted every time I looked in the spare closet and saw baby clothes and gear staring back at me, taunting me with their uselessness. I absolutely hated to hear any pregnant woman complain about her nausea, her swollen feet, her tiredness- what I would give for any of that. After the hopefulness that came with each positive pregnancy test, came the fear of loss, the inevitable emotional investment and hope, and then the emptiness of actual loss.
Then came this moment where I could see clearly: While I really do believe that most of the pain of the human experience is self-inflicted, some things are truly beyond our control. My life is not always about my choices. Things happen to us, and we get no say in how they turn out. What could I do about my childbearing life at that point? Could I change history, or even my obstetrical future? No. The situation was out of my hands. But the great realization was about gratitude. Could I hold my babies and raise them and nurse them? No, but I had other opportunities that my friends with little babies did not: I could go out of the house for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time. Heck, I could go out of town if I wanted. I could give blood, and do upside down yoga poses. I could make love to my husband without the let-down reflex squirting breast milk everywhere. I could work and take night classes. I could sky dive and ride roller coasters.
I couldn’t control what was happening to my body. I had to resort myself to the fact that 1- I may never know what is causing this to happen, and 2- I may never give birth to another living child. Rather than dwelling on those uncontrollable elements, I chose to focus on what I did have. The summation of the realization for me was this: Be grateful for what you have, when you have it.
I could spend my time and energy wanting what I couldn’t have, wishing for something beyond my control, hoping for karma or God to sort out the kinks and make everything right, or I could make the most of what I had right then, even if it wasn’t what I had hoped. I realized that no matter what life is handing me, I have a multitude of blessings to make the journey pleasant, even wonderful, if I choose to see them. Life is fluid, ever changing and shifting. I would not always be in the place, emotionally, mentally, that I was in then. Who’s to say if I’d be in a better one or not, that is also out of my hands to a degree. I knew that if I did have another child, I would have a host of other challenges, as well as blessings to appreciate. But for now, this is what I had. And I owed it to my husband and living children who were depending on me, and to God who gives me each day, to make it count for something. If not, life would end up passing me by while I hoped for what was around the corner. Be thankful for what you have, when you have it.
Again, know that I care and I want you to feel well and whole. If I’m full of crap, you won’t hurt my feelings to 1- roll your eyes and hit delete, or 2- write me back in all caps and tell me how wrong I am.
Of course, I didn’t roll my eyes. I nodded and cried. And now I look back at these words often.
I think I’m going to take Braden to the park on Thursday and watch him run around and remember that the day he was born to me, whole and alive, was such a special blessing. Every day after that with him (even the tough ones) has been another special blessing in and of itself. There’s really nothing bad that can happen that can ever take from me the great gift of everything I’ve experienced so far with my son. So many wonderful things and moments – there’s no way to catalog them.
Today, I am thankful for that. And remembering to be thankful for that makes the other stuff easier to deal with.
Thank you, dear friend.