Wednesday, February 18, 2015
the pendulum swing
It's a weird thing, the pendulum swing.
Like the pendulum of a grandfather clock, my emotions could swing quickly from one side to the other.
Tick tock, tick tock. Sad happy, sad happy.
Within the first weeks after Reece's birth and death my emotions were all over the place. Well, they were mostly in the messy heap on the floor, a combination of anything bad and sad you could think of. It was confusing and sad and scary and just a jumble of feelings and emotions spurred on by postpartum hormones. One minute I was "okay," the next minute I couldn't stop the tears from falling.
It was as if my emotions had a mind of their own. I couldn't control them. I couldn't control my baby from being born early. I couldn't control him from dying. I couldn't control anything.
Everything was all over the place, especially my emotions. But I was mostly sad. Terribly, woefully sad.
I was lucky that I had so many people around me who loved me and wanted to help me. They surrounded me. They came over. They sent dinner. They invited me out. They sent me beautiful things to remember Reece by. They offered to do anything. The ones who were out of state checked on me constantly. They listened to me vent, and cry. They created beautiful things for me. They did acts of service in Reece's honor. So much good. They loved me. Friends, family, all of them.
I was lucky in that regard and I felt it.
I would feel so lucky and happy and grateful that I had these wonderful people who cared about me and my family in my life, and for a moment I would be flying high....
I remembered. The reason all of these kind things were happening for me was because something awful happened. My baby died. And though all of these kind, loving, wonderful family members and friends want to help me, the only thing that I really truly want---for my baby to be alive again---is something that they cannot give me. Since they cannot do that, they are trying their best to do everything and anything else. But the bottom line is they cannot fix this. No one can fix this.
My baby is dead.
And so I come crashing down. And that immense, profound sadness is sitting there at the bottom waiting for me. The minute I hit the bottom it cloaks me with its shroud of grief. Breathing becomes difficult because there is pressure in my chest. The pressure eventually erupts into my head and the tears start. The tears lead to sobs. The incredible sadness just washes over. Surviving becomes the goal. Functioning becomes an impossible task.
When that cycle was finished? Rinse and repeat.
This is what my life became.
In May, one month after Reece died, a few of my out-of-state friends came in town, and we all got together, with some of my closest local girlfriends. A select few of the many who were helping put me back together all gathered, on the same weekend. It was one of those moments when you look around and see the faces surrounding you and feel so LUCKY to have THIS group of friends, all in the same place at the same time. Friends from different circles were meeting one another and saying, "oh! Nas has told me all about you!" but now they were MEETING in PERSON, and it was just awesome! They were all there to support me, to rally around me, and to love me. But in the process they became friends, and it was just a perfect weekend.
I was flying so high after that weekend, I knew a crash was inevitable. Because that's just how this grief thing works.
The pendulum swings far right, and then swings far left.
I remember saying, "it's almost better when my emotions stay in neutral. Maintain equilibrium. Don't get too happy, don't have too much fun, because grief will make you pay."
It's always there, looming in the background. Waiting for you to have a day where you have fun and actually feel happy instead of melancholy. And then when it's over, it's waiting for you. The bear is always there, ready to remind you of your reality. To mock you because you actually allowed yourself a moment of reprieve.
"You were having fun? Oh good for you. Because I'm hear to remind you that your baby's dead. How does that feel?"
There comes the wave of emotions. It's as if you almost forgot for a second, and life was back to "normal." But you can't fool grief.
Stay in the center. Only slight deviations to the left and to the right. Try to limit the emotional motion...not too happy, because then swwwwwiiinnnggg! Back over to the left you go.
And then you add a little guilt into the mix, just for good measure.
"You were enjoying yourself, weren't you? So strange, considering your baby is dead. You really shouldn't be having any fun at all now, should you?"
Tick tock, tick tock. Sad happy, sad happy.
This has been my balancing act since April 30, 2014. I've become so expert at this that I've come to anticipate it. When I went away for a fun girls' weekend in Indiana back in October, I knew it would happen. I enjoyed every moment with my friends. And even when some unexpected dramatics happened in the group and I felt myself getting sucked in and wanting to "fix" things, I thought to myself, "nope, let it go and deal with it later. Have your fun now, because you'll have to pay for it next week." It's inevitable. So I kicked back and enjoyed myself, because I knew the pendulum would swing back to the left. It always does.
I came home and crashed hard, coming off the high of such a good weekend. I spent two full days just going through the necessary motions, and cried tears I didn't even know I had left. Had to deal with that pendulum swing. It's the nature of the beast.
This past weekend I went away to visit my dear friend. Shannon. She's one of the friends who came to be by my side back in May when I needed it the most. She's one of the friends who has done everything she could to help put the pieces of me back together. She's one of the friends who doesn't get sick and tired of me, and my grief process, no matter how many times I break down and need a little extra.
Sadie and I trekked up to Connecticut despite the impending snow storm to get some time in with Shannon. After a rough two weeks, and a few awkward conversations with friends who don't really know how to handle "babyloss Nasrene," time with Shannon was just what the doctor ordered.
We laughed, we ate, we drank, we did crafts with the kids, we ate, we drank, we got snowed in, we ate, we drank. All good stuff. With Shannon I can say stuff like, "When I was pregnant with Reece..." and she doesn't recoil. I don't have to watch what I say for fear of making her uncomfortable. I can just TALK about anything. And I can say Reece's name in conversation, and she'll say it too. Without worrying that she's bringing up something sad, because she knows it means so much more to me that he is remembered, instead of ignored. It was such a good weekend for ME, that I knew that the pendulum would undoubtedly swing back to the left when I got home.
Inevitably it happened last night. On the eve of another Wednesday without Reece, I put Sadie to bed and I could feel my chest tightening up. I could feel it start to come over me again, threatening to make this Wednesday even more difficult that they already are. "You enjoyed yourself too much this weekend. You didn't grieve enough, and now I'm going to make you pay," it seemed my subconscious was telling me.
I put myself to bed early to avoid a rocky night, but I woke up not feeling any better. It seemed like it was just sitting there beneath the surface, this feeling of overwhelming sadness, just waiting for its opportunity to come out and derail me.
I may seem extra cautious on days like this. I don't engage in casual conversations as freely. Too worried that something might come up that I'm not prepared for. "How many kids do you have?" is usually one that can be a trigger on a day where I'm feeling particularly fragile. And on a day like today where there is sadness just sitting under the surface I was particularly on edge.
I got to work today and went about my day and a few hours in, I heard something that I normally don't hear in the office--a baby cry. And more specifically, the cry of a newborn.
Was I hearing things?
No, there it was again.
I got up from my desk and walked out of my office and around the corner and saw my co-worker and her beautiful baby boy. The same co-worker who hugged me and cried with me, her pregnant belly sandwiched in between us, on my first day back to work after my own maternity leave. She is coming back to the office from her maternity leave next month and she stopped in with her baby to say hello to everyone.
As I stood there and saw her holding her tiny son, I knew this moment could make me or break me today.
So I walked up to her and hugged her and smiled. Kissed her cheek and told her how good it was to see her. Touched her son's tiny head and told her how beautiful and perfect he was. Asked her what day she would be back. Told her that I looked forward to seeing her. She was starting to get emotional, and she said we'd talk again soon.
I didn't cry. I didn't lose it. I kept it together. I was genuinely happy to see her. And her baby IS beautiful and perfect. If there was ever a day for me to lose it, it would've been today, when those emotions are just sitting beneath the surface waiting to bubble over.
But I didn't let that happen. I'm glad I went up to her and hugged her, instead of taking the easy road of running back to hide in my office.
And although the pendulum still swings, and I'm still feeling the repercussions....I feel like today was a tiny victory.