Wednesday, July 1, 2015
A couple weeks ago I was working from home when I got a frantic message from one of my friends.
"I'm at work. They are having a little party for a co-worker of mine who's expecting a baby. They are due around when I would've been due. They just announced to the whole office that it's a girl, they just found out. Everyone is happy for them, but I feel so so angry. Not at them, but just at the situation. I can't even look at them without feeling rage. And then I feel badly for feeling angry."
This wasn't the exact message, but it was something like this. This friend had reached out to me when she miscarried not too long ago. She realized, like so many of us who experience loss realize, that this loss was much greater than she ever expected. She even said she felt grief like she felt when she had lost a parent.
It's a real thing, y'all.
I tried to comfort her as best as I could. I tried to tell her that her feelings are normal, and validated, and that she will not feel this way forever, but it's OKAY that she feels this way now. That it's better to quietly excuse herself and protect her heart, than torture herself to try to sit there in silence, bearing it. I told her that I completely understand this feeling. It is so strange and foreign and awkward. A feeling so different from how she (or I) ever would've experienced before loss.
These feelings made me feel like a monster, the first time I experienced them.
Who am I now?
Before loss if a friend told me they were expected, I'd be thrilled for them. I'd gush congratulations and ask for any details. Due date? Are they finding out gender? How are they feeling?
After loss I smile, say congratulations, and quickly try to change the topic.
Before loss if a friend had a new baby, I'd visit at the hospital, or at home within the first week. I'd bring a gift or a meal. I couldn't wait to get my hands on a new baby.
After loss I feel like a horrible friend for wanting to avoid coming to visit at all costs. I don't want to hold a brand new baby. They give me terrible anxiety. The last time I held my newborn son he died in my hands. I don't want to visit anyone on a maternity unit. The last time I was there I left with a memory box, not with my baby.
Before loss if I saw your out with with your several-months-old baby, I'd ask how she was doing. Was she sleeping trough the night yet? Ask how you were holding up. Remind you that you're doing a great job and you'll find your groove soon. Comment on how cute she is.
After loss I might shoot you an obligatory smile, but I avoid the baby talk at all costs. I'm getting better, but I'm still not so great at it. If a friend is around me with their infant, I'll talk about anything except the baby. I find myself avoiding eye contact. Look past the baby. Or just shoot a forced smile and walk away.
It really depends on the day, but mostly, I'm just not the baby person I used to be. That part of me is gone.
For now. Not forever, hopefully.
It's like I don't know myself at times.
What kind of a monster doesn't want to be around a brand new baby? What kind of mother avoids them at all costs?
It made me feel horrible for a long time. I know how shitty it is. It's not my friends and family's fault that Reece died. Their babies have nothing to do with mine! I know this logically. But in the moment, when faced with a new baby I just freeze. And I'm just standing there, trying to avoid looking at the physical reminder that my baby is not in my arms too.
I'm no longer the person that will make small talk about your infant in the line at the grocery store.
I'm no longer the person that will offer to hold my friend's baby when they are trying to juggle too many things in their arms.
I'm no longer the person that asks all of the questions about when the baby is due? Or asks, do you think it's a boy or a girl?
I'm not the person that wants to come over and see your new baby. The newer they are they more they rattle me. Once they are a few months old, I've been able to deal a little better.
But brand newbies are still my Achilles' heal. No matter how hard I try to convince myself otherwise, my gut tells me to run away. The last time I held a tiny baby, he died.
Who am I these days?
Last year between April 30th (the day Reece was born) and September 1 (the day Reece was due), there were 27 babies born in my circle of friends and family. Twenty-seven. Eighteen of them were boys. My newsfeed on Facebook felt like a constant reel of happiness that everyone else got to experience with their new babies, while I wrangled my grief like a lion tamer.
It was pretty torturous, but I've worked really hard in the past year. It's not as bad now.
A year ago this week my cousins Ashleigh and Brandon had their baby boy. I was at the beach just 40 minutes away from them, but I couldn't bring myself to go visit. I just couldn't do it. I wanted to, and I felt like a giant jerk for not being able to, but I just couldn't do it.
I didn't want baby Mitchell to be the first baby that I held after Reece. I was afraid that I'd feel those horrible angry, resentful feelings, and I didn't want to feel that towards my sweet little cousin. I waited. Weeks, and then months. And then I test-held a co-worker's baby one day. And while it was difficult, I did it.
So, Sadie and I drove down the shore and I met Mitchell. And there were parts of it that were so hard for me. It makes me cry all over again just remembering. But Ash was so kind and sweet, and let me meet him on my own time, and comforted me when I cried. Cried with me at times. Our boys were supposed to be just two months apart. We were going to dress them alike, and we were so excited that they would be so close in age.
I was so proud of myself when we drove home. I did it, and I loved baby Mitchell. And when I started having bad feelings, I reminded myself how much I loved him, and our visit was good. I was good. I felt a little bit like the Nasrene I used to be.
This weekend we'll head back down to the beach to celebrate Mitchell's birthday. I know I will always look at him a little differently, just as I will look at ALL of those 27 babies born during those 4 months of 2014. Because he will always remind me of Reece, and how Reece isn't here with us. But it makes me smile to think about the things that he does now, and how Reece would be doing those things too, if he were here with us.
It's a weird dichotomy.
A couple months ago two dear friends of mine and I made plans for dinner. We had a great night, enjoying the first steamed crabs of the season, then topped it off with frozen yogurt and some laughs. It was a great, great night with two people I love very much.
And at the end of our time together, they gently told me they had some news to share.
They are expecting their first baby.
This can be tough news to receive for someone going through loss. But on that day I was SO THRILLED for them. Like, truly HAPPY. It felt good to feel the way I USED to feel, pre-loss, about receiving news of a new baby in my extended family. I think most of it came from the fact that they were so gentle with me. They were kind, and considerate. They took account of my feelings. Instead of just reading some generic announcement on Facebook, that can feel like a punch to the gut, they made a point of being gentle with me.
They helped me heal so much, because by being kind and considerate of my emotions, I was able to react the way I USED to...with genuine happiness for them.
It's true that loss has changed me. And I will continue to have experiences that feel "out of body" for me, where I don't react the way I used to. And I'll never get used to that--it will always feel startling and strange. But at the same time, I will celebrate Mitchell's birthday this weekend with smiles and hugs. And I am thrilled for my friends and their pregnancy, and look forward to meeting their new baby in November.
It's an immense relief to feel glimmers of the person I used to be.
I hope she keeps coming back, I like her.