This is such an unreal post to write. I still can't wrap my head around how it's possible to be told you have a perfectly healthy baby at 13 weeks, who showed no signs of issues on the genetic screening test and was moving around like crazy in front of us on the ultrasound screen, to being told your baby has no heartbeat at the 17 week visit. There's nothing that prepares you for the grief of being blindsided by that. All I could do was writhe on the table screaming out in shock, disbelief, and pain as I watched a second doctor look at me with sympathy in her eyes and shake her head "no", confirming my nightmare was real. I wanted to crawl out of my skin, run out the room, catch my breath again, take the last five minutes of my life back. As I sit here five days later I've accepted he's gone, but I'm nowhere near a place where I can understand why. And I realize that day may never come.
We did everything we were supposed to do. I took my vitamins, I ate right (ok, minus a few donuts and way too many fries), and we waited the standard amount of time, 13 weeks, to announce the pregnancy online and tell our son he was going to be a big brother. Yet, apparently just days after this picture announcement, our boy was gone. And I had no idea for the next month. Despite all the reassurances from my doctor, friends, and family, believe me when I say I spent the first few nights asking myself what I did wrong. At the end of the day, MY body is his home, I am his one and only caretaker, yet he apparently wasn't taken care of. But there's a tiny part of me in my soul, my spirit, that knows it's not my fault. The hardest part is wanting answers I most likely will never get, at least not until I get to see him or God or both again someday.
I wonder how I will tell my three year-old this news, the one I was so careful to protect by waiting until we got the "all clear" (which was, in my mind, that threshold of the second trimester and the promising results from our genetic screener that the baby appeared healthy). Still, I have to admit that when we told him he was going to be a big brother, I had that tinge of doubt that it was the right thing to do. Just like Easton, this baby was wanted more than anything in the world, but for some reason, without any previous problems with fertility or carrying a child, rather than feel I could shout my pregnancy from the rooftops, I felt a hesitation in my gut anytime I told someone the good news. I guess I just chalked it up to the anxiety all mothers feel at some point about their babies being okay...maybe it was my intuition telling me something wasn't right.
I can truly say I sit here five long days (and brutally tear-filled, sleepless nights) later a changed person with a changed worldview. I've heard sounds of agony come out of me that I never thought I would. I've cried until I felt drained of tears. I've watched tears fall on my shrinking breasts and flattening tummy. I've felt the ache of emptiness in my gut where my baby once was. I've stared off into space, feeling completely numb. I've cursed myself for ever saying I had the baby blues after Easton. Don't get me wrong, that was something...yet in contrast it was nothing. Waiting for the removal of your child from your womb is a different level of baby blues.
Yet I've also watched grief unite my husband and I to each other with a force like gravity and fully realized the depth of his love for me. I've watched my living, healthy son sleep when I couldn't and marveled at each one of his breaths--not cursing God for denying my second son this chance, but feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for giving me a healthy child in the first place. If having a child is like living with your heart outside your body, grieving a child is like living inside out--everything feels raw and exposed and sensitive--no barrier there to protect you. I've always felt gratitude for my son, but I feel it--and everything else--so much more deeply now. He is so full of life--what a miracle!
I have a new realization for the fragility of life and it's made everything that matters come into sharp focus, while all that I thought mattered before now falls to the wayside easily. I've learned it's not the length of time you've known someone that makes them a true friend, but rather their willingness to be there during uncomfortable times or share their own personal pain in order to help you feel better. I've had co-workers I've worked with for only a month let me know they're praying for us and take time to send loving, heartfelt messages...a neighbor I only casually visited with from time to time check on me regularly and drop off a care package...employees at the doctor's office jump through hoops to help me in a time of need...and family that said "I don't know what to say, but I am here" and just got down to the business of being there in whatever way we needed. During a time when we feel abandoned and empty, it helps so much to know others care and I've been touched by so many people's generosity.
I don't know what life will look like going forward, all I can think ahead to right now is getting through the day that lies before me, if I'm given that gift. The most important thing to me now is making sure my precious baby boy is not forgotten. He may have only lived a few months, but HE MATTERED. I thought to myself the first night, "If I smile and laugh again one day, will he think I don't grieve for him anymore? Or that I forgot?" Well, I laughed today at something on the radio while simultaneously aching in my heart, so I answered my own question.
My precious baby boy, you will NEVER be forgotten. Mommy might move on with my daily routine, I might laugh or smile again, but I move through that routine, I laugh at that joke WITH YOU permanently etched on my heart, not until the day I die, but for eternity. Your life might have been short, so short we never saw your face or got to hold you, but that doesn't mean you didn't matter--you meant the world to our family, especially your Mommy and Daddy. I'm sorry for so many things: that you missed out on such a loving big brother and that he missed the chance to love on you, that you missed out on such a caring, devoted Daddy, but most of all that you were denied a life. But I'm not sorry I experienced all this heartache, as hard as it's been, because you also brought me immeasurable joy, and if I missed out on ANY part of it, that would mean I missed out on YOU.
I love you forever and always, baby boy.
So one of two things is happening: either I'm going crazy, or I just need to accept the fact that I have a love/hate relationship with my life at the moment. As a wife, mom of a toddler, and middle school teacher it's entirely possible that I have indeed gone crazy--yet, none of these roles are ones I want to give up, at least not in this moment on a peaceful Saturday morning when I'm writing, sipping coffee, and listening to...silence. Ask me again this afternoon, say around 5:00.
And herein lies the problem. Regardless of which role it is, the pattern is the same--there are times I love my job
as a wife
as a mother
as a teacher
and other times I quite honestly want to throw in the towel. It seems that just when I feel on fire, happy, and like I have it all figured out--something happens that sends me into the downward spiral. The one where I'm telling myself "I can't do this anymore". Whether it's a full-blown meltdown from my toddler after a long day at work, yet another fight with my husband over the s-a-m-e d-a-m-n t-h-I-n-g again, or that moment when I'm actually semi-caught-up at work only to be pulled under again, the internal monologue is the same. (And it's pretty epic if all of this happens at the same time.) The frustration is so palpable it feels like it might eat me alive and I ask myself the same thing every time: what the bleep did I get myself into? And how do I get out?
But what really makes me question my sanity is that only a few moments later, I can fall in love with that same hot mess all over again (although most times it's not so right away). My son can go from screaming maniac yelling "leave me alone!" to giving me the most sincere hug and kiss that sends love throughout my body right down to the core of my soul, and all is well again for the moment.
I'm no expert, but I think it's a toddler's ability to feel the emotions of the present moment--overwhelming frustration or overwhelming joy--without the ability to carry over old resentments that allows them to so easily flip a switch. They're totally in the "here and now": when they're angry they totally embrace being mad, and when they're happy they're all in there, too. And I think it's from watching him that I'm learning it's okay for me to do the same.
Whether the conflict is with my job, my marriage, or my child, my ego wants so desperately to fight to hang onto all my reasons why I'm entitled to want out at that moment--all the built-up resentments, the never ending cycle of frustration. I fight tooth and nail to hang onto my agenda when my husband & I are fighting, but then I see him doing something a bit later that makes me totally swoon and I feel that love rise up and I have a choice: to hang onto the reasons I'm angry, or to shake my head at the craziness of this life and surrender to the love and embrace the fact that this is marriage--I love it sometimes, and other times I don't. And the same holds true in my life as a teacher and mom.
In this crazy stage of life as a teacher, wife, and toddler mom simultaneously--all very difficult roles that make me feel like throwing in the towel one minute, and feel lit up & inspired the next--I suppose the best solution is to just surrender and accept that I have a love/hate relationship with my life at the moment. To let go of the idea that one day I will magically "arrive" at this destination of happiness--this image I've created in my head of what it will look like one day when I'm no longer having those frustrated thoughts, and I've found the key to having my life in perfect order...
I made it to the gym everyday...
Classroom and house are caught up...
Husband and kids are smiling, well-fed, and finding clean towels readily available...
And--best of all--I'm my ideal version of me because I figured it all out.
Whether it's in regard to our families, homes, bodies, or careers, we all have that illusion in some form or another--that Ideal Self we're always striving for--and we beat ourselves up for not having figured out how to get there yet. The problem is that day will never arrive and, all those days in the meantime waiting to figure it out? Those were the days that made up our lives.
So I'm not waiting anymore. I've got to learn to simply embrace the messiness of life right now, otherwise it will just pass me by. I don't have any magic solutions for how to get there, but I think it could start by just waking up each day thankful that I get another one...thankful that I do have a job, husband, and child to frustrate me, because many people's burden to carry is NOT having those things to be frustrated with.
But, at the same time, this tape in our heads that says "shame on you, you should be thankful, not complaining" when we ARE frustrated, doesn't really serve to make our hearts feel thankful in that moment, it just serves to shame us. In those frustrated moments we WILL return to feeling thankful again, but only after we've let ourselves feel what we feel. I know in my heart that if I deny that moment, pretend the thoughts aren't there, put on a happy face, and don't shed the tears or scream in the pillow, that I will walk around like some kind of robotic Stepford wife that looks great on the outside but feels desperate on the inside, and that's not what I want. If I want to live a real and authentic life, which I do, I have to embrace both the dark and the light--to be like my toddler and fully accept whatever it is I'm feeling in that moment, because it CAN be really messy sometimes.