A letter to myself

Dear Soul,

I know you’re in pain right now. I know you don’t understand how the world could possibly need you. I know your life isn’t where you thought it’d be at this point. I know you feel invisible. Let me be with you, let me speak these words into your ear and soothe your suffering.

Let’s begin with the easy part: You are a great teacher. So your MAT isn’t finished yet? Big deal. You love your kids from the heart like they’re your own. Every child knows they can talk to you about anything without judgement. Some who have nothing at home know they they have you. And that is everything. Some days you raise your voice? We all do. Some days you’re at a loss as to how you’re going to get through the day? The responsibility that lies on your shoulders is immense, that would be hard for anyone. The fact that you’re sitting at home worrying about it shows just how much you care.

Second portion of the easy part: Your body is NOT disgusting. You harbored not one, but two beautiful lives inside of it and that takes some time to adjust from. You may have gained weight, but do you regret the bagels you ate to appease your son’s depends? The cookies and milk your daughter had to have? The ramen that was the only thing you could get and keep down after her death? No. These things meant something and are attached to memories that will stay with you forever. You’re eating fruits and vegetables again and drinking more water than tea. You’re trying and that matters. I’m more concerned with the fact that you’re still alive and that your beautiful body isn’t six feet underground like you planned it to be by now.

Now comes the hard part…your babies. My dear, sweet, beautiful friend. Words can not describe how much I want your pain to stop. How I wish I could hold you close and tell you that your anxiety and depression are liars. The world does needs you .You did NOT kill your babies. You are NOT filled with death. Oh, dear one. It’s okay to cry for Sayre and Aurora, to ache to hold them close. You love them. That’s right, I said love as in present tense. Your babies may be dead, but you still love them. Just by being alive, you honor them. You share their stories and keep their memories alive, you are a proud mother. And, yes, you are a mother. I know you feel betwixt and between ,neither maiden nor mother, but you birthed two tiny souls. Their births may not have been what you envisioned or hoped, but you birthed your two babies. Remember the blanket you made for Sayre and clutched in your hand while they brought him out of you? He was wrapped in that and buried with it. He was buried wrapped in a physical reminder of his mother’s love. And what about how you held your belly and talked to your daughter before her birth? How you told her how loved and wanted she was? All of the times you talked to them while stroking your belly, telling them you loved them and how excited you were to meet them? They knew they were loved. how could they not? Every breath you took, every bite of food you ate, and every bedtime story read was a show of how much you loved your babies.

And now for this: your body has not failed you. Your worth as a woman and human being does not come from this. You give so. much. to the world. Your accomplishments aren’t small, especially for a girl from a small town. You are not the mother of death. You are not cursed. I know you’re bitter toward anyone who gets to birth live babies and hold them. That’s completely normal and natural. And, no, that doesn’t make you a bad person. You’ve been through some stuff, you’ve earned the right to feel and process your emotions.

Finally, I know you feel alone and invisible. In a crowded room, you can feel completely isolated. I’m so sorry. You light up a room and you are far from invisible. Sweet girl you are so strong. You matter.

Listen to me and know that you are never alone, I am here. Please don’t leave the world without your shining light. It’s okay to break sometimes, just means you’ll be put back together even stronger than before.

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The Oak

I feel like I’ve lived a thousand lifetimes in just this year alone. Since this time last year: my stepdad died, I gained a new position, got pregnant with my first, lost my first, suffered months of severe depression, got pregnant with my second, new position was lost due to funding, lost my second, found out I have a genetic mutation, and struggled with the late twenties feeling that I’m failing.

There’s been so much death this year that it blows my mind. Before, Death was someone I’d only seen a glimpse of as older family members passed. Now? We’re frenimies. He’s at my house often, but I hate seeing Him so much. At this point I feel as though the sole reason for my pregnancies is to give Death baby after baby for some twisted reason. Being around Death so much has the unexpected side effect of making me feel ancient. Some days I feel so old that I’m surprised when I look down and see a still young and healthy body. I feel like I have accomplished nothing. I’m 27 and though I’ve held a couple of different positions, have no career. I’ve been pregnant twice and have no baby to hold. I feel unmoored in life and don’t know what my purpose is. I’m a teacher without students; a mother without children.

Then I think…27 is is an infant in the grand scheme of life. There’s a young oak tree in our backyard, only a year older than me. It’s small and you can tell it’s a young one. The other trees, tulip poplars and pines, planted at the same time are all big and look like they’ve been here forever. But the oak is slower to grow. It won’t even produce a large amount of acorns until it’s 50 years old. I look at that tree and think that, maybe, the human life is more like an oak tree’s. That tree is a little bent from surviving a major ice storm and some branches are missing from rain storms, but it’s still here. It’s still growing. Just like the oak, parts of me are forever changed from the storms I’ve weathered. But I’m still here, I’m still growing.

No one told me this

I will forever be grateful to all of the women (and a few men) who told me their stories of loss both in the wake of Sayre’s and Aurora’s deaths. However, there were some things no one prepared me for. In the wake of Sayre’s death was I was so consumed with depression of the feeling of wanting Death to take me too, that I only really had time to think about surviving. Aurora’s death has been easier for me to cope with for several reasons (great care providers, a support network of fierce loss mamas, just to name a few), so imagine my surprise when I started having some weird mental things. nothing as awful as after Sayre, but just bitterness and a lot of hatred toward women with multiple children. Whenever I see women who have multiple children and are pregnant agin, I get so angry and think “they haven’t earned those children”. In my mind now, you shouldn’t get kids unless you’ve had to go through losing one. Every time I have this thought, I immediately feel like a complete and total horrible human. But I know it’s the grief talking, not really myself. Grief has a way of being able to sound exactly like you when it says horrible things, making you worry you’re becoming one of those people no one will ever like or love.

Another thing no one prepared me for has been the postpartum hair loss and hormonal acne. I thought you only got these things if you actually got to have your baby. Boy, was I wrong. No one told me I’d loose massive amounts of hair and that my face would turn into a battle zone of deep, painful pimples. The hair loss was the most surprising thing and there’s nothing you can do about it. I can run my hand through my hair and come away with a handful of stray hairs and I can tell just from handling it that my hair has thinned out. When I take a shower, it’s almost scary to see all of the hair that accumulates in the bottom of the tub. The hormonal acne, at least, has a fix. I decided to be proactive and fight it before it got bad this time. I researched dermatologist recommended skincare routines by watching some Youtube channels run by dermatologists. They all recommended CeraVe cleanser (Equate is the same formula and cheaper so I got that), a salicylic acid cleanser for the morning (Equate is what I got because it has 2% SA is was recommended by one of the derms I watch), CeraVe morning and night moisturizers, and a retinoid called Differin. After a week of using this routine I could already see a change in my skin. The big pimples I had on my chin were going down in size and weren’t painful anymore and I wasn’t getting new pimples. I’ve been using these products for almost three weeks now and I’m very happy with how they’re managing my acne. I’m really glad I didn’t wait for it to get out of hand like last time before I took action.

 

The shattering

This story of loss has been so different from my first. When Sayre died, I was completely and totally blind sighted. I was a sweet summer child and had the blind happiness and faith that only a first pregnancy can have. I knew miscarriage was statically common, but I knew plenty of women who’d had multiple children and never had one. Then there was no heartbeat and my world collapsed. I spiraled into months of severe depression and a lack of desire to live. I had reckless behaviors because I’d promised my mom, dad, and husband I wouldn’t kill myself. But that didn’t mean the universe couldn’t do it for me, so I begged it to end my life so I wouldn’t have to. I cried every day. Mention of babies or pregnancy triggered me into days long depressive episodes. I’d go from sleeping all the time to not sleeping.

Then I found out I was pregnant again.

I sank down on to the bathroom floor when I saw the faint double line on the pregnancy test and sobbed. I was so happy and relieved. I’d gotten it in my head that I couldn’t get pregnant again. Yet here I was. I enjoyed the first few days of my new pregnancy with a sort of contented bliss. Then I had my first appointment and the anxiety and stress took over. I worried every second of every day that baby would die too. I would say “if the baby comes”, “if I get to be pregnant that long”, and things like that.

My midwife and the ultrasound tech moth cried with me when we found there was no heartbeat. I kept saying “no” over and over, believing if I said it enough that my baby’s heart would start beating and they’d be fine. But that didn’t happen. I scratched my thighs because I was numb and needed to feel something as I cried and sat staring at the floor. I’d failed yet again. My baby was dead. My husband stopped me and it was like he put a stopper in the dam wall. I cried that night and the next day, but I moved didn’t dwell like last time.

This time around, I had far better care. My midwife is amazing and treated me with respect and compassion at my checkup. I had a panic attack in the waiting area from seeing so many pregnant women and babies. The nurses saw me and called me back, shaking and barely holding in tears because I couldn’t breathe. My midwife scheduled my blood tests for the first appointment of the day next time so I wouldn’t have to see/be around other women very long. She let me ask as many questions as I wanted. Didn’t call me dramatic or obsessive because I cried. She called my baby a baby. As I was scheduling my blood test appointment, she hugged me and told me how I could make it and to live one day at a time. Not to lose hope. My mom was blown away by the difference between this office and the last. Mom was there for both check-ups and told me how amazed she was with the level of compassionate care I received. We went and had lunch and laughed, and I even had a margarita. No screaming, no crying, nothing like that. I was, seemingly, okay.

Then the night before last hit. I was completely fine, enjoying a glass of rosè on the couch with a movie and popcorn while my husband was at work. Then I started crying. I had the urge to see my babies, so I went to our bedroom and knelt in front of the desk where we keep their pictures in frames. I sobbed. Huge, heart wrenching sobs from somewhere o hadn’t let myself feel. I kept saying “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry” over and over, and “I loved you so much”. I held onto the edge of the desk as sob after sob wracked my body and I struggled to stay upright. I felt like I was atoning for killing my babies. And that’s how I see it; I believe I killed my babies. Somewhere deep within myself believes that, even though I know I didn’t. I cried until I collapsed in the floor. I made myself get up, wash my face, and take some CBD oil. I felt drained, like I’d run an emotional marathon.

I’ve cried on and off since. I’ve been so afraid to feel because I didn’t want to spiral like last time. I don’t want to feel like dying again. But, I realized, that in and of itself is more self-preservation than I’ve had since Sayre died. And it’s all for me. Not just because I’m pregnant or trying to get pregnant…I truly have the desire to live for the sake of living again. I still struggle with feelings of self-loathing and hatred toward my body, but at least I don’t want to die anymore. That’s a victory that I’ll gladly take.

Grating

Every post I see about people going on vacation, getting promotions, and especially announcing pregnancies/births grates on me. I feel the sensation of it digging into my raw nerves and scraping away until I’m bleeding. I always want to say “How fun! I’m going to the midwife to get blood work done to find out why my babies keep dying” or “Cool! I’m getting the chromosomal analysis results back from my second miscarriage today” and other things along those lines. But no one wants to hear that. Everyone says they’re “here” for me, but where exactly is “here” to them? Because I don’t see anyone with me. Everyone asks how I’m doing, but no one wants to hear that I hate my body for killing my babies and I hate everyone who has a living child. No one wants to hear that I feel as though all of my sweetness left me when my last baby did and all I feel is anger and bitterness now. How I’m so angry some of who I thought were my closest friends didn’t even bother to so much as text when we lost this baby. Every time I see a vacation picture or something else fun, I’m so angry. How dare anyone have fun when my world has stopped? I have nightmares about the midwife saying it’s something wrong with my eggs, uterus, or body in general and I’ll never have a living child. I have nightmares that I lose baby after baby. But whenever anyone asks how I am I smile and say fine before changing the subject. No one wants to hear any of that.

I Understand Now

I understand the woman who tried to steal June’s daughter in The Handmaid’s Tale now. Her baby was stillborn and her mind broke, couldn’t fathom leaving the hospital with empty arms. When I hear a baby, especially a newborn, cry in public my first instinct is to go to it. Hold it. Put it to my breast to nurse. But I can’t. That’s not my baby. My babies are dead. I look down and at my empty arms and still tender breasts and reality shocks me back. I keep walking through the grocery, park, store, etc. Arrive home only to stare at the empty crib and stuffed animals in the never used nursery. My mind can’t understand how I’ve been pregnant twice for a total of five months and have no baby to show for it. I understand that woman now. She’s who I could’ve been without compassionate care, family, friends, my therapist, and students all helping me piece my mind back together again. So when you see a woman staring at your crying baby in a public place, she might not be judging you. She might just be missing the baby or babies she had to watch Death take.

I Understand Now

I understand the woman who tried to steal June’s daughter in The Handmaid’s Tale now. Her baby was stillborn and her mind broke, couldn’t fathom leaving the hospital with empty arms. When I hear a baby, especially a newborn, cry in public my first instinct is to go to it. Hold it. Put it to my breast to nurse. But I can’t. That’s not my baby. My babies are dead. I look down and at my empty arms and still tender breasts and reality shocks me back. I keep walking through the grocery, park, store, etc. Arrive home only to stare at the empty crib and stuffed animals in the never used nursery. My mind can’t understand how I’ve been pregnant twice for a total of five months and have no baby to show for it. I understand that woman now. She’s who I could’ve been without compassionate care, family, friends, my therapist, and students all helping me piece my mind back together again. So when you see a woman staring at your crying baby in a public place, she might not be judging you. She might just be missing the baby or babies she had to watch Death take.