November

It’s November. I’ve been dreading this month all year…the month our precious Sayre Lee died. I’m not going to go back into the story, my heart can’t take it right now, but I wrote an entire series of posts about it if you want to read what happened. November 27t is now looming in first of my eyes and I feel like the Grinch perched high above Whoville asking myself how I can keep Thanksgiving from coming.

The first day of November, I woke up super early from a fitful night’s sleep. I read on my phone until my actual time to wake up arrived…but I couldn’t bring myself to put my feet on the floor. Because putting my feet on the floor and getting out of bed would mean it was actually November. And I couldn’t deal with that. But I had to go to school, so up I got. I felt funky and not fully there as I put on my makeup and listened to my true crime podcast. Once I got to my car for the short commute to work, I lost it. I screamed and beat my steering wheel, pinching my arms to make sure I was real and here. I needed to be present in my own body, you can’t teach without being present. I called out for my babies, hoping they could hear me since it was the day of the dead. A day they should’ve been able to hear me.

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I love dressing up, pumpkins, the spooky vibe, and the fun atmosphere. And this year was no exception. I dressed as a witch and went to school to teach and had a wonderful time. But, as the sun set that night, I sat on the couch in my pajamas with my freshly washed face and felt a sense of dread. My witch’s hat and cloak were packed away in my closet until next year and I knew what the next day would bring. I felt like one of the spirits of the dead who had had their time with the living and knows it’s almost time to go back to the and of the dead. That’s how November feels to me, like the land of the dead. I don’t feel connected to anyone, it’s like there’s a glass wall between me and the rest of the world.

I know I have to go through November 27th empty. I was supposed to be very pregnant with Aurora by then. But she’s dead too. So now I’m empty because I didn’t get pregnant again this month and I have to face one of the worst days of my life feeling like a defective Death touched person. And I know I’m not defective, I know conceiving takes time after loss most times. I get all of that. But the irrational part of myself, my heart, yells louder than my mind so I hear it the most. I hear it yelling that I somehow killed Sayre, that my babies dying were karma for something I’ve done, that I’m not a real woman. This is what grief and loss does to you, it scrapes away what you know to be true and replaces it with doubt and self loathing.

People keep asking how I’m doing and to let them know if I need anything. That’s very sweet, but here’s the thing: I’m so deep in my depression and my own head that I can’t reach it to you. I feel like the sad miscarriage girl who bothers everyone with her feelings. What do I need? Someone to keep me company at home while my husband is at work, a break from school on the anniversary of Sayre’s death, and for everyone to understand that every day is a challenge for me right now. I don’t want to go anywhere after school, I’m exhausted and worn out from a day of having to be upbeat and on. But I’d love to have someone come to me and keep me or of my head. That’s what I can manage right now. So please don’t tell me to let you know if I need anything, because I can’t articulate that need right now. I need my friends and loved ones to be available and to reach out to me.

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Waves

I once heard that grief comes in waves, sometimes hitting you randomly and with great force. But nothing could’ve prepared me for the grief after losing a child. Aurora’s death reopened a lot of wounds from losing Sayre and the traumatic way I was treated. The one year anniversary of his death is coming up on November 27th and I’ve noticed a definite shift in my emotional and mental well-being. As soon as the day in September hit when I first found out I was pregnant, I started having some of the same issues as right after Sayre’s death. I became more irritable, felt less connected to those around me, and I felt a mask sliding back into place.

I could feel the person I was at school and the person I was at home becoming two very separate people again. The happy bubbly teacher disappeared as soon as I walked in the door, replaced by a shell. I would try to talk to close loved ones about my hurt and my fears of never becoming a mother, only to be told they want a break from being sad. So I stopped talking. I waited until I was alone to let out the sobs of bitterness and despair.

Everything triggers me right now. I’ve had to remove myself largely from social media because any mention of pregnancy or children sets off an emotional avalanche. I know those around me are tired of feeling like they’re walking on eggshells, but what they don’t realize is this: so am I. I’m so sick and tired of never knowing what will slash across my heart and soul, causing a reaction that is so emotionally painful that my body even hurts.

I spend a lot of my time now blaming myself. I blame myself for my son’s death. I blame myself for my daughter having trisomy 16 that, ultimately, killed her. I blame myself for getting fat from depression. I blame myself for not losing weight because that is surely the reason I’m not pregnant again yet. I blame my uterus for killing babies. I blame my ovaries for not making the best fucking eggs in the world. And I blame myself for being weak and pathetic and feeling like I’m fucking drowning.

I had a panic attack last night. I tried to hide in my bathroom so I wouldn’t bother my husband. Because that’s part of my depression. I hide my pain because I feel like I’m bothering people. He heard me and came in and seeing his reaction only made me panic worse. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t stop crying, I couldn’t move. All I could do was grasp my husband’s arms and try not to die. Because that’s how panic attacks feel, like I’m about to die. The fear and the sadness were a tempest and I was lost at sea. I managed to get out the words “I can’t breathe” and my husband immediately told me he was taking me to the ER, which only made me panic worse. I knew there was nothing anyone else could do to help me, nothing was technically wrong with me. I thought about how I’d talk my stepfather through his anxiety attacks, counting so he’d breathe with me and come out of it. I tried, but no one was counting with me because he’s dead now too. And deeper into my attack I went.

I’m doing a unit over Poe with my students right now and I pointed out how he referred to Death with a capital D. That’s how I see Death, as someone I know all too well. A being who steals life from inside of me without mercy or remorse. And last night I felt like He was staring into my soul. Death may not be coming for me, but He’s sent his best friends Depression and Anxiety to make my life a living hell.

My panic attack finally ended with me slowly being able to breathe and my husband visibly shaken. I climbed into bed and passed out, exhausted and sore from 15 minutes of torture from my own mind. I’d held my stomach as I cried and struggled for breath and one thought kept coming back over and over again: empty.

I always thought only soldiers and survivors of horrible attacks or events could have PTSD. I never thought miscarriage counted as a horrible event because of the way our society treats it. The main things I got after each of mine was miscarriages happen, they’re sad but they happen to a lot of women. Move on. Sayre’s death was so incredibly traumatic that I don’t remember from November to March. I remember bits and pieces, but I legitimately struggle to remember my birthday or any other event during that time. I have nightmares about my babies dying. And periods have become an awful event each month. Seeing the blood…it’s too much like the days following each D&C. And the always come every month, a constant reminder that nothing lives inside of me. I’m empty.

The waves are getting harder and I’m struggling again. I want to hide away and hibernate, warm and safe, and emerge again in the spring when the memories are less painful. No mother should have to bury her babies, but only one of mine is buried. I don’t even know where Aurora is. No, that’s wrong. I know where she is…a bio waste dump. But I try not to think of that. I try to think of her and her brother in a beautiful garden with roses and peonies, playing in the warm sunlight. Warm, safe, and together while they wait on their mommy to join them one day.

Writing this feels raw and exposing, but maybe it’ll help another woman struggling with the same feelings. Miscarriage is so incredibly isolating and painful. But, if you’re like me and you’re reading this, you are not alone.

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.

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.