I hope C.S. Lewis doesn’t mind my reference. His grief was very big and mine is, not small exactly, but different. I must warn that if you have lost a child or are pregnant this might be a painful post and you should consider if it’s a good one for you to read right now. If you find very personal writing to be uncomfortable you may also want to give it a pass. My way of processing things is to share them, either in conversation or in writing. So I think maybe if I put these impressions down in words I’ll clear them out of the way so other things can be formulated more easily. I have a bunch of topics I’d like to write about but my brain seems to cluttered with these thoughts I’ve kept to myself. These are not written in any particular order or edited to be more interesting. They’re just the things that occur to me most often when I’m thinking about our loss. And yes, I still think about it. Somebody wrote me yesterday and said “well I’m sure everything is back to normal and fine with the Marchand family now”. And there’s a way that’s true. We’re back to the routine. We’re happy and functional, but really that was true even in November and December. Our family is completely fine through anything because whatever other problems we have, our marriage is never one of them but rather always a source of comfort and strength. But no, we’re not back to normal in every way.
I’m observing my own experience of loss. I guess that’s what writers, or introspective people generally, do. It’s like I can step outside my brain and think “oh that’s interesting how she’s reacting to this moment” or “well I didn’t expect that to be part of this at all.” I wouldn’t be writing this down if today wasn’t a very good day. And most days are very good. Really even the bad days are really just one bad hour here and there. So know that sad things can be true, and sad things can be written, and one can still be happy. I think that’s part of my faith. It sounds very cliche, and it doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes curl up in a ball and cry, but if you believe in the story of Christianity sadness can’t ever reach the very center of your soul. Sometimes it can cloud your sight of the warm bright center but it’s always there.
1)When you are being seen at a high risk pregnancy office and you lose your baby everybody is very kind and patient. You can stay as long as you like in the room to process. All I wanted to do was to get out of that horrible quiet dim ultrasound room where everything had gone so wrong so quickly. But when you leave, you are ushered out a back door. I don’t blame them. Every woman in the waiting room is worrying about their high risk pregnancy and it makes sense not to upset them with a sight of what might happen. Still, it felt like I had somehow done something shameful. I had failed as a mother and had to sneak out the back.
2)When you have to deliver a baby that is already dead it is hard to believe he really is. I had seen his body on the ultrasound with no heartbeat or flicker of movement anywhere. It looked incredibly different from a live child. I knew before the doctor told me that he was gone. Still, I kept imagining I felt him move. And when they began inducing labor I had to have my friend tell me that yes, he was definitely dead and I wasn’t going to kill him by doing this. Still I had to fight the urge to yell “Stop! Check again!” several times. Even after the birth I still felt flutters for a week or two.
3)I don’t like the word miscarriage. Technically I didn’t suffer a miscarriage because of how far along the pregnancy was but it is the word most other people are familiar with and use. And I don’t think I would like it even if it was the scientific term for it. I am more comfortable with still birth. Miscarriage seems to imply some fault to me, like if my body had done its job Charlie would be fine. But my body was perfectly happy to carry him to term. It had to be forced not to. My son died and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I’m not saying there really is anything wrong with the word miscarriage. And if my body HAD lost him it still wouldn’t be my fault. It’s just that these are the things that my brain fixates on for whatever reason.
4)I’ve never spent a lot of time in the pain of heavy labor. I’m an epidural gal myself. But after some mixups at the hospital it ended up taking a very long time to get pain medication. Somehow that was completely fine. I was happy to suffer this last thing for Charlie. So I think I finally get the whole natural childbirth thing. Not saying I’m ready to give up my lovely meds, but I see how you can manage it and even prefer it.
5)When the doctor said I’m sorry the baby is dead I howled out a cry like I’ve never done before and hopefully never will again. I didn’t actually cry for a particularly long time at a stretch even in those first hours. I’m good at being tough when it’s time to be. But now when I am missing him, I feel like there’s another one of those screams stuck in my chest that I can’t ever get out. It hurts and feels like if I could just get it out I’d feel much better. You can’t make yourself create that sound but I guess that’s the idea behind the silliness that is primal scream therapy. Hopefully I’m letting it out in little spurts like the outlet on the top of a pressure cooker.
6)I have a strong physical and emotional reaction to ultrasound rooms now. I hadn’t thought about it until I had to go in for a check up and I walked in quite nonchalantly but suddenly started shivering and crying because of the lighting and the monitors. My friends tell me it will get better next time I see a little baby moving again but right now I doubt it. I SAW him moving and growing normally for months and months. I can’t ever trust that that means anything again except that for now things are ok. The tech at my doctor’s office is kind though and now leaves all the lights on for me until I’m ready.
7)I don’t begrudge other women their pregnancies. As my Aunt put it having lost a child, I don’t miss those children, I miss mine. So I still love holding little newborns or talking baby names or pregnancy and baby tips. I’m genuinely happy for new mommies. But I do find an evening out with lots of happy pregnant ladies or ultrasound pictures on facebook or birth announcements leave me feeling a bit exhausted at the end of the day. It’s like having a bruise that gets gently poked. Or sore muscles you have to exercise through. It’s never enough to really hurt, just a twinge, but after a while it feels like I went through a work out.
8)It’s amazing and sad and beautiful that you can be married to someone for eight years and still learn new things about them that make you love them more. I now know what it looks like to see my husband cry, I didn’t really think he knew how. I also learned a lot about myself. I learned that I can rise to an occasion if need be. It’s a strange thing to be “proud” about but I am. We were apart for this loss because of his deployment, something that still hurts us both, but probably most especially him. There’s no going back and getting the comfort of each other’s arms in those terrible days. But our marriage is richer and deeper now. We prize each other more highly and care for each other more tenderly.
9)I think I’ve finally learned a little bit about prayer. I’ve always had trouble concentrating. Was that a good prayer? My mind wandered but is that all bad? Did I reeeeeally think about my request while I was making it or about the mystery I was contemplating. But now I find prayer is simply a drawing close to God. We just spend time together. I’m not really meditating any better. But I’ve made great strides towards just being with God in prayer. Probably it’s partially because I don’t know what to say to Him right now, what to ask for, what to do. So I just pray, and we sit together, and at the end I know we were close.