Tag Archives: gratitude

Under The Dining Room Table

If you follow my blog but don’t know me personally or follow my writing at other sites then I must begin by saying that we lost another son, Samuel Isaac*, at 17 weeks gestation last month.  We had been told that our loss of Charlie was almost certainly just bad luck.  Just the 1 in 4 pregnancies that ends in miscarriage.  We mourned our son but were excited to be expecting again 6 months later.  Excited but terrified. No amount of reassurance could convince me it would be okay.  And then it wasn’t.  Two late term losses are very rare and the boys both died from lack of blood flow but with no obvious cause.  We now know something is very wrong, and after extensive testing most of the standard avenues have been exhausted with no answer as to what, or whether it can be fixed.  I have no idea what to do.  That sentence is also my worst nightmare.  I am a planner and a dreamer.  I struggle mightily with this sense of powerlessness but I am beginning to see that the solution is to submit to it, accept it, and even learn to enjoy it.

When Charlie died, Dulcie was still an infant.  She needed to sleep in a crib, have her diaper changed, and she couldn’t talk.  At night when I was aching to hold my little boy she let me rock her to sleep in the dim nursery room and feel like I still had a baby.  The week Samuel died, she decided on her own to potty train.  She talks, she sleeps in the “big kid” room, she puts on her own shoes and sits outside on the porch petting the cat while I watch through the window.  There are no babies in our home for the first time since JD was born 8 years ago.

Where Dulcie was once my therapy baby with her snuggles, she is now my therapy toddler.  It’s a slightly more aggressive form of therapy but very effective.  “Get up Mum! Come! You play me!”  Ok I guess I better get up and play then.  I even had to interrupt this writing to go play dragons and then babies and then run back in to write a sentence before building a block castle and digging out coloring books.  Every second that I am not actively teaching school to the three older children the family tyrant is demanding I drop everything and spend time with her.

The thing is, I can usually drop what I’m doing now.  Dishes always wait for you.  Laundry can hold off another few minutes. I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding or otherwise caring for an infant for basically my entire marriage. A nursing infant needs you right now.  A big pregnant belly gets in the way of crawling around playing Come Here Kitty.  But those distractions and obligations aren’t on my to do list anymore.  So yesterday when I had to “quick hide dheres a monster comin!” we dove under the dining room table.

This table is on its last legs. (pun unintended but enjoyed.)  Its beautiful hardwood maple replacement is being handcrafted by my husband as we speak.  It is a small Kmart table we bought when we were first married.  The chairs have slowly disintegrated, the faux wood finish is rubbed off.  So if this incident had happened in a month or so I would have missed what I found yesterday.  I imagine it must be like what an explorer feels when they stumble upon cave art.  Because under the table I found at least 5 years worth of doodles done by my children.

Mostly it’s just a big mural of scrawling.
image

But there are also happy, surprised, and sad faces,

image

This scary big guy with his tongue out,

image

An airplane, naturally,
image

And my personal favourite, these inky fingerprints.

image

It is the record of four children all going through the scrawl-on-every-surface phase when they are small enough to leave their mark in this secret place. And I’d never seen it.

Now I know I didn’t somehow neglect my older children by having their siblings. We spend every day together talking and playing and eating and cleaning and just living.  I hope and pray that one day we can have another child to add to the inseparable gang.  I’d give anything to be rocking Charlie, or pregnant with Samuel, but I am finding goodness, joy, and reason in how life looks right now.  I wish I was too busy nursing or too fat with pregnancy to fit under this ugly old table.  I can choose to dwell on that though, or I can lie on my back and stare up at five years of childish scribbling and be grateful I got to see it.  I can be grateful for a chance to really soak in playing with a toddler uninterrupted (a toddler we now know we are very lucky to have as the doctors believe her tiny size at birth was the first sign of something going wrong). I can enjoy playing cribbage on bed rest with a very clever and compassionate 7 year old nurse, or running errands with the most wacky and imaginative 6 year old in the world or doing my nails with the princess 4 year old (I’M NOT A PRINCESS MUM I’M A QUEEEEEN).

A friend of mine sent me this quilt a few months ago. She had “ruined” it in a laundry accident the same week Charlie died.

11221979_10206218093064793_8967884018351353199_o11942194_10206218093104794_1867675746129836512_o

(If only I could ruin-make something this beautiful! But I guess when you see what else she can do including making me aaaallllmost want to run marathons so I could get a t-shirt quilt, I’ll take her word for it.)

Sorry I never sent your thank you note, Kate.  I meant to but I was waiting to be able to tell you we were having another baby and I never quite got up the nerve to write it down until it was too late and we weren’t anymore. Kate sent the quilt to me with a note to remember that sometimes things don’t turn out the way you pictured but they can still be beautiful.  This quilt has gone on picnics and berry picking.  It has been another great hiding place from ghosts and monsters.  It has played peekaboo and rolled kiddies into burritos.  It has also gone with me to the hospital and comforted me with its weight and warmth and the reminder of its message as we held our second lost child.  It’s seen a lot of life and it will see lots more.  This isn’t how we pictured things but it’s beautiful too.

We have a meeting with specialists in October to try and find some answers, but all the doctors involved have admitted they’re pretty much stumped at this point.  There are glimmers of hope but not enough information to plan with.  So right now we exist in a sort of limbo.  There are no decisions to be made, nothing to be done except live every day.  We have, for the first time in either of our lives, absolutely no five year plan.  No vision of the future.  It could look like anything. I have no clue where to go from here.  So I’ll live really fully here for now.  Here is a pretty marvellous place, even hiding under the old dining room table.
image

*Charles Donald was named for my Dad and for a priest who shaped my life and whose intercession I asked for through the crisis.  For an explanation of Samuel Isaac’s name here is what I wrote shortly after he died while waiting to deliver him.

3 Comments

Filed under Motherhood, Our Family, Stillbirth and Miscarriage

Love is Patient, Depression Part III

Having given myself a little break from what is still a rather raw topic for me I’m ready to jump back into the fray and continue my series on depression.  I do still have two areas to cover based on feedback from my previous two essays on the topic.  I’m going to give it a try but I can only really speak for myself so I’d appreciate any feedback as to whether my advice would actually have worked for you if you’ve ever struggled with depression.  I apologize if it is vague or jumbled, I find it difficult to write with much polish on the topic.  Question number one: What can I do for my loved one struggling with depression?

To know how to help someone with depression you need to understand a little bit about what it feels like to be depressed.  As I mentioned here, depression can feel a little bit like there are two people in your head, the regular one and the depressed one.  The regular one is having just about the same reaction to the depressed person that most people outside your head have.  Thoughts like: Why can’t you just get over it?  Go get a hobby/keep busy/exercise and you’ll feel better.  People have way worse problems than you do and THEY aren’t depressed, have a little perspective.  All these things you are saying to yourself all the time.  So none of these things are really helpful to have someone else say.  You know what, if you’ve thought it, we’ve thought it.  Thanks but no thanks on the obvious answers.  Often someone will make these helpful suggestions and the depressed person will respond angrily or defensively, and stubbornly seem to refuse to the see the apparent wisdom of the remarks.  This is why.  We’ve already given ourselves this advice and it didn’t work. If you think you’re irritated by that, if you think it’s aggravating to be around someone who can’t seem to get control of themselves, we are stuck living with that person all the time.  You think you’re sick of it? You can’t even imagine.  And you do get sick of it.  That’s natural.  It isn’t healthy to be depressed.  It isn’t normal.  Nobody wants to feel like that and even empathizing with someone going through it is exhausting.  So first, forgive yourself for feeling aggravated by your loved one.  Then, please please stay patient.  

Stay patient when from your perspective they have little or no reason to be depressed.  Depression doesn’t work like that.  From the outside, and frankly from the inside at the time, it looked like my depression was just a huge overreaction to a breakup.  With 20/20 hindsight I see that the seeds of mental illness probably preceded the breakup by quite a bit, possibly years.  Furthermore, there were many many factors that remain private which contributed to my condition.  Then there was the snowball effect.  Whatever “reasons” there were soon became lost under the weight of my symptoms.  At the time I was sleeping an hour or two a night on a good day and went even went a a whole week without any sleep.  I lost 20 pounds because the physical pain of my sadness sat in my stomach and stole my appetite.  It felt like if I could just throw up the depression somehow I’d immediately be cured.   Nobody can really be in their right mind on that little sleep and nutrition.  It’s quite possible you don’t know the whole story.  It’s also quite possible that no “incident” is the cause.  After all, true depression is a chemical imbalance, not poorly controlled emotions.  

When you feel like they are completely ungrateful for your efforts, be patient.  They are grateful.  Or rather, they will be, when they have any energy left for that.  One of my great regrets from the year I was very ill is how many people I never thanked.  The boss who not only put up with having the world’s flakiest office assistant, but lent me his car to go to town and get away from things sometimes, and had me over to relax and turn my brain off for awhile watching foreign films.  I don’t think I ever properly told him how much I appreciated his generosity and understanding.  The friends who lived with me while I wandered through life like a ghost.  The friends who listened to me while I bawled, over and over again.  The new friends who welcomed me into their circle when I was so lonely.  The friends who made a point of staying in touch with me even as they enjoyed a semester abroad, all of these people were my life lines.  My parents who always picked up the phone and were willing to talk when I called at 3am.  The professors who cut me slack when I completely forgot what day of the week it was and missed important assignments, who offered to work with me if I needed to go home so that I wouldn’t lose the semester.  This vast network of help I barely even noticed.  It wasn’t that I was ungrateful.  It was that I was using up every last bit of focus just to put one foot in front of the other, or even to put both feet on the ground and get out of bed.   There wasn’t any attention left to take stock of all my blessings.

When it feels like you’ve tried everything you can for them and nothing has worked, be patient.  When you’re ready to throw up your hands and give up because you’re obviously not helping, be patient.  Don’t ever doubt that noticed or unnoticed your efforts make a difference.  I like to say that the keys to surviving depression are love and responsibility.  (not the book by John Paul II)  More on that in my next but for now a little on that first part, love. Being depressed is incredibly lonely.  Love is what pulls us into the human family.  All those acts of love from all those caring people kept me going.  I was clinging to hope by my fingernails.  It was so easy to disappear into my own head, and my own room.  Each time someone reached out and touched my life they were keeping up my connections to the rest of the world.  And this is the greatest help you can be.  Don’t let your loved one disappear.  Don’t let them think they’re pain is unnoticed.  Don’t talk about their pain non stop.  Just keep checking in.  Many people, in kindness, completely ignored my deteriorating condition, like it would be prying to mention it.  I understand their reserve, and I have done the same thing myself, but at the time I honestly thought they did not see what was happening right before their eyes.  So do keep asking periodically how they are doing, or bring up any worrying signs so they have an opportunity to open up.  They may not do so, but at least they’ll know they aren’t invisible. Then drop it and suggest doing something.  Invite them out.  Ask to come over.  And if they say no, wait a little and ask again.  Keep throwing out those lifelines for them to grab.  You never know when they’ll be ready to reach out for one, but when they are, it’s important there is one in reach.

4 Comments

Filed under Depression, Uncategorized