Friday, May 16, 2014

Open mouth, insert foot

Yesterday at the gym after Zumba class, a woman I've started getting friendly with asked me if I had children. 
Me: "Ummmm..... sort of....."

Her: confused face

Me: "Uh..." stalling, still trying to figure out what to say

Her: .....

Me: "Well, I did, but he died."
Her: look of horror

Me: Complete verbal diarrhea while starting to cry talking about how that's why I started coming here to do something positive for myself and try not to think about it, and it's so hard to have all this extra baby weight, and blah blah sadness blah.

Her: looking like she wants to run away: "Oh my god I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have asked."

Me: "No, no, it's okay I have to learn how to deal with stuff like this."
And then I think I mumbled something incoherent about Mother's Day which made sense in my mind but probably just confused her and made her feel worse.  Then I ran away.

Win!  Great convo, Chickin. Way to scare off a potential new friend and probably make her feel really really bad.  Normally I'd see her again tomorrow morning and we'd chat but my guess is that she will probably try to hide from me on the other side of the room. And I really wouldn't blame her.

Me thinks I should make a plan for how I'll answer this question the next time it comes up so I don't scare away every single new person.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Finding my "Muchness"

I'm sure it will come as no surprise to you when I say that I've pretty much felt dead inside since finding out we were going to lose Petey. I realize it's still extremely early on so I'm cutting myself some slack on not feeling "normal" yet but honestly? I am getting sick of it.  Grief is exhausting. Normally I am a happy, funny, warm, positive person who easily inspires and motivates people. People like being around me and I like being around people. I am usually fun. I am usually full of passion. I am usually full of MUCHNESS. But it feels like losing Petey stripped me of that. Honestly, I felt a lot of it slowly melting away during the seemingly endless months spent struggling with infertility but after this blow I am worried I may never again be the same person I was.

So when Lyndsey on my Loss board posted a link to a free 7-day challenge for babyloss mothers to "find their Muchness" and to see the beauty in life and in ourselves again in spite of our grief (through, I was interested.

whats-MuchnessMuchness is the energy, the life, the spark of positivity that fuels our days, our imaginations, and our confidence. 

Lyndsey said that she was going to do this challenge as a way to honor her baby by not forgetting who she is; that while she is allowing her loss to change her, she's not allowing it to ruin her.  That really spoke to me. I signed up too. 

So that's what I've been doing this week: Finding my Muchness. Or, as the challenge put it, I've been using "helpful insight, inspired ideas and thoughtful support in an effort to rediscover my light and release myself from the shadows of grief".

I won't say I got all the way there or that I was even able to complete every single challenge but I did come to some helpful conclusions this week as a result of this program.  Here's a summary:

  • It's okay to not be sad all the time.  I can allow myself to smile or laugh or have fun without feeling guilty that I am betraying or forgetting Petey.
  • I need to keep myself from getting addicted to my grief because of the feeling that it keeps me connected to Petey. If I move on with my life my thoughts and memories of Petey will always be with me. They are not going anywhere and I can stop and think of him any time I need or want to.
  • I can honor Petey by keeping his memory alive in intentional ways.
  • Keeping busy is good for me.  As soon as there is nothing to distract me my brain goes to my grief.
  • Writing is good for me. Writing about positive things is even better.
  • I do have the power to not let emotional triggers wreck me. I can reframe them in positive ways and use them as a way to remember my love for Petey
  • There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for and a way to find my light in the darkness. It might be extremely difficult but there IS a way to find it.

Through the challenges, I was also able to look at myself in a new way and see that I am strong and courageous and determined and loving and ALIVE; I don't need to be defined by my loss and though it may take a long time and a lot of hard work, I CAN find a way to move forward even stronger.

I'm glad I took this challenge.  I won't pretend that I'm magically "healed" now and bursting with light and enthusiasm or anything but it did give me some new perspectives on life and grief and some tools that I might be able to use moving forward.  And it also managed to get me through this Mother's Day without a breakdown. So that alone made it worth it!

I hope my Muchness will just continue to grow and fill me up again as it did before.  I'm sure it will be a slow process but in a week and a half I will be taking a giant step towards that goal; I'll be taking a long-anticipated trip to Toronto for a visit with some of my fabulously amazing IDOB sisters. I expect my Muchness meter to get a nice big headstart then and I can't friggin' wait!  :-D

Friday, May 9, 2014

How 'Divergent' Helped Me Through My Loss

Yes, the movie.

I just realized I never really talked about how I physically survived those first few horrible weeks after losing Petey.

The 2 weeks-worth of dinners from my sister, parents, and coworkers fed my body when I could barely take care of myself, and all the messages of love from everyone fed my soul when I couldn't imagine how I could get through the next hour nevermind the next day.  But going to the movies are what really helped me start to move on.

After spending weeks sitting in one spot on the couch all day long (and oftentimes most of the night) I knew I had to force myself out of my comfort zone and leave the house. But I was afraid. Afraid of unanticipated triggers, of breaking down, of having to make small talk, even of just seeing other people. I was surrounded by my invisible bubble of grief and shock and denial. I couldn't imagine how I would integrate back into "normal" life again.

So, I decided to go to the movies.  It's dark, no one gives a shit about anyone else (aka: no small talk or even eye-contact to be made), and ideally, you can lose yourself inside the world the movie creates for you. Plus, I've always liked going to the movies alone.

Divergent had just come out and I liked The Hunger Games so I went.  In fact, I went to see it in the theater three times in a matter of 2 weeks. THREE.  And it wasn't even all that good. But hear me out:  it wasn't about the movie, it was about DOING something. Anything. It was about figuring out a way to integrate myself back into the living, moving world again in whatever way felt possible to me.  And each time it got a little bit easier.

The first time I threw on whatever dirty clothes would fit me, crying as I pulled on my maternity jeans. I cried as I drove for the first time, feeling completely overwhelmed. Once there I couldn't even look up at the teenager who sold me my ticket but I entered that dark theater and sat there and stayed and was able to immerse myself (the majority of the time) in the futuristic world within the movie.

The second time I had to wear those maternity pants again but I expected it so it didn't hurt quite so much. I cried during the car ride to the theater again but once there I was able to look at the kid who sold me my ticket, and at the girl who sold me my popcorn, and I even returned a small smile from another woman who was also washing her hands at the bathroom sink.

The third time I actually showered first, wore clean clothes, and didn't cry once during the entire trip. I even went to Five Guys Burgers and Fries afterwards for dinner. And there was a family there with small children.  And I was okay. And after that, I knew I could go out in public and see people and see children and not fall apart.

It's like the movies held my hand as I got back on my feet and learned how to be in the world again. But why see the SAME move all three times, you ask?  Because I knew what to expect. There were already enough variables to deal with in just getting myself there successfully; I didn't want to deal with unknowns. I knew there were no storylines with babies. I knew none of the characters were pregnant. I knew it wasn't anything that would make me feel sadness. It allowed me to "live" in that other world for 2 hours instead of in my own world of constant, swirling, all-encompassing pain. Plus, I knew when the boring part was coming so I could make a bathroom trip without missing anything good :-)

So yes, Divergent actually helped me start to move on from my loss.  Regardless of the fact that I'd give the movie about a C+ this movie will always be important to me.

Plus, the guy who played Four ain't bad to look at:

By the way, the first time I went I was the ONLY person in the theater up until the credits started. Then a couple walked in. WITH A BABY.  Seriously?!!! I really felt like that was a cruel joke from the universe. The baby was sleeping for a while but obviously woke up partway through as I stared hearing sweet little baby noises and coos and cries during the quieter parts of the movie.  It felt like such a slap in the face. As the tears streamed from my eyes I contemplated fleeing from the theater back to the comfortable safety of my couch but I didn't. I stayed. And eventually I started to be able to (sort-of) ignore the baby sounds and focus again on the movie.  

That experience was extremely painful at the time but, in hindsight, it was probably the absolute BEST way I could have encountered hearing a tiny baby cry for the first time since losing Petey; in a dark, virtually empty theater where no one could see or hear me sob and I had an immediate distraction once I could focus on the movie in front of me again.  Since then, I have encountered a coworker's new baby, learned that one of my good friends is pregnant with twins, have seen lots of sweet baby pics on facebook, and (now that it's nicer weather and the windows are open) I often hear the cries of my next-door neighbors' 1 yr old daughter. And although every single time I feel at a minimum, a small stab to the heart and at other times, like my world is caving in and it's hard to breathe, it doesn't break me. I am still standing and am slowly figuring out how to work towards being OK.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Baby steps*

*The irony of this blog post title is not lost on me.

I've been trying to write blog posts over the last week. I have been unsuccessful. The words are just not coming and quite honestly, I am in a dark place. But although I am struggling sometimes to keep in my head above the water, I am not drowning.  I am proud of myself that although I have been pulling away lately in the bloggy/facebook/bump world I have been able to take some positive and healthy steps for myself in the real world:

I joined a gym and have been going to Zumba 2-3 times per week.  It's been good to have a schedule and something to DO and to look forward to again.  I assume the endorphins couldn't hurt either.

I joined My Fitness Pal again and am back to tracking what I eat. I have been (literally) eating my grief since losing Petey and am currently the heaviest I have ever been (even heavier than when I was pregnant). I feel awful, I look awful and if I ever hope to be pregnant again someday I need to do something about this.

I've been getting back to my regular work routine with days in the office. This isn't a fun one and is still a struggle every single time but it's good to have a schedule and have a reason to get dressed and get out of the house.

I called a therapist today to make an intro appointment. This woman was recommended to me by my genetic counselor as she has experience with women who have had a loss. I'm still not sure I want to do this but I figure it can't hurt and could probably help. Sometimes I feel like all of this is just too much to handle - that it's so much bigger than I am and I really do need help to get through it in one piece. I'm beginning to think that up until now I had still been in a bit of denial but now it's hit me. It's real life and it's unbelievably painful and I will never be the same again. This is my reality and I need to find healthy ways to cope with that so I can begin to rebuild my life again. 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What grief looks like

One of the ladies on my Loss support board on The Bump posted a link to this blog post yesterday. The blogger made some excellent points about grief which I am now going to borrow and not pass off as my own:

What I thought grief looked like:

What grief really looks like:

My, that is spot-on. I think I've been giving myself a bit of a hard time lately for not being as "OK" as I'd like to be or as I think I should be or as I think other people think I should be...

But you know what? Grieving is hard.  Sometimes it feels impossibly hard. I've never done it before and there's no rulebook.  To be quite honest, it's sometimes even confusing for me because I'm almost grieving something intangible.  Yes, I carried my sweet baby within me for 5 months but I never held him/her, I never felt the tiny feet or placed my finger in Petey's palm or saw my nose and Hubs' chin reflected in this little being. We don't have any pictures or mementos or any real memories with our child, all we have are the memories of the dreams we had for the future.  There was no name given... I don't even know if Petey was a boy or a girl. Sometimes I really regret all of that. Every bit of it. Sometimes I feel selfish for choosing not to do any of those things - for choosing the "easy" way out and going through a D&E instead of giving birth.  Other times I'm relieved we made the choices we did because we are still here, Hubs and I, and we need to find a way to move forward and to heal. Maybe these choices allow us to do that more "easily". (Quotations because NOTHING about this is easy.)
When you are stuck between a rock and a hard place and are living a nightmare that you cannot believe is your reality, you do what you can do. I forgive myself for that. I forgive myself for making impossibly hard decisions that really can't be right or wrong. I was forced to decide and I did. I can't beat myself up now that it is over. 
But it's still so fucking hard.
I went to a used bookstore yesterday and the owner was super chatty. He noticed my wedding ring and then asked if I had kids and wanted to see the children's books. I wonder if the immediate brick in my stomach made me outwardly react or if it just felt that way?  I swallowed and just said "no".  That brick did not go away though.  I felt guilty just saying no like Petey never even existed.  I wanted to tell him that I did have a child but he died. And I'm grieving. And I miss him. And I ache every second of every day. But do I really even have the right to say it out loud? 
International Bereaved Mothers Day is coming up this Sunday, 5/4.  Am I a "bereaved mother"? I never gave birth. I never held my baby. One day I entered the hospital pregnant and left not pregnant and it was over.  I don't have the right to equate myself with grieving mothers who really are mothers: Those who kissed scraped knees and wiped chocolate-covered mouths and gave kisses and knew what their children looked like! That is not me. All I know is that I loved our little Petey Nugget and I grieve both the physical loss and the loss of what the future should have held for him and for us. I feel alone in my grief.

So yes, grieving is HARD. It is not the nice smooth upward path that I, and likely everyone who knows me, would like it to be. There will probably always be totally shit days but eventually they will start to thin out and eventually I will work my way back into the "OK" range. In the meantime, I will try to be easier on myself and realize that just because one day or one hour or one conversation with a bookstore owner feels like a step backwards, I am still moving in the right direction. Just very very slowly.

Thank you to bethanysk55 at Losing Lucy and Finding Hope for putting this in perspective for me and drawing these graphics.