Dear Rowan, (trigger warning: D&C)
Here’s how I survived your death:
1. Your daddy held my hand as they put me under.
2. Your daddy drove me around in the car, with Phoebe, to distract me from the pain and the shivers that came from withdrawal from the hydrocodone. It really hurt to have my uterus scraped empty.
3. Eight seasons of Friends. Straight humor with little emotional manipulation. I had to skip episodes and eventually a whole season where characters were pregnant (and TV characters always get pregnant on accident and have no complications, of course). I also had to avoid any show where there might be people lying in hospital beds or having an ultrasound at all, even if it was only to see their liver.
4. I avoided social media. Other than a few posts I have remained away from Facebook, Instagram, snapchat, and Twitter. Pinterest, if I go straight to the categories I know I won’t find babies or pregnancy tips in, is safe. But even though I don’t envy others their joy, it’s so hard to see happy healthy babies and mommas who love them and pregnancy announcements and family photos. It just is. I hate that it hurts so much because I feel guilty for not sharing in others’ joy. But in order to eventually move on, I need to keep away from heartache after heartache because all I do when I see a baby is cry and cry and cry.
5. I had to recognize that the D&C was traumatizing. That medical triggers would cause my blood pressure to rise and my breathing to sharpen and even to hyperventilate. That I needed to take someone to my follow up appointment to distract me in the waiting room full of happy pregnant women and in the exam room full of things I was surrounded by when I found out I lost you. There’s nothing like the D&C experience. To be surrounded by medical equipment and to trust people with your body and to hear you lost a child and to wake up later and have the child taken from you physically and to be in pain and overwhelmed by grief–it was horrible, and I am terrified to just think of it.
6. I had to allow myself a moment each day to grieve but recognize that I couldn’t just feel the grief every moment and I needed to get out of the house and sit in the sunlight and I had to click “next episode” over and over to keep the weight of grief crashing down on me.
7. I had to accept help. People brought me meals. They brought me ice cream. They cleaned my house. They held me and let me cry. They prayed with me. They sent me cards.
8. I had to go back to work. As kind as it was for my bosses to tell me to take all the time I needed, I couldn’t stay home alone. The one day I tried, I laid in bed in the dark until the afternoon and cried. I sank into a pretty deep depression. So despite that sometimes I sat in my cubicle and cried for ten minutes while staring at the wall, I still needed the distraction.
9. I had to let go of my pride. I had to tell people I lost you. I had to ask for help. I had to stop wearing makeup. I had to be seen with red, puffy eyes in public and not care. I had to be vulnerable. I had to allow myself to be loved. One of the hardest things is admitting my body failed us both. There is some shame in that, even if the doctor assured me it was not my fault. I can’t help but be ashamed that my body couldn’t carry a child when other women’s bodies could. My pride is gone.
10. I had to give myself grace. Grace is a very difficult thing for a perfectionist to give herself. Grace to be loved and helped. Grace to grieve and mourn. Grace to know when to distract myself from the overwhelming grief and when to give in to it and sob until my head split. Grace to look foolish. Grace to be less than perfect, less than the face I usually wear. Grace to feel deeply. Grace to be held. Grace to hide away from things that upset me. Grace to not be strong. Grace to make a new normal. Grace to stop blaming myself. Grace to be angry. Grace to fail at getting everything done perfectly and timely at work because I was so tired and overwhelmed. Grace to be a bad friend and mentor and daughter. How are my friends even doing? I don’t know. I feel bad for not knowing, but to be honest, I had to give myself the grace to hide from them too–especially the ones with new babies. I had to give myself the grace to tell my young friend I mentor that I just don’t have the spiritual capacity. It’s hard to do, and I beat myself and berate myself constantly for my weaknesses and failures. But I have to keep giving the grace back.
11. Finally, I had to feel the distance but know the truth. As I have said before, my faith is not truly shaken. Not to its core. What would have been the good of it before if it’s so easily shattered now? No, my trust is what’s shaken. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Logically I know something beautiful will come from my ashes and I will be restored to the arms of God. But for now I will cease any striving to just be back to normal, and striving to trust God again immediately, immediately have hope and joy. There’s no need for that. God doesn’t expect it of me either. Time will heal the gap and restore my trust. It could be years. God doesn’t care. So for now I have to live very differently in regards to God than before. I know one thing and feel another. But it’s simply my new reality, and God will wait. He will not be hindered by me. Someone else will be used to fill in where he planned to use me. He is not thwarted by my anger. So I will not be afraid to be angry with him.