I’ve started to recover from losing you, I think.
Here’s how I know:
1. It started with your memorial service. It was the hardest thing to get through, but it was beautiful. I bought you flowers to take to your great-grandmother’s grave. I lost her almost exactly a year before I lost you. I put your picture and hers in a locket and wrapped it around the flowers. Your daddy and I, along with your grandparents, stood in the light rain and listened to two songs: “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perry, and “Photograph” by Ed Sheeran. Your grandma read Scripture, your grandpa read one of my letters to you, and we prayed together. I sobbed of course. I sobbed harder than I have yet, I think. Your daddy cried a lot too, and all four of us cried together in the rain for awhile. But in the end I left you with God and your great-grandmother. I know she’s taking good care of you.
After this, my primary emotion was anger. The grief was still there, but less dominating. I think that was a first step to truly saying goodbye to you.
2. Second, I started talking to God again. It was and is mostly anger and pathetic begging, but it’s a start.
3. I admitted I needed professional help. I don’t think I need, and don’t want, medication. But the postpartum depression has only escalated to some very dark moments and bouts of crying and lethargy, where I feel that it is making it impossible to live as a normal human being and I have taken steps to meet with a counselor at last. I really want to just live again. And accepting that I’m not getting better and wanting to do something about it is, I think, a good step. I know getting help to recover from depression is not the same as grief recovery, but helping one of them will, I think, help the other.
4. I’ve worn jeans at last.
5. I tried to wear eye makeup again. I cried and smudged it, but I tried.
6. I’ve started to make plans for getting pregnant again. I’m still terrified, still frustrated that I won’t get to enjoy it much, or delight in it or share it delightedly with family, but I’m actually thinking about it again, and starting to pray (albeit without hope that He’ll answer) that I can get pregnant quickly and have a healthy, normal pregnancy.
7. Your daddy and I are doing things to feel more normal. We bought a video game we can play together. I’m exactly as terrible at it as I thought I would be, but it’s nice to do something together that your daddy enjoys a lot. I bought the Harry Potter boxed set. I’ve always wanted to own them, and it was June and July of 2012 that I read them for the first time. I thought hiding away in a fantasy world that fills me with childlike joy and nostalgia would be a good normalizing hobby.
It hasn’t all been positive, and it hasn’t always consistently moved forward. I still cried in the bathtub until 2am once this week. I tried to get out of the house and take care of myself by getting a haircut, only to discover the cruel irony that my stylist was pregnant and due a few weeks before I was supposed to be due with you. When she asked me if I had any children, I just cried. The poor woman didn’t ask for that, but I couldn’t stop. I didn’t stop for an hour, other than to pull it together to finish my haircut and pay and leave.
I still have days where I want to lay on the floor and cry and do nothing else. The house is dusty, there’s dog hair on the furniture and the floor. I have moments of energy where I can clean the kitchen and do laundry, but it’s not consistently good. This, I know, is the depression. So I give myself grace to have a messy house.
From what I know of both grief and PPD, it can come in waves. So I try not to jump to the conclusion that I’m free of my heavy burden the first time I feel better. Because it keeps coming back. In those good moments, those normal moments, I feel a hope and I feel lighter inside and I can breathe a little and enjoy the summer, play with Phoebe, plan for vacation, and enjoy a good book. Even though those are not my consistent reality, I cling to them and appreciate them. I see the waves of grief coming fewer between, and the PPD becoming at least recognizable to the point where I can remind myself, “this is temporary. It will get better.”
In all of it, though, my friends and family, and especially your daddy, have been so wonderful. It makes me even sadder that you never got to meet them and they never got to meet you. What wonderful people to bring you into the world to meet.
This whole journey, so far, has been different than I thought. I had hope in the beginning that God would show himself to me in a new and incredible way, and he would use this in my life to refine me, but five weeks later to the day, and I feel nothing like that. But I think that’s my own timeline and expectation, there. I would have thought my letters to you would have more and more hope instead of less. But what do I know of grief and depression and for that matter, what do I even know of maternal love? I had never known it until you, and it’s far deeper and more profound than I ever thought. Loving a child I will never see has been a journey of its own. Navigating the strangeness and unnaturalness of being filled to the brim with love for a child I cannot hold is so odd.
But this is the nature of the journey, I think. Hope and despair, depression and normalcy, love and grief take their turns without one really outgrowing the other. But I do know that I am beginning to recover, and one day I will feel better.
Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five, Part Six, Part Seven, Part Eight, Part Nine, Part Ten, Part Eleven, Part Twelve, Part Thirteen, Part Fourteen