A few things have happened since the last time I wrote.
First, my body figured out what was going on and resumed a normal rhythm (to use the nicest euphemism I could think of) and I think that gave a reboot to my hormones. My PPD declined steadily from there.
Second, I continued to read A Grief Observed. I think before I was reading it too early. I wasn’t ready. And now, I’m finding so much comfort in Lewis’ wrestlings with his grief and with God. Every other line in that book resonates deeply with how I feel about losing you. His despair and hope, his anger and depression. Even his loneliness and fear. Friend, if you are reading this and you have lost a baby, please read this book. It will help you, not necessarily to feel happy or better, but to feel less alone. If one of the greatest Christian writers of the 20th century can feel lost and betrayed and doubting, then it’s OK for you, too.
Third, I went on vacation. I mentioned this in my last letter but here’s a little more. Technically I had a week at home and a week in Georgia with your daddy’s family. The aunts and grandparents and great grandma who were looking forward to meeting you. The week I had at home was good because I was able to have more time to lay on the floor and cry and then get up and clean the house and pack and run errands, instead of working, then crying when I got home, and then not having the energy for anything else. The vacation itself was a powerful separation from everything that reminded me of you and of my loss. A physical one, particularly. Sort of like a chance to step out of myself and fast forward to a time where I felt better. I still cried most nights as I fell asleep. I felt how I had been excited before to wear a swimsuit for my little maternity bump, and how I had looked forward to being surrounded by family excited for me and for your impending arrival. I felt it when I saw pregnant women on the beach and babies in town. But overall, I felt better.
Partly it was just the amount of time I got to spend with your daddy. The rest of the family let us go off and do whatever we wanted. There was no pressure to do anything with the family if we didn’t want to, which I appreciated so much. Your daddy and I spent a lot of time talking, snuggling in that glorious king bed, relaxing, watching tv, swimming, and visiting the beach. I felt that our marriage was stronger than it has ever been. We celebrated our anniversary with a long day together in Charlotte. I met my cousin Shawn and his family and he and his wife Tabitha so sweetly prayed for your daddy and I for healing and for a blessing on our future family. That meant so much to me.
Coming home was hard. I cried every morning that first week, feeling overwhelmed and surrounded by everything that reminded me you were gone. I felt lost, hopeless, separated from my friends, still not pregnant, still despairing. But I made my way through the week with a sense of peace I gained from vacation. More on that later.
The fourth thing that happened was that the counselor I had been looking to meet with finally had an opening. I thought about cancelling, since my PPD was gone, but I thought perhaps just talking to someone who was paid to listen to me was better than dumping it on my friends. It was helpful in many senses. I felt that she didn’t tell me anything I hadn’t heard from friends and family and my own understanding of God, but it was different having a professional tell me it’s alright to grieve, alright to be angry, encourage me to scream and yell things at God, to express my anger knowing he can handle it, but she also told me how to be able to tell when I was holding on too long where it got to be unhealthy. I felt a bit better just having someone recognize my perfectionism and tell me to stop being hard on myself and give myself grace and make myself realize that I can’t control how the grieving process goes because there are no rules. Again, if you’re reading this and are struggling with grief or even PPD, I recommend counseling if you can help it.
The final thing that happened was this: on our last night in Georgia, your daddy and I went for a walk on the beach at sunset. We talked about life and idle things; about our favorite part of vacation. The sunset was beautiful, the temperature was ideal, and a storm was visible rolling over the ocean. Your daddy went inside but I wanted to watch the sunset and the storm. I sat on the beach and I inevitably started thinking about how much I missed you. I started talking to God again. Less anger, less begging. More just feeling defeated and lost. I know he understands. I felt him grieving with me as I cried. It helped to know he did. I fell into my usual questions: “Why did you take my baby? What did I do wrong? What lesson do I need to learn before you give me another baby? What bargain can I make with you to let me keep my next baby?”
He asked me, “What did you have to do to earn my love? My grace?”
I said, “nothing. Just trust you.”
He said, “what then did you do to lose Rowan? What do you need to do to keep your next baby?”
I said, “nothing.”
And the ocean seemed to echo it over and over, to my perfectionist, hard-on-myself heart, “nothing, nothing, nothing.”
What does this mean, then? That you were stolen from me purely by the evil of this world and not by anything I did wrong or any cruelty on God’s part? Yes. I have always known this but my human heart has never wanted to admit it. Anger at myself and anger at God is the easiest thing to handle.
I have no idea how to go forward. I’m still as lost as I ever was, but my faith has remained intact. I knew it would. Even on the day I lost you, I knew I could never turn from my God, no matter how angry I was or how much I doubted him. Another book I’m reading says, “cling to God’s character no matter what you experience in this transient life.” This is what I have done. I have no idea what will happen if I lose another baby. I think it will wreck me beyond what I felt losing you, Rowan. I don’t know how I will live, how I will function. But I’m trying to hope my rainbow baby will come and my God will prove himself faithful to me as he has done for my entire life.
I miss you so much, Rowan, and I love you so much. But for now, I think my letters are done. I am at a place where my depression has eased and my grief is less. I cry about every other day now instead of every day, or all day. I have felt truly happy and truly close to your daddy. But while I will always miss you and think of you and nothing will take that away from me, I need to stop for now. I love you. You are my precious first child.
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, Part Fifteen, Part Sixteen, Part Seventeen, Part Eighteen.