We’re now 3 weeks out from the anniversary of Christian’s birth/death. Most of the time, I feel as close to normal as I think is possible given that my son died almost a year ago. Overall I enjoy life, I have wonderful friends and family, I live in a beautiful (albeit messy) house with a stinky dog who needs a haircut (Ender has bad gas right now, ew), and compared to the majority of the people in the world, I have a life of comfort, stability, and happiness.
But every now and then – more frequently now than it has been – I get into a very unpleasant state of mind. I mentally composed the following late one night last week (and yes, the late-at-night undoubtedly contributed to the drama):
Last night the agonizing, heartbreaking grief of Christian’s death returned. It’s a feeling I didn’t miss, that I both hoped and feared would never come back.
As it gets closer and closer to the one-year mark, I feel . . . inadequate. I wish I had some Deep Insights or Useful Life Lessons I’ve gained over the past year. Otherwise, what’s the point? If I haven’t learned something profound I can share with others, or changed in meaningful ways, or discovered myself, then the whole experience is just stupid.
Saying this might make me a genuinely bad person: I wish someone else’s baby had died instead of mine. Or, ideally, that no one’s baby had died. But especially not mine. When I think about finding out I was pregnant, or being excited to go have an ultrasound, I hate myself for having been happy. I was an idiot for assuming everything would be fine.
Ok, so. I don’t usually feel that way. At all. But I am somewhat at a loss as I approach Christian’s birthday/deathday. (Morbid? Can I make “deathday” a real word though?) Should I have some remarkable insights? Should I have all the answers? Should I feel better or worse than I do? Someone please give me a guidebook with nice little checkboxes so I can do this thing right!
The irony is, of course, I feel guilty when I feel great (because I obviously “should” feel worse about my son’s death), and I feel guilty when I feel awful (because I obviously “should” feel better about my overall-great life). I’m tired of feeling guilty! Grief is really not rational. Dislike.
Anyway, there’s a very rambling, incoherent post about some thoughts and feeling-type things.
A year ago today, Jarom and I excitedly went in for my 20-week ultrasound.
I remember that morning, around 6:30, Evan woke up because he had to poop. Badly. So I spent half an hour being his poop coach (a job I have gladly left in the past). I wondered, am I really ready to add to this chaos?
I remember trying not to feel disappointed when the sonographer kept saying it was hard to get a look at things, because it probably meant I wouldn’t find out if Tiny Baby was a boy or a girl.
I remember the feeling of utter panic when the sonographer stood up to go see if the OB was available to meet with me later that day.
I remember paying attention to the fluid level number – 3.8. I thought it would be something we’d need to keep track of, to measure repeatedly.
I remember sending Jarom to pick up the kids from the babysitter because I couldn’t handle explaining the sort-of-not-quite bad news in person.
I remember feeling much less apprehensive than maybe I should have when I met with the OB. He told me the possible causes of low amniotic fluid – kidney problems, placenta problems, ruptured membranes. I hoped that I had somehow not noticed fluid leaking, that I’d be put on bedrest at 24 weeks, that the amazing neonatal care available now would ensure everything turned out okay.
I remember calling Jarom after I came out of the meeting. I said, “Pretty much every scenario the doctor told me about ends with the baby dying.” But I didn’t really feel that weight.
I remember calling my parents, wanting comfort and assurance that things would be alright.
I remember what I was wearing that day, even the earrings I had on. It was a beautiful spring day and I wore sandals.
I remember sitting in the swing outside our house talking to a friend who had just made an offer on a house. The flowers were blooming in our yard and it was hard to reconcile that new beginning with the possibility of death in our family.
I remember our friend coming over to help Jarom give me a blessing. It promised comfort and I knew, I knew, my baby was going to die.
I remember our friend showing up with dinner, and I felt grateful that my arms were full once she handed it to me – I was afraid of breaking down if she tried to give me a hug.
I remember the uncertainty, the fear of what would happen, the hope for a miracle and the overwhelming burden of being sure that Tiny Baby would not live.
It was not a good day.
Although I felt miserable when I wrote my earlier post and was pitying myself a lot, the response I’ve gotten was not at all what I expected. People apologized – and now I feel guilty for making anyone feel bad.
Yes, it’s hard for me – sometimes – to not be asked how I’m doing or to see generous offers of help for other families who have obvious struggles. But most of the time, I feel pretty great. When those miserable moments come, I do get caught up in a negative mindset and it seems like the world is conspiring against me.
I’ve posted about things that are helpful and unhelpful to say to a grieving parent, and to me specifically. It was pointed out to me that this might suggest that there is a right way to help, and that you can mess up. No one wants to say the wrong thing, so people often stay silent.
Let me clarify: no matter how inadvertently insensitive your remarks might be, I will be so grateful that you said something. I understand that you mean well. Even if you say something horrible, I’ll be glad you said it. Really, truly. It hurts more to have this entire experience be unacknowledged.
Sometime between the ultrasound and Christian’s death, a woman in my ward stopped by to offer support and a small gift. I hadn’t ever met her before, and I appreciated her reaching out to me. I mentioned this in church recently and was surprised at the number of people who echoed, “I was thinking of you. I just didn’t know what to do or say.”
It was in this context specifically that I felt isolated. Because no one was sure what to do, it seemed like no one did anything. (Exaggeration. I had friends and ward members who were very involved and considerate.) And, to be fair, a large part of my misery may just be that I was not privy to the discussions of “How to help Mika” as I am to the discussions about helping other families. So what I perceive as a group effort and shared concern for others might have applied to me just as much.
Anyway. This is also a rambling, incoherent post.
To summarize: I didn’t mean to make anyone feel like they’ve been a bad friend. Sorry.
Also, saying something to me is always better than saying nothing. I promise.