I’ve lost count how many times I have mentally written this post in my head. I’ve been meaning to write it for over a year and have physically been trying to write it for months, having stopped and started more times than I can count. It was one I had in my mind when I first started my blog but have hesitated because I know not everyone will like to read it and it may step on some toes. Then I thought, ‘Wait, I’m not writing it for them! I’m writing it for me and for all the other people who have gone through circumstances like mine and have thought and felt like I do!’ After that I had another thought – maybe it was for them – that by reading this they would have a glimpse of my heart and know me a little bit better and we could get along better or they would know better what to do the next person they meet that has gone through what I have gone through.
A quick note…If you fall into this category, you know me, and think you may recognize yourself in what I’m about to say then please don’t take it the wrong way. I am not criticizing you (there are no names in this post!) but simply sharing my story.
I started this blog to share my story. I have lost two babies and for years people were telling me I needed to write about it but I never did. I started the blog because I suddenly felt ready to share. I thought it would be a place to talk about it and connect with other parents that experienced loss, and also to share about my experiences with Celiacs disease, eating a gluten-free diet, and clean living. I thought it would be a place to practice my writing (I am first and foremost a fiction author) and market my art which has always been just a hobby. I had grand ideas and not much has come of it. It became more of a food and health blog, but that was the direction my thoughts were much of last year as I worked on some ongoing health issues. I have been learning so much about my own health and my body and natural ways of healing I simply wanted to share.
If you follow me here on WordPress then you might notice I’ve been pretty quiet lately. I am a little more active on social media and my blog posts don’t always take precedence, although I’d like to get better about that. Someone asked me recently why I didn’t post more and then they mentioned a couple of other blogs they followed – who are professional bloggers! They actually get paid for what they do. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet and I’m a wife and mother first along with being co-owner of the family business, and those things take priority.
The other reason I have been kind of quiet is I am trying to focus back on why I started my blog – to talk about my boys – and I thought I was ready but it is easier said than done. I have started their birth stories over and over and over. That was to be my very first post – many, many posts ago – and I still haven’t gotten it done. It’s strange; I can talk and talk and talk about them. It’s not always easy but I don’t mind it. Just the opposite; it feels very validating to talk about them, like they matter, that they existed. But I just can’t write it down. There’s something different about it. I know it will be very cathartic to do it, and I will, but I’m still working on it. Even our third baby’s story, who is now three and thriving, has a story that is difficult to recall at times. Which brings me to what I was going to talk about today.
Grief, jealousy, and dealing with it. What did I mean by that? First of all, isn’t that penguin picture the cutest? I was looking for a pretty background for my heading and that little guy just made me smile; and talking about something like this I needed something to make me smile. Don’t you just want to reach into the screen and squeeze him? If you relate with me as you read with this, consider this post my virtual hug to you.
Grief, jealousy, and dealing with it refers to some feelings I have dealt with and know I am not the only one. I wanted to share and hopefully encourage someone else. There is nothing wrong with the way you feel. You need to feel what you feel and deal with it. This is my story.
As I wrote this post in my head one of the many times a few stories came to mind that made me decide to write this post. I was inspired by stories like of someone who after I opened my heart to them they were given a new understanding of the process and went to someone – sixty years or so after a miscarriage – and apologized for not being there as they should. Or someone who was close to me but didn’t understand what I was going through and I didn’t understand what they were going through and there were hurt feelings and several awkward moments over the years.
Maybe you have a sister, friend, brother, aunt, neighbor, co-worker, etc. who is going through something difficult and you can gain a different perspective. Or maybe YOU are that sister, friend, brother, neighbor, co-worker, etc. that simply needs to know you are not alone. And people don’t really talk about it. People clam up when this subject comes up and I have to say many say it’s because they don’t want to upset someone – which is kind – but if we bring it up it usually means we NEED to talk about it. I haven’t seen many posts like this one and that made me decide to share.
Our first baby died in December of 2003. My first experience with jealousy and dealing with it came barely a month later when a family member gave birth to a healthy full-term baby. Right there under our noses was someone whose world had not stopped turning. Who were celebrating. I listened to the phone message of the person who called to tell us the news and cried. Then I felt terrible. I was happy for them but sad for us. Where was our happy ending?
It can help knowing there is someone who does understand. Maybe not exactly how you feel, but grief can be EXTREMELY isolating. If you are a grieving parent I share this to tell you that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Whether you have lost someone or know someone who has I wanted to reach out to you and hopefully encourage or inspire you with my story.
As I said, I have debated about writing this many times over, and then a couple of months ago I was thumbing through Facebook one night on my phone and a friend had shared an article I clicked on that was very similar to what I am writing about today. Our situations are different, she was talking more about infertility than loss, but I have dealt with that too (just not to the same extent) but still what she was saying and how she was feeling really resonated with me. That was the first time I’d ever read something online like that and there was something very validating in it. My heart goes out to this hurting mama who wrote it, but in reading it I felt a little less alone. So I decided to share my story with you.
After losing a baby in December of 2003 I was diagnosed with an incompetent cervix; around eighteen to twenty weeks the fetus simply gets too heavy and for unknown reasons the cervix cannot hold it and begins to thin and dilate and labor begins. We had no idea. My first pregnancy was completely normal and one night our entire world came crashing down. I was twenty-two weeks and our beautiful, perfect little boy weighed only fourteen ounces. He lived for an hour then died in my arms.
It took a long time before I could even think of trying again. The idea simply hurt too much and I felt in some way guilty that I was thinking of having another baby, like it was unfair to the one we lost, but eventually I was ready and we began trying again. And we tried. And we tried.
Four years went by. At first I thought we just needed to relax. We would take a little break then try again. And nothing. I began to worry something was wrong with me. I finally spoke to my doctor about it who referred me to a fertility clinic and ordered a slew of intimidating tests. I went to the aforementioned best friend who has dealt with infertility and asked for advice. I wasn’t sure I was ready to dive headfirst into that world. She advised me I needed to be ready. That the testing itself wasn’t easy but the hardest part was the results; I needed to be ready for whatever the outcome might be, be it good or bad.
So we took some time to decide. And then my husband was laid off from his job and we lost our health insurance. There went my dream again.
In the meantime I was surrounded by babies. I was in charge of the nursery at our church, running two rooms, one for birth through twelve months and the other twelve through twenty-four months. All my friends had babies. A friend got married and had three kids in the midst of the happenings in the last couple of paragraphs. Another told me one Sunday at church (in the nursery with her one-year old) that she and her husband were thinking of trying again (adding to their brood of three). Less than a month later she came to church again with the news she was pregnant.
I was babysitting that baby – and all of his/her siblings – one day and I was sure I was pregnant at the time. I was late, I had all the symptoms, and I had even taken a test that morning. I was shocked when it was negative. I didn’t believe it and took another. It too was negative. I was sure they were wrong. Absolutely certain. My plan was to take another the next day and if it was negative again then schedule a doctor’s appointment; I was that sure those little store-bought tests had to be wrong.
So here I am at my friend’s house, watching her young family. While there I got my period. I remember sitting in the bathroom just staring in disbelief. All the kids were napping and so I just sat there and cried. Not five minutes after leaving the bathroom the baby woke up. I walked into the room and it just hit me like a freight train that I was alone and empty and had no baby of my own. I picked that baby up and rocked and cuddled it and cried some more. It felt so unfair.
Late in 2008 I was diagnosed with Celiacs disease; it is an autoimmune disease where your body cannot process gluten (a protein in the molecule of many foods like wheat, rye, or barley among others) and causes an immune response in your body. I was sick and had no idea why; come to find out my own immune system was basically attacking the insides of my intestines. One of the side effects of this disease if left untreated? There are many and I was dealing with several but one that leapt off the page at when I read it was infertility.
There is debate in the scientific community, but though it is genetic, there are some that believe the gene can remain dormant your entire life and it not be an issue, but something can wake it up, so to speak. It is usually an extreme event of physical ailment or stress. In the last few years I had had both. If that is true we think that may have been my trigger, though I had had stomach issues in the past. Regardless, I took that information and moved on. I have been strictly gluten-free ever since and it took some time to heal but early in 2010 I got pregnant again, after only trying for a couple of months.
We moved forward cautiously but optimistically. At fourteen weeks I received a cerclage, or stitch in my cervix, to hold it closed, but a routine ultrasound at nineteen weeks showed it not only had failed but my baby was coming through. I had no pain of labor yet, but my baby was basically sitting in the birth canal. It was the same day we learned we were having another boy. We were excitedly talking about names and ways to announce the news to friends and family when they called us back in to recheck because something hadn’t seemed right. I’ll never forget that sick feeling as I walked back into the room and the deafening silence as they took another look. I was rushed to the hospital and spent the next three weeks on complete and total bed rest, but on April 28, 2010 an infection set in, causing labor to begin and our sweet and beautiful angel baby was born sleeping and my world changed forever again.
I was suddenly the mother of not one but two babies that were no longer here. I had no idea how to handle that, to live with that. I had arms that actually ached and felt empty. I would awake in the night to the sound of a baby crying and realize it was all in my head. I would feel phantom kicks in my belly. I still experienced morning sickness. I lactated with both of my boys and after hearing a baby cry, my milk let down and took over two weeks to dry up. I would hear a baby cry months later and feel that sensation again. I have nieces and nephews on both sides of our family that are within months of both of our boys, leaving me with living reminders at every family holiday and function exactly what we were missing out on. I was surrounded by friends having babies, inviting me to showers and asking me to babysit.
I had no idea how to deal with it.
To be honest, in a way I sort of didn’t deal with it. I had never really been a jealous person but at times I swear I could actually see green. And to me it seemed like I was literally surrounded by the thing I ached for the most.
We waited only eight months before trying again after our second loss and I became pregnant in early 2011. I had been on light to modest bed rest with number two as soon as I had the cerclage but this time around it started immediately and once I had the cerclage it went to strict. I went from my bed to the couch with only bathroom and occasional shower privileges. The only place I ever went was the doctor’s office. I was willing to do absolutely anything to save my baby, but it is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. It is extremely isolating and can be very lonely. Not to mention frightening.
After a while I gave up on Facebook. I had several friends who were pregnant and if they weren’t complaining about how uncomfortable they were and unhappy they had only mere weeks left they were posting pictures of themselves hiking, putting furniture together, or any myriad of seemingly simple every day things when I was barely allowed to get out of bed to use the restroom. It made me uncomfortable and so jealous and Facebook wasn’t fun anymore.
I was admitted to the hospital at twenty-four weeks with Henry when the cerclage began showing signs of failing. Again. Those people that were complaining about being thirty-six weeks and had an agonizing four weeks to go had no idea we were literally holding our breath and rejoicing at the smallest victories. My pregnancy was not measured in months or weeks but days and sometimes by hours. Waking up I would thank God I had made it through another night, say another thankful prayer at lunchtime, late afternoon, and breathe a sigh of relief when another day was over and we had made it through. Then the next day it would start all over again.
I don’t fault these friends. And I know even the most picture-perfect pregnancy can be uncomfortable; it was just hard for me in that moment. Even now. I still feel insanely jealous every time I see a pregnant woman hauling around a toddler or carrying something or lying on the beach or even shopping. All those things I couldn’t do.
Our miracle boy was born on August 8, 2011, our thirteenth wedding anniversary; the number thirteen will always be lucky for us. He was thirty-two weeks and only three pounds, fourteen ounces but he was here and alive and now at three he is healthy and thriving and a blessing we thank God every day for. But…
My husband and I desperately want to try again, but are not sure we should. We want another baby so much it literally hurts. We had always dreamed of a large family and though we are so thankful for Henry but our family feels incomplete. And we find ourselves faced with an agonizing decision. What do we do? What is the right choice? Are we brave enough to try again? And I wonder if I am brave enough to face the truth if we decide no. I don’t know how to face that.
And I find myself once again surrounded by babies and pregnant women. I thought I was imagining things and counted one night (you know, one of those weird, random things you do when you can’t sleep and the most odd things just float through your head) and I counted seven. Then the next morning – yes, that morning, I am not exaggerating – I get onto Facebook and here is another announcement. I closed the app, set my phone aside, and cried.
When I react like that some people react negatively. I have never done that in front of those people with the news, mind you, but others have said to me things like I just need to be happy for them. And that bothers me. Do they think I’m heartless? That I don’t know that every baby is a miracle and though my heart is aching I’m not happy for them? That I don’t wish them the best? All that is true and more, but it still hurts sometimes.
So…how do I deal with it, you might be wondering. I’m still figuring that out, to be totally honest. Sometimes you just have to deal with it as it comes. People are going to say seemingly insensitive (and sometimes to you will seem downright cruel) things but I doubt anyone who has ever done such a thing to me has actually done so to be hurtful. They simply do not understand. Realizing that has helped me deal with it in some situations. Do my feelings still get hurt sometimes? Yes, they do, although I do my best to not let it get to me.
I have not been to a baby shower since we lost our first baby. Is that the right way to handle it? Maybe not, but it works for me. Do I show up with the happy face when I don’t want to? Often, but not always. There are certain situations that I have begun to avoid after realizing that life is too short to constantly make myself miserable. If it’s a baby shower I will still send a card and a gift. I have turned down birthday party and lunch date or other get-together invites simply because I did not feel I could handle it.
I used to babysit all the time and I can now count on one hand how many times I have in the last ten years. I still don’t feel comfortable with it, and if I do it is only because they are little friends of Henry’s or we are trading babysitting with someone.
Does everyone understand? Is everyone sympathetic. NO. Some are even almost rude about it. Maybe they’re offended, but they cannot understand and I can’t make them. There’s no way they can understand.
So how do I deal with it? The best that I can. Do I always do a good job at that? Another big NO.
There have been births recently and when I received the news I felt so down. I went out for a little retail therapy, bought myself some chocolate, and had a pity party. On the event of another I cried and cried and cried. And I felt horrible because someone’s miracle had the power to hurl me into a giant pit of depression. It made me feel like a terrible, awful person, but losing a child will do that to you. The simple act of receiving pregnancy news from a person had done the same thing, which only added to those feelings in those moments.
In that situation a best friend who has experienced loss and infertility was a god-send and spent hours on the phone texting and calling and getting me through it. Deal with it with someone who will support you and encourage you. Someone who will lift you up, be there for you no matter what, and will never judge.
Have I lost friends? YES. I have not purposely written people off, but they have me. Many have simply disappeared. I wonder if they have any idea how hurtful that is. Never do that to anyone. Be honest. If you are uncomfortable or just never know what to do and say it’s ok to tell us that. We’ll appreciate your honesty and the friendship will be all the better for it. Don’t leave.
I have gained friends too. The friend I just mentioned? I met her at the local farmer’s market. She was a vendor at the time. She heard what happened after my first baby and reached out. We bonded over shared heartache but a true friendship grew out of it and she is probably one of the people I am closest to; because she knows the real me. There was someone else in my life I had never been very close to but he reached out to me after our first loss and has been there ever since; they are one of those people that is just there with a smile and a hug for me and my husband and though they has no idea what we went through they have cried with us, celebrated with us, and are always there when we need them. A friend of my husband’s was there for us after our first baby and went through the ringer when we moved in with us; I can’t imagine what it was like living with crazy, neurotic, emotional me and I count it to this person’s character he is still our friend. (He’s been such a good friend, in fact, we’ve named one of our other children after him.)
Then again, I have a couple of people I do not communicate with as much, simply because they have not been there for me and have been discouraging and negative and/or judgmental, and I need positive people in my life right now. I still count them as friends and I will be there for them when needed in any way I can, but I had to take a step back. It took a long time to realize that was ok. Again, life is simply too short.
How else do I deal with it? I honor my boys. Any way I can. We have photos and momentos of them all over our house. We tell our son about them. We make their little lives matter. We have donated gifts at Christmastime to orphanages or charitable organizations in their name, age-appropriate to what they would be. And I am beginning to work through some of my feelings.
Right now it is very hard. My heart hurts so much. I miss them more than I ever have. Time is not healing my wounds, but making them worse. I am working through my feelings, dealing with it as best I can, and it’s not always perfect and I am still learning, but I really am doing my best.
I have been physically working on this post for almost three months now. I started it on March 3. Many of the pregnancies I have felt surrounded with have turned to births and I am dealing with it as best I can. Am I doing a good job? No, not really.
I crochet. I love to do it and rarely keep anything I make. They are all gifts. And I have been working on the same baby blanket since February. Now, I put a lot of love into everything I make and can be a bit of a perfectionist about it, but that’s a little extreme. I should have finished it weeks ago, and it is literally ALMOST done, but some days I just can’t pick it up. Other days after five minutes I feel I’ve been sitting there working for days. And I have another to do when it’s done. I offered to do them and now I can’t remember why.
I have started more than one that were never finished and I do not intend to add these two to the list, but it has happened. I have actually thrown the yarn and pattern, partly finished project, and all in the trash. Or put it away and finished it later for someone else.
It’s hard, but I know it’s good for me. As hard as it can be it really is a rather little thing I can do. It’s something. I only do these for people I am very close to and it is a gesture of love for these precious little ones. I love them already and I know I don’t show it always how I should, so this is a way to do that.
I deal with it with my fiction writing, by escaping into make-believe worlds of my choosing. It is my escape, my way out, and my salvation some days. I love to craft and paint and make jewelry. I like music and water and I do yoga. I love to read. The list goes on. You have to find things that make you happy.
I deal with it by reaching out to other hurting moms when and how I can. It’s not always easy but I know how alone I sometimes feel. Just to have someone that says they’ve been there and they’re hurting too and say they will be there for you – and mean it – means the world to a hurting heart.
Am I always handling it how I should? Probably not. I have tried to be honest with some and some have been supportive and some not. Many do not understand why I don’t want to go to a gender-reveal party one weekend and the baby shower a few weeks later. And yes, maybe you feel ignored but I was honest with you but made some lame excuse to the other invitation I received for the very next weekend. And maybe when you shove an ultrasound picture under my nose and I make a polite excuse of why I suddenly have to go, I am not being rude. I simply don’t want to cry in front of you and embarrass myself or make you feel bad. Or when I decline to hold your baby when you offer them to me that is not rudeness either. Again, I don’t want to cry in public or sometimes honestly just can’t do it. I can’t explain it to you because you have not been in my shoes, but it’s true; sometimes you literally and physically can’t do it. Some don’t realize I am now afraid to open social media or check my mail some days because I am going to receive one more invitation or be inundated with borages of pictures and news and updates that turn what was originally a pretty good day into one where I am left feeling lonely and sorry for myself. It’s not your fault; it’s just the way I feel.
I don’t want anyone to walk on egg shells around me but sometimes I wish some people would be a little more empathetic. On the other hand, I want people to be able to celebrate. I simply appreciate it when they try to understand. When they accept that I am hurting and though you may not think I am being the best of friends at the moment it is because in that particular moment I am more in need of a friend. We celebrated every milestone with Henry when I was pregnant and as he has developed, but I don’t share as much anymore and if we do decide to get pregnant again I’m not sure how much I will shout from the rooftops. Because I have been the one on the other side of said shouting and know that even in those moments of celebration it can hurt.
My advice? If you are hurting and feel alone I am here. I don’t pretend to understand what you are going through because you are you. We are all different, but I am sharing all this to reach out and connect with you so we can help each other. Leave me a comment here or go to one of my social media sites and send me a message. I will reply. Find me by searching my name, PreciousBelovedBlessing.
If you are on the other side, dealing with a friend or loved one who has experienced loss I am here to talk as well. But to you I would say be there. Don’t judge and there really is nothing you can say to fix it or make it better. Just be there. It’s a lot easier than you might think. And thank you for taking the time to read this, for trying to understand.
If you have read this far I send more hugs to you, no matter who you are and what you are dealing with. None of us are alone. I am not perfect. I do not pretend to know it all. I just want to put this out there and maybe touch somebody. I just have a hurting heart that suddenly feels the need to connect to someone outside my small circle and I do not feel it is an accident I am feeling compelled to do it at this moment.
I have shared different stories and close it by applauding my husband. Grieving is hard and you feel alone but you have a spouse that is hurting too. Men and women grieve very differently. We are still learning but our marriage is all the more stronger for it and I thank God I have such an amazing man in my life that loves me in spite of my crazy, emotional self. We are healing together.
I wish you healing and hope and happiness. Hugs to you.