I have put off writing this post for four days now. It’s not easy to talk about those little things that can set you over the edge. Looking at the list of prompts for this “Capture Your Grief” month, this is the one that makes me feel most vulnerable. After all, who really wants the world to know what secret buttons to push to make a woman break into tears or at least suffer from emotional exhaustion?
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I am blessed.
I know this.
I am blessed to be married to a wonderful man who loves his kids almost as much as he loves me. Who has been my anchor with the loss of both of our tiny boys.
I am blessed to have three life-filled little boys here; who fill my world with chaos and joy, Legos, Cheerios, and uh-ohs; who share their special blankets and squeeze my bad guts out when I need it.
I am blessed to have my family, even if they are miles away most days. They are only a heartbeat and a phone call away to share my laughter and tears.
I am blessed to have the support system of friends God has knit for me. Friends from church and college and even facebook. Friends I’ve known for years and whom I’ve not yet had the chance to hug.
I am blessed.
And because I know that, I feel guilt when I feel the ache of envy that can come with this kind of grief, especially when caught unguarded by certain emotional triggers.
After losing John Blaise, I found it difficult to be around women in their third-trimester. Newborns were difficult too, for a while at least. I had trouble when my period came back, since my labor had been flagged with bleeding, and there really wasn’t much difference to me between menstrual cramps and early labor pains. These are typical triggers though, expected. But other triggers included the shirt I was wearing that night, the house I was in (especially their bathroom), and certain places on the highway to the hospital (particularly at night). I realized later when I returned to the hospital for a support group, that going into the women’s center of that hospital can make me tense and my breath get short.
As time went on, I became less sensitive to these reminders. Not that they wouldn’t bring the loss of my son to mind, but I had grown to be able to handle them more in stride.
But now, six weeks after losing Alexander, I am once again easily thrown off emotional balance. It is different than before. In some ways it could be argued I’m handling it “better” than I had with John Blaise. In others, though, I know I am taking things much harder. Once could be a fluke. Twice is a trend
I still feel envy toward very pregnant women. I want their back pains and swollen ankles, I want their heartburn in ways they could never understand. But now, when I feel that twinge, I say a quick prayer that they will never understand, that they would only know the joy and relief of a healthy full-term birth.
I still feel uncomfortable in that friend’s house and bathroom, but it is a feeling that comes with a sigh instead of a sharp breath.
When I see babies, I want to hold them, to capture a sliver of the opportunities I missed. And while they can make me long to hold the children I didn’t get to keep, mostly I feel comfort. And I pray that those little ones might always be treasured as the gifts they are.
I have come to remind myself that another woman’s gain—a healthy pregnancy, a child—is not my loss. They are unrelated.
Yes, I’ve grown in how I handle many situations. But one trigger I had not expected, one which sneaks up on me and hits me sharply, is water.
I lost both Alexander and John Blaise through preterm Premature Rupture of Membranes (pPROM). In other words, my water broke way too early. Now, references to water, particularly the healing qualities—physically or spiritually—frustrate and upset me. For me, the very water that was to protect my children and to help them thrive left me, betraying me and them.
This past Sunday at mass, I had my most public breakdown I can remember. It was quiet, at least, but still, I was at church and the tears were falling hard. A baby girl, who appeared to be little more than a month old, was being baptized. The baptismal font was turned on, so that the sound of trickling water flooded the church all through the service. The first reading was of Namaan (2 Kings 5) being healed of his leprosy by washing in the Jordan seven times. Then the baptismal rite included more water references of course. And I ached at the thought that we were unable to celebrate the baptism of either John Blaise or Alexander. And tears snuck out, my nose started to run, and I found myself without a tissue, “trapped” in the pew because the baptism blocked the doorway.
Fortunately, the four-year-old needed a bathroom break, so we took a walk at the first notes of the preparatory hymn.
My boys here, they make me marvel at God’s handiwork. I know—I know—I am blessed to be their mom. Sometimes, though, they are triggers themselves.
Some days, I am short tempered, I yell, I snap—what mom hasn’t? But when I hear myself do that, my spirit sinks, and I can’t help but think of how unworthy I am to have them. And I feel on some level that God knew I couldn’t handle another boy here. And I’ll cry, if only inside.
Some days, I drink it up. I admire the beauty of one of my little boys’ tummies bared by hanging upside-down from the crape myrtle. I marvel at dimples, eyelashes, and sideways glances. I melt into hugs. I treasure overhearing play-time narration or a recently acquired bit of Shakespeare being quoted. (Yes, really, the nine-year-old has been caught quoting Romeo & Juliet lately.) And in those moments, sometimes I’m caught off-guard by desperate what-ifs, wondering how the littlest brothers would have played into all this. I long for what I’m missing.
My boys here help me through rough spots. I am blessed. They have also taught me the joys and awesome challenges of motherhood.
I am blessed.
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