Dear Mama, Trying to Control the Uncontrollable After Loss,
I find comfort in trying to control very tiny things that might matter little to someone else. Keeping a clean home when possible. Things in just their right spot. When I get home, things need to be a certain way before I can truly relax. Not crazy perfect, but some unidentifiable level of okay to me. That level changes depending on how long my day out has been, but it’s pretty consistent overall. It usually involves a steam vacuum.
I’d rather do 100 things the second I walk through my door than wait (or if it’s just me and my toddler, I stretch these things between giving her a snack, changing her, chasing her, getting her set up with her crayons or reusable stickers, and then the 100 things I feel I need to do take twice as long but still get done).
And then I’m there and I can be more present. I feel calmer and ready to be open to my daughter, my mind, my new growing baby and my next to-do list if I have the energy at 30 weeks pregnant.
I was this way before, too. Before I lost my son at 24 weeks. Too meticulous, bordering neurotic, but it’s just me. I can have fun, I can be in the moment. I love going places, especially to a rocky seashore during the off-season.
But when I found out my son was gone, it ALL went away. My tiny details, the way I made my bed that morning before leaving for work, my ridiculously detailed handwritten records of every aspect of my pregnancy, my weekly bump pictures of him growing and me waiting for that finish line – none of it mattered.
A person not naturally inclined to go with the flow was thrust into a 24-hour window of time that would see me through my first ever labor and birth – well, stillbirth – when I least expected it. And the first and only time holding my first child in my arms, with endless tears from his daddy and me.
That amount of loss of control is, I guess, something that would prepare me for parenthood, albeit a pretty severe form of an initiation experience. But I’m still here nearly four years later.
What has happened in those four years?
A month of living in a complete fog. A period of keeping it quiet in shame. An opening of my heart and life to others with an accompanying sense of relief to tell his story. If I didn’t, who would? A year of firsts that should have been his firsts but was the opposite. A slow return to a new normal.
A beautiful rainbow daughter born one year and one month after her brother died. Experiencing the highs and lows of that first pregnancy after loss, of postpartum hormones.
My cleaning rituals having shifted to what was only really necessary, surviving life with a newborn on little to no sleep. My milk coming in on day 4, so on days 1 through 3, convincing myself that my body remembered I couldn’t nurse my son and therefore wouldn’t produce for her. Self-blame. Guilt. Missing him, embracing her.
Anxiety in taking her out at first, wanting to keep her so close at all times. Her bassinet attached to my side of the bed, waking at least every hour to make sure she is breathing.
All of her firsts. Extended nursing. The giggles and cuddles I had longed to experience as a mom, now here in real life.
Our rainbow turning one year old, a huge lift in weight. Finally taking a look around – we did it, she’s still here. She’s sturdier, she’s happy. It’s not me. It wasn’t my fault. I’m perhaps not destined to lose all small humans who mean the world to me. We did it, I did it, and we’re ready to do this again. A new pregnancy, another new life. A baby boy.
You can do it, too. Your feelings are understandable, expected even. Being shaken to your core by losing your child means you’re a mom, a parent. Being nervous to try again but wanting so badly to try again makes sense. Being thrilled, excited, yet terrified at the same time is normal.
And if none of these feelings resonate with you, that also makes sense. Baby loss is so deeply personal, and your unique experience before, during, and after it makes you, you.
But when you are coping with this loss, it’s okay to default to what feels comfortable, to turn inward or outward or both if you need to. Little by little, you may eventually notice that you can lift your head up, take a look around, and see how far you have come.
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