We’ve been grieving for over a year now. In that time, we lost another baby, and have started growing our third. I’ve come to realise lately that the myth I knew to be false of it gets easier with time truly is false. There was a safety net in the early days of grief, you didn’t have to exist in the ‘normal’ world of before, nor did you have to achieve anything much beyond breathing. As life ticks by, however, the layers get stacked on top of grief and make the grief so much harder to balance.
I’d describe this week as proof that the old stress analogy of the overflowing glass of water is spot on. I most certainly hit my maximum. And overfilled. I just didn’t really realise it was coming. Nothing really prompted it. There wasn’t one event. It’s just everything combined. We’ve been exhausted for weeks, still struggling with the knock on effects of Christmas and Leo’s first birthday. And the rest of life. Yet, I didn’t fully realise how close to my maximum I was.
I think this is because when you have been fighting through grief for so long, you become quite good at it. To the point that you even fool yourself. It sits under the surface and doesn’t always present itself – yet it’s still working its magic. It’ll manifest in irritability, exhaustion, shifted tolerance levels, an inability to blend in with normality, and an ever increasing anxiety.
Grief is one thing. Like I said, we’ve become quite good at it. Being pregnant whilst grieving – well, that’s a challenging addition. Of course, there’s your standard pregnancy complaints that you’ll find peppered all over forums and the like – hormones, indigestion, lack of sleep, never feeling comfortable, constant toilet trips, the lot. They can fill the glass on their own some days. But pregnancy after full term stillbirth requires a bigger glass. Maybe a jug. Or perhaps a hot tub to keep all your stressors entertained.
This week I hit my maximum, and realised I needed to call it quits and make some changes – primarily, working from home on the most part. I don’t think I realised how difficult I was finding things until I broke. Our normal levels of okay are completely skewed these days. So much so, we have lost our warning light. We can carry on feeling okay, and then in an instant, we aren’t anymore.
I quickly realised this week that I needed head space. I don’t think I’ve ever really considered what that concept means before. But grief really shifts your tolerance in terms of how much stimulus you can absorb. Your brain capacity becomes incredibly reduced. You battle grief and you fight overwhelming anxiety. There isn’t much room for anything else. Things I probably never even noticed before, can feel suffocating.
Lately I have felt fairly pleased with how well I have been balancing my anxiety for Magpie. I’ve managed to keep a check on myself, and stop it cascading quite swiftly. By doing so, I’ve most likely spent all remaining energy I have. Indulging in grief and anxiety is sometimes cheaper in terms of energy expenditure. Fighting it whilst living life, that’s expensive work.
Much needed head space. A bit of quiet, peace and calm is so welcome. Removing normal daily stressors is so needed. On Monday, whilst ridiculously overwhelmed by it all, I could recognise that this heightened emotional distress just resulted in me being completely out of sync with my body. Meaning for a short while, I didn’t acknowledge feeling Magpie move. The effect of becoming so depleted means you can’t trust your memory, your sensations, your instincts. Whilst, deep down I wasn’t overly concerned, I knew my emotional state would just lead me into a spiral of anxiety. A spiral that, regardless of whether Magpie started kicking up a storm later that day, would be tricky to climb out of. So I headed to our local midwife led unit for a quick check. The first unscheduled check up.
This is why I think it’s important to recognise when we hit maximum and do something immediately about it. It’s very easy to think ‘oh it’ll pass in a few days, just power on’ but I’m really conscious that my mind has to remain as clear and calm as humanly possible. The instant I loose trust in my mind and my ability to acknowledge if Magpie is moving and if I am feeling well, it falls apart. We are only 21 weeks pregnant – we’ve barely got started on this complex, emotional, anxiety driven, roller coaster. I have to make sure I keep something in the reserves. And not use all my energy and sanity now.