Feeling guilty/Closing thoughts for 2014

When I was younger, I would have vehemently insisted, to anyone, that I never wanted children and would never have my own.  I grew up in a bad neighbourhood with a caustic home environment.  We were sorely impoverished and I was raised poorly for a multitude of different reasons, and I had no reason to believe that I would grow up to be any more successful or qualified than my own parents.  I didn’t want to subject my own children to that; I was terrified of being a bad parent, so I dismissed the idea of motherhood altogether.

I told my now-husband that I didn’t want kids early in our relationship (I was probably only 15 at the time), and he laughed at me and told me that I would change my tune as I got older.  Being young and naive, his refusal to take me seriously made me mad at the time, and I argued with him about it.  We actually had a couple of fights on the matter, and then didn’t discuss it again for another 5 or 6 years, by which point it was becoming apparent to me that he was right.  My life wasn’t amazing, but as I got older, found stability, and stopped struggling with my own survival instincts – as I started to realize I could, in fact, provide for myself, that my childhood was the exception (not the rule), and I began to find confidence in my ability to be a better person than they were – I became more receptive to the idea of providing for someone else, too.

When I got pregnant with Brock, I was just beginning to warm up to the idea of being a parent: I wasn’t planning on diving into it just yet.  I’ll admit that I was actually extremely upset when I initially found out.  There had been so much that I still hoped to accomplish before settling all the way down – I wanted to travel, find a career, buy a home – and I saw those dreams disappearing as the second line faded in.  I bawled inconsolably on the floor of my bathroom, much to the confusion of our dogs (and probably our neighbours as well).

I took my husband to dinner that night and broke the news as gently as I could.  I will never forget the look on his face.  For a couple of seconds I saw gears turning, and he analyzed me as though trying to decide if I was joking with him or not.  When he was satisfied that I was being serious, his face lit up in a way it hasn’t since: he was absolutely ecstatic.  With his reassurance and enthusiasm, my nerves lessened.  I realized that, even if it wasn’t ideal, we could make this work.

I didn’t feel genuine love for our baby until I saw him (still ‘it’ to me at the time) at my NST scan at 13 weeks.  He was awake and squirming as the tech pointed his various body parts out to me, and I remember watching his tiny limbs flail in a pseudo-tantrum as the tech prodded at me with the wand.  It was, in some odd way, totally endearing, and I immediately felt a connection that I hadn’t yet experienced; I fell hopelessly in love.

As my pregnancy progressed – it was a very average, routine, comfortable pregnancy – I fell more and more in love with my unborn child.  However, in reflection, I also find myself regretting many of the things that I took for granted.  I’d been praying for a girl, and I felt some (brief) disappointment when I found out that we were expecting a boy.  I quickly got over it, but I now resent myself for ever wishing that he was anything except for exactly what he was: I realize now that he was absolutely perfect the way he was.  I remember feeling frustration over being tired all the time, not being able to run, gaining weight, suffering through leg cramps, leaking milk – a veritable plethora of stupid things that, in the grand scheme of things, didn’t matter at all.  I actually remember crying about my stretchmarks one day, instead of seeing them for the blessing they were: I was creating new life, and the stretchmarks were evidence that he was thriving inside of me.  How cool is that?!

I spent so much time and energy being upset about what my son was doing to my body, and fretting over what would happen after his birth, that I don’t feel I spent nearly enough time actually enjoying him.  Now that he’s gone and I’ve been forced to look back on my pregnancy as the only time I ever got to spend with my only child, my dear sweet boy, I am so mad at me for being so stupid and selfish.  I feel guilty that I didn’t cherish every single second I had with him.  I wish I had spent more time savouring every kick, punch, and roll he did in there.

Brock was conceived on Thursday the 23rd of January, and born on Thursday the 23rd of October.  I had the pleasure of spending exactly 9 months with him.  I wish I had spent more time appreciating those moments we had together.  Sometimes, I wonder if I even deserved him at all, and if he’s not here with me today because I didn’t appreciate him the way I should have.  I would give anything to go back and be more grateful for the time I had with him.

 

—–

 

2014 was an absolute whirlwind for me.  It was extremely trying for me in many ways, especially after Brock’s passing.  I have learned a lot this year, though.

I’ve learned who my real friends are.  It’s now perfectly clear to me who I can count on to always be there for me.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, including that I am far stronger and more resilient than I thought.  If I can survive this, I can survive anything.

I’ve learned quite a bit about what I want out of life (and what I don’t).  Some things I thought mattered really don’t, and vise versa.

And, as cliche as this may seem, I’ve been aggressively reminded that every second is precious, and you should make the best of every moment.

I’m going to try to resolve to forgive myself for my ‘shortcomings’ in the New Year.  I have spent a great deal of time being upset with myself for things that I feel I did wrong in the last year, and blaming myself for things that I could not possibly have changed.  Finding peace with myself will be a big step in the direction of recovery, and I have hope that things will start to look up from there.

Bring it on, 2015: I’m ready.

I survived!

I apologize for my absence; the last couple of weeks have been both hectic and trying.  My husband was struggling at work with the holidays looming over our heads, so he took some time off.  I also started my new job shortly afterwards, and have ultimately just been trying to take care of myself (and him) since.

As expected, Christmas was a catastrophe.  We stayed home and avoided interacting with people wherever possible.  We had a Christmas Eve brunch at my in-laws’, and a Boxing Day dinner, and just attending those activities was a pretty big feat –  I doubt we could have handled more than that.  A couple of our friends who didn’t have plans came over in the afternoon on Christmas day and helped us take our minds off of things by distracting us with video games and alcohol.  The night still ended with me bawling into a wine glass, but it beat out the alternative – I’d expected to be a blubbering mess all day, so the camaraderie was actually quite helpful, in that regard.

I typically don’t like to subscribe to big holidays or arbitrary milestones, but I cannot wait for 2015 to get here.  I don’t exactly have any New Years’ Resolutions or anything (again, a silly concept – I don’t feel like it should take a new year to tell me that I should make improvements to my life, I should just make them at my own discretion) but so many terrible things happened to me in 2014 that I wholly look forward to having this year be in the past.  This was easily the worst year of my life thus far, so I look forward to wiping the slate clean and restarting in 2015.  Even if you don’t account for the stillbirth (which is easily the worst part of the year), I also worked the most demanding, terrible job I’ve ever had, made several poor judgement calls in other departments, and did a lot of stupid things.  I keep wishing that I would wake up tomorrow to find that it was all a terrible dream, that this year never happened, and I could redo it all again with the knowledge I have now.  I could make things work out so much better.

I don’t know what the new year has in store for me… all I know is that, whatever it is, it’s got to be an improvement on what this year had to offer.  My present motto is “2015: things can only get better.

Struggling.

The holiday season is kicking my butt.

I still keep in touch with a lot of the mothers that I connected with throughout my pregnancy that were due at the same time as me, and every time I see a photo of one of their babies in a Santa hat, or an ornament that says ‘baby’s first Christmas’, I just want to jump out a window.

I haven’t even started Christmas shopping yet.  Every time I try, my brain shuts down.  This probably has something to do with the fact that I need to buy a gift for my nephew, who is 5 months old, and who happens to have the name that we were originally going to give our son.  He was originally due only 10 weeks before Brock.  I spent much of my pregnancy happy that they were going to be so close together, thinking that our boys would practically have a twin to grow up next to.

Of course, now that my son is missing from that picture, I can’t even look at photos of my nephew without having a meltdown.

I need this year to end so I can start to operate on the hope that 2015 will be nowhere near as shitty.

Brock’s Milk

People never seem to know what to think when they find out I am donating Brock’s milk.

The reaction is typically positive or, at the very least, neutral.  They are often very curious about the process behind it, or why I decided I wanted to do it.  I’m not entirely sure why I felt so strongly about it, to be honest, but it was the first definitive decision I made after I found out that he had passed.  At the time, I told myself it was because I wanted to make sure that someone got some measure of good out of my terrible situation.  That is still true, and that is what I often tell people when they ask, but I’ve come to realize that it’s not that black and white.

What I don’t tell them is that I like how pumping keeps me accountable.  It gives me a reason to get out of bed on the bad days, and keeps me from overindulging: my desire to make good milk keeps me from taking in too much caffeine, sugar, alcohol or Ativan.  It helps me keep a slightly sunnier disposition, because I often humour the idea that Brock’s milk, forfeit by him when he passed, might very well be saving another baby’s life.  If I can spare another couple from the devastating emotional trauma that my husband and I suffered when he died, that is as close to a consolation as I can get.

Even harder to explain is that the responsibility keeps me sane.  I dropped my whole life — quit my job and moved — in preparation of devoting every ounce of my time and energy to motherhood.  If I weren’t doing something in his absence, I would go insane.  I already find there are too many hours in a day, and not enough to fill them with.  The very least I can do is devote a couple of hours a day to a positive venture.  It, in itself, is a ‘job’.  It doesn’t stop me from having too much time to think, but it’s a bit of help, at any rate.

Furthermore, and easily the most complicated reason why I continue to pump – something which happened gradually, and took deep root before I quite realized what was happening – is the fact that I am not ready to let go yet.  Letting my milk dry up will feel like I’ve admitted defeat, like I have accepted that it is time to move on with my life.  I feel tremendous guilt even when I am late for a pump, like I’m dishonouring Brock’s memory.

About two weeks ago, I realized I had developed an emotional attachment to expressing his milk.  Life has begun to approach a new normal, and I am starting to feel pressure to devote my time to ‘normal’ ventures.  I am falling behind on schoolwork – I quickly ran out after his demise and applied to do correspondence – and I am starting a new job in the next couple of weeks.  (In both cases, I ran out and got involved in them because I needed to fill the void that Brock left with something, and this was my own convoluted way of trying to cope.)  My husband is extremely eager to try and conceive our rainbow baby, something which will likely not happen while I am still nursing.  I share his enthusiasm for a new baby, but I also don’t know how to explain, even to him, that pumping milk is the only thing that keeps me feeling any sense of purpose.  It feels like the only part of pregnancy and postpartum that my body has figured out how to do right.  It’s the only tangible reminder I have of my son, aside from some constantly fading memories and various types of scar tissue.  It’s the only thing that I have left that is here for him, the only part of him that is, in some way, alive.

I pump his milk because I don’t know how to stop.  I feel like the day I stop will be the day I admit that he’s gone for good.  It’s not that I don’t know he’s dead; I realize that nothing I do will bring him back.  I also realize that I can’t pump forever, and that I will need to move on at some point.  All the same, letting the last piece of him go is not something I am ready to do yet.

I have been told I am amazing, and called a saint and a martyr.  People keep revering me for my strength and telling me what an incredibly selfless thing I am doing.  I smile, nod, and thank them for their kind words, because it is a lot easier to take their praise than it is to explain why I’m actually doing it for myself.  It’s great that they perceive it as strength, but, honestly, I have never felt so weak.

I don’t think people would understand if I tried to tell them that pumping Brock’s milk is part of my grieving, and my way of coping with his loss.  I’m slowly learning to wean from the pump.  It might take several more weeks, or months, before I can let go for good, but, in the meantime, I need to have faith in myself that I won’t take on more than I can handle emotionally, and that I will know when it’s time to move on.  I’m awaiting the day where I can feel good about what I have accomplished in his memory, rather than feeling guilty about not doing more than I already have.   I’m not quite there yet, but at least I’m moving in the ‘right’ direction.  Unfortunately, the right direction still feels wrong to me.

A couple months ago, I would never have anticipated a problem even remotely like this.  I was blissfully unaware of the complicated, ugly beast that grief can be.  Oh, what I wouldn’t give to get that sense of naivety back.  I want to go back in time to the 19th of October and scream at my midwife when she told me that he was fine and I should go home.

Those That Know and Those That Don’t

I had a very insightful post shared with me yesterday that perfectly embodied a lot of thoughts I have had but haven’t been able to put into words.  Read it here.

I struggled with this dilemma a few days ago.  My husband and I recently reconnected with a mutual friend who we hadn’t spoken to in a while – so long, in fact, that he didn’t know I had been pregnant at all, let alone everything that had happened since.  We were uncertain about whether or not the news had reached him until he said a few particularly crass things – in jest, as that was the way he approached humour.  Still, it became apparent to me that he didn’t realize what had happened when he told me, jokingly, to ‘get my shit together’ – that is not something that you say to a bereaved parent, under any circumstances.

My husband and I deliberated whether or not we should tell him about Brock.  On one hand, it was really refreshing to have someone in our lives who didn’t know.  Sometimes, you need someone who will just talk to you casually, and his demeanour was a refreshing return to a more normal way of life.  I find that almost everyone who knows, even now, still has no idea how to treat me.  Perhaps, more painfully, I find that a lot of people are outright avoiding speaking to me; it’s not up to me to speculate as to why, and I do not blame them, but (as I’ve previously mentioned) I would really love to just be treated like a normal person once in a while.  At the same time, we realized that it might be insulting to not tell him, and that he might later feel guilty about his conduct around us.

In the end, we decided to tell him, but also made it apparent that we hoped he wouldn’t let it affect his behaviour around us and requested that he make an effort to continue treating us normally.  He was our only bit of normalcy in a giant sea of pity and awkwardness, and we cherished that, so it was hard to jeopardize that relationship by informing him.  I do feel like he might be censoring himself somewhat now, and I mourn the fact that he’ll never be in the ‘don’t know’ category again, but at least I feel morally balanced.

I feel robbed.

I have been having a lot of bad days lately.  I had a complete meltdown yesterday at the unfairness of it all; I keep feeling like I’ve been terribly robbed (probably because I have).  It seems criminal to me that, because someone else fucked up, I don’t get to have my baby.  Someone made a grievous error, and I am forever a different person as a result.  I’m still so mad about that.  I don’t know if I’ll ever not be mad.

I wasn’t that mad at the start, but the longer I think about it, the more I find myself seething, and the more likely it seems to me that this could have been prevented if I’d been taken seriously.  He wasn’t moving much on Sunday, but he still had a strong heartbeat.  If we had got him out then and there, I retain hope that there is a good chance he could have pulled through.  I won’t know until the autopsy – and, even then, I might be proven wrong.  To be honest, I kind of hope I’m wrong, and that he was doomed on Sunday… if not, that will just make the loss hurt even more.  Losing my son is devastating no matter which way you slice it, but it would be all the worse to find out that he was perfectly happy and healthy until his final few days.

I miss you so much, Brock.  That might seem bizarre, seeing as I never really got to know you that well, but I miss everything I knew about you.  I miss everything from your feet in my side to your head bearing down on my pelvis and making me sit down every ten minutes.  I miss the heartburn, the nausea, being able to rub your backside through my belly.  I miss being terrified by what awaited me in motherhood, and having to get up two or three times a night to pee.  Now, all I have to remember you by is a few extra pounds of weight, a bunch of itchy stretchmarks, and an IV scar on my left wrist.

Going into pregnancy, the idea of childbirth really scared me.  I was especially anxious about the idea of tearing, and about the possibility of needing a c-section, especially when they (incorrectly) told me that you were measuring large.  Now, I don’t even remotely care what awaits me next time – as long as there is a live baby at the end, they can do anything they want to me. No price would be too large if it resulted in a happy, healthy baby in my arms at the end.

I Hate Christmas*

*Subject to change, I guess.

I made a really bad decision yesterday and decided to attend a party while I was in an abysmal mood.

My husband’s workplace hosts an annual Christmas party.  For some reason I can’t really fathom, we decided to go this year, too.  I’d spent a lot of time thinking about it, and eventually decided we should go because I thought it might be a good opportunity to unwind.  I wanted to feel normal for a bit, and just go out and have a good time.  Seems reasonable, right?

We made all the appropriate arrangements.  I woke up that day feeling okay, and spent a good deal of time getting ready.  By the time we were getting into the car to head to the hotel, I was not feeling quite so sunny.  By the time we had checked in and got dressed and ready to head downstairs to the party, I was on the verge of tears, but I forced it down and made myself go anyway.

I should have stayed in the room.  I was an absolute storm cloud for almost the whole thing.  The problem, you see, is that every single time I try to do something fun or find myself in a situation that I don’t feel like I should be in, I end up getting really upset.  This year, I had told myself that I wouldn’t be able to attend this party this year, because I would be at home with a screaming, cranky, poopy newborn.  I had resigned myself to that fate, and I was happy about it.

Every time I do something that I shouldn’t be able to do, it just brings me back to thinking about how wrong everything feels, and how I feel like I am in the completely wrong universe; I would give anything to be at home with a baby instead of attending concerts and getting drunk at Christmas parties.  It also brings me back to wondering what I could possibly have done to deserve such a horrible thing.