I don’t know who I am anymore

I guess realization is the first step towards recovery.

A few days ago, my husband asked me if we were boring.  I immediately had to concede that, even if he isn’t, I most certainly am.  I spend most of my days following link bait on media websites like Facebook, doing schoolwork, playing video games, and doing household chores – laundry, dishes, cooking.  I sometimes go to the gym or walk my dog.  I rarely visit with friends or family.  Once in a blue moon, I will invite people over to my place to play card or board games, but even those are pretty rare now (a lot of my appetite for fun died when my son did).

Almost everything that people ask me ends in “I don’t know” or, worse yet, “I don’t care”.  I let myself coast along on other people’s plans, and very seldom have my own opinions.  At a recent job interview, the interviewer asked me to tell them about myself, and I scrambled to find an answer.  I am as interesting and exciting as dry toast.

I don’t know how long I have been like this, but it must have been a while, because I realized that I was banking on motherhood fixing this.  I have so little to define myself by that I was looking forward to being able to say “I’m a mother” as a way to define me.  (You don’t need to tell me that that isn’t healthy – I already know.)  Since that didn’t pan out, I don’t know what’s left, besides ‘pretty much nothing’.

I flop back and forth often between two extremes: trying to make absolutely everything better at the same time, and not being bothered with anything at all because it feels like nothing is worth it.  If I’m not power-cleaning the house or mass applying to volunteer positions, I’m laying in bed and trying to figure out why I don’t care that my life is so utterly unremarkable that I let my days blend together.  I wonder if I would still feel this way if Brock were here.  I don’t think so… but is that really a better outcome?  Is apathy okay if you are okay with it?

This got depressing quickly.  Here’s a picture of a funny Corgi to lighten the mood.

Funny-Corgi-Lawyer

A Letter to My Ex-Boss

I had an absolutely awful weekend.  Not only did I have a terrible, full-scale meltdown on Friday (three months since Brock’s birth), but it also forced me into an awkward position where I needed to tell my employer exactly what was going on.  That, too, is in the process of ending very poorly.

I’m writing this here so that I don’t say these things to my ex-boss directly, but I have so many volatile thoughts and emotions in response to what they said to me that I need to express how I feel somewhere.

Dear Boss,

The first thing I want you to know is that you would have spared me a lot of second guessing and self-doubt if you had simply admitted that you did not, in fact, understand my situation.  Trust me, I already knew – when I looked at you and saw the face you made as I explained what happened to me yesterday – that you didn’t really comprehend what I was trying to tell you.  The way you said “Oh,” almost like you were disappointed in me, when I admitted my deepest, darkest secret to you, keeps haunting me.  I initially felt some measure of embarrassment, kind of like shame, that you didn’t seem to feel that taking a day off to mourn my son was a worthwhile venture.  Your hesitation when I asked if you could sympathize with where I was coming from disagreed with what you said when you tried to say “Yes”.

It’s okay that you don’t ‘get it’, even though you said you did.  That’s a good thing.  I am glad you don’t know what it’s like to lose something you loved more than life itself.  You are an unattached manager of a food service chain; you are obviously married to your work and, therefore, you don’t have a partner or kids to try and comprehend the loss of.  It’s just you.  I’m glad that works for you… it’s not right for everyone, but you seem happy enough.  I will outright admit that I don’t really understand where you can find satisfaction in working 12 hour days 7 days a week, but everybody is a bit different and has different ambitions, and this is what seems to resonate with you.  I hope you can live with the satisfaction of knowing that I could not possibly do what you do for a living, and I am a bit impressed by your resolve.  That’s where my respect for you both starts and ends.

I wouldn’t be upset if our discussion had ended there.  However, you decided it was your duty to press on.  And so, you said, with hesitation, “Yes.  I get it.  But…”

You went on to belittle me for 10 full minutes because my absence from work lost you some efficiency.  You cited arbitrary numbers and said that the shift was harder for you because you made x number of dollars with y number of employees when you were supposed to have z number of employees.  I had made countless attempts to contact you earlier on, which would have given you lots of opportunities to fill the spot – how is it my fault that you didn’t see fit to reply to those efforts until later in the day?

As if it weren’t bad enough to be chastised for something that was not my fault (would it have been that difficult to take a spare minute to check who had called when you were finished with that customer?  Did it not seem like something might need prudent attention when the phone rang once every 10 minutes for 2 hours straight?), you then went on to thoroughly discredit my right to have emotions.  You basically said, in way more words than was necessary, ‘Suck it up’.  Yes, it’s very sad that I lost my son, but that is not something I should bring to work (Is this a bad time to point out that I stayed home so that I wouldn’t bring it to work?).  My son’s death was not in any way relevant to the business, so it should not affect it in any way.  In being hired by you, you said, I made a commitment to do what was asked of me, and nothing should get in the way of having me fill the commitments I had agreed to.  You compared my emotional strife to your commitment to managing a third store: you said that, even though it was overwhelming at times, you did not let your frustration get the better of you, and you would not let that frustration keep you from reaching the goal you’d committed to.

Are you fucking kidding me?  You are comparing the emotions I go through when trying to come to terms with the death of my child to your day-to-day annoyances managing a fast food store?!  Do you have a heart, or are you literally a robot?  Are you capable of thinking of things other than profit margins and managerial duties?  Did you feel at all bad about the fact that I left that meeting in tears, or did you think you had just delivered a stellar pep talk and I would come back for my next shift and magically be at peace with things?  I feel like you expected me to dry my eyes, perk up and say, “You’re right, Boss, it’s not so bad.  Grief is a switch and I should just turn it off when it gets inconvenient.”  If only life were that simple.

My favourite part was your insistence that, although we can’t control everything that others do, we do have ultimate control over ourselves.  Of course, how silly of me.  I clearly chose to be sad, and chose to have an entire day where I did very little more than lay in bed and cry.  I made the decision to dwell on thoughts of what my son would be doing if he were today, celebrating his three-month birthday, as he should have been.  I shouldn’t have let those thoughts make me sad.  It was terribly inconsiderate of me to choose to be emotionally bereft; I should have thought of you, and my commitment to your workplace, and walked away from my grief.

The whole time that you were voicing your opinions over what I should do differently in the future, you wouldn’t look at me, and you shifted from foot to foot.  You were so very awkward.  You obviously had no idea how to handle a situation like this, and I think that being able to see how uncomfortable you were was a big part of the reason why I didn’t fly off the handle on you when you started giving me the world’s worst advice.  Your expertise in human relations seems to go as far as not booking employees who don’t get along for the same shift.  You are used to dealing with snarky teenage girls, not people with legitimate, real-world issues.  Please, believe me when I say that I really regret burdening you with my problems.  In the future, I will make sure that I decide to not let my son die so you don’t have to deal with my occasional emotional frailty.  Would that make things better?

Okay, I’m done with the sarcasm (I hope you ‘got it’).  After all of this, would you believe I actually need to thank you for something?  It’s not what you think, though.

As I was laying in bed, thinking over our discussion and feeling ashamed about letting myself grieve my son, I thought about what he would think about all this if he were here – “What would Brock think?” helps me with a lot of my day-to-day decisions now.  I’m pretty sure that he would not want to see me being mistreated by my employer – he’d want me to do something that made me happy; he’d like to see me end up somewhere better.  I also began to realize that I am not likely to do better than these menial, terrible jobs unless I find a sense of direction.  With my husband’s encouragement, I have made the decision to, finally, go to college.  I spent the bulk of my day today trying to make up a budget that will let me enroll in a fall semester at a local school, and looking into grants and bursaries I might qualify for.

I also realized that money is not that important, in the grand scheme of things, and we can get by on one income.  My husband’s boss is extremely sympathetic to our cause, and encourages my husband to take the time to grieve whenever he needs it.  It also pays a lot better. Can you guess which job we decided to cut from the budget?

Thanks for encouraging me to kick-start my life, even though you did it indirectly by being an awful employer!

-Sevyn

Inconvenient

Brock’s Milk: Update

About twenty minutes ago, a courier came and picked up my last shipment of milk for the milk bank.

I have very mixed feelings.  I know I did a good thing, and I know it’s high time I moved on with my life, but I also can’t help but feel like another little piece of me has left with it.  Weaning was really difficult, and even though I stopped pumping more than a week ago and I’m not expressing it, my body seems to be taking a while to get the memo, which is making matters even worse.  I keep getting moments of insanity, where I remember that it’s pretty easy to relactate for a little while, and I find myself thinking, “Maybe it’s not too late to change my mind…” I’m not going to do it, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it.  Being able to donate my milk was a small consolation in all this mess, and I’m going to miss the experience immensely.  I know that sounds odd – who misses being hooked up to a pump for several hours a day? – but it’s the truth.

With all said and done, I pumped for 11 weeks and donated 1,371 oz of breastmilk to a reputable milk bank in need.  My only lament is that I couldn’t do more.  I think, in time, I will be able to look back on this and be legitimately proud of myself for what I did, but, in the meantime, I mostly just feel sad. 😦

At least I can drink as much coffee as I want, now.  This is the first time in more than a year where I am free of caffeine restrictions.  I guess I’ll take what I can get!

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The Positive Side

I can’t believe I just wrote those words, but I am forcing myself to take a few minutes to look at some of the positive things I have gotten out of my son’s loss.  I have been really, really down in the dumps lately and a lot of that has translated to self-doubt and self-pity, so it’s more a thought exercise to try and cheer myself up than anything else.

I realize that no matter how many positive things I can come up with, none of it justifies his loss.  He still died, I will still miss him every day of my life, but I can also acknowledge, even though it’s really hard to do so, that there will ultimately be some positive things I’ve gained from this experience as a whole.

  1.  I know I’m fertile.  Beyond that, I know I can comfortably carry a baby to term.  I made a happy, healthy, positively adorable child, and I have no reason to believe that I can’t do the same again.
  2. Along the same vein, I know my body is capable of amazing things!  Pregnancy and childbirth are both miraculous (albeit sometimes uncomfortable and/or gross) processes.  For some reason, I had always had it in my head that I was going to find out that I was not fertile – then, when I did get pregnant, I constantly worried that I was going to somehow make a ‘bad’ baby.  Nope!  My body did a great job, and I’m proud of it.
  3. I have a completely different perspective on body image.  It’s not that I was overly vain before (or at all, even), but I did occasionally find myself lured in by that unrealistic body standard, and let myself feel guilty about not being closer to a ‘desirable’ shape.  Forget that!  Pregnancy left some permanent marks on my body; I will never be quite so firm and supple again, and I am perfectly okay with that.  As long as I’m healthy, I am comfortable with the idea of not being classically ‘pretty’.  There’s a lot more to life than looks, anyway.
  4. I have learned a lot about the compassion and love of others, even strangers.  I’m sure I’ve gushed time and again about how amazing everyone treated us after Brock’s passing, but it really did so much for my respect for people, and my faith in humanity in general.  It also helped me burn a couple of bridges, but they were bridges that weren’t worth keeping.  I feel less burdened and more sure of myself, knowing where my real friends are and who I can count on to help me up when I’m down.
  5. I’ve been reminded of the value of time, and how important it is to make the best of it.  I won’t go so far as to say “YOLO”, but… well, you get my drift.  Live life to the fullest, hug your loved ones often, realize that it’s all a gift, even if it doesn’t always seem that way.
  6. I’m going to meet children I never would have met because I lost Brock.  Shortly after our loss, I read a sentiment on another blog that really stuck with me.  The basic idea is that if you lose a child and then decide to ‘replace’ them (obviously not literally, but if you have another child after your loss), you are giving a child a chance that you would ordinarily never have met.  I’m not sure why, but this sentiment has brought me great comfort in the last couple months.
  7. I am going to love and appreciate my subsequent kids so darn much after all of this.

That’s all I can come up with for now – other tasks call.  But you know what?  I do feel a lot better.  Every cloud has a silver lining.

clouds

A Bad Day

I feel like my husband and I speak in codes now.  A lot of the time, if we simply say “I’m having a bad day” to one another, the meaning is always immediately apparent.  I’m not having a bad day because I had an irate customer, nor is he having a bad one because he was stuck in traffic on the way to work: ‘bad’ days, now, are almost exclusively ones where the grief is more prevalent, and there’s not always good rhyme or reason for it.

Calling them ‘bad days’ is somewhat colloquial, too.  I can be fine for most of the day – hell, I may even be outright sunny – and then I’ll just suddenly be hit by a wave of grief.  They say that the grief is never more than five minutes away, and they’re right.  Yesterday, at the start of my shift, I was fine – not exactly a beacon of joy, but doing pretty well – and, by 10 minutes later, I was fighting not to cry.  Tack on several disagreeable customers, cranky coworkers, and a couple of harsh reprimands from my employers, and I was almost ready to walk out for a while there.  I managed to keep it in until I got home, but it didn’t leave my mind for more than a few moments again for the rest of the evening.

I’m two and a half months out from my loss, and I still can’t believe that this is my reality now.  Sometimes I can go a few blissful hours without thinking about it, then I’ll touch the chain of my necklace while I’m fixing my hair, or I’ll spot his memory box while I’m straightening up the bedroom, or my stretchmarks will get itchy and bring attention to themselves, and it all comes flooding back.

Then I realize that I have to fight with grief and ‘bad days’ for the rest of my life, and that I’m always going to wonder about the could-have-beens, the what-ifs, and, perhaps above all, why me?  I am so overwhelmed by the concept of dealing with a baby loss for the rest of my life, it seems unfathomable from where I am now… but I suppose I had better get used to the idea, because it’s not going to go away.  I can’t walk away from it, or decide to forget all about it, or pretend it never happened.  It’s part of life now.  It’s all going to be part of my ‘new normal’.

Aren’t I lucky? :/

what to say (or not say) to a bereaved parent

I was able to have a heart-to-heart discussion with one of my friends lately where I finally found the courage to admit that I am really frustrated by how most people have been treating me since my son’s death.

When Brock passed, the initial outpouring of support that we got was nothing short of amazing.  I received flowers, cards, hugs, money, keepsakes and condolences from more people than I can count, many of whom I barely knew, or didn’t know at all.  A big handful of friends and family (and again, even a few perfect strangers) made the long journey to his visitation to show their support… there were way more people than I expected, and it was truly heartwarming.  I was really surprised by the turnout.  I think I had assumed people wouldn’t take our loss seriously, since he’d passed before birth, and there had never been a baby to ‘know’, but they proved me otherwise.  I found a restored faith in humanity when I was reminded how kind, caring, and sensitive people could be when they wanted to (or needed to be).

Unfortunately, 2 and a half months later, I need to admit that I feel a bit neglected.  For the first couple of weeks, people would check in on my husband and I pretty often, and every time someone said that they were thinking of us or asked if we needed anything, I felt a little bit better knowing that others cared so much about our well-being.  Since then, there’s been radio silence from most everyone; it’s pretty much only been close friends and family that have continued to make an effort to help us through things.  And, to be honest, I feel like I need the support now more than ever.  The first month whipped by me in a shell-shocked blur, and now that things are really setting in and my life deviates further and further away from what I thought it would be, now is when I could really use the comfort and reassurances of friends and family.

I don’t blame people for being a bit awkward around me; after all, before this happened, I would have had no idea how to deal with a bereaved parent, either.  Two days before I found out Brock had passed (the day I had my bad NST), another woman I knew lost her newborn to an illness, and I remember sitting there, crying for her and her family and her little girl, thinking about what a horrible tragedy they had suffered and wondering what I could possibly do to help her.  It’s such unfamiliar territory that you just freeze up, and I felt so helpless, like I could never possibly fathom what she was going through (which, in retrospect, is terribly ironic).  I had no idea what to do, and, therefore, probably did far less than I should have… but I was so petrified of saying or doing the wrong thing and making things worse.

With that said, here’s what I’ve realized in the last few weeks:

In most cases, if you mean well, that’s more than enough for a bereaved parent to appreciate.  As long as you are showing an appropriate emotional reaction to our situation and not making light of things, even if you say or do something that I don’t agree with, I’m not going to inexplicably fly off the handle and lose my mind.  We are still sane, rational people most of the time, and I appreciate pretty much any effort to help.  My great-grandmother-in-law – 93, and with fairly advanced dementia – took one of my hands in hers, and said, with tears in her eyes and grief on her face, “I’m so sorry.  But, you know, at least you’re young and healthy.  You can have another.”  Was it a horrible thing to say?  Yes.  Was she legitimately upset for us?  Absolutely.  (It’s also worth noting that, in her youth, prenatal and perinatal loss were things that nobody acknowledged or talked about.)  Even though she said the wrong thing, knowing she cared enough to make the effort to console us was something, at any rate.

Let me reiterate: it’s far better to say/do the wrong thing than it is to say/do nothing at all.  I learned a lot about who I could and couldn’t rely on based on who reached out to us after our loss and who didn’t.  Some people offered more than others, and some people were less awkward than others – that doesn’t make their compassion worth any more or less.  I know a few people who I am certain know what happened and have not said a word to me, and I no longer consider them to be my friends, because I find it so insulting that they couldn’t find thirty seconds to tell me that they lament this horrible tragedy that we’ve suffered.  Putting in the effort is more than enough.  How hard is it to briefly call with your condolences?  Heck, even if you just send a text of sympathy, at least it’s something.

Additionally, don’t feel bad about not knowing how to react.  A lot of people came up to us, clearly distressed, and simply said they had no idea what to say.  Of course you don’t – it’s such a messed up scenario that it would be kind of strange if you had all the right words for it, wouldn’t it?  Saying “I don’t know what to say” tells me that you understand the gravity of our loss, but you also wish you knew the right things to say to console us.  It shows acknowledgment, sympathy, and caring all on its own.  That’s more than enough.  Thank you! 

The last thing I’ll say on the matter, and the subject of my discussion with my friend, is that I really wish that more people would continue to reach out to me.  Just because I am bereaved doesn’t mean I want to sit at home all day and stew in my grief.  On the contrary, I am more than open to the idea of getting out and spending time with people.  Someone eloquently mentioned in an article I read recently that ‘sad people need parties too’.  I promise, if you invite me out for a cup of coffee or we go and see a movie together, not only will I be infinitely grateful for the company and the distraction, you will find that I’m still the same person I was before in a lot of ways.  I still like the same things I did before, including spending time with you.  If we hang out together, that doesn’t immediately mean I’m going to force you to talk about my dead son (but, if you are comfortable with discussing him, don’t be afraid to let me know that you are open to talking about it – that’s also a very grand gesture).  I don’t spend every second of every day in mourning, and I’m happy just for the companionship.  The best thing you can do is be there for your grieving friend(s), in any capacity that you are comfortable with.  I guess I can summarize this concept by suggesting that you carry on as usual: don’t treat us like we are lepers or assume we are too busy being sad to enjoy company.  If in doubt, just ask.  If we do want time to ourselves, we will let you know, but we’ll also recognize and appreciate you reaching out.  It never hurts to try.

And there’s my rant for the week.  I apologize that this got a tad wordy, but it’s a difficult concept to summarize.  Other bereaved parents may disagree with my opinions, but I truly feel that it is better to make the effort, and potentially make a mistake when doing so, than it is to avoid bereaved parents simply because you feel awkward.

Dreaming/Apathy

For nine nights in a row now, I have either dreamed about Brock (living or dead) or dreamed about being pregnant again.

I am often able to discern truth from reality when I’m dreaming.  If someone does something that is unorthodox or unusual in a dream, or something impossible happens, I can usually realize it and detach myself from the situation in my dream because I realize that it’s not actually happening.

Once in a while, though, I will be tricked by a dream.  Such was the case four or five nights ago, where I tricked myself into believing I was really pregnant again.  My emotions in regards to pregnancy are really fickle – sometimes it’s all I can think about, and I imagine how happy I will be when it happens again because I so crave that baby in my arms.  Other times, I’m petrified of the thought, because I am so anxious about the idea of going through all that again… and, of course, I’m terrified by the (extremely slim) possibility of this happening again.  In this dream, though, I remember being irrevocably happy, and feeling this weird sense of calm and tranquility.  I remember feeling warm, and a sense of completeness, like I’d found purpose again.  I was, somehow, perfectly sure that things were looking up, and everything was going to work out fine.

Then I woke up. :/

—–

I have been pretty emotionally deadpan lately.  Nothing gets to me, not even the things that I think should, and I don’t feel great about that.  I think about where I am and what’s happened to me, and how things aren’t working out the way I planned they would, and instead of getting upset or angry, I feel apathetic, like, “Whatever, nothing I do now will change what’s happened, so why bother getting emotional about it?”  I then realize that this sense of apathy should upset me, because it’s not healthy, and I still can’t get incensed.  I feel beaten down, like I’ve accepted things.  It’s terrible, and I resent myself for it.

Yesterday my very little brother-in-law (8 years old – my husband is 19 years his senior) looked at me and said, “Oh, Mom is reading a book where the same thing that happened to you happened to this other lady.”  My mother-in-law looked wounded and explained to him that a miscarriage at 10 weeks is nothing like what happened to Brock.  She told him that a lot of pregnancies end in a loss before 12 weeks, but what we went through almost never happens to anyone.  Of course, I was not upset with him for misunderstanding the gravity of our loss, and the realization that I beat the odds in the worst possible way slapped me in the face briefly, but, once again, I brushed it under the rug in a hurry without even really thinking about it.  I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

I’m finding it hard to organize my thoughts right now, so let’s just leave it there.