Unfamiliar Waters

Being a bereaved parent is tricky for a lot of reasons.  Of course, the most obvious of these is the fact that, well, I have a dead child.  It was, and continues to be, an emotionally and mentally draining experience to be a part of.  I will spend countless hours over the rest of my life thinking of Brock, wondering over the ‘what-ifs’ and ‘could-have-been’s.  I get to contend with emotional episodes, crying when sometimes even I don’t know the reason, and constantly trying to seek a balance between honouring my son’s memory and not letting my loss completely take over my life.  That, in itself, seems like enough to chew on; it’s more than anyone should have to deal with.  Unfortunately, I have realized it gets much worse than that.

Aside from the standard grief you have to navigate by yourself, you also need to contend with the fact that infant loss is also a surprisingly taboo topic among ‘normal’ people – people who are lucky to not be where we are. Nothing kills a conversation faster than bringing up your stillbirth, especially with new people; however, even my friends and family don’t really know how to take it when I bring up Brock.  They get awkward and change the subject, or say they don’t want to talk about it because it’s “depressing”.  I understand that they don’t really know how to handle it… if our roles were reversed, odds are good that I wouldn’t either, because you don’t know what it feels like until you are here.  At the same time, though, Brock is still my son, and I still feel the need to talk about him once in a while, so feeling the need to repress that for the comfort of others around me leads to more sad emotions.  Not only are you saddled with a lifetime of grief, but you also get the pleasure of doing it practically alone.

This is where support groups come in great handy, and why I think every bereaved parent should try to attend one.  My husband and I began visiting a monthly support group in December, and I have always found I leave those meetings feeling a bit more normal.  When you’re left to deal with all that emotion by yourself while everyone around you  proceeds as usual, it’s easy to start feeling pent-up and, frankly, a little crazy.  You think and feel a lot of strange things in the wake of a loss like this, and it’s nice to have some people who do know what you are going through to share your thoughts and feelings with.  It has been an invaluable service to me; even though all of our stories are a bit different, and there are not many people in the group who are in our exact position (many of them had premature babies who were too small to survive, or carried babies who were incompatible with life for as long as they could), it is still nice to be able to talk about Brock with people who don’t mind hearing about him, and know how therapeutic it can be just to talk about their baby.

Now, here’s where things get tricky for me: obviously pregnant women aren’t allowed to attend the support groups in case they may be a trigger to the other women there.  It’s a perfectly fair rule, of course – were I on the opposite side, I wouldn’t be happy to see a pregnant woman in the group, either.  However, the reality of not being able to attend these ever-important meetings as soon as a couple of months from now is terribly distressing.  Fortunately for the general population, bereaved parents are not a terribly common occurrence; in my region of about 300,000 people, we only get six to twelve people coming to these monthly meetings.  (I am sure there are many more that do not go to group meetings, and that other organizations have meetings as well, but the turnout is surprisingly low nonetheless.)  With the demand so low, the odds of finding a group for my niche market (pregnant again after an infant loss) are basically non-existent.  So, unfortunately, at a time where I am going to be even less sure of myself than ever, I’m looking at having to work my way through it by myself.

I am trying to juggle a lot right now, and I’m going to be perfectly honest, I feel overwhelmed by it all.

I feel shock and disbelief over being pregnant again, and due at almost exactly the same time as I was with Brock, no less.  I bounce back and forth between the two pretty often.

I feel guilty, like I’m rushing to replace him, and I should have waited longer to be fair to his memory.

I feel overwhelming fear that this pregnancy will end badly, either in miscarriage or, by some terrible freak occurrence, the same thing will happen again.  I realize, statistically, it is extremely unlikely that the same thing could happen again, especially since I will be under much closer watch this time, but you tend to be a little irrational after something like this happens to you.  (Knowing that I am irrational does not help me to be less irrational, sadly, lol)

And, oddly enough, I feel anxiety over a lot of the silly little things that I did in my first pregnancy.  I wonder what gender we’re having.  I wonder what the delivery will be like this time around.  I still have no idea what parenthood is actually like, and I don’t know what to expect in that regard.  I’ve never had the pleasure of bathing a baby or breastfeeding or changing a diaper, and I get to deal with wondering what those things will be like all over again.

But, this time, I get to go at it with the full understanding that life is not always fair, nothing is certain, and there’s always a chance that I’m going to be left with empty arms again.  It’s almost too much to handle.

I know full well that life is not fair, but I guess I’m just going to have to cross my fingers and hope that it decides to be this time.

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