It never seems to fail, we grieve and then when that grief continues, people wonder why we just ‘can’t get over it.’ We sometimes begin to wonder why we can’t get over it too. Some days are easier to adjust and manage, other days it just looms on us like a bad odor or horrible razor burn. Said people that have never endured the death of a child at any stage will never truly grasp this level and type of grief, no matter how descriptive we are or how long they try to console us through those bad days. People that have never understood how their body makes decisions for them. ultimately holding them hostage, will never understand the grief and trauma of someone who has – unfortunately.
I learned this the hard way after the death of my first child, Emerson. We were told there was no heartbeat at a routine appointment during our second trimester. I was alone because there was no reason to believe I needed that additional support that day. Why would I have ever assumed that I needed to pull my husband away from the deer stand on the first day of gun season? Hello, I am a strong woman – I got this! Nope. I didn’t have this at all. I was completely and utterly traumatized. This traumatizing event was just the start of my body deciding my fate.
The death of my first baby changed me and led me down a path I wasn’t sure I would ever make it back from. I tormented myself on a daily basis on what I did wrong, what could have been changed, how I didn’t sleep enough, I did too much, and the list goes on and on. Even when I conceived and gave birth to my rainbow baby a little over a year later, I still believed the death of our first baby was solely my fault, a fault caused by my body’s inability to perform its one sole job. This is a guilt that still holds me hostage, nearly 5 years later.
In October 2017, I was in the early stages of pregnancy with my third pregnancy, with twin girls. I was in the stages of engaging in memorial activities on a daily basis through the month of October, during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. I memorialize Emerson at any chance given. I was attempting to create daily Instagram posts, complete writing activities daily, and other things that were outlined by different organizations to help those of us surviving the death of their baby(s). In mid October of 2017, I came home and realized I was bleeding. The week prior during an ultrasound, we discovered one of our twins was no longer viable. So with gut wrenching anticipation, the bleeding began and so did my return of trauma, tenfold. On October 24, I experienced the miscarriage of my daughter Luna. And now, this is another day that I am only reminded of my failures and how my body couldn’t do the one job its meant to do.
The remainder of that pregnancy was haunted, just like the pregnancy with my rainbow baby in 2015/2016. It never seemed to be a happy experience – no matter what I did. I was constantly reminded about the deaths of two babies that my body failed to bring into the world like their other two siblings. I was in a constant stage of grief, guilt and had a looming wonder of their fate. The struggle was intensified every time a friend or family member would ask me if I was ready or excited. If I say no, then I am a horrible person. If I say yes, then I am a liar. If I say I don’t know, then the questions and endless stabbing into my corner of feelings deepens. Their innocent question held a weight they didn’t even know existed. I went on to give birth to Luna’s twin sister in May of 2018. I cried a lot that day. I should have been holding two newborns, not one. Unfortunately, my feelings of failure and sadness surpassed my feelings of happiness and success.
I never learned about PPD or PPA until after my second pregnancy. I knew it existed, but I never realized that it was something I was experiencing until my thoughts of not being present really started to weigh on me heavily. I thought my husband and living daughter would be better off without me. I often wondered at what point my husband was going to leave me because I sucked at everything. The thoughts I put into my head and ultimately allowed myself to believe were true led me down a dark path, they held me hostage and created this person that not even those who have known me my entire life would recognize. On my best days, I still was being held hostage by my mental instability. I couldn’t let my daughter go, I believed no one would keep her safe like I did and no one could care for her like I could.
Side note: I am clinically diagnosed with postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder. If you think you are experiencing any of these things, please reach out to local resources and seek a professional’s assistance. Find local moms who can share their experiences. Never feel judged for your mental health!
Due to my mental instability, I felt as though I had one choice at the end of my third pregnancy. I decided to have my tubes done. This would be a decision I was unsure of for many weeks. I was ultimately making a decision to take control of a body that was controlling me. But that decision was being clouded by so much guilt that it made me sick on a daily basis. Why would I give up my opportunity to be pregnant? So many women I’ve met over the last few years would kill to just be given the opportunity to have two successful pregnancies like I have. Why would I do such a selfish thing? There’s women who have endured way more than two child deaths. I kept telling myself in my days of guilt ridden doubt that I was a horrible person. But then on the days when I realized that my grief for the two babies that have died was so incredibly strong, I knew there was no possible way I would be able to mentally tack on another possible death. On those days I knew that my decision was okay, it was mine to make, and I was not wrong for making it. I knew that if I made this decision, it was the only way I could move on to be a good mom to my two living children. I also knew that if for some reason, down the road, I decided my decision was wrong, I had other avenues to get pregnant again should that be something I wanted. So I moved forward, on the day I gave birth to my living twin, and it was completed at the time of my c-section.
The physical and mental recovery was better than I anticipated. I think taking care of two kids, in addition to continuing to live my everyday life and returning to work quickly helped. I didn’t allow much time to reflect or feel anything. As most moms would say, I just kept pushing along. Several months went by though, and I was constantly bleeding and there was no relief. I kept telling myself that my body was recovering and I needed to just let it do what it needed. Six months went by, I maybe saw 3-4 weeks total with no blood. I was miserable and again, was wondering what the hell was going on. What was my body doing now? Is this my punishment for giving up my ability to become pregnant? I should have listened to those looming thoughts about it being a bad idea. This was my body’s way of telling me that I was a horrible person.
I finally was due for my annual exam with my OB. I told her what was going on, and after weeks of testing, we learned that I was experiencing a rare disease and my only reasonable form of treatment was a hysterectomy. My mental health slid into ruin; I was in such horror and defeat. How could my body be such a failure? Why am I being forced to live my life on my body’s terms? I didn’t understand what I had done to deserve all of this. Yes, I am beyond grateful for my two living children and aside from my husband, they are the best things that have ever happened to me.. but I shouldn’t even need to say that. In my heart, I should be taking four kids to daycare every day before work. I should be anticipating my first child to start kindergarten next year, a funny Frozen loving toddler, and trying to toggle two teething twins.
But instead, today as a 29 year old female, I no longer have the ability to bear children. A choice that my body decided for me. I have to endure the selfishness of women who do not know the gift they have when they are pregnant and bring children into this world without a single bump in their road. I have to mull over a fate for which I didn’t get to decide myself and I have to just deal with now that it was made for me. Being held hostage by your body and being forced to endure trauma, grief, and guilt, is debilitating. I am not ignorant to the fact that I should be grateful that I am still alive and breathing for my husband and two living children. I am not discounting my ability to still engage in everyday life and take care of those people. But when you have experienced such highs and so many lows, you cannot help but to feel at a loss. I do not always feel like I have won at anything.
I share my story of trauma and endless amounts of grief and guilt in an effort to allow women who have experienced any or all of the things that I have, to let you know that you’re not alone. Your body is not a temple, you do not have to believe anything that the world wants you to believe about it. You’re allowed to be angry with your flesh. You are strong. Be aware of your body, and its ability to not meet your expectations. Give your mental health as much grace as you can. Be okay with not being okay. Don’t allow your heart to be taken hostage in the seize. Through every scrape or drag, stand tall. Know that there is someone out there giving you grace and sending you love – and ultimately, could use the same in return. Find her. Find me. I am here.