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Life as Lou

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A Private Grief

  • August 13, 2012 7:50 pm

I wish I had the right words.  This isn’t usually my problem- in fact, I tend to have more words than anyone cares to listen to.  I usually have three different ways I can clearly explain myself, and once I get what’s in my head nailed down, I’m better. It becomes concrete, owned, and passé. Whatever the event was is now neatly filed and case closed.  I need the right words- I’m not myself without them.

For months now all I get are flashes, phrases, metaphors- bifurcated thoughts that lack gravity. When things are really, really wrong and raw, I can’t speak; processing pain becomes visceral. I can’t get an intellectual hold on something that I can only channel physically. I don’t have the vocabulary to effectively make someone understand what it is to feel such a profound level of pain that you can’t breathe. Saying that sounds melodramatic and hokey. It doesn’t come close to doing justice to the horrid, strangling catch in my throat, and the impossible combination of being too full, welling and frothy with emotion and completely gutted at the same time. I am both the delicate reed and the strength of the wave that overcomes it.

That probably makes no sense. Words are laughably insufficient.

I have not handled this third and final miscarriage well. The first two were hard, but this one just broke my heart.

I felt the initial shock, but pushed it aside, telling myself that I’d done this twice before, and that it just didn’t matter.  And this worked for awhile, because I had so many other riveting concerns that driving what I really felt as far underneath everything else- major surgery, months of pain, and just coping with the day to day, as I could was all I could do. I had to bury it because the physical strain was taking everything I had. There wasn’t room left.

After I was physically well, it resurfaced. At first it was voiceless, tears coming suddenly while driving or finding myself standing, dumbstruck and immobile at the sight of a beautiful baby. Most of the time being busy kept those feelings at bay, and I filled up every second, coping by doing anything but grieving. I refused to make time.

My mind retaliated and carved out hours against my will. Bedtime became a routine where I would lie awake for an hour in silence and then, when it was perfectly still, I shattered. I was invisible in the darkness, tears running from the corners of my eyes, tickling my ears, then hitting the pillow until it was so damp I had to get up to find another one. After awhile I just kept an extra by the bed.

Sometimes it wasn’t quiet. There were nights where I ran out the door seconds before I could wake anyone, locking myself in the car at midnight sobbing, keening violently into the blackness until there was nothing left.

Mostly, I was glad no one noticed. I thought I did a pretty good job concealing things.  It was a private grief, and I wanted it to stay that way.  I didn’t talk to friends, family, not even my husband for several months. I have never been so silent.

I forced myself into situations where I deliberately salted my wounds and demanded that I hold it together anyway.  It was almost a punishment for being so weak and so vulnerable.  I am not permitted fragility.

I held babies at church.  I walked up and down every baby aisle at the stores I visited. It was sheer grit that got me in the door and kept me in my seat at a friend’s baby shower. I made myself stay until the last gift was opened and then literally fled a room full of good friends the second the last wrapping papers hit the floor. Who knew that a few baby blankets could make me feel completely smothered?  I barely made it to the car, and then sat there feeling like a jerk for skipping out so early while knowing I would have been a bigger jerk if anything had happened to detract from her attention and joy. I don’t think anyone saw. I hope not.

I was mad at myself for being so upset, even now, months after the fact.  People don’t talk about this. Once the initial loss is over, you’re supposed to tie grief up in a neat little box and move on. I accused myself of being unwilling to heal, of refusing to find solace. I fed myself every platitude, every particle of pragmatism or hope I could find, every truth designed to make me feel better- and none of it mattered. Be reasonable. Be sensible. Get over it. I couldn’t even if I knew how.

I am not deliberately inconsolable.  It is simply where I am and accepting, validating and not trying to change myself or my heartache helps- at least it removes the guilt and the pressure to feel better right now.  This grief is like a hunger, and you can’t feed hunger with rocks or sleep or flowers or scripture.  Hunger is only fixed with nourishment, and I don’t have anything that will satisfy.

I should have had a baby this week.  Maybe should isn’t the right word- could have, might have, would have had what I wanted, if things had gone my way. When I was given my due date back at the beginning of this, I automatically pushed it to a few weeks earlier because my kids have been four, five and three weeks early, respectively.  I landed on the eighteenth of the month that fell within that time frame because all three of my kids are born on the eighteenth of a month. August eighteenth was my adjusted date, and in all probability, the most likely corner of time in which that child would have arrived.  I would very much like to skip the rest of this month and go to September because it holds no expectations and is free of this.

I’m not sure how I feel about this timing, but it looks like our license for foster/adoption will be finalized this week. There is a good chance we could be getting new kids at our house right around the eighteenth. You can imagine the perfect outcome where a hole in my heart miraculously gets filled by the addition of a child who was meant to be mine arriving at just the right time.  It’s heartwarming, this possible miracle. It’s perfect. It is also unbelievably unlikely and smacks of being way too good to be true. While I believe God can arrange that, and even know that His character is unspeakably merciful, and understand that He wants me to be happy- I have almost no hope.  I can’t have it because any unfulfilled hope will just break my heart again and again and again.  This pretty picture is the very antithesis of how my life actually works.  Hope for anything but a challenge is downright foolish.

The things in my life that are worth the fight have always required one. It has always been hard work and the grace of God that got me anywhere. I want to expect a miracle.  I want to expect beauty for ashes being right around the corner. I want to assume that every happy fairy tale I’ve concocted can and will come true, and soon.  I know I don’t deserve it.  I am unworthy of more blessings than I already have.  I am in desperate need of mercy, and I am afraid to even ask for it.

I can separate the two events. There is a loss and a gain and neither one is mended or invalidated by the addition of the other.  The future may well be wonderful.  I have faith that it can be.  But it doesn’t change this specific pain, and I don’t know that it ever can. I am well aware that I have a very rich and full life and that there is an astonishing amount of goodness in it. I also know that there are many people who have dealt with much harder things, and who have walked the road I’m on so many times that three miscarriages probably sounds like a good deal.  It may be ungrateful to be so sad.

I have been grateful when my parents quietly acknowledged what I had lost.  I’ve been grateful to a friend who told me about her new pregnancy last, but who told me herself. I don’t think she knows how much having someone guess that I might not be ok yet meant to me.  I was very grateful for the ability to keep my expression smooth and emotions hidden when kind, new friends jokingly responded to the information that we had three children with, “that’s a good start!” I wanted to cry, but I bluffed, and the moment passed.  For once I had the pardon of a poker face. I am especially grateful for my husband who has patiently been my greatest source of comfort, who knows there aren’t words for this, and who is a gentle buttress against harsher things.

Grief doesn’t change my ability to live life and to do many things well and with satisfaction. I am not crazy or seriously depressed.  I have a life full of gifts and happiness.  There is just pain running beneath it all, and this week is especially hard.