July fourth marked the three month anniversary from the day I delivered Ophelia. July sixth was three months from the date of burial. So while most of America was celebrating the fourth of July, I was having a bit of a different experience. Decoded that means I spent at least fifteen minutes in the shower sobbing, and a huge chunk of the day feeling like my heart was being crushed. It didn’t help that I was recovering from strep so physically I felt terrible. July is proving to be difficult, as this is the month that I should have given birth to a healthy baby girl; I wasn’t supposed to be sitting here with empty arms and an empty heart, but I am. And it’s hard.
Somehow life is supposed to keep going and I’m supposed to keep going with it. I did great, for a while. I was moving forward, getting stuff done, feeling like life could be good, and then I slammed up against something and it feels like I got pummeled again. I’m not sure if it’s simply the passage of time, or the fact that every day I get closer to the day she was supposed to come. It’s like a dark shadow looming in front of me, and I know I have to pass through it but by damn I don’t want to.
When you reach the end of a pregnancy you feel the foreboding, the fear of what’s to come, and you know you have to give birth. But you also know on the other side of that is the most precious gift you’ll ever receive. You know you’ll be able to stroke and love that baby, and it will all be worth it. When you reach what should have been the end of a pregnancy that ended prematurely, you have a different sense of foreboding, but this foreboding doesn’t have a rainbow on the other side. There’s no gift that you’ll receive when you pass through it. The other side is empty. Just like my womb. Just like my arms. Just like my heart.
Sounds miserable? That’s because it is.
I can’t decide if I write these things to make myself feel better, to help other people realize the extent of what this looks like for women, or to shine a light on a reality that far too many people bear. This experience isn’t one I share alone, but it’s one I rarely hear people talk about. And guess what? It sucks! All you women that grin and bear it and somehow carve life into existence again, I just have to say I’m sorry because this sucks. It sucked for you and it sucks for me. And I also tip my hat to you because you did keep going even though it hurt every day, even though you felt empty for I don’t know how many months, even though there were days you probably wished the ground would swallow you whole. You kept going. And it’s amazing that you did. I know what that takes. I know how hard it is to get out of bed some days. I know there were many days you probably wanted to do nothing but sit there and cry. But you kept going. Because you’re amazing.
I’m going to keep going, too. You women have shown me that it’s possible. So even though this is my experience right now, I know I’ll pass through that shadow and be fine on the other side. And despite the pain of the moment, I also know that somehow these experiences are a gift given to shape me into something better. I think they will. Eventually, I think I may even be whole again.
A couple of good things that have come out of this:
- I have a much higher value of myself as mother, and a greater appreciation for my kids.
- I consider the role of mother almost sacred at this point.
- I’m a better wife, oddly enough, probably because Jake and I have made it a point to have these experiences strengthen our marriage rather than harm it.
- My family and I are focusing more on God. Her death lit a fire inside to understand spirituality, the eternities, and God’s truth more than we ever have.
- I know with everything in me that I want to keep writing. I questioned that before. But when I’m sitting in some of the hardest experiences and find myself drawn to tell stories, that tells me I’ve chosen a path that I can be passionate about for years to come. That’s quite reassuring.
- I’ve seen clearly where my priorities are, and am beginning to make adjustments accordingly.
There are more that I’ve seen, and I’ll continue to find more. I’m reminded of the movie Collateral Beauty. In there, one of the characters tells an individual struggling with losing her child to look for the collateral beauty. Basically, look for the beauty in the hard times, in the struggles, in the moments that hurt to the point where you can’t breathe. So I’m looking.
On a different note, my next book is coming along. It’s slower than I anticipated but it’s happening. The developmental edit is complete. I still need to go through a copy edit, and get my beta feedback. But it’s coming. For those of you waiting, there is a book on the way! The fact that it’s moving feels like a huge accomplishment to me. It’s proof that I haven’t let these experiences take me out completely. Yes there are days that I do, but not every day.