It’s been a while since I have posted. Mostly because I have been adjusting to getting back into the world, starting work again, seeing loved ones and scarily enough, avoidance. I know that events in April have transpired and paved the path for this “new normal”. This “new normal” involves not taking any human life and interaction for granted, because for a person to exist, so many things need to go right. I know that now and the simplicity of things has been bringing a new joy to my life. That in contrast with the deep pain that I will feel from time to time. It can catch me off guard. My therapist has suggested that I schedule my grieving, which had initially struck me as a strange concept, since I was of the belief that I am grieving all over the place. The point she has been making, if I think about it, has been I haven’t been attaching my feelings (which have been grandiose), to the loss. I haven’t yet visited Anders burial site and I haven’t attended a support group since April. I know there is no “right” way to handle loss, but in all that I do since April, has been marked by the loss of our baby without really talking about him at all. In approximately one week would have been his due date and when I think about it I am faced with a gaping hole which could suck me in and keep me there so I know I need to go slowly….and carefully. This is my new mantra. Take no one and nothing for granted and tread lightly. I also owe a big thanks to all that have been so profoundly supportive and loving.
It’s been over a month since the loss of Anders. Having some distance from the physical experience leaves a deep pain in my heart and stomach, where Anders used to live. It’s not a constant pain, but when it occurs, it takes my breath away. I had thought it would become easier to detect when it would hit, but it never comes when I expect it. Last lightning bolt of pain was at a pharmacy yesterday waiting in line for a prescription and caught sight of the baby shower cards out of the corner of my eye. I didn’t cry but was lost in the feeling for what could have been one minute or 27 hours. Who knows. Time is irrelevant these days but I need to recount the when/where so I can feel like my “normal” schedule oriented self. There is safety in schedules. I don’t have that right now. It’s a free form grief process that can vacillate between extreme sadness and an overwhelming feeling that I will be “OK” but not sure that “OK” will look like anything like it used to.
Running into people at the grocery store is generally not a big deal, except, when it is. Today is the first time I have run into someone I haven’t seen in just about a year who asked the dreaded question, “what have you been up to lately?”. I hadn’t thought about this scenario. If I have been asked, it has been someone I know well enough to disclose the truth, or someone who is enough of a stranger that “not much” or “busy busy” would have sufficed. This person was in the grad program I had graduated from and we knew each other professionally and for over the course of a couple years. I didn’t have a stock answer prepared, so I blurted out, ” I was pregnant for 6 months and lost the baby, I am taking time off from work right now to heal”. Now there’s a way to bring a conversation to a grinding halt. Luckily, she being a therapist, was very kind and said all the right things, but in that moment I realized that this is going to be a reality that I face over time until I get back in the swing. Normally, I could have avoided anything personal with the usual “all work no play”, etc, but literally, pregnant, is what I have been for the past 6 months, no further explanation needed.
March 11th is Marc’s birthday which happened to be the date we scheduled our anatomy scan. We thought it was fateful that these two things were happening on the same day. I was nervous that morning and wanted Marc to ride with me to Yale MFM for our appointment. I picked him up from work and off we went, my heart pounding in my chest and my stomach doing flip-flops. Marc was cool as a cucumber which was a comfort. We were called in for the ultrasound, the little guy on the screen moved his hand in a way that looked like he was waving hello. Tears were falling from my eyes, we did it, we really really made this baby! Marc looked proud as I squeezed his hand, he was on my left side and the screen was in front of us both. All measurements were made and the tech said the baby was perfect but wouldn’t get into a position that would allow her to reveal the sex of the baby. She asked if I was comfortable with a trans-vaginal ultrasound and I was so excited “go right ahead”.
After telling us with certainty “it’s a baby boy”, her tone suddenly changed, as she told us she needed to get the Dr. Seconds later Dr. Lipkind entered the room and checked what the tech had found. She explained that my cervix had shortened to 1.8cm when at this point of the pregnancy it would normally be between 5 and 7cm. My heart sank, this wasn’t good news. The Doctor continued to explain that since this was my first full term pregnancy that they would not cerclage (put a stitch in my cervix to secure baby) for fear of breaking my water and exposing membranes. She said that we would try progesterone suppositories and for me to cancel travel plans to be close to care providers. All the celebratory happiness drained right onto the floor. The plan now became, keep baby in, don’t have contractions and watch for signs of pre-term labor because baby wasn’t gonna be secure in his “house”.
I got dressed and tech said a saddened “Happy Birthday” to Marc. I was frozen. I dropped Marc back off at work and spent the rest of the night, bawling and praying the worse case scenario wouldn’t be our scenario. The unknown came back into our lives once again and we had no choice but to keep hope. The day had turned from extreme elation to hopeless fear.
In my heart and gut, I knew how this was gonna go….
When I was in graduate school and starting my internship at a mental health agency, I struggled with anxiety and feeling like I didn’t know enough to start practicing as an LPC in training. I called a good friend of mine from high school and she introduced me to the “phenomenon” of Impostor Syndrome.
“Impostor syndrome” describes a situation where someone feels like an impostor or fraud because they think that their accomplishments are nowhere near as good as those of the people around them. Usually, their accomplishments are just as good, and the person is applying an unfairly high standard to themself (and not to others). It’s especially common in fields where people’s work is constantly under review by talented peers, such as academia “
As a therapist, I struggle with this on a daily basis, on a broader scale. How can I possibly help anyone when I have so many questions about happiness, love, depression, anxiety? But I think that very question is why I CAN be empathic, present and authentic. I have been blessed and simultaneously cursed with infinite sensitivity which makes my role as a therapist dually rewarding and inspiring and also very complicated.
I thought a lot about how writing this blog may impact my career. I know that it could be conceived as a boundary issue to go public with my “story”. I decided to go public because “counselor know thy self”. I am being more authentic now because I AM being human and hopefully empowering women to feel open to share their experiences with loss, mental health challenges, pain and all that comes with being a person.
For me, I think I struggle with Impostor Syndrome as it can translate to our loss of Anders. I feel that others stories are sadder, more heartbreaking, more challenging, etc. I know that could be my wall of protection against my pain and suffering. But knowing and feeling can sometimes coexist but not intermingle. I thought I felt Anders kicking the other day, I needed to find a reason “why” I was experiencing this and started reading about Pseudocyesis, false pregnancy and other body phenomena to explain what I was feeling. Truth is, I knew the answer, and giving it a name that has a scientific nature is not helpful. The feelings I am feeling are grief and they are to be expected. They don’t occur in a linear fashion and they can knock you on your ass if you don’t take care of yourself. I am really mad I don’t get to hold Anders in August and feel that love that Mom’s talk about. When I feel him inside me, like a phantom limb, it doesn’t scare me but reminds me of how it felt to have a baby growing inside of me, having to sleep in different positions, take care of myself, eat well, rest, pause….things I am going to continue to do just for me. Anders taught me so many things when he hung around in my uterus and I am forever grateful to him for it.
I chose to start to blog about this experience because for such an extrovert, I struggle with finding words when I really need to reach out. On April 1st of this year, Marc (my husband) and I lost our baby Anders Maddox at 22 weeks of pregnancy. It is such profound pain and partly because while knowing him so well by feeling him growing inside of me, we never had the chance to meet face to face. i found solace in reading other peoples blogs that are going through the grief and loss of losing their babies and hope I can provide that same thing. I am not working now either, which leaves me with a lot of time on my hands to create in whatever way possible. I spent a majority of my pregnancy on bed rest which adds to this complicated grief, since we were never able to celebrate. I didn’t reach out for the support I needed, and in no way, shape or form, was it not available. We had an abundance offers to help clean the house, pop over for a chat, phone calls missed, etc. I was stuck in this couch cocoon with only my head and this lil babe growing in me. Crying, worrying, reading countless threads on “incompetent cervix”, pre-term labor cues, etc. I had a doula, midwife and high risk specialist monitoring me, but I learned very quickly that “monitoring” creates a sense of control which really does not exist. Though each involved were a great comfort. It really is a miracle when babies can go to full term and be healthy and ALIVE! I still feel somewhat numb about the experience, but I keep telling myself that it’ll come in time and when it does, it will be a rush of complexity. Or maybe it’s already here and I have yet to connect with it.