Tuesday, 27 June 2017

[ falling down stairs ]


There's a lot about pregnancy they don't tell you. Not because no one wants to, but because it's hard to describe certain things, certain feelings, little quirks you might have.

Other stuff, in fact lots of stuff, they do tell you. There's two really great books, if you're interested, that are just the biz;

What to Expect When You're Expecting by Heidi Murkoff

Up The Duff by Kaz Cooke

The former answers all your weird and wonderful questions, from what tests am I having and why? to is that funny twinge-y-but-not-exactly-painful feeling in my left side normal? The latter is similar, but a little more fun and written by an Aussie. That being said, personally I'd get them in that order if you're looking.

***

Pregnancy was a laugh, to be honest. At least it was for me, for the short time that I got to be. I got fat for the first time in my life, I ate a lot of bananas, and sleeping became a strange ritual of fluffing pillows and arranging my teeny bump and legs until I got comfortable (variously 20 minutes to half an hour depending on the weather, what I'd eaten for dinner, whether the planets had aligned...).

The stuff they can't tell you could fill an endless well. That's probably a lot of the reason why they say each journey is different; because it really is. Every woman has a unique experience that has the basics drawn on a map, but the details need to be filled in by you.

The first morning you wake up and somehow notice the extra 3-4kgs you've packed on, and the lack of a waistline, can be better than every good hair day you've had up until that moment. The first time you hear a heartbeat can be surreal or like a firm pinch to the arm.

The first time you see little arms and little legs, a teeny spine, the curve of a bottom or the roundness of the head...How do you describe that? How do you tell someone about the wonder, the breathless joy rushing through you?

***

The time the sonographer says the doctor will have to talk to you about that. That moment when the doctor explains everything in exact detail (which you don't hear, but file away for later), then spells it out for you - your baby can't survive - this issue is incompatible with life - there are no other options here - there is no way to put that feeling into words.

***

Hearing that my baby couldn't live was like falling down a long flight of stairs. Every new piece of information that comes after is like doing it over and over.

The first flight smashed against every exposed edge I had, and left bruises that continue to ache. The second was shorter and sharper. The third was only a short stumble, and the fourth seemed to go back to the long crash down some concrete fire stairs.

After that I stopped keeping itemised track of the information, and just focused on whether the fall was going to break metaphorical bones or just leave me stunned, bruised, and sad.

***

I wish I could say that most days I wake up nearly ok and just take it as it comes. But that would be a lie, and I can't lie about that. 

Most days I wake up exhausted. Physically and mentally. You don't really sleep when you're grieving. No one ever told me that, and the last tragedy I went through seems to have erased that reminder from my memory. Or maybe this one is just working differently.

Dreaming is like a new experience entirely; your brain is working through so much emotion when you're awake that when you 'sleep' it's like it finally has the reins to go where it wills. 

So far there's only been a few clearly classified nightmares, as such, but I wouldn't call the rest of them placid, by any means. Between random exes (not even my favourite ones) turning up just to have conversations with me, to seeing myself as a doctor assisting a developmentally-delayed woman give birth, I could do with some good, old-fashioned, flying dreams. Even walking around a neighbourhood I've never been to, looking at wildly-out-of-proportion houses, would be a welcome change. 

That being said, Ben Affleck as Batman-but-not-exactly-Batman, if you know what I mean, rocked up to save me from the dangerous test-drive of a new car. He hugged me for the longest time and told me he would keep saving me as long as I needed saving. So, you know, it's not all bad I guess. 

***

We talk a lot about people and their filters. Having them, not having them, things that wipe out your ability to know which filters to use.

This experience has shown me how far that can go. I'm not rude or aggressive, I'm not verbally tone-deaf or offensive, I'm just not emotionally invested in most of what I say. Which, in some ways, seems to work out well; if I'm not invested, nobody seems to be able to offend me back either. Mostly.

It's hard to take petty people seriously when you grieve. Not that you should have to anyway, but the ability lessens when faced with having your hearts greatest joy taken away.

It becomes confusing because you think you have the emotional capacity of a toadstool - nothing excites you, nothing discourages you, nothing moves you - but that's not really it. It's not that what people are saying isn't eliciting an internal response; it's just that response is so much less than what you've faced.

The work kitchen getting flooded by a leaking tap was way less interesting than it would have previously been. An acquaintance having relationship issues evokes less than mild and quickly passing curiousity. Someone having an unlikely and complete meltdown barely raises a brow.

These aren't the best examples, but I think you get the picture. Knowing and hoping and striving to get back to yourself, your old personality, is a great ambition. But it takes time. And there is no way to tell how long that will take. Or how you will feel towards the world as you do.

It's about being kind to yourself, something I'm still trying to figure out the picture of even now.

***

Some people's kids are fine. It's ok to be near them and almost-ok to talk to them. Interacting with kids is simple enough; they don't expect much from you and all they want is attention. 

Babies are another matter. The really hard part is separating your resentment from everything else. 

I resent random people with children. I also resent people I know with children. But it does seem confined to very little children and babies, for whatever that's worth. And it comes and goes - mainly staying gone these days - which is also something I'm deeply grateful for.

***

My nephew and niece occupy that very deep and special place in my heart nothing can ever get to. The first time I was near them after my procedure however, I could barely speak. And when their beautiful blue eyes both focused on me at once, I cried and left the room.

After that, it got incrementally easier. My nephew is a cannonball of endless energy and careens around a room with a smile so much like his dad's, my brother.

My niece, still a baby at a few months old, is more placid. She has her mother's hair and gaze, and is happy to be carried around looking at everyone.

When she clenched her little fists and my sister-in-law asked if we knew why that might be, I said we did; when I was a little one (even now sometimes really), I did that for a while. It was a comfort thing. I'd curl my tiny hands into tight bunches and squeeze and let go.

I'm not sure why, but that released a little knot in me. It started to slowly unravel the bigger knot in my belly that felt like it was never going to go away.

***


Days can go by where I don't think about my little one and who she may have been. Who I may have been with her. Where our lives may have led us had we had more time together. 

Sometimes the day gets measured by where I would have been; so many weeks pregnant, so many weeks to go. And some occasions make me grind my teeth, holding it together by sheer force of will and stubbornness. 

I know it won't always be like this. And I know that even when this is far away, there will be a moment here and there when I'm still sad, when the sorrow punches me low and swift, and takes my breath away. 

Time does heal all wounds, but it can never take your memories away.

***

One of the things that keeps coming back to me was something I read after speaking to my counsellor; people who are grateful for things in life find their grief easier to work through. It doesn't make it easy, just easier.

Don't misunderstand me; I am angry and heartbroken and endlessly unsure of myself going forward.

But I am grateful beyond words to be here. I am grateful I even got to have this experience, to have been given the chance to be a mummy, even for the briefest of times.  

And I believe with my whole being that my little soul and I were meant to meet, to say hello, before we had to go our separate ways. 

***

Should the powers of science and magic so bless me again, I will one day get to be a mum in real life, as it were. I will watch myself get fat again and pop out a teeny version of myself and marvel that such a thing could come to be. 

I will teach that little faerie person how to walk and talk. How to eat solids and blow bubbles. My mother will then get to teach that little person all the wonderful things she taught me. And some of the cheeky things too. 

The difficulty is seeing anything past that point. Or letting yourself see past that point. 

Hoping and making up stories of what may be past that point. 

But my body has performed such magic before. And maybe, just maybe, we will be able to do so again. 

At that time, maybe my heart will fill the space my baby left and join her memories to make something new. Something special. Something made of a strength of a sister never born and a mum who so desperately wants to be. 

Anything is possible.

~*LTM*~  




































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