Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Not-so-happy Anniversary

**Miscarriage discussed**

I was on the phone with my mother. I was hiding in the bathroom. My miscarriage was a few weeks behind me and I was angry. I called her because I was blindingly angry and I knew that anger was one of the stages of grief. I was angry that I was in that stage. She reminded me that it was a stage of grief and her reminder made me angry.

What was the good of knowing the stages of grief if I couldn't somehow acknowledge what was going on and pray and skip that part? I mean, logically, it seemed like I could do that. Unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way.

It's like a developmental stage. Head control. Sit up. Crawl. Walk. You gotta go through them. Well, granted, some skip one or two but only because that is determined by their own personal physiological development.

I remember watching my mother place a toy in front of my cousin's four month old baby. It was made for older babies, but she could tell he was interested in it. In an act of curiosity and kindness she brought it over to him. It was obvious he knew what to do to activate it and was very motivate to play with it. Unfortunately, his motor skills didn't match his cognitive skills and it frustrated him greatly. In the end, it was a greater kindness to take the toy away.

I was learning a very important lesson. We all develop in our own way, on our own timetables. Just knowing the stages of grief would not exempt me from them. You know what? It still doesn't.

Oh, I've learned all about loss. It's part and parcel with raising a son with the particular issues mine has. It's part of my training and my interest as a foster parent. It's part of my training as a special education teacher. It's part of my experience as a parent of a child with special needs, the aunt of a child who has battled stage four cancer and the experience of grieving three babies I'll not meet this side of heaven.

One of the things I've learned about is anniversaries. No, not the happy wedding anniversary kind. I'm talking about anniversaries of losses and traumas. Children who have experienced the loss of a parent, even very early in life (early enough they can't remember) experience difficult emotions on the anniversaries of that loss. Even if it isn't the same date, it will be the same time of year.

We can move on. We can pray, forgive and work through them. But the scars usually remain. Why are they still there? I don't know. Maybe to remind us of our human frailty. Maybe because of our human frailty.

We don't know how those scars, physical or emotional, will manifest themselves. But eventually, given enough time, we get familiar with our scars and learn to deal with them.

When I experienced my first miscarriage, I read a lot about miscarriages and joined forums for women who had experienced such losses. You never know what will trigger a wave a grief, especially if the loss is recent. Shortly after my miscarriage, I cracked an egg for breakfast and I was immediately overcome by tremendous sobs. For a dear friend of mine, it was a big glass of iced tea.

I found holding babies and baby dolls to be very comforting, which surprised many people around me. On the other hand, I thought baby showers were going to be okay but I found them to be immeasurably torturous. I excused myself so I didn't traumatize the poor mother to be. I almost refused to have a baby shower when I was pregnant with Hannah because baby showers were so hard for me.

Many people warned of the emotional trauma that may accompany the due date. That date came and went with a somber acknowledgement but no worse than many days.

But as I approached Thanksgiving the first year after my loss, I became increasingly out of sorts. I experienced mood swings and an unidentified sense of anxiety. I found myself withdrawing from activities. I found myself unable to accomplish every day tasks and it made me angry. It went on for a few weeks.

A few days before Thanksgiving, when I, super-party-loving girl, declared I didn't want to participate in the holiday. I didn't want to get together with family. My husband kindly dug my hand out of the melted heap of tears and angst. He held my hand and asked WHY I didn't want to celebrate. He already knew the answer that I didn't and he wanted me to realize it on my own.

The year before, I found out the day he left the country for a mission trip that the new life I was so excited about inside of me was no longer alive but my pregnancy was continuing for a while nonetheless. I was waiting for a miscarriage. My husband returned after two weeks and it still had not begun.

I was finding I was able to breathe occasionally. I found an amazing outpouring of support as people stepped up to fill in the gap while my husband was away. We went to Thanksgiving dinner at my grandmother's house with a sense of bittersweet thanksgiving. I was cramping a little on the drive, but that had been happening for several days by then.

I was sitting at the dinner table, enjoying the loving company of my family. Someone made a light-hearted joke and I found myself able to laugh and enjoy it for the first time since my news. The physical action of the laugh coincided with the beginning of my physical loss. My laugh ended in a gasp. It was several hours before things calmed down enough I could leave the bathroom and ride home to continue the experience. It was what I had wanted and dreaded for weeks. It was cleansing and traumatic at the same time.

I was experiencing a grieving anniversary. It wasn't what I expected. I wasn't even thinking about losing my baby. Oh but the scar was aching. And it aches every year, usually, about this time. It happens to varying degrees depending on what else is going on in my life. It's happening right now.

So please understand that I'm extra sensitive. If I say things that seem harsh, please know that I don't mean them and I am trying to be aware of my extra sensitivity and moodiness. One minute I find myself overwhelmed by the most mundane of tasks, and other times I'm my normal gung-ho, lively self.

Last night, my husband wrapped his arms around me as I tried to express how I was so thankful for my babies and that it wasn't due to thoughts of this specific baby anymore and it wasn't fair that this was still happening and causing me pain six years later. But mostly I sobbed.

And today, the sun shines and I think sweet thoughts and the friend I thought I lost yesterday because of a super sensitive move on my part said she wasn't angry and willing to reconcile this morning.

I love Thanksgiving. I love that my thankfulness is all the more poignant for me each year, because of this experience. But I hate that old aching scar. (By the way, I experienced another loss over Thanksgiving two years ago.) Usually, it gets a little better when I realize what is going on.

I always try to remind myself to get ready beforehand but life seems to be going so well, I can't imagine a very large wave of grief striking out of nowhere. But sometimes it does. And it's usually more after a year when the anniversary isn't so bad. Last year I was pregnant with Cote. I've found pregnancy does a pretty good job of distracting me. But the next year takes me by surprise, maybe because I think "Last year wasn't so bad. Maybe I'll be exempt this year".

There are some who say I should just get over it. I'd sincerely love to. But I think comparing it to labor and not fighting the waves and understanding this process is necessary for some reason, helps me to grow and release an unbelievable amount pain slowly and safely which could not be dealt with in a few "acceptable" weeks right after my loss.


Mary said...

Dear sweet Holly ((((hugs)))
I've had three losses. It is a hard thing. I was so blessed to be surrounded by love, loved by those who understood my pain. I remember sobbing & wondering how I could ever laugh again. I was blessed to have a friend, who had been in the same place as me, come alongside, and took hope in the fact that she had been able to laugh again.

Roy and Missy Helton said...

I can't say I understand how you feel now and how you felt at that time. I do know as your father I wished I could have cuddled you on my lap like I did when you were a little girl. Maybe your heart felt words can help the rest of us at least better understand loss in our own lives.

JeniferRiddle said...

I am so glad I know you. <3

Polska said...

This is a beautiful and poignant post about your losses. Thank you for sharing.

JS said...

Holly, I can relate so well. This is my first Thanksgiving without my dear, sweet husband -- the love of my life. You are in my prayers.

MamaHolly said...

Oh Jan, I hadn't even thought about that. Thank you for sharing. Bless your heart. I'll be thinking of you missing him. I know he was loved.