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Right after Eliana died I was understandably desperate for a baby in my arms. I thought, and cried, and agonized over trying again right away. Some to whom I looked for advice said it would be a huge mistake, that I needed time to heal first. Others, mainly moms who did have another child soon after losing one, said it could be incredibly healing to have another baby as a comfort for the loss. I put it off, and procrastinated, and deliberated so long that I made a decision by default.

I also realized that I would not be able to handle the knowledge that a new baby would only be there because Eliana was not. My hat is off to all the women who handle it beautifully. I just knew that I wouldn’t. In the end, I decided to wait until at least the same amount of time had passed as there was between the other kids. That meant that according to my timeline, I was free to try around August.

Now, five months later, I am still paralyzed in fear over the very idea of it. I want a baby, of course. What I don’t want is the nine months of terror over the possibility of losing it. Knowing that one minute, day, or month of time could mean the difference between a healthy child and one that will die and destroy me with grief leaves me frozen, unable to move forward, and trapped by indecision. What if we pick the wrong moment? So again, I keep putting it off, and sit here wondering how long I can keep this up.

I’m not ancient, but I’m not getting any younger either. I know the chances of birth defects go up the longer I wait, and the chances of conceiving go down. It’s going on two years now since she came and went. Is it possible that another two years could come and go just as quickly and just as babyless because I’m too scared to take the chance?

I don’t know how to do this. I didn’t know how to make it through my grief. I don’t know how to make it through my fear. I don’t know how to make it through a pregnancy without going crazy. And I hate, hate, hate that the only way is to just do it. Here’s me having a conversation with Nike: Them-“Just do it.”  Me-“I can’t. I haven’t planned it out yet, and I can’t predict the outcome. I’d rather not do it, thanks.”

I of all people realize that grief and healing are a lifelong journey, not a destination or a goal. I’m not going to wake up one morning and be “okay” or “ready.” But it sure would be nice to feel a little bit more ready than I do right now. How long would I have to wait though? I’ve already been waiting a long time. Would that feeling of readiness ever actually materialize?

I am scared. I’m just so very scared because I know what it’s like to lose my child. Part of me says to just trust God.

But that’s what I did the last time.

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I’m in love. No, don’t call my husband please. The object of my affection is no threat to him. I’m in love with the rainbow baby. The day he was born I held him for …. about eight hours. Do you think that’s excessive? It was hard at first to be sure. I cried on the way to the hospital. I cried walking in. I cried in the elevator. I cried when I got to the room, and when I first held him. So much fear and joy and sadness and wonder, all tangled up together.

The worst part, though, was after the nurse gave him a bath. He was crying, so I went over and held his hand and stroked his head. Then it hit me forcibly that this was the same thing I used to do with Eliana-same overhead warmer, same hand holding and head stroking, same whispering that everything would be okay. It was like a knife in my heart, an instant transport back to those horrible, endless days and nights at her bedside. I stood there sobbing, onto my shoes instead of onto him, though. He was upset enough over the bath already. What a lucky little thing, too young to know that sometimes everything is not okay, not even close to okay.

The next day I was thinking about him, and musing about the fact that he is the first child besides our three girls that I have ever bonded with ….and then the panic set in. I’m moving! What in the world was I thinking? Why didn’t it occur to me beforehand that I would have to leave him? That if I allowed myself to love him, my heart would feel it as another loss? Should I have held back, built a nice safe wall to protect me from any more pain? Was I so anxious to love a baby again that I was foolish to do so with one I won’t even get to see very often? Should I have kept a tighter reign on my emotions? How did I not realize this until after I fell in love with him?

Interesting questions to be sure, but all a little too late. I love this baby, and it already hurts to think about leaving him. I don’t know why I’ve never had (or really tried to make) a connection with the other kids I could have been “Auntie” to, but I was finally ready to try it. Unfortunately, it seems I won’t get the chance now. When I said I wanted to love him from a distance, I didn’t mean from a whole state away. Any emotional distance I thought I was going to have went out the window the first time I held him. What do I do now? I’m in love with the rainbow baby, but I won’t get to see him grow up either.

I’m moving. Soon and far. The wanderlust side of myself is reveling in the change and the new adventure of it all. The sentimental side, however, is crying rivers of tears inside my head and heart. All three of our children were born in this house. That fact alone could have kept me content here for the rest of my life. There is a certain old-time appeal to the idea of birthing and raising our children here, and growing old and dying here. It is not going to happen that way now.

Since Eliana only lived two months, there are very few physical ties to this world. One is our house. The other is the hospital. She was born and lived one month at our house. She lived one month and died at the hospital. Now I am leaving both behind. I’m also leaving my friend’s mom’s house, where Eliana made one of just two social outings. My other friend’s apartment is here, the place of her second social event. The doctor’s office I took her to is here. The urgent care we went to is here. The funeral home, the last place I ever held her, is here. Every place she ever was, is here, and I’m leaving.

I won’t be able to drive down the street, and pass any of these locations anymore. I won’t be able to go visit the nurses at her hospital and chat for a few minutes with someone who actually knew her. I won’t be able to sit in my recliner, or lay down in bed, and close my eyes and relive the moments when she was right there in that exact spot with me. I suppose to someone who has never lost a child that might seem like a good thing. To anyone who has, though, we know that part of getting through this depends on clinging to whatever memories we have of our children, because that is all we will ever have of them. There will never be any new ones.

I’m also leaving the only people who are witnesses that my child existed. People here saw her. They held her. They came to the house, to the hospital, and to the funeral. To them, she is more than just a picture on a wall. She is a person. I’m moving away from all the people who care about my baby, or about me. I’m leaving the only people who know me and love me enough to support me in all the things I do in Eliana’s memory, the things I need to do to survive this life without her.

Her birthday is going to be the last day I see most of the people I know. How could the day be any sadder? Two months after that I will be in a new place nearly alone on the one year anniversary of her death. The only thing I can think of that is worse than dealing with my child’s death, is trying to deal with it alone. I’m scared of how hard it is going to be.

I will still have her urn, and her pictures, and stuffed animals, and everything else that was hers, and that I’ve collected since she died. It just isn’t the same, though. It feels as though her essence or spirit is here, and I’m leaving. It is somewhat ridiculous, as I do not believe that at all, but that is how it feels. I’m aware that feelings sometimes have little to do with reality, but  knowing that does not stop how much it hurts to be leaving this place-leaving it without her.

img_2272_edited-11I’m moving, but a part of me, a part of my heart, will always remain here, in the bedroom of this house where my sweet baby took her first breath, and in that hospital room where she took her last. I may have to move, but I will never move on.

One of my closest friends is pregnant and is due on February 21st, just 6 days after Eliana was born. Needless to say, we have had many discussions about the various emotional responses we’ve both had. I am both terrified and excited about the possibility of her child being born on the same day. What an incredible cyclical sort of irony there would be in that-a living testament to the reality that life goes on. It never occurred to me to ask, but I realize that her baby must have been conceived somewhere around the time that mine was dying.

To be honest, there are few people in this world that I could have been truly happy for if they had told me that news at that time. She happens to be one of them. It has been both painful and healing to watch her go through her pregnancy. It’s like watching a fuzzy movie of myself one year ago. The discomforts, the growth, the expectations, the waiting-all the things I went through at the same time I went through them, but from a distance.

Because it’s her, I don’t hate her for her pregnancy. I don’t hate her for her happiness, or for her complaints. Because it’s her, I don’t assume she is naive about the fact that sometimes babies die, and I know that she does not take this gift she’s been given for granted. She knows, and that makes all the difference.

I have a much harder time with strangers, or for that matter, with acquaintances who know I lost Eliana, but who never said anything to me about it. It may be unfair, since I don’t know for sure what has happened in their lives, whether they have ever lost a child. Unfair or not, I have to fight the resentment I feel over the thought that they don’t know how lucky they are, and anger over all the times I have to sit and listen to them griping about inconveniences I would give anything to have back. I want to scream at them to shut up and go hug their babies, that they might not have them tomorrow. But I don’t.

Would I have listened if some crazy lady had started ranting to me about appreciating my kids while I still had the chance? Would I have understood if a newly bereaved mom had cried to me to not wait until it was too late? Was I only able to truly let in the horrible, unbelievable truth of child death after it had already happened to me? Was it just too terrible for my mind to accept until I no longer had a choice, because I was living it?

Does my anger and resentment toward the clueless really just stem from jealousy over their lack of knowledge of this agony I now call my life? That may be it. I’m jealous-of not knowing, of not feeling, and of not understanding the grief of losing a child. I don’t want to know what this is like. I want to be clueless too.

I wish I could go back. I’d give up my greater empathy, my fundraising, my collection drives, what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown, who I’ve helped and all the people whose lives have been touched by my baby’s story. I’d give it all up to turn back the clock. It was too high a price. Losing Eliana is not worth whatever I may have gained from the experience of going through it. Selfishly enough, it’s also not worth whatever others may have gained from it.

Nobody is given a choice, though, about whether they want to go through hard things. I would certainly never have chosen for my child to die, no matter what good may result from it. And I suppose if I had been given a choice, I probably would have thought that going through my friend’s pregnancy, with it’s eerie deja vu timing, was way too hard too. Better to put it off-too hard to deal with right now. But as soon as she told me, the whole thing just felt right-difficult, but right.

And now, I’m greedy for this baby, so anxious for him to be born. I want to hold him in my arms and be comforted once again by the thought that most babies are healthy, that most babies don’t die. I need to cry on his little head, both in sadness over Eliana being gone, and in amazement over the miracle of birth and life. He is both a reminder of the past, and a hope for the future. I need to love him, but from a distance. I need to test out the waters of opening up my heart again to a baby, to work through the fears and confusion and guilt of loving again after losing her. I’m grateful to my friend for loving me enough to put up with all the weird, convoluted emotions I already feel for her little boy.

The people on the grief support forums have a term for a child born after they’ve lost one-a rainbow baby. That’s what this unborn child is to me. He may not be my rainbow baby, but he is the rainbow baby. He’s the baby born after Eliana, the baby that represents promise-promise for his parents, promise for me, promise for the future, and promise for the world. There will always be pain, but there will also always be joy that follows it, just like the rainbow after the rain. Sometimes it appears right away, and sometimes we have to wait a while to see it. It has been a long, rough storm, and I’m looking forward to seeing a rainbow.

As if I wasn’t already having enough fun with all this, now I’m starting to have nightmares. And they’re not even about her. I would understand, and be able to deal with, and almost welcome, having dreams about Eliana. But I’m having them about my other kids. Horrible, scary dreams about them being hurt or killed, such as people breaking into our house while we’re sleeping or a nuclear explosion.

This morning it was me and them at a theme park of all things, on a volcanic island. Of course the volcano erupted, so I was running, running with my two kids, trying to outrace the lava. We were doing a pretty good job until somehow the effect of the volcano blowing caused a tidal wave/flood from the other direction. It was coming so fast there was nothing we could do. I woke up, managed to calm myself down, then drifted back to sleep, into the same spot in the dream. This time it wasn’t coming so fast, so we started running back the other way, trying to find the highest spot. We used the service “ladder?” on the biggest roller coaster and climbed to the top. A helicopter saw us and came down to get us. For whatever reason it couldn’t quite come down far enough, and had nothing to throw out to us, so I had to try to lift my daughter into it. She slipped, and fell to the ground. I had to try to get my second daughter into it, and then myself, after having just basically dropped the first one to her death. Not to be outdone, my brain went through it a third time. This time there was no helicopter, and the water got so high we all died anyway, even from the top of the roller coaster. In the dream, as I watched the water coming toward us, I prayed that He wouldn’t let my kids suffer. Then I woke up…again. I decided not to find out what scenario number four would be, so I got up. Half the time I can’t sleep, and when I do, I’m waking up three and four times a night with stuff like this. It’s exhausting.

I know that these kinds of nightmares are just ripe with possible interpretations. As interesting as it is for me to glean what I can from them, I do wish my mind would just find a better way of working through all the stuff up there. I can’t imagine a perpetual lack of sleep is going to be all that helpful for my health, or my journey through this grief. This is not healing, it’s annoying. Dealing with the (real) death of one child is hard enough without having to deal with the (dreamtime) deaths of the remaining two. Ugh. When will it be enough?

Anyway, here’s my super-quick dream analysis on myself.

#1-nothing I can do, just give up, we all die (what I rejected)

#2-do everything I can to save them, despite my best efforts one dies, have to keep functioning in order to save the one that’s left, have to save myself so I can keep taking care of her (what I’m doing)

#3-even when I give my best effort there’s nothing else I can do to save any of us, think my kids will probably suffer despite my prayer, we all die (what I fear)

And on that depressing note, I think I’ll stop, since I once again don’t seem to have much of a point. Except that even now, eight months after her death, I am still finding new ways that this whole thing just sucks. I miss my baby. And I miss the old me that didn’t have nightmares about whether the other two were going to die horrible deaths that I couldn’t do anything about. And I miss being able to take sleep for granted. I’m so tired of all of this.

My cell phone does not always tell me when I have messages. So Friday at 5:15pm I checked to see if I had any. I did have one. It was a call from the doctor’s office.

I recently took my other two kids to the pulmonary doctors that had seen Eliana in the hospital. I wanted them to check for the same issues that she had. They did several tests, which went well, and an X-ray right before we left.

So anyway, the message from their office says to please call them back about Rebeckah. It didn’t say “about the test results” or “about Elisabeth and Rebeckah.” Just “call them back about Rebeckah.” It being Friday after 5, they were gone, gone, gone, not to return until Monday morning.

Needless to say, I spent the whole weekend wondering and worrying. What if she has stenosis too? What if she needs surgery? What if she dies? How will I survive it happening again? I’d try to put it out of my head for a while, but every time I looked at her the fear would start to balloon up again.

I planned to call the office Monday morning right at 8am. But when the time came I felt a little shaky, so I decided to eat first. Then I felt like I was going to throw up, so I put it off a little longer. It took me a good two hours before I got up the nerve to call their office.

As it turns out, Rebeckah’s throat culture was positive for bacteria, and they wanted to give us a prescription for antibiotics. Both of their X-rays were normal. I almost crumpled from relief.

So there it is, my weekend of fear. I still don’t know what I would have done if the news had been different. Thank God I didn’t have to find out.

Still, this once again makes it glaringly obvious how different life is after you’ve lost a child. Before: the doctor’s office calls and you wonder what your kid is coming down with. After: the doctor’s office calls and you wonder if your child is going to die, and how you will live through it….again. Welcome to the “new normal.” It stinks. =(

This was written on 5/25/08

I’m so tired. I’m tired of crying. I’m tired of Troy and I not understanding each other’s way of dealing with this. I’m tired of hearing my girls ask me “Mommy, are you crying?” I’m tired of not being able to go to bed until 1 or 2 in the morning for fear that I’ll just lay there crying, so what’s the point? I’m tired of the ache, and of re-living her life and death every single day, every hour in my mind, over and over. I’m tired of the sobbing coming out of nowhere in public, of having to force it back down, and making me not want to leave the house because of it. I’m tired of clerks telling me to have a nice day, when I can’t imagine ever having a “nice” day again. I’m tired of this life I’ve been forced to live. I’m tired of missing my baby. I’m tired of trying to function with a broken heart and a bruised soul. I’m tired of dealing with other peoples problems when I feel like I cannot even deal with my own. There is no rest from the pain, and I’m so, so tired.


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