Photo source: Amazon
Last week, I finished one of the books left over from my beach book list. This one was a memoir, entitled “Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing, and Pregnancy After Loss”.
When I found out I was pregnant again, I went in search of a book that would help me in this next phase like “Empty Cradle, Broken Heart” had helped me at the beginning of the summer. Somehow, I caught a line on this book (by Alexis Marie Chute), and decided to try it. I am so glad I did.
Though our personal stories are different, there was so much in this book that I was able to relate to — that I felt “finally, yes, that’s what it feels like!” To give a brief overview: Chute was 25 weeks pregnant with her second child, a son, when they discovered that her baby had a condition that would cause him to be stillborn. Afterward, she throws herself into any distraction she can find to help her get through the first year after her son’s death. The book picks up at the end of her “year of distraction”, and goes through the entire nine months of the pregnancy that follows (her third baby); it shows her grappling with the grief of losing her son, in addition to her fear of what could happen with the new pregnancy (and throw in there that she’s also trying to parent her daughter — y’know, NBD).
As you all know, I found out at 12 weeks that my baby had died. Because Charlie died prior to 20 weeks, it was considered a miscarriage (a missed miscarriage, in my case). I’ve found that for the general public, miscarriages don’t hold much weight. But lordy do they hold weight for the parents of the baby. What I’m getting at, is that to the people who love their baby before it even “gets here”, it really does not matter what embryonic/fetal/whatever stage the baby was technically in. This really stood out to me when I was reading this book. So much of what Chute describes thinking and feeling, I felt a personal connection to.
At one point, Chute describes how shortly after the death of her son, Zachary, she and her family were visiting her mother and stepfather. Her husband had to go back to work, and she was struggling with needing him with her and feeling abandoned while trying to cope with the grief. She describes finding a golf tee in the garage, and jamming it in to her hand (her family discovers this and helps her find a counselor, and also brings up the potential that she may be going through PTSD). Now, I know this may be difficult to hear, and part of your brain probably jumps to self-harming as destructive. Which it is. But I think what she was trying to describe is that after going through this kind of loss, you have so much inner turmoil, so much pain inside of you that no one can see or seem to understand, and you just want some kind of physical pain, some kind of physical manifestation, to almost combat what you’re feeling inside. Almost like a balance. At least, this is what I inferred while reading it. And again I thought, yes.
I did not harm myself physically during my grief, but I understand about the forcefulness of inner turmoil. I understand having an amount of pain take you over, with a magnitude that you didn’t even know was possible. I get what she meant. I started counseling pretty soon after we lost Charlie, and I took steps to take care of myself even when it felt almost ridiculous to do so. Like Chute, I attempt to distract myself by jumping back into work right away. I thought that would help. But it backfired, so I had to do something else. I wanted the grief to just happen and be over (no one wants to feel pain like that, no matter how much love it speaks of), but that wasn’t an option. I had to go through it. All of it. I still do.
My heartbreak over losing my first baby isn’t gone, it never will be. But the pain has become less intense, for which I am grateful. My first baby is still a part of this new pregnancy, my total fears for the new baby coming directly from my grief of losing Charlie. Of not knowing. Of not being able to protect my children no matter how badly I try. And when hubs and I do have children (working hard on making myself think “when” not “if”), they’ll know about Charlie. It won’t be a secret. Chute talks about this as well.
I guess what I’m saying is that if you’re in a position even vaguely similar to mine, this book might be worth it. I wish I could give you more direct passages that spoke to me, but I actually let my mom borrow the book so she could get some kind of idea of what I’ve been feeling. (So, if you know someone who’s been in a position even vaguely similar to mine, and you want to try to understand more, you might be interested in this book as well.)
Food for thought.
If you want to learn more about the author, you can check it out here: www.alexismariechute.com