In the After

Sometimes it’s hard to believe, but After started four months ago.

School started back up for me this past Monday. Just professional development this week, the kids come tomorrow. This week I did test runs with what to pack so I can have quick, small, protein-packed edibles throughout the day to keep the almost-nausea and lightheadedness at bay. Tried to figure out at what points throughout the day I need to make sure I’m ingesting something.

I’m feeling very out of place, lacking a group. As the school’s ESL instructor I’m an island unto myself. Which generally I’m completely fine with, but during PD week it’s like being the new kid in a high school cafeteria. Even though I’m not actually new. And I’m grappling a bit with the differences in this position versus my usual general education classroom role. I’m used to have 25 littles constantly surrounding me all day. Though I still believe this teaching move will be a good one, it’s difficult adapting.

And being back at school, I find I feel a bit like a leper again. Like I’ve got a scarlet M on my chest for miscarriage. The teacher whose pregnancy matched my own is of course in her third trimester. Seeing her is still difficult, but not paralyzing. I even made myself ask if they’d chosen a name and said how lovely the name was. But I got the vibe she didn’t really want to talk to me. Now, of course, there’s my second baby, but no one there (except one) knows about that yet.

We had an appointment for March baby on Monday. Thankfully, the midwife we met with this time was so much better than the nurse practitioner I had at six weeks. More compassionate, less put-out by my mere presence. She swung us an ultrasound, which we were grateful for. We were able to see March baby, watch it wiggle around and wave its tiny appendages. We were told the heartbeat and growth were where they should be.

We were relieved, and a bit elated. But for me, the twelve week scan is the Big One. The first major hurdle we need to get through. We need March baby to still be alive at twelve weeks. But to be honest, with each week that passes I’m letting myself hope a little more and fear a little less. Which is good, that’s what I want. Hubs has started asking more about telling people, which is also positive.

I’m struggling with telling my dad. It’s beginning to feel wrong that other people know now when he still doesn’t, but it’s difficult for me. I know he didn’t mean to cause me more hurt, but when I told him about losing Charlie he first said he was sorry, then said “these things happen”, then asked if it was something I had done. Later, when I was trying to share with him how we were really doing, how talking about it was helping me cope, he seemed more concerned with how I might be making other people uncomfortable. After that, I didn’t try to talk to him about it anymore. I felt very strongly that he was one of those people who would prefer I pretend Charlie never existed. And until recently, I didn’t realize that not only was I hurt, but I was also angry with him. I want to tell him about March baby, but I don’t want to do it until I’ve made perfectly clear that Charlie existed and mattered and I won’t ever pretend otherwise. So I’m feeling pretty stuck by that. I don’t really want to tell him over the phone, because I’m pretty sure I’ll cry. I don’t want to email it, because that’s impersonal. I’m in a quandary.

I’m also trying to figure out what to get my mom for her birthday, and how to go about celebrating hub’s birthday in September since he might be out at a job site.

After is a collective oddity of consciousness sometimes.

 

March baby

I tried coming up with a name to give the baby for now. Unlike with Charlie, my friend hasn’t named this baby — probably because Charlie died. I tried on a few for-now names, ones that would be gender neutral, but nothing felt right. Then I tried a couple nicknames, but calling the baby “peanut” or “little bean” never appealed to me. I’ve finally settled on March baby, at least for now. It’s accurate, since it’s due in March, and gives it some sort of proper-noun identity. Plus, there’s a funny anecdote that ties in.

When hubs and I got engaged, I was so not interested in having a long engagement. Even a year felt ridiculous. We were thirty (well, almost, for me), we’d been living together for quite awhile, we both had steady jobs, we had usable household materials, etc. I just didn’t see the point in waiting. Anyway, initially after the engagement (which occurred in early June of that year), I posited that we get married in February. It would line up with our dating anniversary, and I have a thing for snow and thought a winter wedding would be lovely, plus it’d be out-of-season for weddings, which equals cheaper!

So that’s what we went for and we shared that idea with our families. It would be a waiting/prepping period of about 7-8 months. Totally doable. Hubs’ family came back with a “what’s the rush?” curiosity. I didn’t see it as a rush at all. I would have done it in four months if it wouldn’t have seriously crunched us for planning and executing time. But eventually, I came up with a theory that to this day I swear I’m right about: His family thought he’d gotten me pregnant out of wedlock (gasp!) and that we were trying to get married before the baby came. Laughable, at the time. Mildly sardonic now, given our last four months.

But from that, we started calling the wedding planning (and thus the wedding) “Project March Baby”. Eventually, we changed the wedding date to April — which of course answered any unofficially-asked questions about the “pregnancy”.

However, now, hubs jokes that we actually have a project March baby on our hands. And oh how I am praying that March delivers (get it?).

I did a thing

Yesterday, I went back to the pool. I went swimming, for the first time since the baby died (for more insight: The girl who stopped swimming). My mom came up and I used one of the guest passes I was given so I could have her come along. That might sound silly, that a 31-year-old woman needed her mom to restart this routine, but I needed help. I couldn’t do it on my own. Just having another person there made it less nerve-wracking. We used the indoor pool instead of the outdoor — I schemed it that way, thinking that because it was summer most families would be outside, and I was right! So it wasn’t very crowded, which meant I was less tense, and I got to swim and enjoy doing it.

One small step, right?

Be strong. And soft.

When my grandmother found out she had cancer, and that, at best, she had maybe three months to live, she looked at my mother and said, “I want you to be strong.” Then she paused, and added, “…and soft.” It was probably the truest and most profound thing she has ever said.

Out of anything one could say in that moment, I cannot thing of a single thing that would be better. She wasn’t a perfect person, but at 86 years old, at the very end of her life, all of a sudden she just got it. Came to the realization that you can be both strong and soft, and that really, you should allow yourself both.

Grammy died four days later. She was ready to go, more than any of us were ready to let her. And, oh, how I grieved. I loved her so much. We used to write letters, for years, back and forth. I miss that. I miss her. But I think about those words a lot.

Be strong. And soft.

And I try to remember to be both, that’s it’s okay to be both. That they don’t cancel each other out. That they both have importance and purpose. You can remember it too, tuck it away for when you need it.

I guess that’s why they call it the blues

It’s my first official day of summer break, and it’s almost delightfully dreary where I am. I slept in, which was lovely. And I really haven’t done much of anything all day. Certainly not anything that could be considered productive. Though I am contemplating going to the library.

But I’m a little bluesy. I’m by myself today since hubs is at work, and normally I don’t mind being by myself (#introvert), and I’m not really minding it now. But I am wondering if perhaps not having just one other person around is what’s making the difference between being distracted from the could-have-beens and actively thinking about them. It would seem impossible, but every now and then I manage to forget, just for a split second, that I’m not pregnant anymore. And then of course I immediately remember, and we all know how wonderful that is. It’s just that I didn’t get far enough along with the baby to be really showing yet, so it’s not like I have a visible reminder that I’m not pregnant. Not a baby belly once and then gone (not that this would make it any better, I know full well it would NOT). But whenever I feel something in the area of my lower belly where I know the uterus is, I just — I don’t know. I can’t totally articulate it. Do you know? Do you know what I mean without me being able to say it?

I need to find the baby shoes we used in our announcement photo, and cross my fingers that when I go to get the mail the pictures I’ve been waiting for have come. Those are the last things I need to put in the memory box. The last things I feel like we have. That might be productive. And grounding.

I talked to my dad last night for the first time since telling him we lost the baby. My dad has never been particularly emotive, doesn’t really know how to handle emotional turmoil. Or emotional stuff in general. And last night as I was trying to update him I could tell he was really uncomfortable hearing it. Hearing about how losing another baby could very easily happen again; after all, it happened so easily the first time. Because, “Oh, it’s not gonna happen again!“. Hearing about how we are trying to talk about it and be open and honest because it’s not a state secret and it shouldn’t be so stigmatized. But, “Only if someone brings it up, right?“. I mean, Dad, seriously — Who is going to point-blank bring it up? Very, very, few people. He quite impressively used many different euphemisms (what I’m dealing with, what I’m going through, my current situation, what happened) without ever actually directly saying: “your miscarriage” or “the death/loss of your baby”. My father has been through a lot of difficult things in his life. Heartbreaking. Things people shouldn’t have to go through. And I realize that all of this is probably what’s caused his fall-back state of stoicism. And I know he loves me. But it’s still hard for me to realize that my dad, like so many others, would prefer this “situation” stay in the background.

Maybe that’s a part of my blues today, too.

I’m trying not to fight the blues off. I think it’s probably important that I just allow myself to feel the way I feel.

Beauty in the break down

On Friday, hubs and I went on a date to this place he’d stumbled across that was a 60s era drive-in restaurant. Though it had been rainy most of the week, that evening the weather was pretty nice, and as we headed home we had the windows down and sun roof open and it was that sort of quintessential pre-summer evening that evoked thoughts of peace and calm and freedom that people (Right? Not just me?) associate with the coming of the summer season.

And then I lost it. A wave of sadness felt like it was literally overtaking me (though, not literally, of course) and all of a sudden I was quietly sobbing because this summer was supposed to be about rest and relaxation and preparing for the baby we would welcome in the fall. It was supposed to be chock full of hope for what was to come. And in that moment I felt complete desolation, because there was no baby anymore and the only thing that summer would be chock full of was emptiness. I cried the entire rest of the way home, and when we finally got there hubs put his arms around me and I sobbed out loud.

After a while the sadness settled down and so did I, and my husband gently reminded me that not all hope was lost. After all, I’d finally gotten my period, so that was something. That seems like hope for the summer, he said.

When I think about the breakdown, especially when I felt I had been doing “so well”, I realized that since going back to school after taking a week off following the loss, I had been going full throttle. As a teacher in May, there are so many things that need to get done in addition to the hundreds of tiny fires from tiny humans that need to be addressed and put out each day. I hadn’t had the time or the space to dwell in my thoughts about the baby. On Friday night, for the first time in awhile, I did.

And I further thought, it was probably good that I broke down. I needed to; I had forced my grief to the back burner a bit so I could handle everything else I needed to do. But it hadn’t gone away, and it needed space to breathe. I needed to let it out. It tracks back to what the counselor said about grief not being a linear process. That it comes in waves.

Beauty in the break down.

 

This is how a heart breaks

When you drop a glass or a plate to the ground, it makes a loud crashing sound. When a window shatters, a table leg breaks, or when a picture falls off the wall, it makes a noise. But as for your heart, when that breaks, it’s completely silent. You would think, as it’s so important, it would make the loudest noise in the whole world, or even have some sort of ceremonious sound like the gong of a cymbal or the ringing of a bell. But it’s silent, and you almost wish there was a noise to distract you from the pain. — Cecelia Ahern

When I was younger and heard of or thought about heartbreak, I always assumed it was tied to love. Which it is. But at the time, I thought it was only akin to romantic love. And sure, you get a hefty dose of heartbreak over that, I’ve had my share. But it isn’t the ONLY thing that breaks a heart.

Your heart can break when your alcoholic mother says amazingly hurtful things to you when she’s drunk that she will never remember the next day; but you will.

When your rather stoic father doesn’t show up to something that seems small to him, but was important to you at the time.

When you discover that a friend you’ve had for years is not actually your friend anymore.

When you have to call Child Protective Services at least once a year because one (or more) of your students is being abused.

When you discover just how flawed your beloved grandparents are.

When whatever you were hoping for with all your heart feels like it gets snatched away.

When you realize that your unborn child has died.

When my husband and I later talked about that night in the ultrasound room, when we got the shock of our lives when we saw our dead baby on the ultrasound screen and it was confirmed that there was no heartbeat, he said he slowly realized what had happened, and then he heard my heart break. Doesn’t that seem funny? Because of course when our hearts [metaphorically] break, it is absolutely silent. But in some instances, that silence is the absolute loudest sound in the world.