Saturday, March 1, 2014

Where Grief and Joy Meet

We are expecting a new addition to our family in September!

but this post is not, as you might be expecting, a gushing post about the excitement and anticipation for the big event or a dialogue of how my family is feeling. Instead, I feel that since this blog functions as my journal, I need to record some things I've experienced. Perhaps someone else can benefit from reading them.

I had a miscarriage in August. Not the first time I've had one, but it really hit me hard. A nurse told me to grieve however it felt right; whether that meant screaming or crying or whatever. For me, the coping mechanism was to not acknowledge it. And that isn't because I didn't have a support network of friends and family that were ready to listen if I wanted to talk. I've heard people say that often women feel like they are alone after such a loss and that the subject is too taboo for them to talk about it. Not the case for me. I never felt it was taboo or that people didn't want to discuss it. I just didn't WANT to talk about it. In fact, for about 2 weeks I carried on all conversations without direct eye contact because I was afraid that someone would see the pain in my eyes and ask me how I was doing. Well that phase didn't last forever and I eventually was able to talk through some of my feelings with Eric. But honestly, I didn't explore everything I felt at that time. I busied myself with a conveniently demanding Thesis (it was actually a great blessing to have such demanding work to think about constantly so that my mind didn't wander.) I buried everything down deep until I felt strong enough to process it.

Therefore, months later, I'm still sorting out my grief. There are 2 emotions that I have found lingering, not easily resolved; they seem to crop up again and again in new forms and variations. Anger and Fear are the fallout from the event.

Rage is interesting. While it helped me to be "strong" and get through the hardest days, it has impeded healing. I'm relieved to say I never felt angry at the Lord for the loss of our little one. Nor did I blame myself because I knew there was no reason to feel guilt. However, I was honestly furious at my body. You have to understand, I take good care of myself. I exercise hard, play hard, sleep regularly, eat healthily... at the time I was in fabulous physical shape (quite possibly the best shape I've been in all my life). So when my body paid me back with a terminated pregnancy, I felt rage. I wanted to hurt my body the way it had hurt me (irrational, yes, but real). I contemplated running a marathon just to punish my body, but knew I wasn't physically up to that. So instead I stopped taking care of myself. Granted, I had the excuse of a thesis, but honestly...I just didn't have any desire to exercise or watch what I ate. You could attribute that to depression. Sure. And I'm sure that had a part to play. But I was aware and perhaps even vengeful in neglecting my physical health. I was just so angry at my body's failure. It has taken me months to forgive and strive to regain the health I had before.

Right about December when I was finally ready to be nice to my body, I discovered another facet of my anger. Anger at weakness. I found myself responding terribly to family members when they were not at their best. For the first time I truly understood the heart of a bully because I too was inflamed by vulnerability I saw. Rather than being compassionate and understanding, I wanted to squish it. To grind the weakness I saw until it was obliterated. Ultimately, I was disgusted by my own weakness, by my own vulnerability, by my own lack of control and was transposing my anger towards my body's 'failure' onto other people because I saw my weakness in them. This has been a lot harder to work through. Honestly, I'm still struggling. I know the Atonement of Jesus Christ makes it possible to change even the deepest failings into strengths. But I can also say that healing my mind and heart so that my first response to vulnerability is not contempt...well, it takes time. Unfortunately, as I'm a perfect example, not every adversity makes people more tender and compassionate towards others. The Lord is helping me to be soft and compassionate rather than hard like a flint.

Fear is crippling. I am in the thick of this one. I didn't really discover the depth of my fear until we had another positive pregnancy test (in January). THEN I realized JUST how terrified I was. I didn't want to say I was 'pregnant' and didn't talk about the baby as a 'baby' for weeks and weeks because I was absolutely terrified that I was going to miscarry again and thought it would be less painful if I didn't get all excited. I spontaneously burst into tears at doctor appointments because I was terrified of what I would see or not see on the ultrasound. I was not even "happy" to have a successful pregnancy because I was afraid to be happy and suffer a crushing disappointment. And I certainly didn't enjoy the great blessing of NOT having hyperemesis this time around because I was terrified that it meant I would miscarry (since both my previous successful pregnancies I was over-the-top-hospitalization-inducing-vomiting and both my miscarriages I was just nauseated). It was actually a relief to hit that stride around 8 weeks of feeling sick almost all day and vomiting 1-2 times a day. Still better than hyperemesis, but more reassuring than just nausea. Once I felt confident that I was "sick enough", it was much easier to be grateful that I wasn't crazy sick like before. Then I could finally start to celebrate the possibility of a new baby. Still, I was hesitant to invite others into my circle of celebration lest it turn out to be a circle of mourning in the end. I was slow to divulge the good news and only just recently announced it. Ultimately, the Lord is helping me to replace fear with hope--- but that requires increased trust in God's plan and a true 'come what may' attitude. A tall order for me since I really DON'T want to go down that road again and I'm not sure I can say 'sure Lord, I'll trust Your will even if it isn't what I want'. But I can clearly see that until I replace fear with hope, I can't be legitimately happy, even in happy circumstances.

In all of this joy, celebration, and gratitude, my heart is still healing from the loss of what might have been. It makes for a sort of weird complicated response to the present. It is not as easy to be happy in this pregnancy as I expected it to be...Everything is going really well, the Lord has blessed us with our desires, and I should be happy as a clam...and perhaps others would be puzzled to hear that I'm not just overflowing with joy. I find that even my happiness is laced with a hint of sadness---because grieving takes a longer time than we often give it. But I'm going to continue to take the advice of that nurse: I'm going to allow myself to feel what I feel. And through the Savior's wondrous Atonement, I'm certain my path of healing will one day allow me to feel peace and joy with all my heart.

in the mean time, we are so looking forward to welcoming you into our hearts, little one. See you in September!