32 weeks+ 5 days pregnant
37 days until Sprocket
11 months after loss
It is 11 months since we lost Nieve. When it first happened my scrambled brain considered that it would take a few weeks to ‘get over it’. Now I see that it’s not something I’ll ever get over. But If you’d told me that fact a week after my loss it would’ve filled me with so much despair, I’m not sure how I would’ve carried on.
When I attended my first SANDs meeting I sat next to a girl who was five months post loss. She was distraught, and her agony intensified mine. I couldn’t imagine another hour, another day sitting in this world of turmoil let alone another five months. Everyday I felt like I was suffocating and I was desperate to believe that I could ‘recover’. In the early days I thought that grief was something I needed to conquer. Now I accept that it’s a part of me and I surrender to it because it’s a battle I’ll never ‘win.’
I don’t feel I have to be strong anymore. I’ve stopped worrying about how I ‘should’ be managing my grief (something I struggled a lot with in the early days) I lost my beautiful daughter and her absence still rocks my heart. But I don’t question it anymore, I don’t try to measure my grief or analyse it. I don’t fret about how others would perceive it or worry that I’m doing it ‘wrong’. I don’t look at ‘today’s’ grief and worry how it will impact on tomorrow’s.
Grief will always be a part of me, because Nieve will always be a part of me. But grief is not something that dominates my whole world anymore. I can carry my grief, I can acknowledge it, but it doesn’t constantly consume everything like it did in the early days. I can function in the real world now; I can interact with others, I can go about my daily tasks, I can do my job, I can have fun, I can be an ‘adult’, I can feel happiness.
Sometimes it feels like I’m ‘pretending’, like I’m hiding behind shield. At times I am caught off guard; a reminder or a memory will trigger my grief and the shield will fall. I’ve often been shocked at how quickly that can happen; at how quickly the shield can disintergrate to reveal the rawness underneath. At how quickly I can switch from responsible, controlled, grounded to emotional and crumbled. I wonder if time will improve the hardiness of my shield; like a tree that gets a new layer each year and becomes stronger and sturdier.
Life after loss is not how I thought it would be. The grief itself does not shrink but life grows around it. It’s like rediscovering the world through a new sense of normal. I remember many of my ‘firsts after loss’; I remember the first time I could properly enjoy music again, I remember the first time I could properly concentrate on a book again. Yesterday I laughed, really laughed, and it struck me that it was the first time I’d laughed like that in over a year.
The added complexity of managing the anxiety of another pregnancy alongside my grief has compounded my emotional state at times. Grief, hormones and anxiety make for an interesting concoction and sometimes I feel emotional and unable to identify which one is the culprit.
I manage my anxiety over this pregnancy much like my grief; it sits with me always but most of the time I can carry it without it overwhelming me. But I find anxiety is like a balloon that becomes more inflated with each worry or concern. At some points it becomes too much and needs to release, at other times the worries are so intense I feel like I will burst from the pressure.
Some people acknowledge how difficult pregnancy after loss ‘must be’ but it’s not easy to comprehend unless you’ve been through it yourself. Others seem totally oblivious to how tough it is, although I can translate this into a collective belief that everything will be ok this time and that actually gives me some confidence.
I don’t often express to people just how hard it can be at times. There is only Matt who knows about the times I’ve sobbed in fear that this baby will die or flown into a blind panic in a ten minute gap between his movements. I don’t tell people how I wake up five times a night and wait for him to move before I’ll allow myself to rest, how I take myself in for monitoring at least theee times a week just for an ounce of reassurance, or how I’m consumed by fear if my kick counts deviate even ever so slightly from the norm. It’s like I can never fully let go and relax. I am a soldier constantly preparing myself for a battle that I don’t feel capable of winning.
When I first lost Nieve, grief felt like the enemy that I needed to battle. I went to counselling, I attended support groups, I had acupuncture, I chatted to other loss parents, I excercised, I meditated, I took vitamins. I viewed grief as a full time job; a task that had to be faced head on. I wanted to immerse myself in it to hurry it along, to rip off the plaster and expose the pain rather than prolonging it. I think in all honesty, I was driven in part by the urge to be ‘fixed’ so that I could have another baby. Now I know that I’ll never be fixed; I have lost a ‘limb’ and I must learn how to operate without it.
I miss Nieve and think of her everyday, I think maybe I always will. But I’m giving up my expectations on grief; about the frequency, duration or intensity of it, about the shape it takes or the triggers that ignite it. In the beginning it terrified me, it felt bottomless and I was petrified about where it would take me next. I metophorically vomited up my emotions and they swung violently from intense sadness, to agonising fear, to acute anger. I struggled and I fought and eventually I learned to stop struggling and fighting.
When I went kayaking some years ago the instructor told me that if I was to fall out into the water, I shouldn’t fight against the current, I should lie back and let the current take me with it. He explained that it would pull me towards the rapids but then spit me out near the shore. This is a good analogy for my grief; it’s a force that cannot be controlled or fought against. It’s necessary to face the depths of of it but to remember that that part won’t last forever, eventually the current will spit you out by the shore again.
Life goes on and it’s up to me how much of it I embrace now. I can’t bring Nieve back and I can’t stop the grief that has been created by the hole she left either. Nieve, the grief and the anxiety over the future are all a part of me now but I know I have to strive to get the best out of this life that I’ve been given, and that is a battle I know that’s worth fighting.