Lord knows we’ve had an awful year. Not one I wish to repeat. But, I’m a firm believer that when life throws you lemons – you make lemonade….and throw in some vodka.
As I reflect on our lives this past year, and the grief that surrounds infertility and pregnancy loss… it’s beyond easy to get bogged down. It’s easy to stay in a pool of grief because we lost two babies, one when I was almost halfway along in the pregnancy. It’s easy to get wrapped up in us having another child vs not, and letting it control our lives. I know how grief can do that, but I refuse to go there. We get one life on Earth…I’m not about to squander it.
So it’s got me thinking about grief.
Everyone grieves. We grieve when loved ones pass at 91, and when loved ones pass before they were ever born. We grieve when relationships don’t work. We grieve over plans not working out. No one is immune from grief. No one.
And that got me thinking about how I choose to handle it.
I’m one person. I’m certainly not an expert. There’s no good book on how to handle grief when you lose a baby. There’s not much out there on grief in general.
But what I can tell you is this…
Everyone gets shoved into the grief pool when something terrible happens. Sometimes it’s immediate, sometimes its days later, weeks later, or months later. Nobody escapes the grief pool. The vast majority of us will have to come up for air eventually. Sometimes it’s within days, sometimes longer. It’s laughter, someone making you smile, or maybe just putting your focus somewhere else, away from your pain, for just a moment. And you’ve got a decision to make: do I go back under, or do I pull myself out. Maybe you’re not ready at first, so you go back under. Maybe you move from the deep end to the shallow. But inevitably, if you go back under you’ll come up for air again (maybe sooner than last time) and the decision happens again. Eventually, you choose to pull yourself out – or maybe you don’t. I hope you do.
I got out of the pool. I’m not immune to grief. I have feelings. I’m not EVER going to forget what happened, and nobody in their right mind would expect me to. It’s simply not possible. But, I choose happiness over sadness, thankfulness over being left wanting. But so many times I see people choose to stay in the pool.
I want to live a life of thankfulness… even in the midst of the shit storm that has been this past year.
So… here’s what got me out:
In moments of grief, reflect on the love that surrounds you. Allow people to comfort you, to make you laugh, and forget the sadness…even if only for a moment. They’re trying to pull you up so you can breath. Let them.
In moments of weakness, when you feel like you can’t stand up, let someone help you. So, so, so many women have gone through this. You are not alone. But, if you don’t allow someone to be there for you (that’s been through a loss or infertility of their own especially) – you’re going to feel alone. Feeling alone is unnecessary. There are too many of us out here for it to be ok for you to suffer in silence.
In your moments of anxiety and worry, control the controllable and forget what you can’t control. I can’t control that my body’s all out of whack right now – it just needs time, and that’s ok. Can’t get the anxiety under control? Talk to someone. There are options – even if it’s just red wine and a good friend.
When things don’t fit into YOUR timeline: get rid of the timeline. Like seriously. The timeline is creating stress and it’s probably making you crazy. If you can’t control it – get rid of it. Lord knows, I thought Muchkin would be playing with a sibling by now. But he’s not and that’s ok. My mom and aunt are seven years apart and are thick as thieves. I never got a sibling…and my life has been good. Timelines are stress-inducing.
When what you prayed for doesn’t happen, when what you’ve wanted more than anything in the world doesn’t happen…. reevaluate. How important is it? Are you losing yourself in an attempt to gain something society tells you you must have? What lengths are you willing to go to? What stress are you willing to put on your spouse? Is it worth it? No? Then find something else that makes you happy. There’s a whole world out there waiting on you. Yes? See below.
And what happens when you decide it is worth it, and you keep praying, and you keep wanting…and it still doesn’t happen. You reevaluate. You decide what you need to be happy if it’s not going to be ________________, and you go do that. You go on trips, you adopt a child, you become the world’s best aunt, you make a career move, you do SOMETHING that changes your focus and makes you happy. Because happiness should not be determined by one thing. You let go. You did everything right, and it didn’t work out. Good. Let yourself feel peace. You change your prayer. Pray not for the thing you wanted, pray for peace and happiness – it’ll seep in.
In our time of grief, I forced myself to think of these things:
I choose to live a life of thankfulness. Not everyone has what I have and I’m grateful: we have family who supports us, loves, us and prays for us. We have friends that will do just about anything to help. I have a great career. We have a warm home. We have food in our bellies. We’re happy.
I choose to see the good in my family, friends, and God. Yeah, we all get annoyed from time to time with our loved ones (God included)…but the reality is – they love us, we love them, and when push comes to shove – we’ve got each others backs.
I put faith in Him, that He may not stop really bad things from happening to really good people – but He will support you in a way nobody else can.
And if you ever question that, ask yourself: how have I witnessed God?
This was my answer: On our worst days – we had family drive in from out of state to bring us food. One of my best friends drove hours to come see me, only for an hour. We received cards, and messages, and love from people we didn’t even know. I had doctors that cared for me. I don’t mean they treated me, which they did…I mean they CARED for me. Like I was their daughter, sister, friend. I had nurses that complimented my eyelashes when I was in the OR and gave me drugs that relaxed me – on the worst day of my life they made it a little better. Our minister sat on our back porch for hours just talking to me and my mom…caring for us. If that’s not God at work, I don’t know what is.
I prayed not for God to change our outcome – but for him to give me peace and strength. He did.
And because of that peace and strength… I’m happy. Legitimately happy.
I talk to our son. Maybe that seems crazy. But to me…he’s in Heaven being bounced around by my grandparents. He’s perfectly fine. And I have a family here on Earth who needs me. A husband, a child, our family, and friends – I’m important to them and they deserve all of me.
One day, if we’re blessed to have another baby on Earth, we’ll gladly welcome him or her to our family – and if that doesn’t happen for us…I’m ok with that too. Like REALLY ok. Not the kind of ok people say and don’t mean.
My value as a woman, and a human, is not dictated by fertility. Your’s shouldn’t be either. My value is determined by what and who I am, because that’s something I can control. If you put your value into something that you can’t control, well…that’s how you lose your happiness. That’s not something I’m willing to part with.
Tomorrow, I’m going to eat way more than I should and enjoy my family. And tomorrow night, I’ll lay in bed next to my husband and for a moment, think what might have been….then smile because I know I’m coming out on the other side stronger and happier – and for that…I AM THANKFUL.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving. May your turkey be delicious, your cranberry sauce be from a can, and the drinks free-flowing….