Friday, June 10, 2011

Right Where I Am: 6 Months, 1 Day

Thanks to Angie from Still Life with Circles for starting this insightful and reflective project. This is right where I am, 6 months and 1 day after the loss of one of my twins. Physically, emotionally, and mentally. I can’t help but reflect a bit on the early weeks in order to fully see how it’s different now.

The ironic thing about how I feel physically is that I feel much worse right now than in the early months of my grief. During my twin pregnancy I had only gained about 35 pounds despite having eaten whenever I could and taking Zofran as needed. It just wasn’t happening. People would always joke, “Are you SURE there are two in there? Where ya hidin’ em?!” which now takes on such a sinister color considering I only brought one baby home from the hospital. My babies at 37 weeks upon delivery together weighed about eleven pounds of that 35. It felt amazing to make it so far with twins and have babies with such healthy weights in the face of how sick I had felt. Well, it felt amazing until my son died six days before I was scheduled to deliver, and then I just felt like I had Failed at the most important thing I had been ever called to do.

In the weeks that followed, people would say, “You look amazing”, and people would ask me, “So how much weight did you gain carrying twins?” probably as a way to make small talk in order to avoid asking me how I was surviving the loss of my son or how I was coping. The Truth? Within a week or so of my c-section, once all the swelling went down, I weighed less than I did pre-pregnancy. Carrying twins was apparently a weight-loss strategy *sarcasm, in case you didn’t catch it, I want it to be clearly obvious here*. People would look at me, “Well how is that possible?” puzzled, disbelieving. “Well when you puke daily for over half of your pregnancy due to twice the hormones surging through your system, you have trouble gaining weight. Then, when you have horrible acid reflux to the point where you vomit almost daily, you have trouble gaining weight. Then, when one of your babies dies, you just don’t feel like eating at all, and you lose weight. I’m sure it can all be boiled down to some simple mathematical equation.” I didn’t really say that, but I sure as hell wanted to. (Every time I had to answer about my lack of weight gain I felt so self-conscious, as if the person must be judging me, thinking I starved myself and that’s why my son died. My son was actually an impressive 6 pounds, thank you very much. Both of my twins grew wonderfully all throughout my pregnancy, and never was there ever a cause for concern over my health or their growth patterns. But anyway.) And every time someone said, “Wow, you had twins?! You look GREAT!” I would think to myself, “Well, at least they acknowledged I had two babies, not one.” This was immediately followed by my inner dialogue back to them saying, “You know what? I couldn’t care less about how the hell I look. My son is dead. Screw off.”

Over the course of the past six months, grief has not been kind to my body. I had used my sick days for seven weeks of bed rest followed by six weeks of maternity leave. I couldn’t take any more. Bills needed paid. And honestly, I NEEDED to get out of this house at that point. Returning to work after losing a child and not getting any sleep between grieving my son and caring for my newborn daughter? To say this was no simple feat (even just physically) is an incredible understatement. I have been in survival mode. Just trying to make it through the day. Planning, shopping for, preparing, and cooking balanced meals every day is obviously not happening. Thus, over the past six months, I have gained twelve pounds. The physical aspects of my grief are the least of my concerns, but since no one has asked until now, I took this opportunity to write about it. I feel lumpy and gross and unattractive on top of the countless other negative things I feel about myself, so it’s more of an insult to injury kind of thing.

Emotionally, I am broken. Sometimes when my daughter is crying, I cry right along with her. I just celebrated my daughter’s first half-birthday, and it was so bittersweet. I am beginning to hate that word; I use it and hear it too often. One of my biggest challenges now, 6 months out, is to not be robbed of any more than I’ve already had taken from me. I dreamed of my son years before he was ever conceived. Those dreams have been shattered. I lost my son, and along with him, I lost the pure joy of delivering my living daughter, an experience I had awaited my entire life, because the worst and best day of my life were one and the same. Some days I don't know if my marriage will survive this pain, and I feel like I will likely lose everything I once had and loved. I have lost my faith in prayer, completely and utterly. I feel cheated, abandoned, empty. I’ve always dreamt of having twins, as they run in my family and I knew it was a possibility, and now the unique parenting opportunity of raising same-aged siblings has been torn from me. I am left being bombarded with photos and Facbook updates from the other twins in my family, the ones born to women who must have been much more deserving than I. While I was pregnant with twins, society placed me on a pedastal that I never asked to be placed on. My pregnancy was "special". I've been violently tossed, and I feel like everyone can see the bruises and scrapes from my fall, and many show me pity rather than compassion, which leaves me cringing and seeking to avoid them altogether. It’s not quite the same as in the early days, where I felt like everyone at the supermarket would look at my daughter and just know somehow that she was a twin, which obviously didn’t happen. They all saw my drawn expression and thought I was simply sleep-deprived due to having a new baby at home. These days I just feel sad, sad to my very core, and I feel like everybody sees it and thinks that I am just not cut out for motherhood and am miserable with my daughter. I fear my daughter will resent me for not being the shiny happy perfect mommy she deserves. I fear my daughter will blame me for her brother not being here. I fear my daughter will feel as broken as I am when she finally comes to understand that she has a twin that didn’t make it. I love my daughter so fiercely that it hurts. I feel like I’m loving her times two, because I can’t physically express the love I feel for my son.

Mentally, I need help. And I know it. When I first lost my son, while I was still in the hospital, one of the OBs (one I had never met before) made it a point to come to my room and tell me repeatedly that this wasn’t my fault. I was like, “I KNOW that!” and looked at her like she was an alien with fourteen heads. Truly, I was thinking “DUH, how the HELL could this possibly be MY FAULT after everything I did during this pregnancy to bring him here safely? How could this be ANYBODY’s fault with all the extra monitoring and appointments and scans my OB offered? She was just as determined as I was to bring these two babies safely into the world! It’s just something horrible that happened that no one knew would happen, and some day I will just have to find a way to live with that.”

I honestly didn’t think any other way for weeks and weeks.

Six months out? I am thinking that the doctors must have been incompetent, that I must have done something horrible to deserve this, that I somehow failed my son when he needed me the most, that I should have known something was wrong, that I am hanging on by a thread, that I can’t stand the sight of myself, that I have failed every person I have ever loved, that I shouldn’t have been born to begin with and then none of this pain would exist for my loved ones.


  1. Bereavement and Power

    "We fell guilty to avoid feeling powerless.
    We feel powerless to avoid feeling guilty.
    And wind up with the burden of both"

    Marion Cohen
    "She was born, she died"

    My newborn daughter died 20 years ago. I spent the first two years with a means of suicide very close at hand. I cared for it as carefully as I cared for my daughters ashes.

    I'm sorry you are here, with this new knowledge of pain and loss. That your beloved son died. That it is worse then you could ever have imagined, previously. And I'm glad your daughter lived, heart glad. But that doesn't change the fact that your son is gone. Emotions don't balance, so much happy cancels so much sad. They exist in their whole self, separately.

    Rationally, I'm sure you know you are not ruining your daughter's life or your family's. Logical thinking at this point means spit. And, even if you are, that is their tough luck. Sorry, but we all deal with what we can, how we can. I believe children should be raised to be independent adults, and then they can pay for their own therapy to correct my mistakes ;).

    Sweetheart, I can tell you life gets better, and it does. But I don't know if you can trust that now or if it even matters. Right now, you sound as if you are dying. Slowly and painfully. Grief is like that, you really are dying to all you know and based your life on. You not only lost your son, you have lost yourself.

    You say you know you need help. Your right, but you may or may not get it. My experience, for every 100 pieces of help or advice offered, 3 really do help. But leave yourself open to those three. And try for the next hundred. And receive the next three good things.

    If anything I have said is hurtful to you, please forgive me. Your post touched my soul, and I couldn't leave without trying to extend a virtual hand to you. I wish for you many deep breathes of peace and release.

    Jill A.

  2. I feel you momma. ((((hugs)))) The ups and downs of this grief SUCK. When i had my daughter, the whole pregnancy everyone thought i was having twins. When i delivered Stella (emergency Csect) my dad actually asked me where the other baby was. I told him that i wish there was another baby and that at least one of them had lived. But i can see now that it probably wouldnt have made a whlole lot of a difference in the grief. (((huge hugs))) thanks for sharing where you are. I was also feeling so much of those same feelings last month. I am on 7m 2w out. It got better then got worse. the hills seem to get bigger and father apart at the same time. stay stron momma <3

  3. Six months is a really rough patch. Your out of the early fog of greif and your hormones are all over the place. And the new reality is sinking in. The quote at the top of your blog is perfect for this place...

    I am sorry Elias is not here to celebrate his first half year. It's no one's fault, it just is what it is. A big ball of hurt and empty.

    I had a terrible time recovering physically after Serenity's death, and that was without a baby to carry around and hurt your back. I really hope you can make time for yourself to get regular massage or go to a chiropractor. I wish I had done it right away, but I am doing both now after Beanie and it's the only way I am making it.

    It's a rocky path we are on, but it does change. Hang in there.

  4. Our stories are quite different, but you have really hit the nail on the head with so many things here for me. I was nodding the whole way through.
    Six months is hell. And doing this intense grieving all the while caring for a little baby - I find it astonishing. You should be so proud of yourself. What an incredibly intense time.
    And seriously, who the hell asks someone about their weight pre, during or post pregnancy? What the hell is up with that? How you did not slap anyone that questioned your size is beyond me! So not anyone's business and really, if you and the babies are healthy, then what does it matter. I'm sorry people can be so insensitive.
    Your story has absolutely touched my heart today. I am very glad to have found you through Angie and will be following from now on.
    Thinking of sweet baby Elias, wishing he was here in your arms, with his twin sister.

  5. Yes, I too am so sorry. Six months was really really rough for me. Fuck, every place was rough for me because my child died. I felt so many of the emotions you describe here--the guilt settled in even when I logically knew I did everything right. The self-loathing from my weight. Just the anger at people's crazy conversations about nothing and unintentionally hurtful comments that were meant to be kind. (people's sense of what is comforting is so messed up, it seems impossible that anyone connects with anyone else.) It felt like death by a thousand paper cuts. All of this is to say that I know that what you are feeling seems not right, abnormal, wrong, but it is absolutely normal. It is grief. We here in this community will love you until you can love yourself again. Thank you for sharing right where you are. xo

  6. We have different journeys. We all do. But thank you so much for sharing your reality. No sugar coating here, it's clear.

    I feel more guilty now, too. For some reason I was more composed then. Now our brains just run in many directions as to answer all the questions we have.

    People are stupid and don't know how to react. That "are you sure there are twins in there" crap probably looms through your head regularly in your guilt. I understand and allow those same thoughts to overcome me.

    Six months is so damn hard. I know that, too. No pieces of hope from me as we're in this together.

  7. There was a line from an Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination that stuck with me:

    "He died inside of me: of course it was my fault. It happened on my watch. "

    I know intellectually that I didn't do it, but um yeah, was on my watch that she died. (lost one twin to what turned out to most likely be a cord accident at 24 weeks)

  8. I'm visiting from Angie's project. Thank you for leaving a comment on my (turns out, not so!) goodbye post.

    I am sorry that Elias died. I know one or two twin mamas who are raising one baby and grieving another and I do, genuinely, think it's the most complicated path through this grief. I can totally understand why "bittersweet" would be such an accurate but hateful expression of what you're experiencing.

    I think 6 months is an exceptionally tough time (in the midst of all tough times). Other people are pretty much "over it" and we're just about wrapping our heads around the idea that this is our forever now. Sucks. My husband and I saw a bereavement midwife around then and she was amazing. I do credit her with helping us both find ways to cope.

  9. 6 months was the worst time for me in my grief. It hard to keep my head afloat. ((hug))

  10. Thinking of you and your Elias. I can only imagine how hard it is to mother a living and a dead child at the same time. I wish you didn't have to go through all of this.

    The way you write about where you are is important - sometimes all the pressure I felt to "feel better" and "find the silver lining" made me feel abnormal or somehow doing grief wrong, and it was a huge relief to hear from others that sometimes it's okay to not look for the stupid silver lining. Which is a really long way of saying, I think what you write here can be very helpful to others, and thank you for putting it into words.