Bereaved mother. Thats another new term I have learned. I am a bereaved mother.
Last weekend I caught myself going to rest my arms on my belly like I always did when I was pregnant. It was like misjudging a step and catching yourself as you stumble the unexpected 6 inches. As my arms out of habit went to rest on the belly that is no longer there, the same jerking stumble occurred as they fell to my sides.
A handful of times when my stomach rumbles and bumbles with digestion, the movement has felt so similar to Sylvia moving I will temporarily forget I am no longer pregnant.
Occasionally I have went to lay on my stomach and my mind tries to correct the positioning, because of the baby.
Its a rude, sad snap back to reality when my brain catches back up and jerks out of the habits my body created after 10 months of being pregnant. I am sure it would be a mindless conversation filler if Sylvia were still here. One of those topics you share with someone not because it is of particular importance but because you want to say it out loud for whatever reason. They are the comments that get a giggle for a response not because they are funny, but because the person you told it to can either relate, or not at all. I am a mother; my daughter grew and thrived inside me, but she is no longer here. There are things that I can relate to with other moms but those things are limited to the experience of pregnancy. Those things can be conversationally limiting without the respondent in the situation feeling uncomfortable because my baby died. Not uncomfortable to me because its my reality…but to everyone else, it can be uncomfortable and awkward. People stumble initially through the conversation with me. Testing the waters as they tip toe around their own comfort zone, trying to find mine. I suppose it is because they don’t want to say the wrong thing or upset me, or it is such an uncomfortable topic that they choose to just pretend it doesn’t exist. The brain does weird things in times of tragedy and confusion. It is my tragedy and it is confusing emotionally to others. I get it, really I do.
I have seen not very many people since Sylvia died compared to how many people usually I see on a weekly or monthly basis. Socially I have been very reclusive, limiting my socialization to a situation or location I can mostly control, I went to the gym two days ago for the first time though but still have only been to the grocery store once and don’t go back to work until mid October. I am slowly allowing myself to be in public more. My hidden state has come from an anxiety of being approached by people, their reaction, my inability to control who comes into my space and my inability to predict when or how powerfully a wave of grief will slam into me.
I go back to work in less than a month and, at some point, I will start returning to whatever my new bizarre normal is of going to the grocery store, running errands, going to the gym and pretending to be human again. I will be put in a lot of situations that I can no longer control. I will be in front of a lot of people who may become emotional, say the wrong thing, pretend the last couple months of my life didn’t happen, or ignore me completely. It is all on some weird spectrum of their brain’s own compartmentalization of my situation, their grief and their sympathy for me. Psychologically, I understand the variety of responses and encounters I will likely have, and all of them I need to be okay with. It is Carlos’ and my reality every day, to others it is a sad story.
There are a lot of readers of this blog (a lot more than I expected) and I am so, so thankful for the support and love I have received since starting to jot down my thoughts. It is incredibly personal, and yet people keep reading no matter how difficult or heartbreaking my entries are. So thank you friends. Since Sylvia died, I have also found that our situation is a lot more common than I ever expected. So many people have reached out and shared some horrifically personal story of loosing a child and what their reality is. I didn’t think I needed a lesson in never knowing what someone else is going through, but I got one, and it has been powerful. So, friends, I am far from the only person you know who has lost a child, I promise you. I encourage you to relax that little bug of anxiety you feel when approaching or talking to someone who has (no matter how long ago) had a miscarriage, stillbirth, infant or child loss. I think some people fear that they will ‘remind me’ and don’t want to upset me. Trust me, there isn’t a second that I have forgotten that my daughter has died. You are not reminding me. Talking about her, sharing my memories and sharing pictures of her is the only way she can be kept alive. It is a joy for Carlos and I to talk about Sylvia with others. I’ll cry, most likely, but that isn’t a weakness nor am I embarrassed by it, it is a testament of my love for her and the impact her life has had on myself, Carlos and our family and friends.