Between Infant loss awareness day, and my binge on the new show, “This is Us,” I found myself reflecting a lot on the loss of my daughter, almost five years ago.
Five years ago was a very dark time that left me wondering if I’d ever survive, I want to give others that are currently in that position some hope.
Five years ago on November 23rd I watched my daughter’s heartbeat slow to an achingly slow pace on the monitor. We knew her time was up. I was only twenty weeks pregnant and her cord had prolapsed. The doctor shook her head and then turned off the monitor. She explained how they would induce me, looked at me with sad eyes and then left the room. The next morning my daughter was born.
In the span of a few hours, I said hello to my only daughter and also said goodbye.
For the first week or two, I remained numb. I didn’t cry, didn’t feel anything, I thought something was terribly wrong with me. And then it hit me, the gut-wrenching feeling of loss. Something huge was missing and I’d never get her back.
My husband at the time expected me to move on quickly. I would try to pretend I was ok during the day and then when he would fall asleep I’d go through her box and cry for hours. I would drive to the cemetery frequently, any time of the day or night and cry at her grave. Sometimes envisioning digging her up so I could hold her again.
After months of not sleeping, eating, functioning, it was determined I had PTSD and was admitted to a behavioral health clinic for a few nights. I was mad my mom forced me there at first, my husband thought it was stupid and wanted me home, but it turns out it was just what I needed.
They helped me get on a low dose of meds to turn down the anxiety so I could work through my grief. (I’m not advocating for meds, please talk to your doctor if you feel it’s necessary.) I made friends there that understood my pain and we could talk freely about it. I was able to grieve openly and often instead of suppressing it, and I had my first epiphany during a group counseling session.
I normally checked out during the sessions as they typically were geared towards those with depression and self-esteem issues but he said something that really resounded with me. And I quote, “Be selfish! Stop worrying about making other people happy and make changes in your life to make yourself happy. You are allowed to be selfish! You need to be selfish right now!” I immediately flashed back to my 9th week of pregnancy, I was crying in the laundry room after my husband had belittled me and went off to the bar for the hundredth time. I was having bad cramps and I promised myself if I lost that baby I was leaving him.
I’m not saying there is a reason I lost the baby. It was a senseless bout of bad luck, but there in that room, I decided I was going to channel that pain and do something life changing. If I could survive the loss of my child, I could survive anything.
My ex-husband was abusive and an alcoholic, he verbally abused me and often teetered on the line of physical abuse. He was an awful father to our toddler, often yelling in front of him or at him. I needed to keep the promise I made to myself and get us out of there.
So I did. My son and I moved out to our own place while he was out of town for work. I found a job and for the first time we were comfortable, financially, and emotionally. I put all my focus into making life better for us and channeling my loss into something meaningful. I started volunteering for the March of Dimes, sitting on the walk committee and raising a lot of money for the cause. I made sure to reach out to anyone I knew that was going through something similar, even if I never talked to them before. I wanted them to know they weren’t alone.
So where am I at emotionally five years later? I still struggle in the fall and major holidays. My children know who she is and talk about her freely. I don’t think about her every day but do think about her often as I watch my new family. What kind of a sister would she have been and how often would her and my oldest son wrestle around the house fighting over toys and tv channels? Would I have met my amazing husband and would he have openly adopted her too, as he did my oldest son? Would we have my sweet little rainbow baby?
I can’t say everything turned out great. I lost relationships with some friends and family that refused to acknowledge it (I also gained some great relationships), my next pregnancy four years later was plagued with anxiety, and I still miss her terribly. But reflecting back on what the doctor said to the dad in the show “This Is Us.” Life handed me the sourest lemon and I truly feel I did what I could to turn it into something resembling lemonade and will continue to do so. It helps me get through each year a little easier.
If you’re deep in the trenches of loss today, I want you to know that it truly does get easier. When the grief hits, it doesn’t lessen but it does change if you let it, into something quite beautiful.