It’s safe to say that I have never felt less in control of myself or my emotions as I have these past eight weeks. As I go about my days still fully immersed in the grieving process, it is difficult to predict what will catapult me into a rage or engulf me in a wave of tears. Each day is its own beast to contend with. Until experiencing the physical trauma of giving birth by cesarean section, only to watch Leah die after struggling to cling to life, I never could have understood the delicate nature of navigating the everyday world with such fresh emotional and psychological wounds.
Many loss mamas have commented that, following their experience of miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death, suddenly it seems like there are blissful pregnant women and healthy babies everywhere, and each encounter with them peels a healing layer away from the loss wound, exposing it for all to see.
This has not really been the case for me, at least not yet. Granted I got off easy in this respect because there were no other women in my immediate circle of family and friends who had newborn babies or were pregnant at the same time as me. The things that were and remain most triggering for me bring me back to the final weeks of my pregnancy when I was happily going about my day to day routine, blissfully anticipating Leah’s imminent arrival. It rips my heart to shreds to think about that time now, knowing that I will never experience that pure, unadulterated joy again. In the same way, while I believed those days marked the beginning of my new life with Leah, it now pains me to think that they actually marked the beginning of the end of our time together.
Throughout the past eight weeks I have found myself triggered at one point or another by the following otherwise mundane activities:
- Making breakfast.
- Drinking raspberry leaf tea. As per my midwife’s advice I had been drinking 3-4 cups each day during my final weeks of pregnancy, and I continued to drink it after Leah’s birth to help with uterine healing.
- Throwing out my last empty box of raspberry leaf tea. In a strange away, it felt like I was losing one of the few remaining links to my happy pregnant days.
- Watching anything on Netflix.
- Reading the Scary Mommy confessional.
- Walking in the general direction of my midwife’s office.
- Going to the grocery store.
- Reading or watching anything related to the Brexit referendum. My husband and I were mildly obsessed with this historic event, and since the June 23 vote day was shortly after Leah’s due date, I had long imagined having her with me when it happened. When the big day came, I couldn’t bring myself to watch the coverage.
- Reading or watching anything related to the upcoming 2016 U.S. election, for the same reasons cited above.
- Eating grapes.
- Eating watermelon.
- Listening to any of the albums that I purchased during my pregnancy, and especially this song and this song.
- Watching The Americans, as I had purchased the third season on DVD with the specific intention of viewing it while doing late night feedings.
- Walking my dog to the park.
- Eating the freezer meals I had prepared shortly before my due date.
And of course, there are the more obvious triggers that relate directly to Leah herself. The jug of special baby-friendly laundry detergent I had purchased to wash her clothes. The closet full of diapers and onesies that I still cannot bring myself to open. The car seat and bassinet that had been set up weeks in advance of my due date but were never used. The photos and video clips of Leah that, depending on the moment, may fill my heart with joy and gratitude, cause me to break into unrelenting sobs, or send me into a fit of rage for their inability to fully replicate the living, breathing girl I long to hold.
Most days the list of potential triggers seems endless. In the meantime taking life day by day continues to be challenging. And when that is too much, I allow myself to take it moment by moment, breath by breath.