Wow, I have really gotten out of the habit of writing. Actually, my lack of posts is somewhat reflective of what life has been like lately. I’ve been incredibly busy doing so many things and just in the past couple weeks I have really been realizing that I’ve sidelined my grief quite a bit. With everything going on, it has been easy to throw myself into volunteer work, household chores and projects, spending time with family and friends, and growing this new little blessing in my belly. I know I haven’t really “announced” my rainbow pregnancy here, but many will have heard about it from me, on social media, or through the grapevine. I do plan to post on pregnancy after loss and how things have been going with our little girl, Ella Jane, but for now I want to focus on what life looks like for me 10.5 months out from losing Jacob.
Something I’ve been really struggling with lately is how “easy” it is to live daily life with some sense of normalcy, but how wrong that can often feel. I’m not sure “easy” is the right word, because nothing about my experience on a day to day basis is truly easy, but it has felt easier to focus on the day-to-day and push the pain down, especially when it comes to my interactions with others. I still think about Jacob many times every day. I still see and hear things that make me cringe and remind me of what should have been. I often have moments where I find myself thinking “this really happened to me!? how is that possible???” But both in my own mind and outwardly in my interactions, I find myself taking the “easy” way out, and squashing those thoughts so I can continue what I’m doing with as much normalcy as possible. When people ask how I’m doing, my answer is usually something like “pretty good thanks!” When asked how I’m doing or feeling in relation to my current pregnancy, I usually answer “feeling good, just ready for August to be here.” As I say these words, my mind is usually screaming at me with the emotions I’m not verbalizing…the sadness, the “it’s still not OK Jacob’s gone,” the fear, the “I don’t know whether I’m more hopeful or more scared.” But unless I’m speaking to a person and in a setting and in the mood that would be comfortable for me to have a lengthy, emotional, probably rambling conversation about how I really feel, this is the easiest course to take. Easiest for them and easiest for me.
The thing about grief, though, is you can only push it down so long. At least I have found that at some point after a period like this, the grief will surface again and demand to be felt. Mother’s Day weekend was the natural time for that inevitability to occur. It was a really tough few days and weeks leading up to the dreaded holiday. I struggled a lot with how to avoid the typical celebrations without denying my status as a mother. It’s important to me that I myself, as well as others, recognize that I am a mother even though I don’t have children in my arms. But being out in public celebrating your motherhood of children you can’t see or hold doesn’t feel quite right either. Ultimately, the anticipation was worse than the day itself. Don’t get me wrong, on Sunday 5/14 I spent a lot of time in tears or holding them back. I skipped church because I knew I couldn’t handle any focus there might be on kids and their moms. I skipped family brunch because, as I said earlier, celebrating in public didn’t feel right. My mom stopped by and I gave her a hug, but that was the extent of our “celebration”…no cookout or cards or gifts as has been our tradition. I avoided walking the dog for fear of seeing neighbors who wouldn’t know what to say. I dreaded sad/pitying looks I might get from people who knew what I’ve been through, and I equally dreaded people acting like nothing was wrong. And I thought about how cruel it was that I was missing out on all of these things, and on a day that should have been my joyful first Mother’s Day with an almost 10-month old in my arms.
But I managed to pass the day as peacefully as possible, and to honor Jacob and my motherhood in the most comfortable ways I could come up with: planting a tree friends had given us to symbolize Jacob and grow as he should have grown, visiting his gravesite, and enjoying dinner grilled by the best husband (and dad to Jacob) I could ever ask for. I received messages and cards and flowers from family and friends that meant so much and reminded me that so many people do value my motherhood and love and miss Jacob. I grieved. I grieved by crying and letting myself recognize the tragedy of our sad reality without Jacob in a way I had not been letting myself recently. That release was so needed. I grieved by taking the positive step of planting Jacob’s tree and taking flowers to his grave. I exercised my motherhood the best way I knew how, and I ended the day feeling much more peace than I thought I could have.
So, where does this all leave me? I think I’m very much in a phase of learning to become comfortable with the “new normal.” A normal where I can function relatively well, enjoy meaningful activities and interactions, and feel accomplished in all that I’m doing until I’m jolted into reality and forced to confront what’s missing and how uncomfortable it is to live daily life without Jacob. A normal where I have hope and even excitement for the future, especially for Ella Jane squirming inside me, until that excitement flips to anxiety in those moments that I’m reminded that the worst can and has happened to me. A normal that allows me to do lots of good work in Jacob’s name and celebrate the legacy I’m carving out for him. A normal where I no longer take a day or even a moment for granted, which I appreciate, but on the flip side I have many irrational fears of terrible things that could happen, related or unrelated to baby/child loss. A normal that has me in awe of how far I’ve come while I simultaneously question how the delicate balance of light (hope, joy, excitement, appreciation) and dark (worry, fear, anxiety, sadness) will continue to unfold in my life moving forward.