Do you ever have moments when your heart is heavy? When you know the reasons are all the wrong reasons? When even though you know you are loved and treasured by God and an amazing family, you just can’t seem to FEEL that love within – in the core of your soul where it makes all the difference? When you know that YOU are the only one stopping you from peace? When you recognize all of that and yet you’re simply not sure you have what it takes to allow love and peace into your soul? When you’re not even sure that you WANT to? Or perhaps I am the only one. Somehow I don’t think so, but even if I am the only one, I NEED to write about it. (I need to do this to hopefully find the closure I am needing. This post is written mostly for myself and for anyone else that might take something useful from it. I will warn right now though, this is likely to be long winded, because that may be what it takes today.)
I have come to the place where I have decided that I want to feel that inner peace and love badly enough that I am willing to open my heart again. Even though I am so scared to do it. I never thought that loving, or even letting myself feel love, could ever be such a terrifying prospect. But here I sit silently sobbing at that very reality as I type. I don’t dare sob out loud for fear that it will consume me – again. I am also trying to avoid frightening my children with my own fears. At least until they are ready to understand and believe me that I have never stopped loving them, even though I was afraid of my love for them and even of their love for me. Though, honestly, that love has been the very easiest to accept and to offer through this time. There really is something magical about the way a child connects to their momma’s heart.
Though, sometimes that bond – that connection – is the curse that overshadows all other blessings. All other love.
I don’t know why, but I have been overwhelmed by thoughts of my BABY BOY. The one I lost. It took months after his tiny sweet body was in the tiny casket in the sacred babyland area of the cemetery before I was able to begin to move forward. Then I thought I was finally doing pretty OK. I had my random sad moments of longing and of missing him, but it was just that – moments. It never seemed to grab hold of my whole heart or interfere with my ability to think, or do, or be how I knew I needed and wanted. I figured I had reached a point of safety and stability within the grieving process. It felt great! My family was blessed to have me back – fully back. I could love and serve and play with my kids – fully engaged with them. I really opened myself, my mind and heart, to my husband again – both as an enjoyable friend and as a genuine sweetheart. I was finally able to focus on my work in our company again. I could study hard and participate fully in my school work. I could go about and do all the things that I wanted to be able to without my heart weighing down my abilities. I felt healed. It wasn’t that I didn’t miss my little one or wish like crazy that I could be holding him or loving on him, but I was able to face it with peace in my life and in my soul. I did struggle a bit right as I approached my original due date with him, but even that period of renewed mourning felt more healing than harming.
Then…I’m not sure exactly. But, something changed it all. I found out that I am expecting again just as my semester ended. It was a crazy time for us. I was trying to wrap up my semester. I needed badly to catch up on my house that had been neglected ever since I started to lose BABY BOY. We had a big conference for our work (one that we love and were so excited to go to, but making it all happen was still stressful – especially financially). The kids were approaching their end of school activities and needed extra attention. In essence, I was facing extremely limited time, mental space, and ability to internalize emotional things at that point. So as I found out that I was going to be blessed with another baby, I really only managed to get through two thoughts. Happiness that God would give me another chance to hold a tiny baby of my own to raise and to love was the first. But it was very, very closely chased and dampened by the worry that I might lose this one too. That thought was to hard to deal with and was quickly back-burner-ed, but along with it, the joyful thoughts went to the same back burner to deal with later when I could process it all better.
Unfortunately, that time didn’t come right away. We headed on on our business trip and I started an insane summer program at school – six classes in six weeks, a week long each – plus, the first one was the same week as our trip (yay for an amazing professor that was kind enough to work with me long distance as I tried to keep up while out of town for our conference). When we got home, I immediately started into my next class and was working to wrap up things left from the tail end of the first class. I had to do laundry from our trip – though thank heavens for my mom that sent my kids home with bags of clean, folded laundry – mom’s are the best. I was also fully excited to dive full force into working like mad on our business after getting to spend time with utterly inspiring professionals in the field. Plus, that whole needing to clean my absolutely atrociously messy house was seriously looking me squarely in the eye. I was excited though and felt thrilled to dive into doing amazing and great things in all of the areas I needed to work on. I was in the “Bring it on!” mindset and ready to face it all!
But that didn’t last long. Not nearly long enough.
It was that very first week back that I started having problems with this pregnancy. (You can read about those experiences here.) I had HUBBY give me a blessing as those problems were starting and I was told something that I didn’t share in that earlier post, but want to share here. I was told that I – as in me, not HUBBY, not my doctor, not my super smart sister that’s into medicine, but ME – would know what to do to help this baby. I felt empowered by those words and also like I had a new huge weight to carry at the exact same moment. All through those trying, scary, stressful, and anxious weeks I knew that I had to stay down, knew to get the medication I did, knew to ask about certain things, knew when to go to the ER (a couple days after that earlier post was written), received confirmation of good things to try, and found understandings of things that I didn’t need to or shouldn’t do. (One example is a suggestion I received from several people and from the internet and that sounded like a perfect answer for me – having my cervix sewn shut to help keep baby set. I found out that when having full blown contractions like I was, that if they do stitch a cervix, but my body goes into full labor – like it did with BABY BOY – then my cervix will dilate anyway and simply have the stitches just tear right through it. Plus I got to see some great ultrasound images of my cervix when I visited the ER and it was not the weak link at all and had no need to be sewn shut. I just needed to calm the contractions so that it didn’t get to the point where my water would break or I would go into full labor.) I worked hard to listen to my body and to the Spirit of God to know what to do and was incredibly blessed as I did. I was able to know what to do – even to be inspired to share my experience as I was going through it and ask for prayers – which I felt so lifted by and supported by. I gave essentially all of my attention during that time either to simply trying to do what I had to to keep baby alive or to my school work – in an effort to take my mind off my baby and my body for a time. I wrote a follow up post that gave some detail about the phase just after school ended and I was sort of starting feel more “stable.” It was still super hard and I refused to think or really internalize much of what was happening – including the reality of this baby. It was a challenging time, but I felt happy to be stable and felt blessed and a great deal of peace about each day that I stayed “stable.”
That’s when everything fell apart. That is when the title for this post began to happen. I felt like I was self destructing and self imploding. My world was closing in around me. The catalyst? I finally felt “normal.” Yes, you read that right. It was not some other disastrous round of worrisome symptoms or a catastrophic event. It was feeling like I could actually admit to myself and others that I was FINE. It was telling people and recognizing the reality that this baby is surviving and is more likely to keep surviving than she is to die. It was reaching milestones of being so many weeks along that this baby could actually survive even if she was born now. It was all those wonderful things that I had been waiting for, hoping for, and praying for. They changed everything.
All of a sudden I had to face the reality that I am indeed pregnant. I had to look forward to December and holding this little one in my arms. I had to wonder what that will be like in our family to add her into the mix. I had to do lots of wonderful thinking. Or at least it would have been wonderful if it had not brought everything down on my heart and head. I am sure that those comments make me sound like a completely insane human being. That’s fine, since that is exactly how I have felt about my struggles. They make NO sense to me. At first I thought that I was just stressed out – not like that would be a far stretch to imagine, since our life is crazy right now with trying so hard to get this business going and I started another new semester and I’m still trying to get some handle on the cleanliness of my home and, well, you get the picture. But I quickly set that “excuse” aside. While I am stressed out, I am not any more stressed than most times in my life and stress honestly usually helps me perform better and push harder, not fall completely to pieces and become a dysfunctional person.
Then I started thinking that it was just because I had realized that it has been almost a year since I gave birth to and lost our BABY BOY. I wondered if it was because I still felt anger over that, which I realized that I did. I realized that I have been angry at myself for not being able to save him, even though this pregnancy had carried the exact same kinds of issues and I have been able to save this one. (And yes, as I write that, or as I thought it originally, I am perfectly aware that I did not save this baby on my own, but rather through inspiration and prayers answered. But there is still a part of me that was mad at me for not doing everything for BABY BOY that I have done for this baby.) I have been able to push beyond those feelings, but they were hard to overcome and set behind me.
I realized that I was also mad at Heavenly Father for not saving our last one. When I realized that, I was even madder at myself – simply for EVER thinking such a thought. I KNOW that God had His hand in helping me this time, but I also KNOW that He had His hand in helping me last time too – even though last time the answer was “no.” I have never doubted His involvement in what happened during the entire experience last fall – I saw His hand too many times to dismiss His help, love, and concern for me and my family. Being mad at Him for loving me and helping me is not only ridiculous, but entirely and completely ungrateful. Moving beyond those feelings of anger was much easier than setting aside my anger at myself. As soon as I recognized the feelings, I hit my knees and found myself in a complete sense of pure apology and full of feelings of gratitude rather than anger. I was quickly refilled with His love – enough of that love to fill in all the gaps for a time.
I moved on to hunting for other things lurking within me that might be causing me to continue to feel so overwhelmed by grief. What I found was a shred of guilt at allowing BABY BOY to die, another guilt shred for “replacing” him with another baby, and yet another shred for thinking of this new baby as a “replacement.” I wondered if getting excited about this new baby somehow made me less loyal to BABY BOY. I wondered if I would always somehow wish that it was really BABY BOY that I had, rather than this one. Or worse yet, do anything to make this baby feel like I wished to have BABY BOY instead of her. As I addressed each of these guilt-stuffed questions, I realized that they all had crossed my mind – and many like them – on lots and lots of occasions, but that I recognized with head and heart that they were all ridiculous. Recognizing their ridiculousness did not make them leave for good, but made me realize that those were not the thoughts that were torturing my soul.
The next place my mind went were to other “guilty” questions, but the next ones somehow hit me harder and for longer than most of the earlier “reasons” I had found for answering the question as to why I was so completely falling apart right now. The first was huge, and it slammed me hard, painfully hard. I wondered if I deserved to have either of my babies come to my home – to my family. I can’t seem to manage to keep my temper in check all the time, to offer patience every time it is needed, to understand each of my kids’ needs constantly, or ever keep my home a clean environment for my kids to thrive in. Those failings made me wonder if God wasn’t being rather merciful to let my son return to heaven and even wonder if this new baby wouldn’t be better off to do the same. Honestly, this one still bothers me a bit even now as I type it, but I know that is not the main reason I have been falling apart. It is simply something that I need to work on improving.
I wondered if that hidden main “reason” was the next of my guilt riddled issues. I felt guilty because it has been so tight, so hard, to meet our needs financially lately that we were not ever able to set aside anywhere near enough for a real headstone on BABY BOY’s grave. We have placed various things there to help us know where his grave is, but I so wanted to find a way to save for a headstone to be placed there on the year anniversary of his birth/death. That is absolutely NOT going to happen right now. We managed to set aside some very small amount, thanks to a sweet gift from a grandma, but it is nowhere near enough and part of it was the ONLY cash we had or could obtain prior to HUBBY’s trip to Geneva and so part of it was sent with him. I just felt guilt, not just over using some of the few dollars we had been able to set aside, but for not being able to set aside enough ever. Guilt that I can’t place a headstone there for him yet. We will at some point – I know we will – but I felt as though we were letting him down somehow to have not been able to accomplish that for him yet.
I do feel blessed though – again seeing God’s hand helping me in small and simple ways that mean so much. We went to one of our favorite thrift stores in the hopes that I might be able to at least find some kind of basket hanger (you know, the poles that stick in the ground and then curve at the top to hang a flower pot from) or some other something that would be tall enough to mark where his grave is when the winter snows hit our valley. When we went, I not only found one of those basket hanger things, but also a garden tripod type thing that you can hang a wreath from that will totally work to attach a cute fall wreath to as well as his homemade nameplate that I am currently working on. I also found a beautiful rock plaque that is beautiful and has perfect words to be on his grave. We will place the plaque on the ground, like one of those flat headstones, the tripod with it in order to provide the height needed to find the grave through the snows in the winter, and use the basket hook for flowers and some balloons. It was not the first time that I left the thrift store in tears over God’s mercy letting just the right thing be there at just the right moment, but it was surely a poignant one for me.
Anyway. After having set aside and dealt with ALL of those possible “reasons” for me to feel like everything was closing in on me, I was still left to wonder why I was still simply becoming more and more broken? It was painful and took a whole lot of time, but I was finally able to understand what was underneath all of the other stuff. I was afraid to love anymore. I was afraid to keep loving BABY BOY because I just want it to never ever hurt to think of him anymore. Plus it seems like I would somehow completely heal (whatever that means) if I set aside my intense feelings of love for him. Also, I have been SO afraid to love this new baby. What if she DOESN’T make it? What if she does? I was SO frightened to put any love into this pregnancy because I was not sure my heart could withstand it if I let myself love her, but then lost her too. I was afraid to allow others to love me or to extend love to them because I was afraid that if I opened my heart even a crack, that it would just break into pieces all over again – like it had last fall. But then I was became afraid to love them because I felt unworthy of their love because I was not offering them my best or most open love. And while writing that makes NO sense, it is exactly how I felt. I was even afraid to let God’s love enter my heart and mind because that would mean I would have to allow myself to feel, and I didn’t want to feel anything anymore because of all the other fear.
Figuring out my problem did not really help much at first, it just brought all of the fear and emptiness to the front of my mind. I even held one of my best friend’s babies and was ABLE to make myself not feel anything. That is NOT a natural thing for me. I mean I felt nothing for the baby I was holding and nothing for the baby in my tummy either. That’s when I really started to worry about myself. But…it has taken MUCH time, prayer, reflection, and effort, but I FINALLY feel like I am on the mend. I am not completely whole yet, but I am whole enough to know I want that once again. I am better enough to be able to make steps forward to fully open the doors to my heart again and to be willing already to start opening those doors – at least a little bit.
So, while I am not finished healing and re-opening my heart, I am feeling love again – some – both to and from others. And I believe that I am actually ready to go this Saturday – can that really be just tomorrow? – and remember a year ago. I think I am ready to revisit that day when I held BABY BOY in my hand and lost a part of my heart. I know my heart will be heavy tomorrow in many ways, but at least I finally feel like my heart will also still somehow survive and continue to love and be loved. I just hope that I am able to continue opening my heart more and more until I am able to freely – completely without restriction – give love to those that are most important in my life and allow them to give their love to me as well. I need it so much.