“Be Gentle With Yourself.”
This is a phrase that is repeated inside of the baby loss community. As a parent who is somewhat out of the fog of the initial shock, I’m starting to understand why this phrase is repeated and repeated and repeated: because it is so hard to not be hard on yourself.
At first, you’re just coping with all of the emotions that come along with a situation like ours. There is no tomorrow or yesterday, there is only the present moment.
Then you move forward a little bit. You’re still completely overwhelmed by the grief, but you can see tomorrow. And then you can see next week. And then you can – kind of – pretend like things are semi-normal. At least when you’re around other people.
And then you start being really hard on yourself. Before, you didn’t have the capacity to think about why and how this whole thing was all your fault. Like the rest of the emotions that come along with this roller coaster we’re on, this is something that ebbs and flows. And if you can’t keep it under control, you start to actually blame yourself for what happened. Which is completely not fair. But you do it anyway.
My biggest struggle has been losing the baby weight. Not that I can truly call it this massive problem – I fit into my normal sized pants (albeit a little snugly) less than five weeks after giving birth. That’s good, and I realize that. But like any post-pregnant body, it takes a lot longer than five weeks to really get your body back to normal. And because we didn’t bring a live baby home from the hospital with us, I subconsciously tell myself that I should be working harder. That I should be focusing all of my effort on getting back to normal instead of just some of it.
And then there’s the whole mental capacity thing. My doctor believes that the post-birth memory is even worse than pregnancy brain. It must be all of the hormones or something. Anyway, I’m still not up to my normal self. I still have to write literally everything down, or else I will more than likely forget it. My short term memory is…crap. Like this weekend, when I ran to Target for diapers. And came home…with no diapers. Again, my subconscious says this shouldn’t be happening. I should be past this by now. I’m not doing this right.
Now, I’m a logical person. Obviously, it’s going to take however long it’s going to take to work through all of the after pregnancy stuff. It’s compounded by the reality of what happened to us. And there is no “standard” for how long this process should take. And there’s no one universal right way to be part of this community.
So when this happens, I have to literally sit down and think through why it’s happening. What’s triggering this line of thinking. And then I have to tell myself how irrational I’m being. How well we’re doing and how much healthier and “back to normal” I already am.
It’s frustrating, I won’t lie. It’s hard to fight this battle between forcing yourself to get up and focus every day, fighting to find this new normal that is supposed to eventually come – and then be knocked down by this teeny voice in the back of your head that says you’re not doing it right. You’re not trying hard enough.
I don’t know, maybe that’s just me – just part of my grief journey. Or maybe it’s part of everyone’s. It’s almost like my subconscious thinks that if I can get back to looking normal, then I will find more resolution. And maybe I will.
But that’s a story to continue another day.