People sometimes ask me how I can post such personal stuff on my business blog, but I always mention that I’m a blogger first and foremost and a photographer and a whole bunch of other things second. My mind and its inner workings are what defines me, not photography. Without writing – without wearing my heart on my proverbial internet sleeve – I’d just be some chick with a camera who takes okay pictures. I write because it is the one true way I can express myself without worrying about the consequences. My opinions and thoughts are my own – I don’t care if people don’t like them, disagree with them or regard them as scripture -I put them into words to keep myself sane, to entertain people, to connect with kindred spirits. I sometimes hope my words help others get through tough times or make people giggle on bad days.
Today has been especially tough on my mental well-being. Greg’s sister is 38 weeks pregnant and the doctors have decided that they are going to induce her
Cora died exactly 38 weeks ago tomorrow.
Greg’s sister’s baby was conceived on or very near to the day that Cora died and her pregnancy has been a constant and unwelcome reminder of our loss. The pain of this threatens to break my fragile strength every time I think about it and every time I see her or hear her name. I’ve spent today on another level of the near-constant hell I’ve been trying to find my way through for the last nine and a half months. This morning I had to hold myself together while I went on the radio and acted my way through an upbeat and witty plug for our roller derby team, but the moment I returned to the safe haven of home, the tears began and have not stopped for more than a few moments at a time.
I have tried meditating, napping, exercising, reading, and surfing the net to take my mind off of the impending birth of my niece or nephew, but nothing has worked – even wine and sex! I absolutely detest feeling this way. I have days where I think I may be finally starting to get through this shit show and I smile and laugh and breathe a little easier, but she’s always there in the back of my mind. Her face, lips, hands and feet. Her first cries – her only cries. All of the pain she went through while the doctors frantically tried to figure out why she went from seemingly healthy to organ failure in such a short period of time. The way she looked with a ton of IV lines plugged into every prominent vein they could find to poke. The memory of this still claws at my heart and makes my stomach do flip flops. Such a tiny, beautiful baby girl who suffered so much in the short time she was here.
The first time I saw Cora, I felt this all-consuming warmth spread through my entire body and my chest felt heavy with the rush of love that overcome me. We had waited six years for that first moment with her and that love filled me up so completely that I thought I could have lived off it for months and would not have needed anything else. That feeling multiplied tenfold the first time I touched her and she grasped my finger. I was only allowed to touch her briefly, but I can still feel the strength in her fingers as she held on. Still feel her warmth. That feeling – the rush of love that could have sustained me, nourished me with its potency – evaporated instantly the moment the doctors came in to tell us that she was sick, only three short hours after she was born. It was replaced by an acidic dread that settled into the pit of my stomach and turned my insides to jelly.
I never felt that wonderful, beautiful, amazingly indescribable feeling of euphoria again. Instead, all I have felt since is pain, despair and negativity interspersed with moments of exhaustion or distraction and sporadic heart-healing laughter or calm.
I have accepted that a large part of me is still shattered and, often, pregnant women rattle those shattered pieces around painfully inside me. However, until a week ago, I didn’t understand why I could feel such complete and utter resentment toward them. Such ridiculous and seemingly uncontrollable jealousy and, yes, even hatred – fierce and hot hatred that I know is unwarranted and irrational, but uncontrollable.
I know that these feelings are normal after your child dies, especially a newborn like Cora who took six years to conceive and was so wanted and loved. I know that these feelings are understandable under the circumstances, but I still can’t accept feeling this way. I have tried to stop these feelings, shield myself against them; turn them into positive feelings – those of happiness for new or expectant mothers – but I have come to understand that my resistance is futile. Feelings are what they are and feelings are never wrong. I have to let them run their course and, as my heart heals, this resentment will disappear. I understand this, but understanding doesn’t mean it stops them or makes them less stark, less palpable. I hurt. Even on my best days, when I feel almost like my old self again – I hurt.
A week ago in California, I was up nearly all night again, consumed by thoughts of Cora and the new baby’s impending arrival and I had an epiphany of sorts. It’s not that I bear any ill will towards pregnant women right now and it’s not that I hate them, personally, or that I’m just jealous that they will soon have a newborn in their arms. No. That is not it at all. I realized that I am resentful/jealous/envious of that love that they will feel when they first lay eyes on their babies -that all-consuming, drug-like love that will fill them up to bursting. I resent them because I know that the majority of them will feel it for much, much longer than the mere three hours I was given to soak it up and revel in it. I will never feel that love again for Cora. Instead, I feel nothing but pain and bittersweet sadness.
Greg’s sister is an especially difficult situation for me to deal with because she is my family and I can’t just steer clear of her and hope the constant reminders of Cora’s death will go away. Even though his family has been so good about keeping their excitement toned down around us, we can both feel it there, just below the surface. And, really, who could blame them? A new baby is supposed to be a wonderful, exciting, beautiful event for a family, not a stark and painful reminder of a recent tragedy. But that is exactly what it is for us. And I know that it will get worse, much worse, before it gets better. Every time I see my niece or nephew, for the rest of my life, I will be reminded of Cora. At first, that will be almost too painful to handle and I will probably spend a good deal of time avoiding the new family, but I know that nothing but time will change that pain to something more bearable. Time doesn’t, as they say, heal all wounds, but it does allow us to build up the strength we need to carry on and lick them as best we can. And, lucky me, one thing I have a lot of, is time.