I seem to be moving forward through my grief much quicker than last time. You see it's been 1 year, 11 months and 18 days since I lost my son, Hunter. Three months on from losing Hunter we still didn't quite believe what had happened, we still don't believe what happened with Esmae, but it's different this time. Grief doesn't have a set path you can follow. You just take each day as it comes and you have to accept there will be some really dark days, when you feel as if everything has just hit you all over again. There will be good days too however, and you need to learn not to feel guilty about having a good day.
This time round my grief hasn't taken me on the same path, but it's a familiar one, it's easier to navigate. I'm not suggesting for a second losing my daughter has been easier than losing my son, in many ways I feel more cheated this time. What I mean is I generally do find it easier to get through each day, to find my way. I think this is true only because I know better how to cope. I've been learning how to cope each day for almost two years now, but at least this time around I already know how I'm feeling is 'normal'. The new 'normal'. In all honesty I don't remember what it feels like to be the old me. I'm not the person I was two years ago, I'm not the person I was fifteen weeks ago, before I found out my pregnancy would not go full term. I sometimes feel I'm just a shell of the person I used to be. I'm nearly always anxious about the most stupid of things, I've become extremely paranoid and I have lost nearly all my confidence.
I know my limits, I know what I can and cannot manage. There are times though when I think I'm being silly by not being able to lead a full and 'normal' life – going shopping in town on a whim, being around large groups of people I may not know well, going out for drinks to a busy bar. These are things I took for granted before and now the thought of putting myself through situations like those can bring me out in a cold sweat, sometimes it can even feel as if I'm paralysed with anxiety.
Surprisingly though things actually improved a bit whilst I was pregnant with Esmae. My husband even said he was beginning to see the old me again, but since losing her I feel like I'm back to square one – some days I don't even think I'm on the board! I sometimes feel as if I'll only fully get that confidence back when I'm proudly pushing a pram in front of me. Maybe that's because I'll finally feel like I have a purpose in life, something to live for.
I have spent all the time since losing Hunter building an emotional wall. Since Esmae I've had to build it a little higher, but it is helping me get through this all over again. I both love and hate my wall. It shelters me from most of the things in the world that I suddenly started noticing – baby adverts on TV, pregnant women, prams, toddlers, baby aisles in supermarkets, the list goes on...but it also blocks out a lot of the rest of my (old) world. I sometimes feel as if I'm only half living. My more recent memories all seem a little dull, they're all in the dark shadow of the wall. It's as if everything has lost it's colour since the wall went up. I don't dare take it down though.
My wall is not impenetrable however, there are some things such as seeing/hearing new born babies which it cannot protect me against – they filter their way through the cracks. At the same time it's not so high and solid that it doesn't let people in, or my emotions out.
I find it easy to talk to most people about my babies. I want to talk to anyone who asks and wants to listen about my babies. That there is the key point – I will talk to anyone who asks and is willing to listen. It's not a subject everyone is thankful you bring up and then there is the odd time when I don't want to talk.
I thought after losing Esmae that I might be able to open up more to my parents about how I feel, but up until now this hasn't been the case. This time I tried to tell them straight out that it helps me to talk about my babies, their grandchildren. At first this didn't seem to work, they were still looking for my lead all the time, but I had long since given up as my previous attempts to let them in had failed. I assumed they wanted to protect me, but by not mentioning my babies at all they left me doubting how they felt about their grandchildren. Hopefully since writing them a letter and sending them an earlier draft of this blog, which sparked a very tearful (on my part) conversation with my mum, things will become easier for all of us.
It had got to the point where my wall was always up around them, blocking them out, and I couldn't work out how to let them in. I didn't think they truly wanted to see what was the other side of my wall and although I thought I'd tried various ways to let them in, nothing worked, perhaps I was being too subtle. I was trying to find a way of letting them know I needed more from them without causing them unnecessary pain. (I say unnecessary pain, because there's no magic pill that will make this painless for any of us.) I think I still need to help them realise that pain is a natural part of the grieving process though and it can be cathartic. Exhausting, but cathartic. I don't see feeling pain/showing your emotions as a weakness, it just demonstrates you are strong enough to endure each day, strong enough to get out of bed and try to get on with what's left of your life. For the last couple of years I've really needed my parents to realise this. They've been trying so hard not to upset me, but they never fully understood that there is nothing they can do or say that will make me feel any worse. Saying nothing at all is the only thing (for me) which makes it worse.
I'm hopeful after talking openly with my mum that things will change. I still need to work on showing my true emotions in front of her and my dad, but I need them to not feel as if they are walking on eggshells around me and my husband all the time. Saying my babies names might bring tears to my eyes, but I love hearing people talk about them, it reminds me that they mattered. I still need to help my parents realise that it's ok for me to cry, it's ok for me to breakdown, to not be able to breathe because there's a pain in my chest which takes up all the space for air. These are all natural parts of grieving, it's not something I can suddenly switch off and get over. All those things are normal to me now.
Although they'll already know, from this blog, we've started trying again, I think it'll still take some time before my mum will feel comfortable discussing that with me. I want to be able to confide in my mum if I take a test and it shows up negative or tell her how depressing it feels when you don't even get as far as taking a test. I think she feels a bit useless though because she can't just wave a magic wand and fix everything. She has no frame of reference as she never experienced any problems during her pregnancies (although my birth was pretty traumatic, but she took that in her stride!) Sometimes I just need someone to listen, even if they can't tell me everything will work out fine in the end.
Trying to conceive again after a loss is so tough. It can consume your life. We felt last month that we were ready. I think we both sometimes feel the months ticking away and although I feel guilty saying this, I do feel as if we're another year down the line and many more months have been wasted. Unfortunately our first month of trying again didn't work and I thought I'd be ok with it, but during those few days last week I just felt in limbo and it brought back memories of how desperate I felt all those months after Hunter, trying without success. It just hits home again that I should be heavily pregnant right now with Esmae and getting her nursery together.
Perhaps some would say if I feel this way then maybe I'm not ready to start trying again, but it's hard to explain the overwhelming urge to keep on trying to someone who hasn't suffered the loss of a baby, the loss of three babies. We started trying again about three months after losing Hunter and to be honest I sometimes felt a little relieved when we didn't conceive (just for those first couple of months though). I realise now this was probably because we were still so deep in our grief that we weren't quite ready. When we eventually did get pregnant it unfortunately didn't last long. Finding no heartbeat at 7 weeks and then passing the baby three weeks later. The 'Little One', as we refer to her (we feel she would've been a girl), had given us the hope we needed, a definite sign not to give up. We were then lucky enough to conceive Esmae almost straight-away – it was like she was meant to be…
We are now two and a half years further down the line from where we began and although I don't know what the future has in store for us, I do know I'm ready to try again. I'm ready to let it consume me again, to become my life again. It's the only way I can keep getting out of bed each morning trying to move forward.