The worst times are trying to fall asleep at night and waking up first thing in the morning. Trying not to think about it because it’ll make me cry and keep me up longer (or start my day off on a depressing note), but unable to think about anything else. To think how I shouldn’t be having any problems falling asleep because I should be sleep deprived. How nothing feels like it should. What she would look like now? How good of a sleeper and eater would she be? Would she need to be bounced and sang to like her brother and sister in order to fall asleep? Would she be an easy baby, content to just sit and watch the world? Would I be experiencing mother guilt from yelling at her in the middle of the night because she just wouldn’t let me go back to sleep? A million questions and thoughts. Never ending.
No, I take that back. The worst times are actually seeing babies. Not just any babies; they have to be newborns. The older babies tug at my heart strings and make me a bit sad, but it’s the babies that are teeny tiny and only a few weeks old that I can’t handle. The babies that would be Zoe’s age if she hadn’t died. Fortunately there are only two of my FB friends that had babies right around the same time Zoe was born, and one of them rarely posts anything. The other one I just make sure to scroll by very quickly. And at least I know to be prepared that I may see pictures of them anytime I log on. Not that I spend much time on FB anymore. Yet another thing that would be different if Zoe were here–my iPad would practically be glued to my hand and there would be a permanent Nikki butt-print in the couch from all of the time I would spend there breastfeeding.
There have been some really rough moments, but the Sunday that Zoe would have been three weeks was the worst day I’ve had since coming back from the hospital. I bounced around all day from being perfectly fine to in tears. Nothing in particular would set me off; I would just start crying. I was grumpy and irritable. I’d be perfectly fine and normal and J or C or Roman or Hubby would do something that slightly irritated me and I would go off on them. And no matter what I just couldn’t shake it.
Deciding that we needed out of the house after nap time, we took the kids to a place called The Playroom. It’s just what it sounds like–a giant place with a bunch of toys and bouncy houses. I actually can’t stand that place…to me it’s like a giant yard sale threw up. They have a ton of toys, but no sets of anything. There’s a dollhouse, but no dolls. A play kitchen, but no cookware or food. The last time we took the kids there J played for 15 minutes and declared she was “ready to go home”. Fortunately there were 4 birthday parties going on so she found a couple of kids to run around with and so we barely saw her. They had couple of Little Tikes cars there, so between those and a “baba” (C’s word for tire…don’t ask, no clue!) that you could stand and bounce on, C was in heaven. I was having a perfectly fine time there…until I caught sight of a teeny tiny baby. She couldn’t have been more than 2 weeks old. Her grandfather was holding her. She had a full head of curly black hair with a bow in. And I lost it. Thank God Hubby was there. After doing my best to hold it in, I finally told him I’d be right back and went out and sat in the car for 15 minutes and bawled. Gut wrenching, soul shaking, can-barely-breathe tears. The tears I had been holding in all day, that I just wouldn’t let come out because having a good cry doesn’t make me feel better. I hate dwelling on it, thinking about it. I just want to avoid it. Because there isn’t anything that makes me feel better at the end. There isn’t a natural end point when the tears just peter out and I stop wanting to cry or stop being sad. The more I think about it, the more worked up I get. This isn’t like crying when Hubby was deployed because I was sad and lonely, but able to get myself to stop by thinking about homecoming. I don’t feel better or refreshed after crying. I don’t know how to pull myself out of the depression and turn it off, to not think about it. How to let it end. Once the thoughts and grief start it’s like they’re never ending. If I didn’t have the kids and other responsibilities I think I would probably just lay in bed and cry all day and all night. And I think I might subconsciously feel guilty for wanting to stop. For wanting to get over it, to stop being sad, to end the tears. I think I feel like if I was a better parent, if I loved her more, than I wouldn’t be able to stop. Which the normal, common sense part of me knows isn’t true in the least bit. It’s not something that I even realized I may be feeling until right now. I don’t know. I don’t know anything.
I don’t know what I would’ve done if I had been on my own at the Playroom. I returned inside and was able to contain myself the rest of the time. I made sure to keep an eye out for the baby, but never saw her again.
I did better after we got home that night. Until Hubby’s dad called. After he hung up we started talking about Zoe again (I can’t even remember what the conversation was about now) and I plummeted back into my depression. I attempted to lose myself in the episode of Homeland we were watching, but it didn’t work. At 930 I headed up to bed, Hubby following. He knew that I was still upset and tried to get me to talk about it, but I just didn’t want to. I just wanted to sleep. I felt bad; I know that he wanted to help and that he really wanted me to talk about it, but I just couldn’t. I know that he was worried about me. That I wasn’t handling it in a healthy way. But I didn’t care enough to talk. I just wanted to plunge into sleep and not think about it.
The following day wasn’t much better. That Monday marked two weeks since we let Zoe go. I woke up and was still in my funk. It didn’t help that I was also planning on returning to the gym later that morning, which I was completely dreading. The YMCA I go to is mostly a bunch of old people and they all knew I was pregnant and were following the pregnancy very closely. I worked out there 4 days a week for my entire pregnancy, up until 2 weeks before Zoe’s birth (and the only reason I stopped then was because I didn’t want to have to pay for the entire month even though I would only be using it for half of the time. Otherwise I would’ve been there until she popped out). These people knew me, knew C, knew I was going to have a baby. And I didn’t want to face them. I didn’t want to have that conversation with a bunch of strangers. Over and over and over again. Because it’s not like it was going to be like my experience at story time at the library last week–I arrived, they asked where the baby was, I said she died, and bam, it was done. Everyone was there all together in one big group. I didn’t have to repeat myself. It’s going to take weeks until everyone at the gym knows what happened. Weeks of me tensing every time someone walks by, wondering if they’re going to exclaim “Congratulations!” and ask for details.
I was dreading my return so much that I was considering switching branches. But the next closest Y was 20 minutes from my house instead of 10, and I just couldn’t justify forcing C to be in the car any longer than necessary. Plus I like the childcare at my normal Y a lot better. The busiest I’ve ever seen it is 5 kids. Usually C’s the only one. I love the individual attention he receives. So I was going to suck it up and go in.
All that morning I cried off and on just thinking about what I was walking into. I was so worked up that as I walked through the doors I was already on the verge of tears before anyone even said anything to me. So when the front desk lady saw me and got all excited and asked where the baby was, I immediately burst into tears. As we were talking about it one of the personal trainers who would always chat with me came over proclaiming, “Skinny mini! Look at you! You look fantastic! Where’s the baby?!” She faltered off once she saw I was crying, and then I filled her in too. I got my hugs from random strangers and then walked C down to the childcare room. Where I had to go through it all over again with the childcare worker.
And that was it for the day. Just those three. Going in, I was hoping to get it over with as many people as possible on the first day. Later I was thankful it was only three. I wasn’t in any condition to go through it over and over again with a bunch of strangers. I can usually remain calm when I talk about it with people I don’t know very well and I hated that I was so emotional. So much so that when I went back the next day I apologized to the front desk lady for crying. And when a different personal trainer asked me where the baby was I was able to remain calm and forlornly inform him that she had passed away and received my condolences stoically, like usual. Another old man asked me what I had and I didn’t even bother to tell him that she had passed away; just that I had a girl. There are at least 3 more people whom I haven’t run into yet that I know will ask me about the baby, but a surprising number of people haven’t said anything. I’m wondering if that’s because I haven’t seen as many of the regulars or if it’s because they don’t recognize me without the baby belly. Only time will tell I suppose.
Although I was dreading my return, and it was just as awful as I had anticipated, I’m glad I did it. I’m happy that I don’t need to dread it anymore (even though I do still tense up every time someone slows down by the machine I’m using, just in case they’re going to talk to me). That I’m not driving that extra 20 minutes every day just to avoid the situation. That I’m working out again. Lord knows I need all the endorphins I can get.
I have to take every day hour by hour. Literally. The smallest thing will throw me into a pit of despair. And there are times when I don’t even know what triggered my depression; it’ll just hit me out of nowhere. Other times I think that I’m coping too well–that I haven’t grieved properly or enough. That I’m returning to “normal” too fast. I know both of these reactions are normal. And that this is going to be my life for a long time. That I’ll never be fully over it. 5, 10, 50 years down the road there will be times when something seemingly small and insignificant will trigger thoughts about Zoe and I’ll cry. The times will be fewer and farther between, but they’ll still occur. And I’ll never be fully prepared for them.