I wish time healed. It doesn’t. It simply highlights all that has been missed. A constant reminder of the moments unlived. Time passes unchecked. It makes no effort to mend what has been torn apart.
I wish what didn’t kill you actually made you stronger. It doesn’t. It leaves you wounded with the type of sore that refuses to heal. Open. Raw. Agonizing. It leaves you angry. Drained. Weak. Devastatingly weak. The kind of weakness where you slump down on bended knee and search for an ounce of resolve to face the days that creep up and silently slip away. It leaves you broken. Shattered. A shell of a human being with jagged edges that prevents others from getting too close. Pieces of your brokenness are strewn around randomly so not even a master puzzle maker could fit them back together to create anything more than a cheap replica of who you were before. One day, if you’re lucky, it leaves you scarred as an assurance that the wound has closed over.
I wish you knew you were healed when you could say their name without crying but you’re not. The name rests on your tongue. You don’t say their name for fear the syllables will lacerate your mouth like shards of glass. The name sits in your throat. You can’t swallow it but you can’t spit it out. It becomes suffocating and heavy. When you do say it, sometimes tears accompany the sounds for reasons unknown. Maybe the words live in the tear ducts of your eyes brought forward by its mere whisper. Sometimes you’re numb. No word, not even the name can bring forward any connection to the hurt. It’s like your ears are plugged up so the name makes no contact with the meaning. Other times you hear the name and it’s as if it’s muffled. It’s not you doing the hearing. The words are uttered outside a wall you’ve built to protect yourself from the pain. Not even the name can penetrate the wall.
I wish platitudes were true and were more than something the grieving could hold on to but they’re not and they can’t. Not long term anyways. They’re only platitudes. Trite words of surface level wisdom offered up by a well meaning soul to deal with a deep topic. A topic that is your reality. Somehow they’re meant to ease how you’re feeling emotionally but they’re empty. They’re more of a consolation to the speaker or writer of such words to ease the social tension the grieving carry around them.
I have journeyed through grief. I have trudged through misery and carried the burden of anger. I stumbled on injustice. I got lost in the world of “why?” I was bogged down by depression and hopelessness and I became weary on the trek. I resolved to make headway and I did. I have. Five years later there has been healing. I have grieved, found peace and became an expert in my own grief. Not an expert in grieving. Not in the topic or in the process but in the reflecting on my own experience in it. This is merely an accounting of my experience. A discussion on things that both helped and hindered me along the path of wellness.
Like for many, my grief came unexpectedly and I was unprepared. I had experienced loss before but never in a way that had impacted me so profoundly. My experience with grief started on January 3rd, 2012, the day before my 31st birthday. The day my world crumbled. I believe there is healing in the story both in its telling and its hearing. For this reason I will recount much of it here.
Let me start at the beginning with the reason for my sorrow at a time not much different than now. It was Oct 24th, 2011 and I was 23 weeks pregnant with my 4th child. The pregnancy hadn’t been what you would call ideal. I had a number of small complications but nothing terribly worrisome. Or so I thought. A good friend of mine was over for tea as I was experiencing some stress in unrelated life matters. Although I had previous bouts of feeling unwell, nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. I stood up to answer the phone and whoosh, my water broke and gushed everywhere. I knew exactly what it was so we headed for the ER where Labor and Delivery confirmed my fears. Before I knew it I had hugged my kids goodbye, kissed my husband and was off in an ambulance to the airport where I took an air ambulance to a hospital with a level 3 Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It was 4 hours away from my home by car. There were so many facts swirling through my head: 26 weeks is ideal; 400-500 grams is viable; Steroid injections were for the baby’s lung development and we got them in time; This hospital was my baby's best chance.
On October 25th the overwhelming message I received was the longer you keep that baby in, the better. As if I had control over it. The toughest part of the day came when we met with the doctors to discuss viability, abortion, end of life decisions and all of the possible scary things that could happen to our baby. My husband and I were left in a room to make our choices. Talking about the death of a child, even an unborn one, is something no parent should ever have to endure. We made our decision: we were going to continue on with the pregnancy. Then my husband left back home to be with our other 3 children.
The amount of support from family and friends was already evident at this point. I remember reaching out and thanking everyone for their thoughts and prayers and saying, “God hears every voice!" I truly meant it. I had an overwhelming feeling that things were going to work out. There was no fear.
It’s amazing how community rallies together. Even strangers were reaching out and offering assistance. Close family friends were caring for our children and had smoothly stepped into be “me” while I was away. Delegating my life to others was a huge lesson in releasing control.
On October 27 I had hit the 24 week mark. Yes! This was the magic date. The date where babies are considered viable. We had made it. The doctors believed that if I could make it a few more days I’d likely be in the clear, meaning that the baby might not deliver for many additional weeks. Things seemed to be going smoothly and everyone was excited.
The next day didn’t bring with it good news: Baby was in distress. I was panicking. Tears were streaming down my face. All I could think was, "This is way too early." They waited for 30-40 minutes monitoring the baby just to give it a chance to settle. No luck. It was surgery time and my husband was going to make the 4 hour trek back to meet us. It was the first time I felt scared.
I was taken into a freezing cold and very bright operating room and given a Classical Caesarean section. I was alone. No hand to hold, no familiar face to accompany me, no soothing voice to encourage and comfort me. Just me, the lights, the cold, all the whiteness and brightness and the medical staff. After removing the baby there was no sound. No beautiful cry. Just the small talk of the doctors. Then I heard the team with the baby say, "We have a heartbeat." Oh thank God! Later they wheeled a tiny little baby boy over to me. He had one eye open and the other was fused shut. I reached for his hand and his little fingers gripped mine. It was LOVE! He was taken to the NICU.
After surgery I was taken to the NICU to see my little man. I touched his hand again. So wonderful. I just remember feeling at peace. Like God was in control and this baby was in His hands. My husband arrived safely and tears were shed. Our baby was only 475 grams - a micro preemie. We had a tiny little boy with a long recovery ahead of him. We needed little miracles everyday.
On October 29th, the uncertainty of the situation was in full force. Such a weird feeling to have a baby so early. I couldn't believe I was no longer pregnant.
Family started to arrive from across the province and seeing the baby was a shocker for everyone because you cannot prepare yourself to see a baby so small but still so perfect.
Over the next week, the hours and days began to blur together. Literally. I had become sick with unrelated medical issues which prevented me from visiting our newborn son or speaking with our other three children on the phone. We were receiving so many phone calls, text messages, emails, facebook posts of well wishes and prayers, that we knew how much our family was loved. There are no words to explain how much that meant to our family. Being surrounded by love is like medicine for your emotional well-being.
Those days were spent willing our baby back to health. Hoping, praying and wishing for a happy ending to our story.