Advertisements
Tag Archives: healing

What’s Left Behind

4 Feb

So – I’ll save you the usual apologies for being gone so long. Until we move and/or get Bunny into daycare, sporadic will just have to do. ūüôā

This post has been running through my head for a while, though I admit it’s still a jumble. I’m hoping that writing it out will help clarify some things.

What is left when the wreckage of the last 3.5 years is cleared?

I’ve been thinking about that question a lot lately. The last 5(!) months since Bunny was born have been a whirlwind. New job, big decisions, and of course the huge life change that is just having her here. I admit there are still days that I “remember” I’m a mom and freak the fuck out. She is still in a lot of ways an abstract to me. But she’s slowly but surely becoming a little person with her own wants needs and desires, so the abstract is gaining focus.

Last month, Shmerson and I re-watched the first two seasons of “Sherlock” (don’t be so impressed, it’s only six episodes), in preparation for the new season. While watching it, I realized that I remembered NOTHING. Not one single thing about this show, which I knew that I loved and I always categorized as brilliant. When I mentioned this to Shmerson, I noted: “We must have watched it while I was drugged up.”

I don’t think I hid this here, but I don’t think I discussed it much either: After losing Nadav I spent the better part of six months HEAVILY medicated. My pregnancy with Bunny I spent on very strong anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds, which meant I was mostly emotionally detached from everything that entire time (and it wasn’t just the meds, it was also a defense mechanism). I credit that medication with saving my sanity and my life. But it does mean that there’s a good year or so of my life that passed in a complete haze. ¬†I started taking anti-depressants for the first time in December of 2010 – over 3 years ago – which generally numbed my feelings.¬†I am now only taking Xan.ax to deal with my anxiety disorder, and I’m on a very small dose. For the first time in 3 years – I’m no longer in a haze or emotionally detached due to medication.

It gets more complicated: My first miscarriage happened just two months after our wedding. From that point on, I was a woman on a mission. I abandoned literally EVERYTHING in pursuit of a baby. In June of 2010, had you asked – I would have said that my greatest ambition was to direct feature films. I had already gotten a development grant and I was getting closer and closer to that goal. If you would have told me then that I’d abandon it all to accommodate a string of high-risk pregnancies, and then become a content manager at a start-up and actually ENJOY it I would have thought that the notion was absurd.

My first loss turned everything upside down for me, and the world has only really begun to straighten up now. There were moments during the last 3.5 years that I *thought* I had things figured out. I “made decisions” regarding my future. I “pushed on”. In hindsight – those moments were a total crock.

I spent 6 months thinking I wanted to be a teacher. I spent a year and a half teaching.

I do NOT want to be a teacher.

I went back to school to get BA level psych credits so that I could do a Master’s in Art Therapy.

I do NOT want to be an art therapist.

I also don’t think I want to be a filmmaker, though that option hasn’t completely been taken off the table. 10 years of pursuing it and 2 degrees keep it perpetually on the table.

I love my job – but I’m also not sure I want to be doing that for the rest of my life.

But this is not just about career choices.

Out of the last 3.5 years, I spent 84 weeks of them pregnant. That’s almost 20 months. Practically two years.

I spent the remainder either attempting to get pregnant or grieving a lost pregnancy, or both at the same time.

(For the sake of this argument, I’m not counting of course the 5 months I have now spent raising Bunny).

That time basically demolished me completely. Giving birth to Bunny only cleared the wreckage, and of course, I can’t rely on her to rebuild. This is about me.

I need to figure out who I am now. That’s kind of a huge deal.

The last 3.5 years have called almost all of my assumptions about myself into question. Parts of my personality that I was CONVINCED were inherent to it are now absolutely gone.

A small example: I was absolutely 100% convinced that I will always be a person who struggles to diet. Gestational diabetes changed that. I have been consistently shedding pounds since giving birth and I’m now 5 pounds less than I was before getting pregnant with Bunny. I have a good 20 to go before I reach my ideal weight, but I’m getting there, and it’s not even CLOSE to being a struggle. Patience and willpower? Ha! Small potatoes compared to the hell of a high-risk pregnancy.

Any free headspace I have these days is dedicated to two things:

1) Figuring out who I am

2) Making an effort to fix the things I don’t like about myself.

There are very few things I know about myself now. This is what I’ve managed to figure out so far:

I know I both love and am terrified by being a mother.

I know I love my husband.*

I know that I have a strong survival instinct, and I am incredibly stubborn.

I know I’m good at my job.

I know I’m a good writer (prose mostly, ok at scripts, suck at ¬†poetry).

I know I don’t trust doctors.

I know that generally, people tend to like me when they  meet me.

I know that I have absolutely NO fashion sense, nor do I have an interest in developing one.

I know I have some serious self-esteem issues

I know that purple is my favorite color, Faith No More is my favorite band, my favorite books are the Harry Potter series, the Hunger Games trilogy, and the odd one out – “The Music of Chance” by Paul Auster. I’m a 90’s pop culture junkie and I love (modern) Dr. Who and (not-so-modern) Monty Python movies.

I know I’m a good cook, though I’m no longer sure what my favorite food is. It used to be lobster. I think it may now be french fries. Or maybe fresh-baked white bread with butter.

I know I’m a good mother, a good wife, a good friend, a good daughter, and a good sister. Though in my weakest moments I question all of that.

If you’re counting, that’s basically 12 things. Everything else is up in the air.

Wait – I know one more thing: That whatever I figure out about who I am, I want Bunny to be proud of that person. I know I need to lead by example.

The wreckage has cleared – it’s time to rebuild.

* Last night Shmerson and I had a bit of a mini-fight. It ended with me explaining all of this to him. He told me: “I don’t know what you’re going to be either, but I can’t wait to find out, because I know it’ll be amazing.” I love him so fucking much.

Advertisements

Havaya Metakenet Redux

23 Dec

Quietly and without much fanfare, two important milestones for this blog have gone unacknowledged. A couple of months ago I published my 450th post (interestingly enough, it was my official “one month” post). I am now (slowly) crawling toward post 500.

A week ago was my three year blogaversary.

On December 16th, 2010 – just a bit after midnight (so really – exactly one year and one week ago today) I published my first post¬†(for savvy readers, you will notice it has a very similar title to the post announcing Bunny’s birth. This wasn’t by accident). ¬†I had no readers. I had ¬†no idea there were other blogs out there. I had just taken my first ever Xan.ax, and after months of hell trying to come to terms with two miscarriages and battling depression and panic attacks, I found some clarity. I found the drive to write again.

Little did I know what I had in store for me. What those three years would bring, and the world and people they would expose me to.

I admit, even though I was broken when I wrote my first post, I still didn’t think it could get any worse. Then it did. Then once again I didn’t think it could get any worse.

And it did again.

And then I broke into a million pieces and it was this space that kept me together. But also this space that kept me remembering things I didn’t want to remember any more.

So I denied. I podcasted. I ran away.

But then I came back. I came back here because no matter what, this space chronicles and honors the most difficult journey I have ever taken in my life. And I choose to continue to chronicle it. Because the journey doesn’t end with a baby.

When you lose so much, you cannot be magically fixed.

These past few weeks have been insane. Going back to work and trying to get back to living has been a challenge. I have been in a cocoon for so long it’s been a hard road to get to know myself again. And that road is just beginning. I am slowly reclaiming my body. I am slowly coming out of the hard shell I built around myself. Slowly. Slowly.

I won’t lie to you, it’s been hard. But it’s also been amazing. It has been – finally – one Havaya Metakenet after another. If you don’t feel like going back and reading that post – havaya metakenet is a Hebrew phrase meaning “restorative experience”. I’ve been longing for them since the moment I lost my first pregnancy (that particular post was written when this blog was about 4 months old). And I’ve been striving for them since the moment Bunny was born.

I’m not sure if it’s the end of the year, the fatigue, the transitions, or all of the above that have made me count the restorative experiences that I have had in the past few months. Lately, instead of flashing back to the most awful day of my life, I have been flashing back to the most wonderful day. That in itself is a restorative experience. It’s not that I no longer remember. I remember him. I think of him. I love him completely. But Shmerson and I told ourselves long ago that he would not want us to always be sad. So I think he would be happy that he is remembered more often now in his little sister’s gaze. Not in his mother’s trauma.

Today, while striving for a new restorative experience, I realized how many of these experiences I have already had in the past 3.5 months. It has all been so overwhelming, but today, I counted them.

  • My daughter, just out of the womb, being laid on my stomach as we waited for the cord to finish pulsing. I couldn’t see her. I had yet to see her. But I felt her breathing. I had my hand on her back. I could feel her – ¬†tangible and present. It was the happiest moment of my life up until that point.
  • A few hours later, laying in recovery, trying out of habit to count kicks. Understanding that there were no more kicks to be counted. Getting up out of bed frantically and running to the nursery, to beg them to finish their tests so that I could finally have my daughter. Standing outside the nursery at 6am, sobbing. Waiting for them to open the door. Stepping in, being lead to my daughter. Looking at her properly for the first time. Taking her in. Understanding that she is living, she is breathing, she is real. She is mine. Well – at least trying to understand it. I don’t think I fully understand it even today.
  • Every day. Every song I sing to her as I put her to sleep or as we play. Every time she follows me across the room with her eyes. Every time she gives me one of her amazing smiles. She is so generous with those smiles. Every time we have a “conversation” with her coos. She is an open, loving, warm, happy, generous little person. I cannot believe I actually had a part in making her. She amazes me every. Single. Day.

bunny with a bunny

Nadav was born and died about a month before Purim (for those who don’t know – that’s the holiday where us Jews dress up and eat candy).

I was still broken. Shmerson had just started a new job. They encouraged employees to dress up. I still could barely get my butt out of the house. But I was determined to help him with a costume. We dressed him up like Dr. Who. I even made a homemade sonic screwdriver. I stayed at home that day. Happy that some fun was had. Broken that it was had without my son. I don’t know why those two days of making that costume stick out so much in my memory. But I feel those days. The ever-present pain, wanting to break through a facade I was putting on. Trying to be happy. Trying to live, to honor him. Barely able to do it, yet doing it ferociously.

Purim is still about 3 months away. Today I started a pinterest board. I want Shmerson to dress up as Dr. Who again. I want to be the Tardis. I want Bunny to be a little Dalek.

To add another restorative experience to the list.

With the hopes of adding many more to come.

To all of my wonderful readers out there, who have stuck it out for three long years, or who have just now found me, thank you for being here. Thank you for your patience as I navigate my way through this strange new world. I hope your 2014 is full of restorative experiences.

I’m striving to make mine chock full of them.

Sunshine and Unicorn Farts

30 Aug

I haven’t been spending much time in this space lately. Here’s what I’ve been doing instead:

Painting

Podcasting (Thank you all for listening and commenting, btw!)

Working

Planning our trip to the States

Healing.

A couple of weeks ago, I started feeling a shift. After an intense EMDR session where we talked extensively about Nadav, I spent a couple of weeks in a haze. Then one day I woke up, and for the first time in almost two years I was beyond just the basic “functional”. I was energetic. I was prolific. I was brave.

After a slow simmer for a very long time, I have boiled over in the best of ways.

Nothing has changed. I am still not ovulating. I am still not pregnant. I am still mourning my son.

Everything has changed. I am dealing with things differently. I am handling my situation. I am finding courage to do things I haven’t dared to do in years.

This was a process that came to a head, that finally paid off. That finally made me stop saying the words “I am so freaking tired.”

I’m still tired of the waiting. I’m still tired of my body failing me. I’m still going to fight to make that stop. But I’m starting to put at least a part of my energy elsewhere. I’m starting to finally realize that wallowing won’t make things move any faster.

So if I’m not here as often, know it’s because I’m busy putting my life back together. Know that you all get major credit for helping me do that just by continuing to come here. Continuing to comment. Always being an amazing source of support.

My life isn’t sunshine and unicorn farts. But it’s finally starting to feel like a life.

No More Room

18 Jul

So some of you may know that I’m taking a class this week. It’s one of the pre-requisite classes for my Art Therapy Masters, called “Physiological Psychology.”

And it’s kicking my ass. I haven’t been in school for more than 6 years, and this isn’t just school – this is biology. Neurons and cortexes and whatnot. Me learn science! Me haz smart! Monkeys fly out of my butt!

It’s five days, 6 hours a day starting at 8:30am. Needless to say, my brain is fried.

So boy was I surprised when somehow, in the middle of this godawful class, I found some new perspective.

A couple of days ago I noticed that one of the students in the class spoke Hebrew with an American accent. I didn’t know anyone in the class, and I was looking for a partner to do the final project with me in English, so I decided to go up and introduce myself. Tammy, 36, mother of 4.

We starting chatting up a storm and pretty soon we were exchanging life stories. Unlike a lot of people, she didn’t give me a look of pity or treat me differently when I told her about the three early losses and Nadav. Though she has only had one loss her pregnancies have been full of complications and anxiety. I don’t know how she managed to “get” me. But I knew right away that this woman got me.

Today we continued our marathon conversation and the issue of me being unhappy with my current support system came up. You all know I’m not in a great space right now. Though I feel there’s been an amazing improvement with my therapist, there’s a lot of bottled up trauma and grief that I just don’t feel safe enough to confront.

So Tammy suggested a few alternative therapies that helped her deal with her high-risk pregnancies, and I wrote down some stuff to google. We continued to chat about life in general, and trauma in particular.

I brought up the fact that my biggest worry right now is the burden our first child (no matter how we come to him/her) will have because he or she will be coming to us on the back of all of this loss. She paused for a second, contemplating.

“I think I know why you’re having a hard time getting pregnant again.”

“Why?”

“Think about it. 4 babies. You lost four babies and in a way, you’re still carrying them. There’s no room in there for another one.”

You guys know I’m not one for spirituality. Especially in the last couple of months. Very little light has been let into my dark little basement of a brain. But something about what she said was deeply resonant. It felt right. Something about it rang true.

I am so filled with grief and anger that there is no room to create something that is pure love. Maybe if I let a little of the grief and anger go, I’ll be able to make enough room to finally be a mother.

It’s rare to make friends with a person so quickly and easily. It’s even more rare when that person has such a deep and profound impact on you just as fast.

 

There Can Only Be So Many Dates

22 Mar

Thank you everyone for your supportive comments on my last post. A couple of people mentioned that their readers haven’t been updating since I moved to the new address. Sorry if that’s happening. Please do update your linkage to mommyodyssey.com just in case!

I’m doing a lot better. Mostly hella-distracted because I’m drowning in work, but that’s a good thing. I’m already feeling guilty for being a bad ICLWer. But hopefully the weekend will make me be better.

Tomorrow I’m going to get a tattoo for Nadav. Yesterday was one month since we lost him.

I spent the day working outside the house and I wasn’t sad. I was just… Busy.

And I got something like 10 calls from people making sure I was ok. And I was, I really was.

I was also ok today. I spent most of the day painting the closet doors and the box holding the blinds in our bedroom, and then putting on decals. The end result was pretty freaking fabulous:

The pics are crappy iPhone pics, but I think you get the idea. I haz made a pretty, I haz a happy.

I’ve been thinking a lot about something my dad said, and I mentioned here a few posts back. Nadav’s birthday will never be his original due date. It will always be February 21st, 2012. Even if he had made it to term, chances are that he wouldn’t have come on his exact due date, so in fact, June 22nd has become a somewhat arbitrary date on the calendar. I keep on trying to “prepare” myself for that day, but really, I’m not sure if it’s necessary.

His birthday was, and always will be February 21st.

I think that measuring this loss in terms of dates just feels wrong to me. I can’t just be sad every 21st of the month. Just like I can’t be sad every Tuesday because we lost him on a Tuesday. ¬†Just like I may not feel sad on June 22nd (though if I am, that’s ok).

I should just be sad when I want to be sad, and let myself be happy when I want to be happy.

I’m going to get the tattoo tomorrow not because it’s a special date, but because I just want to have it, and I wanted Shmerson to come with me, and he doesn’t work tomorrow.

And either I’ll be sad tomorrow or I’ll be happy. And that’s ok.

Here’s the bottom line: My son was on this earth for 22 and a half weeks. And he managed to pull off some pretty awesome stuff as a result of his short time here. I think celebrating the awesome is getting easier. As is getting through the grief.

I don’t feel guilty for being happy, because HE made that happen.

And I can’t wait for my new awesome tattoo to commemorate my awesome son. So maybe I’ll celebrate tomorrow. And maybe I’ll cry for a while too.

I think I’ll be ok with either. Or maybe both.

 

What Nadav Taught Me: Self-Preservation

1 Mar

Nine days gone. It feels like longer.

I don’t quite know how to put it into words yet, but I feel like a completely different person. A better person for having carried him and been his mommy for such a short time.

Today, I went out with my mom to buy Shmerson a new pair of shoes and pick up some other things for the house. We shopped, and it was nice. Then we passed by this stall that sold these stretchy rubber balls that my nephew used to love when he was younger. We both lingered there for a second, and then both of us had to run to a closed stairwell in the mall to cry.

It’s strange the things that trigger the grief. A few days ago it was loading dishes in a dishwasher. Last night it was giving Luna a bath.

But the light is not lost, and it’s getting brighter. I’ve gradually started ¬†getting back to work, which is doing me a world of good. Keeping busy really is the best therapy. I’m still physically wiped, so I’m taking it easy, but it’s a start.

Each day things get easier as the ugly memories fade and the beauty of our Nadav remains. Inch by inch, slowly, grief is being replaced with love and light from our baby boy. Which brings us to another lesson.

***

Just a note: This post is about a difficult decision I had to make. It is not an easy post to read, just as it was hard to write. I also want you all to know that I am not judging other women who have made different decisions in similar situations. Each person knows their own limits, reactions and needs, and every individual does what is right for them.

***

Let me start with an explanation: Jewish tradition dictates that a baby is not considered a person until they are alive outside the womb. As a result, Israeli hospitals act a bit differently from other countries when it comes to stillbirth, or the term I really don’t like “late term miscarriage”.

When we realized that Nadav was lost, we were visited by a hospital social worker, and I asked her about our options for after the delivery. All I knew were stories that I had read through our little ALI community. I had no idea how things were done in this neck of the woods. She told me that usually nothing is done, but that if we wanted, we can ask the medical staff to do something.

I didn’t know what to do. Should I hold him? Should we have someone take a picture? Should I do anything at all? A lot of the emails and support I got from other Baby Loss Moms during that first day suggested I hold him, or at least have someone take a picture.

Immediately when hearing about my thoughts on the issue, my entire family said I need to do nothing. I shouldn’t look at him, hold him, or have anyone take pictures.

They know me, and they thought I would be doing myself serious damage with any of these options. Shmerson had already decided for himself not to see him or hold him. He knew it would upset him too much in the long term.

On the other hand,  I went back and forth on this decision for hours. I finally decided to call my psychiatrist. If any of this was going to cause me permanent damage, or on the other hand, help the grieving process, he would know.

After telling him of our situation, I immediately asked for his feedback on this issue.  He told me that he has seen countless cases of mothers coming to him even decades after their loss, and those images haunting them in very damaging ways.

In my case, he said I was in danger of it being even worse than that. My “official” diagnosis is PTSD characterized by internalized OCD, depression, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Or in short – my effed up brain chemistry causes me to have cyclical repetitive thoughts that create anxiety and non-functional depression.

He told me – and I quote – “You don’t need those images in your head. The way your mind works, they will haunt you in very damaging ways and only make the PTSD you already have even more massive, and more long-term. Don’t hold him. Don’t take pictures, and don’t even look at him if you can avoid it.”

Of course, the “expert opinion” still didn’t mean I had made my decision.

I knew that Nadav wouldn’t be alive when I delivered him. I knew that for some women, seeing or holding their babies helped them. And I knew that somewhere inside me, even though he was going to be tiny and not fully developed, I wanted to see his face.

Still – my entire family was adamant. Shmerson especially: “Don’t do it. It isn’t going to be him that you deliver. He is already gone. Holding him or seeing him will not help him, and it will damage you.”

I knew they were right. But I felt selfish. How could I not hold him? How could I treat this little tiny being – my son – as if he wasn’t there?

Because he really wasn’t there. He was already gone. And I was – am – still here.

And I need to be here. I need to  preserve myself and my sanity so that I can go on. For him and for the siblings he will have one day.

So after a full day of internal debate, the decision was made.

The staff at the hospital was given strict instructions: Don’t let her or her husband see him. Be prepared to take him, covered, out of the room immediately after delivery.

I delivered our Nadav 9 days ago. The hardest moments for me are the ones where I shut my eyes and I can still feel his tiny body leaving mine. They are not moments of peace, they are the moments of true terror. I can only imagine how much worse these moments would be had I looked at him or held him.

For the first few days I felt terrible about my decision. Like I had abandoned him. I had left him all alone and didn’t hold him or look at him. I felt like a terrible mother.

In one of my darkest moments all I could do was scream about how he must have been so cold and alone, and how could I have let that happen?

But in clarity, I know it wasn’t him. He had left hours before, while he was still with me. He was not abandoned. He was loved beyond measure.

I know the decision we made is not what’s right for everyone. But it was right for us.

It means our memories of him are of his little trampoline parties after I had eaten too much sugar.

Of the little dances he did when we saw him on the ultrasound.

The dreams we had of his perfect Рalive Р smiling face.

The tiny kicks I had started to feel just days before he left us.

Those are happy memories of him, not marred by the images that could have taken over. Seeing him or holding him would not have helped HIM, and it certainly wouldn’t have helped us.

Despite those darker moments, I understand that now. I know that I made the decision that was right for me.

The decision was one of self-preservation. Something I had never even considered before.

I was always the masochist. The one to subject myself to unnecessary pain and guilt, for no other reason than to punish myself. For who knows what.

Not this time.

This time I chose to preserve my mental health. To not pile on even more nightmares.

We have enough of those as it is. Adding more would have done no good to anyone.

So I thought of me. My future as a mentally stable, happy mother to the children we will have one day. Our future as a family, always missing our firstborn, but being good parents to the siblings he will have one day.

Self-preservation is really Ok sometimes.

Thank you, Nadav, for teaching me that.

Maybe I didn’t like to hear

But I still can’t believe

Speed Racer is dead

So then I thought I’d make some plans

The fire thought

She’d really rather be water instead

And Peggy got a message for me

From Jesus

And I’ve heard every word

That she was saying

And I know I have been

Driven like the snow

This is cooling

This is cooling

This is cooling

Faster than I can

This is cooling

Faster than I can

So then love walked up to like

She said I know that you don’t like me much

Let’s go for a ride

This ocean is wrapped around that pineapple tree

And is your place in heaven worth giving up

These kisses

These kisses

And Peggy got a message for me

From Jesus

And I heard every word that she had said

And I know I have been

Driven like the snow

This is cooling

This is cooling

Faster than I can

This is cooling

Faster than I can

Yes, this is cooling

This is cooling

My Two Little Butterflies

1 Mar

taken about 30 seconds after the tattoo was finished – so it’s still raw.

Drawn especially for me. For us.

Thanks to everyone who’s been there for me today.

And Shmerson – I love you more today than I did 9 months ago, even though I didn’t think that was possible. You are my rock. Thank you.

 

%d bloggers like this: