We are so pleased to welcome Justin as a regular contributor to Glow. Justin had a guest post back in June, "the gift," as part of our series by babylost fathers. Justin is a storyteller, weaving together the emotions and day-to-day events that fill our babylost lives. We are lucky to have him writing here at Glow.
This piece today is about his wife Heather's rainbow pregnancy with Josephine Hope, who arrived safe and sound last month, just a few weeks shy of their daughter Lydia's first stillbirthday. It is full of the uncertainty and anxieties of that liminal time waiting for birth, and of the hope that surfaces against all odds. If you are feeling sensitive about other people's pregancies, you might not want to read this piece.
Though Justin doesn't have his own blog, Lydia's story can be read through Heather's words at her blog Loving and Losing Lydie. Please join us in welcoming Justin to Glow. —Burning Eye
I smashed an egg the other day, the hard-boiled kind. The container jarred from my hand in a hurried attempt to catch up to my morning commute, its contents spilling onto the garage floor. I quickly picked up the rolling egg while I stubbornly waved-off my wife’s gracious offer to wash it off for me. Instead, I continued my rush, throwing my bag in to the car and backing down the driveway. As I made my way through the neighborhood, I examined my breakfast, clinging to the foolish idea that it could be salvaged. But out of an intense fit of disgust, I slammed it against the street from my slow-moving vehicle, watching it shatter with whites and yellows spreading to the sidewalk. I immediately felt embarrassed, ashamed of littering my neighbor’s walkway. As I sunk into my seat, I stole glances over my shoulders to determine if anyone witnessed my immature and rude outburst (to this day, I have remained anonymous.) But beyond the shame and worst of all, this tantrum offered nothing—no release or satisfaction, no balance to my mounting frustration and anxiety; only the very hollow and haunting truth that I am not ok. That what happened to our family, and continues to happen, is not ok. That life, at this moment, is far from ok. I struggle and fight against the enormous reality that I am not in control. I bicker, I lose my temper, I avoid people, I sit in a frustrating and hopeless silence, I default to apathy and I can’t shake my restlessness.
I smash eggs.
With each week of this very long pregnancy after loss, I can feel my anxiety building—of IF we will make it to October, of IF we will bring home a living baby. I have dreamt of standing in a hospital, only to collapse as a nurse tells me that our third child has also died. The times where I lie in bed wide awake and exhausted, I convince myself that our living son is crying and in trouble. Startled, I turn my ear towards his room, but find nothing. Obviously, these dreams and thoughts shake me, but surprisingly not as deep as I would have thought. I mean, it is disturbing, and anxiety-inducing, and a horrible way to go through the day, a horrible way to go through life. But the simple fact is that I have these thoughts all. the. time. A tiresome wave that displaces hope far too easily as I oscillate between crest and trough. Its amplitude bearing down on me in-between coworkers’ stories of pregnancies and baby showers, in-between the confidence and blissful ignorance in their voices, and in-between the absence in mine. In-between the platitudes of those that attempt to acknowledge our situation and in-between the silence of those that don’t, the cycles of evolving grief and pregnancy after loss are filled with the thoughts, fears and doubts on my abilities as a parent and my failures as a marriage partner. In-between all of life’s other stresses and inconveniences, I fool myself into thinking that I am managing my situation and anger. And I fool myself into thinking that I can. I am surviving, but most days that seems to be only by definition alone.
Yet despite all of this, mixed in with the frustration and bickering, the egg-smashing and restlessness, is hope. Not the giddy confident hope that seemingly requires nothing more than checking off the days of a calendar, but a hope that allows for growing moments of losing myself in our third child’s bright blue eyes or flashes of her big brother whispering secrets in her ear. And sometimes a vision of a softly-lit silhouette of father and child, rocking in time to the choruses of favored songs sung through a broken voice and wet eyes. These hopeful glimpses are never vivid, always veiled by the constant background fog that unevenly thickens and lifts, but I am starting to realize that the hope is there and I am starting to chase it down every time it appears. It is not only the kind of hope that will allow us to survive these final weeks and days of this pregnancy, but the kind of hope that will enable us to continue to weave the beautiful threads of death and life into our family tapestry.
So as we trudge through the seemingly endless hours that stretch out between us and mid-October, I try my best to focus on the real outcome of holding my second daughter safely in my arms. I try to acknowledge that there will be more times of frustration and doubt, of avoidance and restlessness, of tempers and broken eggs. Most importantly, I try to remind myself that it is ok to not be ok and that I am capable of hope, no matter how fleeting it may seem. And I also try to remind myself that eggs are really cheap.
What items have you thrown in moments of frustration? How do you balance the emotions of grief and hope?