As a mother, I have struggled mightily with traumatic loss and the impact of this loss. It has made me worry, more than I should, for my children, both living and dead.
Anxiety has kept me up nights, has shallowed my breath, has made me not eat. I don't know how much to say, but it feels important to me to say something. It feels important because it matters to me to do my part to normalize grief, because in so doing, I can more easily feel joy too.
To my children, two of whom are rainbows, you all (and your father) are the loves of my life. (Rainbow babies are those born after loss). I have a vague fear of the day when some or all of you become interested in your mother as a person - with an identity separate and apart from that of your mother. I worry that you will Google my articles about parenting and that you will misunderstand what I mean.
This post is a case in point. While I do write about you all, I try to write more about myself because I want to protect your privacy, especially as you mature. Admittedly, sometimes these lines become murky and indistinct. Please forgive me.
If you read this, read carefully. I have experienced higher than normal levels of stress and anxiety as a parent, especially since the stillbirth of my second child. This is normal. I want parents beginning their grief journey to know it is normal never really to recover. I want them to know that still there is complex peace.
Baby loss. Some would say it is transformative and, as such, it hurts. But it also instructs, and from the ashes one rises.
I would argue that the deep shadows cast by the loss of a baby enabled me to better see the light in all of you, including the one who came before. Shadow play is light, too.
My rainbow babies emerged from my brokenness, perfectly imperfect. (As are we all). I struggled though, to trust my body. We were one and then we were separate and I had to learn to allow for the fact of your sturdiness. This was not always easy for me and I regret deeply any self-referential blurring I did as I tried to make you trust yourself. To show you how I believed in you, and in your abilities. That was never in doubt. (Sometimes, though, I doubted myself and this must have shown, this complicated underbelly).
Know always, above all else, that you – all of you – have brought me only happiness.
The anxiety is separate from you. In some ways, it is even separate from me but still I hold it. I had to forgive myself for things beyond my control. Fair or not, that was what I had to do. This made me more scared than I should have been when you were sick. It made me worry more for your beautiful hearts as I tried to let you be in the world even as I tried to defend you against those things that can hurt, and can take you down.
I am writing this so that other parents who are being inadvertently hurried through their journey from loss to complex peace know that crippling anxiety often accompanies it. I have sought and I have received effective treatment for these kinds of challenges. If you feel too anxious, I hope that you talk to your doctor about ways to offset the effects of trauma. You have been through too much ever to let that stand in the way of the enjoyment of your family.
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Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.