This is a long one…
My friends and I have been talking a lot about anniversaries lately. They are bereaved moms too, so they understand how difficult it is to reach an anniversary. It seems, between all of us, we’re right in the middle of many anniversaries. The anniversaries themselves are a mixed bag – memories from a better time in our lives and reminders of the more difficult times (thanks a lot timehop!). My friend Liz described it well when she said, “I hate that we are sad date time capsules.” It’s true, we are sad date time capsules because no matter what event or occasion we are remembering, our babies are no longer with us physically. That one constant will always make us sad, to put it lightly.
The one year anniversary of my car accident is around the corner. I don’t think I ever talked about the accident publicly. It was one of the scariest days of my life, before Elliot passed away. I’m sharing it now because it’s part of our story and my journey.
At the time, I was almost 22 weeks pregnant with Elliot. I was driving home from the mall with my mom and sister in the car. In the blink of an eye my car was at a standstill, the airbags had deployed, and smoke filled the car. I immediately put the car in park and shouted for my mom and sister to get out. I didn’t know what happened until I got out of my car and saw that I had hit another vehicle. A young woman, traveling from the opposite direction, turned in front of me. It happened so fast, I never even saw her coming toward me.
Fortunately, I was traveling at a pretty low speed; slow enough so that everyone involved walked away uninjured, but fast enough for the airbags to deploy. When the accident happened, I knew I was okay. I had an abrasion on my chest from the seat belt. Other than that, I was fine. Of course, my main concern was my baby girl. I immediately called 911 and told them what happened. I explained that I was pregnant and wanted to be transported to my local hospital to have my baby checked. While I waited for the ambulance I went over the following things in my mind –
Was I wearing my seat belt properly? Yes, it was tucked under my belly.
Did the airbag hit my stomach? No, the steering wheel was tilted enough so that the airbag didn’t come in contact with my stomach.
Did I bump my stomach on anything at all, maybe the steering wheel before the airbag deployed? No, thank goodness.
Finally, the ambulance arrived. The EMTs made me get on the stretcher for the transport. They were very kind and reassuring. They reminded me that, at almost 22 weeks, Elliot was still pretty well protected. I didn’t have any pain or bleeding so that was a good sign as well.
Ben was home when the accident happened, so he ended up meeting me at the hospital. At the time, we only had one vehicle – the one I was driving and crashed. After I called him and explained what happened, he made a mad dash to borrow someone’s car. After a few calls and a visit to our neighbor’s house next door, he headed to the hospital to meet me. I could see the worry on his face when he saw me lying on the stretcher (which I didn’t actually need but is protocol). I was examined in the emergency department and then brought up to maternity triage for an ultrasound and non-stress test. We sat there for two hours and listened to Elliot’s heartbeat and the gentle swooshing sounds of her movements. I can’t tell you how relieved and thankful we were to know Elliot was okay.
When we got home from the hospital, we received phone calls, texts, emails, and visits from our family and friends. They were also relieved and thankful that both mom and baby were okay. I went in for my follow up appointment with my OB a few days later. Everything was still fine and I was told that we were “out of the woods” at that point.
The next challenge was filing our claim with the insurance company and giving my statement to both insurance companies, over and over again. It was a very long, drawn out process. I just wanted to be done with the whole ordeal and move on. In the end, the other driver was faulted for the accident. To this day, it still bothers me that she was more concerned about her car, not that I was pregnant and worried about my baby.
The other thing that really bothers me is that I honestly thought that since Elliot survived the accident, we were guaranteed a good outcome moving forward. I thought the accident was our one big hurdle and because we were lucky enough to get past it, everything would turn out well in the end. In the weeks following the accident, I spent a lot of time replaying the events of that afternoon in my mind and thinking about the “what-ifs” –
If we had left the mall a few minutes earlier we would have avoided the accident all together.
If we had left the mall a few seconds later, the other car would have hit my door and Elliot and I could have been injured from the impact.
Thank goodness my airbag deployed. If it hadn’t, I would have made contact with the steering wheel.
I truly believed things turned out the way they did because Elliot was meant to survive. She proved she was strong, through the accident and right up until the end of the pregnancy. In the weeks following Elliot’s death, I thought a lot about the accident and how cruel it was of the universe to scare me into thinking I might lose her, only to let her live and then take her away in the end anyway. It didn’t make sense to me then and it still doesn’t today. But I am still thankful that Elliot survived the accident.
When we met with the high risk OB to discuss the cause of Elliot’s death, we asked if the car accident had anything to do with it. She confirmed that Elliot’s death was not a result of the accident. We were doubtful, and scared to ask that question, but we had to know for sure.
I’m still dealing with anxiety from the accident, which was compounded by Elliot’s death. I’m mostly fine when I drive, but I can’t help but feel nervous when someone else is driving. It has nothing to do with their driving skills. It’s hard for me because I have no control. Those feelings come from both events, getting into the accident and losing Elliot – two major life events that I was unable to avoid and had no control over. I am most fearful when Ben drives on his own, especially on the highway. He’s a responsible driver, but I’m afraid of the drivers who are texting, talking on the phone, reading a book, or even worse, driving while drunk and on drugs. We all hear the horror stories on the news every day.
I’m learning how to manage my anxiety and to accept that I can’t control certain things. That’s a bit of a contradiction, isn’t it? The thing that makes me anxious is the thing that’s supposed to help me get over my anxiety. Lack of control vs. lack of control.
I know I can’t protect myself or my loved ones from the things I fear most. Ben and I can’t hide in our house for the rest of our lives. Well, we could but that’s not the kind of life I want to live. I have to keep living my life and hope for the best.
That’s all I can do moving forward – live my life to the fullest, not let my fears hold me back, and hope for the best.