One of the first things I was told when Elliot passed away was the intensity of grief comes in waves. Usually, I’m standing at the edge of water, sun shining down on my face, waiting for her. Waiting for her to return to me, in some form or another. Just waiting. Other times, I’m in the middle of the dark ocean, clawing my way to the surface, torrential rains and lightning raging above. Alone, scared, silent.
Grief is so complex. It isn’t just the lingering sadness of not having Elliot in my arms. There’s so much more to it than just being sad.
I recently acknowledged that I’m struggling with lingering trauma (as my perinatal counselor perfectly phrased it), and I need help managing it. I knew I was dealing with PTSD during my pregnancy with Brynn. Of course I was. I truly enjoyed my pregnancy with Brynn and embraced happiness every chance I could. But I was still anxious, scared, and stressed. So much so that at some point during my pregnancy, I declared to myself that no matter the outcome, this would be my last pregnancy.
I’ve held onto these feelings until very recently, adamantly telling myself never again; I cannot do that again. I’ve carried this new heaviness around with me for probably the better part of a year. I only recently started opening up about these feelings. The more I talk about it, the more I cry. The thought of being pregnant again makes me extremely uncomfortable. I literally feel physical discomfort, like my skin is crawling. I’ve also acknowledged this isn’t how I want to live my life. I am consumed by fear again. I don’t like feeling this way. Thankfully, I know I don’t have to. With the right kind of help and support, I can overcome this. I’ve survived much worse.
I was a little nervous to share these feelings with Ben. I knew he’d support me, but I was afraid of disappointing him. We’ve always talked about having multiple children. After Elliot passed away, we talked about having multiple living children. How could I tell him I wasn’t sure I would ever want to try for another baby? Finally, I got up the courage and admitted my deep dark secret. I admitted that I’ve been struggling with the thought of the disappointment that comes with month after month of negative pregnancy tests and then more rounds of fertility treatment. It would all be worth it to get pregnant again. BUT…what if we aren’t so lucky next time? I just cannot imagine going through another loss. I’ve come so far in my grief. I can’t go backwards (as if I have control). I don’t know if I can take the risk again. Even though I had a healthy pregnancy and brought Brynn home in my arms, I’m not convinced that is our norm. After being 1 in 160, in my mind, we always default to the highest risk category. We will always be at a higher risk for something to go wrong. That may not be true, medically and statistically speaking, but that’s how I feel. To some extent, I think I will always feel that way.
Ben and I have spent a considerable amount of time talking about this since it first came up a few months ago. We both agree that everything we’ve gone through to have our girls was worth it. I would not take back the time I had with Elliot if it meant saving myself from the pain. I’d do it all over again if given the chance. Elliot was worth it all.
And my precious girl, Brynn. She was worth the risk. She was worth the wait. She was worth the fear and uncertainty, the many appointments, the injections. All of it. I’d do it all again for her too. So why can’t I wrap my mind around doing it all for another child? A child we would obviously love and do anything for.
Right now, fear outweighs hope. I want hope to outweigh fear, as it once did. I don’t know if Ben and I will decide to have more children. Perhaps our family is “complete” with Elliot and Brynn. We’re exploring all options. We’re not ready to make any decisions now, but we’re gathering information, talking to specialists, and I’m working through my lingering trauma. Quite simply, I’m riding the waves.
I’ve been so tearful lately. On the train. In the car. At my desk. On my walk. I’m so much happier than I ever imagined I could be. But still, I miss Elliot. I’m sad I can’t watch my girls grow together. Heartbroken, actually. Today, I realized we’ve entered our 3rd year of Elliot memories. You’d think it would sting less after 3 years. It doesn’t. In some ways, it feels worse. We’re moving farther away from her physical existence. That’s really hard. Going into year 3 seems harder than year 2. Maybe it’s because I was so focused on getting Brynn earth-side last year that I wasn’t able to fully give in to the grief of year 2. Or maybe year 3 really is worse. I’ve heard from many loss mamas that some years are more difficult than others. It’s hard to know what to expect.
No matter what, I do believe good things are in our future. Life has taken some unexpected turns; I will never understand why certain things have happened. But I will always be grateful for all the love it’s brought me.