October is, apparently, “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.” I have never been one to get very excited about raising “awareness.” It has always seemed a little lackluster—all hat and no cattle– and left me feeling like all I am doing is helping to buy more rubber bracelets that will never actually be worn…but, I have been wondering if maybe, I was wrong. Maybe we all need to be a little more “aware” of one another’s struggles—maybe we all need to remember to think before we speak, keep our comments kinder, and remember that everyone is fighting their own battle. More often than not, those battles are invisible to the naked eye.
Once again, I have found myself enlightened by my own experiences—most recently, my battle with grief. Grief has left me feeling equal parts emotionally fatigued and selfish. The fatigue I can handle, but the selfishness is harder for me to both articulate and address. Frankly, I am a bit embarrassed at my recent inability to look beyond myself and my emotional state. I have always prided myself in being sincerely empathetic, but emotional responses that once seemed so natural now feel a bit forced. And as odd as this might sound, I am having a difficult time striking the right tone, quite literally. Sometimes, I hear myself talking, and I can tell I sound a little off– a little too enthusiastic and bright. I suppose that I am trying to “fake it till I make it,” but its proving much harder than I ever anticipated it would be.
I kept telling myself that if I could get through June, if I could get through the summer, I would start feeling better and everything would be okay. I would have a new season, and a fresh start. But as the leaves began to change instead of starting to feel better, I have just been reminded of how different I had planned on this season of my life being. Travel plans, holidays—we had planned everything around having a baby in the beginning of November, and we won’t have a baby then.
For a while, I tried to convince myself that if I can just make it past our due date that I will start feeling better, but that too has started to feel like wishful thinking. I have lately been reminded that you can’t put an expiration date on grief, and I just need to find a way for it to be a part of me without letting it define me. Moreover, I am never going to feel as I did before. I have said it before, but grief has a way of leaving an indelible mark, and people that have been touched by it never forget. And just like Alice, “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.”
But back to “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month,” I don’t feel the need to make people “aware” of my story per se (except for that massage therapist last week, but I mean, she was really nice), but do I think that we should all be “aware” of how what we say and do impacts others. Each time someone who doesn’t know me well jovially asks why my husband and I don’t have any children yet (if you ever ask people this question, please stop doing so immediately) I try to keep my composure and brush the question off, but it’s upsetting. Almost as upsetting as when people I do know make jokes about me being better off without kids because they are so much work or too expensive. I could go on in this vein, but every unintentional, stinging comment is a reminder not only of my recent loss and pain but also of all the times that I have flippantly inquired about others’ personal business or lives. I cringe when I think about the times that I have asked people about marriage plans, future children or a myriad of other sensitive subjects.
Moving forward, I am going to try to be more “aware.” More “aware” of the potential, unintended consequences of my words and actions, and more “aware” of how others might be hurting. Hopefully, my recent experiences and grief will help me be a better friend and a more comforting presence to those in my life that have faced insurmountable challenges. But at the very least, I hope that I always remember to think before I speak/act/post and spare people any additional pain.
That’s All She Wrote