It's true; the body holds onto a lot of stuff that the brain, because of its protective capacities, simply can't deal with. I've always been a firm believer in the mind/body connection, but I got to experience it firsthand, in an embodied way, when I was forced to grieve the loss of my son, and subsequently all the secondary losses that came with that.
When I began to frequent babyloss blogs, I would hear parents speak of this phenomenon again and again: your consciousness might forget the weight of a particular date, as your brain allowed it to become just another number on your calendar. Then maybe, seemingly out of the blue, you'd get sick or just not be particularly good at coping any more, when you'd otherwise felt you were making 'progress'. That's your body remembering.
I meant for April to be the continuation of the mindset I managed to embrace in the latter half of March; hopeful, irreverent, happy. I survived another birthday (and another two week wait) without too major a meltdown. H and I made progress on the medical front, and found a really great doctor. We are making plans for exciting summer travels. Here in blogland, I wrote a series of silly, carefree posts that reflected the mood I held for many days in a row. I planned to write a post about spring, such as it is finally here; to enumerate all the ways I feel blessed, all the things I have to look forward to. They are, after all, many.
Then I ended up here. For the past two days, I've felt indeterminately melancholic. My brain is fuzzy and can't seem to concentrate. I'm irritable with H and work and life in general. I lack my usual energy, but I also feel restless a lot of the time. In light of all the loveliness of the past weeks and my comparatively positive mood, I struggled to think of why this might be.
And then I remembered: this month marks three years since the beginning of our journey to parenthood. (How has it been been three whole years already? How has it been only three years?)
In April of 2010, after we decided to take the plunge - less than a year into being together; but we both knew what we wanted and weren't getting any younger - I had been to see my oncologist in Canada to discuss how my disease and treatment history might effect this journey, and was told not to expect too much too quickly. We were initially cautious. Three weeks later, while we were visiting H's parents in Germany, we learned that we had conceived S; in our first month, before we were even really actively trying. (And little did we know just how active, and just how trying, the whole thing could become, back in those halcyon days). We were scared and elated and filled with wonder. This season is so evocative for me. For seventeen and a half weeks in the spring and summer of 2010, S was here with us, and it was like magic.
Until it wasn't. And I was broken. I was shocked by the depth of my own grief. I gained new understanding of that trite, rom-com notion of the broken heart. Mine was shattered in a million pieces, and every day for many months on end I could feel it, actually feel the shards piercing me. I often had a searing pain and a weight on my chest that made it hard to breath. And while the shards eventually melted, my heart developed new scar tissue to protect itself, and the pain slowly dissipated to something much gentler, the sense that there was no way to possibly ever understand - on a cognitive level - how we had got from there to here remained. How had this become my life?
I don't often spend time thinking those thoughts these days. I'm better than I was. I'm healing. I laugh a lot. I enjoy the little things again. But as I look down the long stretch of time and failure and loss that has carried us away from that magical time, a feeling that anything was still possible, my body and my brain seem to have momentarily reconnected: I'm missing those days in the spring of 2010.
I miss the innocent and hopeful me I was in the 'before'.
I miss my belief in a 'logical' course of events: you pee on a stick. You see two lines. You cry and rejoice. You have a baby that outlives you by many decades. You walk away, happily ever after, into the sunset.
I miss the (stupid, vain) certainty I had of H and I as a dynamic, confident, always ebullient pair who were blessed, who always had good things coming to us.
I miss the carefree way I used to be able to interact with friends and family and the world at large, before I crawled inside this protective, fearful carapace which so often walls me off from those around me. From their normality, their joys, their forward moving lives.
I miss the unwavering support and understanding that I used to think they'd be able to provide, before I realised, looking backward, that we were on a completely different path from virtually all of those people, and that this path was diverging into an ever widening gap of experience which they would be hard pressed to even grasp, never mind support.
I miss the version of myself that would have been able to see my two subsequent pregnancies - even for the brief time they were with us - as babies I might look forward to meeting, instead of the dread and diminished self-worth that accompanied those interrupted journeys.
Most of all, I miss my boy. I miss feeling him in my burgeoning belly. I miss the chance of knowing the person he would have become. He'd be two years old now, a chubby toddler. If he took after either of his bookish, nerdy parents, he'd already be showing an abiding interest in the written word. Maybe he'd have his father's flair for the dramatic. Maybe he'd be rambunctious and naughty, having inherited my curious, restless spirit and intellectual ADD. Our lives would be different now in ways I am still not able to fathom.
It doesn't often happen. Three years on, some supposedly significant dates - a loss, a due date, the date I got a positive pregnancy test - may come and go without my even realising it. These random down days may not come forever, I don't know. (Though my mother says that she still has these vaguely depressed anniversary days more than ten years after my grandmother died). And though I feel S is present in some way in our lives, I don't often indulge in the 'what ifs', partly because they're just too painful. My brain is protective.
I tell myself that it does no good missing any of these things, because they're gone and won't return. (With the exception of S, who is a different matter entirely). Things are what they are, and no amount of lamenting will bring them back. It was a realization I finally had months before starting this blog, and most days this knowledge allows me a kind of freedom, so that I am able to embrace the now. I am finding contentment in things again, in my life, with all its uncertainties. And although I am no longer (and probably never will be again) any of those things listed above, there are new, and better things that have replaced them; I am more compassionate, more patient, and I'd like to think more gracious with others. I feel acutely aware of all I have to be thankful for. I begin to believe in myself, to trust myself again. I don't want it to appear that I'm sliding backward, or that I'm ungrateful for all the wonderful things I have. I'm happy.
But there are days like today when I guess my body insists I stop, let down my carapace, and grieve. Be gentle with yourself, my body whispers to my brain, in an inversion of the logic we have learned from neurobiology, with the brain sending out missives that allow the body to function.Today, my body is calling the shots, and it has very clear ideas of what should take precedence.
Remember. Love. Grieve. Hope. Heal.
The thing about these embodied memories, as that book also pointed out, is that they aren't only a repository of your traumas; they are also a testament to your strength, to the way in which the mind and body can collaborate in positive ways to strengthen people.
Spring is here, it's come one way or another. Each day follows the last. We are moving forward. I've learned that even while it retains this memory, my body keeps going, keeps fighting to be a part of the world, to make sure I'm really in it, that I'm happy.
So for now at least, my brain will listen, because that is also part of the trust I am regaining in myself and my body. I know it won't forget, but it won't quit either.
|Putting myself back together. Again.|