I have to admit that before Ripley was born I didn’t truly understand grief and loss. Of course I’d experienced things in life that left me suffering with grief; the loss of a pet, breakup with a boyfriend, loss of my beautiful Nan. But these situations the grief doesn’t compound as much with memories or time. Of course, there have been many moments where I’ve wished my Nan were around to meet Ripley, or that she’d been there when I got married. But the outcome of her death was natural, it wasn’t totally the wrong time; it just was.
This article really helped me to see how important it was for the processing of grief and loss to be a part of my world right now.
But Ripley’s birth, his near-death experience and long stay in the NICU and SCN, left a permanent mark on my heart of grief and loss. I can never have my first child again, I can never have a room filled with flowers, lots of cards and visitors, share a chubby faced photo – none of those things can ever happen again for my first child. That step into motherhood is known to be a jarring experience for many, but when it doesn’t match society’s narrative then how does it feel?
This part in particular resonated deeply:
When you see a pregnant woman striding down the street, clearly weeks later in her pregnancy than you were able to carry. When you peruse Facebook announcements proudly proclaiming beautiful chubby sweet infants that were delivered without issue. When you have to opt out of a holiday party because it’s RSV season and the prospect of your baby getting sick is too much of a fear to be able to attend it without intense anxiety. When you think back to those initial moments you were able to spend time with your baby, and shudder to think that you weren’t able to hold them to your chest, or sometimes, touch them at all. The fears you once held about changing their diapers, disturbing one of the wires attached to them, or their breathing equipment. The feelings associated with having to ask permission to touch them. Having your parenting on display in a hospital unit, as opposed to being the very private experience you had imagined it would be. When you hit your estimated due date, and gaze upon your baby, who’s been on the outside for awhile, laying in their incubator at the NICU. When you start experiencing anxiety and panic, as opposed to joy, as you approach their first birthday, and the memories of what their first days and weeks were like flare up and become vivid again.
I’ve had to take a break from social media and the groups I’m a part of as recently an acquaintance had a baby whose experience mimicked ours, at first. She had to be induced, the baby was small, probably sick, etc etc. But the baby didn’t require help breathing, could room in with the mother, the mother only went home when baby was ready and despite needing a bit of help getting feeding going, they were both fine.
It’s hard not to feel that life is so incredibly unfair. What did I do to deserve a baby who was so unwell he spent 4 weeks in hospital. Why did I have to go through all that – trekking back and forth from the hospital to home for the last three weeks. Why did I have to decide how and when to tell people, manage the incessant requests of some family members. Why did I have to wake up in the middle of the night to pump when I could have just been waking up to the cry of a newborn. Why did I have to miss out on all those flowers. It’s so symbolic, the flowers, but it’s an expression of joy and happiness. And my world just didn’t include that.
Now I started to process it all, went home eventually with a healthy child, but it wasn’t long before we began to experience more issues. Most people glaze over when you tell them how tough it is, but those who have experienced GORD themselves know just how difficult it is. The sleepless nights, the screaming, the lack of food, the constant breastfeeding, the forcing of medicines in syringes. Then the consequences of medicines including food refusal, chronic constipation. Needing probiotics. Then on top of it all, the tongue and lip ties, the obstructive sleep apnoea, the croup, the colds, the bumps on the head. It all becomes too much sometimes and the processing of grief comes to a sudden halt.
But eventually the processing has to resume; no one can tell me when. Will it hit me like a freight train or will it trickle like a stream? No one knows, no one can guess. I’m alone again with my thoughts, like I was in the NICU. The beeping of machines replaced with the humming of the heater and the silence of the house while the toddler sleeps. I can only hope its a trickle because the freight train might knock me down and I might not be able to pick myself back up.