New Beginnings

Sunrise

Maybe I needed a break from writing. Maybe I thought I had said all I needed to say. Maybe I was wrong.

I’ve noticed a tendency for people to assume that once your preemie comes home, all is well. They want that for us, for all to be well.

Before I had preemies, I hope I wasn’t that person, patting people encouragingly and saying it all happened for a reason. I probably was. I probably didn’t say exactly what I should have said, or anything at all. I wanted to smooth it all over for people because when I see a heart hurting, my heart aches too; it is painful to bear witness to a dark place in someone’s life. But, you can’t rush someone through grief, and you can’t make it all better.

I have been foul lately, not on the surface, not in my professional life. But, at home I’m grumpy. I stay up too late and grumble the next day. I act put upon and stressed with my kids, who are little kids and have every right to need me. I thought once we moved, things would seem brighter; once we finished the house, things would slow down. I finally acknowledged to myself last week that I am not through with mourning all the days with babies in the hospital, all the nights I came home without them, all the months I was alone. The loneliness nearly did me in, but I felt guilty admitting it because I was too busy slogging through the muck.

There are times in life when we are all muck-sloggers. I think muck-slogging is a universal truth and some of what it means to be human. You can’t really understand the light without its contrast, the dark.

I’ve been so busy, but I was not too busy to write. I felt that it was a luxury to spend an hour thinking about myself when there were so many important tasks that needed my attention. That was the excuse I told myself, a way for me to brush my hands together and call it a day and act like when I look at my children I see two healthy kids. My Preemie Parent friends, we have seen and heard and felt some horrendous things, and cherishing our blessings should not keep us from acknowledging that leaving a child behind in a hospital day in and day out will break you–not break your heart, but you.

I had someone accuse me of being negative on Facebook a few weeks ago; he was someone I’ve known most of my life. It wasn’t his accusation that bothered me, because I generally don’t think I’m a negative person. It was his expectation of me, that I am still the sunny girl of two decades ago. That girl died the night my son was born, while I was unconscious on an operating table. I woke up a woman and a mother, reborn in so many ways. I cannot be expected to be someone I’m not, the girl I once was.

Do you also feel this pressure, that people want you to finish the chapter, close the book, and forget those days, months, years happened?

We are all shaped by life. I really wouldn’t change much of the last five years, except that I would spare my babies all that pain. But, just because I wouldn’t rewrite history doesn’t mean that I don’t still carry baggage with me that I need to lay down somewhere because it is getting seriously heavy. Are your bags heavy too? Please tell me I’m not alone.

I asked my husband, “Are you over it? Everyone thinks we’re fine. Are we fine? Have you moved on?” He’s generally so even-keel, so steady. “No, I’m not over it,” he said. “I know this sounds terrible, but that pregnant woman this weekend? It was difficult seeing her, not because she’s pregnant, but because of what we can’t have.”

If it is taking you months and years to put it all back together, to find some peace, to remember who you once were and who you want to be, you are not alone.

I thought I was open, because I blog about preemies and I’m proud of my kids and all they’ve achieved. I’ve discussed difficult topics, but so often it’s in the written word, my safe space, and not in face-to-face talks. The NICU, its aftermath, and the heartache involved is such a part of the identity of our family, but I invite people to talk about it like a vacant house down the street. The subject of the house isn’t off limits, but no one really gets to see what is inside, what the house is made of. Its windows are dark, and no one is invited to enter. I didn’t forbid the topic, but I also stopped talking about it unless asked. I closed myself off and then wondered why my connection to people was limited…because I limited it. We all shutter our windows and lock our doors sometimes for our own safety, but there is a difference between protecting yourself and hiding.

I am going to write it all, everything I have to say. Most of it won’t be on the blog because there isn’t room for it in a blog format. If no one else ever reads it, my children will have a firsthand account of their earliest days and months, a gift that will hopefully make up for the fact that one out of two of them actually has a half-completed baby book.

I am ready to record the words, to give the story up, and then let it all go.