Rule #7: It’s okay to not be okay.
I’ve debated for months about writing and publishing this post. I’ve brooded over it, edited it, and debated scrapping the whole thing altogether. BUT. I’m a big believer in turning lemons into lemonade (maybe even a little limoncello). I’m also a big believer in being open and honest about mental health, grief, and the every day struggles we all face in this crazy little thing called life.
Now that I’ve officially passed the point in my pregnancy I was at when we lost Jimmy, my brother, I feel like I can share these very intimate thoughts and feelings. I was 32 weeks pregnant with Corey at the time, and I’ll be 34 weeks pregnant with Baby G #2 when I publish this post. There’s something about passing that ‘mark’ in my pregnancy that makes me ease up a little bit.
I know everyone would agree with me when I say that pregnancy, parenthood, the whole cycle of life really is a beautiful gift. We all agree on that fact, yes? It’s all a gift and not to be taken lightly. Whether or not your kids are born of your body, someone else’s body, are yours because of the death of another parent, are yours because another parent frankly didn’t deserve them, whatever… however it is that you’re a parent, it’s a journey that’s full of joy, love, but also difficulties. ‘M I right? Are we still on the same page here? K, good.
Now here’s where I’m going to divert from the “Pregnancy is Beautiful! Pregnancy is Magical! What a gift! What a joy!” mentality and talk about the real difficulties of this pregnancy in particular. I STILL think it’s an absolute blessing, and we’re very lucky to have this baby. Just keep that in your brain as we continue down this little rabbit hole. Okay? Promise?
This pregnancy has marked some of the most difficult, darkest days of my life. That’s saying something considering what’s happened in my life already in just 31 short years. Although I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that my past has a lot to do with how I’m feeling these days, too [read more about that here and here]. I think it’s okay that I say that it hasn’t been the happiest time in my life. It’s okay that I’ve had dark feelings. It’s okay that I’m not feeling like some Goddess of Fertility and Life and Joy and Home and Hearth and all that other stuff. It’s okay to not be okay.
The nausea this pregnancy lasted until I was about 18 weeks pregnant, which on its own isn’t such a big deal. BUT – it’s no fun, that’s for sure. It also meant that I’d spend days upon days feeling awful and useless, just lying in bed praying the nausea would magically disappear and my energy would come back. But it didn’t. I didn’t cook for weeks on weeks, and if you know me, then you know that means something is wrong.
All that time in bed, unable to do basic things made me feel like I had no purpose, no value, no real reason to exist other than growing a tiny human. Some people would say that’s a lot of purpose, value, and reason to exist, but when you’re a person who’s used to going about 193 miles a minute, it’s a pretty difficult mind game.
Now, up until this point, it’s all pretty minor, right? Nausea plus a little depression ain’t no big deal. Now, let’s add in a little grief to the mix. The month between the time my brother died and the time Corey was born was marked with feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, sadness, joy, and claustrophobia. I remember wanting nothing more than to go on a 10 mile run to get out all of the feelings I had pent up inside. BUT when you’re pregnant and haven’t been running for a while, they kind of recommend steering clear of long distance mileage.
I didn’t have an outlet. I had no way of getting out the bad energy I had rolling around. I was stuck. Stuck in my body, stuck in the situation, just stuck in my completely confusing and overwhelming emotions. I was devastated at my brother’s death, but yet I was facing one of the happiest moments of my life. It made for a very perfect storm for a person who really needs to work through emotions in a very hands-on way.
I thought that one month would be long gone and never to be repeated. And then we got pregnant again. All of those feelings slowly creeped back in, especially when I was lying in bed trying to keep my lunch down for hours at a time. I’ve had some of those dark moments with feelings of claustrophobia just being in my own body. I’m beyond thrilled that we’re going to welcome a beautiful baby in the near future, please remember that. It’s just the waiting that has me a bit shaken.
[Jimmy’s dog, Bjorn, snuggling with my baby bump]
My big belly has unfortunately become a physical reminder of the exact moment I learned my brother died. I was at work when I received the news. I remember my co-workers standing over me, reminding me to “think of the baby, think of the baby.” I had Braxton-Hicks contractions for over two hours straight. I did my best to breathe, stay calm, stop crying, and keep it together. That two hours was just the beginning of a long month to follow. I had to constantly talk myself out of grieving the way I wanted to grieve (which was to absolutely lose it).
Now, fast forward to this pregnancy. The big belly serves as a reminder of all my worst fears that were realized that day. I’m constantly on edge that something else is going to go wrong. I’m afraid to let myself get comfortable for fear that I’ll get another horrific phone call with the worst possible news. I don’t like it when Corey and Jon Boy go out even for a quick errand together. I’m convinced something will happen. Add that to the pregnancy hormones, and you’ve got one uptight lady on your hands, folks.
I’m trying to enjoy and savor and relish in the stage of life I’m in. I’m also trying to work through some feelings that remind me of such a dark, difficult time. I wonder if this is making any sense to you? Whatchya thinking right now, friend? You with me still?
I’m not sure if anyone who’s experienced a trauma while pregnant (or even not pregnant) has had similar feelings. I’m not even sure if any of this makes sense or if you’re thinking I’m a big whiny baby. It’s okay if you think that; I’ve had moments where I’ve thought that same thing about myself.
So, basically I’m saying that I’m not okay, and that’s okay. Not every life experience is exactly the way we plan it. We can make all the plans we want for our weddings, babies, raising those babies, having homes, our marriages, etc. But at the end of the day, things happen. Sometimes awful things. It’s a true journey, and it takes work to get through those awful things. I’m in a day-to-day battle with my past, my anxiety, and my grief to enjoy this phase of life I’m in.
I’d like to close up this post with a plea to folks who are experiencing similar difficult feelings. Finding the joy in the times when all we see are dark, terrible things can be the most precious gift of all. Actively seeking out our happiness can be the most powerful thing we can do to turn our lemons into limoncello. I’m on that daily uphill battle myself, and I can’t wait to get to the top to see what lies ahead. Cheers to that, my friends!