I’ve never been good at sitting with my emotions.
For as long as I can possibly remember I’ve been all about processing, reconfiguring, and moving on before I can feel any kind of hurt well up. I’ve even felt a smug success in my ability to smile through pain. The only other feeling that comes close is the hollow, disciplinary victory of going to bed hungry when you’re on a diet. It’s a strange, bittersweet, Adele-worthy emotion—or rather, non-emotion. Most importantly it lets you function like nothing ever happened. Denial is key.
Of course, pretending something doesn’t exist isn’t very effective in the long run. I’m sure a wise-man said something similar at some point, but it only took a stroll through the maternity section at Target to set the realization off with me.
One minute I was jauntily walking down the aisle dowsing for deals, and the next I was stock-still, trembling with emotion, and feeling faint with rage and a kind of dangerous ambivalence that numbs the heart and ices the blood. My eyes were resting on a cute Liz Lange number that would have fit me nicely in 3rd trimester.
“You’re not pregnant.”
At first my body just thought it would be funny to give me a random reminder. This day wasn’t an anniversary, nor was it a special date of any kind. It was just a fixed point in time where my synapse decided to fire off some realizations. Thanks for that.
“You would have been about 7 months now.”
Ok thanks, I get it.
“You would be in love with life. You would be smelling the change in the air, you would be in an esoteric, motherhood-driven mindset that was all about the meaning of family...what siblings bring to each other’s lives.. “
Ok. Enough. Enough! I don’t need to feel this. I don’t.
I started to stumble through the store blindly.
“You can’t run away from everything you’ve been through.”
And there we have it folks, Ugly-Crying in Active Wear.
I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know why. But from one moment to the next I was mourning my unborn babies. My heart felt the painful cramp of loss like it was freshly earned. I felt a wash of trauma sweep over me and I gasped to catch my breath.
Great. Right here on vacation in Florida. In Target. I’m going to die. I know it.
It was a panic attack that made me feel like my heart was going to explode.
My head swam with reminders from all 3 of my traumatic experiences—my daughter being born grey and limp, her tiny body being resuscitated before being whisked to the NICU where she stayed for the longest week of our lives. Losing my second baby—the blood transfusions, the emergency operations, the hospital stay. Losing my third just a few months after that. The 2 D & Cs needed to clear the retained products of conception. The infection from the procedure. The C Diff from the antibiotics. The Crohn’s flare that had ruled my life for the last year.
I was weeping bitterly in the sales rack. The little sign that said ‘Clearance, Up to 70% Off’ was clinking gently against its support. I couldn’t wipe my tears fast enough and snot had started to pour down my lip.
I had to pull it together. Hubs and Baby Girl were in the grocery section and it wouldn’t do for them to see me like this. Hubs still doesn’t understand why I’m so affected by the last year, and I try not to cry like this in front of Baby Girl ever. It’s just too heartbreaking to hear her say ‘I fix mommy?’
I don’t know why or how we can flip that switch — how we can act like nothing ever happened. I don’t know why in that moment I busied myself with studying the first shirt I could lay my hands on, pretending to rate the craftsmanship, examining the quality of the seams and material.
Was it pride? Stupidity? The simple need to restore everything to ‘OK’? Or was I done? Was that the final cry?
“This is a part of you. Don’t deny who you are. Life is beautiful. Embrace it. The future is bright and full of surprises. Don’t re-write...remember instead.”
From somewhere I felt the bolstering words surge up through me. And that’s when I knew.
Keep your heart light and your head up.
And most of all,