Life After Addie: A Series Part 1
Finding grief support after loss of a child.
I reached out to a woman from a local grief support group who was gracious in meeting with me to discuss our losses. I really felt good about it. She was highly recommended and local to boot. I will admit I was hungering for a friendship, hoping to have someone I could share my heartache with. The morning of, I prepared a casserole with fresh biscuits, as an offering to our host as a form of communion.
As I entered the woman’s home whom I now see as the ringleader, I immediately noticed a beautiful home, meticulously decorated. But what struck me upon entering was a church pew where a sofa would normally sit. It sat strong like an oak tree in the middle of the living room across from two individual arm chairs. The home spoke loudly of a presence where I could see many talks of God and the goodness he provides.
I could envision his presence among many family talks. For a moment, I prayed he’d be among us today. In that moment my heart was calm.
As we awaited the arrival of our third party the ringleader began to tell me about herself and her journey. But as I began to listen to her, something was not right. I felt like I was going to be in the hot seat. I got sweaty palms, I was looking all around- it was almost as if I was looking for an exit so I could plan my escape. At one point she mentioned Leah (something like that-from the Bible), and I embarrassingly enough popped off that I never followed the Star Wars movies (insert face palm here).
Finally, our third party arrived and it was weird. I was very welcoming as usual- but this gal's face was stone cold. Did she know me? Had I crossed her before? I felt I was being judged from the boot. Maybe this was my own insecurities because I was about two or three days clean. Perhaps I jumped on a soapbox about Addie’s journey a little too soon. The worries and questions to myself started to sink in. Maybe I was still high off of my binge, maybe it was the prescriptions I was on, maybe my casserole would taste like crap- I didn't know and the anxiety was getting to me.
These ladies both experienced terrible losses from their bodies rejecting their children. They felt their bodies had failed them. That they failed. Years of infertility from one- the other an incompetent cervix.
I cried for them.
As that may be, here I am. I had two wonderful, healthy pregnancies, despite Addie’s diagnosis. My body didn’t fail me. And I wasn’t bitter. I felt there was a genuine dissatisfaction from them, an unfair world who celebrated reveals of expected bundles of joy and those delivering healthy, beautiful babies... It was clear these women felt all this an injustice and that this world should be censored. That the rest of the world should stop celebrating.
It was as if they were mad that woman were still celebrating even though they were still mourning.
I began to share my experiences with my pregnancy. I tried to show pictures, but they weren’t very interested. I try to explained how Addie was diagnosed with Trisomy 18, but I really couldn't get a word in edge wise. I barely got to share that she lived five whole weeks and was thriving! I even tried to explain my anger was at the medical practitioners- that the field was insensitive to the fact that I wanted to intervene although they believed Addie was “not compatible with life.”
And although that was their opinion, she was every bit compatible with mine.
I tried to explain if I could go back to the day my beautiful girl was born, if I had not intervened, I would always question or regret that decision. If I had leaned on the medical advice of the providers, I would not be the rebel medical mother I was... and today- I can hold tight on to who I am and own that proudly. I began to testify with these women, how I would encourage women who were in my shoes to push forward as I did, because it was the best decision I had ever made... that I never doubted myself and I would always wonder if she were another miracle Trisomy 18 baby given up on. To me that would never have been acceptable.
As a side note, if you haven’t read my first article, Addie had Trisomy 18. Although, I have not written an article on it yet, and I promise my readers I will- it is a rare genetic disorder involving a full, part or mosaic version of the 18th chromosome of every cell within the body. It is, in most cases- fatal before or shortly after birth. Intervention is not recommended.
One woman's heartbreaking story was shared. She recently had delivered twins and one was born terminally ill and the family opted to not to intervene because there would be “complications”. You see, when we are in grief support, it is a part of healing to be considered support for others someday to those who fit our shoes (for me- it isn't my time). So the dreaded question came. The devil’s advocate was in the room and I was questioned about pain and suffering. Then I was asked if it would anger me if I counseled someone who didn’t intervene as I did. Although I could not utter the words, I knew if I had the courage I would counsel the family as so:
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
No matter the path you take, the Lord would be there if you make Him part of the way.
Numbing the pain.
So badly I wanted to scream this, but my heart was terrified and my heart had completely broken down from being not good enough, and the pain was too much.
I couldn’t believe I was in the middle of this dark circus where I was supposed to be finding light once again. And once again, I was feeling like I had to explain the choices I made. I believe it became quite evident that I was in the middle of a conversation I didn’t want to be in. The walls were closing in on me and I was literally looking at my phone for an escape and none came.
The dialogue changed at that time and although it changed, it didn’t get easier. Talk about healthy ways of dealing with the pain of our losses and it became evident- that I would have to once again explain myself.
Please mention Vitamin D from sunshine, exercise, time with friends, but please God don't let her say it.
Although I tried my best to remove myself from the active conversation, I honestly thought “Is this a flipping conspiracy and everyone who was in my life is in on this intervention-like meet and greet- seriously WTF”?
The ringleader, began her diatribe how using drugs, alcohol, and being abusive, were all ways not to deal with grief. She began a rant on how doctors push pills and cause addiction. Then the other woman chimes in with her experience on receiving prescriptions.
The ringleader continues divulging information regarding a mother much like me and my heart sank. They looked at me, as if it was my cue. I looked the other woman in the eyes, because I honestly couldn’t look at the ringleader another moment. “I don’t agree, I guess that’s the addict in me”. The ringleader quipped, “addict?” as if I were joking. I said “I’m a recovering and former addict.”
As abruptly as the conversation changed moments before, it became very quiet when I admitted my shame. I explained that a woman in pain after childbirth, let alone trauma as I was just as entitled to pain management.
I began an emotional plea about the pain I took on for the next five weeks. I told them how painful it all was. I conveyed that any physical pain was simply insult to the mental anguish I conquered daily... not only from giving birth, but pumping for a child who may never use that milk, walking busy halls, getting to know the breaks and shift changes of uniformed employees. Seeing strained familiar faces of families who had journeys much like mine, desperately pacing to get to my daughter not knowing what I would walk into on a daily basis... because remember, the final walk into my daughter’s room- compressions were being given to my lifeless daughter's chest.
By five weeks, my body felt like I had ran a marathon without any training.
My cries and pleas fell on these woman’s deaf ears.
My story, my personal battle had then robbed Addie and it was no longer her legacy that headed this sham of a meeting that God never attended or was mentioned. No prayers were made and God never headed it. This was not a God lead meeting. There was no "Glory" given in this meeting.
I packed my casserole and biscuits as stoically as I could, thanking them for the visit. The other gal was apologetic. And my “it’s okay” was seen as a lie. As I tried to walk out with my head held high, it was as if I were being read. It was as if I was incredibly exposed and my skin was burning from the sear of it all and I just wanted to wither away.
It was not a secret that I was done explaining myself. Because this was not supposed to be about me. This was supposed to be about my glory baby. I had a day of fun planned in the sun, I had lunch planned with good company waiting for me. That was my grief support for the day, that was where I needed to be. This meeting no longer served me, nor had I wanted to carry on in an uphill battle.
Because there, I just wanted to be numb.