“Grief is like the ocean; it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.”
I am a survivor of brain surgery and live with chronic pain every day of my life. If you follow my story you know that I manage pain naturally and pain does not control my life or happiness as it once did fifteen years ago. I have not allowed chronic pain to take away my dreams and continue to fight for those who are struggling with this terrifying invisible illness we call chronic pain. If you have chronic pain or any invisible illness you are well aware that the last thing a person wants from others is pity. One of my favorite quotes is: “I do not want you to save me. I want you to stand by me as I save myself.” With that said, I am going to share with you a loss that occurred this week that has caused a tsunami of emotions that can be just as painful as physical pain, if not more so at times. For ten years I believed that chronic pain took away my biggest dream in the entire world, to have a family and be a mother. Ever since I was a young girl my biggest dream was to be a mom. Yes, I knew even as a child that I wanted to help people and I always loved writing but the one thing I knew I could not ever bear was a life without children. For ten years I drowned in the depths and sorrows of chronic pain which came close to killing me. I never believed I would be where I am now: I have a degree in social work, I am a writer, I am living a healthy life despite chronic pain but the most magical thing that has happened is having my daughter, Kayci. I am a better mother and person than I would have had I not fallen off of my bike had brain surgery and subsequent chronic pain. I was recently pregnant and was as happy as I had been when my daughter Kayci came into this world. I spent weeks dealing with morning sickness and all the fun ailments that come with pregnancy but none of that mattered to me because I was pregnant! Finally!!! At about ten weeks or so, I was so confident my pregnancy was healthy and everything was on track that I announced my miracle to the world. Last week I went for my final appointment with my fertility specialist as I was about to enter my second trimester and the ultrasound technician was unable to find my baby’s heartbeat. I lost it. I screamed: “Find it! Find it! Please God no!!!!!” I was shaking and sweating and in a state of shock I do not ever remember being in. The following morning I had a D&E and I spent the following two days in bed crying, watching mindless television, and just staring at the walls. I felt empty and kept seeing the picture of our baby on the ultrasound screen. I connected to this baby and I believe only a woman can understand how strong a love can be for someone they have never met. One day there are two heart beats inside of you and then without warning or preparation one of those heartbeats is gone. For a day or so you wish the heartbeat that had stopped was your own because in a way it has.
It is crazy how common miscarriages are and I am sure most of you reading this have either faced your own loss or know someone who has. However, just because something is ‘normal’ or ‘common’ does not make the pain any less. Cancer is very common but that does not change the immense pain this terrible disease causes. We are all human and you are allowed to grieve in whatever way you need to in order to heal yourself. I am not sharing what has recently occurred in my life to bring people down or receive any comments of pity or sorrow. Quite the contrary, I am sharing what I have just faced in order to help those who are going through something similar. I am also sharing this story which is not what I usually write about to show how strong each and every one of us are.
I had a D & E February 2nd, 2010 and lost a son. I did not get out of bed for about two weeks and watched more re-runs of Beverly Hills 90210 than I care to remember. I once again believed my dream of having children was shattered and my life began to unravel and I went back to a life of pain, both physical and emotional. It took me a long time to snap out of this grief. My daughter was born February 2nd, 2011: a year/hour to the date and time we lost our son. If I had not had that loss in 2010, I would not have the most amazing, beautiful, funny, angelic daughter than I am now blessed with. I know her older brother was watching out for her and he is one of our angels. So, am I going to go into catastrophic mode and begin believing I will never have another child: NO. Do not get me wrong, I am grieving. It has only been six days and although each day gets somewhat easier, I would be lying if I said I did not cry multiple times during the day. Am I cheerful, happy, enthusiastic Jessica? No. I am doing the best that I can and no hope has been lost that the Universe has a plan and I have zero doubt that I will have another child. I have learned exactly what people who are going through the loss of a baby do not want to hear and I feel it is important to share for those of you who know someone who is facing this very difficult, emotional loss. Here are the five things that stand out to me the most as I have faced this loss.
1. Maybe it is enough just to have one child.
2. It was not in God’s plans. You don’t need to be sad, clearly this just was not meant to be.
3. You do not have to try again to have another child. Why put yourself through that?
4. I thought you were just happy? What happened? You are crying again.
5. I feel so bad for you! You worked so hard for this. Are they sure?
No, I am not giving up on my dream to have another child and that does not take away the immense love I have for my daughter. Chronic pain taught me that if you cannot go a day without thinking about something you desire, you have the power to make that something come true. This is a difficult time but this hardship does not define me or my strength. I cry in waves, I laugh in waves, I dream in waves, I get angry in waves, but the one feeling that has no waves is my strength and belief. My strength and belief that I will bring another child into this world is at bay. I am not worried about having another child because I will and long down the road will look at this just as I look at the loss I faced in 2010. However, people are allowed to grieve in their own way for their own loss, their own invisible illness, and their own personal life. You have no obligation to justify your choices for yourself, your family or your life and no one should ever make you feel as if you have to justify your dreams and choices. This is your life. This is your pain. This is your hope. This is your power. Just as with chronic pain, the three most important words you can ever say to someone who is hurting is: “I believe you” or “I believe in you.”
Even miracles take time