This time last year I was in turmoil. James and I had just learned our daughter's diagnosis and had made the decision to end our wanted pregnancy. We were frantically making our own arrangements, calling around to various doctors to understand the requirements and laws. I was dealing with my obgyn's office, following up multiple times on our requests to send my medical records to the hospital, and James was dealing with our insurance company to see if they were going to cover any of the costs of the procedure. All of this, mind you, while grieving.
What an unbelievably complex journey it's been. The weeks between our diagnosis and our abortion were excruciating. I cried most of the day and couldn't eat, sleep or function. I was pregnant yet losing significant weight. Our families had to come help take care of Joe because I couldn't even get out of bed.
But once I was out of surgery and back at my parent's house in Chicago, I just felt numb. I didn't cry. I felt an overwhelming sense of relief that it was over and I could finally try to move forward. The purgatory of still being physically pregnant with a baby I had already emotionally lost had been absolute hell.
We had planned to stay in Chicago for one week post surgery to "recover." I planned on crying and grieving as much as I could that week so I could return to my normal life with my son at home. Instead, I didn't shed one tear. I found myself going out to dinner and watching movies. I felt guilty that I wasn't sadder. I remember asking the same support group, "I haven't cried yet. Is something wrong with me?"
Ah, I was so naive.
The past 2 years have taught me that grief is not linear. It takes on so many different forms. It does not follow some neat and tidy 7 stage process, where you get to fully feel and process one emotion then move onto the next. There is no last stage or ending to grief. You cannot plan ahead for it. You cannot assume how you will feel and when you will feel it, and you can't predict which triggers will cause you to spiral down into a dark hole of despair.
About a week after returning home from Chicago, I pulled out a stack of plates while setting the table for dinner. Somehow I lost my grip and accidentally dropped them all on the floor. James came running into the kitchen to make sure I was okay and found me lying among the shattered plates, sobbing hysterically. I'm not sure if it was the sound of glass breaking or the loss of control, but it triggered a pain in my heart I had never felt before. I spent the rest of that night on the bathroom floor while James tried his best to console me.
Grief is a journey that is uniquely ours. It's raw and challenging and beautiful all at the same time. I can't believe this Thursday will mark 1 year since our abortion. I've somehow survived this rollercoaster for a whole year now.
I wish I could explain to that sweet woman in my support group that she's going to be okay -- that she is going to feel a million different emotions over the course of the year that she isn't going to understand. I wish I could take away her guilt for thinking she's not grieving "correctly," because I know now that crying isn't the only result of sadness. I wish I could tell her that this time next year, she too may be 38 weeks pregnant and approaching her due date with a new sense of appreciation, excitement and hopefulness.
But, I can't. She has to live out her own journey to really, truly understand.
I recently found this picture that James took of us in the hospital room
just minutes before I left for surgery. We have survived one year, babe.