As I travelled along on my PND journey I often wondered to myself ‘Am I grieving?’
This is what it felt like.
Total overwhelming, body and mind consuming grief. The only time I could escape this feeling was for the split second when I had just woken up in the morning and my brain hadn’t kicked in yet.
Then it would hit me!!
I searched the depth of my brain trying to think what I could possibly be grieving for and came up with a few ideas.
Was I grieving for the loss of the last 6 weeks of the pregnancy?
I was not ready to give birth and Mr A certainly wasn’t ready to be born. Neither of us were prepared for what happened to us. I missed doing the final preparations before birth, like buying nappies and clothes. I missed having a really massive tummy. I missed feeling my baby’s movement’s change as he started to run out of space. I missed the special bond I felt with him as he wiggled around inside while I went about my day to day chores. I missed packing my hospital and folding up all the lovely fresh new things I would be dressing baby in. I missed the sense of excitement and anticipation that builds in the final few days before due date.
Was I grieving for what could have happened?
I was fairly convinced at 27 weeks pregnant that I was losing my baby. This was such a physical and emotional shock which I don’t think I recovered from for a long time. Was I grieving for the loss of my ‘normal pregnancy’?
I suddenly became ‘high risk’ overnight. No longer allowed to lift my daughter or bend over too often. Not allowed to exert myself physically. Not allowed to carry anything to heavy. Not allowed to sit in the same position for too long…. The list goes on.
I couldn’t go about my daily life with much normality for the rest of my pregnancy. This felt like an awful lot of pressure on me. Trying to do as much as I could to avoid something that I didn’t really have much control over. Where had my normal pregnancy gone and how did things change so quickly?
Was I grieving for the lost hours or days after Mr A’s birth?
It upsets me greatly to say that I can’t remember being shown Mr A whilst in the operating theatre. The first chance to see my little boy and I can’t remember it. After the C-section I was feeling pretty ropey and needed some extra medical attention which took me a while to recover from. I was totally out of it for hours, I honestly can’t remember how long. I didn’t feel strong enough to make the journey down to NICU to visit him. My husband went to see him and bought me back some photos and a video. I can’t begin to describe how I felt seeing these images. I felt that I was losing precious time with him and I craved to be closer to him and to hold him.
The next day I went to see Mr A and was allowed to hold him briefly. It was very clinical as he had so many wires and tubes in him and I was terrified to move in case I dislodged one or hurt him somehow. It was a ‘hold’ not the ‘cuddle’ I so desperately craved. I just wanted to snuggle him into me and feel his soft baby head against my cheek.
Then Mr A became more poorly and cuddles were out of the question for a few days. Days don’t sound like a long time but too me they felt like eternity.
Was I grieving for the missed ‘firsts?’
I didn’t get to give Mr A the first breastfeed as soon as he was born as I had planned too. I had to make do with expressing for him to be tube fed. Then when the moment came to try the first breastfeed I was terrified it wasn’t going to work out. It wasn’t the calm natural moment I had planned it to be. There were still wires attached to my beautiful boy and a feeding tube up his nose. There were a couple of nurses there to offer support and advice. Also to prepare me for the fact that it might not actually happen. He was so small that just taking him from his cot and changing his nappy made him exhausted. Possibly too exhausted to feed. Luckily Mr A is such a trooper and loves his food so took to it straight away. Phew!!
I wasn’t the person that changed his first nappy. I wasn’t the person who gave him his first feed. I wasn’t the first person to settle him when he cried. I wasn’t the first person to comfort him through his first few nights. I wasn’t the first person he saw when he opened his eyes.
At the time these don’t sound like very big deals as there is so much else going on. But looking back it feels like I missed out on a lot.
Since coming to the realisation that I might be grieving I researched the stages of grief and the findings were uncannily similar to how I had been feeling and was feeling now.
· Shock and Denial- Avoidance ,Confusion, Fear, Numbness, Blame.
· Anger- Frustration, Anxiety, Guilt, Shame, Embarrassment.
· Depression and Detachment- Overwhelmed, Lack of energy, Helplessness.
· Dialogue and Bargaining- Reaching out to others, Desire to tell your story, Struggle to find meaning for what has happened.
· Acceptance- Exploring options, Anew plan in place, Empowerment, Security, Self-esteem, meaning.
Reading this back I feel like I’m sounding very selfish about the things that I as grieving for. For this reason I need to say that although we had a tough time a lot of others have it a lot tougher. So many have different outcomes and problems that can last a life time.
We are so blessed to have a happy healthy 15 month old son who is truly amazing. He is thriving and fast becoming an incredibly cheeky chappy. I feel so lucky that we have had such a positive outcome after a tough start.
After realising that I had been going through the grieving process it became very obvious I was stuck for the majority of the time in the ‘Depression and Detachment’ stage of the process. Although I spent a lot of time at this stage I’m happy to say now that I had moved on and am somewhere between ‘Dialogue and Bargaining’ and ‘Acceptance.’
It has been a journey with many tiny steps, some forward, some backwards but generally travelling in the right direction towards full recovery.