“ Tell the story of the mountain you climbed. Your words could become a page in someone else’s survival guide” – Morgan Harper Nicholas
There are times in this journey that I wonder, what if time doesn’t do what it’s suppose to do? It’s hard to see the potential that time can have on your wounds when you have a mountain blocking your view. In the last few days I have joined the most awe-inspiring, yet dreaded group of women I’ve ever known. I almost don’t feel worthy to be in the presence of their strength when I am still so weak at this very moment. Reading their stories has helped me created words to my own and I can only hope for the same in sharing mine. On September 13th, I became 1 in 4.
I held our son Leo as he quickly died in my arms. I’ll never forget the moment when his heart stopped and mine kept beating. As a mother, it’s the most heart wrenching feeling of grief and failure at the same time. He was perfect; it was MY body that failed him. It’s the most out of body experience to fight your own body so hard and slowly feel your child emerge from between your legs knowing you had lost the war. For whatever reason, it was Gods will to take him home, and one day I will have to just except that.
During Leo’s blessing, Matthew 18: 1-5, 10-11 was read which says;
“ Let the children come to me, and do not stop them. The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these”. I found such undeniable comfort the moment that was read, while at the same time my heart yelling “ but he belongs to me!”
We held him for hours. About the time I was signing discharge papers, our 3-year-old son was waking up. Unfortunately, he had experienced everything with us. Me falling to my knees as I walked through the ER doors, me sobbing and moaning in pain from labor, and me deliver and be handed our tiny son. Throughout the whole ordeal, we did our best to keep me covered and all the blood hidden from his sight. When I think back on everything, I’m still in amazement over his calmness. When he started to wake from his nap, I felt I had already put him through enough trauma and would spare him seeing the inevitable goodbye my husband and I had to do. So I kissed Leo on his head, said, “I’m sorry”, and asked my husband to take him away. I relive that last goodbye every time I close my eyes and will probably always regret not saying I love you instead. I'm sorry was all I could say to him in that moment because it was genuinely how I felt, pure sorrow.
The few people who know of this event have commended me on my strength and the fact of the matter is I wasn’t given a choice. I encourage anyone reading this to use me a proof that a shattered heart can still beat. Every morning I still feel like I’m drowning, but I ask you to not attempt to take my pain away. My pain reminds me that he was real until I am able to accept my new reality. Don’t be afraid to ask me his name, one day I’ll be able to say it without crying and that will be another day I was able to put one foot in front of the other. Today I put makeup on and my milk is drying up. Today feels like a step forward and if I take 3 steps back tomorrow I’m okay with that because I’ve learned before that grief has no roadmap and it has no end. I will never stop missing him and the life I’d imagined for us. I’m still at the base of this mountain I have to climb, looking up at this impossible feat I have to overcome.
If by reading this you see yourself, then I hope you realize you’re not alone. I am at the beginning stages of my grief so I am mostly filled with pain and anger. For days I could barely look my husband in the eyes because I felt I was the source of his pain. I have newly formed stretch marks to always be a reminder of this experience, and in a dark and twisted way I feel I completely deserve to be reminded of my body’s failure. Not all moments and thoughts are that dark, but I feel I wouldn’t be doing anyone reading this justice by sugar coating the darkness that can consume someone in these times.
Yesterday I went on a trail run with my husband. Before getting pregnant, running was a big part of my mental health. I have been medicated for my anxiety ever since experiencing postpartum depression with my son. My trail run felt a lot like the beginning of this journey. I am out of shape and not prepared for what lay ahead. Before starting our run, I reminded myself that I’m still sitting at base camp just trying to map out the best route to venture up this mountain of grief.
I started my run full of anger and determined to make myself suffer. My thoughts battled between giving my body compassion because I had just delivered a child, to pushing my body in punishment because it deserved no sort of compassion for failing my son. Less than half a mile in, I rolled my ankle on a rock and fell to the ground convinced I had already been defeated. I could only laugh and thought “ of course!”, that's just how life was going for me at the moment. I felt a tug on my arm and my husband sternly say “get up” as he nudged my back as a signal to keep running. Some might see that as insensitive, but it was just what I needed and he knew that. I wanted no sympathy or pity; my anger grew in that moment. I took another hard tumble about another mile in and this time I was met with “ get your ass up”. Every time we approached a hill it was inevitable that I had to stop running. As I walked I would feel a gush of blood between my legs and my eyes would fill with tears. My body was trying to tell me it wasn’t time to push myself this way, but I wasn’t accepting that so I kept running and at the end of our run I felt no relief and no feeling of accomplishment.
I’m no mountain climber, but I’ve watched enough Climbing Everest movies to know that some days you need to go sideways to avoid the deep pit falls and trenches of the climb. Yesterday I got out of bed, got my son to school on time and for the first time in a long time, did something for me. I may have ended my run feeling more defeated than when I started, but In reality I went sideways, and sideways is still necessary progress to reach the top. Going sideways in my opinion is harder than going uphill. It’s a physical and mental part of the journey that doesn’t bring you any closer to the top and can feel disheartening and demoralizing, but it’s progress non the less and progress is growth.
Although it's painful, I cannot rush this process and I cannot avoid it. It's too soon for me to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I do not have any words of wisdom I can give the hurt reading this. All I can offer are my raw thoughts and my hope that you don't feel as alone as you did when you first started reading this. Not feeling alone has truly brought comfort to me and if by sharing my story I inspire one person to talk, reach out for help or have a very necessary cry, than you have helped me see that the few seconds of Leo's precious life will not have been in vain or without purpose.