Conceiving & Grieving: Birthing Basics

I’ve had a really, really difficult time staying happy since Father’s Day. It was only my second one without my dad; I knew it would be hard. Trying to prepare myself for the emotional tsunami of (t)sadness was like trying to remember how much labor hurts. There’s a vague impression left, but nothing that even touches the square root of its intensity.

Grief is similar to pregnancy, though the two are related almost as polar opposites of the eternal cycle. They both start as a seed that is planted one day- sometimes in epic fashion, sometimes quietly in the sleepy hours of the night. It grows and grows inside; incubating and changing into a more complex and detailed animal, until finally, it can co longer be kept in. Bearing intense sadness out has proven more emotionally painful than childbearing; stress and lack of focus can hinder progress with both.
Having gone through the birthing process several times, I tried to think about what had worked for me and why. I recalled the words of my trusted midwife from The Women’s Health & Birth Center, who mused that my last three labors had been lightning fast (under 2 hours each!) because I had been so willing to surrender myself to and trust in the process. So, I decided to take the same approach with my grief. I stopped trying to escape and drown out the panic and the pain. I sat with it. I am still trying to surrender myself to the process… to let the pain come in life-altering heart contractions, to feel it and then let it go. I trust that millions of people have done it throughout history and that there is a 99.9% chance I will make it through; perhaps I’ll even find myself stronger, more confident and more self aware for having done it organically, the same as I have with my births, as well.

Unfortunately, there is a large push to medicate through both processes, to dull the senses while time runs its course. I have always been wary of popping pills to solve any problem. I believe firmly that alarming sensations occur for a reason and point to a something that needs attention. I choose to use holsitic and herbal remedies to help my body, mind and spirit find balance in both pregnancy and grieving. Since Father’s Day, I have valiantly battled the waves of intense heartache with Rescue Remedy, Reading, Ruminating and Reflecting. (Regular R&R is for stress. Grief needs a little herbal help and verbs; words with action – and twice as many. I need RR&R&R&R… PLUS the regular R&R. Good thing I like alliteration so much.)

Feeling so overwhelmed and disconnected gave me an idea: I unplugged everything. I closed my laptop. (Although I did leave this note, so people didn’t think I’d finally imploded with sadness.)  As difficult as it was to admit, I couldn’t handle my children, my social media, even my relationship with my boyfriend anymore.

Let me take a minute to tell you about this guy: He’s hilarious, talented and intelligent- never have I seen such fortitude and integrity in my entire life; he’s also an addict. He quit heroin cold turkey, without telling anyone. THAT is what I mean by fortitude. He went to rehab, worked the steps and works on himself every single day to do better. His attempts at transforming himself have helped shine a light on my own shadows. Though not an addict myself, my father was one, my sister is one and the father of my son is one, too. My dad had 10 years sober when he died, Danny will have 4 in August. (You can find  and follow his Skateboarding, Surfing, Sober self at TBH on Facebook and Twitter– my sister is almost a year clean and can be found as SavageSoberSister on Twitter and Tumblr.) I figure anyone who has gotten (and stayed) sober must know at least something about hitting “reset” on life, becoming more compassionate towards oneself and others and redefining a new life by choosing the next best thing, every chance that arrives.

So, despite feeling like a total asshat for somehow working myself into this position, I took a note from Big Book and took the step after realizing I do NOT have a grip on my life: I asked for help. As silly as the difficulty of it may seem- the first and hardest thing to ask for was a simple hug when I felt myself shut down. This is normally the point where my insides are raging and I somehow manage to appear completely composed and still. I don’t want to be touched. I don’t care about a thing. I hold myself together on sheer will and think about ANYthing else until the feelings subside. But finally, after nearly two years of sitting completely poised and still, holding my breath and my emotions… I let go: I lowered my head. I let myself finish the thought, “It’s not FAIR.”

I cried. Sort of. 

What  really mean I finally made some sort of slurpy, snorting noise into Danny’s shoulder while he reminded me, “It’s okay to cry.” To which I instantly responded, “But I don’t want to!!” and started sobbing hysterically. The sheer patheticness of my response made me want to punch myself in the face and rock myself to sleep at the same time. I guess that just illustrates the duality I’ve created – the train of thought created by love and the train of thought created by fear. I decided to punch fear in the face instead (Don’t fear change, change fear, right?) and accept a damn hug… and maybe even the fact that there are things I can’t control. JEEZ, I can be hard on myself.

I also asked for help with managing my ever-growing Facebook page. I got the courage to ask a wonderful mama whose comments I always enjoy for help in keeping the posts and pictures coming while I take a breather. (Thank you, Chelsea! 😉 So far, it’s been fantastic. I can rest assured that Facebook Timeline won’t completely digest all of the efforts put into my social media while I literally ignore the shit out of it and let someone else take the reigns. Talk about the freedom of letting go! I haven’t watch movies, listened to the radio, (okay- I did keep up on my Words with Friends. E-Scrabble is effing awesome) or even leave the house until Wednesday, when the family went to our local weekly Farmer’s Market for some air, vegetables and hot kettle corn.

Spending time with my family reminds me that life is a constant cycle, and that sometimes, it’s easier to connect both to myself and to others when I unplug from the various screens in my life. Seeing the change in the produce at the market is a simple reminder that “to everything, there is a season.” I have to make sure that I don’t get caught holding onto the winter of losing my father and forget to celebrate the summer and and the vibrancy in the new lives I’ve created with the man and father that is still present with me, no matter how far from present from ‘me’ I may happen to be, myself. I have to give the guy credit for that. He stands like a centenarian tree in the moments when my walls crumble and the floodgates of emotion unleash.

Having a baby has proven a welcome interruption to my emotional cycles, as difficult to navigate as theymay be. When I feel the emotional storms swelling inside, Itry and clear my mind and think of being a cork floating in the ripples of a pond. No agenda, tossed and turned, simply floating.Having a baby that breastfeeds on demand is to give in fully to what is happening here and now- which can be very zen from the right viewpoint- and hard to see the forest for the trees for when feeling overwhelmed. Knowing when and how to stop and just be here now; this breath, these sounds, these perfect baby toes… has always (eventually) brought me back from the anxiety to the love, be it the oxytocin, a spray (or five) of Rescue Remedy, the sweet face of my contented baby, or all of the above. Learning to stay in the moment has provento be a useful tool in birthing for me, it is having exponential healing powers when applied to my life in general.In my darkest moments, my son is a constant reminder that life moves on, that there is still joy to be had. He is a light and a focal point for me, just as grief is the shadow. It is also important for me to realize that shadows only occur where there is blockage cast by my emotional walls. I gave him my father’s middle name, Patrick, when I was just two weeks pregnant. Somehow, I feel like giving him a part of my father’s name creates an eye in the piercing dagger of loss that enables an anchor for the proverbial ‘knot-at-the-end-of-the-rope’ to adhere to. Though my heart is perforated, everywhere the grief has pierced, so travels the thread, the life, the story of the gentle spirit who has crossed The Bridge, weaving in, out and around the fabric of my very core.

I’ve come to accept that I will always miss my dad. I don’t know if I’ll ever truly accept his death. I drove by his old shop today and was drawn to it like a magnet. I looked at the closed garage door for maybe the 10th time in my life- and that’s after having worked for him twice, for years. I still expected it to open. I will die a little inside when it does under someone else’s name. But it, like my heart has been, is closed, cold and locked away- vacant for lack of the same bright spirit that made the person and the place so special.

Transition is arguably the hardest part of labor- and I daresay I’m not through it emotionally, yet. But I have a great emotional doula in Danny. I have a family that understands my pain. I have strangers, new friends and old friends I haven’t spoken to in years, like you, that leave words of encouragement that come when I need it the most. But labor pain is the only type of pain that our bodies can feel that is natural, good and productive– NOT a sign something is wrong; just a sign than something is really, really changing that requires all else to stop so we can focus and bear with it. It helps to have support- it helps to ask for help.

I’m learning here, people… progress, right?

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4 thoughts on “Conceiving & Grieving: Birthing Basics

  1. You are wonderful. Needing help is human, asking for it is superhuman. You are so eloquent and so many of our lives are made better stinky because you share your gift. Your papa is proud. Missing him sucks, and it truly is not fair. When my friend was in labor, she had friend light candles for her, I think the knowing that others were holding her in their thoughts at that time was powerful…you're in my thoughts always…I'm using her labor candle again (often unlit…Kai is overly mobile!!) and remembering you and your dad every time it catches my eye 🙂 You got this. xoxoxo

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  2. There is pain and there is PAIN, and we all handle it in ways as unique as ourselves. The important thing is to deal and process, not become stagnant; by your sharing you are healing and helping others with your words. I recently read this on another site (http://www.twigwizardry.com/About-Fae-Wiz.php) written by another person dealing with loss. I thought of you when I read her post. I am sorry for your loss, but glad you have great people in your life helping you.

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