Fifteen months ago I had given birth to a baby that I did not take home from the hospital. Wow. That was a pretty powerful sentence. I need a sip of whiskey before I go any further. No, a baby did not die. I did not take the baby home from the hospital because it was not mine to take. I carried this child inside of me for 10 (yes, it was a full ten) months for someone else to take home. It was mostly a miserable experience and I became a miserable bitch to anyone who crossed me, but it was also a wonderful and rewarding experience. In the beginning of the process I had this idea to journal along the way. I would capture my thoughts and feelings on this very rare thing that I was doing. And then when I am a 70 year old woman I could look back at it and be proud of what I had done. Doesn’t that idea sound lovely? Well that didn’t happen because I am really fucking lazy. So here I am, 15 months out, and I thought now might be a good time to start. I’m sitting on my couch and I’ve already watched the latest episode of Survivor and I’m still on a prednisone high so here I go.
The day after I gave birth, I went home alone. This was probably not a smart thing for me to do, but I had lost a lot of blood and wasn’t thinking straight. My mother and step father picked me up from the hospital about 24 hours after I had given birth and drove me home. Gwen was at her dad’s for the week per a prearranged schedule, and it was only 7 days until Christmas. So my parents drop me off to an empty house. One might think that a mother would kindly offer to stay at her eldest daughter’s home and help her after such a momentous occasion, but that ain’t her style. And it wasn’t my style to ask her to. I had stolen some bed pads and sheets from the hospital to put on my own bed at home because I was heavily bleeding and didn’t want to ruin my mattress. These stolen goods made me feel ridiculously pleased with myself. I tucked myself in for the night and fell asleep. I woke up the next morning without an alarm and without a child in my home. I woke up with nothing to do and no purpose. For the last year of my life my only goal was to grow this baby. I completed that task. My job was done. Now what?!
The days leading up to delivery, I spent a lot of time in my family room which is in the basement. It has a nice cozy fireplace and large sectional sofa, but it is in the basement with limited windows. Waking up that morning, I made myself some oatmeal and then started to go downstairs. But then I stopped myself. I was suddenly terrified to be down in the basement alone. It was as if I could not exist with even one more ounce of a feeling of loneliness. I had no baby, no child of my own at home, no job to go to, and I lived alone. Being in the windowless basement was just too much for me.
So I stayed upstairs. You are not supposed to drive for at least a week after giving birth. So I was stuck. I sat on my couch and watched Flip or Flop (side note: WTF is happening with those two?!) for hours and hours. This was in the middle of winter, so it began to get dark around 4pm. When the sun started to go down, I got that same dreadful feeling of being alone and being afraid. It was as if daylight was a shield for me, but I was naked and exposed and alone at night. To combat these feelings, instead of talking about them with my therapist like an emotionally healthy person would do, I pretended as if they didn’t exist. I made a phone call each night that week at 5pm, right when the sun set. I would talk to my cousin, my grandmother, my friends. I would prolong the conversations for as long as I could. I would pace my house with all of the lights on while reassuring the person on the other end of the phone that I was totally fine and I had never felt better. They all believed me. Then I would go upstairs to bed and cry until I fell asleep so I could wake up in the sunlight and be a real person again.
I wish I had some better way of describing it, but it was as if I had lived a week of my life in a black hole of despair surrounded by dementors. I’ve never told anyone about this and it feels a little strange to be typing it out right now. Here’s the good news, though- It only lasted for a week. Christmas came, Gwen came home, plans were made, and life went on. Looking back, especially as I have the real possibility of doing it all again, I see now how vulnerability is a strength. I was not strong enough to admit defeat to anyone. If I had called my mother and said come over now I need you, she would have. If I would have told my grandmother how I was feeling, she would have talked on the phone with me all night long. Any of my friends would have immediately dropped what they were doing to come help me. But I wasn’t strong enough to be that vulnerable. I have always prided my independent nature as being a strength, as defining me as a strong woman. I don’t need no man! But I have learned now that we, especially women, are stronger when we not only help each other, but when we ask for help from each other. I will not make the mistake of not asking for it ever again.
With that all said, I have to ask.. Can someone come hand me the remote?