We Are Not That Different: How We All Experience the 4th Trimester, Even In Grief

June 30, 2014

To new moms out there, and moms who have older children and remember the early days well. We are more alike than you may think.

I look as worn and weathered as you do. My face has aged over the last five months from worry. We both worry. I worry, but it’s not bent over a breathing, sleeping baby holding a mirror to their mouth to make sure that there is air coming out. I just worry in general. I worry about all the things, all the time.

I will power through work today on four or five hours of sleep. In fact I started writing this at 4am. I am awake all the time. Just like you. Mine comes from the broken sleep of PTSD survivor, someone battling insomnia. And who also wakes up thinking she hears the baby crying. Just like you do.

Sleep is probably one of the hardest for me, just like it is for you. Sleep and night time are things that I avoid. I often avoid sleeping in “that room” because that’s where it all happened. That’s also the time when it happened. In the late hours from 9 o’clock at night until 5 or so that morning. We’ll probably never know. She was “gone” less than 24 hours at birth given her condition.

That night was the second night of labor, which was quickly becoming my own hell as I lay in the bedroom alone as Clint was trying to get sleep in the living room, attempting to prepare himself to parent a newborn over the next couple of days and grab a couple of hours of sleep.

There in that bedroom, alone and in the dark, thinking of having all the lights off what help me relax, I stayed in a weird flux between intense contractions, the likes of which I still have not felt as intensely as I did in those moments, and then moments of what I can only imagine or something between sleep and passing out. This combination would go on for 10 hours or so. When I think about her dying, I think about sitting in the bedroom alone in the dark. I guess it was kind of feeling. It’s really what a Hollywood producer would set the scene look like they needed to stage such a scene. I felt pretty alone even at that time but I had no idea that she was dying or that she was already dead. The contractions that picked up throughout the night were the worst I’ve felt throughout everything. Even after I got on Pitocin. The contractions were the worst in the bedroom and they would go on for minutes at a time.

I remember waking my husband up and telling him something was wrong demanding a C-section. It was already too late.

I read a quote on another loss blog of a mom who said she would relive the day of Birth “over and over and over again” rather than have to go through the mental darkness that she feels now on some of the worst days. I can’t say that I fully agree but I also can’t say that I fully disagree here. The desire to make it all stop is powerful. At least on the day of birth, you had a purpose.

Maybe this is another area where we agree, new moms. My identity now is all messed up, turned up on its side. I’m still working out what it means to be a mom, and not lose myself in just being a mother.

My relationships are changed.

My body doesn’t look the same.

I have no motivation to workout.

I feel cooped up in the house but have no energy to leave.

Sound familiar?

I am still forgetful just like you are. Pregnancy and mommy brain is tripled, if not more, when you add in grief. I can’t remember what day it is. I don’t know what month it is sometimes. I surely can’t tell you when I last ate or took a shower. And this isn’t always true just of the first fresh months of grief or parenthood. We both feel that even a year later I’m sure.

You know how sometimes you don’t get out of the house and sometimes you don’t leave the couch. Some days you don’t even put on pants. Yep. Me too.

It’s an ambitious feat to get to the store for one chore and you don’t know when you last bought groceries.

You think you know what motherhood will be like. You think you’ve got it figured out. You think that it’s hard but you have no idea until the baby arrives just how hard it really is. It’s hard hard. Yep, grief is the same. I thought I knew what it would be like if I lost a child. I had no idea how hard it would really be and mine doesn’t have a story where I can say that her first smile made me feel like it was all worth it. It was worth it, but it takes longer for us to see that in the pain.

People tell me all the time how they think they would be or act if this happened to them. They are assured they would be falling apart, more than I am. You must not see me on a regular basis then. I fall apart and then get it back together and fall apart again the next day. Kinda like you did as a first time mom on a daily basis.

I am irrationally fearful or irritable or gutted if my significant other is going to be late coming home from work. You needed someone to help you with the baby. I just need someone to help me cook dinner. Don’t ask me the last time I did dishes. I think we can both relate to that. I won’t talk about the smell coming out of the kitchen if you don’t. We’ll both agree to completely avoid looking at the pile of laundry.

At the four month mark, you and I both go through a change. Apparently research says, for you, it all starts to make sense and you find a groove. Well apparently so do we. You’ve heard me mention that it all falls apart at four months for us, as it starts to get worse than it was before and you feel even more disoriented. I guess at four months the hormones start to abate and things are less foggy. You come out of the fog victorious. I come out of the fog to the reality of this messed up situation.

Even some of the frustrating parts are the same. You know how sometimes people try to take ownership of your child? Maybe Grandparents with a lack of boundaries who try to tell you how to parent, or friends who want to give advice about how to handle this experience? We both get that. You get it about how to handle a fever and I get it about whether or not I should get out of the house more.

People some times say the dumbest things or give the dumbest advice. It can even be offensive. You get judgement about sleeping schedules and if you use formula and I get it about my lack of ability to interact with people. Your arms are heavy. So are mine.

We’re not all that different, you and I. And we are also more different than you can ever imagine.

  • Lauren

    Lauren. Survivor of infertility, adoption loss, miscarriage and stillbirth. Also a trauma therapist; irony at it's finest. Waiting for our rainbow. Loving wife (most days!). Soon celebrating the 12th anniversary of my 21st birthday and wedding day. Not brave. Not strong. Just Rhiannon's mom. I write at 180therapy.com about stillbirth, child loss, baby loss

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