“They’re just socks” I say to myself as I pull the pair of white, patterned socks from the drawer. “Put them on. They are just socks.”
That day, whenever I caught a glimpse of my sock-clad feet, the emotions stirred. Sadness. Grief. Guilt. Anger. I became angrier and angrier until at last I pulled off the offending sock and threw them into the washing basket with as much force as my sobbing self could muster. No matter how much I tried to convince myself otherwise, they were not “just socks” – they were the socks I wore while I laboured with my son and the socks I wore as I sat next to his isolette in the Special Care unit the next day. Weeks later, I wore those socks again. But whever I saw them, I was instantly brought back to those long hours sitting next to my infant son, unable to hold him without a nurse’s help. My mind flashed back to the uncertainty of not knowing when he would come home, and the obsessive watching of the monitor screen – hoping and praying that his respiration rate would lower, a sure sign that breathing was becoming easier for him and that home was one step closer.
As I looked at those socks, I remember how tight they felt that day in Special Care. I’d only bought them days beforehand, they should have fit perfectly but my swollen ankles had other ideas. The litres of IV fluids given to me as they worked to stop me hemorrhaging had found their way to my ankles and feet and the resulting swelling was a reminder of how unwell I had been. I had been just minutes from a blood transfusion and surgery…yet it was my sweet son who ended up needing the extra care.
Memories. So many hard memories from a simple pair of socks! I couldn’t help byt feel guilty for being so angry and the sock and the memories. After all, that son is peacefully sleeping in my arms as I write this; he is healthy and home after just a few days in Special Care. I know what it’s like to not bring a baby home from the hospital at; all. I know the agonising pain of choosing an outfit to wear to my baby’s funeral, so how could I let a single pair of socks affect me so much? Why was I so angry? They are just socks!
Except that they’re not.
Those socks make me feel like a failure. I failed to keep my pregnancy anxiety at bay – one of the reasons for an early induction, which may have contributed to his breathing issues. My body failed when it lost too much blood and I had to stop holding my boy as I was too unwell. I failed to keep my boy safe and he ended up in an isolette separate from me for most of his first night earthside. And all of (perceived) failures reminded me of the time my body failed me the most – when it couldn’t protect my darling firstborn and her heart stopped beating while in my womb. What should have been the safest place of all was not safe for her. And the pain of that failure came flooding back when I looked at a simple pair of white patterned socks, bought years after her birth.
Logically I know those things aren’t true, but try telling a sleep deprived, grieving mum-of-a-newborn to be logical! Some days, the emotions win, and that’s ok. So for now, those socks will return to the sock drawer, not to be worn again until I learn to give myself grace and accept that they are more that “just” a pair of socks.
Larissa is wife to Marcus and mama to four, including one precious girl lost to stillbirth. She writes about her daughter and life after loss at Deeper Still.