On the hard days, when I’m fiercely missing my babies in heaven or, more recently, longing for the new baby we dream of welcoming into our lives through adoption, all I can think is, ‘It’s not supposed to be this way.” The deep soul-jerking emotions come on so suddenly and intensely that I’ve begun to call these feelings the ‘supposed to’s.’ The storyline of my life took so many twists and turns that it can be physically painful to reflect on my past hopes and dreams.
In the early days of my grief, I could barely walk through the door after work before collapsing into tears as the inescapable ‘supposed to’s’ would enter my head. The repetitive phrase would swirl in my mind, “it’s not supposed to be this way.” As soon as I would get the tears under control the same phrase would pop into my head and I’d start up all over again. What could I tell myself? There is no bright side when a baby dies. No, it’s not supposed to be this way and no reasoning will make it okay.
Thoughts such as I’m supposed to be 31 weeks pregnant. I’m supposed to be getting bigger and feeling more uncomfortable with the baby’s movements. I’m supposed to be preparing a nursery. I’m supposed to be happy and excited for all the upcoming babies in our family. I’m supposed to be filled with hopes and dreams for my child.
Yet there I was, carrying this grief that at times felt like it was pulling me under. Any time I would think about getting motivated, the “supposed to’s” would come back. Those days would often end with canceling plans and falling asleep on a tear-soaked pillow.
Today, I’m no longer in the phase of deep grief. The ‘supposed to’s’ are more often brought on by triggers, milestones like missed birthdays, stress, or exhaustion. Lately, it’s feeling overwhelmed by having to update our home study for the third time when the ‘supposed to’s,’ in a different form, arrive again. We are not supposed to still be waiting. The adoption wasn’t supposed to take this long. My children were not supposed to be this far apart in age. My babies were not supposed to die.
And please, let’s not mistake the ‘supposed to’s’ for ungratefulness for what I have now. To my fellow loss mamas and papas, I know this needs no explanation. This feeling is definitely not a lack of appreciation or thankfulness. It is simply mourning both the dreams that have been dashed and the beautiful souls the world is now missing. Having to constantly revise your hopes and dreams can be exhausting.
I’ll never be able to fully rid the ‘supposed to’s’ from my mind, although they show up more rarely these days. They can still evoke a mental and physical soul-tugging response. In one second I can be back to those early days six and seven years ago where I can mark the exact time and place my life took a turn. I have, though, tried to replace the ‘supposed to’s’ with another saying that speaks to me: “Let go of the life we planned in order to accept the life we have waiting for us.” The letting go is not forgetting but rather allowing a release from those swirling ‘supposed to’s’ in my head. It’s not making my losses okay in any sense, but it does free me to look ahead with hope instead of regret.
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