I don't know how to write this. It's been too long since I've leaked crimson soul into the world through these words, and I've forgotten how.
Or maybe I am just afraid.
So I take a deep breath and start spilling. I'll try not to pause, because that's when the fear slips in and the truth gets buried.
Because the truth is -- I've lost my voice. Not my physical voice, but the one that matters far more. I've been silenced.
Or really, I've silenced myself.
I don't know when I started editing myself. I think maybe it was when my son was born. I think maybe I stopped telling the truth -- the whole of it, anyway -- out of fear of judgement.
Because the amazing support and love I found in the online community of grievers after Eve died has been amazing. But things can go wrong fast online, without the benefit of inflection and facial expression to fully convey the meaning of words. And I was afraid to offend those who had shown me so much support by saying that life with a newborn is hard.
I was afraid that people would think that I was ungrateful, that I did not count every single breath of his a gift. I was afraid that those who are still waiting for their rainbow babies and those who are still waiting for a baby, period, would look hard at me and judge that I had too fast forgotten what it feels like to have empty arms when you so long for them to be filled.
I will never forget that emptiness. Never. Sometimes, when the grief feels too heavy, I wish I could.
But even though I know the nauseating betrayal of having your baby who you were supposed to be able to dress in purple tutus and finger her ringlet hair instead die your very own body -- that does not mean I do not struggle.
There, I said it -- I have struggled since my son was born. I struggle still.
Did you know that he was hospitalized at six days old because his weight was dwindling away too fast and he couldn't stay awake to eat, and when the PICU doctor slipped a needle between his vertebrae to test for meningitis he did not cry or flinch or blink even a little? I did not tell you because I was afraid of what you might think, how you might judge.
I did not tell you that when my sn was a few months old, a dog launched itself over its fence and raced toward us as we neared the end of a walk with him in the stroller. The dog did not greet me, but instead silently fell in step behind me and followed, menacingly, until it had deemed we left its territory. Since then, I have hardly dared to go out for walks again, and only do armed with pepper spray, and each venture out is an exercise in managing terror.
I did not tell you that I am feeling overwhelmed. My son hardly sleeps these days, and so I sleep even less. My breastmilk supply is tenuous. I have overcommitted myself in a variety of ways. Our house is no longer beautifully messy but is quickly descending into chaos. My husband suffers from chronic pain and so while he does his best to give me self-care time, the reality is that he is unable to offer as much as he would like.
I did not tell you that I have not been taking good care of my emotional and mental health. I did not tell you that I succumb to the pressure of a family member who wrote to me that I should "get over it," that I should "move on." I started to believe this lie myself, and stopped writing about my daughter, my grief. And because writing (and art) is self-care, this has led to a rise in disordered eating behavior and depression.
I did not tell you that it's been hard to breathe, literally. That it's been hard since December, and has gotten worse. Yesterday instead of enjoying the massage I had scheduled, I spent the morning at the hospital instead having my heart watched and my chest x-rayed. I learned that I seem to have a very healthy heart, and that it's anxiety that is snagging at my breath.
I did not tell you that I haven't called my therapist yet for help with the anxiety, that I'm feeling stubborn. I don't want anxiety. My mother was constricted by it for decades, and I don't want that for me, for my family. So naturally I avoid seeking help (don't worry, I did finally ring my therapist up yesterday).
I did not tell you that May has been hard (again). There are so many reminders this month -- regular and Bereaved Mother's Days, the first anniversary of Still Standing Magazine opening, the second unbirthday that Eve is not here to celebrate (she would have been one and a half this Monday), the third anniversary of discovering I was pregnant with her.
I did not tell you that I find it hard to speak at all. I am something of an introvert and stay on the quiet side when out and about, but this is different. I cannot speak when I am at church or at the breastfeeding group or our women's Bible study, because I am afraid that if I open my mouth all the tears I have been storing up will pour out and drown us all.
I did not tell you that my faith has been rocked to the core by all this struggle. I have lost sight of who I am, and of who God is. I feel like a sail torn loose from its moorings during a windstorm, and I don't know what kind of torn up I will be before I can find a resting place.
I did not tell you these things because I was afraid. Afraid that someone would be offended, that someone would think that because life has been challenging or sleepless or scary I don't appreciate the immeasurable gift of my son breathing in my arms.
I'm sorry that I trusted you so little, friends. For not giving you the benefit of the doubt you have more than earned. You who have shown me so much grace.
I did not know how to write this, but I wrote it anyway, sloppy and unsure and wholly cathartic. And now I do not know how to end this mess of hard truth.
So I will say thank you. Thank you for the grace, thank you for entering this space with me where I dare (when I'm not silencing myself) to unveil the ugliness of this life's pain, where I dare to hope that the telling of my ungainly tale can transform it to an unlikely creature of beauty.
I will not let my voice be silenced again. To speak is to heal and to stifle truth is to swallow down poison.
I hope I do not need to learn this lesson more than once.
(And also -- can you pray for me, please? I know many of you do, without my asking even, and I am so very grateful for it. So may I call upon you warriors who have more faith than I do at the moment to pray for healing, for free breathing, and for whatever thing it is that I need and don't know? Thank you, friends. Thank you.)