Five weeks after loss #5
I knew it was coming. Self-predicted sludge. You’d think that would make it easier to navigate through. Always after losing a baby the mud is the third step for me (survival, determination, mud). My heart has been broken enough times to know this. It’s the suffocating stand-still I finally realise my life has come to. Only this time it’s different. This time I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I’ve failed and it’s over forever. My body simply cannot sustain a pregnancy to full term - although it’s quite capable of getting me to the complacent, ‘I’m actually going to have a baby this time’ stage before it tears out my soul. One more horcrux and I’d be Voldemort.
I put strategies in place to prepare for said mud. I’ve started a six-week healthy eating challenge. The first week was great, I lost 2.2 kilos. The second week I gained most of it back without the delicious memory of carbs to show for it. Mud, mud, mud. People will say I should love the body I have. People didn’t put on eight kilos taking auto-immune blocking steroids for a baby who passed away anyway. That’s just the weight I gained in the last pregnancy. I’ve had six pregnancies, not including a chemical pregnancy because apparently that’s not counted. I don’t fit into my old clothes. Not my four year old, pre-pregnancy clothes, they’re a pipe dream. I mean I don’t fit into clothes I purchased last year while attempting to drop all the other baby weight. Literally the only clothes that fit me are maternity clothes and one stretchy skirt that I wear everyday out of principle. Only it’s super short and not functional for modest activities. If I have one cheeky beverage or taste something delicious, my stomach sticks out so much I could still be fifteen weeks pregnant. But I’m no weeks pregnant. Food baby is no longer a witty joke to my strained abs.
My pre-emptive mud strategy was of course to win at life. Look hot, work towards some fabulous job with an impressive title so that I had something else to talk about other than the fact I’ve failed at everything that’s important to me. I’m working in an entry level position because no one else would interview me after having four years off work.
I thought it would be fine. I figured I’d go above and beyond, impressing the executives by doing way more than I’m paid for. Instead I’m told bare minimum is the expected maximum when there’s zero change culture (I’m paraphrasing). Mud.
I have this overwhelming desire to be more than I am, yet that’s overwhelmed by the constricting feeling that I’m incapable of achieving anything. It’s like waves, each one bigger than the last and I’m whitewashed to shit, wishing I was better at holding my breath.
I’m sick of bobbing beneath the surface of my life.
Some nights I spend hours scrolling through the facebook newsfeed as though Mark Zuckerberg is going to jump through my screen, tell me I’ve got all the employable qualities he’s been looking for and offer me fame, fortune and purpose on the spot. But mindless scrolling turns to incredulous rage when I see posts predicting all the names of women who will fall pregnant this year. Thanks for tagging each other, how utterly hilarious.
When friends actually do give birth, I dance the line between euphoria and the overwhelming urge to curl up on my shower floor and bawl. This is the part where I call myself a self-absorbed knob and get internally angry for not being entirely stoked. But according to psychologist #4, calling anyone a knob is judgmental and counter-productive, even if directed at one’s self. Do I get points for at least being self-aware?
It’s funny how losing babies knocks you in unexpected manners, other than snort-sobbing and fits of rage. Self-esteem. The one thing that’s meant to be self-taught is the hardest thing to learn. My body has failed me. My brain interprets this to say I’ve failed myself. So when I sit in the car bawling because my knees hurt when I ran on the treadmill, it’s hard to make the connection.
I know I’m meant to work on my ‘self-talk’, you know, when you tell yourself things like, ‘you’re doing great, babe’, as opposed to ‘Ally, you’re being a festering, self-absorbed numpty? I can manage this occasionally. When triggering conversations occur, you know, like pregnancy, labour and Bonds sales, I often notice glances in my direction. People want to make sure I’m not about to burst into ugly crying. It’s here where I have to consciously give myself an internal pep talk. ‘You’ve got this, answer with a smile, you’re awesome babe’. If I manage to engage in the conversation, in a manner that’s socially acceptable, I give myself an imaginary high-five. Any secret donkey-sobbing when I’m finally alone is inconsequential because I aced the peripheral spotlight.
Incredibly it’s the difference between:
1. feeling deflated that said conversation occurred (and it sucks to be me),
2. thinking, woohoo who’s a resilient little cherry pie?
The flip side of positive self-talk is sometimes it’s as though I’m hearing my internal dialog from a mean fake-friend who bitches about me behind my back and only visits me to eat my cheese.
Actual friends are obviously a great idea to have in my life, I just seem to struggle with the planned visitation rights we’ve put on ourselves. Yes you can rely on a friend to listen, but only on scheduled visits. No one wants to chat on the phone anymore, and I’m resigned to the notion that my friends and I will just tag each other in humorous facebook posts until one or all of us spontaneously combusts. But hilarious memes won’t help me win at life, especially with my crappy internet. Don’t get me started on broadband conspiracy theories. Oh, that’s the other thing. The mud makes me passionate about absolutely everything I have zero control over, thus ensuring I feel further restricted inside my own head.
If you read my last blog post for Sands, you might remember that I’d planned to skydive when the sludge hit this time. The theory was I could prove to myself that I can snap out of anything, by shocking my subconscious with a hit of adrenalin. Psychologist #4 asked me what the point of it is, because after I play my trump card, I’ll apparently have nothing left up my sleeve to give me a rush. She’s clearly never driven a great distance on one bar of fuel. Perhaps it was some messed up reverse psychology, like ‘you won’t do it’, and then I jump and I’m all healed, forever and ever amen. Or perhaps she just hates my guts - which would explain why she also told me that I need a life coach rather than a psychologist. I miss my complementing, expensive psychologist who tells me I’m balanced and talks about Radiohead. I am balanced. But like a seesaw that occasionally has a sack of potatoes weighing down one end.
Unfortunately, the well meaning comments of others can make mud worse. Especially when people with no prescribing authority suggest I go on antidepressants. Thanks, but I’m sad because of the sad thing. Antidepressants have their place, but not to conceal feelings that probably deserve to be felt. Others love to point out the downs, ‘see, I knew you were lying when you said you were fine’ as though they’ve achieved something because I’m donkey-sobbing into my sleeve. Actually, sometimes I am fine and sometimes I’m not, crazy I know, but there you have it.
As I break through the surface of my mental barriers, I notice glimmers of beautiful and it reminds me this mindset is not forever. The moment my three-year-old says something utterly profound, a raven in the courtyard at work with a broken wing who climbs trees by leaping up the branches, a friend who says yes to the spontaneous thing that’s starts in twenty minutes.
Hopefully when I decide what to do with my now pregnancy-free future, I’ll have something to focus on - thus ensuring I emerge from inside my own head and become present with the world around me. As long as it’s achievable and mostly in my comfort zone, or my anxious little mind might have a conniption (evil cheese-stealing self is excited by prospect of conniption).
So here’s where I’m at…
I’ve got two weeks left of this six-week challenge, and luckily I’m too scared of the downfall if I don’t commit to it my all. I might do something crazy, swing from the chandeliers like that Sia song my three-year-old got addicted to before I realised it was about excessive drinking. I have skills in a range of employment categories, and a husband who’s told me I can quit my job to study whatever I want to, or just write for the rest of my life, so I have a world of options. I just have to suck it up and decide where the next path leads. Adapt. Because I know happiness can never be achieved by those who aren’t adaptable. One day I’ll walk on the water that is my life, missing my babies, but knowing they’ve made me who I am (will be). I just hope whoever that woman is, she finds a way for the mud to be worth it. I’ll let you know. Unless I become a secret agent, then I won’t let you know, but I swear I’ll swing by with at least a covert winky emoji so you know I’m winning at life and #SavingTheWorld.
If you require support after reading this blog, please contact Sands on 13000 72637
Ally Pritchard is an author and mother from Melbourne. She writes fictional novels and novellas under her maiden name A. Finlay. She’s lost five babies at eight, twenty-one, twelve, twelve and just recently at fifteen weeks.
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