It's been two years and sometimes I still wake from sleep already crying. It isn't a dream. It's just the awful reality.
Today it's July. And that's it. That's the trigger.
Her birth month. The month that I loved for so long because it gave life to both my girls. But soon after Mabel's birth on July 16th, just a few hours after really-I knew nothing would ever be the same. And it never was. Each and every July after she was born was horrifying for me. A countdown of the days she may have here on earth with me. The more July's we faced, the less time I had to see hers. And I always knew it.
July has always set me into a tailspin of sadness and anxiety. I tried to fight it hard for a couple of years but finally I just gave into it. It is what is is. Her birthdays came and I always celebrated. We had a party, gifts, and cake year after year even though she didn't understand any of that. She couldn't eat and she couldn't play and it was just so sad and hard for me. I did it anyway, in hopes that her sister and brother and all of her little friends would remember and be grateful. I think that they are.
But it drained me every time.
And now, it drains me still.
It's July and sometimes it feels like all I have is a pretty plaque at the country cemetery where she is buried to show for her life. I know there is more to show for it. My memories, her siblings, our photos, her spirit. But, it feels much different than what I know sometimes.
My body aches at the lack of her.
My body aches at the lack of her.
I remember feeling so proud of it during the months that I grew her, my third child, after gaining and losing so much weight with her brother and sister. After a tail bone break with Nora and gestational diabetes with Braden, my pregnancy with Mabel seemed just about perfect. She hiccupped a lot which I hadn't experienced with the kids and later found out that could have already been her seizing in my womb.
Off and on through the years I have struggled with my body like most women. This past year as I've experienced some of the worst pain and fatigue ever, I gained a whole new perspective and level of gratitude for my body and what it has done and continues to do.
This acceptance and acknowledgement of all my physical body has accomplished, of course makes me grieve my baby time and time again. Because she was part of so much that my body endured. When I look back over the photos of her life, I see what was required of my physical body just by caring for my sick child. When I was the thinnest and what people maybe perceived as my healthiest, or happiest, it was almost always because I was walking a screaming, seizing, very sick child for miles and miles a day in the heat. It was because I was up late at night swaying her back and forth, back and forth, I was bending down to lay her rigid of floppy body on the floor in hopes that she would rest, only to have to squat back down every few minutes to pick her back up again.
Time and time again.
And then, I acquired a whole lot more stress with the loss of my first marriage and with the entire process of divorce and enrollment of Mabel into hospice care. And sure, I was skinny.
But I was sad. And pushing my body to the absolute limit every single day. I thought I was taking care of myself the best I could, and truly, I was trying. But there was just no way around the strain that it inevitably experienced. It changed me forever.
After Mabel died I couldn't look at myself in the mirror without feeling physically sick. For years I had told people to not bring food when she died. Nothing heavy at least. No pot roasts, no meat. Maybe just cookies or a brownie. Nothing that would fill the pit in my stomach because truly, I could barely swallow air without feeling like I may vomit so food was not an option.
I did go on to eat, though. I felt proud of myself that I was able to. I made sure to keep a 'reserve' as my mom had always warned me that I would need it. And I came through her death at a healthy weight with a healthy body.
Not a strong one, but a generally healthy one.
For months now I have dealt with health issues that have plagued me and haunted my mind. It's just a horrible reminder of all that I endured with and for my baby.
Who now isn't here.
And what do I have to show for all of that other than a really pretty plaque with her name on it?
Sometimes it feels like nothing. It feels like punishment rather than victory. It's entirely too much to bear some days; this fight against my own body.
A few months ago I decided to simply do what I can to make myself feel physically better. So I've been getting massages twice a month. Along with horrible low back pain, I also have a slight fraying of my rotator cuff and probably some bursitis or tendonitis in my hip along with my foot that still doesn't feel quite right after the surgery from hell.
But when I'm having an ok day and feel like I can, I take off and try to walk just like I always have. Last night I walked (and even ran) 4 miles. It was a beautiful night and I felt really grateful for the way my body was carrying me.
I'm a little bigger than what I've been in the past. I'm much weaker than what I've been at times.
But I tried to be so present with my body and really just silently thanked it for all it has allowed me to accomplish in this life. It's such an intense gift to have been able to do all that I have been able to do. And, my physical body must be stronger than I know because it has endured so much. I realize that and I want to continue to be gentle with myself and honor it for just carrying me through the days.
Much like I carried her...
Safely inside of my womb. And the best I could outside of it.
For 6 years all together, she was mine to hold.
And now my arms are empty, my back still aches, my shoulder throbs in the night, my hip pulses with the weight of each step. And I am reminded every day because of all of that...
...that she WAS here. And she WAS mine.
So even when I'm frustrated and sad and feel defeated over this body and all I wish it was still capable of doing, I made a vow last night on my summer walk to just be grateful that it continually reminds me that I'm her mom. That she lived both inside and outside of me.
And for the rest of my days, nothing else I accomplish matters as much as that simple fact.
I hate July.
I love and am proud of my body.
I am super sad.
Not sure I'll ever NOT be.
I am really tired.
Trying to take care of myself takes so much energy.
...that I really don't have.
But I am proud that I wake up and JUST KEEP TRYING.
If you feel like me, please try to do the same.
You are not alone.
Our family will leave for our annual Michigan vacation this week. We may also welcome a new baby nephew very soon. All of your prayers are always appreciated.
Oh, one more thing!
[[If you haven't watched 'Embrace' on netflix, I encourage you to do so.]]