Finding strength in our choices.

Original post on Still Mothers.

So many people have told me “you’re so strong.” Sometimes I want to punch them, but most of the time I just shrug and tell them that I don’t have any other choice. My husband repeatedly tells me that I do, in fact, have a choice. I could choose to stay in bed all day, but I get up and go to work instead. I could choose to cry and be angry all day every day, but I choose to press forward and embrace any emotion I feel, including happiness. I could hate every other woman that announces her pregnancy, but instead I think about how lucky they are that they get to experience a part of life that I loved so much.

When discussing this with someone the other day, they responded, “You do have that choice, you’ll always have that choice, but you are not giving yourself that choice. That is not one of your options.” I had never thought it of it like that before.

There are many reasons I give as to why I don’t have the option to fall apart: I have a job, we have to take care of the cats, I have to put on a face for family…a lot of reasons that involve other people. But there are a few reasons that are just personal, and I’ve realized that I need to really take into stride just how strong I can be. Being angry and sad 100% of the time is exhausting. It’s draining, and (for me) causes more anger and sadness. I’m already tired enough, I don’t want to make it worse. And I’ve dealt with depression before; I remember how it feels. It’s a dark and lonely place that I don’t ever want to go back to. I allow myself to be sad, but I will not fall back into a pit of despair and hopelessness, no matter how much I miss my babies. As much as I want to fall apart some days, I recognize that it is not the best or healthiest way to cope (for me personally).

Of course, all these feelings, the desire to be angry and sad, are completely justified when you lose a child. You’re going to have bad days and you’re going to fall apart and that’s okay. Someone irreplaceable is missing, and there’s no way to bring them back. Crappy days are inevitable. Post-partum depression and depression from a loss are to be expected, and that’s okay too. It’s not easy, but with help, it can get better.

When you are having a bad day, and you wonder how much longer you can do this for, remember that you set your limitations for falling apart. Even on your worst day, you could always fall apart a little bit more. But at some point, we dry the tears, pick ourselves up, and keep on living in the name of our children. Even when we don’t want to, we choose to keep going. We are as strong as we choose to be, but we’re all stronger than we give ourselves credit for. So keep going, mama. Have bad days, have good days, but just keep going.

"You're so strong."

I read an article a while ago that sparked this post. I shared the article on Facebook, so some of you may have read it. In it, the mother writes "People comment on how “strong” my husband and I are. I don’t want to be strong, I want to be normal. There is nothing strong about living without your child. We don’t have any other choice but to go on without her; to go on living some semblance of a life while constantly missing her. There is no other option."

I've thought about this a lot since we lost Carter, and even more so since we lost our little girl, and now, after our miscarriage. People are always telling us how strong we are. We, like the mom that wrote the article, don't want to be strong. Trust me, I would love to have both my babies here and have people tell me I'm weak all day long. I would far take that over losing our babies and having to be strong. It takes so much work to be "strong." It is so hard to wake up every single day, get out of bed, eat, go to work, put a smile on my face, and help people with things when all I really want to do is scream and go home to sit in the empty nursery. At the end of the day, I barely have energy to sit on the couch with my eyes open. Some days I just want to drag myself outside, crawl into the backseat of my car and stay in the parking lot at work, because going home means I have to get up and do it all again the next day.

I don't want to be strong because I feel like the more I put on a show, the less people will remember our children and what we are going through. I don't want to be strong because I feel like the harder I try to be okay, the less I remember my own grief, and in turn, the less I remember our kids.

You think I'm strong because you don't see what happens when you aren't around. I put on a face for you because I don't want you to cry for me. I don't want to ruin your day the way all my days are ruined. I don't want you to feel even an ounce of the hurt I'm feeling, because no one deserves that. So you think I'm strong, because I'm spending my energy being strong for you.

But you don't see what happens when I'm by myself. When a song comes on the radio that reminds of Carter dancing in my belly. When I get home and can't make it up the steps because I'm physically tired from all the emotional pain. When I'm crying so hard that I can't breathe. When the skin around my mouth dries out because I drool a little when I cry. When anxiety sets in and I'm hovered over the toilet trying to simultaneously quell my crying and not throw up. When I get so angry that I throw the nearest non-breakable items until my arms are tired. When Brandon's shirt is soaked through with my tears. When we sit on the floor holding each other until the pain lessens. When every sentence about our children is a little stilted because we can't help but get choked up every time we talk about them. When we sit at the cemetery wondering how this is our life.

It's nice that people think we're doing well, and that we are being tough and putting on our game faces, but it's a lot of work. It's hard to not just call in to work every day. It's hard to not just lay my head down on my desk and will away the world. It's hard to come home to an empty house, or leave with an empty backseat. It's hard to live with an empty heart.

You can tell me I'm strong, but just know that you're lying. Maybe lying isn't the best word. Just know that you're wrong. I do things the way I do because I don't have a choice. Falling apart is not a choice because we have to keep going. Putting our lives on hold for grief is not a choice because time moves on and we have to learn to incorporate grief into our everyday routine. Giving up on myself is not a choice because at the very end of the day, I am all I have; I am the only one that controls my thoughts and emotions. Forgetting to live is not a choice, because my heart still beats for myself and our children, and there is so much potential for our little family. We have to live for that potential.

So you may think we're strong, but to us, breathing and living without our children is just a hard thing we have to do every day. It's routine but not, all at the same time. We're not just strong, we're loss parents, and this is our life.

I'm tired.

Now that so many of my friends have kids, I hear pretty often about how terrible it is when little Johnny stops taking naps. And I just think to myself, these kids have no idea how much they'll miss naps when they're older. If I could take over napping for them, I totally would.

I started my new job on Wednesday last week, and despite the fact that I have to get out of bed before nine (wayyyy before nine), I actually am enjoying it. It's very different from what I'm used to, being in the midst of chaos and crazy in the schools, but it's good in a different way. I do miss the kids and working with a lot of people, but the people I work with are very nice, and the work keeps me busy, which is important. I'm still getting the hang of things, but so far I feel like I'm doing a good job!

I'm still not quite used to leaving the house for nine hours a day, though. Even though some days were a little lonely and boring at home, I got used to being with the cats in a comfortable setting all day. I miss it! I was really grateful for the long weekend; it gave me the chance to hang out with Brandon and friends, and also catch up on sleep. I've been having a hard time getting used to my new schedule, since before this job I was up until about midnight every night. Last night I actually fell asleep on the couch around eight, but when I went upstairs to bed at 9:30, I was awake until just past midnight. 5:15 comes early every morning though, no matter what time I go to bed the night before.

The past week has been kind of rough. I'm dealing with some medical things (we can discuss that at a later date) on top of our loss, and honestly it just doesn't feel fair. I know there are worse things that could happen, but I just feel like the hard things never end. When we were in the hospital delivering Carter, my contractions came about every 45 seconds or so, and I didn't really have a chance to breathe. That's basically how I feel now; kind of like I'm drowning and can't seem to get my head above water. Getting this job was a huge relief, but I'd be stupid to think good things are going to keep happening. That sounds super pessimistic, but that's just how my life is right now. I'm quite proud of myself for how positive I've been throughout all of this. I believe that everything will work itself out, so I just have to keep plugging along and taking care of myself. Hard things happen, but like Brandon keeps telling me, we're all stronger than we think we are.