On being strong…

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Everybody keeps telling me that I am strong. I don’t feel it, especially right now. When somebody tells me that, I can’t help but feel like an imposter. It’s not me, I’m not strong.

I just don’t see any other option other than getting out of bed every day, and trying to be productive. It’s a part of the way I was raised. Sometimes I would feel sick in the mornings before school. I’d say, “Mohhhm, I’m sick.” I’d make sure to sound really pathetic, too. Mom never skipped a beat. She’d say, “Erin, you have to get up. Get up and ready and you’ll start feeling better.” Along the lines of the saying, “Get up, dress up, show up, never give up.”

Most of the time I would feel better, because I would stop marinating in those icky sick feelings. I’d get up and life would be a distraction from those bleh feelings. I try to do that now, too, and most of the time it works… Sometimes I find myself wallowing in self-pity though, and I have to stop it. I have to remind myself – get up, dress up, show up, never give up.

I don’t feel strong, especially right now. Why especially right now?

It’s the holiday season – everything is merry and bright.

We are too, when we watch Mon Cœur (MC) experience the season. This year it’s been a lot of fun watching her help decorate the Christmas tree, sing along with songs, and dance to the music. She jingles the bell ornaments on the tree, demands Frosty the Snowman to play on the radio, and picks Christmas vinyls to pop in. She has helped send Christmas cards out, decorate cookies, and wrap gifts. Seeing the joy and happiness in her eyes makes my heart swell.

And then, flick of a switch, I remember what should be. I go to get the Christmas tree out of the closet and I see the swing, broken down into pieces, the one we had set up in the corner in anticipation of Millie’s homecoming. Or I see a child that is about the age Millie would be – seven months this December. And here begins the slide. I have to grab hold of something, someone, some thought and try to pull myself out. I try to be grateful for what I have. Sometimes I catch myself, and sometimes I slide.

I am finally realizing how little control I have.

I am a Type A, “I’ve got a plan and solution for everything” person. I like being in control, and I can’t stand to not have power over what I am doing. That’s why the stillbirth continues to rock me so much- we were totally prepared for everything except for what really happened. Not only did we lose our daughter, I realized I had no control. Even so, I sometimes still find myself focusing on the what if’s and how I think I could have controlled it. But it’s done. There’s no changing history. All we can do is look forward to another pregnancy and a different, happier outcome.

Even in the wake of realizing what was happening, we were mentally planning another pregnancy. We knew we would try again, we wanted to bounce back and not let this get us down.

Now that we are, I am playing a monthly numbers game – entering data and making sure that we are taking every opportunity. Despite these efforts, we are unable to control our destiny. Every month I wonder…will we or won’t we be? And even though we’ve only just started, I feel this despair every month when I realize that we were unsuccessful.

My body (and heart and mind) continue to be in flux.

Although I am back to my pre-pregnancy weight, my body is not the same shape it once was. I haven’t made a large effort either. Since we are trying again, it doesn’t make too much sense to me to work on toning up.

I continue to look down at my belly and it reminds me of about the 15-18 week one I once had. It’s strange to feel almost a shame for the shape that my current body holds. When I was pregnant with MC and Millie, and even post pregnancy with MC, I felt a pride and beauty in this same shape. I had accomplished something. Now I see it and I am reminded of failure.

I know that as soon as I stop trying to be in control, I’ll stop stressing, and then everything will fall into place. It’s easier said than done, though. All around me life continues to move on, and sometimes I can’t help but feel that I am stuck in neutral.

As life goes on, those who had births around the same time I delivered Millie, their babies are turning six, seven, eight months old now. I see pictures each month of them with a new numerical sticker or I get the chance to visit with and hold them. I can’t help but wonder what Millie would look like now, what milestones she would be accomplishing, or the foods she would be trying and how she would react to them.

We have friends and family who are expecting again. I am happy for them all, and despite my joy for them, it is difficult to outwardly express that joy. Or to express that joy without feeling a little sadness for our situation. I know the anticipation and happiness that we felt up until the last moment. I know the joy of people’s voices when we talked about what was to come, and the happiness in their voices when they answered their phones before I gave the bad news.

In writing all of this out, I’ve been able to sort some thoughts and come up with the following mantra: You do you. Don’t compare – just do your best. Be proud of everything you’ve accomplished. If I continue to remember this and to be grateful for what I have, perhaps I can bring my stress level down and perhaps move out of neutral.

I’ll leave you with the quote below, which I always had displayed in my classroom and which I carry in my heart.

The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.

–Phil Jackson

In the end, I’ve realized: I am strong thanks to my team. I am so blessed by my team that keeps me going. I am surrounded by the strength of many which gives me the courage and tenacity to face each new day.

What makes you strong?

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