Pregnant women hear a plethora of tales from used-to-be pregnant women detailing the horrors of childbirth (whether they want to or not). Woes of failed epidurals, the horrors of the Ring of Fire - "don't worry, it's just your flesh tearing" - thirty seven hours of torturous labor; all will be told.
And yet, no matter how many stories are heard, each delivery is as unique and individual as the person giving birth. Yours may be better, or worse, or eerily similar, but never exact.
The thing to remember is that every ache, pain, and sensation will only be felt by you.
Others can try to empathize. They can rub your lower back, remind you to breathe, spoon feed you ice chips - any myriad of ways in an attempt to ease your pain, but they can't do it for you.
Funny thing is, enduring the contractions of grief is sort of the same. Every single shooting pain belongs to the one whose loved one has been lost. Every contraction of grief. Every single shooting pain - it's all yours. Only yours. And there is nothing you can do about it, except endure.
Unfortunately, the longer time passes, the more irregular the grieving contractions come. It's not something you can time every five minutes anymore. It just hits. Could happen while standing at the grocery store staring at the sign that declares PICK YOUR SIDES. One minute you're grabbing a bag of frozen gluten free chicken nuggets, the next minute you're gasping breath and choking on tears, all the while holiday shoppers pass unaware that your beautiful 11-year old used to ask what the sides were for dinner.
Ironically, birthing labor and grieving labor is also handled in somewhat the same manner: you have to learn to breathe through the pain.
Matt woke me up Sunday morning for church. I looked at him and said, "I can't. I'm depressed." Thanksgiving put me under. Swept me away with the grieving current and held me under until I had no more strength left.
I settled into the chair in front of the TV with my comfy clothes on and I sat. And sat. And I stayed up late and sat some more. For days I sat, unshowered, munching on popcorn and flipping through thousands of images on Houzz. And Matt was sweet to not comment on my passivity, yet he was too scared to ask what was going on in my heart. He gave Brody his bath and heated his dinner. He watched Lifetime Christmas movies with me as if he enjoyed them.
He did exactly what he could. He was gentle and calm, reminding me to breathe through the pain. "I'll take Brody with me to the store to get some light bulbs so you can get some rest," he suggested. Because he knew this contraction of grief was mine to endure.
And then this afternoon, somewhere around 2pm, a thought occurred. I could shower. My body, stiff from unmoving, stood beneath the hottest water I could handle. Layers of protective defenses washed away, circled the drain and disappeared. I could feel my heart start beating again, and with each pulse came unimaginable pain.
After days of numbness and checking out, it was all rushing back. Pain so awful I wanted to curl up on the floor of the tub and rock myself to sleep.
Avery is gone. And that hurts with an ache no words can ever describe.
And yet, today I showered and breathed through the pain.
"Don't let the sadness overwhelm you.
Don't let the fear intimidate you.
To do nothing is the wrong thing.
To do something is the right thing.
And to believe is the highest thing."
- Max Lucado, You'll Get Through This