When my youngest son was just learning to talk, he said “doo”, instead of “I love you” or “I love you, too.” Just, “doo”. It was the cutest thing, and because he is a very communicative and very affectionate child, he said it often.
It took me a while before I realized what he was saying, though. As is the case with most toddlers, he spoke a language all his own. I will never forget the day that I put it all together. We were in the living room of our home and my husband and I were watching him play, when I was overcome with the depth of my love for him. It was a “pinch me” moment, if you will. Full to the brim with feeling for this beautiful little person that we created, I lightly touched his arm, interrupting his focus on the toy he was playing with, and said “Silas, I love you.” Briefly, he looked up at me with his big, inquisitive blue eyes and said “Doo, Mama”, before returning his attention to his toy.
The realization came upon me like waves on a beach. Slowly at first, almost tentative, and then suddenly crashing all around me. I had heard “doo” before! Almost always after one of us told him that we loved him, and even sometimes on its own. Unsolicited “doos”! My son, my beautiful son, had been telling me all this time, that he loved me too! Indeed he had even, on occasion, expressed his love for me without my prompting him. My heart, already a puddle on the floor, melted further.
Experiencing my grief has been a lot like learning to interpret “doo”. Writing helps me with this interpretation. In fact, sometimes I don’t know how I feel at all, until my hands pull the words from within my heart. Making things even more complicated, is that grief has a way of tricking you. Some days I feel almost normal. I don’t forget completely, but the ache will move from center stage, off to my peripheral. However, whenever I have a day like this, the pain usually returns before I go to sleep and, having been lessened for a time, its return becomes almost unbearable.
My grief has also been accompanied by a companion, with whom I was already acquainted – anxiety. My journey through Postpartum Anxiety after the birth of my youngest son is something that I am not shy about. It is a battle that I fought, and won. I am proud to have come through the other side of it, and equally as devastated to see it return.
One of the things that helped me through my most anxious moments, was to shine light on my deepest fears. People who live with anxiety are often not blind to the fact that their fears are irrational. In fact, it is because we know that our fears are irrational that we do not simply go around sharing them with others. We create shadowy corners within our minds and pile the fears into them. The problem is that, in doing this, we don’t actually make the fears go away. We simply give them a scary place to lurk. My therapist suggested that, instead, I give voice to my fears. This could be simply to myself, or to a trusted person, like my husband. I began doing this when my youngest son was a couple of years old and it helped me immensely. Getting my fears out of the dark helped the irrationality go from something I was aware of, to something I could feel. I began to see my fears as very unlikely, and they haunted me less and less.
Do you know what the worst thing that can happen to an anxious person is? It is experiencing something tragic and unlikely. For example, having an unborn baby diagnosed with a rare, and most severe form of a neural tube defect.
Yeah… it has not helped.
I have an excellent therapist, and we are working through the resurgence of my anxiety, but I must say that losing Clara has made me absolutely terrified of losing my youngest son. He has always been the focus of my anxiety, since it cropped up after he was born, and things are no different now. The curve ball, is that shining a light on the irrationality and unlikeliness of my fears is a less potent draught, having now lived through an “unlikely” nightmare.
One thing that we are doing differently this time, is that we are using medicine as a tool to combat my anxiety. This is something that I have, quite frankly, been too proud to do in the past. I now see and understand its value, and I am grateful that I have access to it. I do not think I will need to be on it forever, but right now, while I am still emotionally weak, it helps. It gets me back to center when my rational mind spirals away from me, and it lets me find my footing again.
Much like learning to interpret “doo”, I have to learn and teach myself a new emotional language, if I am ever going to win this second battle with anxiety. I know that I can get back to my peaceful mind, I just can’t see the whole path yet. I do believe, however, that I found where the trail begins – gratitude. When I focus on my gratitude, I can feel tendrils of peace reaching out towards my soul. I am grateful for every breath that I take. Grateful for every person in my life. I am beyond thankful for my children. Thankful for my brilliant husband. Eternally grateful for my loving family and friends. I am grieving, yes. I spend many of my days waging a quiet battle with fears that make my head spin and turn my insides rigid. But every time those sweet, blue eyes look at me, every time those little arms wrap around my neck, every time that little voice says “I wuv you, Mama.”, I am back in the living room 3 years ago, overcome by that “pinch me” moment, understanding “doo” for the first time, and feeling so grateful to have all of this.