The first time a friend (a friend, not a doctor) asked how I was handling the hormonal fluctuations of infant loss I was a little taken aback by the question. "I've been thinking about your hormones..."
My hormones? I thought - somebody was thinking about my hormones? That's just ..weird.
It's not though - it's part of being an older woman and having older women friends who know enough women who have been exposed in some way or another by raging hormones. Whether it's cancer that put their hormones in the spotlight, or the whole process of motherhood from trying to conceive to breast feeding (... having a teenage daughter..), and of course there's just ordinary age and ordinary women.
My hormones get discussed often, as they should. They are the center of attention these days, my driving force. They're fucking exhausting. My system is so angry that there is no baby to calm all those raging hormones, and everything's falling apart.
I was doing well-ish for a while - thanks to acupuncture, I'm certain. As far as my physical health went I seemed to be recovering. Everything returned to "normal" in good time, and I've already had a number of cycles - enough cycles to be able to call a few predictions. It's very clear that the week before I get my period is a very fragile time.
Triggers are everywhere, and on a "good" day I can find ways to keep standing, but in the phase when those angry hormones rage I can't, and every trigger is amplified. It's an absolutely terrifying place to be.
The subject of post traumatic stress has been discussed around me and to me since Finn died. I think everyone was (is?) afraid I was going to kill myself. I had good reason to, but I had even more reason to live..., I still have Hannah. I'm still a mother.
I can completely understand how the symptoms of post traumatic stress could drive someone to suicide though. Am I really going to feel like this for the rest of my life? The thought of it sends a dizzy feeling swirling through my head - that in itself being a symptom. The nervous fluttery feeling in my gut has been around long enough to manifest in physical ways that tie me to the house as much as my irrational anxieties. I've had diarrhea for more than a month, made worse by a very confused appetite. Every morning I fight the urge to throw up nothing. It's not a medical thing - there is no Pepto for the kind of flutters causing this problem.
There is no medication that will bring my baby back, so there is no medicine that can help me. I've never seen any reason to take antidepressants. I rely on acupuncture to settle a lot of the symptoms that any antidepressant would take care of, as well as any hormonal drug - acupuncture is so much more effective. Straightforward vitamins and some Chinese herbs, probiotics, juice with glutamine and flax seed, lots of protein, a simple healthy diet - chicken and vegetable soups, broth, pho, miso, eggs and spinach (which horrifies Hannah)...
I'd like to add more exercise into the mix, and I had been walking for a while - but the groups of stroller moms out there the make amount of negative effort it takes to get out there outweigh the positive benefit of the walk. I still haven't found a better routine.
I left the house by myself for the first time a week and a half ago, walked down Bay Street to Algoma to Cedar Grove for an acunap. It was great until I was on my way home and at the top of the Bay Street stairs I thought to myself ..ow.. and by the time I got home I thought ...OW.. and by the time the next morning rolled around I felt scared and defeated by the fact that I had obviously torn something significant around my c-section scar; something very internal that sent my whole pelvis into frightened inflammation. It still hurts.
I can't afford to lose any strength in any of those muscles. Two c-sections aren't easy on the body.
I won't deny the use of over the counter sleeping pills - even if it's just for the placebo affect. Sort of proven last Sunday when I took eight of them [sorry liver] hoping to escape the nightmare I was in, but all that happened was I sat with my eyes fixed open in a dopey daze for five hours. I should have known better than to test my limits as the hormonal hostilities were already giving me the shakes.
The hardest part about being a mother of a dead child is being the mother of a living child. Hannah's hockey team had made the finals in the Fort Frances tournament. Rohan and I got the news she would be playing for first by text as we sat here across from each other by the fire. He suggested immediately that we go watch - I knew we wanted to go all along. He really enjoys watching Hannah play. I also enjoy watching Hannah play - especially now as the girls are older, faster, better players, clever, funny on the ice teenage girls. It's been hard to face this season without Finn wearing the little knit hockey outfit I had for him. Every game has been a trigger of torn emotions - wanting to go, not wanting to go, wanting to go, not being able to go, tears.
I felt I couldn't not go - my immediate reaction to the news of the final was that I wanted to see that game. Back to that want to go, not wanting to go, want to go, have to go, must try to go... tears...
It's been clear for years that I don't like driving. I don't think I'm a good driver - not because I don't know or am ignorant to the rules of the road, but because I'm scared, and I've become really hesitant (perhaps from having to drive in the la-la freaking land of Thunder Bay drivers for too long and not wanting to conform). Slow, hesitant drivers are just as dangerous as fast, arrogant drivers. I prefer to stick to my bike, or my scooter, or just let Rohan drive.
I really don't like driving the highways around Thunder Bay, even less in winter, even less this winter - for more than one reason (they've been in the news lately for having had the worst snow clearing in history, with fines and more being placed on those responsible).
Combine it all: raging hormones, triggers causing explosions in my head of visions and noises of things I've come to fear more than anything imaginable, a body and mind in turmoil, an aching pelvis - a reminder of the baby taken from me then taken again, irrational anxiety that partners with a flock of wild birds in my gut causing physical angst in every part of my digestive system, an inability to eat or be far from a bathroom, the fear of not being near a bathroom, the torn emotions over wanting to go and not wanting to go, an a justifiable fear of winter highways in Northwestern Ontario.
It took a lot for me to get in the car that morning - the car with no red baby seat in it anymore, the car we bought because our family was expanding. It took a lot to face my fear of the highway at a time when my mind doesn't know how to rationalize anything because the chemicals my hormones are releasing are too overpowering; but I wanted to go, tears and all.
By the time the third semi trailer blew by us knocking even the heavy Subaru around in the gust I closed my eyes, only opening them for seconds here and there, for four hours to Fort Frances. We didn't speak because I could only speak to the voices in my head telling me to be the tree, breathe, let your body relax, let go of the tension as I sat white knuckled clinging to my purse strap.
When we arrived I thought, okay - halfway... I can do this, I can do this. I just needed to stop shaking. Hannah knew something was up when she saw me, I told her I was car sick (also ordinarily plausible..). She could have never known that it was fighting the urge to crumble to the floor that was making me so sick.
The arena was pounding with loudest music. I guess they were trying to rival the NHL in between whistle energy - except it was just too much, and at the time there wasn't even anyone on the ice, not even a zamboni. I totally get loud music in an arena at a sporting event, but I also totally get acoustics and making that loud music sound like loud music as opposed to rattling vibrations through the steal beams and concrete.
We found some rattling seats and sat in them, rattled. I thought it couldn't get worse. The noises in my head were only enjoying the competition with the noise outside.Human combustion isn't always in flames. Before I could even repeat the words this couldn't get worse a woman sat down in front of me and pulled out a set of bells, reaching up jingling them madly in the air in front of my face. It got worse.
We found some new seats a little bit away from everybody. I really wanted to be okay. I tried to be the tree, I tried to breathe. Rohan went off to get some stadium food for himself (anything goes in his gut of steal), leaving me alone in the noise with the noises. I closed my eyes and wished for any kind of peace, anything to help get me though this.. as I did, my phone rang, and as if a prayer was answered the voice of an angel was on the other end. It was Heather. ...and I couldn't answer - because it was so loud in the stadium you couldn't hear yourself speak, and even without all the pain in my pelvis I wouldn't not have been able to run out in time to answer. Yes, I could always call her back - that wasn't the point, it didn't matter - that was the final trigger in a series of triggers and the explosion was inevitable.
I ran to find Rohan, ran to the car, shut myself in and immediately let a billion tears splash over the windshield. I haven't cried like that since around Christmas. It was ugly, painful, wrenching. Rohan followed, worried, wanting to turn around and drive home immediately to get me home as fast as he could..., but we couldn't, we had come all that way, Hannah's game was going to start in less than an hour. He went back to talk to Hannah, while I called Heather back and tried to speak through a mouthful of tears.
It was then that Rohan drove us to the Safeway, bought some otc sleep aids, which I promptly swallowed eight of. The wide eyed daze hit about halfway through Hannah's game, and successfully blurred the noise around me with the noise inside me. I was hoping to sleep all the way home so I wouldn't have to experience the road.., but I'm not that lucky.
I don't think Hannah's father has any comprehension of how his ignorance is seen on my end - I'm quite certain he could care less. Maybe he thinks he's demonstrating some sort of power trip, a big fuck you to me, not realizing its Hannah he hurts every step of the way. I've never understood how he can't put our differences aside and just do what's right for her. He denies her any financial support because she "has Rohan now" - not recognizing my contributions, or the fact that regardless of Rohan - he is her father and should take care of what needs to be taken care of. He never paid a daycare bill, or agreed to help watch Hannah after school so that I could work, he never bought diapers, or necessary things along the way - refused to help out when I bought her first real bed as a single part time working mother. He's never bought a winter coat, boots, school supplies, nothing - and only for a short while did he sort of regularly send checks (but only on his terms and I think he enjoyed making me feel dependent). The only thing he has ever paid for is hockey (refusing to help with swimming or piano lessons saying they weren't important) - and even with hockey he's failed. He often can't bring her to practices and games (just assuming my schedule is open), and he has chosen to go to his step son's games and practices over Hannah's. He supplies her with second rate gear that I constantly have to replace (her skates, for instance, were two sizes too big - when we took her to get properly sized last year. I was shocked her father wouldn't have considered her feet, since he himself has had such foot problems he's had to have surgery. Why - why doesn't he think of her?)
It's not about the money - there was a time it would have really helped, but it's not about that any more. I would just like to see him put her first instead of trying so hard to prove he hates me. She doesn't call him for rides, money for the movies or the mall, trips to Chapters, ...he even refused a single concert ticket as they watch his step son play hockey in the arena they were being sold at. If he thinks denying her hurts me, well...., then he succeeds.
He proved his arrogance on the highway Sunday night as he passed us in a blaze, disappearing out of sight with my baby in his truck. I'm sure it didn't occur to him that the mother of his daughter is suffering, and trying so hard not to become a helicopter mom, trying so hard to continue to let Hannah go little by little as she becomes more and more independent. Being on the wrong side of statistics like this has done irreparable damage to my sense of security. I used to think losing a child was something that only happens to other people - but now that I'm one of those people I know too well that anything can happen, any time, to any one, no one is immune. I've lost one child, who's to say I won't lose another...
I can't live like that though, and I can't do that to Hannah. It's such an internal battle now. I have to somehow rationalize these absurd feelings I have toward her safety while not letting on, so she doesn't roll her eyes at me, or tune me out. I have to choose my words wisely to get though the web of teenage nonsense she's dealing with. She finds my night time sobbing annoying, showing little compassion - and I have to just deal with that, knowing that it's just how sixteen year olds are, and someday she'll understand.
I have to try to act stable for her while every cell of my body is begging to come apart. I have to, at the same, time continue to give her the freedom she's accustomed to. She's already been white water rafting in Alaska and on the Great Wall of China - the girl has big dreams, a need for adventure, and a serious case of the travel bug. It's what I love most about her, and I want to be able to give her opportunities to encourage her spirit. It take a lot for any mother to allow their child to dangle off the CN Tower or jump out of a plane, but a loss mother has so much more to contemplate. The need to keep the two sides from meeting on the battlefield of mixed emotions is going to make me learn to live with a sick gut forever.
Hannah says I shouldn't worry - she's with her father, he's not going to hurt her. Of course not, I know he wouldn't do anything to hurt her (physically).
Finn was with his father. It doesn't matter - you can think you're doing everything right, you can love that child more than anything in the world and it can still go very, very wrong. Accidents happen, and there's little we can do to prevent them. Speeding in the dark along one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in Canada is only begging for something bad to happen. I know Hannah's father must have been laying on it heavily because I know how Rohan drives so I know we were already going over the limit. He and Hannah left quite a while after us, caught up to us, passed us, and disappeared out of sight.
I received a text from Hannah a while later asking for us to meet them pulled over somewhere so she could get in with us because she didn't have her house key, adding that they were way ahead of us now. I said no - he could slow down so we could catch up and we could all drive in together. He could have just stayed with us, perhaps think it might be safer as we all drive home at night, in case something happens to one or the other. Instead his arrogant driving, out to prove god knows what, just had to make it all difficult, had to make it angsty, had to put Hannah in the middle between squabbling parents. Did it occur to him to set an example for Hannah - especially as she learns to drive with her new license?
He didn't think of her, he didn't think of her safety first, he didn't think of me (of course not), he couldn't just put it all aside.
I was so numb from the worry, anxiety, and tears of the day that by the point we reached Thunder Bay I was so weak I could hardly stand to walk. It didn't take long for me to fall into bed, with no energy left to even cry - the tears were just dribbling out by then.
Monday morning was just a new start to another hormone-driven day. Tears were uncontrollable and came in every flavour. Sunday was now just a part of the bigger blur, the big nightmare, tossed in with visions of losing Finn, and all the other faces, sounds, scenes, and memories that haunt me. I know Rohan was very worried about me. He knows there's nothing anyone can do - my body and my mind are playing tricks that are capable of some really nasty things, and the only solution is time... I have to get passed that hormonal phase for things to start making sense again, and until it happens it only gets worse.
Heather came by Monday evening and immediately upon seeing my blubbering state said, "are you sure this isn't a hormonal thing..." I laughed for the first time in days, agreeing. Yes, yes, it's the hormones...It's lots of other things, but it's definitely the hormones. It was such a relief just to have someone else say it - someone not a doctor, but a woman who knows.
I'm on cycle day two, and the world is starting to make a little more sense. The events of Sunday are going to continue to haunt me for a while - and I never, ever want to drive that road again at night. I'm still achy from being so tense for so many hours, and the emotional hangover is worse than anything Jenn's cheap red wine could do.
Hugh Walker told me at the last session to be gentle with myself, and I think I have to pay a little more attention to that. As much as I want to participate in some things I have to hope the people involved understand if some days I just can't face anything other than what's going on inside of me.