Category: Grieving

An Empty Womb And An Empty Heart

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I have been putting off writing this post for a while now. I’ve always had it in the back of my mind to write this part of my story, but I could never actually bring myself to put my heartbreak into words. I have been very vulnerable in my writings in the past, but this, my inability to carry any more babies, this hurt too much to see it in print.

My husband and I had it easy with our first pregnancy. I literally got pregnant within a week of us deciding we wanted to start trying. I only had two weeks of morning sickness (which in all honesty wasn’t even that bad), and I was only in full labour for 2.5 hours. My daughter started sleeping through the night at 6 weeks, she was, and still is, a very calm baby, and we were absolutely, 100% percent, head over heels, in love with her.

Then, when she was 3 months old, I ended up in the hospital with a herniated small bowel, which they had to remove 99.9% of, along with a third of my large intestine. Our perfect little fairy tale came crashing down.

One of the first questions I asked my surgeon was “Will I be able to have more children?” His short answer of “no” tore my heart apart. I was inconsolable. I crumbled. I could actually feel my heart shatter. My dream of having a large family was over. Every time I thought about it, I would break down in sobs all over again.

A month later, I figured I was doing better than they expected, and maybe, just maybe his answer would have changed. Again, my surgeon’s answer was no. This time he elaborated a bit more. I still have all my reproductive organs, however, my doctors don’t know how I would do being pregnant while on IV nutrition (TPN). There are some who have been able to get pregnant while on TPN, but I have so little bowel left that they don’t know if they’ll be able to keep up with my nutrition and hydration. Short answer, they don’t know if I or the baby would survive the pregnancy.

Sitting here writing this, my heart still aches. Every show I watch where a woman is pregnant and giving birth, I cry. Every time someone tells me they’re pregnant, I’m instantly envious. Every time I see a baby, my arms and heart feel empty. Every time I see a pregnant woman, that beautiful glow on her face, and her smile from ear to ear as she feels her baby moving, my soul is in anguish. Every time someone asks me if more children are in the cards, I try not to be angry with them for their ignorance in asking such a private question. Did you know how painful that question can be for so many women? How do you tell someone you barely know something so personal?

I am beyond blessed to have my daughter. I will never stop being grateful for having her in my life. But I loved being pregnant. I loved lying in bed and feeling her move around; seeing her little bum move from one side of my belly to the other. I love that I got to catch my own daughter, that I was the first person to ever hold her, that we have a bond that started 40 weeks earlier than anyone else got with her.

I’ll never feel that again. I’ll never feel a baby’s foot in my ribs again. I won’t feel him move from side to side. I won’t be able to feel her hiccups. I won’t ever get to carry another baby from the beginning, but I will get the opportunity (Lord willing) to be a mom to more babies. Although I know that there will be moments where it hurts to watch another woman carry my baby, we have found someone to join our family in an unconventional way. My husband and I, after months of discussing, praying, and seeking guidance from those around us, have decided to grow our family of three to a family of four via surrogacy.

This process is still going to be long, and let’s face it, probably not easy, but it is an adventure that our family is ready to partake in. Does my heart still ache that I won’t get to carry a baby on my own? Every single day. But my heart is also so full of joy that we have found someone to step in my place for 40 weeks and help our family grow. Hopefully, with time, the joy and the excitement of this new journey will completely take the place of the hurt that has been sitting there, taking up residency, in my heart for the last 2 years.

 

If you would like to follow our journey or to help us with the financial costs of the surrogacy process, please go to our GoFundMe page to find out more information.

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Is There a Time Limit on Grief?  

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I’ve learnt over the years that we not only grieve when somebody in our lives die, but that it’s natural to grieve any form of loss in our lives. Of course we grieve when people near and dear to us die. The world has grieved the loss of many celebrities this year. We grieve as we see the devastations happening around the world – both natural and man-made. We grieve the end of relationships and friendships. Grieving the end of a chapter in our lives, the end of a good vacation, even the end of a really good book.

The question I want to ask is, is there a time limit to how long we’re allotted to grieve? Are we given just a few months and then expected to move on? Only allowed to relive the empty space that was once filled by said person, event or thing on the anniversary of its death?

I’ve been grieving the loss of my health for the last year and eight months. Now, for those of you who have never had major health issues, you probably think I should have moved on by now, right? For any of you who have had your diagnosis for the entirety of your life or from a very young age, maybe you’ll give me more time, but you may also think that at a certain point I need to put on my big girl pants and get on with it. But those of you who had good health and then fell ill, losing such a huge portion of your life, you understand what I mean when I say I’m still grieving.

I know I’ve broached this subject before, I probably will again to be honest, but for the first time in months I finally feel like writing again. Why you ask? Because I’m still grieving. This all still hurts. And it’s so much easier to crawl back in my hole than to try and make you all understand how it feels.

For the majority of people with any sort of chronic illness or pain, winter is awful! I live in Canada and although winter solstice is right around the corner, we still only have sun for a maximum of 8 hours a day at the moment. It gets very depressing when there are many days where it’s very gloomy and we don’t see the sun for days at a time. And the days when it is sunny, it’s extremely cold. Everything hurts because of the cold and the damp weather. It hurts just to wear the heavy coats and layers of clothing. If it’s bad weather I’m stuck in the house. Even on nice days, to take my daughter out takes an exorbitant amount of energy just to get us both bundled up to go outside.

I’m reminded on a daily basis of what I once had. The holidays make it well known to me that I am still very sick. I spend the rest of my day exhausted and in pain if I decide to take a couple hours to bake or go do my Christmas shopping. I have had to turn down parties knowing I need to save my energy for other events. I’m not even able to go see my family this year because the travel will cost me too much for the short amount of time I’d be able to spend with them.

I think all of this still part of the grieving process. It’s hard to shake the sadness off. I’m forcing myself to get out of the house, to shower, to get dressed. All things people who grieve struggle with on a daily basis.

I literally can’t go a single day without being reminded of what I’ve lost. Some days are easier than others. Will I ever have a day that I don’t feel sadness? Jealousy of others living without an illness? Anger that this all happened to me? No clue. But I know that I’m not giving up. I will trudge through this. And I will take all the time I need. I refuse to put a timeline on my grieving.

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Why Being Disabled Isn’t a Tragedy, but Having Huge Parts of Your Life Stripped Away Is

There’s been a big debate going on over social media the last couple days about the book turned movie, Me Before You by JoJo Moyes. If you don’t want to know how the story ends, you may not want to read this entry.

The premise of the story is a man who was into extreme sports, had an accident, and became a paraplegic. This woman starts to work as his support worker, they fall in love, but in the end he decides to opt for assisted suicide.

People are boycotting this movie because they think it’s showing having a disability as being tragic. I don’t think that’s what Moyes is portraying in her story at all. It’s not the being disabled that’s tragic, it’s having everything you love doing taken away that’s catastrophic.

The male lead in this story was a man’s man. Burly. Athletic. Dangerous. Now he relies on someone else to simply brush his teeth. In his eyes, his dignity has been stripped from him.

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Imagine being a singer and your vocal chords are damaged – never to sing again. An artist whose arms have been amputated – never to paint again. Or a foodie, wannabe chef home cook with ischemic bowels thought never to eat again. Enter your passion and an accident that would rob it all from you – wouldn’t that be absolutely devastating? Your passions, hobbies, even your work, everything is all of a sudden limited or taken away from you completely. When all your life you’ve been told that anything is possible, now all of a sudden so many things that are impossible.

I was originally told I would never eat or drink again due to the removal of my small intestine and a third of my large. I LOVE my food. I love cooking, eating and hosting dinner parties. I’ve dreamt of opening a restaurant, teaching my kids to cook, and of course competing on Chopped Canada (which let’s be honest, I’m nowhere good enough of a cook to ever be on that show). I loved having people over and cooking for them and with thinking I would never eat or drink again, would I really want to cook meals for other people and not be able to partake? I’m a dreamer and these were only a few of the ones on my heart. But after my first diagnosis, my dreams came crashing down.

After my diagnosis, I went to a really dark place. I was extremely depressed. A huge portion of my life was all of a sudden gone. And I was beyond devastated.

So instead of seeing this movie as making disabilities portrayed as a tragic thing, what if we see it as dealing with a situational depression? There’s so much talk about depression and how it’s a part of a disease. Would people think of this movie differently if we saw it from that perspective? That his suicide isn’t because of the disability itself but because of the loss correlated with becoming disabled.

It takes time to adjust to the new normal after an accident or a diagnosis. Some people adjust more easily than others. Some aren’t able to adjust at all. If it wasn’t for having to take care of my daughter, there’s no way I would get out of bed. She helped me get out of my depression. Not everyone is lucky enough to have someone or something to fight for. And when all you do is compare your now to your past, it’s HARD! Always thinking of the things you loved to do, that you never will get to do again.

You still don’t want to go see the movie? Fine. But don’t belittle those of us who do see becoming disabled as tragic. Again, it’s not the disability itself that breaks us; it’s our past that we loved and lost that we mourn.

Grieving This Last Year

A year ago today, my entire world was about to change forever and I had no clue that it was about to happen. What I thought was a terrible stomach ache was actually my rapidly body dying.

I was brought into emergency surgery after a couple visits to the emergency department. They had to cut me from breast bone to pubic bone so they could see what had happened; the surgeons had no idea what they were about to find. My small intestine had managed to twist itself and had become necrotic. From this surgery they ended up removing a large portion of my small intestine due to the fact that it had died. If they had waited much longer, I would have died along with it.

I was brought out of sedation two days later. The doctor (who desperately needs to learn bedside manner) abruptly told me that “you will never eat or drink again and your quality of life has been severely diminished”. There are no words to describe how I felt. I was beyond devastated. Anyone who knows me knows how I love food. I love cooking it, eating it, hosting people for meals. And I had just been told rather abruptly, that that part of my life was gone.

They didn’t know if I would survive either of my surgeries or my time in between them. There were several times it was very questionable. I ended up needing the second surgery as a result of the fact that I wasn’t getting any better, in fact my health was actually getting worse. During the second surgery, the surgeon discovered that my intestines had continued to die, and it was necessary for them to remove even more than they already had. At the end of it all, I was only left with 5cm of my small intestine and 36 inches of my large.

I was stuck in bed for four weeks, after which I had to relearn how to walk on my own. For every week that you are bedridden, you lose 10% of your muscle mass, so this was quite an undertaking! First time I walked post-surgery I took five steps towards the door, turned around, took five steps back to the bed and then slept for three hours. I had never been more exhausted in my life.

I had to learn about my new body. I had to learn about the consequences of having no small bowel. I had to learn that something as normal as having a drink while eating, chugging water (when you’re literally always dehydrated that is ALL you want to do) or even staying out that extra hour therefore making me overtired would cause me to be violently ill.

I had to come to terms with the fact that I would never go back to the group home work environment. That I can never travel for more than a week at a time because of the expiration dates on my IV nutrition. I’ll never be able to run again. Bike again. Swim in a lake, ocean or public pool again. I couldn’t even read up until last month because I was too fatigued to concentrate on anything longer than a magazine article. And the most painful of all, which I have asked my surgeon about on multiple occasions hoping for a different answer every time, is that I cannot get pregnant again.

I have had to grieve so many things this year, and I still am and probably will be for a long time to come. My heart is constantly aching. I wake up every morning hoping that it was all a horrible nightmare. I so look forward to the day that I can finally accept my fate.

I have had major anxiety all week leading up to today. The one year anniversary of my surgery. My own personal D-day. Today is a lot more painful than I ever thought it would be. I am going to allow myself to grieve today. To spend today in self-pity and mourn my losses.

But tomorrow — tomorrow is day one in my second year of being a chronically ill woman, and I’m going to surmount it. If nothing else, this year has made me more fierce, more passionate, more of a fighter, and more stubborn than I’ve ever been. I will own this new life. I will conquer it. This is my new life. Time to start living again.

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