Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Just Breathe

It’s been a rough couple of months.

I didn’t write much during my pregnancy; I was more consumed with babies than with food. Free time was devoted to buying onesies, researching pack-n-plays and putting the finishing touches on the nursery. When I did think about food it was “what should I make and freeze for after the baby arrives?” So I made big batches of soup and Bolognese sauce. I should have taken a moment to write and reflect, but I didn’t. I wish I had. It would be so nice to have some written memories of my pregnancy, even if they centered on food.

My baby girl, Caitrin, was stillborn on November 11, 2011 due to an umbilical cord accident. She was perfect and beautiful and so, so loved. My pregnancy was easy and happy and uncomplicated, so this was a complete shock. We were planning to bring Caitrin home and instead had to plan a funeral. I still feel unanchored.

It’s been a rough couple of months.

My maternity leave turned to bereavement leave, and much of it, especially the early days, are still a blur. People cooked for me, and I ate what I could with no appetite, and no enjoyment. I am grateful for my caretakers, but food was not something I relished. A few times I worked up the energy to make dinner for Peter, but soon slipped back into eating the frozen lasagnas we’d stored up.

It’s been a rough couple of months.

Thanksgiving was especially hard. “What do I have to be grateful for?” was the bitter thought racing through my head all day. I knew deep down that I was blessed with family, friends and support that I couldn’t have imagined to help me through my loss, but my emotions took over and all I could think of what I didn’t have. I missed my baby. The food tasted bitter with this kind of outlook, despite Peter’s grueling day cooking for all of us.

It’s been a rough couple of months.

I’ve been slowly – slowly – emerging from my cocoon back into my life, and reorganizing my life around my new reality. Instead of cozying up in my rocking chair to breastfeed, I write in my journal. Instead of pushing my baby jogger, I run with Lucy, just like before only now there is someone missing. I’m back to work work, which is both stressful and comforting.

A few weeks ago I went to my first yoga class since I was pregnant. I’d practiced literally up until the day I went into labor, so it felt strange to not have the extra weight. The strangeness felt sad and empty, but moving and breathing felt good, and my focus started to make me feel like myself again, even if it was just for a moment.

My teacher, Lizzie, spoke about breath: “Breathe deeply. Breathe like it is the first breath you’ve ever taken. Breathe like it is a gift.” I’ve heard these words or similar ones many times before, but they had new meaning. Caitrin was never given the gift of breath. Something so simple and yet such an integral part of life was denied to her. I was profoundly grateful for my breath and inhaled fully and with a sense of peace. Maybe it was because my body was working hard for the first time in awhile, but I was present in that moment and realized that my daughter’s gift to me was a greater appreciation of what I have. If I have nothing else, I have the ability to breathe and appreciate the gift of my breath.

At Caitrin’s funeral, Pastor George said something along the lines of “where there has been great sorrow there can be even greater joy.” I recall realizing I would appreciate life more after facing death and that life would be that much sweeter, but I thought that it was a long way off before I truly felt that way, and in a way, it is. My grief is still too fresh and raw to yield completely to gratitude, but I glimpsed it. And I am humbled knowing that truly the simplest things in life have new and deeper meaning for me.

It’s been a rough couple of months, but I’m working through it.

Things that a month ago seemed impossible – like answering the question “how is your baby?” when I meet someone who doesn’t yet know – are less hard. I’m feeling less guilty about finding joy in my life; in fact, I’m relishing my moments of happiness because I know all-to-well that life is too damn short not to. And food is starting to actually taste good again. I’m starting to cook again and am enjoying the process and the results. I’ve made some good Boeuf Bourguignon and Chicken soup, and I can even imagine some food writing in the not-so-distant future.

It’s been a rough couple of months, but I glimpsed the light at the end of the tunnel, and all I have to do to remind myself it is there is to breathe.