When Charlotte was about 4/5 days old I fell apart.
Everything kicked in. Hormones. My milk came in. It all hurt. She stopped sleeping at night. All of postpartum compounded and on top of it all – she looked so much like Kaden.
I only had him for exactly 3 weeks. So for that first month with her, everything flashed me back to his days over and over again. Things I hadn’t remembered in 2 years suddenly popped up, waking me at night in terror and stopping me dead in my tracks during the day.
During “normal” life, my anxiety is about a 6 all the time. When I get stressed it’s around a 7/8. After Char, I hovered around a 9.5. Honestly, I felt like my brain was going to explode. I cried a lot, flipped out on everyone around me. Sam came home with a Nerf gun for him and Bella one evening and I was so terrified we were going to go broke (we were fine) I ended up chucking it against the wall while sobbing. I wondered if I would ever be remotely ok again, I was scared of how out of control my anxiety seemed to be.
One night I sat up holding Char against my shoulder, rocking while burping her, shhhing in her little ear. And I realized with a jolt that I was holding her exactly how I held Kaden when he died. Her face was against mine, her body the same weight.
The thought consumed me. I started to bawl while rocking her and thinking, “I gave this up. I handed this size, these little hands, this same color of hair over to someone and they took him away from me.”
But I had her now. Wasn’t I supposed to be happy?
I mean I can barely write it now. Because it’s so painful to go back there – both the moment with Charlotte and the moment with Kaden. It’s been 3 years since I gave him to a nurse, and I’m sitting at my kitchen table with tears pouring down my face as Bella plays on her game, Char naps, and Sam is at an appt. And I think of two things:
How did I survive him dying?
I’m so very, very glad it still hurts this much.
As the days passed, and we went to therapy, I was able to talk about this and Sam told me he’d felt the same about her. That in some ways he was terrified to hold her or just spend time with her because the emotions were so raw and the memories so vivid. That’s the thing about grief and PTSD – it hits you in these totally unexpected times where you are knocked over by it – for minutes, days, weeks or longer. We had only held one baby since Kaden, and it was two months after, so nothing had desensitized us a bit to all the baby things.
We went from one life-altering experience with him to the same kind of baby (not trauma though) experience with Charlotte.
And that is very hard to do.
I know a lot of you reading are carrying a rainbow baby. Or you lost a baby. Or you lost your rainbow. Or maybe you had a baby after losing one and you are reading and nodding along.
Or maybe you’re one of the above but you’re doing great and thanking the heavens my postpartum story isn’t yours 😉 lol
Whatever it is, if you’re struggling in a moment that should feel happy/redeeming/complete – it’s ok not to feel like that. You will eventually feel that separate from the grief. It won’t take its place, but it will find it’s own little niche nicely beside it and fit into where you find yourself in a better spot for both. See someone, take something (obviously not on your own accord), talk to someone who knows you well.
As she became older, it did get easier to process and remember without thinking my heart would break in two. I still catch myself wondering what Kaden would have been like in these stages. How he would have looked and what kind of personality he would have had. I miss him desperately, so so desperately. He was my son. My little boy. Nothing can ever fix that, and I wouldn’t want it too. I had to hand my little, broken, tired 3-week old baby to a total stranger and walk away from him. I got to hold him again when he was in an urn.
That will stay with me forever.
I made it. We made it. Barely. Some days it feels like all the things we had to go through before, during, and after that still cause such craters of a mess in our life – but we are still here.