I woke around midnight, cold and sore. The chill in my body felt feverish. Unearthing myself from the covers to turn on the small space heater seemed torture. Drinking icy water from the stainless steel water bottle near my bed felt like torture. And I wanted to go check on Autumn, but couldn’t make my muscles cooperate.
The temperature of my grief is high right now. I haven’t needed to check on the baby during the night for several weeks, and usually was comfortable with only waking to feed her. But in that moment, shivering and weary, I frantically wondered if she was ok in her crib.
I had been talking to a friend who is nearing the end of her pregnancy after loss. Her anxiety is so heightened heading into the final weeks. My heart hurts for her as she describes her fears because I know that nothing except bringing her baby home will quell those fears. Her stress became my stress as I knew exactly what those last few weeks are like. Even bringing the baby home turns into navigating parenting after loss.
All of the weight that fear held over the past year – all of it – came crashing down and hurt my bones. Nine months of pregnancy and three months of baby caught up with me. Exhaustion in its most complete form, yet turning things over and over in my mind prevented me from sleeping.
I finally climbed out of bed. Whenever I go into Autumn’s room, I pull a shawl around my shoulders for added warmth while feeding her. I put my hand on her swaddled stomach to feel the inhale and exhale of her tiny breath, and then crept out of the dark room. That small disturbance was enough, and a few minutes later she woke. I waited to see if she could coo herself back to sleep but she became more insistent.
The ache in my bones made it difficult to nurse her. Rather than relaxing into cradling her body like I usually do, I was hunched over and clenched. Her tiny mouth pulling milk from my body felt like she was stealing any energy I had left. But I admitted that I would gladly give it to her, reserving nothing for myself. After all, that’s what the past year has been, right? Giving everything to her, saving only the minimum to survive?
“Sorrow makes us all children again – destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson