In 2015, we were in a really good place. Steady in our jobs, happy and healthy kids (who were also no longer in diapers…), ready to grow our family. On Mother’s Day of that year, I announced to my mom that we were expecting our third baby.
Then in September, we lost our baby. And less than six months later, we lost another baby.
Since that horrible day in September, we entered into a state of stagnation. Everything, everything became about having a successful pregnancy, while also grieving. How could we decide anything about the future, when we did not know what the future would look like? Our lives were focused around doctor’s visits, and testing, and consults. When I became pregnant for a third time in two years, it was all-consuming.
There were times during my pregnancy with Autumn that we tried to look forward or talk, but often I would stop our efforts and say “I can’t go there. Not yet.” I only had the capacity to take care of myself, and even that, just barely. Taking care of Theo and Quentin was often a bare minimum to keep our household running and functioning. Taking care of our marriage? By the time that we survived the day, and the stress, and the worry, there was hardly anything left.
After Autumn was born, Ger has made some comments like “Why aren’t we ‘back’ yet?” I know what he is asking. There is no going back to “before” because that place does not exist yet, but why aren’t we able to get back to a good place? A good rhythm, being in sync – the way that we were before all of this happened? We felt “off.” Discussions and decisions were exhausting, heated, and unproductive. I reminded him that having a newborn is stressful, even in the best of circumstances – and we are now older, and also lost two babies before we had this baby. Still, getting back to a place of “moving forward” has been strained.
And so I suggested marriage counseling. I found talk therapy to be very helpful after losing Nelle and Iris, because my therapist could suggest things I hadn’t considered or ask me to look at things in a new way. I told Ger I thought we just needed to look at things in a new way. Let a professional guide us. Admit that we needed help in navigating a very difficult time. Our marriage is important enough that we need to refocus our energy, since it had been neglected for 2.5 years. Issues just sat, untouched and unresolved, for most of that time.
At the recommendation from a friend, I made an appointment for us at a different center than where I’d been going previously. During our first session, we both emphasized that we wanted someone with similar experiences: married, with children. Much as I felt like my previous therapist helped with grief, she was not married, and did not have any children so there were times I felt like she could not fully understand our household. The new therapist is married, and has grown children. And as I talked about how much it still hurts, even after years have passed after losing Nelle and Iris, she said that last April, she lost a grandson, who was stillborn at 21 weeks. She had tears in her eyes when she said “So I know.” When I initially called, I had been given three therapists’ names based on the intake discussion and chose one based on the times she had available in her schedule only. The stars had aligned for us that she could also understand the loss component.
We went for a second session this week, and she had given us “homework” from the previous week, answering questions about how we view and what we expect from our marriage. She told us that she thought we had a very solid foundation, and she will help us with that “top layer,” as she put it. She said that we act and react in the only way we know how, and it’s her job to show us new ways of handling things, tools in the toolkit. Ger, who had been reluctant at first – insisting that we did not need therapy – said today that he thought she would be good for us.
In the past, I have not shied away from admitting when I needed help, or looking for help. I started therapy two weeks after losing Nelle. I started anti-depressants upon leaving the hospital after losing Iris. While the specifics of what we are trying to work on might be private, we both agreed that we are not going to pretend that everything is fine and we came through with our marriage strong and intact. It took a toll on us. And now we are finally in a place where we can try to work on that.