Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The pretty little (deadly) box

I don't know when it began.

Was it when I was a child, and needed my room to be without mess or disorder after a traumatic move? Was it when I was in Jr. High, and became painfully aware of my acne and lack of fashion sense? Was it when boy after boy after boy broke my heart and left me during my college years?

When exactly was it that I began believing that I needed to wrap everything about me and my life in this pretty little box? A neat, tidy package with a beautiful bow on top?

Maybe it was all of my experiences combined . . .  However and whenever it started, the truth is that everything I present about myself goes through a pretty strict critical eye. My eye.

Even when people think I am being raw on this blog, the truth is, often my words are very carefully chosen. My posts appear to be a haphazard mess of emotion, but that is an illusion. I choose what I will share, and what I will hide. I craft a message, craft my words -- until even my grief is wrapped in this pretty little bow.

I don't do this on purpose. My life isn't MEANT to be an illusion. Really, I am being me as much as I know how. It's just that the me I'm used to being HAS to come in a pretty box -- otherwise, it's not worth opening. Not worth knowing. Not worth sharing.

I didn't even know this about myself until today during my counseling session. I shared with her my post on my anger and she picked up on a line I didn't even think much about: I am angry that I cry so easily now. I am angry that I always feel the need to be put together and in-control . . . but usually, that is just a facade.

A facade. A pretty box. Pretty much the same thing.

I can't stand to leave the house in jeans and tennis shoes. I do not go out with at least foundation on (which really helps cover the scars from my years of acne). I want every part of my appearance to scream, "I've got it together." I always want my house to be clean . . . . and when it's not, it feels like a negative reflection on me. When I wrap a present, I take very great care to get the bow just right.

In drama class, I hated doing impromptu exercises. I only wanted to show the "world" my acting chops after I had carefully honed every word, every vocal intonation, every facial expression perfectly in the mirror before sharing it.

Crying makes me feel week. People have rejected me before when I have been vulnerable. Therefore, I hate crying. (Too bad for me, cause I tend to be a pretty big cry baby when I open up about anything emotional. So I often choose to bag the emotion and avoid the tears.) I also hate crying because I feel ugly when I cry.

The truth is -- this obsession with appearing to have it together is actually proving to be toxic and deadly. And really, not that pretty after all.

On the surface, it appears that I am doing everything possible to grieve in the best way I can. I constantly hear from others how "well I'm doing" or how "strong I am." I'm reading books on grief and pregnancy loss. I'm seeing a Christian therapist every week. I've joined a pregnancy loss support group. I'm surrounding myself as best as I can with women who have walked that path and can come alongside me. I'm writing as honestly as I can on this blog.

But the problem is, I can't really let myself be all that honest. Because it's messy. Because it doesn't send the message that I have it all together.

I think about my loss all the time in really intellectual terms, and try to logic myself into accepting that Olivia's life was never meant to be. I deny over and over the fact that I lost a child, and that I'm pretty pissed off about it.

I don't come to God about it because I can't be that "all-together" package I think He wants. Surely the God of the Universe wants me to come to Him with praise even when I hurt, to admit that I know His ways are right, and that I trust Him. But I don't feel like I can honestly do any of that. I can't give Him a beautiful sacrifice of praise. So I don't come to Him at all.

So in order to make a first attempt to shatter that pretty little (deadly) box I wrap myself in. . . Let me share from my heart about my day:

Counseling sucked. As my therapist opened my eyes to my need for control and perfectionism, whole years of my life started to make sense. It's a lot to handle when you finally start to see some big truth in yourself that has affected almost every decision you've made, big and small.

I realized that I've already blundered so much on this journey of grief by deep inside refusing to really believe I lost a baby and that I have something (and SOMEONE) to grieve. My counselor urged me to let Olivia be whatever she needed to be to me. If I don't let her be what I dream her to be, than I can't really grieve her.

To me, Olivia needs to be a sweet little newborn girl, making all those precious little faces in a darling little pink hat, swaddled in a blanket my mother would have knitted for her. She would steal my heart a little more with every single breath, every yawn, every sneeze. It's weird, but I have a very distinct mental image that I cling to of what she would look like.

I need her to be a fun little 6-month-old, making faces while trying new foods for the first time. She sits in the bumbo hanging out with her sister and me as we make dinner. I carry her in our Ergo as I go through the day, keeping her close. Ryan, Maddy and I will laugh as she learns new tricks

I need her to be Maddy's best friend growing up. I imagine their squeals of laughter as they dress up as princesses and twirl around as ballerinas. I can feel her sweaty embrace and snotty kiss on my face. I picture reading bedtime stories together, building forts and making Christmas cookies -- just the three of us girls.

When I think of Olivia . . . This is what I picture her to be. Not just a clump of cells in my fallopian tube. She was my precious, precious daughter. I wish I could live out of the moments I so often dream of!

In addition to counsling sucking, today marks the 3-month anniversary of her passing. Which is also the 3-month anniversary of my tube rupturing -- and the day that Ryan believed he would have to say goodbye forever to his wife, in addition to his daughter.  I so often forget the trauma he went through. Today he reminded me of how hard it was to go to the hospital, thinking this was the last time he would see me. Looking back, he thought he was going to lose his wife on that one day. Instead, he feels like he loses me a little bit more each day that has passed.

I visited family today, but instead of feeling encouraged, I left feeling once more that I don't belong anywhere. Not even with my parents.

I needed some time to myself, and my tension was building. Ryan was out for a run, and I was back in the kitchen . . . feeling like just one little thing would set me off the edge. I was this close to chucking a plate across the room to the wall.

Maddy, being the 3-year-old she is,  needed my constant attention right at the time. Once I fixed one issue she had, 30 seconds went by before she needed me again. Finally, I couldn't handle it and I screamed at the top of my lungs at her to leave me alone.

In a minute, I was so ashamed and sorry for hurting my little girl like that. I tried my best to apologize, and ask for forgiveness. I let her know that it was very wrong of mommy to ever yell, and that I understood if she was mad at me (which she admitted she was.)

When Ryan came home, I told him I wasn't up for small group, and that I was struggling. He was getting frustrated with my frustration, and in a huff told me he would just take Maddy and get out. He busied himself getting her ready.

When Ryan came in announcing he was ready to go, I actually swallowed my pride and told him I didn't think it was safe for him to leave me alone. For the first time in my life, I was actually afraid I would hurt myself, and I needed him to be with me.

He got the message. He dropped Maddy off at the grandparents, and was with me, letting me cry, rant and question everything. He was everything I needed him to be tonight.

(And just in case you're wondering, I made an appointment with my Dr. to talk about my depression and to see if I need medicine, or if my hormones are out of balance. I think today has officially scared me a little to the point of realizing my feelings are beyond me, and I need help.)

So -- there you go. My attempt to be really honest about the crap I'm dealing with, without wrapping it up with a bow. I'm probably going to regret writing this all out tomorrow. But right now, I've been crying for almost the last 10 hours, and it's 4:45 in the morning and I still haven't slept. So it feels pretty good to get this all out there.


  1. Rachel my love, this is your best friend. I speak for myself, Stevie, and I hope all your other friends when I say, it's nice that you're pretty. Its good that you've made a business for yourself, and that you DO have great fashion sense. But those are not the reasons I love you. I first loved you in jr high because you're deep, and feel deeply. YOu love people you've never met. You can laugh at the stupidness of life. you're a great combination of wise and goofy. you're not content to have no effect on the world. I'm calling you at 9 your time...I hope you're up

  2. I am praying for you. Please run into the arms of Abba Father. He loves you so very much.

  3. Just a note from an old friend. Been there. Did hurt myself. Did yell at and even hit my child in my rage. Didn't lose a child, but a husband. Took longer than I thought but got stronger and wiser and happier eventually.

    1. Thank you for sharing. I know how scary that is. I'm sorry to hear of what happened, but I am glad that in the end you became stronger and wiser.

      I know that the end is usually worth it, but sometimes it really is like hell trying to get there.

      Thank you again . . .

  4. Rachel........... I am soooo sorry you have all this pain. I want to be there for you in any way I can, I dont know what to say or do but Just that I want you to know that I love you and You should not regret this post, Those of us who love you love you no matter wrapping or bow used to disguiese that we all have real pain and real moments of ugly and suffering in us all. IWe love you and want to be there for you any way we can!For better or Worse in not only for marriage but all our relationships where we love and care for another. Please Rachel any time you need me or maddy to have a playdate so you can take a break I want to be there for you in any way I cqan.
    I am so sorry for your pain!I am so glad you are giving yourself permission to be who you are and feel what you need to feel.

  5. THanks everyone for your words of love and encouragement. Honestly, I've been struggling very much with whether I should leave this post up, or take it down. Not because of a backlash, but because it feels somewhat like that dream we all hate having: going to school or church, only to discover you left your clothes at home.

    Being completely honest like this for whoever to see is pretty much feels to me just as vulnerable and embarrassing.

    Still haven't decided . . . but for now, thanks for reading, and for loving on me.

  6. Again, I truly respect and appreciate your vulnerability. This post especially will speak to a lot of people.
    I know a lot of people criticize this book, but something that really helped me work through my loss was "the Shack." I only mention it because your post reminded me of the message I took home at the time: that God WANTS us to be a glorious mess. When we let the facades dictate our behavior, we are not allowing Him to mold us to the full potential He had in mind. Your "mess", Rachel, is His garden. Love you ...

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  8. My name is Celia, and I'm glad you left this up because I just found it today. I feel your pain. I have had two early pregnancy losses, I also like for everything to have a bow and I feel ridiculous because I can cry about anything at any time. I have struggled to allow myself grief time over my losses and after reading through many of your blog posts today I am finally feeling that it’s ok. I’m not normally an emotional stuffer but for some reason I have been stuffing this grief and shame. I have felt shame over losing my babies. Like I was to blame. I felt that my body failed and that was my fault. Then I feel guilt on top of shame for hiding my children and pretending they never existed because “people wouldn’t understand” or “they” will think I should be over it already or that it would make people feel uncomfortable. I am realizing after reading your beautifully, vulnerable posts that these are lies that Satan wants us to swallow to keep us bound so that we won’t be able to heal and to isolate us. I thank you for speaking out loud that these babies were real people and it’s ok to name them, it’s ok to dream lost dreams, it’s ok to speak about them and it’s ok to mourn.

    1. I can so relate to your comment. So much of it. The shame, the guilt, then more shame. All of it.

      So glad you found this today, and it's helping you.

      And yes, it is sooooo OK to do those things.

      Big hugs.