By: Miss Evelyn-Jo
How do you learn to cope when experiencing such an emotional and traumatic experience? Can you overcome it? Can you learn to live again when a life you had planned is taken away from you?
In 2010, I experienced one of the most horrific and life changing experiences anyone can go through. I was meant to be a mother and that was taken away from me one January evening in a lonely hospital room.
I hadn’t particularly enjoyed my pregnancy. It was unexpected. A shock. I was in a “toxic relationship” that I never really found the strength to escape from.
I found out I was pregnant August of 2009. Not only was I shocked I was pregnant. I was shocked to discover at an early scan that I was pregnant with triplets. The pregnancy was difficult. I suffered from severe hyperemesis which is a form of extreme morning sickness that hospitalised me on several occasions. Throughout the pregnancy, I had approximately 14 scans. I felt isolated and alone because I didn’t receive the right kind of support from my ex-partner and our relationship was becoming even more sour.
As I lay in the hospital ward on strict bed rest after I had gone into premature labour at just over 5 months, I had already made plans for Christmas 2010 and beyond. I would have three little boys excitedly opening presents. As a mother, I made plans for the future, where we would live and the lives they might lead. I wasn’t aware of the experience I was about to face. I then had all of that taken from me leaving me feeling lost and alone with no “identity”. I was meant to be a mother. What was I now?
As I left the hospital to return to the outside world and life, the feeling of grief was overwhelming. I was instantly put on Valium. I would have horrific nightmares. I had family and friends rallying around me to offer support but nobody could penetrate the bubble of heart and gut wrenching ache. I had gone into the hospital pregnant with triplets. And I left without my babies.
I returned to work after two weeks because I knew if I didn’t “throw myself” into some kind of routine at work, I would never find the courage to return. Life was difficult. Nobody seemed to understand. I walked around an empty shell. I felt lifeless and soulless. I wasn’t living. I was just existing.
The thing with grief is nobody knows how to respond to you. There is no time limit. People would get frustrated with me that “I wasn’t coping”. I was referred to a counsellor who was helpful. It helped to speak to an “external party” who was of course trained to deal with grief and depression.
Staying with my ex-partner was doing me no good. I finally left in the later part of 2010. I was sick of him blaming me for the loss. The toxic cycle of our relationship only contributed to my grief and the underlying feeling of guilt.
I learnt how to “act”. I would do my hair, put on my makeup and go to work. I might have been there in body rather than spirit but I did the bare minimum I needed to in my daily routine to simply survive.
I didn’t know who I was. Or who I was supposed to be. Throughout the pregnancy, everything was focused on the outcome of being a mother. When that didn’t happen, I had to find myself again and create a new life. This I struggled with. I no longer knew what I liked, wanted or needed.
I suffered anxiety and depression. I would not want to leave the house for fear of who I would run into. Once I finally plucked up the courage to go to a coffee shop. Armed with my book, I enjoyed being out of the house and back in “society” and “civilisation”. I wasn’t prepared to see two friends and their babies enter the same coffee shop and sit near me. The high-pitched crying of one of the babies tore at my heartstrings and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
I would experience rude people on the train. They had no clue what it had taken for me to get out of bed that morning. To experience their rude and arrogant behaviour only made me want to run home and lock the door behind me.
Over the years, I moved several times. I felt I was searching for something to fill the feeling of loneliness and longing. In total, I moved seven times in three years. I visited several doctors. I tried several different types of medication and methods of therapy. I changed jobs. Friends came and went because I kept myself in this bubble where I would not let anyone in simply because I felt I had nothing to offer them or to talk about. A handful of people knew of my experience but the “Average Joe,” had no idea.
I developed a closer relationship with my mum. The look of shock on her face when I visited her and asked if we could bake some cupcakes. Something we had not done since I was a child. I realised that my experience had not only altered my life, but those around me. While I should have been a mother, my mother should have been a grandmother. She had her own grief to deal with but had to be strong enough to hold me up.
I am not sure where a change started to occur. The raw and powerful feeling of grief seemed to dwindle from a daily feeling to weekly, then monthly. It started to subside. Or maybe I had just learnt how to live with it? You are never the same after you experience such an emotional trauma. You are left with the aftershocks of anxiety, stress, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and a bottomless pit of pain.
My now husband is a very understanding man. He knows how to handle me and how to help with the anxiety. As part of my grieving process, we had three trees planted in a National Park to commemorate the triplets.
There was a significant shift in me in 2014. While I had learnt to “live” with the grief and managed to find joy in other things in life such as getting married, going on holiday and re-connecting with old friends who I had pushed away, I still wasn’t sure of my “role” in life. I was a wife, daughter, friend, etc. but I still wasn’t a “mother” I wasn’t ready to re-visit that part of life for fear of something similar happening again. For so long I prevented myself from “living”, there was a lot more of life I wanted to experience and there was so much more joy to be found. I had to find something else that I was “passionate” about, but what were my hobbies? What did I like? What did I enjoy?
I started baking again. I started writing short stories. Something I had not done since high school. I forgot how I loved to write, how I could create characters and a whole world I could lose myself in. I realised I wanted to travel.
Then in June 2014, I found a lump in my breast. I went to the doctor who referred me to see a consultant at the Breast Cancer Clinic. The appointment was two weeks later. I spent those two weeks in utter turmoil. I was petrified of the outcome and what life might have in store. I had just spent the last few years struggling to overcome the daily battle of grief where I felt I did not have a purpose to live. Now to face the outcome of what this lump might be. I realised I wanted to live. I spent so long shunning it and turning my back on life, I didn’t want to lose it now I finally had my grasp of it.
Thankfully, after an examination and scan the lump resulted in being nothing to worry about. But based on statistics, which of those women in the hospital room with me came out with bad news? Life changing news. Devastating news. I was lucky.
That was the defining moment for me. I had battled, fought, kicked, screamed and struggled against life because I was so angry what was taken from me and I was caught up in my grief that I didn’t realise how beautiful life can be and how much I wanted to live it.
I will never forget that I should have three boys here with me. But I could not allow the past to ruin my future. I was in control and I denied myself the chance of living life. My grief caused me to be my own worst enemy. I deserved to live. I deserved to be happy.
I still struggle at times throughout the year but nowhere near as much as I did. I now have “coping mechanisms”. That is part and parcel of grief and life. Christmas is a difficult time of year for me because I have to “relive” the experience and I am reminded of it everywhere I look. While everyone enjoys the snow, the music, the thrill of shopping, receiving and exchanging gifts and sitting down for a family meal, I am reminded of the cold hospital ward, feeling isolated, scared and lonely. At the time, I wasn’t aware of what the outcome would result in. But, now I know. And I have to “relive” it.
This Christmas, I found the best way for me to cope was to watch back to back Marilyn Monroe films. I wasn’t angry at anyone, or mad, or overly sad. I just needed to recharge my batteries and have some downtime. I also donated the money I would have spent on cards to three separate charities, a cancer charity, a mental health charity and a charity for premature babies.
Grief is a horrific and painful experience for anyone to go through. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. You are strong enough to find your way again and to get back on your feet. There is no time limit. Look after yourself, listen to your body. If you need to sleep, sleep. If you need to cry, cry. There is no off switch or magic button. People will say the right thing and the wrong thing. While you feel alone in your experience, there is a whole world out there of other people who understand you and can relate to you.