In the November after bringing Charlotte home a dear friend taught me how to knit. I needed something to do during the hours while Charlotte napped. My Mum had always advised sleeping while your baby sleeps but I have never been good at daytime napping and, despite being emotionally exhausted from the pain of losing Esme, my mind felt too on edge to sleep. Knitting suited me perfectly. I loved knitting with the luxury merino wool and felt very proud of the hats, scarves and blankets I had successfully finished.
I stopped knitting in January 2017, when I plucked up my courage and self-referred myself for bereavement counselling. I felt I no longer needed to focus my energy or mind on knitting.
Thinking back, knitting had been perfect for me. It had helped to soften the pain of coming to terms with my baby dying, but it had also stopped me from acknowledging, and thus coming to terms with, the depth of pain I really felt.
After becoming pregnant this time, I started knitting again in December when I was fifteen weeks, in the hope of encouraging a happy, mindful and relaxed pregnancy. I am now 20 weeks and have managed to knit ten hats and I have also begun the initial stages of setting up a small business knitting hats and slumber socks for adults, children and babies. Yes, I have had a lot of enjoyment knitting each hat and yes, knitting has encouraged me to relax and feel happy. However, by keeping myself so busy, I can’t help but feel that I am running away or hiding from something. That something might be fear.
Although I am still getting so much pleasure and delight from the hats I have knitted, as this pregnancy progresses I am beginning to wonder anxiously whether by keeping myself so busy, I am ignoring my fears.
I’m scared of going back onto autopilot and living each day as a matter of survival, as I did when Charlotte’s waters went, when the girls were born, when Esme died and when we brought Charlotte home. During those times, I thought I was coping. I thought I was in control. However, four months after Esme died, I crashed. I couldn’t go on. My life felt shit, I cried all the time and my empty heart and sadness outweighed all the love and joy that Charlotte brought each day. This time I am scared that by busying myself with knitting I am not coping, and one day I will crash and that one day will be the day this little baby arrives or worse, dies. I’m scared of turning into that person who crashed again, scared of falling down the dark hole and the light being always too small and out of reach.
During the winter after losing Esme, I put on my brave face. The house was spotless, everything was in its place and I was on top of all the washing. That was not how I expected my house to look with a newborn. I grasped at straws to stay in control, with the fear of the unknown, of what might happen if I lost control of these “manageable” household chores.
However, that was my way of coping back then and, if I say so myself, I did a bloody good job and not for one second do I regret the way I coped, handled myself and was a mother to Charlotte and a wife to Connor. I was just in a different place with my grief and not yet ready to fully grieve or seek professional help. It was ok to live each day in survival mode, just like it is today.
This is despite having spent the first half of this pregnancy trying to persuade myself not to live in survival mode, that is purely focusing on the now and not allowing myself to think about the future and risk tempting fate. Yes, I believe it is good practice to live in the now but when it conflicts with being fearful of the future, it is very emotionally exhausting and leaves me feeling lost.
Connor and my counsellor have always said that I think very deeply and analyse those thoughts. I am doing that now. It helps me make sense of how I feel and why, and after I often feel much better. The thing about living with anxiety is that it often goes away once I have found out that my anxieties are completely normal and natural. And that is what has happened this time.
Survival mode is ok
As I mentioned previously, I have spent the first half of this pregnancy not wanting to just survive each day. I had been thinking that living in survival mode was a sign of weakness and a sign of not being hopeful, not to forget being ‘positive’.
However, it has recently come to my attention that actually it is ok to be in survival mode. Being in survival mode is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s a very natural way to be and if I didn’t have my fears then I would probably be worrying why I didn’t.
Before admitting that it is ok to live each day in survival mode, I dreaded experiencing the fears and anxieties that were creeping up on me as I approach the 24th week, the week of my last pregnancy in which Charlotte’s waters went. I didn’t want to think that I could never be taking this baby home. I didn’t want to be scared of buying anything for this baby. I wanted to persuade myself that this was a completely different pregnancy and I didn’t need to have these anxieties. However, by not acknowledging them, I wasn’t dealing with my underlying feelings.
I was refusing to accept that actually I am petrified of turning 24 weeks and I am frightened of what the next weeks have in store for me.
One Friday night, I sat on the sofa happily knitting in my pyjamas and watching the television. Unexpectedly I stopped knitting and broke down in tears. I was saddened that I didn’t experience the excitement that I would one day bring this baby home. I wished I did. I wished I could go and buy things in excited anticipation that he or she would come home. I wished I could imagine the day I would see Charlotte playing with her brother or sister. I shared the reasons behind my tears with my husband and he explained that would come later. Now is the time to be enjoying my pregnancy.
I was so grateful upon hearing his wise words. They were so true. I am understanding and learning that survival mode is in fact a good place to be. It is a place of coping with the now and not worrying about the future. The day will come in its own time when I do feel ready to buy things or allow my imagination to run wild, even if that’s the day I bring this little one home.
I am accepting that this pregnancy is about simply surviving each day and coming to terms with understanding that surviving is not a sign of weakness, nor is it a sign of not being hopeful.
Surely, is it not a bad thing that all I want to do is focus on the now? Maybe it’s fear that is the reason I have been putting so much pressure on myself not to just enjoy the now? Fear that this current enjoyment of my pregnancy will be wasted? Fear I will have to do it all again? Is surviving a form of self-protection? After never reaching my third trimester and losing a baby, I have been told by a good friend that it’s ok and perfectly natural to want to minimise the potential pain. It’s ok to enjoy ticking the days and weeks off and understanding that this is simply a way of coping and not wishing your life away. I just need to remind myself of that.
Accepting what I am fearful of is hard. Accepting the reasons for why I am living in survival mode is emotionally exhausting. And accepting the fact that fear surrounds me, and I know the sheer pain of losing a baby, is difficult and unnerving at times.
After talking to people and understanding that all these emotions, fears and anxieties are all completely normal and natural makes me feel instantly better and makes me believe that I am coping in the same way as many others have coped who have come out the other side.
It feels so good to say that if I wish to stay up until all hours enjoying my knitting to keep my mind busy, then that is ok. I am extremely flattered by everyone’s compliments and interest in my hats and excited soon to be opening my small business called, ‘Stitch & Star’.
Here’s to knitting and surviving xx