In reference to my post on Saturday, my friend Sally asked me:
“Would love to hear more (another post?) about what you mean here: ‘In addition, Charlie’s birth somewhat stole my sense of safety and confidence. This weekend was a step in reclaiming it.’ How did the event do that for you?”
Ever since she posed the question, I had been thinking about how I was going to answer something so complex. I have decided to note the losses and conclude with how March of Dimes Share Union this past weekend has helped.
Right now (I’m sure there will be more later), I can name four losses that this weekend helped tremendously with.
- Charlie’s birth had taken away my sense of safety. Up until her actual birth, I was sure that matters of tragedy only happened to other people and was shocked when it happened to us. In addition, on most mornings of the 89 days Charlie was in the NICU (and the twelve days prior to her birth), I would wake up and say, “Please don’t let any thing bad happen today.” I had become accustomed to holding my breath and flinching in anticipation of bad news.
- My confidence has been in pieces since Charlie’s birth. Her birth proved me wrong about so many things that I thought I knew or believed. Additionally, tragedy is an incredibly isolating experience. Both of which have eaten away at my confidence.
- I had lost my connection with other people after Charlie’s birth. I am surrounded by some pretty great people. Admittedly, I sometimes feel disconnected from them. My worries, stresses, and complaints are so different than theirs. Try as I might, I still feel like I live in a different realm even though they are incredibly understanding, kind, and considerate. I have a difficult time establishing a sense of belonging.
- Charlie’s birth had disrupted my place in this world. My identity and roles have greatly changed since Charlie was born. I have had a difficult time figuring out my new place.
To address Sally’s question on how this weekend has helped with all of this:
It helped that I was surrounded by others with a shared common experience. It was healing to openly discuss my experience and hear different thoughts and perspectives from others with similar experiences.
My new role and identity were clarified by being with, seeing, and hearing from the other parents. I was in the presence of people that I felt connected with completely. For the first time since Charlie’s birth, I had an outright sense of belonging.
I was inspired by the strength and resilience of many of the attendees. While their situations may be similar, many were much more painful or challenging than mine. I am strengthened by their example.
I am encouraged to have seen and heard from those on a similar journey who were further ahead.
I was challenged several times this weekend to do things that were uncomfortable for me ( for example, meet many strangers and discuss deeply personal subject matter over the course of a couple days) or intimidating for me (one example, venturing into DC for one of the first times since Charlie’s birth and seeing visual reminders of the life that we were supposed to have).
These things were stressful and I had to actively confront my anxiety, sadness, and fears. My confidence was boosted by my successful (defined as not dying or being maimed) navigation through the many challenges. I’ve found, for me, with confidence comes safety. One step towards lessening my hypervigilance.
I am not sure that I will ever be able to verbalize in a comprehensive manner how this weekend has helped me. In short, being around 78 courageous, brave, resourceful, funny, and wonderful people for a weekend can be beneficial for anyone.