Big changes, same battles...

May 29, 2009. Danna and PJ tied the knot...

Life has been quite amazing. PJ and I were married in May, surrounded by family and friends, including Mike's family. We honeymooned in New Hampshire in a beautiful tiny cottage on Newfound Lake.

In July we made the decision to try to grow our family and have a baby. So... in September, I learned I was pregnant (due May 19th, placing me at almost 12 weeks). We are thrilled! Baxter is over the moon about it. PJ and I just feel so lucky to have had such luck so fast.

Unfortunately, what has accompanied the pregnancy are many unbridled emotions that I feel ill-equipped to handle, hence my writing here. Unlike my relatively uneventful pregnancy with Bax, this pregnancy has me feeling seriously ill (nauseous) all the time, fatigued, vomiting, and generally miserable. Those factors have rendered me a bit raw - never mind the sheer volatility of hormonal emotions...

The most recent realization is how far I had been keeping PJ from me. For several weeks , I had been emotionally disconnected from him, except for the moments when I criticized him for one random thing after another. When he hugged me, instead of extending my arms around him, I folded them in front of me, hoping to be enveloped, but not left feeling exposed or vulnerable.

After weeks of this, I finally brought the subject up with David (the beloved therapist who I continue to see every 2 weeks to work through lingering issues of trauma and grief). I explained how I am with PJ, and, tears streaming, said, "you and I both know why I'm closing myself off from him."

To which David replied, "I think I know why, but why don't you tell me..."

I couldn't open my mouth. I couldn't just say it.

Like a minute of silenced passed between us with me shaking my head.

Finally he said, "You're scared."

I nodded.

"Can you say that?"

I shook my head. I couldn't say it. If I said it, maybe it would make it real. Maybe it would make something happen to PJ.

After several minutes of heaving sobs, I sputtered out , "I'm afraid He's going to disappear and I'm going to have to do this all by myself. and I don't want to need him. I don't want to be left alone again."

The fucked up thing about this is that thinking PJ is going to die is technically an "irrational" thought. But, based on my experience, the only thing my mind and body know is that getting married and having a baby is followed by acute terminal illness and the death of my spouse.

So, how "irrational" is it really?

If the brain is constantly storing constructs, emotions, events, senses, cognitions and physiological responses in long term memory, and stores them together when they are experienced together, then doesn't it make sense that the thought of early motherhood is hardwired in the same mental model as trauma, death, anxiety, and grief? Absolutely.

The answer? What the answer always is: Time.

Time and communication, honesty, open reflection, and sharing with PJ, which I'm trying to get better at these days. The more I tell Peej, the better it gets, so we're on the right path.

My subconscious is certainly not helping me in this regard though. The vivid dreams that accompany pregnancy should be about puppies and rainbows. I, on the other hand, dreamt last night that Mike returned from the dead, was not quite fully functional, but thought he was. He came back to live in "our house" and raise "our son," unaware that I had remarried, that Baxter knew only PJ as his daddy, and that I was expecting a baby. In the dream, I had to figure out how to integrate Mike into our home and into our lives. I was refitting the basement, finishing it, adding a full bath, getting a separate entrance for Mike. I was trying to figure out if he could get a job at DiscMakers. The feelings I had for him were purely maternal - the dynamic of a care-giver and patient. And my joy at seeing his smiling face was coupled with a dread and a sense of being trapped. After "figuring out" that PJ and I would take care of him here in our house, I said to Mike, "You know what I think we should do?"

And he said, going in to hug me, "Smoosh all day long?"

I couldn't breathe. How do you tell your dead husband that you're not his anymore? It was like that awful scene in castaway where Tom Hanks returns to his house only to find that his wife has moved on to be with someone else.

In the dream, Mike tried to snuggle with Baxter, but Baxter recoiled, grabbing PJ's legs and looking so scared. In his mind, Mike's return meant PJ's departure, and the hurt in Mike's eyes at his son's response ripped me apart.

I have cried on and off all day at this dream. PJ consoled me for about a half hour this morning as I went into all the reasons this dream was fucked up. "I'm not doing anything wrong, right?" i sobbed into PJ's chest.

"No, babe.," he said, trying to hold me close, "Your subconscious is playing some nasty tricks on you. Its asking you to reconcile the irreconcilable."

And finally, "I didn't know him, but I know that someone as practical as Mike would think that you have done exactly what you should have done."

He's right. In 2000, Mike and I watched one of his favorite movies, Truly Madly, Deeply. I loved the film, but hated how it ended.

At the beginning of the movie, Alan Rickman (Jamie) dies, leaving his girlfriend Nina alone, paralyzed with grief, unable to function. Jamie returns as a ghost, to be with Nina - perhaps to help her cope - but slowly becomes a nuisance, with his ghost friends intruding in her home and his constant self-centered actions frustrating Nina more and more over time.

In the end (immediately following the scene below), Jamie leaves Nina, hence setting her free and allowing her to move forward with her own life - and we get a glimpse of a budding relationship forming between Nina and a new man.

Mike tried to explain to me that it had to end the way it did; that we should be glad for Nina; that Jamie was setting her free. But I didn't like it. Because I didn't get it.

And now, I get it. Because I am Nina.

The poem that Nina translates word for word in this clip is by Pabl0 Neruda - the same poet who authored a poem (Your Laughter) read and my wedding to Mike in 2003.

Pablo Neruda (the dead woman)

"No, forgive me.
If you no longer live,
if you, beloved, my love,
if you have died,
all the leaves will fall in my breast,
it will rain on my soul night and day,
the snow will burn my heart,
I shall walk with frost and fire and death and snow,
my feet will want to walk to where you are sleeping, but
I shall stay alive,
because above all things
you wanted me indomitable,
and, my love, because you know that I am not only a man
but all mankind."


Mary Carpenter said...

That is one of my favorite movies and I am trying not to cry at work right now. I know you will find your way through this. Be kind to yourself even if that means kicking rainbows and puppies for being so cheery.

paige said...

if it helps, from one pregnant lady to another, my dreams haven't been rainbows and puppies either. usually they're really vivid and intense and frequently either scary or really strange and bizarre. scenarios vary but i never wake up like "ah, that was lovely", more like "wtf was that all about??" and i'm usually out of breath and agitated. hormones, gotta love 'em!

Oliviarb said...

Can totally see how it would be hard for you not to worry!! Don't berate yourself for this feeling. I'm not sure exactly how to overcome fear, but I think it involves the opposite = love.

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karabou said...

I never really dealt with the sudden accidental death of my father 3 years ago. Pregnancy has actually helped me confront and deal with a lot of issues.

The panic attacks have nearly stopped. The anxiety is almost non-existent, and the unstoppable fear that my husband will be taken away from me just like my dad has quieted.

In my experience, anything can happen at any time. I understand how you feel about being terrified you'll lose PJ. It really hits home.

My therapist is using this time to help me muddle through a lot of crazy, buried emotions. And oddly, pregnancy is an ideal time to do it, she says.

Keep communicating with PJ. Talking to my sensitive hub about these issues has helped us grow a lot as a couple and bring us closer together. *hugs*

Anonymous said...

Thanks for finding the strength to blog again. It's wonderful to hear all your great news and sobering to hear that real life isn't about rainbows. Wishing you all the best.
PS- Did you find someone to adopt your pet?

CryssyeR said...

First, congratulations on your wedding and on expanding your family! This is a wonderful time (pregnancy sickness, notwithstanding) and I hope you find some joy in it. Those hormonal changes are wicked, and each pregnancy is different.

Second, I agree with what was previously posted - your emotions are normal and heightened by your pregnancy. Give yourself a break and keep working through it. You are an amazing woman and this is a wonderful new chapter for you :)

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Anonymous said...

Perhaps you remember me. I lost my husband young too and am part of your CSZ family and reached out to you. Now I'm remarried and now I'm Nina too. Now I have those dreams - the dreams I once thought were friendly visitations of him come colored with the horror of how I'm going to explain to a man whose organs I donated how I'm no longer married to him. He visits me in my dreams alive and whole except that sometimes he has no teeth. I assume this is because I donated his organs and this is my subconscious reconciling what is missing. If I comment on the fact that he is dead and I donated his organs, he shows me his gums and that explains that in my dream world.

Would I go back? How could I not for my daughter's sake (who was 13 and obviously remembers and loves her dad)? But then I wake and remember it wasn't my choice. And live all day with that horrible dream feeling that didn't feel like a dream.

It's always mostly ok. For real. And I'm happy that someone else gets it because most people don't. And most people are lucky. You can love somebody deeply today, yet not ever leave behind the love you lost. It still exists and that's OK.

On the record - I just really hope that I get to haunt my new husband someday in just this manner. It's not because he has it coming to him, he doesn't, but because he lives with it every day, and I want him to someday viscerally and not just cognitively understand it. I want him to find somebody new and love deeply and happily and yet feel this pull and know what it is, not because he would ever hold it against me, but because he deserves to know it's not against him.