Strength?

“It is so easy to close down to risk, to protect ourselves against change and growth. But no baby bird emerges without first destroying the perfect egg sheltering it. We must risk being raw and fresh and awkward. For without such openness, life will not penetrate us anew. Unless we are open, we will not be filled.” –Patricia Monaghan

I just read a good post about “strength” on the National Share Office blog. The writer was talking about “strength” and people being complimented on their strength after pregnancy loss or stillbirth AND about how people themselves will say they are being “strong”—usually in reference to not crying and to still be completing xyz tasks, fulfilling x responsibility, etc.

Some quotes from the post:

It made me instantly think of so many of the bereaved parents I have met and talked to over the years who make such an effort to be strong, not share their true feelings, ‘buck up and move on…’ It made me think of those who tell bereaved parents ‘you’re so strong, you can get through this’ without really realizing what they are saying. And it made me wonder what exactly does being ‘strong’ mean?

Others may try to make you think that when you cry, go to the cemetery and visit your baby, do other things in memory of your baby, that you are dwelling in sadness, that you are weak, giving in to your emotions, stuck in the past..I often tell parents that all of those things are okay, and normal, but still, I have the feeling that most people would not think that doing all of those things is what you do when you are being strong.

The main post of the post being that being strong is NOT about “getting over it” or acting normal/going about your normal life and/or acting like nothing ever happened, but “…that real strength is facing the scary, hard feelings you have, and dealing with them.”

I’ve gotten the strong comment quite a lot and I don’t actually mind it—I do feel like I’ve been strong—but strong in the sense that I’m doing this. I felt strong and brave when I was in the middle of experiencing miscarriage and I actually continue to draw upon that sense of inner strength, just as I draw on the memory of strength from my other births. Where comments about “strength” gave me pause was when I was starting to teach birth classes again—then the comments about “how strong” I was being, made me realize I was making a mistake and, ironically, gave me the strength to say, WAIT! and to take a leave of absence from teaching birth classes after all, rather than getting back into it so quickly. I “get” exactly what the Share writer says in the second paragraph very intensely—is going out to put my hand on Noah’s plaque every day “strong”? I think it IS (or, if not strong, simply “normal”), but I think that many other people (who haven’t “been there”) would possibly see it as “dwelling” or “wallowing.” I see it as checking in and remembering—and reminding myself of what I learned, so that I don’t get swept away into old habits again (this is hard—I have felt myself slide right back into too “sped up” of a life which is EXACTLY what I was feeling like pulling back from right before Noah died. After, I realized how very little I was doing was actually required and how much was purely optional and I promised myself I was not going to create my own rat race any longer. Well, I’m kind of doing it again, but I am mindful of it and am teetering on the edge of what to pull-back from at this point so that I don’t get too Ratty (!) again ;-D) I have always been a pretty enthusiastic, energetic person with lots of ideas—I don’t want to shut that down—I just want to pace myself well and choose wisely the things that I spend my one “wild and precious” life on.

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