I recently told someone I didn’t sleep well the night prior and was then questioned, “Did you watch or read something scary before you went to bed?”
No. Unfortunately, in this life post loss, it is damn near impossible for me to watch or read anything that will keep me awake at night.
The things that keep me awake at night, especially while pregnant, reside in my mind, in my memories – the memories that will forever haunt me, proving one’s worst fears can, and sometimes do, come true. As therapist Megan Devine would say, “My life is the stuff others’ nightmares are made of.” Maybe not every detail of my day-to-day life fits this description, but my traumatic, tragic experience of losing my son? The being forced to continue on in the aftermath of this in each day following for my remaining time on this earth? Yes – it’s truly the stuff from which others’ nightmares are made.
I’ve written about this before, but I fear the night, especially while pregnant, and I believe I have reason to. I know the night is when Matthew left me. I went to bed one night feeling his kicks, and I never felt them again, and about 24 hours later he died.
So when I’m faced with the final weeks of a subsequent pregnancy, I fight sleep, whether I intend to or not, whether I believe this to be healthy or not. It’s just what my body does.
In the evenings I’m ridiculously tired, falling asleep in the midst of interesting conversations with others. I intend to go to bed shortly after Joel does, and then, very predictably, at 10:00pm or 11:00pm, I experience this huge burst of energy. I believe it’s my body kicking into survival mode, or both survival and protection mode. My body feels viscerally that it must.stay.awake.
So stay awake I do, until 12:00am, or 1:00am, or 2:00am, until the fatigue inevitably overpowers my survival and protection instincts, and then I wake up about every hour or two thereafter. And then, no matter how tired and miserable I am when I awaken, I will not drift back to sleep until I feel Finch move an acceptable number of times, whatever I deem that to be in my compromised state.
Before I shut my eyes, it’s always the same thoughts that fly through my head, “Don’t you dare go to sleep. Don’t you dare. This could be the last time you feel him move.”
And the intrusive memories and flashbacks attack me when I’m at my most exhausted, vulnerable state.
The sudden code blue. The feelings of pure terror and helplessness. The oxygen mask muffling my screams. White coats flooding the room. Papers thrown in my face. Signing our lives away during our frantic sprint to the operating room. Being instructed to jump onto the operating table and undress myself and then doing it. Overhearing staff order seemingly massive amounts of blood for me, in the event of life-threatening complications. Begging them to make sure neither of us died. Waking up to my husband telling me he’s dead. Meeting him and holding him cold and blue and lifeless and sobbing uncontrollably, telling him, “I’m sorry and goodbye and I love you,” over and over again, knowing this was both the first and last time I’d ever see him. The dangerous drops in blood pressure and violent shaking episodes in the immediate aftermath. The suicidal thoughts that visited me every single day for several months after. The missing him so hard that sometimes I still can’t breathe.
This only scratches the surface. And yes, this loss and this pain and these memories are more than enough to keep me awake at night, and this will probably be true forever.