Earlier this week, I was on my way to Taco Bell to pick up dinner for my family. Autumn was in the backseat of the minivan. We had just completed her "kindergarten assessment" — a brief meeting at the school where a teacher evaluates her knowledge of letters, numbers, and ability to use a pair of scissors for classroom placement.
Without a lot of warning, I found myself crying. I became flooded with memories and was transported back to that horrible day when the doctor told me that Nelle had no heartbeat. Not only was I crying, but I was racked with rough, gasping sobs. 4-year-old Autumn was clueless as I tried to focus on driving while pain and grief clutched my chest.
As I tried to pull myself together, I wondered what brought on the sudden flood of emotions. After all, it's been nearly seven years since Nelle died. I think about her (and Iris) constantly, but my thoughts rarely evoke such a strong reaction.
Yet this week has been a confluence of events.
I told my boss that the past month has been rough. I've been flooded with anxiety for weeks. It started with the shooting in Uvalde and escalated with the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the shooting in Highland Park on the 4th of July. I know a lot of people are feeling existential dread about the state of this country, but I have an additional layer: I have diagnosed anxiety. I take medication so that I don't feel like crap day-in and day-out.
My anxiety has been manageable for a long time. Only within the past few weeks has it felt like it is spiraling. And when was I first diagnosed? After Autumn was born. The anxiety started after Nelle died, with unrelenting fear that I would lose my subsequent pregnancy. Then when I lost Iris (and my fears were confirmed), being pregnant with Autumn was absolute torture. Yet I was limited in managing the anxiety because I didn't want to take medication while pregnant. I sought help after she was born and got a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder plus PTSD.
Yet it took some time for me to recognize that what I've been feeling lately is more than normal anxiety about The State of the World. I've felt like less than myself. My tears were, in part, knowing that the last time I felt like this was after Nelle died.
I shared my blog with some new people. My blog is no secret, but it's not exactly discoverable. Yet earlier this week a friend asked (in a community group) if anyone was doing personal writing. When I mentioned my blog, she asked me to share it. I linked to the first post, which I wrote a mere three days after Nelle was born. Of course, this led to me re-reading the post, wondering how I managed to write anything in the aftermath of such loss.
Autumn is starting kindergarten. Any of the milestones remind me that Nelle and Iris are not here. Nelle was due in January of 2016 and Iris was due in July of 2016. They'd be starting first grade this year.
I heard a song that reminded me of Nelle. Maxwell's This Woman's Work. I had a random playlist going in the car and this song came on. It was in that moment that I started crying.
Hearing the song in its own might not have been so overwhelming, but hearing it after occasions during the week where I'd thought of Nelle pushed me over the edge.
It was a reminder that no matter how much time passes, I always carry grief. I always wonder how my life would be different if my babies hadn't died. I always wonder who they would have been.