I have so many thoughts rattling around in my head lately. And that's fine - better lots of thoughts than none at all - but every time I think I'll sit down and sort them out, a whole new pack push in and scatter the crowd.
But one thought that seems to keep pushing its way to the front of the pack - a thought that has been slooooooowly dawning on me these days - is that I don't have to pretend that everything is as it was. That things don't bother me now. That nothing is harder than it used to be. That I'm always okay in every single situation.
When I asked, hypothetically, what people think of me now - what they see when they look at me - a friend recently told me that they probably don't think anything at all. Because, she explained, after three years they likely just think "I'm over it."
She fought an epic battle with infertility. She knows you don't "get over" things like struggling in vain to make your family complete.
But I was startled to think that other people may simply assume that I'm fine - all back to normal - just because I can and do manage to function. And because the calendar has flipped 41 times since Thomas died.
On the one hand I'm happy to think that I look and act like a person who has her shit together. This is excellent news. But on the other hand, I was very taken aback by the notion that people might truly believe that trauma as terrible and aching as losing a child simply slips away like smoke up a chimney.
But I suppose I have myself to blame. I'm an enabler. I've been a "grin and bear it" baby loss survivor, subjecting myself to things I wasn't ready for in order to make other people more comfortable. And, admittedly, in order to deflect attention from my sorrow in a desperate attempt to shut down the great, big pity machine that makes me want to run screaming into the night.
I'm not a saint. I did what I did for me - because it made me feel better to make other people feel better. And because it made me feel like I must seem more "normal" in their eyes. More like the old me they used to know. And I wanted to be that girl. Badly.
But I think I'm slowly accepting the fact that she died with Thomas. In fact, part of her died with that very first miscarriage nearly five years ago. And pieces of her have died with each loss and with every moment I have struggled with infertility.
And that's okay.
I mean, it's not okay that all this happened. Of course not. But it's okay that I have changed. Because how on earth could I not? How do you lose your heart five times and remain unchanged?
Now my challenge is to let this new person be. To let her feel what she feels without guilt. To help her understand that she is brand new in a million different ways. To allow her to advocate for herself and stand up to ignorance.
To teach her to embrace herself with kindness, respect and love.