Monday, October 11, 2010


Acutely grieving one child. Actively growing another. I can’t recall a time in my life when I have been so fully drained of energy, of motivation. I was so ready for this four-day weekend that I left the office early on Thursday. And I only work 28 hours a week. I am so grateful that this week will be only a three-day work week, and then I’ll be off for ten days. I have barely been working for four weeks (again, for only 28 hours a week) and I am already desperate for a long break.

Grief, as I’ve written before, is exhausting, both mentally and physically. The constant unpredictability of my emotions, the constant awareness of Hudson’s absence, the constant longing to have her back, to have my old life back—it’s enough to make a person want to get in bed and never get out. I often wish I could.

Growing a baby, as many of you know, is also exhausting. The main pregnancy symptom I had with Hudson is the same one I’m struggling most with now—absolute fatigue. I struggle to get out of bed every morning, I struggle to concentrate during the day, I start to yawn around 2:30 or 3:00, I sleepwalk through most of the evening, and can’t wait to get to bed. 

I hate how I don’t feel like myself. Yesterday, I spent the morning with Ed, my dad, and my brother at my dad’s house, and I just felt awful. After a mostly glorious day on Saturday, I was having a terribly sad morning, just missing Hudson so much, and still tired even though I’d slept for many hours overnight. I could hear myself responding to things being said to me, and I remember thinking how cross and curt I sounded, for no good reason. Today, I’ve been parked on the couch all day watching television, not wanting to move. I’m already dreading even the three days I have to be at work this week.

Many folks have sent me so many very heartfelt messages during the last several weeks, and I just haven’t been able to muster the energy or the motivation to respond—I’m so sorry. I’ve also been on an unplanned hiatus from the all the other grief and loss blogs I usually read—right now, I feel like I’m carrying all I can carry. And that feels terrible, incredibly selfish, particularly when so many of those women have continued to give me such unconditional support and love. I’m so sorry to all you mamas, sorry that I can’t be a witness for your grief right now. It doesn’t change how much I am always thinking about and feeling for you, but I am just floundering at the moment.

To make matters worse, I just read this article in TIME magazine about fetal origins, about how scientists are beginning to believe more than ever that what happens to you in the womb can have as significant an impact on your health and well-being long-term as can anything you experience after birth. As if I weren’t already worried enough about how my acute grief might affect this little bean growing inside me, I now read an article saying that children born of pregnant women exposed to extreme stress have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia, that fetuses of depressed or anxious women show more sensitivity to stress in the womb than fetuses of women with normal moods.

The grief and the pregnancy are like the perfect storm, each wreaking its own brand of physical and emotional havoc on my heart and my body, the combination of which is leaving me pretty battered. I know from experience that the pregnancy fatigue will let up some after the next month or so, and won’t return again until late in the spring—at least I hope that’s the case. The rest of it is enough to deal with without that on top.

And then I read over this post again and think it sounds like a giant, embarrassing, incoherent self-pity party. And that makes me feel even worse. Gah. Maybe I don’t need to crawl in bed and never come out, but I’d settle for going to sleep and not waking up until May.


  1. Oh dear, Mandy. Please take that Time magazine article and burn it. As you know, there is no way to actually predict anything with children. I was an absolute stressed-out freak with my last pregnancy. I ate crap, I never exercised, I cried every day before work, I worked way too long every night....and this baby has not had a thing wrong with her (except a diaper rash)--perfect personality, perfect physically etc..

    In any case, I hereby endorse all self-pity and any crawling into bed you may need to do for however long you may need to do it. You are, I am certain, doing 100 times better than anyone could expect. I am tired on your behalf!

    I wish I could send you energy in the mail.

    Much love from afar.

  2. Dearest Mandy,

    I have clinical depression and anxiety disorder, for which I take medication. My husband and I want to have a baby and have consulted several expert psychiatrists in the area of women's mental health and pregnancy. They all echo what you've said above, that the most important thing is for me to be healthy and emotionally stable, even if that means staying on meds throughout the pregnancy. So you might talk to your OB or a psychiatrist about that possibility.

    Anti-depressants and/or anti-anxiety medication will NOT suppress you grief, keep you from feeling your feelings, turn you into a zombie, or any of the other things you might be fearful of. It will simply provide a cushion, an emotional floor. Just a little extra support that might be medically necessary, both for you and for the baby.

  3. Can't remember if I've shared this resource with you. Tom's insights on living with loss are real and helpful for me. I hope you find comfort there as well.

  4. My prayers for you are that you will be kind to yourself - that you will have the support of people who love you and professionals who can help you navigate this path of grief and nurturing. There are no inappropriate emotions. You are doing the best that any mother, any person could possibly do. Hang in there.

  5. Mandy,
    When I was pregnant at this time last year, I experienced extreme fatigue and depression. Although certainly I didn't have the grief that you're dealing with, I was depressed for a good 4-5 months.

    I should have known that I was depressed because I had clinical depression in my teens and early twenties, but for some reason, it just didn't hit me that that's what was going on. None of the pregnancy resources talked about depression in the first trimester, so it wasn't on my radar. And because we weren't telling people for a long time, there was no one I could talk with about my feelings.

    But, all I wanted to do was sleep, and cry. I had no motivation, felt very lost, and couldn't understand why I was feeling that way, even though the one thing that I had wanted for years to happen and didn't think could happen (getting pregnant) actually did happen. In retrospect, I wish that I had my wits about me enough to realize that I needed some help.

    I echo all that people have said already. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself. Throw yourself a pity-party...maybe even invite Ed or some friends to keep you company while you curl up on the couch watching TV. Sleep as much as you need to sleep...even pull a George Castanza and put a nap area in under your desk.

    I also echo a previous suggestion to burn that TIME article. It only serves to make you worry, stress and feel more guilty...Thus, it is no good. I have avoided reading it myself...I just don't want to know.

    Please know that you're in my thoughts every day.

    Lisa Stifler

  6. I read that same Time article, rolled my eyes, and threw it away. Thanks for trying to blame anything that happens to my kids now and in the future on me, Mr. Time Magazine. Now kiss my butt.

    You are doing a great job of coping and will continue to do so in the best way you know how. This baby is not only going to be just fine, it is going to be so much better for having such a strong mom. Hang in there, I know acutely how sometimes it just seems to be too much. xoxoxo

  7. Yes, burn it! Please do not feel guilty for grieving Hudson's loss during this pregnancy. I'm so sick of reading articles about studies telling us all the ways our actions are dooming our children. I couldn't breastfeed due to medical complications. According to all the articles I've read, I am now raising less intelligent, prone to obesity, sickly and most recently...less compassionate children.

    Be gentle with yourself and take all the time you need to grieve.

  8. You have lost your CHILD! You are more than entitled to a "pity-party", as you called it!! Honey, as far as I know, there are no rules about what you should/shouldn't be feeling, be doing, or be saying...or time limits, for that matter! I can only speak for myself, but I imagine that most of your readers/supporters think you are doing a FAR better job of dealing with your grief than we could ever imagine ourselves. Your writing is so eloquent, so heartfelt, so raw & honest ~ and to be brave enough to share your grief, your feelings, your healing process with the world...well, I truly admire you for that, Mandy. You are an amazing mom/wife/woman/blogger/PERSON!!

    What you are going through right now is incredibly difficult. The highest high and the lowest low are some tremendous extremes, and to face them head-on simultaneously has GOT to be debilitating at times, so please cut yourself some slack. NO ONE thinks you are indulging in pity parties, I can promise you that. We admire you, applaud you, support you, and hope for many MANY "good things" for you to come.

    Rest as much as you need, cry as much as you need, hide out in bed as long as you need...just take care of yourself. (And no more scary, off-the-wall pregnancy articles! I say phooey to those!)

  9. I spent my entire first pregnancy crying and stressed. I thought my baby is growing in stress fluid, not amniotic fluid. he is so wonderfully calm and peaceful. Now I'm worried because I'm having an easier, happy 2nd pregnancy and how is my next kid gonna be - I hope not the opposite.
    My husband told me not even to read the TIME article, and I didn't. and I work with pregnant women. I hate even thinking about epigenetics. I think its too much burden to put on a pregnant women- who, even on her best days is exhausted and ready for a nap.
    It doesn't help to say put it out of your mind, cause I know how a mind is, especially an obsessive pregnant mind, and a grieving mothers mind on top of that. Hopefully when your new baby comes, you'll have less time to think, and that in itself will be a blessing. =)

  10. Mandy, Please do not ever feel like anything you write is a pity-party or worth feeling embarassed. We are all here for you - to listen to whatever you have to say and whenever you have to say it.

    Alex K

  11. Mandy, don't be so hard on yourself. We come here to support YOU, and here you are apologizing for not being as responsive as you'd like- so selfless and caring, as always. Please don't focus on us. We are here to bear witness to your grief and to offer our love and support, not create another stress for you.

    Throw away that Time article. All it has done is make pregnant women worry about worrying. Your baby will be surrounded by love and I can't think of a better start than that.

    Take care of yourself. Rest when you can as much as you can, and cut yourself some slack. You are in a period of intense mourning and it's OK pare down your daily life to only the things that have to get done and those that make you feel good. And don't hesitate to ask for help with those things that have to get done.

    Thinking of you, Ed, and Hudson.

  12. I've been reading your blog since I learned about Ed's journal through Paul Canady.

    I had a full-term stillbirth in 2005, and became pregnant again 6 months later. There is so much in your blog that reminds me of my own journal from that time. I also worried about the stress that grieving would put on my pregnancy. Now I have two beautiful, healthy sons. Remember that women have experienced loss for as long as there have been people, and that our bodies are beautifully designed to protect the babies growing inside us, no matter what our struggles are.

    You and your family are in my prayers.

  13. Oh, Mandy. You poor thing-- I can't imagine how you feel, but you have my complete sympathy. Anyone who has ever been pregnant can relate to your fatigue, without the horrible added layer of grief woven in. Your grief is not going to harm your baby-- your enormous capacity to love and nurture and sustain a child will bless this baby beyond belief. Hang in there.

  14. Dear Mandy,

    I was 14 weeks pregnant with our second child when our almost 3 year old was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I was also dealing with my moms cancer and the death of my sister. I was stressed and sad beyond anything I could ever imagine and had guilt that the baby I was growing would have some illness or have some weird disease.

    For almost 7 months I sobbed everyday of my pregnancy that we couldn't save our three year old. When our second child was born she was perfect...I waited over the next few years to see what damage I had done to her with all my grief.

    Today, Dempsey is 8, she is a GATE student, has a superior high IQ, plays chess, is gifted at the piano and paints like an artist. And most importantly she has the brightest, HAPPIEST spirit I could've ever wanted in a child. She is my joy everyday and continues to help me through my tough days.

    Take no notice of the Time article, I sought comfort in the women of Africa who must face enormous odds everyday and the children are happy.

    Sending a hug and think of our Dempsey when you have guilt or worry...tears are the bodies way of healing.
    Diana Doyle x

  15. Oh law. I read that same Time article. Mothers worry. It's what we do.

    As for what your friends and readers do, we love you and support you. Always.

    Kelley Barnhardt

  16. The studies that make up the TIME article are based on socio-economic stress (that is, being poor, having low-paying jobs, living in poor or dangerous living conditions). The studies are looking at why African-American women have poorer birth outcomes. The studies are not looking at pregnant women experiencing grief over the loss of a loved one. Your emotions will not harm your growing baby. I hope you can find solace in this new life, and that you have the space and peace to grieve just as much as you need without feeling guilt. Your baby will benefit from having a mother who can grieve, can feel, has a strong support network, and is honest about her feelings rather than trying to mask them. You are an amazing mother.

  17. Mandy, I have no doubt that this baby feels the love you already have for it. And I am so happy to hear that you had a glorious day on Saturday. You deserve it.

    Allyson Lawless

  18. Though I found the cover intriguing on TIME, I read a few sentences and put it down. I am glad to join the bonfire with my issue! You are an inspiration to so many. We are all cheering you on and knowing you will keep climbing out of this pain in your own time and path. I am just thankful you are sharing this journey with us.

  19. Throwing every single copy of that article in a pile and lighting it, right now. I know I'm talking out my derriere because my children are adopted and I have never lost a child, but at the same time I'm speaking from my heart: You and Ed are wonderful parents, you will do better as you start to gain some physical energy, and your baby will be loved, loved, loved! So screw Time and any naysayers you may encounter, and take care of yourself along the way. Pulling for you, Mandy,

  20. Mandy,

    You have so many compassionate witnesses to your grief. No pity party, no need to critique your process. We love you unconditionally. And I understand that sometimes you just want to be under the covers until whenever. Be there for you and we'll continue to be here for you.


  21. Pity party, NO! Silliness, YES! As someone else said previously, burn that article. Your baby will be just perfect and you are doing everything right to grow him/her just the way he/she's supposed to. Do you remember all of the anxieties we all had, especially early on? "If she gets a pacifier accidentally in the hospital, will it ruin breastfeeding for me? If I bring him into bed with me one night, will he never learn to sleep without me? If I have a glass of wine, will the police come after me?" I still laugh at myself and yet I met a new Mom today and she has all the same worries. It just comes with the territory, I guess. You're doing GREAT and you will continue to give her/him all she/he needs. If anything, your growing child is feeling all the love that you have for Hudson and is realizing how much of a loving and incredible Mother you're going to be to him/her.

    And as for feeling guilty for not checking other blogs - isn't that part of the grieving process? To check in and out, to reflect? I for one can't read your blog every day and all the time; it has to be the right time for me to digest, process, and feel what I need to when I read your blog. The same goes for everyone else. Give yourself a break! :)

    The most important things right now is taking care of your physical and mental health and to grieve Hudson. Everything else is back burner. We are all still here when you need us and we all know you are here when we need you too.

    Have you had a massage lately? May be time. :)

    Sending much love and many hugs to you. -Mandi

  22. Growing one baby and grieving another IS exhausting. Just do what you have to do to take care of yourself.

    I was very early in my grief when my daughter was conceived. I cried, a lot and hard, throughout my pregnancy. I desperately wanted her, desperately wanted her to be okay, but felt more fear and worry than joy and anticipation. I worried that she would be tinged with my sadness, but she isn't. She is beautiful and happy and excited about the world around her. Wanting this baby is bonding with it. Doing what you can to take care of yourself is taking care of the baby. Letting yourself grieve as you need to is taking care of yourself. Don't beat yourself up for it.

    You may not have the energy to read comments now, but someday, when you need them, they are here for you.

  23. Hi Mandy - That is so much that you are dealing with. You may already be seeing a therapist, but if not and would like to find one, I know an excellent one in DC who saw me through a difficult emotional period with talk therapy. If you would like her contact info let me know at KSL24 at georgetown dot edu. Take good care. Sending you love and light.

  24. Mandy,

    I echo what others have said. BIg hugs to you. Do whatever you need to do. I know what hard and tiring work growing a human is and can't imagine doing it with the added layer of grief you are dealing with.

    That said, I didn't read the TIME article, but I read a lot of other things during my pregnancies that scared and confused me and, yes, made me feel guilt. I say, try as much as you can to stay away from the scare-mongering and focus on the things you can control. Way easier said than done, I realize.

  25. Mandy, I was an absolute nutter with my sub pregnancy. And so far my little guy appears to be healthy and happy. The TIME article sounds like sensationalist kaka. Pregnancy and grieving is hell but only temporary. Just take things a day at a time. Xoxo, Olivia

  26. When I was pregnant with my first I excitedly checked out several books from the library about pregnancy. I wanted to know not only how the baby was developing on a weekly basis, but what I could do to maximize my baby's potential in the world. After reading the first few chapters of a few of these books, I remember throwing one on the floor and telling my husband that the books were crap and no normal human being could possibly do what these books said to do unless they did not have a job, had a cook, a housekeeper, and a personal trainer. Seriously, drink this special tea, do yoga, eat a bit of this and a bit of that, but not too much of this and none of this at all. All while getting plenty of rest. Who are these people, I thought? I somehow manage to get through the day at work all the while feeling like throwing up and falling asleep at the same time, and you want me to come home and work out? I'm exhausted and collapse onto the couch the minute I walk through the door and choke down whatever my husband threw together for dinner more because I know I need to eat than because I want to. I do not have time or energy to go shopping more than once a week to make sure I have fresh fruits and veggies every single day. Chicken and veggies make me gag and eating my beloved yogurt is an impossibility. I don't have time to go to more than one grocery store to get all the different types of items I am supposed to be eating. So I ate bagels and spaghetti and watched TV. I was not grieving and had a normal and very easy pregnancy. The problem with all the books, as everybody has mentioned, is that all they do is make you feel guilty about what you are not doing correctly. Somehow, most children manage to turn out normally, especially when being parented by loving and resonsive parents who provide good nutrition. I know your little peanut will be getting an abundance of everything he/she needs, especially love. Keep grieving the way you need to. Stressing out over grieving is only going to rise your anxiety level and will not actually cause you to grieve less. Expressing your emotions is normal and healthy. Do what feels right because it normally is. Take the advice I offered you in my last comment. Take it one day at a time, try not to have too many expectations, and don't sweat the details. That is how you are going to get through to May and beyond.

    I will be counting the days with you and remembering Hudson all along the way.

  27. Congratulations! Sorry I'm late - I've been off floundering too.

    A bonfire fueled by the article sounds perfect! How could this not be an emotional and difficult time for you but your growing baby will feel how much you love them and that is what matters most.

  28. I too read the Time article and am with all the others who say--what crap. If babies in the womb were as sensitive as the article makes them out to be, the human race would have ended long ago.

    Hoping today is a better day for you--

    Sending hugs--Christine Mayhew

  29. I think that whatever you are doing to get through these days are all that you need to be doing. If you need to sleep, sleep. If you need to cry, cry. The sweet baby growing inside you is going to be fine. After all, it has a most wonderful guardian angel watching over it right now from heaven.

  30. I can't really add much that hasn't been said but to do what you need to take care of yourself. Grieve as you need to, check in and out and hide under the covers as needed.

    I can think of countless examples of very stressed mothers who gave birth to perfectly healthy happy babies. Two examples come to mind not just because they were born as healthy babies but they are now adults and have no noticeable effects of their mother's stress. One is me. My mother wasn't grieving a child but she was very ill and had to have major surgery when she was pregnant with me. She also had two other children under the age of 2. I was born healthy and I like to think I am normal. The second is my brother-in-law whose mother did lose a child before he was born. He is a well-adjusted adult with a PhD and a successful career.

  31. You must be absolutely exhausted. This post does not sound incoherent (something I don't you are capable of being, you write so well) or self-pitying. You are trying to do two terribly difficult things simultaneously.

    Please don't worry about that Time article. These theories have been floating around for years, I seem to remember citing one in an essay I wrote a good ten years ago. Still at the theory stage I see!

    Please don't worry or feel guilty. Just take good care of yourself. xo

  32. I don't know if this helps at all but when my mom was pregnant with my younger brother she went through the death of her father. My brother is the calmest and smartest of us all.