They say this is the order of the 5 stages of grief. My grief is non-linear. There is not really chronology or order to it. I skate around in my grief in crazy zig-zags and dizzying loops. Mostly, I have done a lot of denying. More hours than not my pregnancy with Aminadav and Naava and everything that immediately followed it feels like a strange dream. In fact, most of the time they feel like a strange dream; maybe some souls I knew in a past life. So familiar but so ephemeral. Most of the time on some deeper fundamental level I do not believe that any of it really happened; it feels like a very sad story someone else told me about myself.
These hours are inevitably followed by the harder moments when I cannot fathom how they are not still here with me, either inside of me or inside an incubator that is much safer than inside of me. But mostly, I have done a lot of denying, and then I can manage with reality in little bits and in a measured dose.
They say bargaining is Stage 3, but I did a lot of bargaining very early on. I am an expert bargainer. I bargained all throughout my fertility treatments and through my first and second pregnancies. Sometimes I bargained with G-d, sometimes with myself, and even more often, with no one or nothing in particular. When Aminadav and Naava died, I was already a pro. The bargaining came immediately and naturally.
I have done a lot of what Joan Didion would refer to as magical thinking in her The Year of Magical Thinking. The magical thinking has all been part of my bargaining hobby and oftentimes has been quite elaborate to the point that one might think it takes a great deal of imagination. I find the magical thinking exhausting but not so much a creative pursuit. As I said, I am very good at it. I am trying to cut myself off from it.
My first few weeks back at work, I spent more of my day surreptitiously conducting PubMed searches on every possible word and phrase variation of "pPROM" "placental abruption" "twins" and "subchorionic hemorrhage" than I actually spent performing lab work. I remained steadfastly convinced (and honestly, still often do) that if I could find some way to retrospectively fix or solve what happened, especially to Naava, whose amniotic sac was still intact and who was born alive, that I could actually change the outcome.
Oftentimes, I have even been convinced that just finding clinical studies with better overall outcomes than the gloomy statistics reported by my doctors would change the outcome. "See! But they live!" I would exclaim triumphantly, well after the fact of their deaths. I recognize that this is spectacularly delusional, but I still can't help it.
Stage 2, anger, reared her head later on than denial, bargaining, or depression. I was really angry with myself and I still am. It is easy for other people to tell me to be gentle with myself, to be kind, but much more difficult to internalize it in a way that is genuine, because I really do honestly hate myself for what happened. The self-loathing is a narcissistic pursuit; I was unable to indulge in it until I could go longer than a minute without thinking of my poor babies and their horrible fate & bring the focus back to myself.
Even more recently, my anger has developed a new prong, and it is a sharp one. Now I am angry at other people. At the beginning of the week, we saw a doctor who specializes in miscarriage and pregnancy loss. I still haven't done any loss-related tests; specifically, I was hoping to do some sort of clotting and autoimmune panel, especially to rule out thrombophilias since they are often associated with placental issues. This doctor became the new subject of my wrath when he sent me on my way with no new ideas or additional information beyond a lab slip to test for various infections. I will never get back the 120 seconds of my life I spent peeing in a cup for chlamydia and I am very angry.
I guess the only flavor of the 5 stages I have yet to experience is acceptance. Maybe I have even experienced a little of that too, in small doses during those rare moments when I can imagine my life having a happier focus one day. Not that there won't always be an empty space where Aminadav and Naava were but that I will learn how to be happy and appreciative without ever being whole; that I will learn how to live with this empty space, not in spite of it or around it but simply with it. For now that seems like a pretty tall order. One day.