This week I did something that I never thought I’d have the strength to do when Dan died… I attended a full-day birthing class with my best friend and her husband.
They've asked me to participate in the birth of their first baby in January as a support person and birthing partner, which is an incredible honour and something I very much want to do. However, of course, it’s proving to be challenging for me emotionally as I’m being confronted with a lot of very difficult grief-related triggers.
I’m very close to my friend and her husband, we consider each other as family. However while I felt included and connected to them during the workshop, I was really not prepared for the overwhelming pain that I would feel being immersed a room full of loved-up, very pregnant couples who were preparing to become families.
I know that sounds incredible naive, believe me. I had multiple moments throughout the day where I thought ‘WHAT THE F**K ARE YOU DOING HERE YOU CRAZY WIDOW!!’. How could I NOT have known how much it would hurt. Once or twice I nearly had to walk out but I got through it by bringing my focus back to my friend – reminding myself that I was there for her and this wasn’t about me.
Not only did I sign up for the class, it was actually my idea. If I’m going to do something, I want to do it well and I knew that having some understanding of how I could be a practical assistance to her and have the tools to bring any amount of comfort during labour, well I’m in.
And this is the thing… when I can focus on my friend and how happy and excited I am for her, I’m fine. Because those feeling are real and positive. But there is this other grief stuff always going on in the background and in that class I kept staring at all the other husbands … and without meaning to, I kept fantasying and daydreaming that Dan was there with me and we were about to have our baby!
I’m heartbroken that I never got to have a child with him. Watching all the loving couples in this class gave me a very real and confronting glimpse in to what it could have been like. It represented thousands of moments that I wouldn’t get to share with the man I love and it was very, very hard to process.
Within a few days the tidal wave had passed and I started to tread water again but I know now that the next few months and the birth itself will bring this all back up to the surface, yet I still want to be involved. And this is why. My friend and her husband have been an incredible support to me since Dan died and I want to give back – even though I know I don’t have to and even though I know they would understand if I walked away.
Because, also, on some level, I feel like being involved will make me feel less jealous or resentful that she's taking this huge step that I can't. It will involve me in the child's life rather than make me feel left behind or like a total spectator.
My friend has been as considerate as always and we’ve spoken since the class about how tough it was on me. She knows this is difficult and continues to check in on how I’m going, which is wonderful. I will continue to monitor myself and if it gets too much, I’ll pull back and I know she’ll support that.
I’m just so annoyed that Dan’s death causes me to be so inwardly focused sometimes, it’s horrible. I was really beating myself up after the class for getting distracted by my own feelings and making it ‘all about me’. I wish I could be 100% focused on supporting her through this life-changing event and not juggling the other shit that comes up. She helped me through the most difficult time of my life, I hate that I can’t give as much back.
When Dan died I lost my husband and my future, but she also lost something huge. She lost her best friend. I’m still here, but I’m not the person I was and I can’t be that person again. Slowly, I’m learning not to punish myself for that, because it’s not my fault and I can’t help it. But it’s still hard. He’s missing out on so much. We all are. Death sucks.