The emotional pain I felt during and after my ectopic pregnancies was acute. Everything hurt. Everywhere there were reminders that other people got pregnant, and had happy families. It didn’t help that I went through these losses at Christmas, when there is such a huge, inescapable emphasis on mothers and fathers and children. It hurt. Everywhere we looked, it hurt.
My second ectopic, almost exactly a year after the first, after we had dared to hope it was in the right place, after we had actually been brave enough to tell my immediate family that I was pregnant (I had to explain why I wasn’t drinking on Christmas Day after all), was a nightmare in endurance. The pain didn’t seem to end. I bled daily for close to seven months. I couldn’t begin to try to conceive again until this was resolved, and that required many more blood tests, doctor’s visits, treatments, hospitalisations and surgeries. And so much waiting. As a counsellor said, during that time, I experienced hundreds of little griefs. Each time I was reminded of my loss, it was another stab in an already painful wound.
I needed comfort, but nothing would really comfort me. Except the little things; the little things like the summer sun warming my back, hearing a tui call in the trees outside, or a joke on a sitcom that would make me laugh, for a split second allowing me to be happy and carefree. Or, when we escaped other people and sought out a remote cliff, I was in awe at the beauty of the deep blue of the Tasman Sea, white seagulls riding the wind, the contrast of the green hills and clear blue summer sky. Even the view through the windows of the trees outside my house could, in certain lights, make me smile. The sadness always returned, but I learned fairly quickly to take those moments of joy when they came. In fact, I learned to seek them out, because they made the pain bearable. They allowed me to breathe, to smile, and to relax.
I realised later that I was learning mindfulness. I was learning to appreciate the moment, not to think about what had happened, or what was about to happen, or what might never happen. I was experiencing the moment. I thought back to a book that a dear Thai friend gave to me when I was living there in the early 90s. It was by Thich Nhat Hanh, and talked about “doing the dishes to do the dishes.” I finally understood it.
Mindfulness is good for its own sake, to calm us and bring some peace to our minds and hearts. But mindfulness also taught me to appreciate what I have now.
Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.