My Musings

Good Vibes Only, Bro

Law of Attraction (new thought philosophy): The belief that positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences into a person’s life

The first thing that dies, is your baby. The next is hope. You lose track of the things that die after that, but somewhere along the way, I lost my positivity. And everyone else’s positivity now jars, because of course you can be positive, you’re in a different boat.

Sometimes I worry if my posts aren’t upbeat or hopeful enough, if I’ve had too long a stretch of negativity, but you know what? This is honesty. This is not painting a pretty picture. This is grief. It is ugly. It is uncomfortable. It’s my bruth.

Toxic Positivity

Since I lost Summer, I’ve been introduced to the notion of toxic positivity. This is the idea that despite a person’s emotional pain or difficult situation, they should have a positive mindset or “good vibes only”, but it’s toxic as it ignores or minimises the underlying issues. I’ve come to believe that this tendency to undervalue negative emotional experiences and overvalue the positive ones, can be harmful to mental health and healing. Of course there’s a balance to strike, but it’s something worth thinking about. Particularly in this age of social media snapshots and perfect posing.

My daughter died nearly 7 months ago and already a few people have suggested that I take medication for it. Now, that’s a nice neat solution, if only it were as simple as medicating my grief. I happen to think I’m functioning rather well, for many reasons, not least because I’m surrounded by friends and family who are trained medical professionals – none of whom have suggested that I’m not exactly where I should be right now. Newsflash: it is ok and in fact, actively encouraged to be sad. So I do take some offence to that “have you considered medication?” statement, when it comes from people who’ve waltzed into my life and think it’s ok to prescribe a palatable answer. Please shut the door on your way out, because trust me, I’m functioning fine.

I’ve said it before and it is simple: it is easy to be happy when you’ve none of the really heavy stuff going on. If you don’t understand why I’m ‘still’ like this, you should just be grateful for that.

So to Mr or Miss Positive, who don’t want to be tainted by my negativity, please know this: when you give up on someone who’s grieving because they’re too angry/sad/bitter for you and you (advertently or inadvertently) make that clear to them, it sets them back in their journey to healing. Who’s the toxic one now?

Negative Energy

I joke that I have a negative energy when it comes to technology (because weird issues arise which never seem to happen to anyone else!), but do I have a negative miscarriage energy too? I have wondered whether it’s something like this, which has impacted my babies. I keep thinking that ignorance is bliss and maybe that’s why the people who unknowingly announce their pregnancies early, or act so confidently, just believing that it’s going to happen, get the healthy babies. Positive mental attitude, happy thoughts, all that stuff. It’s why that pregnant lady in the pub, drinking her weekly glass of wine, is probably going to be a-okay. Me, on the other hand!

So am I being penalised for my awareness? For worrying and bringing this about somehow? Did the babies pick up on it? There are many in the Indian culture, who would suggest yes.

Except I did have that ignorant positivity with BoC, so what happened there? Maybe I was too mindful of needing to reach the 12 week mark? And maybe I worried too much about the cooked salami that had touched the pizza I ate with My Baby? Maybe it wasn’t the event itself, but the negative mental attitude?

But tell me, given that I’ve always known it, how am I supposed to unlearn the 1 in 4 statistic? One in four pregnancies end in loss. I’ve taken one for the team. Let’s be clear, I’ve taken three. Positive spin? Maybe it’s the other way round for me? 1 in 4 of MY pregnancies will be successful? Come on, even you’d have to agree that that’s still ridiculously depressing. It’s very difficult not to hope for the best, but expect the worst.

Visualisation

One thing I take comfort in however, is that I know I always loved being pregnant. I would talk to my bumps ALL the time. When I laughed or sneezed, I would always apologise out loud to Summer for jiggling her about. I remember reading a BLM book and an antiquated view about mixed race children earlier this year and (even though I was reading in my head, because let’s face it, I’m not 8), I whispered to my bump “shh, don’t listen to that, they don’t know what they’re talking about!” And for all my babies, I imagined telling friends and family our happy news. I had also planned every Christening and Havan (the Hindu equivalent) in my head. So that’s the new-age act of visualisation, right? I did that. But perhaps not enough?

I still, still feel guilty for not willing her into lasting. Towards the end, I text a friend and said that I didn’t know how I could carry the baby to term. There was so much bleeding and pain, which eventually caused the premature rupturing of my waters. I had put myself on bed rest for two weeks, and I think my day into London with James was the final straw. Although I was only a passenger in a car and trying on a few clothes, maybe that was IT. Maybe I should have stayed in bed for another five weeks? The thing is, it wasn’t even the consultant that put me on bed rest (“it’s common for women to bleed, bed rest is old fashioned!”), it was myself/my boss. Even knowing that, I still feel guilty: maybe I didn’t believe in her enough, maybe I gave up too soon.

Manifestation

This is another aspect of the new-age school of thought; the notion that we should manifest what we want. Well, when I look at the suggested techniques, I’m pretty sure I did a lot of that. I appreciated my pregnancy, I practiced gratitude. I had a vision of how I wanted things to play out, I journaled and documented the good times. I’ve been writing letters to my future self for years. I WAS POSITIVE. I was.

However, my pregnancies were interspersed with some caution. I didn’t buy a single item for any of our first two babies, not clothing for them or for me. I didn’t want to count my chickens (we never have though, even when we had our offer accepted on the house, we didn’t buy a single item – until we had the keys). For Summer, I bought some framed nursery prints and maternity clothes at around 18 weeks – none of which we got to use. I’ve felt guilty about this: did I not believe in the reality of having my children? Is that why they’re not here?

So what’s this all about? Well, it’s hurtful when people suggest that employing faith, positivity, new-age techniques etc could have kept the demons away then and that they can do so now. Do they think I caused this? Do I? I’m not sure.

Except I keep coming back to one thought: there is no end to the number of things we can beat ourselves up about. So to all the positive people who believe in “good vibes only, bro” and visualisation, consider this:

Manifesting what I wanted, gave me this grief.

Drop the frigging mic.
Anjulie out.


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(5) Comments

  1. Claire says:

    Wow Anj. This is incredibly powerful. I particularly like your concluding message. You showered your babies in love and I have no doubt that they would have felt that. I want to say that nothing else matters but I know that is probably too much of a simplification of lots of complicated emotions.

  2. Melanie says:

    Anj, you have explained so well the flaws in positive thinking, and the problems with society trying to medicate grief. I wish you didn’t have the pain of these vicious cycles of thought and what ifs haunting you all the time. It is certainly clear that no mother could have loved their babies more than you loved BoC, MyBaby and Summer xxx

  3. Kirst says:

    I agree with Claire, this is a powerful post indeed. There is so much focus on ‘positive thinking’ and ‘sending good vibes into the universe’ – and that’s good, but it needs to be balanced with a focus on being REAL, being vulnerable, and being allowed and encouraged to feel and work through every emotion that comes with experiencing the really sh*t things that life throws at as. There is no timeline on grief, and I’m so proud of you for standing up for that, and standing up for what’s true. Screw all the sugar coating. Love you SO much.

  4. Claudia says:

    I was brushing my teeth and stopped to read this. I am sitting on the edge of my bathtub, rubbing the cat with my foot and haven’t even washed my face.

    But your message is so powerful I had to stop what I was doing to read it – and see it.

    You see, I like the idea of karma. I am positive. But I hate all the sayings – you need to wish it to have it. Good vibes only. Believe it hard enough and it will come to you.

    It is SO easy when nothing really bad actually happens to you. But we have been touched by tragedy and reality.

    And Anj, it wasn’t lack of positivity or belief, you were cautious with Summer, of course, like you said… wasn’t your first baby.
    BUT I, miss positivity and good vibes (honestly, I have awards and ribbons for this!), went to a check up midwife appointment confident (and I mean, no hint of doubt) that I would hear my baby and all was fine only to start the most bizarre journey of my life.
    So… it wasn’t that. I was sure this baby was coming home.

    So, girl, I am in the front row clapping for you.

  5. Brea says:

    I love you sweet friend. It seems like all of us loss mommas are usually in the same specific feelings boat around the same time. The toxic positivity is something I’ve been struggling with lately, and you hit the nail on the head. Thank you for always writing, so beautifully, the things I’m feeling. 💚

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