Sitting in the waiting room? Deep breath in, blow raspberries out. Lying on the ultrasound table? Deep breath in, blow raspberries out. Waiting to be taken to our room to deliver our stillborn son? Deep breath in, blow raspberries out. Hearing Patrick’s autopsy results? Deep breath in, blow raspberries out. Getting blood drawn for infertility tests? Deep breath in, blow raspberries out. Having my blood pressure taken during my pregnancy after loss? Deep breath in, blow raspberries out. The strategy worked to release the tension, but it also took the silliness out of blowing raspberries.
They became associated with anxiety and coping.
Then our daughter, Stitch, was born. Lying on the table, waiting for my C-section to begin, I found myself taking a deep breath in and blowing raspberries out. I wondered if I’d ever find joy in blowing raspberries again. I wondered if this precious baby about to be born would find them silly. I wondered if I’d be able to blow raspberries without being triggered with grief and anxiety.
Stitch was initially not amused with raspberries being blown on her cheeks and belly. She found it quite startling. Her daddy and I eventually stopped trying, and a few months went by with no raspberries. But, one morning, as I changed her diaper, I felt anxiety creeping in. Without even realizing what I was doing, I took a deep breath in and blew out a raspberry. Stitch giggled, and I jolted back into the moment. I drew in another deep breath and blew out another raspberry. More giggles, this time from both of us. I blew a raspberry on her belly. Hysterical giggles. I blew a raspberry on her cheek. Hysterical giggles.
My anxiety in that moment melted away.
Loss, pregnancy after loss, and parenting after loss comes with grief and anxiety — it’s a package deal. The grief and anxiety never really go away. They do change over time, though. They can sneak up when I least expect them, but sometimes joy can sneak in when I least expect it too. My deep breath in, blow raspberries out was an effective coping strategy, but it’s even more effective now. Baby giggles melt my heart, and apparently also my anxiety.
A few weeks ago, Stitch started trying to blow raspberries herself. It’s been clear what she’s trying to do, but she just wasn’t getting all the parts to work at the right times. I’ve found it utterly charming and adorable. I’d laugh, and she’d try again. I couldn’t wait until she finally figured out how to blow a raspberry.
Last week turned out to be such a fun parenting week—a week of firsts for Stitch, like she was saving them up to do all at once. Her first tooth finally broke through, after months of teething symptoms. She went on her first vacation with her first plane ride. She started waving, “hello,” to people she met along the way. But my favorite first? She finally got the hang of blowing raspberries, and she was so proud of herself.
Our first morning on vacation, we sat around the table with my parents eating breakfast when Stitch started blowing raspberry after raspberry. I couldn’t stop laughing. My dad said, “You know she’s never going to stop if you keep laughing like that.”