Sunday, July 31, 2011

Is there such a thing... grief-induced bipolar disorder? Not.even.kidding. This is a real question.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Awkward Neighborly Conversations

Neighborhood graduation party.

So there I am just minding my own biz (but trying to be polite and conversational, if that’s even a word). So far so good, party’s going okay, I’m not upset, I don’t feel weird or abnormal amongst throngs of people who simply don’t know the pain I’ve endured. Well, most of them know. They just don’t know; they haven’t been through it. A man in his fifties who happens to have three sons looks over at a man in his thirties who has two daughters and a son. He says, “So you had to try for the boy, huh?”

The guy responds, “Yeah I guess you could say that!” (I’m suddenly wondering how their daughters felt hearing that one…)

So fifties guy responds, “Well we ended up with all boys, all three!” and then looks over at me.

I’m thinking, Don’t you even f*cking go there. Don’t you dare ask me if we’re going to try for a boy. We have a boy, and his name is Elias.

He says, “So when are you going to try for another?”


Also, *whew* that he didn’t say, “When are you going to try for #2”, because I would have had to correct him.

I’m sitting there holding my seven month old daughter wondering why this guy is asking such a bold personal question, a question I might expect from a girlfriend my age when we’re out for ladies’ night after a few too many drinks. A question I might expect from someone on a loss forum who wants a trying-to-conceive buddy or a support system for a subsequent pregnancy.

A man in his fifties who I’ve never had a real conversation with before? Did he just run out of things to talk about?!

So I simply respond with a canned answer that we aren’t quite ready yet, that I just want to focus on my daughter for now, that my career is going to be more challenging this year and will require a lot more of my attention. You know, the surface reasons.

Does it not occur to him that I am heartbroken over the loss of our son? That this conversation is actually painful? That I am terrified at the possibility of losing another? That pregnancy for me is absolutely anxiety-ridden, and that I may have developed PTSD or depression after my loss?

Oh I expect way too much of people, apparently.

He says, “Well, we managed to have three boys in just four years. Bam, bam, bam, just like that! That’s the way to do it!”

Oh, you’ve got it all figured out, don’t you? Let me pull out my pen and paper and start taking notes, oh wise one!

The lady at the other end of the table pipes in, “Well mine are ten years apart…” and doesn’t say anything else, but she says it in a somewhat frustrated tone. She picks up her glass of wine and sips at it, staring off. Her expression looks faraway, and I can tell there’s a story there.

So I look at her and say, “Yeah, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you plan,” lifting my eyebrows a bit and pursing my lips as if to communicate in a subtle way to this fifties man that it’s about time he shuts his mouth and stop acting like such a knowitall. She looks at me and nods, and both of us wonder about each other’s story.

What I really wanted to do was address this fifties man and say, Wow, three boys in just four years? What about I already have three babies in a span of one and a half years? I may have miscarried one and lost another, but I still conceived THREE BABIES. Two of them I carried for eight and a half months, but they still both count, don’t they? Or is my daughter here in my arms the only one who counts? I admit that I don’t always recognize my miscarried baby when speaking of children, and not everyone knows about that anyway, but seriously? I just had TWINS, and my son’s obituary was in the newspaper; he was REAL. In fact, you so generously contributed to a gift certificate so that we could purchase a tree in honor of our son; why you feel this line of conversation is appropriate completely blows my freaking mind..

Does it not occur to this man that I don’t want to hear about some family trying for a boy? That I just lost my son seven short months ago, that my heart is still shattered, that my arms ache to hold a precious living boy of my own? Literally ACHE. All of me aches for another. I know that no future baby, regardless of gender, will ever fill Elias’s spot. He holds a special piece of my heart and will forever. But oh my do I want the experience of raising my own boy. So much that as I type these words, the tears pour so easily thinking I may never have that opportunity. The tears pour so easily feeling like I am betraying my son by wanting another. The tears pour so easily wondering if my daughter feels like she isn’t good enough that I still pine for a living boy of my own.

I love my girl, and I know that if I had lost her instead, I would be writing a similar post about longing for a daughter of my own.

What kills me is that we almost had it all. We were going to have our entire family done in just one pregnancy. One and done. My husband wanted one child; I wanted two. But as soon as we found out it was twins, we were both in love (after the initial shock, of course!). Then we were over the moon when we found out we were having one of each. It literally felt like Christmas morning times a thousand. One boy, one girl. Perfect. PERFECT.

How the hell did we come so close to having our full term precious twins?
How the hell did we come so very close to having everything I’ve ever wanted, ever dreamed of?
How could we come so f*cking close only to have our dreams shattered, just like that?
How do we endure this pain?
How do we ever venture to dream of another living child at all much less dream of a particular gender?
How do I go forward in a world so cruel as to present me with everything I ever wanted only to snatch it away at the very last minute?

We almost had it all.
We almost had it all.
We almost had it all.

Every time I think that, speak that, type that, there’s a knife in my heart that twists and turns and makes me feel like I’m going to pass out from the pain.

Maybe I should refrain from attending neighborhood gatherings.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Song lyrics have new meanings, don't they?

I admitted in my last post that I am a huge music snob/fanatic. For awhile I was so worried that I wouldn't be able to listen to any of the music I used to like ever again; I thought everything would remind me of my loss in a painful way. So I avoided the potential to be triggered by music by listening to absolute crap on the radio, much to the chagrin of my husband.

While I do enjoy discovering "new" music more than listening to the old stuff, there are some artists I will just never be able to keep away from. Because they are quirky, inspiring, and unique. They convey some aspect of my personality, and it's so captivating to find music that seems to speak to your soul. (Told you; I'm a music snob. Not even tryin' to hide it, people. The funny thing is that I have no intention of posting a playlist here, as I find those so "jarring" when I go to read someone's blog.)

Sometimes I hear a song that I've been infatuated with for years, but suddenly I interpret the lyrics much differently post-loss. And it's not a painful experience, as I had expected it to be.

Example: PJ Harvey's "A Place Called Home"

One day
I know
We'll find
A place of hope
Just hold on to me
Just hold on to me
Walk tight
One line
You're wanted
This time
There's no-one to blame
Just hold on to me
And I'm right on time
And the birds keep singing
And you're right on line
And the bells keep ringing } come on my love
And the battle is won
And the planes keep winging
And I'm right on time
And the girl keeps singing
I walk
I wade
Through full lands
And lonely
I stumble
I stumble
With you
I wait
To be born
With love comes the day
Just hold on to me
Now is the time to follow through, to read the signs
Now the message is sent, let's bring it to its final end

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I am not sad 24/7. For realz.

I feel a responsibility of sorts to push all the other blogposts I have floating around my head to the backburner for awhile and just say something.

So here it goes:

I am not sad 24/7.

For realz.

No joke, no fingers crossed, no bull.

I remember in the early days a coworker came to visit (yes, the same one I mentioned in a previous post about over-sharing). She brought a gift for Evelyn (cute girly outfits), and she also brought a gift in memory of Elias (a children’s book. I cried.).

I was still so early out that I was in complete and utter shock over what happened (this was maybe a month post-loss, if that). I said, “I think my life is going to be ruined by this.” When she asked me to elaborate on how I came to this conclusion, I simply said, “Look at the babyloss blogs. They are full of misery.”

Now, this woman had no idea what I was even talking about. So I had to kind of explain what the BLM community is and how many blogs there are floating around in cyberspace written by women whose losses completely destroyed their lives. Jobs lost, marriages ruined, no future children, multiple losses, no hope for the future, etc.

I had such fear in my heart and in my expression when I looked at her and said, “Will that be me?! Is this it? The best of my life is OVER, and I’m not even thirty years old? It’s just all downhill from here on out?!”

She simply responded, “Everybody grieves differently.”

I sighed, and let that comfort me as best it could. I moped for days thinking about how further down the road, once the shock of it all had worn off, I may be ruined by my loss like so many other BLM seemed to be ruined by theirs.

One day I logged into Facebook to find this message from her: “You said that you read a lot of the blogs and women never recover from the loss of a baby. But women do recover...or at least learn to move on. The blogs you are reading are from the women who have a difficult time moving on. The women who have managed to forge ahead with their lives are busy with their families, friends, careers, etc. and probably don't visit the sites as much as the women who are having a difficult time. I am not writing this to upset you...not even a little. I'm hoping that this will make some sense and help you in some way. You can tell me to shut up if you'd like. But just know that I'm thinking of you and wish you nothing but peace and happiness.”

Now, I know what some of you bloggers are thinking. And I agree, some of her words could cause offense (especially to those of us who are very raw in our pain). I don’t equate blogging with “having no life”, which is what she seemed to imply, and I recognize that part of what she wanted to communicate to me was that I need to enjoy my daughter and not spend all my time reading loss blogs. (Come on, that’s a good point, people.) But that wasn’t even the main point. She was trying to help me see that the loss blogs are only snippets and not necessarily representative of the entire loss community.

Her words seemed genuine enough, and I knew they came from the right place, so I started to think it over. And while I don’t completely agree with everything she said (I think you can blog but still have a life, or I at least like to tell myself that), I have my own version of the point she was trying to make: Most BLMs go to their blogs when they are having a horrible day. It’s cheap therapy. Get online, type type type, and not feel so “about to throw someone out a window”-ish. The blogposts created from such sob-sessions are clearly not indicative of the whole person behind them. They are a sliver of that person, a snapshot in time, a moment of pain so heavy that it requires sharing to lighten, a fear so sharp it needs expression to cut a little less. I am “guilty” of this myself, in that I don’t want this blog to become where I only go to vent, cry, rage, and whine. That hardly represents my grief journey in its entirety.

Yes, I mainly use this as a therapeutic tool, but I feel a sort of responsibility to say…to any future babylostmama that may come across this blog after losing her baby someday…I know I am over seven months out from my loss, but given that right now I would consider I am having a “low” point, I want to be honest about what that actually looks like. Aside from my moments where tears are falling.

-I still function.

-Most days, I even shower, brush my teeth, and do my makeup (still working on the whole flossing thing).

-I make an attempt to find clothes that fit and convey some aspect of my personality (challenging with the weight grief, not carrying twins, has added to my body).

- I do not live off of junk food and donuts, like The Secret Life of an American Teenager would have you believe. (One of the main characters just suffered stillbirth and frequents Dunkin' a bit much.) I sometimes eat breakfast. I always eat lunch. Not only do I eat dinner, but I have gotten into finding recipes to try, and we have fresh organic produce delivered every week to my husband’s workplace in an effort to learn how to be “grown-ups”. I have enjoyed cooking lately when I never cared to before, so I’d say I am developing new interests, which is not common for someone “depressed”.

-I regularly go grocery-shopping and run other errands and enjoy doing so.

-I recently went to a movie in a theater (haven’t done that since I was pregnant and saw Eat, Pray, Love) and saw a comedy. And I laughed, real laughs, not fake canned ones. More than once. (It was Bridesmaids.)

- I have listened to people complaining about trivial things, like the weather, without screaming, "Did your baby die?! No?! Well then shutthehellup!!!"

-I love Pandora radio and am a huge dork about it. I'm a big fan of trip-hop and post-punk and a variety of genres, and I sit there with Pandora open, and whenever it plays a song I love, I add it to my playlist on (I’m usually cleaning or something while I have it on.) I love showing off my awesome playlist when people come to visit.

-I attempt to work out and do yoga, although some efforts are more successful than others.

-I have composed mindless Facebook status updates (which for many months I wouldn't have cared to even try to do).

- I am sometimes able to make small talk with neighbors and acquaintances (not even kidding).

- I love to go shopping (which may possibly be retail therapy, I realize), and I love to kind of splurge and pamper myself after all the bedrest and…well, trauma I’ve endured.

-I have held a male infant without totally losing my sh*t, and if I’m being honest here…I didn’t even think about my son when I held him. He absolutely positively was not a trigger. I had a great day that day and didn’t shed a single tear, actually. (Although if I had held my daughter at the same time, I think that would have been a trigger.)

-I spend time preparing myself for novels I will be teaching this upcoming school year and am excited about the challenges that lie ahead with my career.

-I am still very much in love with my husband, although we both have a lot of work to do individually and in our marriage.

-Not to brag, but I am not exactly lacking in the friends / social engagements department. I am not some recluse who sits at home all day. I connect with others easily – loss and non-loss people. It's true; some friendships do not survive tragedy, but it doesn’t matter at the end of the day. If I can learn to live without my son somehow, then I can learn to live without fake friends.

-I have this new ability to throw things out that before I would have become overly emotionally attached to. (goes along with my last statement above!)

- 99% of people I interact with do not treat me like I have the plague. (Some might say, the dead baby plague.)

-I find joy in focusing on myself as a whole person, not as just the woman who lost a baby (or the woman who just had a living baby!).

-I revel in the blessing that is motherhood; I don’t take my daughter for granted; I don’t allow my daughter to be a constant trigger for my sadness at the loss of her brother.

-I have learned the complicated but useful psychological art of compartmentalization, and it has helped to save my life.

-I have moments where, in thinking about Elias, my heart fills with so much love for him – pure love unscathed by his death.

In the early days, I did not believe I would ever find joy again. I did not believe I would ever have a regular conversation again without my mind wandering to my son. I did not believe anybody would ever want to spend time with me. I thought I was cursed and would only bring pain to everybody around me. I did not believe I would be anybody other than "that poor woman who carried twins and lost one".

I realize that my loss is different than the loss of a singleton, just like the loss of one triplet is different than the loss of one twin, just like stillbirth is different from SIDS, and the list goes on. Every loss is different and yet the same. Losing one baby but still bringing another home from the hospital is different than coming home with empty arms.

It’s not easier, it’s not more difficult, it’s just different.

But differences aside, grief is grief, loss is loss, and I feel a sense of responsibility to say this today:

I am not destroyed.

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's Oh So Quiet. Shhh...shhh.

Just a quick note to say that although my blog has been a bit quiet lately, I have a TON of blogposts brewing in my head. I have so much to say. Good, bad, beautiful, ugly, and everything in between. Not sure who is really reading or why or if there's much benefit, but for me this blog has been incredibly therapeutic.

I lament the fact that I have no time to sit and focus on my writing. This blog is failing in the respect that it does not reflect my life or what is really going on. You just get little "snippets". I realize that is true of most blogs, but mine still really needs some love and attention. My mind needs some love and attention. But I don't give it any. I am too busy trying to keep up a house, care for a baby, mourn the baby I lost, put the pieces of my marriage back together, maintain some semblance of a social life, lose weight (HA), redo most of my wardrobe that either no longer fits or suits my taste, learn how to cook like a grown-up for my family's sake, and prepare for teaching a new prep this upcoming school year. And if I'm lucky, catch a few hours of sleep.

I don't really get "me" time.

No, I am not complaining. I realize that a big part of my lack of having me time is that I have a living child to be grateful for - to clothe, bathe, feed, shop for, put down for naps, kiss, hug, and play with. All the things I miss out on with my son. I love my daughter so incredibly much and feel so blessed to have her here. But that doesn't mean that sometimes I really wish I could just have a couple of hours of interrupted focused time with which to write, which has been one of my passions nearly all of my life.

I miss it.

I just wanted to let you know that this blog is not intended to be so quiet. I want to capture more of my life here - the joys and sorrows, intertwined sometimes while at other times independent of one another.