Monday, August 13, 2012

My Forever Paradox

I wonder how I looked in those early weeks to outsiders.  How did strangers at the grocery store see me?  As a bereaved mother pushing a single stroller where a double stroller should be?  A woman with her heart completely torn out, fighting every moment to not go completely crazy and scream obsceneties at innocent bystanders?  A woman who would go out of her way to avoid even the mere sight of twins, any age, any gender combination?  A woman who had to make her husband go in to Babies R Us for returns and purchases, because she  A woman who, while her husband wandered the aisles amongst blissfully naiive pregnant woman, would sit in in her minivan (specifically purchased for twins) and scream, rage, and wail, not even giving any thought to the fact that people might hear her? 

Did they see this complete shell of a person I was, just going through the motions, not really sure I even wanted to go on?  Did they see a woman who felt every morning upon awakening that she was punched in the stomach, heart torn out all over again, nightmare playing and replaying on some horrible permanent loop with the stop button nowhere in sight?

In the very beginning, I thought they knew.  I thought everyone knew. 

Everyone knew I lost my son, that I had been played a fool, that I had done seven weeks of bedrest only to lose him at the very end to something I had never seen nor heard of in the hundreds and hundreds of pages of pregnancy books and countless websites I'd read, that I'd had a prior loss and was just angry as hell at the world, that I was hanging on by a thread so thin you could barely discern it was even there.

It felt like a big neon sign was hanging over my head, flashing "Dead baby!", and it was all anyone saw, it was me, it was my life, it was my identity, it was everything I ever was and everything I had ever lost advertised in two words for the entire world to see, judge, and pity.

As the weeks wore on, suddenly it occurred to me that people really didn't know.  They really didn't know.  This very simple rational logical fact was so elusive to me for a while, until it suddenly wasn't.  And I didn't know what to do with this epiphany.  Should I be sad that they don't know?  Did I want them to know? 

I quickly decided that everyone should know.  EVERYONE should know.  Because why they hell not?  Why should I hide this simple fact?  Why should I allow strangers to ooooh and ahhhh over my little girl without any acknowlegment of my sweet boy?  It wouldn't be fair to him.  He was just as loved and just as deserving of recognition and attention.  I HAD to tell people.  It was my job as his mother.  It happened, and I wasn't hiding it.  Not from any random person who dared ask me about my daughter, even the random Home Depot worker just trying to make conversation while they rang out a few lightbulbs and waited for our charge card to go through.

When I was in that mode, it angered me whenever people who knew us would visit and NOT say something about our loss or ask us how we were doing or just ANYTHING.  You know?  Address the fact that we had TWO.  Dont' say "When she was born..." say "When THEY were born".  I mean it's no secret I had TWINS.  (To be honest, it still irks me when people use the singular in talking about the delivery.  It seems to deny his existence.  He was stillborn but still born!)

Then, something very unexpected happened.   I went to visit a family member at work, and everyone there oooohed and ahhhhed over our daughter.  They didn't say a word about our son, our loss, or ask how I'm doing.  And I waited for the anger, and waited, and waited, and....where did it go?  What was that I was feeling?  Exhilleration?  Joy?  Bliss?  Could that even be possible?  Of course, it only lasted a little while before I felt horrible again.  Worse than horrible, because how could I allow myself that joy when my son was dead?!  So now I had guilt upon guilt and the missing him and all that I usually felt. 

That one experience though, it made me realize that eventually, I would be able to find moments, pockets of time, where joy would be present.  I would enjoy my daughter at times without necessarily having to think about how much I missed my son.  That as the weeks, months, and years would trudge on, those segments of time just might be more than a few minutes at a time.  The thought was a comfort, even though I felt very conflicted by it, as I felt I was betraying my son by feeling joy.  But I was betraying my daughter by NOT allowing the joy to be felt when it was there.  So I've had to learn to just let be what is, to take the sorrow and the joy both, to hope that they both balance one another out somehow (not that having her could EVER take away the pain of losing him!), to just feel what I'm feeling and not be guilty about the joy.  So envious, always, of people who simply know the joy of their living children without the pain of having to say goodbye to a child muting that joy so often.

I realized then too that many outsiders would simply see us out with our daughter and think we were a new family of three, not knowing that we were a family of four minus one, which is very, very different.  And sometimes, instead of that angering me, I felt okay with that.  Even pleased with that, I must admit.  It felt like a rebellion in a way.  Like let me keep something, let me take what I can from this, let it be okay for strangers to just see us and not know, let us wear this identity as a family of three for a bit to just relieve some of the heavy heartbreaking burden of being four minus one.  Even for a few minutes, even if it's a lie.

At twenty months out, I'm starting to think the world really doesn't always need to know.  This doesn't define us.  Our daughter is her own precious individual human being and is no less for her brother having passed away, and she deserves to be loved, cherished, adored, and celebrated on her own behalf.  No asterisk needed, no footnote, no sidebar, no epilogue, just on her own.  I know that now, to the core of my very being, and it's not a defense mechanism, it is simply The.Truth.

And it does make me feel better, to some degree.

But still, I find it's such a hard line to walk.  Wanting my son to be "counted" and recognized as being part of our family yet not wanting that loss to define him, to define us, or to determine how we choose to be in this world as a family.  I feel like it's my forever paradox.


  1. Wow - this was beautiful and I couldn't agree more.

  2. I think all of us BLMs, especially with living children come to some kind of realization on this point. Some of us speak up most of the time. Some rarely. Some often. Some all the time.

    I almost never deny my son. And not because I feel like some saint or whatever, but because... if you ask if the very small child that I am holding is my first and no other child is with me at the time in the middle of summer in the grocery store, I'm going to be honest. You're the one who asked! Why wouldn't you then just assume he is? I've often found that people who ask are either stupid (kind of like asking "how are you?" to strangers when you don't really care to strike up a conversation) or also have a story to tell. They are okay with reality and not shying away from things. Like the woman in the grocery store today who learned of Andrew after asking THE question. She then told me about her story of loss in losing a daughter and how it took her many months to even consider allowing her second child, a son, to sleep in another room at night.

    There's definitely no right or wrong to answering that question. Your daughter lives. Your son lived. They're your beautiful children, no matter who sees your family, assumes otherwise, asks, whatever.

    He is not forgotten.

  3. very good post. thanks as always for sharing!

  4. I went through these exact stages... It's funny. Now, I do share him when asked, but I'm no longer frantically searching for opportunities to talk about him. I guess I'm trying to live my life again - welcome in those tiny specks of joy when I can, and trying to do that with such a heavy heart is difficult - but I have to do that for living son. I do find I oscillate between feeling guilty for one or the other, but I'm working on it...