Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Fear and loathing

...bad waves of paranoia, madness, fear and loathing - intolerable vibrations in this place.

Do you ever find yourself in a place in your head where you are surrounded by a tug-of-war between the urge to snuggle in all calm and peaceful and the urge to scream out loud at the universe like some poor mental patient talking to a street lamp?

A lot of my inner turmoil comes from the constant conflict I feel about other people and how I relate to them. I wish I could not care...but I do. For example...this week I have experienced two opposite ends of the spectrum.

My dear friend who did not know about Alex (and sent me the Christmas card with her Baby #2 news) sent me an email after I told her the news. In part it said, "You are in the lifelong process of surviving one of the very worst things a parent can experience, and you are doing it in a way that is totally in keeping with the Cathy I always knew - with honesty, grace, and of course that trademark ability to see some humor even in life's unfathomable situations to keep it all sane!" One brief communication and I see that she gets it.

And then there are others who offer up, "You are not alone...you know X and Z both had a couple of miscarriages each." There is so much I want to say to that, not the least of which is...I'm not alone? Where were X and Z when I was at my absolute lowest? Where are they today? Cause it sure feels like I'm alone. And beyond that simplistic analysis...and I hope I don't hurt any readers' feelings here...but a miscarriage is NOT the same thing. I carried Alex for 35 weeks. (Sam was born at 37.) Alex was ready to be born...all 9lbs 1oz of him. Pink face, chubby cheeks, curly toes and all. He has a name...he was my SON. I had a world of dreams for him...and we were THIS CLOSE to reaching them. Had he been born alive and then died, I would hope you wouldn't dare compare him to someone's miscarriage. But then again, maybe you would.

I am in conflict because I know I'm in a solitary place. I hear all these voices of well-meaning individuals and I want to be in that peaceful frame of mind that would allow me to smile and accept the positive stuff and let the negative stuff all roll off my back. But at the same time, I want to be in the place where I can tell everyone how their in/sensitivities make me feel. I WANT to tell people how dear their friendships are to me as much as I WANT to tell some people to take a long walk off a short pier. But I can't do either. I'm frozen.

I think a part of it is that I'm afraid of the eye rolls. I KNOW there are people out there who would say, "Get past it already." I know because I have run into the peripherally already. And I don't think I am emotionally strong enough to withstand too much criticism of my grieving process. But I'm not sure I am serving Alex's memory, or my own self-worth, by allowing people to say and do insensitive things.

And I know I'm not honoring the true friendships I have by not being able to tell wonderful people how much they mean to me. But I don't think I'm really strong enough to admit to people that they have completely and totally propped me up for the last eight months. I mean honestly, how sad would it seem to tell a friend that I only survived because she emailed me every week (most often multiple times during the week)? That's an awful lot of pressure to put on someone as a friend.

And then, of course, there are the self-doubts that keep creeping in. Every time I think they are gone, they pop back up and smack me in the head. What gives me the right to think I should have a baby anyway? I mean, the universe and my body said otherwise last time, right? Should I really question that? Shouldn't I just leave well enough alone? But dammit...the universe owes me! I alternate between complete defeat and true stubborn will to fight. Who knows where I will ultimately land?

I could go back to that person I was. I could act like this past year and a half or so was just a bad dream. That is so tempting. It's more tempting every day, to tell the truth. To just smile and "move on." But then someone asks me, "How many kids do you have, just the one, right?" I can't help but respond with, "Yes. Sam's three-and-a-half. And we lost the other one in May." I literally CAN'T leave it out. It's like discounting my life for the past year and a half if I do leave it out. And I find I'm fiercely protective of it as part of my story...and Alex's story. And I did live it...so why should I pretend it didn't happen? Why SHOULD I act like it was a bad dream? It wasn't...it was my life...it IS my life.

Good grief this is another one of those entries that sounded good in my head but now looks like a bunch of insane ramblings when typed out. The funny thing is, I used to be such a decisive, take-charge kind of woman. Maybe I'm already more like the poor mental patient yelling at the street lamp than I care to admit.


Sherry said...

I read your whole entry, but wanted to say you DO have two children. Unfortunately, only one is living. Alex is still a part of your family. *hugs* I don't see anything wrong with telling people about both of your children :)

rach said...

I can't imagine not telling everyone about both of your children, even 30 years from now.

And something you wrote about my friend Anne who lost her baby made me think...you said she would miss Emily for the rest of her life. I hadn't thought about it like that, that it's not something you just GET OVER. Maybe it's partly your mission to educate others on stillbirth? To help others who are walking the same path? I see the passion there, burning brightly, underneath a cloak of indecisiveness.

Of course a miscarriage and stillbirth are not the same thing. I have been an ass if I ever made it sound like my miscarriage and your stillbirth were the same thing. Mine was a 12 week fetus, yours was a 35 week little boy. While both were human lives, the loss that is experienced is just different. It just is.


Sarah said...

I feel like my comment can't ever say what i want it to say because my brain seems to turn good thoughts into rambling writing.

I think I'm at the same tug-of-war place. I can't figure out how to pick a side or reconcile the two sides of my brain. I've found myself not telling some of my good friends how i'm doing and yet craving to have them know what happening to me. I think I'm afraid of not getting the reaction i want. Its so hard. And it is solitary. I'm trying to figure out how to make it less solitary. I'm just finally telling Steve things that I've withheld from him. I'm hoping that trying to share some of myself will make the weight of my existence easier to bear. But i don't have an answer...

sillyhummingbird said...

Alex is your child. Would you be expected to discount a child who died when they were 10 years old? I have come to the conclusion people are simply ignorant--it isn't that they "just don't know what to say"--the excuse I had made in the past. It's just that your pain is difficult for them so they say things that will make themselves feel better about your grief. If that makes sense. On the day of my son's funeral someone I had considered a pretty good friend said, "don't worry, you'll have a baby someday. God will make you a mother." Well, in my estimation I had a baby and was a mother. I still consider myself a mother although I never nursed this child or dried his tears.

Alex's life and passing is a part of your life as much as Sam is a part of your life. You don't get over Alex, you learn to somehow live with his physical absence. It is easier for people to not think about him than to acknowledge the pain of it all. I have friends who don't even mention my son and it has caused me so much sadness and the loss of many those friendships. Those who know me well know that I am irrevocably changed--and it isn't necessarily in a negative way.

I realize I don't "know" you well, but I have read the advice you have given to me as well as others here, and you certainly seem like a decisive, take-charge kind of woman who is also caring and supportive. No lamp post yellers here. Sorry this is so long and I hope it made sense.

Heather said...

It doesn't look like "a bunch of insane ramblings" at all. Makes total sense.

A miscarriage is not even close to what you have had to endure. I hope I never made you think I thought otherwise.

You shouldn't act like Alex never was. He is your child just as much as Sam.

And as far as letting others know how you feel about them (good or bad)... Listen, you feel how you feel. That is just how it is. If you can share it and want to, that is great. If not, so be it. I am pretty sure that those who are able to help you, know it. Those people you love, can feel it. The others don't matter.

Holley said...

I didn't see anything even vaguely insane. Not a lamppost in sight.

I agree that you have two kids. I don't know how anyone could expect you to say anything else.

I also don't think it would be possible to go back to the person you once were. You're just not superficial.

Lorem ipsum said...

Made sense to me. At least as much as I could understand through the smaller (i.e. miscarriage-oriented) lens of my experience.

It's often offensive, but yes, people do try to 'relate.' (Case in point: after Katrina, our local news station did a story on 'what if' the sewers backed up and flooded Louisville.) My former friend MM compared my first loss to an abortion. My aunt compared my septum with having a tipped uterus. Those are shallow, stupid comparisons from shallow, stupid people (although I'll admit, at age 69 and after four kids my aunt is still pretty naive and usually well-meaning).

Until you've experienced something you DON'T know what it's like. I don't know what it's like, but thanks to you and others I lie awake and feel nauseated and panicked at the horror that still seems to happen in this day and age. And it's only a drop of what you experience every day of your life.

My mom tells the story of a cousin who had several stillbirths (in retrospect, she probably had a unicornate uterus) and people said plenty of platitudes to her. But the one that really touched her was my grandfather saying, 'I know, kid. We've been there too.' Because he had. I know I've told the story a million times, but my mother's older sister was stillborn. When my grandfather died my mom found three of everything in his house - reflecting, in perhaps a subliminal way, the three children he'd fathered. You never forget. They are always your children.

kate said...

Makes sense to me too. And i have the same reaction to the well-meaning stupid comments. Now, nearly 3 years later i can usually let it run down my back. But i don't even want to bother to juggle those questions alot of the time -- i am careful with whom i share about Nicolas and what i say.

People do forget about the missing child also -- people who did not know, are told, and then forget. People who were *there* and should know better forget. Not forget entirely, but do not make the connections that we as parents make. It is hurtful and tiring. And people who have not lost a child, some of them do think that 7 months is a long time, is 'enough' time. Because it is enough time for *them* to forget, and they are not compassionate enough to put themselves in your shoes. It is tiring to always have to be the bigger, better person.

Anyway i also wanted to say thanks for posting all the gardening blog links!