Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"gone on to..."

I have, rather unexpectedly, run across a new phrase that I hate.

"Gone on to have a subsequent child." (or phraseology close to that)

It's not that there is anything WRONG with this phrase per se. It's just that it makes me feel...I don't know...




Gone on...to lose another baby.
Gone on...to be even sadder than before...more pitiful.

I know it's offensive to people who have lost a child to assume that a subsequent child lessens the pain at all. But, quite honestly, that is a kind of feeling of offense I would love to be able to take part in.

Everyone has those stories. You know the ones I'm talking about.
My aunt had a stillborn baby and went on to have three healthy children...
My grandmother had three stillborn babies and went on to have two healthy girls...
My college roommate's first cousin twice-removed had a stillborn baby and an early miscarriage before going on to have SIX health children.

I don't know why it's sad to think that nobody will ever say, "She went on to have x number of babies." What will people say about me? How will they refer to me?

Not...gone on to something better.
Not...gone on to find even a sliver of her previously anticipated happiness.
Not...gone on...
At all.

She was crushed by the sadness of two stillbirths? (Don't I sound like some sort of character in a historical romance novel?)

I was twelve or thirteen, at Girl Scout day camp, when I participated in a writing exercise predicting my own future. Where will you be in 2001? I was going to be 29, married, and have two kids and a dog. Today I am 35, married, with one living kid, two dead kids, and six dogs, three cats, two horses, and seven fish. If I predicted my future today...it would be about the same.

And it's not really bad. But I can't help but feel sorry for myself. A phase of my life is over before it barely got started. What I "go on" to do from here will always be marked by that turning point in sadness and loss. No matter what success I create...no matter what happiness I find...it will always carry with it the footnote of what might have been in its place. History (and I have no delusions of grandeur here...I merely mean personal family history) will forever remember the distinction for me.

When family remembers me, they will remember that I went on to...find happiness in something other than what I truly wanted. Will they know why? Will they understand? It was because I had to. Because I was afraid. Because I had no choice. Because I couldn't risk myself. Because that was the only alternative for me.

***Email from a friend that says exactly what I was trying to say...only better.***
I can imagine how the "gone on to . . ." phrase must sting. It's like the "happily ever after" at the end of every fairy tale. No matter what the hero or heroine goes through, there's the silver lining at the end. "Gone on to . . ." makes it sound so perfect, so pain-free and wonderful. It makes it seem as if, well, if you can't say "gone on to have another child," then you don't get your happily ever after, while almost everyone else around you does. I wish I had something to say to make it hurt less, or to assure you that one day you will feel you have "gone on to" find a measure of happiness and fulfillment. You've already "gone on" to do wonderful things -- it just isn't "happily ever after" at all, though, is it?

*On a somewhat related note: I think I'm going to take a little break from reading other blogs for a while because I can't help but compare myself to the women I read about...and it just hurts too much. So if you don't hear from me in your comments sections, please know that I wish you nothing but happiness...but I have to engage in a little self-preservation before I lose my mind completely.


Elizabeth said...

You've "gone on" to help others who have lost children.

We all understand you needing a break from reading blogs. Take your time.

DD said...


Why does that ring of "substandard"? Yes, I understand in some cases you may be paraphrasing, but...well...you know (and no, that's not a jab at you).

Some people make it seem as if that's the norm. Obviously, it's not.

I totally get the reading break. There's a few I have to mark as read, even though I haven't, just because.

Chuck said...

From reading your blog I often wonder how my mom really felt about her 3 miscarriages. One was my brother's twin. Once they were over, they were never mentioned again excpet for the fact that she had them. Even my brother's twin was only mentioned when they found out my brother has a very complex vascular structure which seems to be almost double in some aspects, so maybe the other twin didn't developed normally. Never once was it brought out in the open if she ever evn thought about those babies. However, she did have 2 nervous breakdowns in subsequent years. I have to wonder if her silnce about the babies played a part. I think it's a good thing that people can be vocal and not feel the need to hide miscarriages or still births as if they hadn't happened. There has to be some healing in that, even if it's not complete healing. I'm sorry for your loss...

Aurelia said...

Take a break if you need to. As DD said there are a few I can't read right now, because of the emotional issues around them.

And the "gone onto have", yeah a weird phrase. I may never "go onto have" another pregnancy at all, and I hate that my last pregnancy will be a loss if that is how it all works out.

I just don't know where to go from here if it is.

Brenda said...

Hugs to you!

kate said...

I agree, take a break when you need to.

And as for the rest, i don't *know* what your family will say (i mean, the generations down the line) but i honestly do not believe anyone will ever remember you as 'crushed by sadness'.

three minute palaver said...

I'm hoping you go on to find immense and complete happiness in something that was previously unexpected to you. I'm sorry this is so hard. I wish so much more for you.

Bronwyn said...

"Going on" to have [more] children is not a written-in-stone requirement to leading a fulfilling life. People with broods don't automatically sail off into the sunset, as the divorce rate and huge percentage of dysfunctional families will attest.

To put in another (slightly more positive) way -- you will "go on" to be a superb wife, mother, friend, daughter, lawyer, etc., etc. You are not less worthy because you only have one living child. If that were true, then I'd be in real trouble!

Trish said...

I wish you healing.
You are a remarkable woman.

delphi said...

I hope that my personal history excludes the "gone on to" phrase, since it is like a Disneyland-fantasy that going-on-to does anything to change what happened in our first pregnancy. Obviously, our second child is not a "solution" to the loss of our first.

I think that most people find it easier to put the positive spin on our losses. It makes it not so bad for them if we "go on to" have another child. They don't realize that it isn't that simple. A happy ending to a sad story. They don't know that there is no ending to grief.

So my two-cents is this: remember that this is another way that they try to make themselves feel better about loss. It isn't a reflection of what you could/should/would do or not do. And I don't think that it will define you the way you worry it will - it seems to me that your soul is to large and full of love to be shoved into such a tiny little box.

Taking a blog break is sometimes a really good idea - I hope it is good for you.

msfitzita said...

You "went on" to survive. And my God, that's an accomplishment that most people can't even begin to fathom achieving under similar circumstances.

I "went on" to face secondary infertility and I have no idea where that leaves me. But still, I survived. And I'm damn proud of that. And you should be too.

Thinking of you...

niobe said...

Umm...a certain percentage of the time I feel that I can't "go on" at all.

And while I know, intellectually, that there isn't a set amount of happiness or luck in the world, and that, therefore, someone else's good fortune can't diminish mine, sometimes it's hard to make myself believe it.

Maybe (like you?) I've been reading about too many happy endings lately and have convinced myself that all I'm likely to get is an ending, period, no adjective attached.