Friday, September 18, 2009

Living with 'IT'

Both Tash and Charmer wrote great posts this week about life after and perspective and how us db moms are seen through the eyes of the world. It struck me in the reading, how irked I get when people gloss over the grief, the whole process of grief.

At two years out, I am not anywhere near the same place I was that black September of 07. My life has evolved, moved on, continued. Really, when you think about it, there were only two choices, find a way to go forward or die. I chose the former. I had to. I had two other children who needed me to. I don't know, honestly, what I would have done if they hadn't needed me. I don't know how far I would have fallen, how deep the depression would have taken me. I have watched others who lost their first baby, find their way out. I like to hope I would have too. But none of us ever really know how we would carry someone elses burden. How we would react to any given situation. We know our own life, we take what is thrown at us and we try to figure out how to muddle through. We stumble, we falter, we collapse. And then somehow, we get up. Maybe it was a hand reaching through the darkness, or a voice calling out to us that reminded us we weren't alone. Maybe it was sheer force of will. Or a combination of all of it. The knowing there were others out there, the desire to start anew, the absolute determination not to give up. At least not yet.

And it is all of that, all of that hard work, that inner battle of demons, the taking on of forces beyond our control, the daily, sometimes hourly or even the minute by minute by second by second fight to survive, to continue, to exist, it is the all of that, that people don't see, they don't get, they can never understand. And it is in the missing of this part of the journey that makes it so easy for them to caricature a db mom into some sort of misfit, or episodic tragedy. "oh, she has a dead baby, that's why she is _____". It makes for a nice story line, a wonderful tragic event that turns the best, most capable woman into a weeping pile of compost, no longer able to function in a 'normal' world. Just last nite I watched last years season finale of 'pri.vate prac.tice'. I don't watch this show, I don't know the characters but, lucky me, one of the main characters, a psych of some sort, was pg and her patient showed up at her house with a needle full of some drug so that she(patient) could literally rip the baby out of main characters belly. Why? you may ask...because her baby died and that is what db moms do. We wander the earth seeking out other pg moms who must be carrying our db and then we slice them open and take what is rightfully ours...sighs.

I hate that that is how we are portrayed. I hate that the middle ground, where most of us reside, is so forgotten in the talking about child loss. We here throw the db moniker around so freely, we say the words, DEAD BABY all the time and sometimes it slips over into my other life and I *shudder* say it out loud. "I talked to my friend, my DEAD BABY friend about ______and..." and then the conversation stops because everyone has dropped jaws and wide eyes and argh how do we respond to that they wonder. Even my good SF friend said to me recently, "You have to find another name for your group." And I said to her, no we don't, it is a perfectly horrific name for us because what happened to us was HORRIFIC. It should make you cringe. It should make you stop and think. You should have to pause and for the tiniest of moments feel the least bit of awe and yes, maybe even uncomfortable, because MY BABY DIED. I don't want pity, I don't expect you to know or 'get' what I feel, I know you can't, but I do want you to stop for a minute and try and recognize what it is that I have lived through. What I lost and what I am living without.

There is more to baby loss, child loss, than the loss. There is the living with the loss. The loss, it kills you. And then somehow, you are resurrected. You find yourself within the shell of what you used to know, all things around you seemingly unchanged, life has gone on and you are standing in the middle of it, stripped bare, empty, and still the world requires you to be you. Sure there is the 'appropriate' grieving time, but after that, get on with it, move on, live, god damn it, live. And begrudgingly, most of us do. But it takes so much work to do it. But each day we rise and face the sun and we do, live with it. People have remarked, "I don't know how you do it, I could never have recovered from a loss like that" or some other variation of those words. And I think to myself, yes you would. You do somehow recover. It doesn't happen overnight, it doesn't even happen because you want it to. Truthfully, in the beginning, recovering doesn't even seem like an option. It is a concept that you can't even grasp. In the beginning you want the darkness to swallow you whole and never spit you out. But as the long, hard days and even darker, endless nights stretch out and become weeks and then months, you find yourself struggling to be free of the darkness once more. Is the daylight more appealing? Not really, but the cold, shadowy pit of grief has become less comforting and so you seek an alternate place of refuge. And you rejoin the world of the living because it is no longer the people you want to hide from but your feelings. All of them.
Those first few weeks of mingling between the night and the day, the dark and the light, were for me the most trying and exhausting days of my life. After the immediacy of the days surrounding losing Caleb had passed, the days when I buried my head and my heart, my former life beckoned me. My children cried out for me. And I went to them. And it took every ounce of energy I had to get up each day and function, even at the barest minimum. To talk with other parents, to drive, to attend meetings and sporting events, to plan, to execute, to grocery shop, to make any decisions at all, it sucked what little life I had within me, right back out of me. It wasn't until December, almost four months later that I stopped moving long enough to let myself breathe. And then I collapsed, physically and mentally. Auto pilot shut off and I went down. I needed to. I didn't stay there for long but it was enough to remind me that there was a lot more to healing than just waking up everyday. And there still is.
Two years later, my life has traversed many a road. All of our lives have. We may look mostly the same to the people who see us, we may even seem amazingly similar to the person we were 'before', shhh, our babies died. I can laugh, I can sing, (badly), I can do most any of the things I used to do. Just as all of the mothers I know who have also lost their babies are doing. It has been and continues to be, a mighty struggle to do this. Which isn't to say it hasn't gotten easier because it has, but nonetheless, it is a struggle, with some days, most days, infinitely better than others.
Which brings me back to what irks me. It has taken a lot to get here. It was, it is, a process. It is still happening. I didn't get here be accident or by design but I did get here. We all got here. Where is here? It is ordinary. It is day to day. It is nothing special and yet it is still extraordinary. It's not locked up in a padded room, it is not seeking out the pg woman who has somehow stolen my baby and tucked it away into her uterus and it is not a vengeful, unfeeling, demented woman. It is a plain wrapped, basic, sometimes witty and occasionally smart assed mom, it might be an accountant, or a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, a writer, a sports enthusiast, a computer guru, it comes in all shapes and sizes. It comes as you and me. I wish people could see that beyond the polar extreme of bat shit crazy there exists the lot of us. The db moms who wander in their world, our world too. And I wish that they would see us for who we really are.
Not fantastic, not superheros, not someone who has done something they could 'never' do. Nope, we are just db moms and we are living with it.


angie said...

Really amazing post. You just nailed it, and I wish I could send this out to everyone I know, so they could understand this isn't superhuman, extraordinary, it is survival. Period. Thank you for this.

Tash said...

Yup. couldn't have said that last bit any better myself.

I keep thinking how much I so fucking HATED people saying, "It just takes time. You'll feel better in time." But sadly, they were right. It does take time. A lot of it. (This is different than "you'll feel a bit better every day," which someone else said to me, and that's still a load of shit.)

I keep thinking about my identity, and how it's changed, if at all. I don't think I want this to be a part of my identity, just a part of what happened to me, and my identity is what got me through and out the other side without becoming homicidal or alcoholic. That touchy line about wanting people to remember, but not wanting to be defined as HER.

And I love the turn deadbaby. For me, I can't imagine using anything else. Cheers to you, sorry I haven't been here in a spell. xo

Catherine W said...

Beautifully written and so true. Thank you.

Hope's Mama said...

Wow, fantastic, thought-provoking post, K. I'm with Angie and would like to email this en masse to everyone I know. I hated hearing "oh I could never survive what you have" because it implies they think they loved their kid more than me. Nope, not true. We survive because we have to. What is the other option really? I mean we all know it but it is too dark to go there.
And I saw that Private Practice episode and had the same thoughts as you. Way to portray the woman gone nuts with her grief! I tell you though, as a pregnant woman, it probably wasn't a wise idea to keep watching! But in the end I almost had to laugh.
Love it when you post. You are one of those a bit further up this road I really look to for light and guidance. So thank you for that.

Aunt Becky said...

You're beautiful.

CLC said...

Beautiful post. My sentiments too. Like Angie, I also thought I wish I had the balls to send this to people I knew. Thank you.

loribeth said...

This is brilliant, absolutely brilliant, K. Well said!!!

Michele said...

This is something I'd love to print up in a brochure and give to people. It was so beautiful and hits the nail on the head.

charmedgirl said...

the hilarious thing is, most (if not all) people think that the birth and the dead baby, there in their arms, is what they couldn't survive....when in fact, those are the fucking HIGHLIGHTS. it's the plain ole daily living without them that will rip your soul bit by bit until you have no choice but to sit the fuck up and decide who you want to be.

what an excellent, excellent post, kal.

(and yes, i do so love the dead baby jokes!)

c. said...

I second Charmy's thoughts in that the birth and the deadbaby being the highlights of this experience. Can you imagine what people would think of that? It is absolutely the living through it, the surviving in spite of it that is the hardest.

Thoughtful post, K.

Heather said...

This is a truly great post. You hit the nail on the head.

Ya Chun said...

i just luv how your friend thinks 'we' should rename our group. It's not like there was a vote on the name in the first place. But it is accepted by those who wish to face their reality (I am sure there are some bloggers who avoid it - and different 'groups' in the blogosphere to boot)

Jenni said...

this was excellent. thank you. xo

Sue said...

Thank you for writing this. I don't even know what to say, except, Yes. And, Thank you for writing this.


Rivalen said...

If there were a nutshell for how we feel, this would certainly be at least half of it. :)

Caz said...


I read your thoughts and they could be my own.

The other day a friend said to me she was "proud" of me for going to a meeting. It p'd me off for some reason. What's there to be proud of? That I'm surviving? That I am dragging myself out of bed and better still, out of my pjs, to start to rejoin humanity? That's not an achievement, it's mere survival. My other choice is death really I guess.

It's been 3.5 weeks for me only. It feels like a lifetime. I feel so OLD. I feel so APART from everyone. It's the loneliest place on earth.

Caz said...

@charmedgirl: you are so right.

I hate wednesdays coz it was a wednesday that we heard our girl was dead but I love thursdays coz she was born on a thursday and that's when I got to hold her.

I actually indulge in reliving holding her. Don't think other people are likely to get that

Fireflyforever said...

This absolutely nailed it for me. I've thought A LOT about the way we're portrayed in the media and the huge chasm between that and our daily reality. I've nearly blogged about it. In the end I couldn't say it any more perfectly than you do.

areyoukiddingme said...

Yes, dead baby makes me cringe every time...but that is a horrific experience that should not be euphemised into nothingness.

Here from LFCA

PottyMouthMommy said...

I needed this... two weeks shy of the six-month mark of my loss, and oh god did I need this.

Most days, I am sane. Other days I am the crazy lady who enjoys others' discomfort over my dead baby. I call it like it is- and I make no apologies for that. They think THEY'RE uncomfortable hearing about it?? I tell them to try LIVING it. It's a constant state of uncomfortable- you learn to live with it.

tireegal68 said...

Hi, I am visiting from LFCA. your post was a real eye opener for me. thank you so much for writing it.
It really rings true that when horrific things happen what options does one have? Curl up in a ball forever and shrivel up or keep going and have to deal with the pain everyday while living what others' think is either a normal or heroic life.
Thank you for telling it like it is. And for what it's worth, I think you are allowed to name your own DB club without asking permission from others who are clueless.

niobe said...

Um. Wow. Such an amazing post. For so many different reasons.

Brenda - you can now find me at : said...

You know reading the first part of your post was exactly my thoughts lately. A conversation my dad had years ago with my mum when she said (after a terrible pg with me)that she couldnt/wouldnt have anymore babies. Dad cam right out and said to her that he was fine with that if thats what she wanted BUT if something should ever happen to me she wouldnt have a reason to get up in the morning. (my cousin had just died of SIDS so it was probably dad dealing with that that made him even think like that, not just because he is morbid). Having another baby never replaces the one you have lost but they do make you get up and shower, eat and function as best you can.