Sunday, August 26, 2012

Double Agent

I am a double agent leading two different lives. Just as I did not willingly move to Griefland, I did not knowingly become a double agent. It was all quite surreptitious, as these sorts of things tend to be.

To most of the world I am a young woman newly set in the adult responsibilities of marriage and home ownership. They see me perform necessary daily tasks without flagging. I purchase and haul groceries. I make small talk with the neighbors. I weed the garden. I ride my bicycle to the office. I chit chat with co-workers and volunteer to bring a dish to the potluck. For all intents and purposes, not much has changed in their eyes.

My alternate life is stormy and sullen. I struggle to accomplish simple activities like laundry or watering the houseplants. Nerves wracked, I teeter on the edge of meltdown constantly. Treacherous mood swings wear me down. I cry easily and feel hollow inside.

In the outside world my son is rarely mentioned. There are those who do not know he ever existed. There are those who know of him but still do not bring him up. In my dark, cloaked life, I commune with other babylost families. We speak of our children frequently and swap stories about traversing the impossible terrain of grief. I see a few of them at support group or in my community but most live in the supernatural world of the internet. Here we gather like pagans in the woods on all Hallows’ Eve to perform our rituals, memorialize our children and remember, always remember. Here, I am free to be open and honest. Here I do not need to put out niceties or think twice before I answer the question, "How are you doing?"

Obsessively, I check and read babyloss blogs, starved for the connection to others surviving this horrible nightmare. I seek the reassurance and validation that what I am experiencing is not insanity. I seek the camaraderie and companionship of those knowing souls. But wait, the phone rings. I stifle my sniffles and put on my real world face. Pull it together quickly and answer the telephone pulled immediately back to the world where I am supposedly "fine."

This double agent business is exhausting.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

One of These Things Does Not Belong

You'll remember I had plans to go to girls' night with a few friends. I ultimately decided not to spend the night which was the right decision. It was hard enough to bide my time through spa treatments and dinner (~ 7 hours total). I don't think my patience or energy would have lasted much longer.

Two of these girls are my close friends (the third is more of an acquaintance to me). All three of them have children all aged 4 or younger. The two youngest of their kids were born 7-months before A. The three of babies would have been the same age, started kindergarten the same year, etc. Pregnant with A last year I was finally going to be invited to play dates and be more engaged by conversations of potty training tactics and childcare arrangements. Now I feel even more alienated.

They, I assume, are uncomfortable around me because they can't look at me and not be confronted with unfathomable, unjustifiable tragedy. They aren't sure what to say or what not to say to me. Do they bring it up still? Do they ask how I'm doing? Do they still talk about their own children or is that painful for me? 

I am uncomfortable because I can no longer care about the ups and downs in their daily lives. Like I said in that earlier post, I just don't have the capacity plus most people's problems pale in comparison to the hell I'm living each day. I smile feebly feigning interest and trying not to cringe when they talk about how much fun they're having this summer with their kids because they're at "that great age" or what color their 3-year-old's toenails are painted (what I wouldn't give for little, wiggling toes!). I put forth great effort to control conversations and keep others talking. Anything I want to talk about, they do not want to listen to, nor could they grasp the complexities and polarities of this post-stillbirth life. Just keep asking questions about their jobs, homes, children and husbands. It is very tiring and I feel so fake. This is not who I am anymore.

I am uncomfortable around them because I do not belong anymore. I am not one of them. I don't belong to their world of the grief-innocent. 

My excommunication from the realm of those unscathed by tragedy was most apparent as we retreated to the hotel room post spa and pre-dinner. I was as ready as I was going to get having arrived in my outfit with some makeup on. The other three brought changes of clothes, curling irons, shoes, multiple handbags and cases of makeup. They were excited for a night out. Thrilled to be liberated from their wifely and motherly duties for the night. Relieved to leave their families at home for 24-hours so they could let loose, primp, get tipsy and not have to take care of anyone but themselves. I lay on the hotel bed idly chatting with my girlfriend while she did her hair in the full-length mirror. Top 40 hip hop blared from an iPod. They danced and jumped around, giddy. I eyed the clock and willed it to move faster, trying not to drag the whole party down.

All in all there weren't any major discomforting moments. A couple awkward exchanges. Far too much conversation about their living, breathing, growing kids - but how can I blame them, young children dominate your life. And an effortless good-bye after dinner while they continued on to a bar up the road. I raced home, desperate for the safety of my home and the soothing of E's embrace. I don't think I could do it again. I don't know that I'll ever be able to fit in to their world again.

Along the same line, Angie recently wrote about feeling alienated over at Glow in the Woods. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Incompetence Reigns

Earlier this week I had to maneuver our car out of a tricky parallel parking spot that I shimmied into the day before. It took many minutes. I had the radio off, all windows down and was sweating from concentration and nervousness. I finally managed to free the car from the parking space. Due to the angle of escape, I pulled up closely next to the car in front of me and went to straighten myself out so that I could drive away when SCCRRRRAPE!

I wanted to fling myself from the car and surrender. I give up. I'm done trying. I quit life. I wanted to just run away, car running, door wide open; flee.

My tires were still cocked and I had accidentally caught the other car. It appears as though the damage is minor and there is only a small batch of scratches on my vehicle but I was still distraught. It took all my will power not to burst into tears right then and there. After I re-parked, wrote a note, left it on the other car and was safely inside my home, I sobbed.

I feel like such a failure. I’ve been driving for over a decade and I can't even park my own damn car on the same damn street I've been parking it on for over 2 years. WTF is wrong with me.

I cannot manage daily tasks and stressors anymore (Exhibit A the pile of dirty, stinking - literally - dishes in my sink). As soon as I heard the awful sound of my car scraping against the other my first thought was, Call E! Except he was out of town at high-pressure business meetings. Besides the poor bloke takes on enough of my crap. His once independent, capable wife now relies on him for practically everything. I just keep heaping all of my own stress, anxiety and baggage on top of his shoulders, which are already hunched with the weight of his own grief and strife.

I’m like an invalid who relies on E to carry me through each day, deferring to him for all decisions (even the most minor), expecting him to help maintain the last shred of my self-esteem, provide me with companionship and entertainment and so much more.

It’s been five days since the accident and I haven’t heard from the folks who own the other car. They have since driven the car. I’ve seen it parked on the other side of the street. This means they must have got my note. I wish they’d call so I could get some resolution. I’m willing to pay for the damage. But this state of pending only adds to my anxiety.

This stupid, avoidable accident is just another example of how incompetent I am these days.  I just suck at life lately. I feel so incapacitated. How long is this going to last? When will I be able to function well again? Will I ever feel like myself?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

To Know Or Not To Know

Last year in all the hubbub of expecting our first child and the seeming millions of decisions to make, E and I were on the same page regarding finding out the gender. We both, independently, wanted to wait until delivery to discover baby’s gender. It was a good thing A ended up being a boy because even as we started the induction we had not agreed upon a girl’s name.

My perspective from Griefland is quite different than that of my former life. Regarding this particular topic, I am quite torn about whether to find out Dragon’s sex at the 19-week anomaly scan. Obviously my first wish is for a breathing baby. My second is for a healthy baby. Even those two desires seem selfish and I dare not tempt fate, but I cannot help but have a bias. I really want a boy.

Part of this desire, I’m sure, stems from the story that has been forming since A was stillborn - what it would have been like to parent a son, how a firstborn son would have affected the family dynamic, how E and his son would bond, the unique gifts and challenges of raising a boy. Having another son doesn’t right the wrong of A’s calamitous death, but it would fulfill a part of the story that I want to be my story. Since we were actually blessed with a son, it now feels as though we ought to have one.

Additionally, I am quite terrified of having a daughter. Even during the blissful preparations of my first pregnancy, the thought of raising a daughter spiked my anxiety. I think much of this originates in the complex and tumultuous relationship I have with my own mother. I would be much more comfortable rearing a son. And god help us all if I have more than one daughter because the complicated sister dynamic is a baffling mystery to me.

So back to the issue at hand, again this pregnancy E would like to wait until Dragon’s birthday to find out. I feel strongly that this is the right thing to do. Because it is tradition, because I don’t want gender to matter, because it’s difficult for me to keep a secret. However, if this little stinker does end up being a girl, I will have to sort out all of those feelings (including, sadly, disappointment) while trying to bond, nurse and care for my newborn. If I opt to find out at the anomaly scan, I’ll have a 4-month head start in preparing myself emotionally and mentally.

I’ve also heard from a BLM whose son was stillborn at term 12-years ago and who went on to have two living sons, that she found out during both subsequent pregnancies because then she could name her children and make the most of her time with them in utero in case that was the only time they would have together.

I admit I do not think of Dragon as obsessively as I thought of A during my pregnancy with him. Perhaps this is common for all second pregnancies, babyloss or not. Perhaps the novelty isn’t there since I know how it goes now. But I just don’t dwell on Dragon all day every day like I did last time. On top of that, much of my focus is still dedicated to A and grieving him. Maybe finding out Dragon’s gender will help me feel more attached. Or maybe that will naturally come later one once I start to feel Dragon moving around and developing a personality.

There are pros and cons to both choices. Whichever I choose, E will support. If I do decide to find out early, I won’t be sharing with anyone (sorry friends). I still have a few more weeks to weigh the options but gosh it’s tough.