Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The was that wasn't or how not to write a poingnant autobiographical essay on life.

I don't ever want to be pregnant again.
I'm sure that's not uncommon among women in their mid-30's with three children. But I really, really don't.
I just don't think I could handle another miscarriage. After the first, I thought that God wouldn't do that to me again. My theology was a little naive because He did, if He had anything to do with it all. A third time and I might just break apart, like a glacier into the sea. There'd be a great splash behind your head and you'd whip around at the sound, wherever you happened to be, but in time to see only bubbles and slosh or air where I used to be. And it'd be many moments later, after you'd continued on for a few blocks that you'd wonder, "Wait a minute? Where's Jenny?"
But I'd just be bits awash in the warming ocean, too small to recognize, too far away to see.
Aaaah, why am I writing about this? It's that damn Sufjan Stevens David got me for Mother's Day. I love the gift. I love things that make me think and smile and cry. I just don't want to open this box. I don't want to tip it over and let all that blood and all those tears and all that sorrow spill out.
What if I can't get the lid back on? And I spend the rest of my life in some disconnected, impenetrable bubble of despair? And even if you came to pull me out like a good friend should, my ear drums gone cotton, I'd hear you talking, but my brain wouldn't be able to figure your language out. And any attempts to pull at my person would be like grabbing at noodles, trying to get yourself somewhere.
Save yourselves, I say. It's a sticky, yucky subject. I may be strapped into this carnival ride through the Tunnel of Grief, but you don't have to be. Get out while you still can. Quick, before I throw the lever.

Too late? I'm sorry. Well, at least hold on. Keep your hands and feet inside the car and somebody hand me a Kleenex, will you?

Two years after Eli and eleven months before Schuyler, we lost a baby.
Fifteen months before Willoughby, we lost a baby.

And I cried and I cried and I cried. I still cry
With the first one, I can remember just being so devastated and sitting on the sofa saying, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." over and over again. David with his arm around me, traveling his own interior landscape on which I could not focus.
I had a little cardboard jewelry box that had belonged to my grandmother. It had a soft cotton liner. The kind I remember pulling apart as a child, pretending I was God separating the clouds to see down below. We put all that remained in the box and had a burial in the back yard of the house we rented.
People, when you have a miscarriage, most people don't know what to do. Some look for fault. Some try to comfort you with the prospects of other future children. Some are resigned that "this just happens sometimes" or "it wouldn't have survived anyway" or "God's will". But because the baby was largely intangible, it's not an actual occurrence for most people.
Who knows if there was an actual baby? Maybe it was an egg with more ideas than real romance. Maybe it was just a fluke. Maybe there was nothing at all.
We knew there was an actual baby. I sat and looked at the tiny, tiny twist of umbilical cord, the deflated egg sack. And I put it all in a box. And David and I put it in the ground. Maybe that little heart never struck the first beat. Maybe no steps toward autonomy were ever made. Maybe that baby could never have survived, but it was our child. Our second child.
I was simultaneously honored at having been blessed with that good fortune, even if only for a moment, and then, so devastated at having it all just ripped away. And I apologized again and again. Oh, I was so sorry. Sorry for myself. Sorry for our child. Sorry for whatever I'd done wrong to make this happen. Sorry for every thought I had about how I wasn't ready for this next child. Sorry for the selfish blockade in my heart that filled me with one part dread for every two parts joy or vice versa, depending on the day.
How is it that such relatively short periods of time have such huge impacts on what remains of our lives? I know that if that baby had lived, Schuyler would never have been born. I would not change things as they are. But in that tiny window, that still smaller, budding flower informed more of my world than scarcely anything else I can
I thought so much about life. Eli and I found a baby robin, toppled from its nest, and rescued it, feeding it on the half hour until we could get it to a rescue volunteer. I was still bleeding from the baby I'd never hold or feed or know, digging other holes in ground looking for sustenance to pull out, rather than sorrow to put down.
And I realized then, though I've barely spoken about it since, that even though that baby wasn't with us for very long, that baby was also never hungry, never cold or alone. That baby was surrounded in love - my love - from the first divided cell to the last. And you can take your arguments about when life begins and have them at some other intellectual moment afar, because that little life we made, that I sheltered, for that brief blip in time most people don't even remember, barely a turn of the calendar, that tiny, inconsequential creation was alive. And I loved that baby and gave with everything I had. Until I was no longer relevant. And that's no different from any other child with me as a mother. I just hope next time, far in the future, it's me that goes.

And all that said, I'll take my welling eyes and my joy called Willoughby outside to put seeds in the ground. I'll watch melons swell in July and wear my regular clothes.
And another day, I'll try to sort out the rest of it. I'm not sure I'd manage more than a jumbled, keening wail. And that wouldn't make for much by reading.


Sarah said...

such raw private pain to lose a baby.

Im so sorry for your losses.

Jill said...

don't know how I missed this post....
thanks for sharing your heart.

Meg Hibbert said...

Dear Jenny,
I've always known you were a good writer. Now there's proof that you are a phenomenal writer to put into words such soul-twisting grief. When our 30-year-old Rex was killed, my solace was writing. Still, it was nothing so moving as yours.