Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Baby Steps

Never get all gung ho about writing on your new blog in advance of your parents coming to visit. Talk about a buzz saw through your momentum. (You see? Right there. That. That shoulda been a pithy little Phillies pitching-related sports metaphor. And here I am, emotionally and creatively drained after trying to herd the legally blind, doesn't drive after dark, perpetually late, gotta use the potty, immediate and extended families from both sides. If this post doesn't do it for you I apologize -- please don't forget to tip your waitress on the way out.)

Where was I? Oh yes.

Babies. I hate babies. Hate 'em all. And the pregnant women they rode in on. Just writing that sounds off; a bit like I'm toeing some fine line between an Oscar the Grouch lyric and a federal offense.

Disclaimer: any pregnant woman or mom of a newborn that has lost a child gets a pass. Sure, I'm a wee bit jealous, I'll admit it, but I also think you're a wee bit batshit. I can't even think about thinking about having another child without heart palpitations and an immediate subject change and a glass of wine. I smell future posts . . . .

Right. Hate 'em. I had an epiphany somewhere back around High School that "hate" was a fairly strong word, and perhaps I should quit applying it to things like brussel sprouts, the Dallas Cowboys, and that guy who dated my best friend for 10 days and then proceeded to treat her like yesterday's John Hughes' movie. I decided "dislike" was probably more appropriate and I would save the big H when I had bigger fish to fry.

Apparently the fish are here: tiny wee babies, sometimes those I can't even see they are bundled up so tight in their car seat carriers, cause a reaction in me that is visceral, physical, and ugly. My stomach clenches and often becomes nauseated. I find myself holding my breath, my blood pressure increases to where my eyes feel as though they're bulging a bit, and often afterwards, discover that I have clenched my hands so hard that my fingernails have cut into my palms, and clenched my jaw to the point that my face aches. All that's in addition to the tears in my eyes, the slight dizzy feeling, and the attempt to simultaneously avert my eyes and wonder if Maddy would look like that right now. Jack Bauer naked and hooked up to something electric in a Chinese cargo ship knows nothing of the torture I face daily walking the gauntlet of baby-filled car carriers when I collect Bella outside her classroom. While the other non-baby mommies smile and coo and ask about sleeping habits, and resemblances, and question whether that pink drooling lump is indeed the end of the family expansion, I avoid eye contact and intensely study the impasto on the giant finger-painted pumpkin on the bulletin board, and pray for a handout in Bella's cubby that could occupy my rapt attention.

Somewhere around my eighth month of pregnancy, when I deemed it probably safe enough to quit worrying about the exchange policy on my maternity clothes, I decided my new neighborhood (I moved here August '06) was pretty much meant to be: within 5 or so blocks, there would soon be 5 or so children born within 3 months of Maddy. I didn't have a room set up for Maddy in the house (too much commitment from a miscarriage survivor), but I did have the plans in my head: the big south-facing room on the second floor would be designated a playroom, and in my daydreamy moments would envision it lined with breast feeding moms, and me bragging about how I got fucked lucked out and got another human who could live on only 5 hours of sleep per 24 hr. period. I really hit it off with one mom in particular; we hadn't talked horribly much, but I liked what I knew. She seemed equally tired, intellectually sound, and prone to the occasional streak of sarcastic wit. Her due date was a month after mine.

Now I can't bear to see any of the moms, even from the privacy of my own window blinds. I haven't spoken to them since February. And that includes the cool one who I knew had her baby because one horrible, freezing cold day I saw other family members out walking her toddler. Two weeks later, like clockwork, there she was proudly pushing her now necessary double stroller down my block. If I'm out in the yard and see them coming, I hustle the dogs in and shut the door, or leave Bella to wander over to the fence and show off her blossoming social skills solo while I tend to some horticultural emergency with the Asters. If I'm walking, I cross the street and avert my eyes. I feel like I'm in fucking 5th grade, and I should send her one of those foldy notes with big circles over the i's that reads "like you" "hate you" "[smiley] [frownie]""you know why". Mr. ABF has on occasion been polite and neighborly enough to speak with her, and believe it or not, she asks about me and claims she will talk to me when I'm ready. She's told Mr. ABF that she'd love to go out to coffee with my Nietzsche-loving self, and "won't bring it up, won't discuss a thing!" and I sigh and tell him I hope he told her that it's not her, it's the goddamn baby. The baby girl whose name I don't even know that haunts me and only serves to remind me of what I don't have. I don't have a double stroller. I don't have a second car seat. I don't have a reason to wear a nursing bra. I don't have a squealing, pink, female, now grasping, sitting up, solid-food eating, cooing blob of love and cuteness. I have a box of ashes in my family room. Should I bring it to coffee too?

To make matters worse, two close family members were pregnant when Maddy died, and have since had children. There was a brief 6-week or so period last winter where we all marveled at the auspicious timing of three "cousins" who could hang out and develop together at family functions. No more. I have not spoken to these family members either, nor can I bear to congratulate them on the birth of their healthy children. "Congratulations! Glad the Universe Didn't Fuck You Over!" didn't seem like the appropriate message, so I sent none. I can't bear to read through the greeting cards, write the words, gloss the baby gear sites for gifts and whatnot. I sometimes dream about what it would be like to get together with them again, and the houses just seem too claustrophobic, and the neutral meeting place get-togethers in my mind end with me screaming "you have no fucking clue how lucky you are!" It's selfish of me, it's immature, and I know the longer I let this silence go the more awkward it will be to break it. And yet, and yet. It just hurts too much, it just reminds me, tortures me, punches me in the gut, knifes me in the eyes. It's a hot pot, and I have learned not to touch it.

One of my "Dead Babies for Dummies" books speaks to a sort of phantom limb syndrome, where the author reminds her sorry readers that one's arms may feel heavy from simply imagining carrying your child around. I apparently have a lot of phantoms, or I'm seriously dehydrated. I look at babies and I arms feel empty, my nose clings to baby smell, my fingers crave soft hair, my arms long to push a stroller or juggle car seat or sling a diaper bag, and I swear my wee teeny 34-36 B (for barely) boobs get a bit achy and heavy. And the phantoms don't stop with my body. Although I didn't set up a room that I had to dismantle, I still had to get rid of a lot of Maddy. I didn't have a lot of clothes ready as my washer/drier had crapped out before her due date, but what I did have went almost immediately in a blue plastic storage bin. My father quickly dismantled the bassinet and thew it in a heap in an unused room upstairs. The car seat returned to the basement. Bella remains in what would've been the playroom, and now has new furniture to match the lovely decor we inherited upon moving in. The upstairs rooms that would've housed my girls are slowly transforming into Bella's play space and Mr. ABF's office. And when I see a baby, or a pregnant woman, all I can think of are the ghosts in my house, the baby who should be progressing through her stages, occupying space, filling the air with sound.

I try desperately hard not to judge. For all I know, that cute, clearly gymed-out mom I roll my eyes at may have only obtained her sleeping, insanely cutely dressed infant after countless miscarriages and a second-mortgage worth of ART. For all I know, she's the mom of three, not two, and one lies somewhere else -- in the ground, on a shelf, lilting on wind in a ballpark or forest -- never to be seen again. But the bile starts rising before my mind catches up with the loathing my body is already feeling. I have also tried since the age of 17, if it didn't involve a sports event or my dissertation, to watch my language. Language has power, I kept telling myself, and so one must reserve the right word for the right situation in order for it to truly lob it's impact. And look at me now: I swear like a truck-driving long-shore man, evidently because there just aren't enough powerful PG-13 words to express the sadness and anger and despair. I hate, hate, hate babies. But if you can think of a way I can get mine back, I'll change my mind in a millisecond.


Megan said...

You swear like a stevedore and I love it.
Yes, I hate the feeling of the anger at pregnant women and babies – the taste of bile, the rush of hot blood to my face, the twisting envy in my stomach – but I can't fucking help it.
I just had a miscarriage – seven months after my daugher was stillborn. While I was still pregnant, SIL tells me she's expecting her second within days of mine. Of course, mine died.
I NEVER want to see her again.
I cry behind the wheel when I pass the pack of Lululemon-clad mommies jogging with their strollers – as I go to the job I should be on maternity leave from.
So no – you're not selfish or immature. You're completely fucking normal. If I am, anyway.

niobe said...

I'm not angry. Just unbearably sad. My sister-in-law and I were expecting babies at the same time. Her little girl will be a year old in December and my twins . . . . won't.

I sent my sister-in-law a couple of pretty dresses and educational toys for her little girl, but I don't think I'll ever be able to bear seeing the baby or my sister-in-law again.

Searching said...

I'm so sorry. I think you have the right to feel angry. Just shows how fiercely you love that baby girl.

Carole said...

I so feel what you are saying. There are 2 babies at my dd school that are the same age Joseph would have been. Some days it's all I can do to stand there.

I think sometimes the world doesn't know how to deal with our anger...but we have every right to it.

Searching said...

I just found out that Oct 15 is Pregnancy/Infant Loss Remembrance Day. I'll be at work that night so I for sure won't forget about you and your sweet Maddy. I will say a prayer for you both and all Maddy's little angel buddies.

Website: http://october15th.com/

Kristen said...

This post breaks my heart so much. I can't imagine how you must feel living in that neighborhood with constant reminders of what you should be experiencing.

I can't say I feel angry seeing babies but I do feel despair. Then again, I have not gone through what you have gone through and you have every right to feel the way you do. I'd question your sanity if you didn't feel that way.

I wish there were more words to say. I am thinking of you always. XOXO