Tuesday, January 22, 2008

And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

I'm slowly entering this final turn, the hairpin that will increase speed until I crash unceremoniously on February 12. Like Julia, a year is not enough: I am not ready to end this grief, I don't think I could if I wanted. But: my grief this year has not been limited to Maddy's death; there has been a fair amount of mourning for me. I can't simply say that "a part of me died", because in addition to that missing limb of mom without a baby, a big chunk of my very identity was lost in that hospital cubicle on the night of February 18th. As I look around the deadbabyverse, I see a lot of pining for the "old me." The happy me, the thin me, the positive me, the me with hope, the me with plans, the me who was brave and risk-taking, the smiling me, the social me, the me who gave a crap.

Remember that me? And we lament her loss as we cycle through hell on a redundant, daily basis, glancing at old photos, fingering (or in my case, angrily throwing) old clothes that no longer fit, picking up books that used to be meaningful, remembering meals we tasted and joy we experienced, dreams we had and wishes we made, and wondering if we will ever -- EVER -- see any vestige of the old me again. It's almost as if two people died, not one, and we're in parallel mourning for this person we barely recognize anymore. And although I'm not remotely ready to "accept" Maddy's death (for Pete's sake, I'm barely around to finally accepting that I was indeed pregnant and she existed and this was not some bizzarro 9 month + 6 day nightmare), I am rather ready to stick a fork in the me part. I have come to the conclusion, a year later, that I will never be that person again. Ever. She is gone. It is outright impossible given what I have gone through. And it's time to just accept that, accept the new me and all it's nuances, and move the hell on with the new Tash.

Before you get all panicky I am not totally junking the old me. In reno terms, this is not a tear-down. I would like to resurrect runningTash, and yogaTash. I have made some progress on tasting- and cookingTash. I have not even given up entirely on size6Tash. And I would really, really like to think that unadulterated joy is within the realm of possibility somewhere down the road. I liked being happy. I reserve the right to at least keep those parts of my brain and heart mothballed while the rest sorts itself out.

As for the present body, I do not love it, I will not be putting little inspirational messages on my mirror to make peace with it. Pardon me, gentle readers who are kind to thyselves, I am really not remotely the type to have a beer, climb naked into a warm tub, and have an "I really love you, man!" lovefest with my body. I miss my old tiny me. I hate this new overweight me, and what I really hate are the strings attached to this weight. I hate that my body (foot; apparently abetted by an old sports injury) crapped out on me while trying to get rid of the flab as though I'm middle aged. SHUT UP, DON'T EVEN GO THERE. NEW ME IS ALLOWED A MODICUM OF DENIAL. Ergo, I am not really accepting this body as the new me, unless you count despising it, which, ironically, was also part of the old me. (Amazing, even in my old size 6 self I found room to criticize. Karma's a bitch.) I am, however, doing something about it, albeit slowly: part of getting runningTash back is doing extensive, expensive, and painful PT with my foot. The old Tash dreamed about another marathon or a 10-miler; the new Tash, understanding her feet may not hold up that long anymore, is still mulling over a triathlon.

There are negatives in the new me, that is a given. I am less optimistic (was I ever?), more pessimistic, and I'll never walk into anything blind again. I was somewhat of a dreamer -- not always of the Viggo Mortensen asking me out and money falling from the sky variety, but I liked projecting myself to somewhere else and wondering how great that certain place or time or experience would feel. I can't tell you the last time I did that. I live in the present right now, and will for the foreseeable future. The future will just have to wait for me to get there and I'll deal with it then. What hurts a lot too is that I always thought of myself as "healthy" and a lot of that had to do with my gene pool. I have relatives who lived until 100 and beyond; my soon to be 91 year old grandfather still hikes, goes to Alaska every summer, and golfs -- with an assistant because he is legally blind. I have always been athletic, never smoked, taken care of my diet, taken my vitamins. So to know that I harbor some babykiller gene? Well, it's a bit of a blow to the ol' ego and family lineage. Not to mention a real middle-finger to the time and sacrifice of my good-health life. And a big fat anvil falling on my already-dubious reproductive future. But, as I said, sitting around ruing it ain't gonna make it disappear. I have this gene (it would appear). Time to move on.

Not all of the negatives are entirely negative though, if you know what I mean. I really feel my limitations now. I used to be one of those people who just pushed through, plowed through pain, was extraordinarily patient. I'm not anymore, I cannnot deal with bullshit nor will I do something if it hurts. I'm not going to tell you this is some "I know what's important, and life's too short" philosophy, because it's not really. I'm just much more in touch with what I can and can't do, what I want to do and what I don't want. I will, quite frankly, put it down and go watch television. Or, tell you that you're full of crap and walk away. There are other silver-lining among the shit-clouds: A few years ago I would've flipped out if my toddler daughter nonchalantly asked me while in the middle of her bath: "are you going to die tomorrow?" And now it's met with an academic, three-year-old answer which is essentially: No, (probably) I won't. I hate that she has to know this much about death at this age, but I'm glad I'm more equipped to deal with it and her because I'm guessing we're not done with it yet.

I need, somehow, kumbaya, to make peace with this, the stuff I'll never get back, and the stuff I'm going to try and reclaim, and cobble together a new me. It will be a me with a different set of friends, and a different set of priorities. I will have different limits, a different view of myself, a different attitude toward others. I need to accept that my innocence is shattered, and that I'll never again be able to enter an experience with blind faith that it will work out in the end. I have lost my naivete forever: Santa doesn't exist, God is dead (oh, who am I kidding, I learned those things around age 10). I am still stuck reproductively, and probably will be for a while. And I need to just make peace with that, and learn to be with it. I'm not saying that I'm going to hide in my closet and make my immediate family members dress in chain mail when they leave the house, but I will probably go through the rest of my life flinching, and steeled for the bad. But it's not so bad to be prepared, is it not? Hopefully there will be some happiness, some taste, and -- dare I jinx it -- some joy between the furtive sideways glances.

And I will always miss my daughter -- that, too, I need to come to grips with. Believe me, I've heard the crap about time healing wounds and broken hearts, but no amount of time is going to fill the empty space that resides within me. It's going to be there until the day I finally leave this planet, and I just need to learn to live with that hole. It sucks, it's unfair, and it's hard, but it is what it is and there's no dialing that back.

Now, back to missing my daughter. Have I told you about the pile of death certificate forms, bereavement information, hospital handouts, foot and hand prints, photos, ultrasound photos, cards, bracelets, and other Maddy detritus on my dresser? It's been there 339 days. Talk about not ready -- you'd think I could at least put it in a drawer.


--carole said...

i don't know if you want to hear this (it's hard to know what anybody ever wants to hear, i guess), but i love that you're so mad. it's a beautiful thing to behold. it's so raw and genuine. and i envy it. i've been slowly realizing over the last few days that i still feel numb. i've been mistaking it for calm, but that's not what it is.

speaking of inane handout shit, i don't like my "new normal." there are still people around me whom i love, but this new normal really sucks. even the new parts of me that are like the old me will never actually *be* the old me. and it's a relief to hear that feeling (misery/despair/frustration) articulated by someone who is going through it and is angry about it and not trying to cover up that anger.

back when you posted about your bracelet somebody told you you're her hero. i feel the same way. and i know you're not out to be anybody's hero any more than we all set out to be deadbabymommas, but i gotta say: as a hero, you pretty much rock it. po'd and all.

Beruriah said...

Jeez Tash. I get this as much as another person possibly can get another's feelings. The happy me, the thin me, the me who gives a shit about early American history. The first two I want back, the last I need but am having a hard time caring about.

I wish I had something wiser to say than that these coming weeks will suck. Thinking of you all.

niobe said...

Probably 'cause I'm completely self-centered, I read your post and all I can think is "Gee, I don't feel like that at all."

But more and more this confirms what I've believed about myself all along: that I'm incredibly lucky in that I've dealt with things that have caused me orders of magnitude more pain than having a couple of my babies die.

I honestly can't imagine how horrible it must be to be someone like you, for whom this this is the worst thing that ever happened to her. If I were in your shoes, I'm not sure I would even be able to get up in the mornings.

So, basically, what I'm saying is that I agree with Carole.

Waiting Amy said...

I didn't know you before. I'm sure you were a lovely person. But I'm finding I very much like this person I've met. Certainly I wish the world had not tormented you to make you this way. But I am struck by your honesty, thoughtfulness and kindness.

I too struggle to accept the person I've become in this later stage of life. I have not suffered in the same way, but I think we all face challenges in rediscovering our old selves and accepting some parts of the new self.

Hoping we keep hearing from you at this tough time.

Coggy said...

After J first died I used to think that a year out would be such a long time and it would be so much different. Nearly 5 months out now for me and I realise how little time a year will actually be and how unready for that prospect I am.

I am struggling to see how many of the things that used to be important to me will ever be again. Most of the time I couldn't give a...

I will be thinking of you over these coming weeks. A year most definitely does not seem enough.

meg said...

I just relate to this post, SO much. I can't even tell you.

"The happy me, the thin me, the positive me, the me with hope, the me with plans, the me who was brave and risk-taking, the smiling me, the social me, the me who gave a crap."

That used to be me. Now, I don't even know if anything of me is left in there anymore. I'm not even hoping to be that person again...I just want to find some of her again.

Julia said...

I, too, was thinking that I clearly didn't know the old you at all, but I really like this you. By the way, you forgot the foul-mouthed you. Who is spot on, every time.
I am finding that there are things I still care about. And then there are all these other things that I can't get worked up about at all. My body this year got a pass. One time only, so it'd better enjoy it while it lasts. Oh, and I think that part about the beer and the hot tub probly gave some perv googling around a nice big banana in his pocket. He-he...

Searching said...

I always read your posts and sigh, because I never have anything to say, just admire your rawness, your strength, your beauty, and your love for your daughters. I really just want to give you a big bear hug. Know you are in my thoughts and prayers.

charmedgirl said...

i used to like being happy too. my fucking name is j0y for the love of all that's holy...i mean, isn't that just a kick in the goddamn (fat) pants?!?!?!

Megan said...

I never knew the old you but I like the you I'm lucky to know now so, so much.
I pick out a different lyric from that song as I face the one-year anniversary coming up on March 1.
"Same as it ever was."
Because what makes me sad is how my life is - outwardly anyway - exactly the same. It's like she never even existed.

Antigone said...

I'd really like to muster up the old runningMe. An ACL injury and 2 miscarriages followed by a stillbirth have left me fat and depressed. I remember how happy I was when I was running my 10 milers around the lake or running a marathon and coming around the corner to see my family cheering me on. Now family doesn't even call me or wish me well and I'm just the chubby girl who keeps killing babies.

Carole said...

I had such a hard time with the first year coming to a close. I felt that certain people expected me to move on. Then I decided...screw them...they haven't been through it.

I don't think we can ever go back to being our old selves. For the most part I like the new me better now. For me the people around me had a problem with the new me. Then the whole screw them thing comes up again.

Anyways. I'm thinking of you. I wish you peace during this time. I am here for whatever you need.