Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Spinal Tap

I started this blog with the primary purpose of recording my grief. I thought there would come a day when the writing would wane, when all that was left to say was said. When all the metaphors had been used, all the social ramifications had been chewed through (or perhaps more accurately, put through a shredder), and we hit some plateau regarding our daughter and our missing.

Today is not that day.


Saturday a.m. I awoke late and somewhat . . . well surprisingly, not hungover per se, but full? Still tired? Friday evening, neighbors invited 10 of us to celebrate their anniversary with a trip to one of the area's top-rated restaurants and even sprung for a bus so no one would have to drive (and thank goodness, because by "Philly area" we're actually talking "practically Delaware"). It was delicious, it was wonderful, and I haven't laughed that hard since . . . well I honestly can't remember the last time I was surrounded by people I considered friends and laughed quite that hard. Probably grad school.

So there I am, weeding with coffee mug in hand, smiling at this great thing that is now my life and thinking I wouldn't eat for at least four more days, when Mr. ABF got a call and walked away looking somewhat grim and serious. Huh. Inside a bit later he approached me and said, "[SIL] had a baby this a.m.; they had to deliver it early due to pre-ecclampsia." I got wide eyed and asked how far along she was, expecting the absolute worst since we hadn't heard boo from or about them in over a year, and was met with a steely, "Nine months. Over 37 weeks. Baby is fine. They never told us she was pregnant."

We sat there and gaped at each other. I kinda understand his (asshole) brother not telling us because dude doesn't talk to us anymore. I actually consider him least to blame in this present mess. Mr. ABF's mother though, was in my house for five days last week and said nothing. She invited over shitloads of relatives who ate at my table and said nothing. Only minutes before getting the serious phone call, Mr. ABF called to confirm a late birthday celebration for Bella at his Dad's, and he said nothing. Let's forget for a moment, the past -- let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say six -- six months of interaction with this family. We found out from a cousin, who apparently sat in stunned silence on the line and said, "I thought you knew."

Within a space of minutes, we realized we had become the social pariahs, the fragile freaks around whom no one can speak freely (apparently), and we felt like utter assholes. Everyone tiptoeing around us now thinking they deserved some fucking medal for not speaking the P-word, but never once considering to simply stop and ask us: How are you guys feeling these days anyway? How are you doing? Never once in this entire two and half years stopping to say, "You know, we still think of Maddy all the time. I know this hasn't been easy." No, they simply assumed through the vast powers of osmosis and probably some bad made-for-television movie swirled with a bit of family drama, that "we couldn't handle it." No one in this entire fucking family could find the stones to start a conversation, "I'm going to tell you something, and I realize it may hurt, and I understand that completely, but I didn't want you not to know . . . "

I suppose the supreme irony here is that my reaction would have been: whatever. Honestly. I'm kinda beyond the pregnancy = jealousy stage, and into the pregnancy = fear stage. I root solidly for my online friends to find two lines in the morning. When my mother said to me about six months ago, "[SIL] is having some infertility issues -- she's wondering if it's ok to talk to you," I leaped at the chance to help her. Know why? She's been one the good ones, one of the best ones. One that's communicated with me from the get go, one that interweaves Maddy into everyday conversation like it's no big deal. I can honestly say I'd be thrilled if anything I told her resulted in a healthy, live baby. Is there a twinge of regret? Sure there is. Honestly though, I'm more put off by the banter than I am the actual news/view, and I'm a big girl and can go entertain myself just fine, thanks, when the conversation veers toward college funds and the best place to get maternity formal wear. Mr. ABF's BIL? We don't even talk to these people. Hearing they were expecting their second would probably draw a lesser reaction from me than finding out a neighbor was.

But. They obviously wouldn't know I've come around to this position (or, that I ever had another position on the subject, frankly) because no one every bothered to talk to us. About anything.

And I realized, as I ran through the vast array of bullshit we've experienced with the IL's since Maddy's death, that Maddy's death was just one big inconvenience to them. It upset travel plans. Holidays would be "too depressing" to spend with us. Memorial services "too wet." The only feedback we've ever received are things like "you're wallowing." And now apparently they can't talk to us either. Poor them, the verbal gymnastics they've had to endure this year.

When we had the blowup with FIL two Decembers ago, our therapist said "I don't recommend cutting off communication with family unless there's abuse involved." To which I responded, "Damn." But we tried to be the bigger people. We sucked it up, we tried to make people comfortable around us for the sake of Bella -- so she could have relationships with people. And now we discover people weren't communicating with us at all -- they were communicating around us, they were communicating in spite of us. And now, frankly, I'm tired of playing fifth grade and am ready to move on to people who take us for what we are: parents of a live child and a dead child who have come a long way in two years. We have such an amazing support and friend system here, it seems a waste to spend time on people who would feel more comfortable if we weren't in the room.


I opted not to go to my FIL's this weekend when it was determined that I would not be able to keep my mouth shut this time. (I even offered to drive a second car in the event I turned tail and walked out the door.) And perhaps, good thing, because FIL was genuinely shocked that we didn't know, and at one point in the afternoon apparently turned to Mr. ABF and said,

"Do you want to talk about it?"

I'm giving him a few points for this, delay notwithstanding. It's nice an old dog can learn new tricks, but a whole lot of crap could've been avoided here if someone in this family had uttered those seven words about, oh, 26 months ago, and then continued to use them every now and again. Also nice I wasn't there, because the "talk" would've been a stream of expletives. They talked, although no consensus was reached: FIL feels badly, but I'm not sure I'm ready to let him off the hook for "I thought you knew." Someone had to step up. Someone had to ask around.

FIL also said, "Here we thought you knew, and we've been walking on eggshells." And this? Made me feel like a big, fat freak. When I told one of my good friends this whole soggy story, her response was "It sounds like they've projected a whole lot of crazy on you." She's absolutely right. (Incidentally and somewhat pertinent to this narrative, this friend is nine months pregnant.) (Hahaha, funny story about how I found about her pregnancy: SHE TOLD ME. I know! ) I feel as if last weekend (and countless times before) I had people into my home, cleaned for them and made them dinner, gave them our good bottles of wine and entertaining conversation . . . . but they were all in on the performance art of the evening. They had a conversation on the way about the entertainment, and unbeknownst to me, it was me. And when they left, I can almost hear them saying to each other walking down the porch stairs, "Dude, you're right! What a fucking freak show! We're back for lunch tomorrow, right?"

I guess we were supposed to find out at Christmas time, when Bella's present arrived "from" another child's name we didn't recognize. I guess in their heads that would hurt less than simply sitting down and telling us. Scratch that, it would hurt THEM less if that's how we found out. Because who wants to sit down and talk to us?

Today's post brought to you by the Cold War Kids : Something is Not Right with Me. How Was I supposed to know?

Crash Into People who're sleeping late into the evening
Reach behind they can hardly find their spines.


Mrs. Spit said...

I'm sorry Tash, deeply so. We found out our ex-best friends had a baby from strangers. We've run into people from church who are visibly pregnant, and who won't talk about it.

We should all get t-shirts.

"Dead baby isn't catching."

Anonymous said...

WOW. I've been reading you for a while, but never commented. Sometimes the amount of crazy going on just beneath the surface is just shocking, especially when it comes to family.

This just struck such a chord with me. Good call on staying home and away from the madness.

Keep on going. I'm someone anonymous who admires your courage.

Mirne said...

My husband and I went to a birthday party for an (adult) friend about 8 months after our son died. There were probably about 40-50 people there. It was my best friend's birthday and she knew I was making a big effort. I don't do groups any more. Anyway, it seemed to me that about half the people there had babies with them. Very strange. Suddenly everyone had babies. Now, I know all these people. These people are all acquaintances, if not friends. But NONE OF THEM came up to me and my husband. They walked AROUND us the whole time. They did not come and say hello. They still don't contact us. They don't tell us that they're pregnant with their second, or their third, or whatever. We're too difficult for them to figure out.

G$ said...

This shit pisses me off so much. It's been happening more and more to us and it makes me feel so... betrayed. A lot of time and energy goes into keeping shit like this from us, way more energy and emotion than if they had just told us.

I have taken to asking certain women friends, So, are you pregnant? Just because, you know, they have working parts and are tiptoeing around. Big relief when I bring it up... because you know, it was difficult for them to figure out how to tell me.

Seriously, I am so over the green eyed pregnancy thing. I'm not going to break, and I don't like eggs, so don't give me that eggshell shit.

Ok. yah. Your post struck a nerve on me. Or 123809 nerves.

I am sorry this happened to you and Mr. ABF. But I wonder, maybe some of your inlaws should take home some Oscars.

angie said...

Holy shit, that is ridiculously shocking. It is so upsetting to be underestimated in such a profound way. I am just seeing the beginnings of this sort of obfuscating in my life. Why can't people just speak the truth, even if not done compassionately? I would never fault someone for honesty. I am so sorry, Tash. It just isn't right.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God, Tash.

My jaw is on the floor.

I'm so, so sorry. I'm flabbergasted at your in-laws lack of empathy. It is not my place to say this really, but I find their behaviour almost sociopathic... and yet this seems to be normal?? Or at least extremely common judging by the number of stories I've heard that greatly resemble this.

I'm so sorry. I know I've already said it, but it bears repeating.

Aunt Becky said...

I'm furious and flaming on your behalf, Tash. I'm just so sorry and I want to wring everyone's neck for you.

Ya Chun said...

So, as I watch this telenovela unfold... are they getting a present? Cause I don't think I would be a-sending one.

This has happened to me with my cousin- but in my case even my mom did not know that her sister's son has a preggo girlfriend. I guess it extends to the grandparent generation too.

And they are projecting, totally, onto you. But, maybe not talking about it too much, since FIL didn't know that you didn't know. I guess they assumed someone told you....

erica said...

It's hard for me to fathom what was going through your ILs' heads, especially since you have sucked it up and made efforts to be reasonable and adult after they were not (and I can only imagine how tough this was). It seems horribly unfair that they haven't given you credit for that. I'm just so sorry.

janis said...

I freaking cannot believe this! The problem is always *us* isn't it? We are the ones who can't deal... yeah, right!
THEY are the freak show.

loribeth said...

Oh my gosh, Tash!!! Un-friggin'-believable!!!

I am just speechless.

Michele said...

I second Mrs. Spit's t-shirt idea. I have had people completely ignore me, shuttle their babies away from me, and even hold their bellies, give me a wide stare, and turn around rather than walk by me. It was one of the reasons I knew I had to quit my job. Pregnant family members who wouldnt invite us to family events. You name it. But never, never, never have I found out about a family member's birth without knowing they were pregnant. I am just speechless. What dicks. Pardon my french. But seriously. If you were to walk away from this part of the family, I wouldnt blame you. You've both been treated like shit. And it sure as hell isnt fair.

Sara said...

Tash-I get so much strength from your blog, I've never posted before but follow religiously.

This post spoke volumes about your family and resembled a similar scenario I encountered last year. My SIL was pregnant and no one told me (even my dh knew and he didn't know how to tell me). We went to a birthday party and saw some family friends. Saying our hello's, they said "Congratulations!" Me: "For what?" Them: "The pregnancy" Me: silence and then "Umm, what?" Them: "I heard you guys are expecting, Congrats, you must be so excited" (by the way, I've had a complete hysterectomy and was mid-hot flash during this encounter). Me: “No, I’m not”. Them: “Are you sure? Your MIL said you were”. This dialogue continued for several minutes with about 20 people in the room completely silent and watching. They had confused me with the other SIL in the family...and THAT is how I found out about her pregnancy.

Tash said...

Oh my good god Sara, that is AWFUL.

Anonymous said...

Holy shit.

The word is crazymaking.

You are not the crazy ones--they are.

I promise.

And, MAN, there's a lot of whack-jobs in this world.

Sophie said...

Jeez Tash I would be livid! How incredibly insulting.

My counseller said the opposite. When I told her I cut my family off she was proud. My life has been much calmer.

I hate it when they lie about things because they don't want to stir the crazy pot. I found out last Christmas that my family's pet dog (who I'd grown up with) died after suffering an illness for several weeks. They didn't take him to the vet or anything because he was old and they knew he was dying. They didn't want to put him down, didn't want to pay for pain-relief. One morning they said they found him dead... And they told me a month later, after I had already made the trip there.

A few weeks ago I drove past a dog that had been hit and killed by a car and was telling my sister how upset I was that they didn't take him to the vet so he could die without pain, (my parents are cheap)... she told me that they had in fact put him out of his misery. Dad took him out back and put a bullet in his head...

I don't know which is worse. That they lied, or what they did. Either way they knew this would upset me deeply (and you would think they would go out of their way to not upset the crazy lady right?). This dog was a member of our family. I thought he'd earned a more dignified end. Instead they killed him and lied about it so that I would spend some of my Christmas holidays with them.

Sorry, this post reminded me of that for some reason.


ezra'smommy said...

We've been carefully not told about several pregnancies this past year...but never by a family member (not that we've been without family issues). Damn its hurt when we've found out about those babies...and yes, the hurt is not about the healthy arrivals, its the being treated like a freak.

Melissia said...

I wish that this was news to me, and that I could be shocked by their behavior, but we encountered the same thing years ago after my daughter died. My sister-in law was pregnant and we were not told until she was about to deliver and then only in the "I thought you knew" sort of way. I was thrilled for her, after 12 years of marriage, I wondered if they were experiencing IF, but no one was talking to us, literally, beyond "how is the weather" types of conversation. Even asking after them and their health brought no volunteered announcement. It was as if we were no longer trusted to respond in a way they deemed appropriate.
This really made a difference in our relationship, I had to wonder what else they were "sparing us", and it eventually corroded what was once a good relationship.
My MIL had a set of twins die a week after birth, so it was not the actual death and grieving that they could not be supportive of, but the idea that we could not handle it. It stuck too many cords with me and my own parents, and I no longer felt that I could trust them and was always waiting to discover what other news had been kept from us to "spare us".
I am so sorry that this happened to you and that the your hospitality was abused as it was.
My home is my sanctuary to me and I do not entertain easily, so to have all of these people in your home and abuse your trust is very disturbing to me. I can understand why you didn't want to see them and I would not be thrilled to have them back.

Julia said...

You already know what I think about your chickenshit ILs. Though FIL does get some (very unexpected and out of character) points. And let me just say (again) that the whole thing just blows. And stinks to high heaven. And that there's no way I would be able to keep my mouth shut either.

On my end, I had an IM conversation with a friend yesterday, still picking over the carcass of what all went down at the shore. And what has become clearer to me is that even the good ones, the ones who did and said all the right things at the beginning and for a while after, even they may possess some number of bereavement misconceptions. Chief among them, I fear, is the narrow definition of "normal" or "ok" as equal to "unaffected." By which definition I am not sure I will ever be normal again. Nor do I even want to try. So I am musing on this. Trying to shatter this misconception seems like a lot of work, and I am not sure I've got it in me to go after that one for a whole group of people. And I am not sure I've got it in me to keep hanging with them knowing they don't get that THIS me? is normal.

This only pertains to your situation because I am saying I totally get the eeek about the ILs, even though I think yours right now must be an order of magnitude bigger than mine. But also because even if MIL is not likely to be educable or even non-malicious, there are possibly people in that bunch who are. Should you, you know, ever want to talk to any of them again.

holly said...


I'm so sorry. I hate when people tip toe around me. I'd much rather have it be out in the open.

Plus it's upsetting when everyone thinks you're going to loose it over something. Why not let you decide what you can can't handle.

Plus Maddy existed. Why not just acknowledge her by letting you know about other's babies.

This new baby is Maddy's cousin. My cousins and I didn't find out my grandmother had a baby between my aunt and my dad until we were all in college. I always felt angry that no one ever mentioned the baby. She was my aunt and it wasn't fair to her or me that she was never talked about.

I have no idea where I'm going with this other than, I agree with you.


A.M.S. said...

Ah, fuck.

That's all I've got.

One more thing to add to my "Scream at the universe" list.

Much love.

Reese said...

My initial gut reaction was 'oh for Fuckssakes, people'. Does it really take diagrams and sock puppets to make them understand that you will not break from this kind of news? And if you were to break, how chicken shit of them to not have the balls deal with it. Life is messy. That's why God made Kleenex.

Sorry that this is still happening to you guys.

c. said...

It's always made me feel a bit, I don't know, comforted to know that none of my siblings or my husband's siblings are in a position to want more children. Because a pregnancy in my immediate family would strike a chord with me, a really sharp one. And I don't know if I could handle it. I really don't.

That's not to say I haven't been kept out of the loop when it comes to the pregnancies of other family members and friends. I have, and to find out after the fact really stings.

There, of course, have also been times when I have been told and believe me when I say: being told stings too. Just as fucking much.

It's a lose-lose. At least it is for me. But I'd rather my friends and family had the balls to tell me than to spare my feelings. Because: There will always be hurt fucking feelings people. My baby is dead. And though I can be happy that family and friends were spared the awful outcome I wasn't, I can't help but be reminded that, well, I wasn't.

I'd be pissed if I were you, Tash. It seems to me, as I read this post (with my jaw on my keyboard!) that your ILs need to get over themselves. Seriously.

PS What's Mr. ABF's take on all of this????

k@lakly said...

GAWD. I wish I had something better to add. I really line up with C., even having had the live baby after. I don't think anyone censors on my behalf anymore but it does sometimes sting to hear of the 'easy' pg and baby after. I hate that it does, but it does. The thing with your family tho, and all the background murmering, is that, GEEZUS, why doesn't someone just fucking ask you how you feel and how you want to be treated if they aren't sure. I mean are we 8 or a wee bit older than that?
Also FWIW, I totally disagree with the doc on when it is ok to cut ties. I think you know we severed with my husbands fam b/c of repeated b.s and constant 'you aren't good enough and you don't treat us good enough' drama. There wasn't physical abuse but the emotional crap was constantly straining us as a couple and we finally had a heart to heart and asked ourselves, "is this relationship benefitting us in anyway or is it only a negative in our life that can not be turned around?" we went with plan b and did the wash the hands thing. We haven't ever rebuffed any attempts at contact but once we stopped buying into the games the games ended pretty quickly.
I wish it were different but then again, I wish I wasn't a db club member either. Wishes are futile sometimes.
I want to smack some folks for you. I hate this and all that it does to you. You deserve better. Absofuckinglutely.

luna said...

dude, WTF? that is just awful. all I can say is I hope writing about it was cathartic, because that is some seriously fucked up shit. (btw, I love that I can curse on your blog.)

I'd definitely be looking to bitch smack a few of those people. isn't family awesome?!

I've always said I'd rather know than not know, though a certain level of tact would be welcomed. it speaks volumes about THEM that they didn't know how to tell you.
fucking cowards, all of them.

luna said...

btw, fire your fucking therapist too.

Hope's Mama said...

I'm late to this and so much has already been said. I'm sorry Tash, it sucks. I have been through several similar things in the last few months and recently found out by accident a cousin was pregnant, but I haven't been told yet, and I don't even know if they know I know.
I'm sick of people tip-toeing around me. This is all such a mess.

Which Box said...

Oh my dear. I am really and truly nearly speechless. Are we absolutely sure our in-laws aren't related? Very very sorry for you and Mr ABF to have such [insert favorite phrase] in your life. Very, very sorry you had to be reminded they were such jerks? Assholes? f***wads? I don't even know what to call this level of bullshit.

I always say dealing with the inlaws is such a cold slap in the face. This is a huge one. I can't even type anymore, but I think you know how much I get this and feel for you all. Sheesh.

Brenna said...

Stunning. I'm trying to imagine how this would feel...utterly bizarrre. In my family it may not always be the family members themselves who tell me when they're pregnant (my stepsister couldn't bring herself to call me on her own, for instance, but my stepdad let me in on it--nice and gently too, I might add).

I liked Mrs. Spit's t-shirt advice.

Betty M said...

Just amazingly bad behaviour. Someone should have had the courage to say it - its not like they could hide it forever - even if they thought you would take it badly they should have realised that this way was going to be worse. I'm sorry that you have to deal with this.

CLC said...

My mouth is hanging open in shock at their lack of sensitivity. I guess I shouldn't be so shocked that they don't know how to handle it, but c'mon...

I am sorry you have to deal with this. I am sorry for Mr. ABF too.

Yias Yias Girl said...

After reading your blog for over a year, I'm finally compelled to comment. Ugh. (Yes, I'm usually that eloquent) I've had friends do the same, and one, whom I had previously thought was part of my heart of hearts, didn't tell me she was pregnant until she was almost 30 weeks, and to be completely honest, although since we've talked about it ad naseum, and she feels better about it, it has never been the same to me. But she's not family. To say I'm sorry about it doesn't quite cut it: I'm angry for you, hurt for you, and just so sorry that there is another layer of injustice from that family put to you. Mr. ABF must just feel so lonely within the confines of his immediate family, I can't imagine. Shame on them.

Gretchen said...

Utterly stupid. Yes, how comfortable for them to avoid "hurting you" so that they don't have to "wallow" with you, or think about their dead grandchild/niece. If I were you, I would just have to calm down (as much as possible) and then tell them how this felt. Even if I didn't have confidence it would change their approach in the future -- I would still need to get it off of my chest in order to interact with them. But you didn't ask for advice...

I'm just so sorry for their ignorance and the hurt it has caused.

So, is the baby a niece or nephew? Congratulations:), although given the way things went down,... that was only a secondary reaction.

Lollipop Goldstein said...

I am sitting here, completely speechless. I mean, utterly and completely speechless.

charmedgirl said...

sometimes, it really is the people around us who are more dramatic than we are about our dead babies. just say DEAD BABY around someone...their face becomes unrecognizable. THEY are the freak shows. they are the ones who live in the bubble. they are the ones who can't handle the conversation, and they pretend they are being delicate with US. they're full of shit and don't even know it. i'd say i'm sick of it, but truthfully, it's a guaranteed FUCK YOU for me when i need one...to drop a dead baby joke and have the only laugh...to watch people freak. just for fun. not often, god, not often, but sometimes. you know, for my sanity.

the fact that no one told you is fucking ridiculous. hilarious. nonsensical. dramatical. it's stupid. i can see the rationale for some kinds of women, not being able to tell them things like that because they have a history of freaking the fuck out and attempting suicide or some such shit upon hearing any "preggers" news...but YOU?!? jesus christ. really utterly ridiculous.

K77 said...

Wow. That's really something else. I'm sorry.

Molly said...

Wow, just wow. I was upset when my bff avoided telling me she she was pregnant for a few months immediately after I lost Colden. Suck it up people, suck it up.

DotQuaid said...

I just wanted to give particular attention to the quote here that stands out most for me:

"It was as if we were no longer trusted to respond in a way they deemed appropriate." - Melissia

Nail on the head. Absolutely.

Val said...

Geez... & I thought I had IL troubles!!??!!
I'm sorry for all teh crazy you're having to sort through - not YOURS either!

angied said...

I am so sorry to bother you. I found your blog via GITW. Our stories in many ways are so similar - I went through IVF to have my Maddie after many years of infertility treatment. She was, however, stillborn at 21w3d. Your posts are heartbreaking, poignant, and intelligent (and your little girl happens to have the most beautiful name I've ever heard!).

Thank you for being brave enough to share, as well as an inspiration.