Way back when I first started blogging, I ran across a discussion on some of your blogs about a stupid letter to Dear Abby. In the letter, some rude women who worked with a woman who’d had a still born child complained that the picture of that baby she had posted in her cubicle made them uncomfortable. Oh and by the way, the woman was also mean and bitter. I don’t mean to drudge up that old conversation, but I’m annoyed that I’ve now been wasting time checking Dear Abby frequently online to see when the editors will print the responses to that letter and haven’t seen it yet. And then last week, I read on Jill’s blog about a reality television show in Australia that featured a woman who had lost a preterm baby being forced to do a task that involved taking care of a fake baby, and she broke down. Jill writes about some of the feedback to that show, including comments by a woman who claims the grieving contestant seems to be lying about her loss because she was reticent about the details, while women who’ve really lost babies dwell on the details. Besides all the other aspects of that paragon of screen art – reality television – that irritate me, it now made me think about all the ways contemporary culture makes experience generic. How even as it makes us think we’re learning diversity, it maybe just makes difference banal.
But since this is my blog, not my dissertation, and as a grieving person I tend towards narcissism (just the self-centredness, not the love part), I leave the analysis there and move on to how it all makes me feel.
When I was in the hospital, even when we still had hope, we realized no one could possibly understand what we were going through. I wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want visitors, and I knew I wouldn’t want visitors for the duration as I faced what should have been many many weeks on hospital bed rest (okay, I realize what should have been would have been that I never ended up hospitalized in the first place, but I’m starting my thoughts from these moments). I liked having the rabbi and cantor visit, because somehow they were comforting. But talking to anyone else was stressful. I’m sure some people would think that was wrong. I’m sure some people would react differently. They would be wrong. Or rather, they might be right for themselves, but wrong for me.
Afterwards, when we sent out a message telling people what had happened, we did so only in the barest of details. I still cannot stand to replay my labor and delivery in my mind. And, again, I’m sure some people think that’s wrong, or that it would be healthier if I replayed it in some sort of psychoanalytic fashion. But again, they would be wrong. I don’t want to. Living it once was enough. When I try to think about it – like we did for Dr. K last week, I find I don’t want to think beyond the barest of necessary facts. I can’t push myself to retell the event in a narrative fashion. I guess in the way some of us don’t like to say our babies’ names, but others of us say
them as often as possible, we all have different coping mechanisms. I have to keep that full story private, at least for now. It is what makes me feel too vulnerable, too exposed. Some of us can post pictures of our babies, and even write our blogs as letters to them. I can’t do that, even though I can say Natan’s name practically daily, and it brings me comfort to do so. I think about him all the time, but my communications with him can only be in my mind.
I’m not asking for confirmation this is all okay, because I certainly don’t think that it’s not. Blogging helps me feel less lonely, even though in reality people in my life have been overwhelmingly supportive, and even though I can see that other women are coping differently from me, and at times in ways I admire and wish I could emulate.
I do wish that I could analyze, as a person and an intellectual and an historian, why we so often see and hear about people pontificating about how others ought to or should act or feel. Or why so often other people are so clueless and unable to relate to others’ pain. But honestly I don’t think there’s a person or a source out there that can do that to my satisfaction. Generalizations about our culture not dealing well with grief don’t help, because as I look back in time or across geography, I don’t really see much that is better. Unless we’re talking about some people or place or time we’ve over-idealized as being better about something than we are. And because I know for damn sure that in the past, overlooking the fact that I might not have lived anyway, I’d have even fewer forums for acknowledging my loss.