Sad today

It’s a foreign feeling for me in the long duree view of my life, to be sad without knowing exactly the reason why. I suppose now I always have a reason, but I’m still not familiar enough with the new rhythms of my moods to recognize why one day is fine, another very good, and a third bad.

The night before we realized I was in preterm labor, we were out at dinner and I saw a woman who was about as pregnant as I was at the time. She was holding a little girl’s hand and they were rushing to the bathroom. It was so normal, mundane, and I felt the most ferocious jealousy. It surprised me – even after the miscarriage I’d felt more sadness than jealousy at the sight of big round bellies. Where did that feeling come from? What did I know?

I know that yesterday my mood turned because we received an email sent out to all of the graduate students in our department. Someone’s wife had had a baby. I shouldn’t have read it, I know. I didn’t read most of it – but I didn’t recognize the name – and not realizing at first that everyone had received it, I thought, “do I know these people?” and clicked on it to figure that out. It was such a cheerful message, all I saw was the joke that labor must have been brought on “by the long walk home from [someone’s house].” Mostly of course the father was just incredibly proud and happy to have his wife and child safely delivered. But I thought, “How incredibly comfortable he is that birth is always a happy event.” Not to mention the assumption that a random announcement could only bring joy to recipients. Or that we’d otherwise ignore it. I could only think about how I’m not taking any long walks in this pregnancy and I’m keeping my social engagements very limited. About how I’m strategizing about the shortest possible routes from the parking lot to the classroom where I’ll be taking my “job market skills” course starting next week and how happy I was that the professor recently moved the classroom to a spot closer to the doors and elevators.

In my own sad way, I’ve considered that not everyone in the world will want to hear our happy news when it happens (at least I can consider that happy news might be a possibility). We’re certainly not going to send the message out to multiple dozens of graduate students, most of whom are strangers to us (we generally only know the students within 1-2 cohorts of our own), and who for all we know might find the news to be only a reminder of their own pain. No matter how busy we might be if this new baby comes home to us, the message will go out only to those people we know would want to know. I can take the time to type in the individual addresses.

Additionally, I’ve spent too much miserable time in the L&D waiting room or lying distraught in a hospital bed, to think it would be at all appropriate for family members and friends to show up loudly celebrating and bearing gifts. Josh will never be making loud ecstatic cellphone calls a few feet a way from a woman or a couple who have already lost their child or are worried they might be about to.

I’m going to have to have a hard conversation soon. Every time I speak to one of my advisers, she brings up other pregnant graduate students. One in our department, another in an affiliated one. I’m going to have to ask her to stop. I have no desire right now to make friends with someone based exclusively on our pregnant state. Partly because of my fear that it will create simply another baby I have to celebrate in my own state of grief, but also because I can’t imagine how it would help me. I’m not in the mood, ever, right now to make new friends. I like the ones I have just fine. I can’t pretend that this pregnancy isn’t hard, that I’m not terrified, that I don’t have bittersweet feelings towards other women with easy pregnancies, while at the same time I don’t want to tell anyone new my story.

I hate these feelings though. Because I’m beginning to wonder if there’s too much bitterness to my grief.

I’d like to think though, that instead I’m learning about empathy. That my feelings about not celebrating too loudly and publicly aren’t about myself exclusively, but rather about acknowledging that the moment is not a universally happy one just because I’m there. That it’s not just about knowing the world doesn’t revolve round me, but acting like it doesn’t.


22 responses to “Sad today

  1. Don’t your advisors know that you recently lost a baby? If so, can’t they imagine that seeing other [happy, easy] pregnancies is — at least bittersweet, if not just plain torture fo you?

  2. Thanks for visiting, Amelie.

    Oh, they definitely know. And for the most part, they’ve been very supportive. The particular one I’m speaking of, though, would never be known for her, uh, awareness and sensitivity.

  3. The thing is, there is bitterness in grief- at least in early grief, I think. And considering you have not even reached the one year anniversary of Natan’s death, you are definitely still in early grief.

    Actually, when I read your words, I always find you to be quite kind and charitable in your views of others. You understand other people are not to “blame” for your loss, or your sorrow, but you are also honest about what sorts of situations are not comfortable for you. That is completely fair and healthy.

    I am far more cautious in the ways I approach pregnancy and new babies with everyone now. I know now that you rarely know someone’s whole story, and so it is best to tread lightly.

    I’m sorry you are sad today. I understand.

  4. I’m sorry, that’s not helpful at all. Maybe another advisor could give her a hint that you’d rather not be “matched up” with other pregnant students — if you say she’s not so sensitive maybe she doesn’t really listen if you tell her.

  5. I avoid pregnant women now. I imagine I will be even more into avoiding them if/when I am pregnant again. I understand most of their joy in unadulterated, and I don’t want to the the horror story in the bunch. I don’t want them to see me as a party pooper. They should know that there are unhappy endings, but it shouldn’t be on us to educate.

    On a separate note, it sounds like the L&D at your hospital is not a particularly private space. At my hospital, we are much more insulated in the rooms, and, more recently, even in the triage area (they built walls and glass doors instead of the previous curtains).

    I am sorry you are sad today…

  6. Thanks Julia. The L&D and triage rooms are private – it’s the waiting rooms and hallways that aren’t. And you have to be in those at some point.

  7. To some extent, I think that the fact that this kind of prolonged sadness feels foreign may make this harder on you. It sounds as if, before Natan’s death, you were generally a happy, optimistic person. Though I don’t think anyone can go back to exactly the way she was before a tragedy, I’m hopeful that that suggests, over time, you’ll be able to rework your life to incorporate much of your old outlook, though, as you say, with a heightened awareness of the suffering of others..

  8. “Additionally, I’ve spent enough miserable time in the L&D waiting room or lying distraught in a hospital bed, to think it would be at all appropriate for family members and friends to show up loudly celebrating and bearing gifts.”

    Yeah, that’s about it, isn’t it?

    I really don’t think I could be capable of this kind of celebration, should I be lucky enough to reach the point that a celebration would be possible. I mean, too much has happened. I, too, do not want to be around any pregnant women. Even the women at the high risk unit, who I figure I have something in common with, are avoided at all costs. I don’t want to tell them my story (why frighten them more?) and I don’t want to hear about them (what if there’s something I haven’t thought of that could also happen to me?)

    I know that conversation with your adviser will be hard, but I would have to do the same thing. There’s no way I could hear about it. I would not want to have any knowledge of another baby that I would have to think about during my grieving. It makes sense to me.

  9. Crap, I probably shouldn’t post, but I’m feeling totally the opposite about when I deliver. I want this delivery to be the opposite of the last one. I don’t want to have the lights off. I don’t want curtains drawn. I don’t want the nurses to whisper to me in hushed tones. I don’t want it to be just DH and I (and mom). In fact, I want EVERYONE in the county to show up. I’ve been back to the hospital and talked to the nurses and told them I want the same room I was in. My mother is ordering a cake and a deli tray. Every relative I know and those that don’t will show up and I’m calling my work to let them know that I’ll be accepting visitors. I want the nurses to have to tell us to “quiet down”. If they could my family would tailgate in the parking lot. Oh, and mom has purchased spider man streamers and party hats. Yes, it is out of control. But it’s my way of re-gaining control. I know to some people it sounds crazy. I know part of it is my competitive streak. I hate to lose and I sort of think of losing Jimmy as if I lost. This is my opportunity to go back into that room and be in charge, to own it. I want it totally different. I’m bringing the Triumphant March from the Opera Aida to play. But I’ve told Mom to keep an eye out for the card they place on the door of couples who’ve lost a baby. I know what it looks like because I had one on my door. Everything is off in that case. I, like you, cannot bring myself to cause pain to anyone who was just recently in our situation. Barring that, it’s gonna be a party!

  10. That’s a smart compromise, actually, Monica. Although I’m not actually making plans yet, only dreaming, I’ll keep that in mind if we make it there. But no party guests except for Josh and the medical people. I want to bask in our little family.

    Niobe, I hope you’re right. Some days you already are.

  11. B., another reason I think I want to, “do it up big” is my own need to prove to others I really can do this pregnancy thing. I often feel like a failure. Especially when others seem to have babies so easily, despite not getting proper pre-natal care or even seeming to care if they had a baby. I think part of this celebration fantasy is to prove to them I can do it and that I can do it big. I sometimes wish I could be content with what you describe, just me, DH, and Critter. I’m just driven to prove to everyone I’m as good…nah better than they are.

  12. I think that you are just deeper, wiser and more aware. I hope tomorrow is better.

    Just a thought, since you area already pre-registered with L&D, can’t your OB call in advance to let you skip triage. In my hospital, they allowed that.

  13. I had a similar reaction to the email (I’m still on the Historian list!), and I don’t know who they are either. It is strange how for some people pregnancy seems so easy, while I’m learning more and more how difficult it can be, both to get pregnant and to stay pregnant. When your happy news comes, though, I can’t wait to hear it!

  14. That’s a good suggestion Thrice. I bet they can – the hospital and my doctors all seem really open to making things more comfortable for me.

    Monica, oh there’s an element of that failure in my loss as well. Perhaps I’ll post about it sometime.

    Emily, Thanks. We’ll let you know. 😉
    I really hope when the time comes that pregnancy will come and pass easily for you.

  15. I did send out the birth annoucement to the department when the twins were born. It was supposed to be to the profs & staff, i did not intend to include the graduate students. But i couldn’t get the list to work, so i sent it to the secretary to do and i think she forwarded to everyone. *blush*. Oh well. For Chloe i didn’t do it, but my department chair included her birth in the ‘beginning of the year memo’ that everyone got. (I think it was because she had just been born a week before, plus he is one of the few people here who know/remember about my loss). Perhaps that was not appropriate but i did keep the memo for her baby book.

    It does feel nice to celebrate, when there is a happy ending.

  16. Oh and PS — i don’t think there is “too much” bitterness in your grief. Bitterness is part of grief and as Lori said you are still early in the whole process. Unfortunatly we can’t really rush through the ugly stuff…i think you are very well balanced, actually. And your advisor who keeps mentioning the other pg people should learn something about empathy, yes. And if you do mention something to her and she says something stupid or judgemental, try to ignore it! Is she the same one who caused the little flap with your chapter that you were talking about last week or so?

  17. Thanks Kate.

    Yup, that would would be the adviser. I’m very fortunate in many ways to occupy so much of her attention but at times it has obnoxious results.

    You’re excused on the announcement (teasing). I know that on a certain level, it’s my problem that I’m bothered by these things. I’m angry at how poorly we were treated this past winter/spring by official channels of the department. And yet we’re powerless to do anything about it. I fantasize about the opportunity to tell off certain people but really all I can do is be hurt and fume. As for the student who wrote the announcement, I can only feel sadness that I’ll never feel that comfortable, or at least give the appearance of such comfort (seeing as I know nothing about their personal history and situations.)

  18. We just found out something else to worry about with our bean, so I feel like if I take this pregnancy for granted even for a moment, think about celebrating for a moment, everything will be taken away again.

    Maybe not being comfortable with being sad is good. It keeps you afloat, from going in really deep. Take time to grieve on those days.

  19. Shoot Mary – what did you find out? Is it GD?
    Thinking of you….

  20. What bugs me the most about that e-mail is the how “proud” dad is. So how should DH and I have felt when we came home in full-term labour and now have an urn on a shelf. How should we feel now as I wait to naturally miscarry and embryo whose heart just suddenly stopped beating? Seems to me, the opposite of proud is ashamed.

  21. I’m so sorry, Megan, so sorry. Of course you know, as we know too painfully, that there’s no reason to be ashamed. But that doesn’t help with the feeling.

    I hope the miscarriage comes soon and on its own, and that your physical recovery is smooth and quick. I waited to naturally miscarry, and was grateful to have at least that happen without complication. I suggest warm baths and Baileys, or whatever your prefer.

    I’m sorry.

  22. I wish I had found this site a week ago, but I’m here now and that’s what matters. Megan, I too am so sorry. I think the opposite of proud is actually “empty”. (people tend to say full of pride, makes me think automatically of empty as it’s opposite, not ashamed). I feel ashamed when I am sad or distant and too stuck in my own grief to really cherish and pay attention the son I do have. The women on here are some of the most honest sincere women I think I have ever found. and this place is a place where you don’t get judged for being honest about how you feel. The world could learn a lot from you.

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