Sap (scroll down for sorrow)
Baby Man is the best thing ever. Yesterday morning I got up with him, which admittedly JJ has been doing for the most part for awhile now. As I approached his door he was babbling, “Daddy daddy daddy.” I called out, “Morning Baby Man!” and he said, “Oh! Nice!” and was jumping up and down calling, “Mommy! Mommy” as I walked in. When I picked him up, he kissed me and said, “Nice Mommy.” Best. Thing. Ever.
I don’t know if I ever really truly confessed here what I a bitch I am. Do you know that after Natan died I did indeed have tinges of wondering, “Why me? Why not any of the other pregnant women I know, especially those who already have living children?” I know of no worse feeling in the world than lying alone in a dark room, knowing your child is dead, and wishing it had been someone else’s, anyone else’s, and knowing that that’s an evil thought. It wasn’t a real wish, however, it was a flailing, a desperately jealous desire to not feel so isolated, alone and hurt. I hardly felt human.
My sister, who has had enough pain in her life otherwise, had a daughter two months before Natan died. She lived three hundred miles away and I couldn’t go see her right after she was born, when I was still pregnant. But I just could not connect to that daughter the first time I met her, when she was 4 months old. I love her now, adore her really, and don’t think of her as a shadow baby, but as herself, a crazy little girl. But unlike with my sister’s other two kids–where my love for them was intense and immediate–it took awhile for me to warm up to her. I was so pissed that I was still the childless aunt. And I didn’t even have to be that for long.
For the most part, I’m better. Having a successful pregnancy and a living baby made it better.
That doesn’t mean though that it’s okay that Natan died, that it happened for a reason, or that it made me stronger. My time in the hospital, his death, the aftermath and the subsequent pregnancy changed me. Deeply.
I didn’t realize how much while I was still living in the same city where it all happened. I still had all the same friends for the most part, who treated me the same, but with some additional kindness and patience. I know I got bitchy and sullen at times, but they understood.
It’s different now in this new place, where almost no one knows what happened. Absolutely no one in my department knows. Only two new friends from blog land who happen to live here know (obviously). I have crankiness to me, an edge that I didn’t notice when I was among old friends. It seemed temporary, as did my darker moods. But now those moods are part of me because I’m meeting new people who only know of me post-loss. I can’t make less than cheerful or optimistic comments about pregnancy and motherhood without seeming unpleasant.
I have a cynicism about academia, about the mission of my field that comes across as if I lack confidence. My belief that I don’t know what the hell I’m doing sometimes looks like it comes from lack of experience, rather than my actual feeling that we’re all full of it and most of us are too confident in the significance of humanity.
An older colleague told me (in an unrelated context) that teaching is a performance, and he’s right. He advised me to think of myself as going on stage when I go into a classroom. I know that. I’ve always done that. The problem is, before Natan died, I knew my character. Now I don’t. And far beyond simply the question of teaching, I often feel like my whole life is a performance where I’m not quite sure of my role, and where the director has left the building.