Monthly Archives: August 2010

Shower worthy thoughts

As my last blog post suggested, I’ve had moments of foul mood lately. Not openly explosively bad, just a bit testier than usual. Nor really any worse than those of anyone who hasn’t had a perfect life (hence everyone) The kind of cranky where other people won’t really notice, but I might be snappy with my husband. There could be any number of reasons why, from the stress of a move, to the incredibly insane heat in this new region of the country, to my anxiety over what’s happening next for me in my career. But because of Natan’s death, I think I’m more aware than before of my moods and their shifts. I’m a bit more careful with myself, in particular because I want to be fair to Samuel.

I was hoping for more relaxation and relief in the month of July. July was a great month, in many ways, but instead of reflection, it was full of action and change. I feel like we’ve just landed after catapulting out of the Midwest. In trying to figure out where my brain is, I’m having many expected thoughts that fit, but one that’s really strange: Josie Duggar keeps popping into my mind.

What on earth does Josie Duggar have to do with me? Nothing other than being born at the same gestation as Natan. Nothing other than that her birth gobsmacked me at an incredibly awkward moment. I was teaching a course in the fall in which we’d looked at the historical development of modern media culture. It was the last day of class and my lesson plan for the day was simple: pull up People Magazine online on the screen in front of the students and analyze what was there.

What happened was almost too strange to be true. I typed in the URL and saw, DUGGAR DAUGHTER BORN AT 25 WEEKS, 6 DAYS! or some such phrase pop up in front of my eyes, in front of 30-odd undergraduates. Fabulous. What did I do? Kept going. Fortunately, no one in class even seemed to want to touch that, and instead focused on a story about KStew and RPat or something on the sidebar. When class ended, I went back to my office and laughed. Really, really hard. And then chatted with a fellow blogger.

The universe didn’t count on my morbid sense of humor when it decided to royally screw me. Either that or it shares in my sickness.

I am not jealous of the Duggars. I am thankful beyond belief that Josie and Michelle Duggar are okay. In that moment, Michelle Duggar was just another mom and woman to me, and I did not want to imagine her burying that baby. I didn’t want to know about another dead baby at all, and I also didn’t want to think about Josie being ripped from her mom’s uterus and attached to machines.

In the aftermath of their experience, I actually feel that Mr. and Mrs. Duggar have been gracious and humble in the print I’ve read. I don’t understand this 20th baby possibility, but that doesn’t really matter to my life.

So what’s bothering me? I think that no matter how much I come to peace with my experience, I’ll never completely get over the anger of being on the bad side of statistics. Nor will I ever fully accept that some people get their happier endings, like me, while other deserving, good people do not. Part of Natan’s legacy for me seems to be getting to know about an increasing number of couples who aren’t going to get that living son or daughter.

You can tell me “God has his reasons,” and that may very well be true. I can’t take that to mean that there’s divine reason that in any way approximates human reason. Because if I do, I can only conclude that I disagree with it. It’s wrong for children to die, and for parents to suffer through it. Yet it seems inevitable, to some degree. So maybe I’m supposed to get angry and that’s the reason—to push me to do something about reducing the inevitability. That’s even worse reasoning, honestly. I’m not particularly charmed by the idea of a pedantic God. Pedagogic, maybe.

I think that what annoys me about the Josie Duggar story has nothing to do with her at all. If she actually, as Jim Bob Duggar said recently, “will be caught up by the time she’s two,” then she’s really an exception for a 25 week, 6 day baby. She’s extraordinarily fortunate, as are her parents. Someone has to be in that very tiny percentage that will be fine, great even. There’s no reason it should not be Josie Duggar.

But what I don’t like about the story is how it perpetuates the myth that things always work out okay for good people. They do not. We just don’t talk about those people for whom they do not. Whatever happened to the Morrison sextuplets for example? Now, I understand why their parents did not want to remain in the spotlight—mourning the death of five babies and coping with one micro-preemie is not something anyone wants to do under the glare of the media.

When you go into labor or have to deliver before 28 weeks, the world more often works against you than for you. It’s wonderful and heartwarming to hear about babies who will “catch up” but most will not. I’m not quoting statistics here because it keeps changing and is complexly contingent. Josie Duggar in part survived when Natan did not because three years passed between them, and because doctors made the decision to deliver, rather than being forced to. Unless things have changed tremendously though, she was an exception. I don’t want people to think any differently because that just makes those of us who got unlucky more freakish than we were before.

The new place

Hello again. Having finished up with my first academic job, and now after a month on the road visiting family, we have arrived at our new home in the Deep South, and have fully unpacked. Packing up and moving and unpacking means as always encountering pieces of the past shoved away in boxes. I have succeeded now in making two moves without being the one to move the box of Natan’s very few and very tiny things. I think I have not opened it for over a year. Just the thought of it makes my eyes burn, but I think I will have to do it soon.

Since I revealed this blog on Facebook, three friends have told me about friends of theirs losing babies to stillbirth. One very dear friend delivered a baby safely, but was faced with a condition that killed the babies of friends I made through this blog. I’m grateful to be someone people can talk to.

I’m not the only model of someone like me, a woman who made it through loss and onto that subsequent child. I may not be the best. I have friends who are far more open about including their lost child in their life, who commemorate anniversaries, who remember their due dates, who do more than get cranky when the time comes near. After three and a half years, I’m a very reluctant griever. I’m actually kind of sick of it all.

Looking forward to a life remembering a baby who died is not a cheerful trajectory. Instead of imagining what will be, you think about what might have been. Your sleepless nights aren’t counterbalanced by snuggling. Your real estate in a cemetery or the urn on your bedside table (or in your closet) doesn’t make your flabby belly and unpredictable hormones worth it. You can’t share your labor war stories at a picnic even if yours would trump them all, or feel good about forgoing meds or how quickly your milk came in. The time you spent pregnant becomes unconditionally a prologue to the worst period of your life. The dichotomy could not be starker.

Samuel is becoming his own person now, with a sense of humor, funny facial expressions, interests and lacks of interest. He’s smart in many ways, adept at spinning around a room or swimming in circles, and also clumsy. He wants to make friends, and that has the fabulous side effect of bring other fun children and new people around our own age into our lives. Had he not been born and survived, I would have none of that. I enjoy my life with Samuel immensely and daily.

Yet still, often, if I’m alone, I feel vulnerable and fearful. This good life may be too fleeting. I’m very much aware of how it didn’t have to be this way. The incredibly long time I spent on bed rest, which left me with extra weight, weak hips, and a totally different perspective on my life and abilities, could have been for nothing. For more than one person I know, it didn’t end well. For us, though, it did.

Josh recently suggested I write a post about how I often expect the worst. Certainly that’s a new trait—new as in three and a half years old. It used to be very different for me. He used to be the pessimist. As recently as a week before Natan died, when the doctor I asked, “Am I in preterm labor?” responded, “Yes, I think so,” I didn’t think what I dreaded most could happen to me. It did.

I don’t walk around morose and sad. I’m quieter, slower to laugh, less confident. But overall, considering what could be, both given my personal history and more global concerns, I have it pretty darn good. I’m not sure I expect the worst. I just try to be prepared for it. I do probably panic unnecessarily, and often my feelings over a particular problem far outweigh its significance. Often because I’m thinking, if Natan had not died, I would not be in this place, would not have this problem.

It’s sad that I have less confidence. I didn’t deserve what happened, but I am humbled by it. I’m not the girl who left her interview with Harvard thinking, “They don’t deserve me.” (Bizarre, I know, misplaced most likely, but true.) It’s not that I expect the worst, really; it’s that I’m feeling as small as I actually am, and that means I don’t actually know what happens next.