Sunday, September 19, 2010

Half Truths at the Side of the Road

It was a hard weekend. It seemed I cried more than usual, and was up late thinking when I should have been sleeping.

On Saturday I went to a nearby small town with my mom's female family members. My mom is one of 10 children. She currently has 5 living sisters, and I have many female cousins. A group of us got together for our annual 'Girl's fall outing' in a small town fairly close to where most of us live. This tradition started a couple of years ago. Generally the plan is that we meet at some coffee shop, go out for lunch and shop in those kitchy stores that sell pretty, but useless stuff no one needs. Etc.

Last year the outing occurred in November and it was during the cycle that I got pregnant with Aidan. It was hard for me to forget that here we were again, 10 months later, in a new small town, with the same people, doing the same things. But this time my son has been dead almost 5 months and we are still in the process of 'trying to have a baby'. It feels like we've come so far, yet gone nowhere. It also sucked that my cousin's wife was there and she just had a new baby in June. I was dreading having to ooh and ahh over the new bundle of joy, so I felt extremely grateful when I arrived to find that she had decided to have a 'day off' and didn't bring her daughter. *Whew*. I really felt for her, of course. Who would want to spend a lovely Saturday enjoying their new baby?? (heavy sarcasm, ha ha)

Since this was the first time I'd seen some of my cousins, I knew they would be curious as to what happened with Aidan. A big part of me wants to tell them. I want them to know how rough the pregnancy with him was. How stressful things got. How miraculous it was that he even made it as far as he did. But most of all, I want everyone to know that there was nothing wrong with him. I do not want them for a second to think that, "well, it was for the best" or any other such nonsense. I want them to know how perfectly he was formed, how the cause of his death had nothing to due with any sort of structural or genetic abnormality (that we know of), it was a placental issue and lack of amniotic fluid. Period. Dot.

So, it was because of this, I found myself standing on the side of the road in small-town Ontario lecturing 3 of my cousins about prolactin, progesterone, amniotic fluid and my uterine lining.

I know. Seriously.

To their extreme credit they were riveted. They asked appropriate questions and uttered 'aww' in the right places.

But, as I stood there telling my story, I realized I wasn't telling it right. I was telling them all the facts, but sparing them the emotional part of the experience. As I listened to myself, I couldn't believe how really little of Aidan's story I am able to convey. I cannot form words to describe looking down in the shower at 9 weeks and seeing a river of blood run down my leg. I cannot tell them how Brian and I came home from our disastrous appointment at 17 weeks and both threw up from how upset we were. I cannot fathom how to impart how much I love my son. My baby, who I would have recognized as mine out of pictures of thousands because of how much he looked like his dad. I cannot explain how I have lived through the past year, because really I don't know how I've done it either.

Sometimes it is this that makes me cry. That talking about my son is a draining and sad experience. That right now all I can handle is sharing the facts, and by only doing that, I sound cold and clinical. I cannot share the emotions I have for him, for us as his parents, for his birth, because it is all so intimately connected with his death. To do so would require a quiet room, hours of time, warm cups of tea and boxes of tissue.

It is too hard to explain that I cannot yet tease the joy from the sorrow. The facts are all I can convey.

Maybe some day they will get the whole truth, but right now I don't have the words.

Who has been the best listener about your birth and death experience? Why? Did it have to do with who the listener was, the setting of the telling, or your readiness to share? When asked about your dead child do you feel you are able to convey the fullness of your experience, both factual and emotional?


  1. This is so exactly where I am at, Emily. I can tell the bare facts of what happened. She was born, she died, we are okay, there are good days and bad days - big smile. But to break down the facts, to tell the raw truth of the story is difficult, and I haven't shared it with many people.

    Writing is easier for me. I have a close friend who lives in Seattle and I wrote out the story again and again after Charlotte died and sent it to her via e-mail. When she drove down to see me two weeks after Charlotte died she asked me questions and I ended up working my way through the story one more time. It was incredibly healing for me, but I don't know if I could've talked about it had the e-mails not gone before. I have told two other friends what it was really like. And my midwife and I talk about it quite often, but she was there so that is different.

    I recently received an e-mail from my friend's mom (the one who lives in Seattle). She had just found out about my blog and wanted me to know how sorry she was. She did not understand the emotional impact of Charlotte's death until she sat down and read through my blog. So, no, I don't think I am able to convey the fullness of my experience to most people.

    Good questions, and beautiful thought provoking post as always.

  2. There are only two people I have really felt very comfortable talking to, conveying my emotions to honestly- one is my best friend, who showed up for my c-section, who called me daily for MONTHS, who still calls me at least once a week to check on me... The other is a guy I know both socially and professionally who's grandmother's first baby was born still. Their family was unusual for the time in that they named the baby and talk openly about it. He says his mother still talks about her brother Albert. (The baby.) He seems to be one of those rare people that truly understands the right things to say without having been through it personally.

  3. The way you felt describing it to your cousins is exactly the way that I felt and still feel most of the time when I talk about Liam and what happened to him and to me to deliver him at 23 weeks. It's been only recently where a very nice woman that I just met (we just moved shortly after his birth to a new state) asked if I have children and I was able to say the truth. And then I waited and she asked his name and how far along I was and seemed to genuinely care about me and let me talk. I hate it when I sense from someone that they are uncomfortable and just want to gloss it over with an "I'm so sorry" and then the conversation switches. But I was finally able to get a little emotion in without breaking down completely. Truthfully there is a part of me that will be made at myself when I can tell the full story without breaking down emotionally. I think I will always feel conflicted.

    Thank you for your post. I go through exactly what you describe.

  4. I feel the same way when I tell Mikayla's story...that sometimes all I focus on are the medical facts. It's so emotionless, which is the exact opposite of how I feel. I loved telling her story to anyone that would listen, but now most people I'm close to already know the story. I go to a few local bereavement groups and I find it difficult to tell the story...the really story...each time because they already heard it the first time. And it saddens me that each time I tell it I share less of the emotional aspect of it. I need to work harder at that for myself, to feel like I can tell Mikayla's story and relay the importance of her life because when we spew off medical facts then it's all about the pregnancy and not the life, the baby, that pregnancy created.

  5. It made me so sad to read about your family tradition and think how things should have been so different for you this year. I love the tradition, I hate that you weren't carrying Aidan there or pushing him in a stroller.

    Although Jacob had amniotic band syndrome, I don't tell alot of people. No one at work knows, I don't want to give them any room to say that maybe it was for the best. It can't be for the best that he had ABS in the first place. He wasn't created with it, it was something that happened to him. He would have been a perfectly normal boy if those damn bands hadn't broken loose. A few people, who don't know about the ABS, have said to me that it is for the best, that there must have been a reason. I just want to yell at them them and ask them to tell me how it is for the best. Please explain it to me.

    I love that your cousins listened so intently to your explanation, that they didn't pretend to be interested. They actually were. I've told alot of people alot about Jacob's birth, minus the bands. It is odd the way I talk about it all, then I talk about holding him (they may be shocked that I held and kissed a dead baby) and then I talk about cremating him and burying him. Sometimes I think my tone of voice sounds like I'm talking about how I am decorating my new house. Matter of fact, detached. I guess it is because if I start showing my emotions when talking about it, I won't get through it and it is important to me that people know. If they ask, I want to tell them everything that happened. I want them to picture me in labour for 18 hours, already knowing that my baby is dead. I don't want them to stop asking because I cry whenever I talk about it.

    I would have to say that the best listeners have been other baby loss mom's. Maybe it is because I feel that I can really cry with them, I don't have to cover my feelings to spare theirs.

    A few people have surprised me. Some of my Mom's friends called me in the week after losing Jacob and I could tell them alot of details. I still didn't cry, but I was touched that they called and just said to talk, that just talking has helped them when they lost a loved one.

  6. Sometimes I can't find the words to say when talking about what happened to Kai. I'm not good with talking, I can write about it but I can't seem to find the exact words to describe the emotional impact of our loss to anyone. Perhaps its the language, English is not my first language. But I would imagine I will have an even harder time expressing it in my own language. Words are not enough with this grief. Like Angela, I tend to just go straight to the point - Kai died in utero, I gave birth to him, it was a devastating event in our lives, we're still feeling awful but we're functioning.

    I usually listen better than I talk. But after Kai, I'm able to open up just a little. My midwife is so far my birth listener maybe because she was there to witness it. I haven't 'talked' about it with friends here in the States because I haven't 'socialized' with them yet. I talked to them over the phone but I don't feel comfortable talking about what happened to Kai over the phone with them. It feels so impersonal that way.

    The surprising thing is, I'm able to talk about it in our support groups. At first, I was emotional about it but as the months go by, I can talk and answer questions about it calmly. I can't be clinical because we know nothing of what happened or what went wrong or how he died. At this point, I'm trying hard not to be detached from my own experience but sometimes I think I come off like that to other people. It's just that I've been feeling something like resigned acceptance and utter hopelessness. That it's done and there's nothing in this world that I can do about it. But it still hurts and I still miss Kai terribly inspite of it.

    Thank you for sharing this post and for the questions that make us think of where we are in this grief. Thinking of you and Aidan.

  7. I often find that I sound cold and clinical when I telling people about the girls. It all comes out in a great big blur of words. Because if I let emotions get the better of me and start crying, I can't stop.

    I'm glad your cousins were interested and that you had a chance to explain a bit more about Aidan and what happened to him. I also wanted people to know that my little girl was perfect.

    The best 'listeners' I've found are here in blog land. Two years down the line, I still haven't spoken about the experience to many people in real life in any level of detail. xo