My sister asked me where the gratitude posts had gone. I had a lot of them planned out and wanted to end them with a bang, but this post was difficult for me to get in the right frame of mind since it can seem like a downer, but in the end it is not.
Today, I am grateful for the book An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination. On the cover it says "This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending..." The book is written by Elizabeth McCracken and it details the stillbirth of her first child and the emotions and pain that she went through while grieving. I know that grief. I know that pain. I know that sorrow. I know how it feels to wake up every morning after losing a baby and crying for a month because the pain is right there. I know the anger at pregnant women who look so happy and bursting with life. I know the shock of having a midwife look for a heart beat on a 16 wk gestation pregnancy and while doing an ultrasound that I can see has no heartbeat tell me out loud what I am praying is not true. I know the horror of miscarrying in an ER bathroom that looks like a murder scene when all is said and done. I know the pain of a radiologist telling you during that first ultrasound when all you want to hear is the sex of the baby (and that it was a girl, just what you were dreaming of) and not "I have found an abnormality that I need to tell you about" that is not conducive to life outside the womb. I know the feeling of failure telling my husband that I have failed him some way in not carrying his baby to term. I know the anticipation of seeing the baby's heartbeat at just nine weeks and there is none, just after you have moved far away from all of your family and have no one to comfort you. I know the irrational drive that tells me that I am in the labor and delivery ward of a hospital, yet my baby is dead and I am not leaving this hospital without a baby, so dear husband, please go pick out a baby for us to take home, because I am not leaving here without a baby. So this book spoke to me on so many levels and I want to share a few quotes from the book that really spoke to me.
After she is able to have another baby a year later she says "I can't love and regret him both. He isn't here (referring to the stillborn baby, who they named Pudding), but now someone else is, this thrilling splendiferous second baby, and like any mother, I can't imagine taking the smallest step from the historical path that led me here, to this one, to such a one." I feel this way about the two babies that are now living in heaven between Dillan and Chloe. If either one of them had survived, I wouldn't have Chloe. So despite the extreme pain and sadness and anxiety while I was pregnant with her, I wouldn't change a thing so that I could have her sweet spirit here with me now.
"I do not want him devoted to neverness." It's hard when someone asks me how many children I have. I have four living children here with me now. Do I want to mention those who aren't? Do I want to make whomever asks me a little uncomfortable? So I don't mention them, but they are always in my heart.
"Did they think that by not saying words of consolation aloud, I was doing people a favor? As though to mention sadness I was 'reminding' them of the terrible thing?" I had people who said NOTHING to me after losing a baby. It was as though if it is not mentioned, it didn't exist. The baby did. The sadness and pain certainly did. This was a big lesson to me on how to approach people that are grieving. Some people said that craziest things like "You'll get over it." If I could get just one person to change that thought to "You'll get THROUGH it" that would be so much better.
"You can never guess the complicated history of strangers." Going through this has helped me to be more compassionate and understanding because I DON'T know what has gone on in someone's life, and beyond that I don't know what their perception is or anything for me to make a judgement call on how they should or should not behave.
"Once you have been on the losing side of great odds, you never find statistics comforting again."
"Grief is like a waterfall, and just like that I'm over it, no barrel needed, I am barrel shaped."
Another thing that she said in the book that spoke to me was that she was at a subway terminal, a man handed her a card that said "I am deaf" and you were supposed to give the man money in return. She says how she wished that she had a card that said "My first child was stillborn" that she could pass out. I wished for that too that I didn't have to explain it over and over again why I was so scared at each and every one of my OB appointments when I was pregnant and to people who said "I thought you told me you were pregnant" when I was no longer. That would have been so much easier.
And yet, even as I cry and remember the sadness and pain that I went through during those childbearing years, I would not have it any other way. I have learned so much and I believe that it has helped me to remember to love my children more and to be extra grateful for them that I may not feel if they had come easier without any problems from me.