Friday, August 1, 2014

Ugly parts

My sister took C.T. and her girls to a nature preserve yesterday, so I had a few hours to myself.  I decided to go for a jog along the river, something I've been doing sporadically to shock and electrify my sorrow filled body.  I'm assuming there is some benefit to blood moving through these weary shadow limbs,... even as being out in nature, where Zachary will never be, still sickens me.

On my return home, I decided to change my course and pass by a house that we rented for one year (mid-2011 to mid-2012) while we were building the home we live in now.  I guess I wanted to see a place that would remind me of a time when life was still somewhat hopeful, when the grief we lived with was singular, with just one deceased child.  When a living sibling for C.T. was still something that was thinkable.  As I walked by, I imagined the spaces inside.  The kitchen without a dishwasher, the bathtub drain that clogged constantly due to years of abuse, the coffin-like, spider infested shower that B used in that awful smelly basement so that C.T. and I could use the nicer bathroom upstairs.  I remembered how we made the best of it, made it our temporary and comfortable home. 

I have fond and frenzied memories there.  It was so hot during both of those summers that I have probably 200 photos of B and C.T. together in the plastic kiddie pool that stood, almost permanently inflated, in the backyard.  I was still working at the time (in a global role that required crazy hours), designing our home and working with the builder constantly.  Every day was filled with dozens of work and personal appointments and conference calls, from early morning until well after C.T. went to bed.  I remember C.T.'s first day of preschool, the photos we took that morning outside, in the front lawn by the tree.  I remember C.T. and me riding his new plasma car down the tiny hallway together, in our pajamas on Christmas morning.  I remember having a few other bereaved mothers and their living children over for a cinco de mayo playdate. 

As I passed the house, now sporting a basketball hoop belonging (presumably) to the new renter, I see a mother, three blonde children and a baby in a stroller up ahead.  The woman is heavyset and wearing a long black skirt that rocks and swooshes with each step.  The group moves slowly, the size of the group demanding patience and catering to the pace of the youngest walker.  Within seconds, I recognize her from our rental house days.  She lives five or six houses away from our rental.  Red adirondack chairs decorate her front yard, under a gorgeous shade tree.  We have never met, perhaps waved at each other a few times that year, recognizing that we lived in the same vicinity. 

Pangs of jealously and anger grip my insides.  When we lived on that street, three years ago, she was pregnant with her third child.  I was secretly jealous of her then.  That third child now walks with the herd AND there is a new baby.  Another one!  In the time that she has popped out and had the privilege to mother her third and fourth, I have had a miscarriage, and then perfect Zachary, dead at two weeks of age, because of fucking E.coli. 

My thoughts.  How is this possible?  I have long ago abandoned fairness as vernacular for the way this world actually works, but somehow my ugly righteous thoughts still permeate.  I did everything right, as it relates to getting my children here safely.  With Zachary, I ate wild salmon, salads and homemade food, avoided anything remotely harmful, exercised moderately, injected myself daily with Lovenox, as prescribed, even when my stretched midsection had no shot sites available.  I prayed for Zachary's safety and health.  Constantly.  I re-aligned my expectations when my water broke suddenly, when I laid absolutely flat for a week, when Zachary was born and deemed healthy, through his first week of scans when his problems were so minor and surmountable, as I cared for him through portholes in a hospital setting, when he acquired sepsis, when he was near death, when it looked like he would recover and might suffer with (minor or major) lasting implications.   

Two of my three children, dead.

And this woman.  She looks like she ate twinkies and doritos and drank nothing but soda, throughout all of her pregnancies.  She probably has no idea how fortunate she is.  Four kids.  All perfectly spaced out by two years or so.  All seemingly healthy.  God. 

It is true.  I have no idea who this woman is, what she has been through in her life, what battles rage in her head and heart on a daily basis.  She might have even looked at me with pangs of jealousy, had her own ugly thoughts, that perhaps I had what she perceived as freedom.  Skinny bitch... probably has never had to care about anyone but herself.  But, I guarantee whatever fleeting thought she had about me as we passed each other, was quickly dashed away by the needs of those four beautifully blonde children.  

The ache that I feel when I see mothers and their happy lot of children - most of them whole - will never go away.  Ever since B.W. died, that element of being part of society, of our community, even our extended family and friends, has been difficult.  With Zachary's death, that feeling has compounded to the point that it's too painful to be around other families.  With two dead children, being around whole families, honestly even families who have lost one child but have multiple other living children, makes us painfully aware of how obliterated ours is.  I hope that feeling diminishes, over time, to the point where we can at least spend pain free time with our once-bereaved friends.  There aren't many twice bereaved women that I know who can help me understand how to live with this for the rest of my life, how these feelings might become more manageable, over time. 

It is really ugly.  I know.  And, it is just one of the unflattering aspects of my grief.  One that I'm willing to share publicly, here. 



  1. I"m glad you do share it. Reading this helps me- makes me feel more human and less like a monster when I have these same thoughts! The ache I felt for you when I read your words about her having TWO live children in the time you lost Zachary and miscarried- it hurts to think about. And I see similar things on a daily basis- the woman who gained 70lbs in pregnancy, the woman who smokes in pregnancy, the woman who hinted at drug use in her last pregnancy! And they all have live babies! what kind of world do we live in???

    And the "skinny bitch" comment actually made me chuckle- YES i bet she does think that! It goes to show how we don't know the complicated histories of others. It shows how you try to envision hers- such a genuine sign of someone who is compassionate- and shows just how crummy life can be, because when you've buried not one, but two kids, it's so hard to imagine anything about her life that is NOT enviable.

    Thank you for this. this is all so true

  2. It's ok to think ugly things. And to share them. I've always hated the logic of "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything". I think we progress a lot more -- through grief or in life -- if we allow ourselves to talk about the not nice aspects of how we feel. But i think that reflecting on the fact that we don't know the lives of most of the people we see daily is so important. I try to remind myself that among the pregnant women that trigger horrible thoughts in me, some might have faced previous losses or difficulties to conceive. Or maybe they will at some point. (Or maybe they won't). I remember walking out of the hospital after getting the confirmation i was having a miscarriage and seeing a very pregnant woman smoking a cigarette. I wanted to yell at her, i was so upset she had her big pregnant belly while i was losing hope of mine.

    But to add to the point that we rarely know the story behind the person we are so prompt to judge, i'll say that i was one of the women who gained nearly 70 pounds during pregnancy, despite being mindful of what i ate, running for the first half of my pregnancy and bicycling well into my third trimester. I got really big and worried i would be judged for it. I had a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Until i didn't anymore.

    I am unsure of this comment, unsure how to word it not to seem belligerent but both your post and Meghan's comment made me react strongly.

    I am sorry you do not have all three of your boys by your side, and i am thinking of you.

    1. I am so very sorry to have upset you with my ugliness, especially during this particular weekend, which I know was extraordinarily emotion filled for you and P. The last thing I want to do with my writing is hurt another bereaved mother. I am so sorry.

      Zachary's death, on top of B.W.'s death, has totally broken me. There is no doubt my perceptions and emotional responses are badly damaged. While I can and do try to keep in mind that perceptions about other people (where there are disgusting, spewing, ugly subconscious thoughts tagged onto them) are not always reality, the enormity of the 2 whole human children I have lost, is my perspective. I can't think of a more devastating loss than the loss of a son or daughter, and because I have lost 2 of my sons, almost anyone I run into can provoke hard-to-handle feelings. I just really wish elements of my emotions hadn't hurt you.

      You were very kind and genuine in your comment. Not belligerent at all. I hope I haven't done irreparable damage with my post.

    2. No long-term damage was done, rest assured.
      As i said, i think these thoughts need to be expressed and thought through. I have my own ugly thoughts -- i just haven't had the guts to share them so publicly. Thank you for being so thoughtful.

  3. I agree that it is good to air the ugly thoughts. They can eat us up. Here's one of mine: I have a friend who was one of my best friends until very recently when she had her first baby and flaunted her natural birth and her dismissal of obstetricians' advice when she was overdue, over 40 and overweight. I can't help myself: I hate her for that flaunting. I wish I didn't, but I do. And I think: I hope she gets pregnant again and her baby dies, so she knows how it feels. So she knows she wasn't smarter and better, just luckier. And then, even uglier, I think: no, I don't want her baby to die, because then it will be all about her dead baby and mine will slip even further back into the darkness.

    Gretchen, I know you don't want to hear that I can't imagine how you carry on - I know that's not a helpful thought. But when I was pregnant with M, another bereaved mother told me about a family nearby whose two sons both died (one neonatally, one stillborn) and just contemplating what it would be like to have another child die made me feel like I would come completely unhinged. I don't say this to tell you how strong you are or how different you are from me, but just to say that my whole heart goes out to you and your husband and C.T.

    1. In the 7+ years after B.W. died (before Zachary came), the flaunting of pregnancy and birth and 100% certainty of a full lifetime ahead for their unborn child(ren) made me rage in silence. I guess what would make me most upset is when it would be someone who really knew me who, like your friend, really knew how randomly cruel B.W.'s death was. And, I would think...., someday, someone else's baby is going to die (a similar death) and then maybe they won't be so reckless and presumptuous. So, it kills me that, again, it was MY Zachary who died. It just needed to be anyone other than my Zachary. And, of course, this is just sick thinking, but it's the truth.

      I actually really appreciate your second point. I've been contemplating a post about this, about how enormous it is to have lost 2 sons, how completely shattered life is, this time, after Zachary's death. I have found a couple of other women who have lost 2 children - one on glow and one who lost 2 adult children, IRL at my support group. I know I am still very fresh from Zachary's death, but I feel like my hope has been crushed irreparably. In many ways, I can't help but feel that the universe has targeted my family.

  4. I so very much appreciate you and MIFD sharing your "ugly" thoughts. Baby loss is the ugliest of horrors imaginable - OF COURSE we are going to have ugly thoughts. In my opinion it's just pure, healthy coping. Thank you, thank you both for sharing. It makes me feel just a little less guilty and vulnerable. My ugly thought is with young mothers. I am bitter and jealous that my son died in what likely may be my last pregnancy. When women say something like "and next year I turn 35 so time is not on my side" I cringe and think "add a decade, honey." I can logically go to a place of empathy for them of course, but I won't deny that I cringe a little with jealously. Fucking baby loss. It is horrible and brings out the ugly.

    I also so appreciate the comment that MIFD made in her second paragraph. I have been thinking the same things for awhile but she was able to state it more eloquently thank I ever could. So I'll simply say "ditto" to all of her words. My heart also goes out to you and your whole family. Each and every day. I'm happy that you have been able to find at least a few families to connect to, as sorry as I am that there are additional families who have lost more than one child. Horrible. Ugly. I'm cursing the universe right now. Much love to you, dear mama...

  5. I can't find words for how powerful this post, and the comments above are. Beautiful written, nothing ugly about this at all where I'm concerned. Is it's strange to say your blog is a joy to read? In the saddest, most unfair way possible.