Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Compartments of my Soul

Maybe there are others of you, like me, who are babylost but have this space of time-- for me, five years, that leaves you practiced and composed. I am consistently amazed at how well I have packed my emotional duress into tidy, neat boxes, all labeled in indelible marker, capital letters, and stacked them neatly inside my body, for easy access whenever I need them.
Somehow, it's as if my body can remember exactly what's in those boxes, and discuss, and relate to, and share all those intense emotions and memories without actually opening them. Of course, there's an obvious reason why, and that's because it's really sad to open them up. But while having this very practiced system for organizing my surprisingly distraught beginning to motherhood has very much facilitated my proceeding in a calm, and relatively happy manner, there are pieces of it that do rub me slightly raw.
Today we got a call, as we sadly often do, because somebody else's baby died. There are three hospitals that we are on call for, and often it's the chaplain or the social worker calling to ask us things, or to give us a patient's number to call later, but sometimes it's actually the patient, one of the unusual specimens who has the wherewithall to know that it might be helpful to seek advice from a person whose done this before. (When I had Charlotte, mind you, I would never have even considered doing this, but in hindsight, I can only imagine what kinds of advice I might have been given: take all your film, dress her in cute outfits, etc) Today it was exactly that: a woman who was still in the hospital, she had just delivered her fourth child, a girl, and the baby had not survived the birth.
But today, something new happened: I did not take the call. I was putting Aoife to bed, and Greg got to the phone. Normally he is at work, and I field all the calls. But not today. As I came down the stairs, I found him curled at the bottom of our old staircase, taking notes on the whiteboard, alternately listening and talking:

thurs ultrasound
weekend no heartbeat
blockage in bowels?
other kids 13 11 1
3-D ultrasound video
lost julie

It's a rare art and skill that my husband has, for a man, he can take out his heart, lay it on the table, and give it to someone if they really need it. For this woman, he did. I was so proud as I heard him, speaking slowly and honestly and thoughtfully, offering advice while leaving doors wide open. When I first came down, I imagined that I would take over the call (Ha! how arrogant), and after only a few seconds of listening I realized how utterly preposterous that idea was, and felt ashamed for even having thought it. Greg, too, lost his baby, he was equally as skilled as I to offer this family his thoughts.

And then, as a listener, I found myself stymied: I was imagining this woman at the other end of the phone, lying there in her bed, her face raw with tears, her body ravaged by the birth, her arms empty, and I couldn't even really get to the fact that I had once been that woman. I tried, kind of, to get to the boxes inside me, but I couldn't. I could see them, and I could remember having packed the feelings away, but I couldn't really get to them. I puzzled over this, feeling confused by the fact that I could so easily see that I had it all inside me, but couldn't get at any of it.

It is amazing, truly amazing, how your mind will protect you.
If I had to feel those feelings, over and over again, I would have gone mad by now.
I do need, however, to figure out a better way at just opening their lids just ever so slightly, so I can peek inside and visit a little more easily. It's not always a bad thing to experience who you are.


Meg said...

Wow. I have been through sexual abuse as a child and I can kind of relate to what you mean by packing away feeling into boxes. I know what happened and I can feel for someone else who had it happen to them, but I don't usually revisit those horrible feelings. Too painful. It's always present in my thoughts, though, in the fact that I make sure that my kids aren't ever in a situation that would put them in danger.

I know this isn't the same as your pain, but I can kind of relate to compartmentalizing pain so that a person can function. Thank you for sharing this part of you. And, WOW about your husband. You must be very proud and swelled with love.

Janya said...

what a gracious and beautiful thing that you are on-call for these families.

seems to me that by answering those calls, or listening to greg do so, you are prying open the lid each time you comfort another babylost family.

Awake said...

Our bodies have miraculous methods of protection, don't they?

You've got an amazing partner in your husband, as I'm sure you're aware.

CLC said...

It breaks my heart to think of another family having to suffer through this pain. I am glad you are there to provide some guidance and support for some of these mothers.

Sara said...

In picturing these tidy boxes inside of you, I'm drawn back to the post you had about your literal box under your bed of Charlotte things, including cards people sent. I'm not ready to pack things up yet, literally or figuratively, but I like the idea that some day I might. That my house and my mind won't always be overrun with things and memories and emotions, that someday I might pack them away and choose when to access them.