Saturday, September 13, 2008

What I can't say

When I used to write, in my past life of papers and discussions and theses and dissertations, I quoted people liberally, attributed the words I couldn't find or discover myself, and then broke them apart to support my cause. This was how writing worked for me for quite some time, because the way I used to have to write, in academia, I always needed others to support my cause to make my own legitimate.

I guess that's what I'm about to do here, just quote someone else, rather than say it myself. I never do this anymore; here I don't need supporting evidence, I don't know or relate to my audience, and they can choose to agree or disagree. I will never get a grade, I don't proofread, and I rarely edit. But I have to give you all a quote, here, because it's making my head spin.

Really what I'm about to do is give my own little personal prize to Kate for summing up the thing that plagues me the most in the most descriptive, eloquent, beautiful phrase I have ever read. So really, what I have here is a tribute to someone who is a far more descriptive writer than I am, who has woven wonders of the written word in response to her own personal loss. I love this woman's writing; it is highly probable that when you follow the link you'll think, NOW I have a new favorite blog, and it's Kate's. But-- I do ramble a bit.

The quote? (follow the link for the whole, eloquent, beautiful post)

I shiver with these words. I read them last night, late, and while I slept and all afternoon while I gardened my mind was filled with the image; like Mrs O'Leary's cow looking out over the city of Chicago, the fear wild and rampant and all the people quietly sleeping below. How can those 32 words so precisely capture this thing that lives in me, sometimes silently, sometimes rearing up and filling me with its heat?

These thoughts fill me in all of my interactions with the pregnant women in my life. I try, from this part that is very aware, to be a bigger person: to try to think statistically, to feel optimistic and enthusiastic and certain of the good outcome that everyone expects. But living deep inside me is the part that won't let go of the fear, that knows that any person is as likely as the next to fall victim to a random act of fate, that nothing can be for certain. I am constantly aware of the sound of my voice, the confident and jubliant way that my words flow out, perhaps overly joyful in an attempt to mask what feels like a terrifying and risky proposition.

The baby showers are the worst. They hold up the little sweaters, draping them over their bellies. I smile, I try to coo over the beautiful knitting and gaze admiringly at the knitter in the corner. But inside, I am thinking of the love that went into the creation of the sweater, and I can see the mama folding it carefully, running her hand over the tiny stitches, fingering the little buttons before putting it into a drawer. And I see myself, then, pulling out those sweaters that were Charlotte's, weeping into the soft wool for the baby who would not wear it. Every item that is opened at a baby shower is like a tiny prayer: please let this baby come out alive, please let the baby come out alive.

Even a blessing way, which is more common where I live, brings me angst because although this ceremony is much more centered around bringing good wishes and will to the birthing mother, the talk is always baby-centered and coming from the place that I can't ever return to. It's a room full of people who still have that innocence, and god willing they always will. It's this big club that I will never be able to join, this joy-only philosophy of pregnancy and childbirth. I get to be in the other club. Lucky me.

I wonder, sometimes, whether I will ever know somebody, a person that I really, truly know, who will experience a loss. This idea fills me with dread. While I tiptoe around the pregnancies that surround me, and think cautiously about outcomes, I also know that there is a big piece of me that feels that I have taken the bullet for everyone I know; that maybe the way chances work nobody else I know will ever have to be knocked flat on her back, unable to stand or breathe or even see for the grief that is holding her down, mockingly, with one finger. Grief, this big, vacuous space that surrounds and fills, and she cannot be outrun. I watch many people walk this road, but they have all been strangers to me before their losses. I wonder what it would feel like if it actually happened to anyone I knew.

So thanks, Kate, for giving me this little bit of 32 words that made me think and think and think all day. I admire your writing so very much.

1 comment:

sweetsalty kate said...

Aw, thanks Carol, for such kind words. You can quote me anytime, as long as I can quote you. :)

I'm truly heartened whenever a fellow babylost mama shares reflections like these on pregnancy and birth. Helps me to feel so much more normal.. I don't need any more self-loathing. Certainly don't need the guilt of making people uncomfortable while drumming up the energy to grieve and be grateful at the same time.

Not many people untouched by loss can truly understand... especially anyone passionate about birth. I've found it to be an almost impossible chasm to cross. But there's only one way to have it fade, if it ever does: to talk about it, to not feel shame in it. To stare at it straight in the face, and name it for what it is (normal), in the hopes that it passes or fades with time. And to never apologize for it.