I’ve been asked by my pregnant friends what labor feels like, and each time, I’m stuck wondering how to respond. In the end, I always answer with something semi-true like, “strongest motherfucking period on the planet,” which is semi-true. It’s also completely wrong. Labor feels like, well, labor, and nothing else. Even after popping three kids outta my delicate lady bits, I’m not sure how else to describe it, beyond saying something completely unhelpful like, “It feels like labor,” alternately, “it feels like a thousand angry chipmunks gnawing your uterus.”
When the divorce talk came a-knockin’, my previously divorced friends offered me similar sentiments about what I could expect; excepting, of course, that none mentioned my uterus, which was thankful. That organ has seen enough. I was warned that, “it would be hard,” and that, “the first year would be the worst.” Of course, much like my labor speech, it was simultaneously unhelpful and the truth.
I sat the back of the U-Haul three weeks ago tomorrow, watching Dave and The Guy Formerly On My Couch moving, the weather unseasonably hot for a day in late September, working on my tan and watching my kids frolic in the yard I’d dearly loved. It was then that I truly realized that this marked the end of the life I’d had. I shed a few tears before lugging the rest of my belongings into the truck, wondering what the next chapter of my life would look like. I contemplated asking my aforementioned friends, but realized that they knew as much about what comes next as the squirrel who’d been intently staring at me while I tailgated on the U-Haul.
(hindsight being 20/20, I should’ve thrown a good-bye tailgating party and grilled out right there in front of The House Formerly Known As Mine – there are too few occasions that one can set up a grill in the street and roast encased meats)
We drove off, each car packed to the brims – some sent by my wonderful Pranksters, for which I am forever thankful, having those lifelines means the world to me – handily closing that chapter of my life. I didn’t cry. Not then.
At my new home, I pretended I was a pack animal, an alpaca, which probably doesn’t, in fact, lug things around on it’s back, but it helped get me into the moving mindset from, “I’m sweating (proverbial) balls and I think I just flashed my neighbors by accident,” to “I wonder if alpacas actually lug shit on their backs, because now I want one. I don’t know what they look like, but I think I need one as a pet. I bet they’re fucking adorable. I mean, even their name is awesome.” Soon, the boxes were all inside, ready for me to give their contents a home.
I spent the next two weeks unpacking, hanging pictures, decorating (badly), wishing I had more art for my walls because Pinterest had made me all, OMFG I NEED BEAUTIFUL THINGS MADE OUT OF THREE EASY KITCHEN INGREDIENTS (sidebar: Fuck you Pinterest for making me feel super NOT crafty), and slowly turning the empty apartment into a place I could call home. “Wow,” my mother said as she dropped by a few days after I’d moved. “You’re unpacking like it’s your job.”
I laughed, “I just want the kids to feel like my house is a home, too. It’s a big change for us all.”
Keeping busy was my salvation, even though there was a warning bell chim-chiming somewhere, a foreboding, “when you’re done with The Busy, it’s going to suck,” clanging.
Apparently, my brain knows me well, because once it was all over but the shouting (er, decorating), the truth sunk in: this wasn’t some white-carpeted (WHITE!) hotel suite. This wasn’t a vacation. I wasn’t going back to my old life. No, this was my new life.
And while it’s a hard thing to wrap my three remaining neurons around, it’s been… okay. Sure, there have been tears and fears (but not Tears FOR Fears because I am NOT an 80’s band) and doubts, but there’s been a lot of freedom, too.
For the first time ever, I’m living life on my terms. I’ve been given the opportunity to take the old, examine it, and toss out the bits of it that don’t work for me any longer and lovingly polish the parts that do. While it’s not an easy process, it’s an opportunity to turn something that’s shattered me into a life that is my own. The ability to take stock of what I stand for and what I don’t.
To put the pieces back together into a bigger, better whole.
While I know the process is going to be long and (at times) hard, I know that I can and will.
I’ve begun tossing the things pieces that no longer fit.
Starting with my hair:
Pranksters, I’d like you to meet Becky, As Herself.
My Mother: “Hello?”
Me: “Hey Mom, it’s me. I think I caught Dad’s cold.”
My Mother: “Oh no. He’s still sick!”
Me: “Yeah, it’s like that. I’m considering going into phone sex until this stupid shit is gone. I could make a killing if I could find the dudes with a fetish for chicks who cough and sound like Thelma from The Simpsons.”
My Mother (dryly): “Sounds like a great idea.”
Me: “Hey, work with what you got, right?”
My Mother (laughs): “Did you take some Tylenol?”
Me: “No, I don’t have any. I’ve been alternating between the heat and air, trying to get comfortable. Waging war on this fucking virus.”
My Mother: “Well, I have some Tylenol.”
Me: “I can swing by a little later and pick it up.”
My Mother: “Oh, I can drop it off. You live four seconds away.”
Me: “Wow. Cool. Okay. You sure?”
My Mother: “Can you meet me in the parking lot? My knee is killing me.”
Me: “Sure, no problem.”
My Mother: “See you soon.”
Me: “Sweet, thanks, Ma.”
(thirty minutes later)
Me (thinks): “Wow, she’s driving that fancy new car awfully slowly through the parking lot. I hope she at least put the Tylenol in a brown bag or something so it doesn’t look… suspicious. The last thing I need is my neighbors to think I’m a drug dealer. Wait, maybe I should play the part – I got some aviator sunglasses somewhere. I bet I could get one of those nose/mustache/fake glasses things so I look like I’m trying to be “in disguise.” Or I could go knocking on the doors of my neighbors, holding my baggie of Tylenol, so it makes me look all suspicious. That’d be kinda funny until the police came. I’d probably get arrested for the indecent wearing of sequins or something. I can never keep up with the laws about Being Gaudy In Public. And GOOD LORD OF BUTTER, Ma, can you LOOK any more suspicious driving through my parking lot? Probably not. At least, I don’t know how. Maybe I should get HER some of those novelty glasses or something so it REALLY looks like we’re being illicit. ARGGG! MA, DON’T RUN ME OVER.”
Me (walking up to the driver’s side window): “Thanks Ma, for bringing these by. I’m in some sorry shape.”
My Mom: “Well, I hope you feel better. (rustles around in her bag for a couple of seconds while I stand there, looking suspicious.) Here you go!”
Me: “HOLY FUCK, MA. We look like DRUG DEALERS.”
My Mom (laughs): “Go knock on some doors and see if you can sell the pills.”
Me: “MOM! I need to LIVE HERE. I can’t try to sell my neighbors TYLENOL.”
My Mom (giggles): “Yeah, I guess you should try and sell ‘em the GOOD stuff.”
Me: “What, like Ibuprofen?”
My Mom: “NOW you’re talking.”
Me (laughs): “All right, Mom, thanks again. You and Dad will have to come over and see the new space soon.”
My Mom: “Sounds good!”
Me: “Bye – thanks again!”
My Mom: “Be sure to get top dollar for those pills – they’re EXTRA STRENGTH.”
(she drives off)
Me (looking down at the bag): “Holy fucksticks. I’d better get inside before someone sees me.”
And THAT is how my mother became my Tylenol Dealer.
When I first started blogging, I found myself fitting in, not with the other mom bloggers, but with the fringe groups. The infertility bloggers, the baby loss bloggers, the special needs bloggers – those were people I could identify with much more so than the people I was supposed to fit in with. Maybe I hadn’t lost a child, maybe I hadn’t struggled in that very same way, but I had struggled in my own way.
We were the outsiders. The misfits. We had stories that no one wanted to hear about. Elephants sat at our tables, in corners and we were forever on the outside of normal, looking in. It’s the natural progression, I suppose, that I would create a space for us to gather. I’m proud of that. There are many of us outsiders. So many more than I’d thought.
When my daughter was born sick, it was no surprise that it was these people that came to my side with swords to help me slay my dragon, fluffy tissues to wipe the tears, and a barf bucket for when it all came to be too much.
I have an email folder that I’ve carefully saved every email I’ve gotten from that time that someday, I will print out to show my daughter. Most of the emails are from the people like me. Like most of you. The outsiders. The people who have been through hell but know how to make the ride a little…easier.
Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss day. Every year, I do a Wall of Remembrance for the people who have picked me up, dusted me off and wiped the barf off my face when I needed it most.
For that, I owe them everything.
According to the Center’s For The Disease Control’s Website, about 1 in every 100-200 births in the United States results in a stillbirth. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4 million stillbirths occur yearly worldwide. One in every four diagnosed pregnancies ends in miscarriage. The numbers for neonatal and postnatal deaths run into the tens of thousands.
Those numbers seem large to me, but even after having to take a statistics class to get through nursing school I can’t say that I’m much of a numbers person. My son, he likes numbers, which is why he’ll be off saving the world, one string of code at a time, while Your Aunt Becky sits here, mouth breathing and occasionally wondering aloud, “Is the INTERNET working?”
Numbers aren’t my thing. People are my thing. 1 in 100-200 sounds like a hell of a lot bigger number when you attach faces to those numbers. Faces, stories and names. People. My friends. My nieces, my nephews, their parents. Tables forever missing one. Lives cut short. Unlived.
Still born. Born still.
My friends. Their children.
Today, we remember.
Baby Twin lost at 8 wks
Baby C miscarried at 12 weeks on 1/7/07
Mindy’s three angels
Anne & Jed’s babies
Athena Rose Moore – 24 weeks Gestation (2nd loss, only one named)
Baby 1 – 9 weeks
Baby B – Twin to my 13yo, 12 weeks
Baby 2 – 9 weeks
Tevin, Taylor & Tristen
Baby J A and Baby J B
Selena- lost pregnancy at 9 weeks
Baby K, Gabriel Connor, Christian Elliot and Andrew
Eva and seven additional losses
Ava and Nathaniel
Micaela, Angelica, and Frankie
Becca’s twin siblings
Clayton and Skylar
Baby A and Baby B twin girls
Josie Ree Smith
Samuel and Amelia
Baby George – stillbirth
In memory of my baby girl, Kaela Alexandria, 7 months and 4 days old when she passed.
Baby Ari, August 21, 2000.
Baby 1, August 2004, miscarriage. Baby 2, September 2009, and little baby girl Addison, accidental suffocation, 2008.
Iris Rose, respiratory problems, three years old, April, 2012.
MTGracie – Her two little forget-me-nots.
Baby Roessler, miscarriage, 7 weeks gestation
Noah Issac (9/1999) and Angel Faith (6/2005)
Lidia Faith and Ronnie Jo aged 7 and 3 at time of death on 12/2/2010. They passed away in a house fire.
Our sweet baby Ava Rose, miscarried at 13 weeks on Oct 3, 2007. I will never forget. <3
Mackenzie. She’d have been 19 this year.
Patrick and Anthony, born at 22 weeks gestation. They would be 19 1/2, if they had lived.
Isabella Joy (miscarried in April 2003).
Thaddeus and Clara
I’ll add any names to this list so if you’d like me to add a name, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment.
At Band Back Together, we have a Wall of Remembrance as well. Remembering, loving these lost souls is so very important to me.
At 7 pm tonight, October 15th, A Day To Remember, I will burn a candle in memorium.
Dona nobis pacem.
(give us peace) Lord, give us peace.