Losing an Unwanted Child

Eight years ago this week, I found out I was pregnant. I know, because it was my brother’s birthday, and also because I’m the guy from Rain Man and can remember exactly what I was wearing the first time I saw Jurassic Park, when I was five.

Miscarriage is a common topic for bloggers. Women everywhere grieve through writing, discussing their struggles with infertility, their fears that they’ll never have a child, and perhaps even previous losses. When we know them personally, we weep for these women and pray for them, as we should. We tread lightly and try not to look their way when someone else announces their own pregnancy. Hopefully, we celebrate with them when they refer to their first live birth as a “rainbow baby.” It’s really quite beautiful to see how kind and loving people are to a woman who loses a wanted child.

At 21 years old, married to a lazy sociopath, one year from my college graduation, which I intended to follow with grad school, I did not want my baby. I hadn’t figured out how to take care of myself, yet. I couldn’t imagine another human being relying on me, particularly when I could expect no help from my ex-husband, who I suspected was lying about his employment, again. I was heartbroken that another thing hadn’t gone as planned in what was a pretty wretched existence, at the time. I prayed. I did not pray for the strength to be a good mother. I did not pray for my ex-husband to shape up, as those requests had previously seemed to fall on deaf ears. No. I prayed for God to take it back… to make me not pregnant.

I was supposed to hear my baby’s heartbeat on my 22nd birthday. My first trimester was coming to a close and I needed to pull up my big girl panties and get happy, because there was going to be a baby. I cleaned out a room. I began to look forward to the ultrasound. I tore the tags from the clothes I bought and registered at Baby’s R Us. I tried. In spite of all this, on the first day of my senior year of college, at eleven weeks and one day, my prayers were answered. I started to bleed.

No one ever talks about what actually happens during a miscarriage. I never gave it much thought, myself. I had always just vaguely understood it to mean a woman went to the doctor and wasn’t pregnant anymore. Being on state insurance and having visited the worst emergency room ever, no one told me what to expect. The pain, the amount of bleeding, the baby coming out in the toilet… I had no warning. No amount of prayers reversed the course of the one that was being answered. I had no one with me as I lay on a beach towel and my body ripped apart my child… just as I had requested.

When you lose an unwanted baby, there are no flowers. There are no tears, at least not from anyone else. People still have good hearts, but they’re… well, they’re glad for you. Perhaps they wouldn’t word it that way, but you can hear it in their sighs of relief, in their condolences. Your life is back on course, just a little bumpy, and you’ll get through this… certainly more easily than you’d have gotten through that unplanned pregnancy. Despite any pro-life convictions, they even speak of the baby in less significant terms, as if you weren’t really pregnant. There’s a lot of emphasis on how “sometimes this happens” and “chromosomal abnormalities,” things they would never say about a planned pregnancy. Now, I know each scenario is different, but I promise there is no woman on Earth who wants to hear that the baby she just flushed was probably defective or that it’s “for the best.” In general, it’s a safe assumption that, regardless of the circumstances, you should just keep your fist bump to yourself.

When a woman loses a wanted child, she feels guilt and even betrayal from her body. She feels as though God is punishing her. Years later, when she’s melancholy after looking at an ultrasound photo of equal gestation to her own pregnancy, people mourn with her. For me… well, I quite literally asked for it. I should feel guilt. I should be punished. I should feel heartache when I look at the same photo. I didn’t want the baby and God reclaimed that blessing.

My reasons for asking God to take my child back, have only been validated over the last eight years. My ex-husband is still psychotic and neither I, nor a helpless child, have any ties to him. I had only just gotten to a point where I could afford to take care of myself before my wedding. Despite two incomes, I don’t feel we could fund a baby, even now. Although I married a wonderful man, we have financial and career goals. Personally, I’m still a couple of years away from being in a place where I can properly prioritize the needs and wants of another little life with mine and be a truly good mother. No one talks about what it means to lose an unwanted child, to feel grief and relief simultaneously, even years later. That doesn’t mean that I don’t still weep over tiny overalls as I thank God for the way things turned out… just that I do it confused and alone, as I deserve.

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Tears, Giggles, and an Urn

Me: “I don’t know. I never actually watch porn. I only ever watch pornographic GIFs. You never see any faces and just have a repeat of the good part. I don’t need a story or anything. I usually have one in my head already. He’s a werewolf… she’s a woodnymph. It’s just best not to mess with it.”
Gail: “What is wrong with you?”

Gail: “I didn’t think they were legally allowed to sell vibrators in CVS.”
Me: “It’s not a vibrator. It’s a ‘personal massager’, you pervert.”
Gail: laughingly “I apologize. I didn’t mean to offend.”
Me: “Oh, hey! I was right. It does say ‘personal massager’… and it’s ‘perfectly contoured for the female form.’ Thirty dollars?!? Mine was only thirty-four and it’s a lot better ‘contoured for the female form’!”
Gail: “Ahhh, Belle. You will just say anything won’t you?”
Belle: “What? No one heard me.”

Sunday, it was just after these conversations, that I was lying on the couch reading the train wreck that is the This Man triliogy, marveling at how trapping a woman with an underhanded pregnancy isn’t considered abusive, but sexy, when my Dirty Girl Novel was interrupted with the following text from my Aunt Dee:

Do you think you could do a reading at grandpa’s funeral? I was thinking you and Mickey both. Both granddaughters and both good Catholics. Gramps was so proud of you.

I responded without the use of the word “irony”, proof that I can control myself and just choose not to do so, Gail. I told Aunt Dee to just let me know what passage so I could practice. Now… how much did I not want to speak at my grandpa’s funeral as a “good Catholic girl”?

thiiis much
Thiiiiis much.

I hate ceremonies. It’s a whopping generalization, but they’re all awful… and here’s why:

Weddings: usually an expression of financial irresponsibility. A couple goes into a marriage, either in debt, or just down a couple of tens of thousands of dollars over a party that no one really wanted to go to anyway. I was bored at my first wedding and I’m sure I’ll be bored at the next one, between the dry heaves and shouts of “maccarroni!” which Gail will have forgotten is our codeword for “I’m freaking out and why the fuck am I doing this again?!?!”

Graduation ceremonies: too fucking long and made up of overly generic speeches. At my graduation for my Master in Library and Information Studies, the speaker made repeated references to how it was “only a few short years ago that we were moving into our dorms.” Psh. It was only a few short years ago that I was drinking myself to sleep to take my mind off of my wretched marriage. I can guaran-damn-tee the forty-something woman next to me didn’t relate to the statement, either. The ceremony was also held inside a kiln and I sweated for two hours just for someone to call my name. There’s not even any actual requirement that you prove your right to graduate. They will, literally, let anyone walk.

everclear
What?!? It’s practically Ambien.

Funerals: Funerals just fucking suck. Everyone’s sad and the last place they want to be is standing outside in July, wearing tummy tucker panties and heels.

bridget jones granny panties
Ahhh, comfort clothes.

Also… I make everything awkward and a funeral is just not the place for that. In fact, the entire drive to the church, I kept thinking…

Is this dress too sexy? Do I look like I’m going clubbing after the funeral? 

I was pretty certain I was wearing a Magic Dress: a dress that can look equally professional or sex kitten based on accessories. I wore my interview heels, but had I been in the knee-high black heeled leather boots, I’d have looked rave-bound and I knew it. I just wasn’t sure about the heels and dreaded the whispers of “Can you believe she wore that?” Fortunately, Bea made a similar comment about her own simple black dress and told me mine looked great the second she saw me.

This uncertainty, however, is precisely why I didn’t want to do the aforementioned reading. I got to the chapel about fifteen minutes early and a woman in a glowing green suit jacket took me to the front, showed me a binder and instructed me to put it on the table to the left when I was done. She pointed out the steps to the podium, which were danged near invisible. I already knew I was doing the second reading and had gone over it the night before to avoid the mispronunciation of anything.

Okay. Don’t trip. Don’t forget to move the binder. I can do that.

The Mass started and my cousin Mickey immediately went up for the first reading. I did not hear one word she said, however. It was at that point, after the procession and drama and melancholy had set in, that I realized… I had no idea when I was reading. I had no Mass sheet and found I couldn’t remember the typical order and wasn’t sure how funeral Masses differentiated. My Aunt Dee was seated in front of me, so I spent the first reading whispering to her about how I wasn’t sure when I was supposed to do mine. Bea sat to my side and tried not to giggle. Mickey was finally seated and I sat with bated breath, just about to rise… then the music started.

Well, I guess it’s not now.

A Catholic Mass is a formal affair. A Catholic funeral is a very formal affair. I discreetly glanced around in hopes of spotting a neon green suit jacket, but had no luck. The music stopped, I was poised to rise… and Father started speaking.

Well, I guess it’s not now.

Father: “Geff was not a complainer or a whiner.”
That’s not true. Grandpa Geff whined about everything and everyone knew it. Why can’t we just remember the man for who he was, flaws and all? How is it respectful to make shit up? ‘Belle will always be remembered as a seven foot tall space cowboy.’ Horseshit. I shouldn’t think ‘horseshit’ in a church. 

Wow. I want to get married in this chapel. This place is gorgeous. 

st. patrick's catholic church

I started thinking about how it would be funny to put little decorative stones in the wall where the angels’ toes would be, so it looked like they were wearing nail polish. I felt bad, because you’re not supposed to think about that at a funeral. Then someone tapped my shoulder and I realized Father was no longer speaking and there was a woman wearing green Christmas lights sitting directly behind me, which explained why I couldn’t find her earlier.

“Are you going to read?”
“Oh! Yeah. I just didn’t know when.”

Bea assures me that the lull did not stretch out for days and everyone thought I was gathering myself, so there was minimal awkwardness in retrospective. She claims.

Then the sad part set in, because funerals suck.

Father: “Geff was a proud veteran.”
Grandpa Geff was a veteran? Why didn’t I know that? How terrible of a person am I for not knowing that? 

Father: “As we all know, Geff knew dogs.”
Grandpa Geff was into dogs? Why didn’t I know that? How terrible of a person am I for not knowing that?
Father: “Having worked for the post office for many years…”
Oh. It was a joke. Grandpa Geff didn’t know dogs. Why didn’t I know that? How terrible of a person am I for not knowing that?

I should have visited him more. I lost five years with dad’s family, because of my mother. I hate her. I shouldn’t think that in a church, during a Catholic Mass. I’m doing this all wrong. I’m failing at a funeral and I hate my mother!

I want to suck my thumb and cry and I don’t want to be in tummy tucker panties. I can’t suck my thumb in public and emotions are gross. Why are we even doing this?!?!

Me: crying and whispering “I hated his Christmas party, every year. No one liked it and a lot of times we never even went. I feel so bad. We didn’t have Christmas with him last year. How awful that we didn’t want to spend any time with him at Christmas?”
Bea: “We had his birthday party, though. That was nice.”
Me: “Yeah.”
Bea: “Oh, my gosh. I thought for an awful moment that maybe you weren’t there.”
Me: snorting and laughing “Nana nana nana.”

Oh, gosh. We shouldn’t laugh during a funeral. We look like we’re having the best time.

Gramma was the same age as Grandpa Geff.
That brought on more tears.
Oh, I’m crying because of the thought that Gramma might die one day, rather than the fact that Grandpa Geff is dead.That is so much worse than reading Lady Porn when I was asked to read a bible verse! I am the worst person! 

Not only is a Catholic Mass a formal affair, it is one fraught with beautiful ritual, as is every Catholic Mass, and attended by many who do not know these rituals. Mass ended with Father raising his hands in prayer.

priest holding out hands

I looked over to see Bea and her brother Cade doing the same… alone. They only lowered their hands when they saw my cousin and me snickering.

Finally, the Mass ended and we made our way to the cemetery. My dad carried Grandpa Geff’s urn, a brass perfect square, in one hand like it was an empty casserole dish.

Cade: “Only Kent would carry an urn with one hand.”
Aunt Kendra: “Kent, I hope that’s sealed.”
Me: “My dad thinks it’s dumb that we have to bury it anyway, so if he drops it, it’s probably not an accident.”
Step-mom Lena: “Don’t joke about that. It’s taken very seriously in the Catholic faith and you might offend someone.”
Dad, Cade, Bea, Aunt Kendra, Me: simultaneous laughter

My step-family is not Catholic, if you haven’t guessed. My step-mom certainly meant well, but no one present would’ve been offended. In fact…

When we arrived at the burial plot, we found the unmarked hole, perfectly carved out for Grandpa Geff’s urn. We piled on his roses and the wreath that read “Grandpa” and gathered round as the sadness set in and everyone got quiet.

“Wait. We’re over there.”

That is right. We almost threw Grandpa Geff in the wrong hole. The hearty laugh we got out of it as a family is precisely why Lena needn’t worry that anyone would be offended by jokes about the redundancy of the Catholic decree that we bury ashes.

Other Shit You Probably Shouldn’t Say at a Funeral

Dad: “..and then father will bless us with the ashes.”
Me: “Okay. Wait! Bless you with the ashes!?!?!

blessing urn
What he meant.
ash wednesday
What he realized I was picturing.

– Debating cremation versus burial –
Bea: “I don’t want to be burned!”
Me: “You can’t feel it. You’re dead.”
Bea: “Hopefully!
Me: “Well, if that’s the case, then I’d rather be burned than wake up.”
Dad: “We’ll just have to make sure to leave a string tied to some bells outside of your grave, Bea. That way you can ring for help when you come to, like in the 1800’s.”

– Driving to the cemetery, my step-mom holding the urn on her lap, everyone waiting for us to bring Grandpa to his final resting place –
Cade: “Ugh. I’m starving. Can we stop for tacos or something? 7-Eleven is giving away free Icees today.”
Me: ::tearing up:: “Wait. He was alone when he died?!?! That’s horrible.”
Step-mom: “Belle, he was alone, but he wasn’t there. He hadn’t been there for days.”
Bea: “Wait, wait, wait! 7-Eleven is giving away free Icees?!?!

My dad gets out of the truck and leaves the urn while he checks to see if we’re in the right place.
Cade: “Kent… I think you forgot something! You didn’t even crack a window.”

– sitting in the back of my dad’s truck with Cade and Bea , while my dad and Lena bury Grandpa Geff –
Bea: “Is my dress see-through? I feel like it’s see-through. Could you see anything in the sunlight?”
Me: “Yeah. You’re practically naked. You’ve got a little toilet paper in your ass crack, by the way”
Bea: “I hate you. It only seems see-through right here.” ::points to space between her legs::
Cade: “I don’t know what’s worse, the heat or this conversation.”
Me: “Yeah. Geez, Bea. ‘Hey, big brother. Can you see my vag?'”
Bea: “I cannot believe you just said that!”
Me: “You’re the one who said it.”
Bea: “I am not!”
Cade: ::groaning:: “Thank you for that, Belle.”

Me: “Ugh. It is a thousand degrees in here. They’re gonna have to bury three more piles of ash if they don’t hurry the hell up.”
Cade: “It would be awesome if the window was open and they could hear you.”

My Grandma Kay has been divorced from Grandpa Geff for near fifty years, but was at the funeral.
Me: “Hey, kid. Did you wish Grandma Kay a happy birthday?”
My cousin Mitch: “What? It’s Grandma’s birthday? Seriously?”
Me: “Yes, seriously. It’s on Facebook, if you don’t believe me. Go tell her happy birthday.”
Dad’s cousin Tina: “Aw. That’s a tough day. We should take her some flowers.”
Me: “Hey, there’s some over there in the chapel.”
Mitch: laughing “We’ll just take her all of the funeral arrangements. She’ll never know.”
Me: “Yeah. Let’s take her the wreath with ‘grandpa’ on it…”
Mitch: “… we’ll just write ‘ma’ over it.”
Tina: trying not to laugh “You guys are horrible!”

I came home and I slept. It was a tough day. I’d have been content to skip it and pretend Grandpa Geff was still alive and that I just never see him. The only consolation is that Grandpa Geff was a devout daily Mass goer. He’d have been thrilled by a traditional Catholic funeral filled with people he loved sharing the occasional laugh. There’s not a whole lot more for which anyone could ask, and if one sucky day fulfills that life goal after a painful battle with cancer… well, at least it’s all over.

Sarcastic Robot Friend

tears ecard

Grieving.

It makes me terribly uncomfortable. Actually, no. Let me revise.

Emotions.

They make me terribly uncomfortable.

Today, Gail got on a plane to head to North Carolina and see her dying great grandmother one last time. This evening I got the following text:

“She died before I got there.”

I immediately called Gail and asked the obvious question “Are you okay?” You see, Gail and I… we really don’t do emotion. I mean, I miscarried, her baby died, we both divorced, then there was the whole rape thing and there were only two or three good crying jags in there. Max. I grew up with mommy dearest, who used emotion as manipulation and my dad and grandmother who are both still incredibly uncomfortable showing any emotion. Gail grew up with passive agressive parents who put on their Beige Faces every time people were around and went on silent treatment bouts when they weren’t. Then from age 15 on, we raised each other. The result is two people who agree that greeting cards are a scam and that when life really sucks, you should just make wildly inappropriate jokes. Seriously. Just send me the money you spent on the card, because I really don’t care what Hallmark has to say about the birthday of potentially thousands of people.

The Sweetest Thing I Said During My Best Friend’s Grieving:

“This sucks for you, not her. She was surrounded by people who loved her and thought it was so sweet that you were on your way. I don’t know if that makes you feel better or not, but I figure you’re not too worried about how heartbroken you are and you’re just thinking about how much everyone else hurts and how you need to be able to fix it.”

The Other Things I Said:

“Don’t deal with the emotions, Gail. She lives in North Carolina. You hardly ever see her anyway. Just pretend she’s still alive and everything’s cool.”

Gail: “The bright side is that I’ll be there for the funeral.”
Me: “That’s a really shitty bright side.”

Gail: “Then my dad told me about how everyone prayed for her and the room was packed full and just minutes later, she died and they all prayed again and you could tell that everyone just felt so relieved, because she was in a better place.”
Me: “Wow. Aren’t you glad you missed that? That sounds awful and incredibly depressing.”
Gail: “What’s depressing is hearing that story and crying in an airport.”
Me: “Yeah, but it would’ve been so much worse if you’d been there. You would’ve been surrounded by people who were closer to her than you were and you would’ve wanted to cry, but you would’ve felt like crap if you did and they didn’t, because who are you to cry?”
Gail: “Ugh. You’re right! But I’m still crying in the airport and it’s embarrassing.”
Me: “Okay. Here’s what you do. Just start screaming irrationally at me about something completely insane” high-pitched hysterical voice “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU ATE ALL OF THE FISHSTICKS! THOSE WERE MY FISHSTICKS AND YOU ATE EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!!!!’ Just make sure no one can even understand you toward the end.”
Gail: “I said I wanted eggs!”

Gail: “At least I’ll be there to see my grandpa, because now that she’s gone, he won’t be around much longer.
Me: “Ugh. That sucks. That won’t even be sad. That’ll be like a mercy kill, like when you shoot a deer. That’s the wrong thing to say, huh?”

Me: “They don’t have my seasonal coffee creamer any…”
Gail: “Hold on.” begins checking out at the airport store
Me: faux hysterics “Hey! Don’t tell me to hold on. I listened to you cry about your dead grandma and you tell me to hold on during my time of need!”

Luckily, Gail not only expects this from me, but she usually wants it and is upfront about it when she doesn’t. Mostly, she says it gets her mind off of how much things suck.

Me: “I’d make an awesome grief counselor.” choking sob “‘And they raped my five-year-old daughter over and over again and I just keep thinking that it might have been better if she’d just died!'”
Gail: “And then you’d be like ‘Yeah. That’s probably true.”

We talked for  a while and Gail told me about the couple in the airport who met on Craigslist with one of those “I’m just looking for a nice young lady to go on trips with me” ads. I recommended she join them to get more about this story and we joked about how this woman was so going to end up dead. As Gail was about to hang up, I encouraged her to explain to the person seated next to her on the plane that there’s a 1/10 chance they’d be on a plane with either a real or a fake bomb, but not to worry, she’s brought along a fake bomb to sway the odds in their favor. She agreed to, but I’m pretty confident that was an outright lie.

With Gail, I can pretty much express my condolences “I’m sorry. That sucks.” and she responds with “Thank you.” Then we dive right into tasteless jokes about rape and dead babies. With everyone else on the planet, I’m only capable of stating the obvious. When my coworker’s husband died, I mulled over what I should say to her for several days, eventually wondering if I should say anything at all because it had been so long. Then I finally blurted out “I’m sorry you’re sad” which was immediately followed by an internal cringe and a what the fuck?!?!

A few weeks ago, Jay texted me about his father, whom he and Chad both despise.

Jay: My dad has cancer.
Me: Oh, wow. I’m so sorry. What kind?
Jay: Carcanoid syndrome:
Me: Is it serious?
Jay: Had emergency surgery Thursday at midnight
Me: Is he okay? Is he going to be?
Jay: I think so
Me: I’m sorry Jay
I was doing really well until:
Me: My mom once told me she was having heart surgery and I felt horrible because I didn’t like her and she was sick.
Me: Maybe that was the wrong thing to say. I didn’t mean it badly. I know y’all don’t get along, but he’s your dad and you love him and want him to be okay. I’ll pray for y’all.
Jay: I didn’t take it in a bad way. No worries and thanks.

My friends just expect me to say something awful, apparently… and to be fair, my mother made up her heart surgery for attention.

It’s not just grief-based either. I have no idea how to receive affection unless it’s from the cuddly wuddliest wittle beagle ever. Most people who hug me leave me counting the seconds because I don’t want to pull away too quickly and offend, but I also don’t want to veer into weird territory and have them thinking I’m about to smell their hair and lick their earlobe. I just never learned this stuff. When I tell my grandma I love her more than anything, you can see how much she doesn’t know what to say. It actually makes her uncomfortable, because I’ve seen the lady cry four times ever. The best way to get something from my dad is with tears (though, we have an unspoken agreement that I will not abuse this), because handing me some cash is so preferable to handing me some Kleenex. I’m just the most awkward with grief. I can’t say the right thing under normal circumstances, let alone when someone sads all over me. I hope I meet a compassionate man who says the right things and can mend a five-year-old’s broken heart, because I’ve got dibs on Sarcastic Robot Parent.

rosie-robotAvailable Settings: Sarcastic, Bitchy, and Quiet*.

*Quiet setting is time sensitive. Robot will eventually default to Sarcastic.