Thursday, July 26, 2007

Finer points

I am, most days, able to be happy for people having babies. I mean, the alternative is for them to join us here, and I certainly don't want that. But this morning I learned just how precarious my inner balance is. Yesterday I heard that an acquaintance (friend of a friend, really, but I see her from time to time too) went into labor. She was overdue and was hoping for a VBAC. When we didn't hear anything by 11pm, we were worried. This morning, my friend Aite told me that the baby is here, VBAC was successful, all is well. I was relieved.

But it turns out that hearing that someone had a baby is not the same as reading about it. I saw the birth announcement online. I didn't even register at first what about it was sending me into a rapid tailspin. I had to re-read the whole thing to find it. And there it was-- the very first line, "We are parents of two kids now!"

So is it because I want to say "so are we," or is it because I will never get to write that particular line? Or is it because I feel like telling her that they have been parents of two kids for a while, and now they are lucky enough to be parents of two living kids? She is not even the clueless kind-- in the few interactions I had with her since A's death, she has been very nice and didn't say anything stupid.

Or is it that I am reading too much into it? That I am hearing a very quiet whisper there, "you only get to be a parent after they are born, you are not a parent of two," is that it? I know this last interpretation to be patently ridiculous, and not only because I believe that we each get to define our own truths about our understandings of when it is that we become parents, but also because, quite clearly we make parenting decisions while they are still in utero. Not to mention it was a birth announcement, not a letter to me.

But more than any of this, how is it that I can be so thoroughly undone by a line that I don't even register, in an announcement of the birth I already knew about, and was relieved to know occurred? Turns out, six months is no time at all.


Beruriah said...

No, 6 months really isn't much time at all.

I doubt they haven't felt like parents to their new baby for quite awhile now, I just don't think people think through all the possible implications of their words. And it's the reality that they don't actually need to that hurts me the most. That makes me feel left out, and in the case of 2-child families, as if I've been lapped.

And yeah, the realization that you can now be slapped by unseen and innocuous well-meaning hands really sucks. So vulnerable.

niobe said...

I never know exactly what's going to slip past my defenses and really, really hurt.

I can certainly see why the words were painful to read. And it doesn't help to realize that, most likely, your acquaintance didn't give the slightest thought to the implication of her words. As Beruriah pointed out, unfair as it is, most people don't have any particular reason to.

meg said...

Part of it for me is that the biggest thing most people have to worry about is, are they going to have a girl or a boy?

There is so much innocence in having this kind of pregnancy and birth. That's what I find hard when I come across something like this announcement you read. There is no reason for them to think about how this might sound or make someone else feel. Or that it means anything other than what it means to them. It's just simply "we have 2 kids", and they are lucky that they have never had to think about having one here and one up there.

I never know what's going to bother me on a certain day. I can certainly understand why this would hurt. Sigh.

Aurelia said...

An unexpected announcement can throw everyone.

I got an email a while back from a woman who was pregnant by accident with her third child. She is a lovely woman and a great mom, and a good friend, but I really really felt like I got punched in the gut.

And the irony? They can barely afford two kids.

I haven't even been able to write back with congratulations. I just feel sick everytime I think about it. Partially envy, and partially guilt that I feel envy.

Bon said...

six months really isn't much time, in the scheme of things. i've read that a part of grieving is having to confront all the random little fantasies and expectations you had for whatever you've lost, even retroactively...and thus hurt can creep up even long, long later, and sting.

like the others, i can see why the words were painful to you...and maybe doubly so because of that innocence that those parents get to have.

i got a group email today from someone whose daughter was born in the same NICU as Finn was - actually on his due date, which rocked me pretty badly at the time - and at the same gestation, who survived. they just took her back to that hospital - where i had to stay for two months on bedrest while pregnant with Oscar - for a followup. and the email was all about how hard it was for them to walk back into that NICU. and while a part of me fully gets that, a part of me was stunned and agog that they had the senseless nerve to go on "la la, oh so hard" knowing that i was one of the audience of only TEN for their stupid email. and stuff i thought i'd let go of at least a year ago all came flooding back, triggered both by their descriptions and my fury that they get to think that bringing their perfect, functioning-above-corrected-age child back there is the hardest thing they've ever done.

sorry...that was far more about me than about you.

suffice to say, yeh, it doesn't just all fade easily.

Aite said...

Since I've read the same announcement you did, I've been thinking somewhat related thoughts today.

Both the "parents of two kids" and "our baby is here" lines got me thinking. When we were little, we were usually told a story of ourselves that started with birth. When everything is fine, it's usually safe to stick to that myth. In reality, birth is the last thing some babies get to do, and for others it's a dangerous passage.

Aite said...
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Aite said...
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Lori said...

I completely understand how perfectly innocent comments can now bring on feelings we didn't expect, or hold an entirely different connotation than was probably intended.

This reminded me of Tiger Woods' recent comment when asked how he felt about his new role as "dad." He said something to the effect of, "My wife and were just talking about how amazing it is that you can love someone so much today who didn't exist yesterday." Now, I am sympathetic to how hard it must be to always have to speak off the cuff and then have your words put in print for all the world to see. I wouldn't want to be held to such a responsibility. But even so my immediate reaction was one of defensiveness and anger. I wanted to say, "Your daughter did too exist yesterday! She has been existing for the past nine months!" And it turns out I am not the only one, because I did read that he took a little heat for that comment.

Karen said...

it's really a very short time compared to the time you spent hoping and planning for life with your baby, in many ways no amount of time will change how you feel about being a parent of two. I had two miscarriages and even as they fade into past in some ways, in other ways there are two daughters of this family who are not here with us and I will always feel that they ought to be, to feel any differently would be to betray my own heart, my own hope, even though my maintaining that position keeps that bit of sadness alive - sometimes the missing of them is all I have of them and I'd rather have that than nothing. I do not compare my situation to yours - I did not experience what you did, but those losses touched me and stay with me over time as they have become part of who I am. Part of who you are is a mom of two, and that's a forever thing.

wannabe mom said...

i can't add much more wisdom to the fine comments here, except to say that i completely feel your pain. and your realization that the announcement wasn't a letter to you makes perfect sense yet it doesn't matter when your baby isn't here.

i too rec'd a birth announcement, bcc'd, he and his gf attended the babies' funeral and i hadn't heard from them since. the subject line was "the birth of our baby girls" (he is typo-notorious - there was just 1). i knew about the pg and the due date. what was so difficult about singling me out for a personalized, sensitive email? yes, i am that selfish.

Julia said...

I can't believe I haven't come back to thank you all for your very kind comments yet. I thought I did, and then it turned out it was all in my head. So thank you.

Beruriah, yes-- feeling lapped. Exactly. I couldn't put that into words. Thanks.

Aite, you might be right about the myth or the story that makes people talk and think that way. But I think, like Niobe and Meg said, there is also the element of being safe to do that. If they get a lifetime, does it really matter when it starts?

Bon, I can't believe they did that. Really, if you look up "loss of perspective" in the dictionary, this would be the definition. I'm really sorry you had to deal with that.

Lori, I didn't hear about Tiger Woods. I guess it helps to be unplugged from popular culture-- I got upset even now, and I imagine I would've been even more pissed off in real time.

Karen, I am sorry about your miscarriages. Those are not trivial losses. And thank you so much for commenting.

Wannabe mom, I am so sorry the proud papa can't spell. That has to hurt. And especially if they haven't talked to you since the funeral...