Tuesday, January 6, 2009

One less

People have been telling me that I look good. What they mean, because I, at nearly 200 pounds on my five-one-and-a-half frame and often with no real time to pay mind to my appearance most decidedly do not look good, is that I look lighter. The other lighter, the less encumbered one rather than the less hefty.

One mom in Monkey's class even went so far as to observe, not two weeks ago, that I go have a new baby and suddenly look better. It's supposed to be the other way around, she said. She didn't remember that she saw me pregnant with A, and I can't really blame her for the very human fuzziness of her memory-- we were only looking at the school then, both of us there for one of the Open Houses. I reminded her, and sometime in the next bit of the conversation came "ah, that explains, then, why you always looked so unhappy." Heh. Good to know, I guess...

Which is to say I knew I looked like hell. I just didn't know I looked that obviously or that consistently like hell. Grief, anxiety, responsibility-- it's a heady cocktail I was living on. Not FDA approved or recommended. I'm just sayin'.

I told JD sometime in the fall that it annoyed me when close friends told me I looked good. Not because I didn't want to look good, but because I didn't. And because them saying I did implied that they could no longer remember back to when I wore sizes in single digits and didn't have to strategically plot my movements around my own house lest the squeaky knee let me know exactly what it thinks of me, my ass, and the stairs. Good, as it applies to me among the people who have hung in apparently means jaw no longer in lockdown mode, smelling baby head with a drunk on love look in the eyes. And I know that's a lot, I do. It's everything, in fact. But it's not looking good, it's looking lighter.

I feel lighter, too. I felt it from the very moment the Cub exited my body. The push that propelled him into the world felt like it took off fifty pounds, or a hundred instead of the less than seven it actually did. It's not that I haven't been flattened with a strategically dumped ton of grief, or driven to deep sadness or profound anger over things that might seem insignificant to anyone else. It's just that it's not all the time now, and that, mostly, the stuff of daily living is not hard.

JD felt terrible that his very important and rather fun business trip left me to fend for myself with two sick kids, and the ever wise Tash reminded me that it's not like I do not have a right to complain. And G-d knows I am not one to suggest that a dead baby mama in possession of a new baby is not allowed to complain about the daily grind because she "got what she wanted." Never. It's just that it didn't feel like there was anything to complain about.

I am not a saint, people, nor do I play one on the internets. There are things I will complain about. Like the seemingly complete lack of sleep now two nights running-- alas I no longer possess the stamina of my undergraduate years and I do not do well on no sleep. I do not even do ok, if you get my meaning. There are even things I will take a certain amount of enjoyment in complaining about, said enjoyment located mainly in crafting the story for maximal effect. It's just that many things that should trigger the desire to complain (see: sick kids, husband away) simply don't. Or not so simply.

We had a gathering for the parents of the kids in Monkey's class a few months ago. I overheard a conversation there, and it's been worming its way inside my head since then. A father of four was telling a mother of three that just that weekend one of his kids had an unexpected sleepover, and suddenly they were able to get so.much.done. I am sure you know how it is, he said, when you temporarily find yourself with just one less than you are used to-- there is all this time you normally spend dealing with the kid who is off at a friend's, and you can now put that time towards a ton of little things that you wouldn't otherwise get to.

Maybe that's just it-- I always have one less. And no, I wasn't used to caring for three, and this is not temporary. Nevertheless, this feels a lot like a key to understanding the source of the very bearable lightness of my being these days-- most troubles are temporary, but I always have one less. Oh, and the troubles that look like they could possibly be non-temporary? Those still freak me right out.


P.S. Somehow this seems apropos here: I noticed that I have trouble saying "both kids". I can do it without the "kids," if, for example, in a previous clause I have identified them individually, e.g. Monkey wants an apple, the Cub could use his toy from the kitchen counter, and they both need baths tonight. But I feel like without the setup it's the wrong word to use for the two when the one in the middle is missing. I noticed that I am having the same issue in both languages. Anyone else with me, or am I overthinking the heck out of this?

18 comments:

CLC said...

Tash is right, you have have every right to complain when you want to.
Funny you should write about people's comments about your look. I have noticed that everyone used to tell me how fabulous I looked when pregnant with Hannah. I don't think I have heard one of those remarks this time around. I don't think my body looks that different but I think my face, especially my eyes, says it all. I hope to feel lighter one day too.

ezra'smommy said...

Since Ezra left, I can't stand when people tell me I look good. I can't tell if its out of pity, or surprise. I am in fact physically lighter, having gained 30 pounds of pregnancy weight but having now lost 40 pounds thanks to a complete lack of appetite in my grief. People act as if its an accomplishment...as if I should be proud of slowly starving myself because I miss my son so much.

My Reality said...

Perhaps the cub has brought a bit of joy to your eyes so the grief from loosing A isn't as visible to others?

erica said...

Thank you for not playing a saint on the internets.

When people tell me I look good lately (and I don't hear this very often) I take it to mean, "thank God she put on a little makeup."

Tash said...

Wow, I've been ruminating posts on both of these topics. What kills me is that the people who *used* to blow unicorns up my ass about "wow you look good!" when Bella hadn't slept in three days or whatever, no longer say it. Which, ergo, means I must really look like shit, so much that they can't even fake it. I'm actually wondering if I'll ever get complimented on my looks again in my lifetime.

There have been a few moments in the last almost 2 years where I have caught myself thinking, "I can't imagine doing this with two." But it's a pretty brief moment because when I think a few more minutes, I realize I would've done just fine, and what I'm really trying to say is, "I can't believe I'm doing this given what has happened to us."

Ya Chun said...

'good' - it's all relative. I know I don't look as good as I used to, and the new ;improvements' are marginal. So, I too do not find the words encouraging.

It's nice how that lady never asked you *why* you looked unhappy..

k@lakly said...

YEEESS, I hate saying the three of them or answering the dreaded 'so you have 3" question. Should I say, "No I have 4 or Yes I have 3 now..." And even in the quiet of my own home, it hurts to speak of older brother without defining outloud who I am referring to, eventho I know I am the only one who thinks the distinction should be made between Caleb and his older brother C..

And I know, complaining feels undeserved now, laden with guilt. And the thing of it is, I swear I have the perspective to know the difference between the I have a dead baby complaining and the I haven't slept complaining, but it still feels almost ungracious? to do the later.

Hmmmm, deep sighs.

Ashleigh said...

Like kalakly- I am frequently troubled by- the "how many do you have" question. I usually freeze - people must think I'm a moron. It's just complicated- everything is complicated now.

Catherine said...

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who has these kinds of thoughts. I can't say "my boys" or "my kids" when referring to Sam and Myles because it feels like I'm leaving the other two out. So I say "the boys," almost like I'm silently saying, "the LIVING boys." It's probably a little sick...but I can't help it.

niobe said...

After reading this post, I took a look -- a close look -- at your header for the first time in a long, long time. And I think I see exactly what you mean.

Amelie said...

I understand your discomfort with "both" -- it implies that there are only two, and that just isn't true. Don't know if this also is the case in the Old Country language?
And "that explains why you always looked so unhappy" is, uhm, odd.

Rosepetal said...

I don't have two living kids but I totally get your problem in saying "both"

Kristin said...

Beautifully written. I think I would have trouble saying both kids if I were in your situation too.

Lori said...

Isn't it amazing how big a person's absence can be?

I have been ruminating on your PS for 5 minutes now, and I'm afraid I have nothing.

I took a second look at your header, and I see what Niobe means. It's very poignant.

Lori said...

I looked like hell after the twins died. And, I realize in reading your post, that I only started to look better, or more like myself, after Pumpkin was born. After the twins I carried around this bizarre extra weight. Not that carrying extra weight after having twins is bizarre, but the way in which I carried it really was. I can't even explain it. I was puffy and my belly still looked decidedly pregnant for some time. I have often wondered if my body wasn't able to let go of our unfinished pregnancy either- until we finally brought a new one to completion.

After Pumpkin, the weight didn't exactly fall off, but I shed pounds much more easily and the strange puffiness disappeared. And, of course, I looked happier/lighter.

All of the vocabulary difficulties we babyloss mamas bear is one thing I am learning to just swallow and keep to myself. I say I have three kids, I refer to them as "all" of my kids, they are "the kids", "our kids" etc... And, yes, it still hurts a little- but I don't know of another option that would work for me.

christina(apronstrings) said...

you are not underthinking or overthinking-you're just expressing the feeling as it is. it would be weird to me to not name the kid in the middle. maybe that will fade over time?

Anonymous said...

Re: the language - my youngest sister was stillborn in 1991, and almost twenty years later I still hesitate before referring to my two living sisters by number. For example, without the setup, I would never say "My two sisters" because I am always conscious of the third being left out. So I don't believe you're overthinking it.

wannabe mom said...

It's funny/annoying when people (strangers) see us with the baby and ask if he's our first. a) there are no other kids around, so why even ask? b) do we look that *old* that we must have some kids around here somewhere?

and i suspect that because we have him, people think we're "all better now.

our babies being gone leaves such a gaping hole.