Monday, January 3, 2011

My neighbour is pregnant and it's upsetting me

Since my last miscarriage (what number is that now.... I think it was #11) four months ago, I have had to endure the blossoming belly of the woman next door.

I found out she was pregnant during an exchange we had at my front door on the day I was suffering the loss - they are virtually par for the course for me now, it was my second miscarriage in 2010 alone - when she had come over to invite the LGBB to play with her son in his new sandpit. Nothing wrong with that. All terribly neighbourly, etc. And really, she's an ace girl. The kind you could throw back a few drinks with, I'm sure, and we have spent ages chatting over the past two years when we pass by the fence.

But on that day, when I said it would actually help me out if Lolly went over for a play because of my current circumstance, I was really disappointed in her that she chose that moment to say with a laugh, "Well, you don't want to know we're expecting number two then!"

Since then, it's been ringing in my ears. She knew and I knew it was inappropriate to say as soon as the words left her mouth. But there it was. Hanging in the air. And now, every time she walks through her backyard, past my kitchen window where - let's face it - we tend to spend a lot of time gazing out on the world, I have to see that belly. That beautiful, growing bulge beneath her increasingly tighter tops. I'm not sure how far along she is now but it must be third trimester. Often, I look away (or walk away) because I want to just shut it out. But I realise that once the little person is here and they're all out in the backyard, I won't very well be able to see past it.

It's had me thinking hard the past few weeks as the belly has been prominent in my eyeline.

Am I really so not over losing all our pregnancies (and Ellanor) that I am reduced to this? I thought I was much more emotionally okay with pregnant women. I've self-checked and know that there will always be residual pangs of remorse that we don't have more than one live child. Perhaps it's as simple as witnessing this person's growing life even though I am in my safe haven, my home, where I usually feel protected and able to recover from whatever confronting pregnancy-newborn-related conversation or situation I find myself in on any given day. I know that my miscarriage talk makes people uncomfortable, especially "the pregnant ones", and my needs have long since dissipated to a point where I am able to compartmentalise my angst so that I'm not bothersome (I've had women physically recoil from me when they have asked and I have divulged some of my pregnancy-related history.... it's not exactly pleasant when they react in that way).

And then, something happened last week to a fellow blogger that sent me reeling. Totally un-pregnancy-related, this was the death of Sarah's (of Ah! The Possibilities fame) beloved cat. As the grief process continued and her family decided they needed a new cat,  I was shocked at a Twitter response that came to my mind at one point and I pulled myself up sharply.

I had thought, "You want a cat? Take mine... please!" Where the hell did THAT come from?!?

It was about as ghoulish and ill-thought out of me as the moronic offers Steve and I used to get from other people to take their children - "Take ours! You can have 'em!" - as if it was some sort of easy thing for them to do, not to mention that they assumed it would be as simple as us taking their children and then our pain and problems would be solved.

Immediately, I berated myself. And then I was left to consider how similarly quickly those quick-witted quips, designed to add lightness to a moment, must have entered the minds and rolled off the tongues of the people I used to encounter. I had to concede that I had unfairly condemned these people, long since in my past now (some of them barely even acquaintances), as being uncaring, unthinking twit-headed meanies. Does that mean I am one too? Or does it mean they were not then? I guess that's all relative.

To minimise the natural processing of shock over a death and grief resulting from the loss in this way is highly insulting, belittling and demeaning. But how quickly it is absorbed back into daily life and how swift we are, as a society, to joke things all away and smooth them over and pretend we can joke along. Because if we don't, we're seen as morose or not coping or "hard work". No. What about, "we're grieving"! And "it's an individual process"! And "we'll be okay if we're not hurried with the flippant comments"!

I could tell you comments that were levelled at us (and others that I've heard over the years) that would make your hair stand on end. One amazing statement came just two months after Ella died - I was told that I needed to watch that Steve didn't "spiral into a pit of depression" because this person was worried Steve was sad every time they talked to him. Ermmmmmmmm, hellooooooooo. I haven't the words now and I didn't back then either, in reply. So it was just said to me and that person went off thinking they'd done the right thing.

It has taken me a number of years (and lots of soul-searching and counselling methods) to broaden my perspective and relax my thinking about those whom I have in the past deemed to have acted incorrectly. It is ignorance, despite my forgiveness. And I was the ignorant one in that moment, when I thought of suggesting I bundle off my cat (even in jest, for I wasn't really going to do it - I knew it and Sarah would have known it, but that's hardly the point). It was a really shocking lesson for me to learn, that I could allow my mind to go there so quickly that if I hadn't been more thoughtful, I could easily have spilled the thoughts out of my brain and into my Twitterstream.

If I had not had my experiences with the loss of Ellanor - after which time I was authoritatively told by people, even strangers sometimes, that it was "probably a blessing in disguise" - and the feedback I have had to endure from people (many of whom have been parents themselves) telling me my miscarriages have been "for the best, there was obviously something wrong with it and you wouldn't want a child with problems"... and even more beauties than that, then I may not have considered twice the prospect that grief is linear. That is, I see that grief has no hierarchy, no boundaries, no exclusions.

I realise there is a time when most of us naturally start to feel better after a loss, no matter what that loss is. But we can either be helped or irretrievably hindered along the way by people turning their thoughts into words.

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