Tuesday, October 09, 2012

testing the waters

I'm still not exactly sure to talk about this, but apparently I'm capable of making sick jokes to friends about the subject now, so maybe, just maybe, that means it's time. (Please note, there is a completely tasteless joke included in this post. I don't normally go around making these sort of jokes, but it's part of the story.)

When Bunny's dad died it was this huge, overwhelming, emotional life changing thing that happened to us that we needed to get through. Just making it through the day was about all that we could ask for at that time, but somehow because talking about being devasted by a death is acceptable I felt ok talking about it. People talk about it when the people close to them die. It took a lot of time to get to the point where we didn't need people to handle us as if we were marked FRAGILE! Handle With Care, but I felt ok walking around with that label. Everyone loses people, and so even if it isn't something everyone's experienced, people have a general idea of how to respond.

Sometimes with the tough topics, the not-quite-as-universal ones, it seems like there are only two scripts for talking about things. There's script A: "this terrible thing just happened in my life and woe is me please watch me cry and feel some pity for me". Then there`s script B: "This shitty thing happened and I'm over it, mostly so I'm just going to deflect it by making a joke".

When the next tragedy hit, neither of those options really felt like they worked for me. I didn't want the world to have too clear a view into the exact source of my pain, and I didn't know how to talk about it. I didn't feel like I was allowed to talk about it. I didn't feel like I had any right to the Handle With Care sign, even if I needed it a little more, and the information I would have had to give out to get that sign was just too incredibly private, and invited too many unwanted questions and too many stupid responses. Seriously, half of my friends who found out what was happening managed only to make me angry with their attempts to express sympathy and make me feel better. And these are smart, emotionally mature people who don't usually say thoughtless things - it's just not a subject that comes up enough for people to necessarily learn what inappropriate responses might be.

The other week though I was catching up with a dear friend who I don't talk with as often as I'd like anymore, and he was asking questions about the elopement and what had led up to that. Here's the conversation, almost verbatim:

J: So, what led to eloping? Not that I was expecting an invitation or anything, but I kind of expected you to do something more than that.
Me: We had a complicated year. Eventually it just got to the point where we needed to be married.
J: Well congratulations! And I know you wouldn't have gotten into complicated if you couldn't handle it.
(long pause)
Me: Well, it wasn't exactly the sort of complicated that we planned for.
(pause, cue me feeling awkward and like I needed to give some sort of explanation but not actually wanting a discussion)
Me: You can't plan for dead dogs, fathers, or babies.

Apparently announcing a miscarriage through a dead baby joke leads to lots of concern. Who knew? But that's thing crux of the issue there's no easy way to acknowledge that situation and own it without either seeming like I want pity, or being crass. Talking about this is like ripping a bandaid off and showing off a great big open wound and it's uncomfortably revealing and private in ways that I don't really want to share. I still don't know how to talk about it, but I'm trying to figure that out, because there is oh so much to talk about with it. So I'm going to start, with baby steps. (Even if I still used the terrible joke as my segue into this.)

Back in July I had a miscarriage that was absolutely and unequivocably emotionally devasting for me. It was without question the most difficult thing I've experienced in my adult life, and one of the most isolating. It also really cemented some rather profound changes in myself and in how I think about the world and other people in it. (But this isn't the time to get into that.) I still don't entirely want to talk about it, but I kind of feel like I need to. Because someone should be talking about this. It might just take me awhile to really truly figure out how to talk about it.


  1. Just wanted to say: "I hear you."

    I think it makes complete sense that the hardest things, those that expose the rawest emotions and leave you torn and devastated, are the ones that you just can't force out of your mouth. Just saying it is hard enough, let alone control the form in which it eventually comes out.

    It can't mean much from a total stranger, but I am very sorry for your losses. I hope you will find some comfort in those around you and get the care and compassion you need.

    1. I never thought about it that way, but it completely makes sense. It was so hard to go through that talking about it has been very strange and uncomfortable.

      Thanks for the kind wishes. They mean more than you know!

  2. I had an early miscarriage before Jess, and it sucked. It's actually a lot easier to talk about now, and I am SHOCKED at how many people I talk to about it say "me too". Like, 80% of people say they / their partner had one, at some point in the 'trying to build their family' process. Sometimes more than one. It's so common, and yet so totally taboo to talk about, and it sucks. Talking about things makes it easier, I firmly believe it. Any dark thing, dragged in to the light, becomes easier. Time also helped.

    1. One of the things I find crazy is that dichotomy between how many people experience miscarriage compared to how taboo talking about the subject actually is. And it is something that needs to be talked about because it can have such a profound effect. The taboo on talking about it makes it such an uncomfortable subject to start though, and because it's not something that's generally talked about I've found that a lot of people who haven't been in these situations don't really have any idea how to respond to the topic.

      It's one of the reasons that I've decided to talk about it more with my circle of people and to use my little corner of the internet to process through some of my feelings on the matter.

      Did you write about it a little bit for APW? Because I think I read something you wrote there, and if I'm not mixing up internet identities I have to tell you that reading your post was one of the first real steps I was able to take towards healing emotionally from things. So huge thanks for that.