Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Written Off

Before all the losses, I was not known to be a particularly emotional person with regard to crying and whatnot. When it comes to honoring my Irish heritage with fiery bouts of anger, it's safe to say that emotional, but as for the crying, I'm actually quite bad at it. I sometimes cry when I injure myself, and I often cry when people die, but otherwise, I manage emotion by cleaning something or by eating.

As our journey of infertility got underway and we began having loss after loss, I became more prone to tears, and now I sometimes cry at the most inappropriate times -- like while shopping at the supermarket, or while lunching at Central Market, or while filling up my car with gas. Sometimes I cry for good reasons, and other times I cry for the most ridiculous of reasons, and never on purpose at all.

For example, the other day, I was home alone watching Monk instead of doing chores or Algebra homework, and I started crying while watching a commercial for cheese. I don't know why I was crying over the cheese, except for the fact that it may have reminded me of some cheese I craved once when I was pregnant. Regardless, I was discomforted by the tear shedding, disturbed not only by the fact that I was crying, but also that my emotion was motivated by a processed food product.

As I sat and contemplated the nonsense of it all, I saw a preview for Lifetime movie called The Memory Keeper's Daughter, a movie based on the novel by Kim Edwards. Now normally, it's safe to say that I prefer hours and hours of looping reruns of Dora the Explorer to Lifetime movies, but for some reason, the trailer for this movie piqued my interest. I recorded it, and this morning, I watched it.

The movie itself was probably better than your average Lifetime movie, perhaps because the book it's based on is remarkable. It had a good message about life and love, as well as an example of an incensed battle for equal rights. Hard decisions were made, regret was had, change was attempted. It was altogether touching. Personally, however, I was most touched by an accurate depiction of the way a loss haunts.

It was late in the 60's. The mother in this story gave birth to twins -- a "perfect" boy, and a girl with Down's Syndrome. Neither the mother nor the father knew she was carrying twins, and it wasn't discovered until the second baby began crowning. When the baby was born, she had the physical features of a child with Down's Syndrome, and because of the lack of understanding in that era, the father (who, in an emergency, delivered the babies) instructed the nurse to take the baby to a "home for Mongoloids," thinking she wouldn't live very long. He made a split decision to protect his wife from the pain of raising what he believed was a terminally-ill child, only to have her die later, so he told his wife their daughter died during delivery.

I won't say anymore about the movie in case it comes out on DVD or something, but I will say this: the woman had everything in life -- a handsome and successful husband, a beautiful home, a healthy son -- but despite all of her many blessings, she couldn't help but see the missing baby everywhere she went. She'd not even known she was carrying a second child, and yet, she was haunted by the baby in the empty space of the crib. And while not in a debilitating way, as time passed, she imagined her daughter at every stage of life. She never "got over" her loss, and she never completely moved on as her husband originally hoped she would.

I couldn't believe that particular detail had been added, because before I having a loss of my own, I had no idea just how haunting they could be. Before my own, I was the unwitting bystander who insisted a loss must all be for the best. I'd only heard of losses occurring as the result of something being wrong with the baby, but all of my losses (save for the last one) had to do with me and a defect in my body. None of it was for the best. But whether the loss was prompted by my body's defiance of motherhood, or the baby's inability to form properly, the losses -- each and every one -- stay with me.

I see the space in my house, unused as it was intended. I see the space in my family, growing ever larger and ever more empty. And I feel the space in my womb: tomb like, tormenting. Sorrow is present in the midst of any joy.


"If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created [meaning Heaven]. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to 'glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bath[e] him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild."

-- C.S. Lewis
A Grief Observed

3 comments:

  • taralynn819

    All seriousness aside, you just inspired me to write a blog about my experiences with Lifetime. Beware,it's not pretty.

    I see there are exceptions, however. :) I just feel Lifetime stories are usually better off remaining in book form.

  • Amanda

    All seriousness aside, I normally have very bad things to say about Lifetime movies also. Can't wait to read your post!

  • taralynn819

    i listed it as posted yesterday so my friends & family could still read the Pampered Chef info at the top.

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