a story of loss | #notthemamawho

It’s been TWO years since I’ve been back to this space! For the most part I haven’t missed it. But lately the words have been back and I feel the need to get them down somewhere before they again disappear into the mountains of laundry and dishes and unorganized basements that threaten to swallow me whole.

A long time ago I promised you that I’d talk about the difficult things. Lately, I’ve been particularly inspired to be honest and open with the tough stuff. The following is something I wrote shortly after our first year of marriage.

This is a story of loss.

I’ve always hated when people used the word ‘loss’ to describe death. “We lost grandpa back in ’06.” well actually, no, you didn’t lose him, in most cases you know where he went… But this past year I have come to really understand the term.

Let’s start at the beginning… My husband and I were married on an unseasonably sunny and warm January day, on a beautiful hillside overlooking the golden gate bridge. It was the first day of my life, (our song by Bright Eyes) figuratively and literally.

We had a steamy dreamy honeymoon on the side of a volcano in the jungle of costa rica, then returned to begin our lives as a married couple in the real world. The real world wasted no time. I spent my days commuting over an hour each way to a job that (to plagerize a phrase from a facebook friend) ‘sucked my soul out of my ass’ and BJ nervously rode out a series of layoffs that cut the company in half and an increasingly dire forecast for the building industry.

About three weeks after our honeymoon, my mom called to tell me that my Noni had finally died (she’d had a massive stroke in October and it had been a cruelly slow and painful process) and to book a flight home for the funeral. I went home from work, drank some cheap white wine with ice cubes in it, packed the most ridiculous random assortment of items (I made it home with 5 pairs of jeans, 3 shoes- individual shoes, not pairs, 1 shirt, a dress that wasn’t remotely appropriate for a funeral, and some dirty workout clothes) and headed out early the next morning.

Most of that weekend is a blur, but the visitation and her funeral stand out of the haze in acute clarity. My only paternal cousin’s three year old daughter kept saying ‘Noni, Noni’ when seeing her picture. I looked in the coffin and saw a scary wax version of the once real woman I loved so. People came in droves to pay their respects, and everyone had a story. My sweet husband never left my side, amd shed tears with me and for me. My aunt gave a eulogy that told the story of my Noni’s life, and my father gave a eulogy that told the story of my Noni. I held my brother’s hand as we faced the endless stream of sympathetic faces, tears running down our cheeks.

I began to understand what loss is. It’s a hole where there was once a house with a pink kitchen and peaches with ice-cream. It’s someone else’s corn pudding on Thanksgiving, it’s narcissism outliving generosity. It’s an absence so keenly felt by everyone who knew her. It’s feeling like no one has the right to be as sad as you, because she was your Noni, and she was most special to you.

A few months went by, we celebrated our marriage with a big party in my hometown, and invited almost everyone we knew. We were so busy I barely had time to think about my Noni, but I was careful not to go over to her house, and she was at the back of my mind. I smiled to myself thinking how she’d have been in a tizzy trying to cook and clean and take care of everyone but herself. I wanted to visit her grave, but I just couldn’t yet.

Another month went by, we moved into a new house, celebrated my 25th birthday, and found out I was pregnant. We planned to name the baby after my Noni if it was a girl. Two weeks later I flew to Chicago for my sister-in-law’s bachelorette party. While there, miles away from my husband and my doctor, I began to miscarry. It was terrifying and confusing and sad. And again, I knew loss.

Miscarriage is such an inept word. It first of all implies that the ‘carrier’ did something wrong. Like you made a mistake instead of surviving something terrible that happened TO you.

In a way I felt silly, we hadn’t planned the pregnancy, after all, I’d only known for 2 weeks, plus I was in the middle of someone I loved’s celebration… I needed to suck it up and accept “meant to be”… So, I had a good cry with my dear mother-in-law (for whose presence I am so grateful), got hugs from wonderful friends, the most encouraging words from my new cousins, put on my big girl panties and didn’t deal with it.

A doctor’s appointment confirmed our fears as a cold woman told me in a language that wasn’t her own, ‘Sorry. You lost it.’ Indeed. But I thought, “Well, this doesn’t mean anything, we can try again right away. These things happen.”

So we waited, and waited, and waited. My hair came out in fistfuls. My back broke out like a teenaged boy on steroids. The opportunity to try again didn’t come for 11 long weeks. I felt loss. I felt lost. Things at work weren’t helping anything. My boss was verbally abusive and manipulative and I just didn’t have the energy to deal with him. My numerous pregnant friends were afraid to talk about their own joy for fear it would highlight my pain. I felt isolated from my husband and friends, like they were all worrying at me instead of worrying with me.

Thanksgiving came, and we spent time with my husband’s extended family. I found such comfort in their warm company, my body seemed to relax, too. It looked like we could finally begin trying. I felt excited, looking back, I see a scared unhappy girl frantically trying to put a bandaid on a gunshot wound.

Christmas arrived, and with it a series of high basal temperatures I outwardly attributed to our presence in Mexico. (No one wanted a holiday at home without my Noni.) Secretly, I dared to hope they indicated a pregnancy. We spent New Year’s Eve shooting off sparklers and dancing on the beach and it seemed like happiness was imminent.

A test and doctor’s visit confirmed that I was indeed pregnant, and we were even fortunate enough to see the baby and hear the heartbeat. BJ was in awe at the experience… I felt oddly unimpressed. The doctor told us that the chances of miscarriage were now under 10 percent. We began to plan and prepare and I felt sure that everything would be okay, it had to be, it couldn’t not be. We stopped worrying about keeping it a secret, we were so happy we wanted everyone to know!

My cousins had just welcomed their beautiful baby girl and I wanted to give them a party celebrate her birth. I spent so much time on the details (turns out I’m just a wee bit like my Noni) cooking and decorating. BJ was such a good sport, hanging colorful tissue puffs from the ceiling amd running countless last minute errands. I smiled thinking that someone would be doing the same for me soon.

The night before the shower the spotting began. It was just a little… No big deal, this happens. In fact it had happened to my cousin and everything had turned out fine! I called the advice nurse, she said to take it easy and they’d see me first thing Monday. The spotting increased, but once again I was celebrating someone I loved, and didn’t have time to think about myself. Besides, everything was fine, it had to be. If the baby was a girl we were going to name her after my Noni. 

Monday morning. Doctors office. No heartbeat. I heard the words ‘sorry’ and ‘procedure’ and ‘easier’. I looked up blankly at my husband. He took over decisions and gave me a sturdy place to lean. Once again he cried with me and for me, and for himself and for us. I just cried for me.

To be continued…

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