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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Overpriced Spas and Laminated Membership Cards

Greetings, KuKd Strong Mommas and Inquisitive Guests!

Sometime last spring or summer - it's all a blur to me now - I reluctantly went to a three-day "women's healing infant loss retreat," which I had seen advertised in the flimsy newsletter for the Puget Sound Parent Support group. Here's why I was reluctant:

1) I wasn't sure if I was eligible, if stillbirth would be considered "infant loss." Lord knows I didn't want to try to sneak in there without really qualifying. That would be just bad form.

2) Even if I DID qualify, I wasn't sure if I even wanted to go. I'm really not a "healing retreat" kind of person. I didn't know these women - the organizers, the other participants - or what the whole thing would entail. The advertisement was suspiciously under-detailed. No itinerary, no price, no location, nothing. It wasn't affiliated with any particular organization or anything - just these two random women who were organizing it. Would it be a bunch of pow-wows and yoga sessions and bible-thumping? Would everyone get stoned and watch the sun set and talk about deep things? What if these women were all a bunch of annoying losers? Just because you've lost a baby, doesn't mean you're automatically a cool person (contrary to popular belief). I know that sounds really snobby and horrible, but imagine being stuck in close quarters for three solid days with the wrong people. I was apprehensive.

3) Even if it DID turn out not to be some kind of freaky cult-ish thing, I was pretty sure I was over the whole stillbirth thing. It had been, like, six or eight months since the Ultimate Shitty Event. I was SO done talking about it.

4) When I e-mailed the organizer to get more deets, she told me the price - somewhere in the $300 to $600 range, and just about wet myself. I'm sorry, did you just day - gulp - what you just said? For two nights? Now, granted, the thing was going to be held at this fancy-shmancy resort and spa up on Hood Canal - which, for those of you who aren't from Washington State - is really more like a huge, lake-width river that snakes along with the jagged Olympic Mountains in the background. Not some murky, nasty, sewage-smelling typical canal like the ones in Uzbekistan. And of course, it included all of your food and everything. But still - couldn't they just as well have done it at the Motel 6? Seriously, I would have been fine doing that and subsisting on dried fruit and potato chips from Trader Joe's for the weekend.

ANYWAY, in the end - after C and D, the organizers, convinced me I was a "perfect fit" and K told me "YES, do it!," I did it. I won't bore you with all the details of that weekend, but suffice it to say, it was - and I am not kidding here - one of the best things I've ever done for myself. I wasn't as "over it" as I'd thought, and couldn't believe how much I bawled and yammered about it. The group was small - only about seven of us. We did lots of sitting around, sharing our stories, eating and talking more, crying, commiserating, going through boxes of Kleenex like it was nobody's business. I felt, for the first time ever, like I had found "my tribe." Oprah Winfrey would have loved it, and most of our husbands would have hated it.

Oh, and the resort was pretty damn nice too, although I did get irritated when they had baskets of tempting snacks in the rooms - peanutbutter cups, Pringles, chocolate truffles - with signs listing the ridiculous prices of these things if you so much as MOVED one from its original position in the basket. Gawd, why do the most expensive places nickle-and-dime the shit out of you? I mean, come on. You're already charging up the wah-hoo. For god's sake, at least give me some free Andes mints on my pillow or something. Even Motel 6 gives out free coffee in the morning.

But that's beside the point.

When I got home, K said, "So, what did you guys do for three straight days?"

Me: "Talk about stuff."

K: "Mmmm. Glad I stayed home. Do you know if we have a wrench anywhere? Oh, and what are we doing for dinner tonight?"

Men. Gotta love 'em.

I'm still in touch with these gals, for the most part. Once in a while when I need to vent, I'll pick up the phone and call one of them to discuss. At one point a month ago, they were all knocked up again (the organizer herself was pregnant DURING the retreat, it turned out, but kept mum about it), which made me get that "I've got a lot of catching up to do" feeling (which I despise).

Then just a few days ago, I found out that V - one of my retreat buddies and just about the sweetest person you'll ever meet (her daughter P was stillborn), just miscarried at nearly 14 weeks. This news made my stomach drop about ten floors, perhaps because when you bond with women who have undergone horrible circumstances, you just want the best for them no matter what. What's particularly sad and scary is the notion that a person can actually be KuKd X two, or even three or more. What is UP with those odds! That's one of my worst fears - that I could get knocked down again (Actually, truth be told, I have worse fears than that. For example, I worry that K might suddenly disappear, that I might suddenly become allergic to milk or wheat, that my fly might be unzipped while I'm teaching a writing lesson at the college, etc.)

"I guess I'm a card-carrying member of the KuKdX2 tribe," V told me on the phone. Not exactly a tribe that anyone wants to be a part of. You kind of get thrown into it unwillingly. I'm considering making her a laminated membership card, but I'm not sure if she'll want one.


Anonymous said...

Shit. I wasn't expecting that as I read through this post -- it was being like punched in the gut at the end. I'm so sorry for V.

jen said...

what's wrong with getting stoned, watching the sun set and talking?

glad you went on this retreat, and glad it was in a nice place. sometimes you need to pamper yourself in a place other than motel 6 and just be thankful that you can.

i think those odds prove that there is no god. seriously, who is that twisted?

also, just read a quote in a good alice walker book that you might appreciate. it goes something along the lines of "keep in mind always the present you are constructing. it should be the future you want."

Michelle said...

That made my stomach drop too. That is so sad and scary. I remember after my first miscarriage reading about women who had 2, 3, or more and I thought surely that would not happen to me. I mean IF and then finally getting pregnant and then losing it that had to be enough for one person to take...right? No, here I am 4 miscarriages/ectopics later and I now think I am one of "them". In a club I did not want to belong and I worry, because I am a worrier, how much more can a person take. Haven't I paid my "dues"? I can not even imagine having a still born baby and the pain that brings and then miscarry at 14 wks is more then shitty! I use to think getting pregnant was all I had to worry about and once I did that I was home free. Now I know way to much and have so much more to worry about. I am sorry you have to be a part of that club but I am glad you went and found support with the tribe you never wanted to be a member of. Sorry to babble on here. I will keep your friend in my thoughts.

Cara said...

That sounds like exactly the kind of retreat I would eat like candy (and forgo the overpriced confections - of course)

Laminated membership that's an interesting idea. Now words necessary...just flash the card.

Amanda said...

Definatly not fun being KuKd more than once. I hope we both never deal with loss again.

sharonvw said...

Hey man, that's a FANTASTIC idea! When I was about 7 I belonged to the all girls Blue Jeans Biker Gang, we used to terrorize the local boy gang - the gum boot gang- on our bikes all day Saturday. We even had little laminated cards which we made ourselves proving that we were members of the Feared Blue Jean Bikers.
Now a KuKd membership card is a fantastic idea! I'm so bluddy proud to me semi sane and a member of this group that I like a blinking sign over my head along with the laminated card please!
(((Hugs))) to your friend.

Sara said...

I'm so sorry for V! I agree - what is up with those odds. I'm trying to psych myself up for another shot at being KU but honestly the thought of another KD is really freaking me out. I feel like I've only got enough in me to withstand one (maybe two) more rounds of KUKD before I just give up - so each try just feels too precious. Trying to breath deeply. . .

Monica LeMoine said...

Hi All,

I'm sure V will appreciate all of your kind words and stomach-dropping on her behalf. It's pretty crappy. Nobody who goes through stillbirth deserves a second loss, although on the other hand, I guess we've already determined that the "people get what they deserve" adage is totally bogus.

Jen, great quote: "keep in mind always the present you are constructing. it should be the future you want." That will the focus of a future blog post, no doubt. I love it. Right now, I'm doing something I hope to be doing in my old age: sitting next to my honey in a great city (Milwaukee - were on vacation - woo hoo!!!), drinking the dark elixer, just generally liking what's going on.

Anonymous said...

Hi MOnica,
I check in from time to time and continue to enjoy your writing. By way of reminder I'm the friend of C and D whom you met at Greenlake one day. I'm still bummed that I didn't go to the retreat is full of regrets. Anyway, I too send my heart out to V. I'm not "planning" on having any more children mostly because of the fear. I too have seen and heard too much. I still wish the best for you and all babylost mamas out there.

And on another note, what are you doing in Milwaukee? My husband and I are from that area and we wouldn't dare be seen in the state between NOvember and May. Hope the elixr is treating you right!

All the best. Heidi

Monica LeMoine said...

Heidi- excellent question. Yes, we're in lovely Milwaukee because we used to live here - this is where we did grad school and bought our first house. We like to visit from time to time, even in 20 degrees below zero weather, to drink beer and schmooze with our awesome friends.

Lani said...

I just went to Kripalu which is a yoga retreat center in the berkshires in western mass. (and pretty expensive as well) to do a grief and loss program. it was fantastic. while not everyone was there for the same shitty loss we're all experiencing, it was still phenomenal and I got so much out of it. it was good to be with others experiencing loss and just be able to cry and share and heal.

that scares me about your friend who just had a miscarriage. its so sad. i'm so sad for her. someone i know said to me stupidly - well the odds are with you for next time. um, no, don't say things like that. we hope that is true but the more i read about this shitty predicament we're all in the more i see that its not true at all.

Viktoria said...

Thanks Monica and all the other posters. I've got an empty spot in my wallet for my laminated card, like it or not.

The retreat was wonderful and the women I met are a great source of strength for me. I wish everyone safe pregnancies/deliveries and fat, happy babies.

oxoxoxo, V

Anonymous said...


Mon, I'm glad you came to the retreat. And, I'm glad we're not a bunch of freaks either. We didn't let the freaks attend--believe me! It was such a nice time and I ate some of those expensive snacks--what the hell. I figured, Matthew died, I get to eat whatever I want. Can't get much worse.

Thanks for your sweet post.


D of C and D