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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Full Circle

Greetings, Inquisitive Guests and KuKd/TTC Mommas!

Can you guess what that's a picture of? Contrary to what you might think, it isn't a silhouette of a gynecologist peering up at Mother Virgin Mary's cervix. Nor is it a gigantic alien-transporting space-bubble. It's actually a random photo of a rare "full circle rainbow" in Malaysia, which caught my attention because it connects to today's posting topic.

This is a story of coming full circle. But you won't understand the full-circle-ness of it until you get to the end of this post. So settle in with a hot toddy, which I think is a somewhat nasty (but relaxing) booze-based beverage that elderly women sip next to fireplaces, enjoy the build-up.

* * *

Last night, I did a reading for a literary performance troupe called "Motherhood from Egg to Zine, And Everything In Between," with me falling into that mysterious "in between" category (I guess). Supposedly, I was one of the "founding organizers" of this wickedly whimsical display of dancing and creative writing mommas and in-between mommas, but that's a big, bold lie.

It really started with a very nice person named Corbin contacting me last autumn, casually suggesting that we "read some writing out loud together at some bookstores." I told her sure, why the heck not. Next thing I knew, there were a bunch of other fine lassies involved, a website and logo created, a press release listing me as one of the "founders," even though I'd had very little part in it.

(You're not at the full-circle part yet. Patience, my dear.)

Holy crapoly, I thought to myself. Caught in a tangled web of illusion! Not only was I a bit nervous about adding one more organizational responsibility to my growing list of creative projects, but I thought I might get anxious, being trapped in a room with limited exit routes with lots of real mommies with real kids*, reading about their motherhood trials and tribulations, pretending that I was one of them. Me? Non-kid*-having, booze-drinking, coffee chugging me? In a group that starts with "Motherhood?" Pretending to have helped organize it?

Still, curiosity and creative ambition got the better of me, and I couldn't help but go along for the ride, showing up at the showtime and location presented to me and taking credit where credit wasn't due. I can only hope that jesus will forgive me.

In the end, I enjoyed the experience to a surprising degree, standing up on a small stage with bright, hot lights in my face before a small-but-respectable crowd, and reading a few written pieces with as much humor and spunk as I could muster, given the grim subject of dead babies. I wore what I felt to be a somewhat literary outfit: a long, body-hugging silver sweater (which - if I keep my stomach sucked in ever-so-slightly - almost hides my beer gut) and a fuzzy blue scarf for color accent. One piece was about my personal crusade to save the dying goldfish in our backyard after my first miscarriage, and the other was about my imaginings of Zachary as a teenage boy, among other things. I didn't feel as out-of-place as I'd feared, nor did I break down and begin weeping like a crumpled, wailing madwoman in the midst of describing L'Event de Shit Ultimate.

(Okay, you're getting closer to the full-circle part.)

A very, very, very prego and teary-eyed gal found me in the back corner after the show, and put one hand on my arm and the other on her rotund belly. She had long blond hair pulled back off her face, and she looked about my age, if not younger.

"God, what happened to you is so sad and scary," she said, rubbing her tummy, her eyes wide. "I really hope it doesn't happen to me. What if it happens to me? Do you think it will? I can't imagine..."

This was a really weird and unprecedented position for me to be in. The poor girl had no idea who she was talking to, a subperfect human still struggling to keep my own shit together inside, failing at Grieving 101 with flying colors, hardly one to give advice or reassuring words. My, how I had fooled her with my on-stage confidence! I'm a teacher, I reminded myself. On stage every day.

I could have said something really sadistic like, "Yup, it just might happen to you, sweetheart. So start imagining it." or "You're never safe! Stillbirth can creep up on even the most innocent wide-eyed people like you! Beware!"

But I didn't, feeling oddly...shall we say...touched by her innocent concern, her approaching me not to comfort me, but to seek comfort of her own.

And there is where I realized that I had - you guessed it:


That is to say: I had before me an opportunity to take this brutal experience of my own, and - rather than continue to use it as a gigantic vacuum sucking up others' pity and resources and sorrowful thoughts (as is SOOOO easy to do) - use it to give back to the world instead. I mean, turn it around into something potentially helpful instead of hurtful, giving instead of taking, outer instead of inner. Integrate myself into this great fabric of humanity a tad bit more by making this frightened person, her belly nearly touching mine, perhaps less frightened.

"Don't worry," I heard myself say, feeling myself smiling, reaching out to touch her arm. My movements and words felt lightweight and mindless, as though I was a puppet, controlled by strings above. "It won't happen to you. The odds of stillbirth are one in two-hundred. I think you'll be one of the hundred-and-ninety-nine lucky ones, don't you?"

Her face visibly relaxed. "One in two hundred?"



That was it. Just a simple conversation, nothing over the top. And yet, I found myself thinking about it for the rest of the night, and again this morning. How oddly satisfying it was to say those things to her, and see her smile as a result! Yes, call me the seasoned wise one, the tribe elder who's been around the block, stillbirth statistics etched in my brain, ready to be shared with naive youngsters. What a strange, new, wondrous sensation!

Okay, I wouldn't really liken myself to a tribe elder. Forget I said that. Let's just say that I felt something get centered in me, a certain calmness settle in, a peacefulness with my KuKdX2 status, at least temporarily (and hopefully more than temporarily).

*When I say "kid" in the context of myself being a "non-kid-having person" or other women having "real kids," I'm talking about living, breathing children. The kind that poop frequently, occasionally scream for no reason, and have snot barbells coming out of their nostrils. I just know someone's going to come at me with, "but you DO have a kid! A STILLborn kid!" Yeah yeah yeah dude, I get that.


Michelle said...

Wow that is a beautiful story. It sounds like such a great thing to be a part of. You not only are helping yourself but others as well. I have had a few people at work come to me with concerns over miscarriage or because they have just had one themselves and it always amazes me how reassuring I can be to others and yet not to myself.

Claire said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to tell you that your writing is very true and very easy to read (the subject is, of course, heart wrenching and anything but easy.) Anyway, there are a lot of mediocre blogs to stumble upon out there so I always have to comment when I find an author whose depictions of life grab me. Thank you.

Monica LeMoine said...

Michelle - thank you for enjoying my story. Yes, reassuring others is a cakewalk compared to reassuring ourselves. That's for sure.

Claire - I appreciate the lovely words. Thank you.

m said...

nice. You done good. Hard to imagine how I would have reacted to such an innocent request/gesture. I would love to say that a million smart ass replies wouldn't run through my head first, but...

Waiting to come full circle. Trying, trying...

Another Dreamer said...

What a nice gesture. I can't imagine how hard it must be, and at the same time how natural it can be, to reassure people in a situation like that.

sharonvw said...

I LOVE this post Mon! Really beautifully written. I so get what you're saying. Not that I've had to experience your Ultimate Shitty Event, but as somebody who's been around the miscarriage block 6 times I often get comments like "I could never survive what you've been through!" The bitch in me automatically wants to respond "Really well you may just have to darlin! Its not like I wanted to survive this either!"
So well done on handling the situation so beautifully!

bebou said...

Lovely story, circles of fullness and all that... but I'm still not past the hot toddy-liking = elderly thing... I'm feeling old today.

What you said to that woman was lovely. I'd like to be able to say things like that without blubbering one day.


Brenna said...

Claire said it so well! I actually hesitate to write knowing that there are people like you out there telling the story far better than I ever could--I just love reading your stuff. Your voice is so authentic, it comes across so clearly and I always feel as though I'm talking to a friend when I read your posts. Thank you!!!

Janna Cawrse Esarey said...

Hi Monica,
I was so bummed to miss the reading on Saturday but at least got a taste of it from this post...not only of your experience there, but how amazing your writing is! Makes me wish I'd been there to hear you read even more.
Happily Even After

Gonzo Parenting Zine said...

Monica, you did so fabulously at the show! It was a true pleasure to meet you and perform with you.

Corbin and I are doing Christy's radio show today to plug Motherhood and stuff. I'm holding on the line right now, about to pee myself because I'm so nervous.

You had a big part in founding the Motherhood group - you were one of the brains that stormed with us. Don't discredit yourself. Your input is irreplacable!


Lani said...

hi monica- i love the new pic above, btw. even though i'm still so new at this, and being only 4 months out, a newly pregnant friend was over yesterday and i had a similar conversation. seeing her made me anxious to say the least. but she admitted to me that she found out she was pregnant right after silas died and cried and was sad and heartbroken. it made me sad to hear that. i had been so jealous of her all this time knowing she's pregnant and i'm not. but now i felt bad for her.
and then we talked openly and honestly about her pregnancy. it was so hard for me, being newly cynical about it all now and not believing in the happy ending anymore. basically i see every pregnancy now as a potential tragedy instead of potential baby. how can i tell her that? it was such a difficult conversation. so much went on in my head, exactly like what you were thinking. but i had to reassure her that what happened to me was so rare. but again, i never would have thought it would have happened to me. she is still freaked out, but happy to have talked to me about her fears.

i love your style of writing and your blog and exhale. thanks for bringing humor to what is such a sad subject. it really helps the heartache.

eggorchicken said...

Wow. Way to go you! :) Beautiful story, and it sounds like you handled that wonderfully!!

Is it really 1 in 200 though?? That actually sounds like a LOT to me, shu!!!!!


chicklet said...

I give you so much credit for being so kind to her. Really. It's not easy people wanting to put themselves in your shoes, being afraid of it, and then you having to comfort them out of your shoes. Good for you.