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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pollyanna Versus the Bitch

Greetings, Cheerfuls and Grumpies Alike! All are welcome here.

It's 2:04 AM as I begin this post - time hit the sack. But my brain and belly are full of chilled Sauvignon Blanc, a few sips of coffee, and lots and lots of handfuls of Fritos corn chips. So once again, Kevin snoozes while Tebow and I remain awake, the living room windows looking out over nighttime blackness and the occasional whoosh of a car going by. It's OK though. Right now, I'm in the mood to spew forth a stream of honest pieces of thought.

Don't get all excited; I don't have any over-the-top, shocking things for you today that will make your jaw drop. I am not knocked up with septuplets, nor did I suddenly discover that I have a penis tucked up inside my body (I do have a small third nipple, my proudest biological achievement, but that's a separate post), nor am I becoming a vegan, nor am I about to slit my wrists because my hunk didn't win first place (DAMN YOU, SNOWDUDE!). No, no, and no.

This is more like a general observation about different ways to think about death and life, and about how blogging can symbolize which conscious-thinking route we choose to take. I should warn you, before I explain myself further, that I'm going to have to take up the persona of

for a few minutes here. But don't worry; before long, I'll alternate back to

That's right: if KuKd doesn't lead to an identity crisis, I don't know what does.

Anyway, I remember at various points in my KuKd journey coming into a conversation, a situation, where I had a choice of two paths to take. First, there was what I imagined as the Low Path, the one in which I would turn into a big ball of pissed-off sentiment, a pregnant-woman-bashing, nobody-understands-me-and-my-wretched-problems, fuck-you-for-having-a-baby-without-me-and/or-not-asking-me-enough-times-in-quick-succession-how-I'm-doing kind of person. You know, just the kind of person you want to have over for tea.

Then, there was the High Path (the more difficult one, of course), which was the route of...well...civility, I guess. Grace, calm under pressure, strength, good things, forgiveness, Mother Theresa-esque. From the very beginning I saw this High Path - literally, I could picture it in the reddish blackness behind my closed eyelids as I was lying on the futon one day, feeling pinpricks of resentment toward certain friends for ridiculously petty things like not saying EXACTLY what I wanted to hear EXACTLY when I wanted it (how dare they not predict my needs with precision, showing utmost empathy for a circumstance they knew nothing about! Assholes!). I knew I wanted to somehow get to this path, escape the dreadful self-pity and anger that was lapping at my ankles, threatening to swallow me up (can you picture it? Like dark maple syrup, but with a nasty taste).

Brace yourself - here she comes:

So I had a conscious choice to make: high path or low path. It didn't necessarily have to do with what I said or how I acted around other people. Well, that was part of it. But it more a way of thinking about the world, about death in general, and about my place in the fabric of humanity.

Taking the High Path meant forgiving the people in my life for not achieving the impossible (ie: climbing inside my brain and going through this with me). It meant viewing my losses not even really as "losses," as "unfair" versus "fair," but as just a neutral part of the great cycle of Mother Nature. Death happens. Things don't work out. I'm no less deserving of this fate than anyone else. That was part of how I viewed this High Path thinking.

Here's another part of thinking along that High Path, the part that is perhaps the weirdest: accepting that my KuKd experiences have been good for me. I know how obnoxiously Pollyanna that sounds, so if you want to smack me right now, feel free. It's taken me a while to get to where I believe this: that as we go through shit in life, the stronger and more seasoned human beings we become, and the more we can therefore contribute to the greater good. We have more to say to others who face loss themselves. We get to feel something. There are a lot of people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s who never GET to experience real, hardcore sadness over something meaningful. They don't know what it's all about. And DUDE! Just admit now satisfying it is to have a good, hard cry over something meaningful, to have the world look at you and think: this person went through something and survived, and is therefore mad cool. They're so cool, I want to do shots of tequila with them right now. If they can go through a shit storm like that, I can too.

Arright, time to go back to:

Let me clarify: I'm not saying that I am Miss Queen of High Path Thinking. God no. There will be no preachy self-help book filled with bulleted Pollyanna points, my obnoxious smiling lipsticked face on the cover, with some overly long title like "Taking the High Path: A Positive Thinking Guide for People Who Have Been Bitch-Slapped By Mother Nature," or worse: "Time to Get High: A Fucked-Up Person's Guide to Making Your Thoughts Soar."

It's just something I strive for, sort of like losing five or more pounds, or eating more vegetables, or maintaining a clean car. Walking this "High Path" has been a constant, obsessive effort for me, and it hasn't come without a price. In my attempts to remain ultimately optimistic, I think I overreached - maintaining this forced wall of bravado that felt really fake sometimes. I swear, I told more dead baby jokes and dropped more F-bombs during the days and weeks after the stillbirth than I ever have in my life. I probably should have taken more time to actively confront my own pain. I should have blasted that one Aerosmith song I can never remember the name of ("don't know what it takes to let you goooooooooo") and had more emotional moments. But I was a late bloomer in that regard. It took me a long time to deal with my losses in a deeper psychological sense, to accept Zach's death as something involving a real human being, to give him a name other than "that baby."

To this day still, if somebody asks me how I am - not in a superficial way, but a deeper, "no REALLY, how ARE you?" sort of way with their eyes boring into mine, I tend to clam up and get nervous, stuttering "fine!" in a fake tone. I have trouble peeling back the layers of my own self and offering a deeply truthful answer.

* * *

All of this points to the difficulty of blogging about dead babies. A treacherous job, this is! I do write this blog - sometimes, anyway - readers in mind (that is, when I'm not just randomly, selfishly entertaining myself here with my own musings on what spooge smells like). I mean, it's about me (of course), but it's also about the people who bother to read this. When you put your thoughts out in public space, you have to have a wee bit of audience awareness; I think this just comes naturally.

So, knowing my audience, I understand that people come here at various stages of grief, at times in their lives when the last thing they need to hear is the hippy-dippy, Pollyanna shit described above. HIGH PATH MY ASS! That's what I would say if I were you. Sometimes, what you need to hear is not that somebody is doing oh-so-irritatingly-well, all lofty and sitting pretty on their High Path (or even trying to be), but that someone is just as down in the shit-filled trenches as you are. I was there for a looonnggg time, seeking out the gloomiest, doomiest, bitchiest blogs and books in the universe. Seriously, I wanted to start a KuKd goth club where we all wear black eyeliner and black KuKd t-shirts, pierce our tongues and labia and go around chanting some message of muddled negativity: "Screw you, world! You don't understand our problems, and we didn't want babies anyway!"

(Still looking into that - not sure it would fly)

Anyway. So on this blog, and in my life, and in the people I surround myself with, I'm aiming for balance. That is: balance between



Mendy said...

Awesome post! You are amazing.

Brenna said...

Extraordinarly well-stated, as always! I particularly love this sentiment: "... as we go through shit in life, the stronger and more seasoned human beings we become, and the more we can therefore contribute to the greater good." I hope that's true. I do sometimes feel (on my more Polly Ann-esque days) that I've become a more evolved person through all of this sadness, and I try to remember to thank Adam, Joey & Paul for their roll in my life. I'm certainly not the same person I was before they were born, even if they were only with me for the briefest of moments.

I love reading your posts, Monica! Please don't ever stop writing.

Viktoria said...

"I knew I wanted to somehow get to this path, escape the dreadful self-pity and anger that was lapping at my ankles, threatening to swallow me up (can you picture it? Like dark maple syrup, but with a nasty taste)." I have a similar image of self-pity. It's a vast lake of dirty motor oil that will suck me down like the horse in "The Never Ending Story".
Beauifully written as always, Monica. oxoxoxo

I love the names of your Pollyanna self-help books. They would be perfect for The Onion.

Kristen said...

"Time to Get High: A Fucked-Up Person's Guide to Making Your Thoughts Soar." Love it!

Monica LeMoine said...

BRENNA: Yup, I think it's true - this positive evolution that comes from going through trauma. We are the chosen ones! Somebody who loses someone important is going to come to you, and you'll know the exact right thing to say and way to feel, something you wouldn't say/feel before. You'll touch that person in a positive way, even if it's 10 years from now and you don't realize it at the time.

OK, I'm annoying myself right now, so I'll shut up.

VIKTORIA: Motor oil - I like it. Oh, and as for that horrific, nightmare-inducing scene from that movie, it's a perfect analogy. For me, that scene was right up there with Bambi's mom getting shot, and John Travolta ditching Sandy in the movie Grease. Painful.

the misfit said...

Something about piercing one's labia (which is deeply disturbing, right? It's not just me, I know) strikes me as THE PERFECT TOTAL METAPHOR for the infertility experience. Psychologically, I mean, not medically. There's a genital connection; it's specifically female; technology is far too intimately involved; it's sort of unnatural and painful, frankly; there's a little bit of self-torture about it; it's getting a little more open with your sexuality than you were expecting to; and it's a sort of twisted attitude toward your own sexuality and fertility, you know, saying, "I'm supposed to be a mom? HAH. I'm supposed to treat my lady business all natural-like? Screw that."



Being Me said...

Hello and I hope it's ok for me to comment here, I came across your blog from another (did you know you have people following you? ;P )

Anyway, I'm no stranger to both those paths you've described. My goodness, you express exceptionally well the tricky line-crossing I've stepped up to, looked at and gone... "Nah but i CAN'T say that because who knows who and when someone will read this and I don't want to come off sounding like a textbook assvice-giver of the Book of Baby Death Etiquette kind."

In short, I've had 12 pregnancies, lost a daughter aged 4 weeks (somewhere in the middle there) and yeah... have come out the other side of the shitstorm of which you write so beautifully.

My umbrella's hail damaged. But hey, I'm still here. I laugh sometimes too! How about that. I hope you don't mind but I'd like to follow you too. If it's not cool and I am supposed to be a member of something before I can... that's cool. Just remove me :)

Sophie said...

Amazing post. Timely for me too. Thankyou for clarifying my own thoughts for me. I've been feeling completely un-pollyannaish lately (spurred on by the 12 month annniversary of my baby girl's death) and its good to know that I am not alone.

I think you're right. It's about balance. Again, this was a particularly great post which I have been thinking about all day.

sharonvw said...

Fantastic post Mon! This is so true! And I so get what you're saying about taking the high path, it is so much more about chaning our internal dialogue than anything else but its not easy and it doesn't always happen. Sometimes I wanna be a brat and stomp my foot and rage against the world because why me????
And I get what you're saying about how this experience has changed you for the better, believe that to be true for myself too. I wish I didn't have to go through the pain of this loss, but on some levels I like the person I've become because of it.

Tracey said...

Oh very good! At an earlier point in my grieving I was VERY pollyanna-ish...I was shocked and a bit annoyed with those further along the grief journey who could dare to be upset by baby showers, and baby bellies, and news of newborns - in my head at the time, I thought "shouldn't these DBM be happy that those people don't know our pain?" how could they let these other peoples joy be so upsetting.

Uh huh. P.O.L.L.Y.A.N.N.A.

And then I overheard some women being rude and gossipy about how the perceived pre-eclampsia to not be serious, and their idiotness to the fact that SOMETIMES BABIES DIE was just more than I could bare, and I went into bitch mode for a few weeks, angry and resentful at every happy baby news...that how dare these moms be so naive that BABIES DIE - even that healthy little one growing in your tummy...that was me, and then POOF, dead.

And now, I'm only 4.5 months out, but I go back and forth between pollyanna and the bitch..and I'm guessing that the schitzo will continue as the months pass.

Monica LeMoine said...

MISFIT: Yes, I too thought the labia-piercing to be oddly appropriate. Would definitely be a sort of initiation ritual to get into the club. And yup, I do have a third nipple. His name is Fred.

BEING ME: The only condition to following/joining/posting on this blog is that you have to either: a) pierce your labia (see MISFIT's comment above); or b) possess a third nipple. So as long as you've got one of those things, you're cool. ;-)

Cara said...

Monica I get lost in your words... those roads are so vivid and visual for me too. I've tried to have a foot one each one, but I think the high road got all of me...mostly.

I certainly have my days when the self-righteous, the world-owes-me, babyloss mama comes out, but usually my worst strikes are passive agressive f-u's in sweetly polite Pollyana voice, "Yes, we did have THREE kids."

And, excuse me, but you can write LIKE THAT at 2 freakin am???


Emily said...

I'm still hung up on the mention of taking tequila shots. Oh how I'd love to sit down in real life with some of you ladies that actually get it and have some tequila together!

"numb_was_better" said...

As I read this I find myself not meeting either of your requirements. "A" for obvious reasons and I suppose I could have lied about "b". I have to admit that I lack the Pollyanna thing. I would never speak for 49% of the population but I wonder if it's a gender difference. I more go from a little angry to really pissed of but you probably already knew that.

Kara aka Mother Henna said...

Just so you know, I would totally pay dues to join that goth club of dead baby mums! Brilliant idea. Even though I get the high path, too. I get it. Really. Aiming for it. But all black, piercings, chanting, I'm there!