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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Pulling the Emotional Trigger

Greetings, KuKd'ers and Inquisitive Guests!

Sunday morning: today is a bound to be decent day. The plan (see? making plans again!) is brunch with friends followed by a bike ride along a closed-off section of road near Lake Washington. It's a Pacific Northwest thing: you eat something organicky like free-range bacon from pigs that were hugged at least once a day, and then you do something outdoorsy. Then you come home and take a well-deserved nap.

And then if you're lucky, you get to have a post-nap bout of sex in the bedroom while your mother leaves a lengthy message on the answering machine about the new futon she just bought from Dania. You ignore her sing-songy voice and bite your lower lip, attempting to concentrate on that latest sexual fantasy instead, hoping you're not a bad person for not frantincally disentangling yourself from your partner and running naked into the other room to pick up the phone. It's your own mother, for god's sake! You can have intercourse any old time, but your parents are getting OLD! They might be dead soon! And then, you'll look back and wish you'd taken every opportunity to talk to them in person....

Anyway. Don't ask me where THAT tangent came from. I really am going breakfast-eating and bike-riding with friends today, but sort of made up the sex-and-mother-on-phone bit. I think my brain is on overdrive this morning.

* * *

Moving on to the pre-point point of this post (not the real point):

As a handful of you might vaguely recall, about four months after Zachary's dirth, Kevin and I went to Ecuador to "reconnect with our backpacking, beer-drinking, foreign-travelling" selves (you should see my updated passport photo, which was taken a mere six-weeks after The Death: I look like one of those "after" pictures from Faces of Meth. One of these days I'll scan it and show it to you for laughs).

As all you bloggers out there know, writing is one of the best, most cathartically awesome activities that a person can possibly do when hit with something traumatic. Am I right or am I right? So while in Ecuador, I started keeping a journal-like thingy on a scrap of lined paper. Over the next year, I drank a shit-ton of coffee and wrote more and more. That scrap of paper turned into lots of scraps of paper, which turned into a gigantic Microsoft Word document, which somehow morphed into a full-fledged memoir about dead-baby-motherhood. Astoundingly, somebody thought it was decent, and last week I signed a contract to have it published through Catalyst Press, small publisher in San Fransisco.

The thing with the memoir is, honestly I don't even care if it sells. Well, that's not totally true: if I can make up my cost of replacing laser ink cartridges and bring in enough to take myself and Kevin out to dinner at a fancy restaurant to celebrate - that would be nice. But I didn't write it for money. I wrote it because it felt good to write, and because I needed to generate some raunchy humor about the whole mess before I died of sadness. When the book comes out in 2010, I think I'll like having some closure to that year of highly caffeinated writing, and something to hand over to my parents, who are going to be proud of me.

And ya know, even as we all creep into our 30s and 40s and beyond, isn't making our parents proud of us STILL about the grandest feelings on earth? For me it is.

* * *

Now, here's the REAL point:

I've already got aNOTHER cool book concept up my sleeve (thanks, caffeine!), and I'm going to be tapping your brains about it from time to time. Truthfully, it's not something I can even attempt to do without input from other dead-baby mommas (can I just say DBM from now on?). So it's really going to be more of a collaborative effort, the way I see it. And hey: if you articulate an idea brilliantly, I might even quote you directly in the book, which I can't imagine you not enjoying.

Essentially, my next book idea is a slim, down-and-dirty KuKd survival manual written in a tone and style that "speaks" to a young(ish), smart/savvy/cynical/pissed/saddened audience of women and men (ok fine, mostly women) who have just undergone miscarriage or stillbirth.

Right now, Empty Cradle, Broken Heart is about the closest thing there is these days to a KuKd survival guide. I'm picturing something about half that size, written in a younger, more girl-talky, gritty tone, with a military girl-scout cover like something you'd carry around if you were lost in the woods. Its a book that will require lots of research, and I picture it having some similar sections as Empty Cradle - things like "you may be feeling _______" with various survival tips scattered throughout.

I don't have a catchy title yet, but for now I'm just going to lamely and boringly refer to it as "The KuKd Survival Manual." As I said, you'll likely get tapped for ideas here from time to time. I'm going to need other seasoned, wise DBM's like you to gather quotes for the book and help me sure that what we tell the audience of this book (our poor friends who are JUST NOW going through what we've gone through) isn't completely off the wall.

And guess what: that starts right here, this very Sunday morning! Here we go.

DBMs, put your thinking caps on and help me out: Do you think it's beneficial to expose yourself to sad, even baby-laden situations sometimes during the year or so after KuKd, for the purpose of deliberately opening the crying/feeling floodgates?

As in, is that something you'd ever recommend to a friend who just lost her baby? I know I know I know. It seems like a completely out-there and sadistic idea. But before you scream out NOOOOOO, read on -and then you can still scream out NOOOOO if you want to:

Recently, somebody wrote to me with an Ask a Dead Baby Momma question: "What are some tips for avoiding baby showers?" A perfectly valid question. Why would you ever want to expose yourself to something that's going to be upsetting? As queen of baby-shower avoidance back in the day, I know that feeling well.

Even more recently, fellow blogger Tina pointed out this blurb from Empty Cradle:

"There is research showing that tears are a biologically necessary way of relieving stress-there is evidence that tears remove stress-induced toxins from the body. Holding back tears can induce stress, resulting in a variety of psychological and physical symptoms, including exacerbation of preexisting conditions ..."

So true, isn't it? Crying is good. It's healthy. It feels right. There just isn't anything but a good, hard cry. The problem is - for me at least - there are times when you know you should be crying because you're still sad, but the tears just don't come. One of my DBM friends in Seattle was just lamenting to me about this peculiar condition - when that post-KuKd numb sensation takes over and you just can't seem to...well...feel. It's frustrating to know there's something in there, a great big scary ball of grief, and yet you can't seem to access it in a productive and helpful way.

It made me think of the times when, about eight months after Zachary's dirth, I did - in fact- start reluctantly going to stuff: baby b-day parties, gatherings with babies. Not all the time, just once in a while. Nothing triggered me to feel quite like those events. The drives home from those were always soaked in tears, with me having to pull over to blow my nose on my hair. For all of the obvious reasons, they made me sad. The reminded me of what was lost, what could have been, what wasn't.

But somehow, deep down, I also remember enjoying releasing that floodgate of emotion so easily, that visceral sense of being reminded, poked and prodded, as though Zachary was with me at that moment saying: "Remember me? I was here, and now I'm not."

So I'm wondering, could it be GOOD to expose yourself to shit like that? Four months, eight months, a year after you lose your own child? I mean, not right away, but months later? Or is that so potentially harmful that it isn't worth it? Is it best to skillfully avoid hurtful situations to keep yourself in-tact, or is it OK to let yourself fall apart from time to time?

OK, I'm thinking so hard in circles right now that I need to take a break. Off to change into my biking attire; looking forward to thoughts from the peanut gallery!


angie said...

First of all, congratulations on the book deal. AWESOME. and the second book idea is fantastic. I wanted something more along my lines of thinking when Lucy died, even though I read Empty Cradle. I mean, I wanted to know the real answers to the questions. Like not "Is it okay to feel anger?" But more along the lines of "Is it okay to want to smash things? How do you go about having a plate-smashing, wine-drinking, punkrock listening day?" or "What do you say when the one friend you still talk to says, 'But noone knows what to say to you since your baby died.'" Now, I know the answer is: "Neither did I, but I then I fucking googled it. Over ninety thousand hits come up. Pick one."

Anyway, the question is: does one recommend dbm attend events like baby showers to release their emotions? I think it is good to let oneself fall apart, and open the proverbial floodgates. I always found for me, those moments came when I least expect it, and the showers and stuff come with weeks advanced notice, and I plan, and feel anxious for weeks, and the day is rather pleasantly not as bad as the weeks before.

Hope that helps. With love.

Pearson house of 6 said...

I think this is a completely persoanl and situational question. There are some days when I would be okay with going, but some days when there is no way I would go. It goes without saying that it would depend who the shower is for, too. I would much rather, if I can have control over the situation, have my "breakdowns" in private. I would probably opt not to go to a baby shower for quite a while. Mostly, though, it is because I would feel like everyone has "an eye" on me to see how I am doing. And I, personally, would rather not be in that situation.

Maybe that helps you, probaby doesn't. But whether I'm writing on my blog or writing in someone's comments, it always is in some way therapeutic for me. So thank you...for the opportunity. Good luck on your book venture. Sounds very healthy. I wish I could do something like that. I think accomplishments like that help in the grieving process because you know that through your tragedy, you are possibly helping someone else go through it themselves and all of a sudden your loss has purpose. The best to you....

gwinne said...

Congrats on the book deal!

Megan said...

congrats on the book deal. awesome awesome awesome!!!

Hope's Mama said...

Chiming in with my congrats - awesome Monica. I'm almost 12 months out and I still haven't been to a 1st birthday party or baby shower. Just haven't been able to do it, and haven't wanted to. But I find myself getting sad at home on those days, and having a good cry then, just THINKING about what all my friends are doing, all the fun they're having and all the babies being gushed over.
And I'm with Angie - Empty Cradle just didn't do it for me. I want this savvy book you speak of - happy to help in any way I can. Keep firing away with those questions!

Tina said...

Wow!!! The book deal is awesome; I can't wait to buy it. And for the new book idea...I think that is wonderful too. I would love a true to life book that tells me I am not a crazy bitch!

As for your question: For me I do think it is beneficial to expose myself to these types of things. I hold a lot of my feelings inside, so to find a release is helpful. I also think being around other babies in various situations has been helpful because it has shown me that I will be okay, sad, but okay. I haven't been to any baby showers yet, but I have done the 1st b-day and it was okay for me.

P.S. Thanks for mentioning my blog. I was pretty excited to see my name! :)

KuKd Chick said...

Pearson House of 6: "Situational and personal" - I agree completely. From the comments so far, I'm thinking this something that could be put out there as a possiblity - *try* an event with babies and see how you handle it, and when you feel you're ready - but not an outright "go to every damn baby shower in town! it'll feel grrreat!" sort of thing.

Tina: you're welcome. That tends to happen around here. Isn't it fun to feel famous? :-)

Finally, Thanks y'all, for the support and congrats. It's hard to take a "congrats" for this really, because I don't think my own DB-story is any different or more special or tell-worthy from anyone else's. We all have these amazing shit-storm stories inside us. I just happen to be a teacher, which means I have my summer off, which means I have more time to write than a lot of other people I know. I also drink hardcore coffee, as you know, which keeps my fingers-a-typin' like there's no tomorrow.

wifey said...


Congrats! You DO deserve them, because while your story may be oft repeated in DBL, you tell it with a humor, wit and introspection that sets you apart.

As for your question: I am still mostly in baby-event-avoidance mode, depending on the event. I probably will be for the forseeable future, because I just seem to keep getting knocked down. However, there is nothing quite like the post-baby-event cry. It's a completely justified, righteous, ugly cry (you know, the snot, the blotchy face, swollen eyes, and animal-like wail) that helps to solidify my place in this world. Yes, I've been through some shitty shit. Yes, I deserve to cry about it. And boy oh boy, it is cathartic.

Another angle: I went to a family event in April halfway across the country from my home, and met my cousin's baby for the first time. And against all odds, I held her, I kissed her and loved on her, and was able to keep myself together. That was a proud moment for me - an "I CAN function like a sem-normal person" moment. I think it was very healing, and a turning point for me that I might not have experienced had I not gone.

the misfit said...

Congratulations most definitely in order - not because your sufferings are phenomenal (not claiming here that I have any basis on which to quantify them of course), but because YOU are, and such a gifted writer.

I like your survival guide. I know with marriage, it made all the difference in the world to know that my even-tempered, sweet-as-can-be, omnicapable loving faithful holy Catholic girlfriends had occasionally hurled plates at their husbands' heads (under appropriate provocation). And that was just marriage! One of few comforts in having your world falling apart is knowing that you're not in free-fall - that you're walking along a charted path that will eventually lead you back to the living. So, yes, brilliant. I don't need it myself just now (but you never know what tomorrow will bring), but will be very interested in its progress.

AnxiousMummyto3 said...

Hey Monica,
I have to go with everyone and say congrats-no matter how humble you're being about the whole thing!
My $0.02 on this is that yes, you should go. Basically because like you pointed out-you may need to tap into that feeling of sadness just to be done with the numbness for awhile. Yep, you'll totally dread it and might come away from it in tears. But it's going to hit you at some time anyway-at least this way you'll know when and where. Otherwise you'll be sitting on the bus next to a total stranger, turn the page in your novel, read one sentence and freak the hell out. (Yes, that was me. Just last week.) Y'dig?

Love, Rosie xx

Brenna said...

SWEET! (My 4-year-old nephew informed me recently that boys say "sweet" and girls say "awesome," so maybe that should be: AWESOME!) So excited to hear about the book deal. I've been hoping we'd all have a chance to read it, and the survival guide idea sounds stellar. Hope breakfast-and-bike-riding was followed by an afternoon of uninterrupted nookie.

Viktoria said...


I am so excited and thrilled for you and the book deal. Enough with the modesty; your parents are proud, Zachary is proud, we DBMs are proud, and you should stand tall and proud too. You deserve it. You've earned it. It's not about your story being special or different it is the sameness of these losses that unites us; but you have a unique voice full of wit, wisdon, and compassion.

As for the baby shower thing, my advice is take it slow. Maybe start with an event where there will be a baby or two but is not ALL about baby. My numb stage was pretty fragile and it didn't take much to break through and make me cry so I didn't feel the need to push myself to cry more or feel more. Baby loss is a tough journey and everyone's road is different. So maybe like traffic we should obey the Basic Speed rule. If it's dark and stormy go slower than the speed limit. If it's gorgeous and sunny (and you don't think you'll get causght) go a little faster than you should and see how it feels.

You'll have to let us know as soon as we can pre-order the book.

Much love, Viktoria

Heather said...

Ok, first let me say that I am buying your book! Because truth be told, if you charged for your blog...I'd pay to read it.
As for the baby shower idea...well, my fist one is on Saturday...6 1/2 months post dirth. I just saw that mom for the first time this past week. I was glad to get that out of the way and see that it didn't kill me and she didn't go running from the room screaming when I talked openly about my pregnancy with a dead baby! And no, I didn't cry on teh way home. But the pre-event anticipation is trying to kill me!

Michelle said...

First off...CONGRATULATIONS on the book. I am so excited and I can NOT WAIT to read it!

I say definitely it is a good thing to do. I recommend it. I actually have to someone because for me the more I bottle up the worse it becomes. Isn't that why we watch a sad movie? Sometimes you just need a good cry!

I would say to wait at least 6 months though. Anything before that is just adding to the tears already falling on a regular basis.

Living in the Rainbow said...

Hey men come here too! But we are a rare bread I'll give you that! Men that are in touch with our feminine side perhaps?

I might even be rarer than most...
KUKD papa who is now infertile. What are the chances of that?

Anyway thanks for sharing...

Molly said...

First, congrats on your book deal. While it's true that we all have our own shitstorm and all deal with it in our own ways, not everyone can write in a way that's meaningful to book audiences. It's a big accomplishment and I look forward to buying and reading it.

Second, I pretty much intend to never go to a baby shower again but I have been doing my own brand of desensitization therapy, and it seems to be working pretty well. 8 months in and I can glimpse my next door neighbor's baby without tearing up. The thought of my much younger brother's still in-utero baby has me making plans to go to the Caribean for Christmas though. "Baby" steps...

Bluebird said...

Congrats on the bood deal, that's awesome!!

And, I think your new idea rocks. I thought Empty Cradle was worthless :) I received it several weeks after our babies died, and it still took several more weeks before I physically felt well enough to try to read - and the first few chapters (or so, I can't remember) were just worthless to me. They were all about things I could have or should have done in the hospital. Um, thanks for telling me now! I thought about skipping ahead, but you know what? It was just too long and boring and I didn't feel like bothering. Your idea - I think I might have actually latched on to.

KuKd Chick said...

Blue Bird and others - good, I'm glad people are liking the KuKd survival manual book idea. This is awesome and gives me the arse-kick I need to keep working on it. Yee-haw! I love the perspectives presented here. WE ARE IT - the people who get it and have something to say on the KuKd survival front. Looking forward to more!

cori said...

fantastic news about the book deal, monica! i'm looking foward to the next one...sounds very interesting.

Lani said...

awesome awesome news! i can't wait for your book to come out- love your humor. i forgot to reply to your hilarious comment on elmcitydad about our split. so funny.

so in answer to your question- i, like others here, will probably never go to another baby shower again. i have many reasons, the most being that i don't believe in it anymore. should have stuck to my jewish traditions in the first place when 2 were held for me. and its not b/c they are sad. i think they are ridiculous.

holding friends babies and seeing babies may be the thing to open the floodgates. but i do think that has to come in your own time. when you're ready. just thinking about friends babies makes me cry.

i find that when i really want a good cry, i start reading blogs. thats all there is to it.

today i've cried like 10 times, but that is b/c we got a neg this morning after our first month of fertility treatments. ugh, so frustrating.

i agree that we do need help in opening the floodgates. a good fight with chris does that sometimes, brings up all sorts of stuff i'm holding onto.

so you mentioned that your book will be for people who had miscarriages and stillbirths- what about us, with a neonatal death? silas died b/c of the delivery. we need to be part of this crew too.

thanks for keeping me laughing thru the tears. you rock.

Melanie said...

Congratulations on the book deal, such a great achievement!
Regarding your question, I have just lost my first baby after more than 4 yrs ttc. It was an ectopic so I did not really have that much time with it but it was enough to have me dreaming & imagining our future and the look on my husband's face when he first held our little one. The horrific experience is still so fresh and I really cannot see myself coping with baby showers, pregnant ladies and such. For me it is enough to think about those few weeks of my pregnancy to open the floodgates. When I walk past the little park we went to every evening after we found out I cry. When I think about how sweet and helpful my husband was when he took me to the hospital and stayed by my side and bought me a tooth brush etc. I cry. When I think how he prepped our house and got rid of all reminders of the pregnancy before I came home I cry. When I feel any twitches of my poor tube-less ovary I cry. When I see advertisements that feature children on TV I cry (btw I think those advertising people should really start thinking about us & our feelings b/c as it seems there are quite a few of us out there who sometimes feel the urge to throw something at the poor innocent TV). When I think about what presents to get for my god-children I cry. So, in summary, at the moment any real encounter with pregnancy or babies would just be too much.
Thanks a lot for asking - sometimes it really helps when someone just inspires you to think and put your feeling into words as everything becomes a bit more clear and tangible instead of having a tumultuous mess in your head. All the best for your new book idea!

Catherine W said...

Yay for the book. I wish I could go back in time and buy it in advance. Losing a baby is so isolating and none of the books I read seemed to make me feel less alone. Some of them even made me feel MORE alone. Maybe because, as Angie says, none of them mention smashing plates or listening to lots of sulky, angry music.

Here in the UK we don't really have baby showers. For which I breathe a sigh of relief. I can imagine that it would be very dependent on the 'personal and situational', the right time and place and frame of mind.

I held a week-old baby a few days ago. My friend's little boy. The first time I've held any other babies since one of my twins died, nearly a year ago. Although I've obviously held my surviving baby. I know my situation is perhaps a little tangled but I felt it did me good. At that time and place and mainly because he was the son of that particular friend. But probably not for everyone, all the time? Perhaps you have to pick your friends and times and places carefully?

Emily said...

NOOOOOO! Going to showers or seeing babies never ever once evoked tears from me. It never helped open the floodgates. All it did was make me angry. It brought up rage and hatred inside for those women and I assume it was due to jealousy of them getting to keep their babies and mine always being taken from me over and over. I would be so anxious in the weeks before, dreading having to go to these things. I'll be honest...I never walked away crying or having the good cry that is needed. I always walked away pissed off at the World.

A cry is good, but for me....other things triggered it. Going through his things, having a flashback, or just randomly reliving it at 3am and subsequently bawling my eyes out. But subjecting myself to showers and babies only brought up anger and I still to this day can't stand to be around the women whose showers I had attended when I wasn't ready that first year.

jillkitchen said...

That is F-ing awesome news about your book, Monica! I can't wait to buy it - I want to put my name on the waitlist post-haste. You are amazing!

Abigail W. said...

I know, late to the party and all, but I still have opinions, dammit.

For me, opening the floodgates was vital to my survival. Of course, I'm in a huge clot of new babies right now; my son was due in the middle of the influx. His "dirth" two weeks before our wedding (the one that would have had all three of us having the same last name on his hospital records). I couldn't isolate from all the other newborns and pregnant bellies, because I didn't want to cancel my wedding--and we had some inkling that the already very intimate weekend-long house party on the beach we had planned could be healing.

Since then (about fourandahalf months) and it still hurts in that special way every time. But at the same time, I seek it out. I think of seeking out time with the new babies (also: staring at dead baby pictures, listening to my "cry now" playlist, or reading either my old blog entries or ones I know will make me cry) as an ipecac. The feeling of grief-that-can't-get-out reminds me of nausea. For me, going to baby-laden events (or the rest of the above) is like sticking my finger down my throat. It's messy and painful and heaving and awful, but afterward I'm relieved and feel much better!