There's something else that inward-sucking "hee-yoop" sound is, other than the insane suckosity of my cervix and the roar of an airplane toilet:
Anyone can be a Pain-a-Holic. Just take any condition, any stressful event: diabetes. Food allergies. Death in the family. Loss of a job. Depression. Weight problems. Marriage problems. Money problems. Infertility. Baby loss. Now, think of someone you know who wears that condition like a comfy bathrobe: it comes up in every conversation. It colors everything they say or do or think. It prevents them from risking this or that, from feeling happy about whatever. It's like a friend to them, this ailment or event or condition, and anchors them to some rut in the ground, keeping them from drifting upward. They could let it go, but that's a scary prospect; think of the withdrawal symptoms that would invoke! No wonder they keep it around like an old annoying-but-loved friend.
Take it from me: once you get that first taste of aching awful pain, it's a hard habit to kick. After the stillbirth, I got used to that particular "condition" of being a dead-baby momma. It hung around, that smoky pain-smell saturating my clothes and hair and skin, and I clung to it like a raggity old comfy bathrobe. It protected me from a lot of things, giving me a gloriously rightful reason to burst into tears at odd times, and provided a safe excuse for avoiding dangerous situations. Six months, a year later: of course I couldn't be around babies, around pregnant women. Of course, of course, of course.
Then I started feeling insecure about my grief at one point, maybe a year or so after the Event, as though the real down-n-dirty shock and sadness had passed, and what was left was some kind of drugged-out, candy-coated, corrupt form of leftover backwash grief. Almost this fake, high-feeling, grief-like sensation that wasn't really grief, more just like I'd sniffed gasoline and was doing crazy things as a result. Like breaking down suddenly or snapping at Kevin and blaming it on the stillbirth. Always the stillbirth's fault. I was a classic Pain-a-holic.
In early spring this year, I started feeling...freed somehow, as though this vague weight was being lifted gradually off my shoulders. I began to notice that I wasn't really talking about dead babies anymore, or thinking about Zachary every hour like I used to. With a few exceptions, being around babies and knocked-up ladies didn't bother me anymore, for the most part.
(For the record, I credit this "recovery," I guess, to the simple passage of time, for it certainly had nothing to do with anything I was doing. I was never one to actually work on healing or recovering, or even grieving properly. I just took hits blindly and emoted haphazzardly, skipped the support groups and books and yoga and what-nots, drank a shit-ton of coffee and beer, and hoped for the best.)
So yeah, time was what it took. I felt I had sobered up.
* * *
These past few weeks, I've felt like I'm relapsing. It's coming back, creepy crawly stillbirth-momma-condition clinging to me, like an old drug buddy just offered me a bong hit "just for the fun of it" and I said what the hell. Now it's back - that pain-high. It's the pregnancy that does it, I'm pretty sure, for that's the only variable that's really changed as of late.
Here was my first clue: a buddy at work whose wife is 12 weeks pregnant e-mailed to see if Kev and I had talked about baby names yet. I could've just said "no" like a normal, sober, clear-minded human being. But I just had to gussy up my reply with more dramatic than that, something like this:
"No, we haven't started thinking about names, since this is our fourth pregnancy. There's a 50% chance this won't work out anyway since it's a boy, so we're just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping a living baby will come out of it. Then we'll name him."
Immediately after hitting "send," I felt bad. I wished I could have taken it back. It was like this old-me coming through all of a sudden, the gloom-n-doom me who was high on pain for a year-and-a-half, dredging it up and wearing it boldly, daring anyone to challenge it.
Why couldn't I give this guy just a simple, friendly response without bringing up that whole bitter truth? Why not just let him have his innocent and happy little e-mail exchange with a fellow expecting parent? What was I hoping for - some kind of sympathetic response? I felt like one of those people I've always been afraid to become: putting it out there all the time - I'M A DEAD-BABY MOMMA AND DON'T YOU FORGET IT! - to the point where the world grows tired of the subject, and, even worse, to the point where I'm really just clinging to this pain-crutch as an excuse to not engage in normal discourse with another human.
Here's where I was hoping all of that old emotion would go, once I started feeling something toward this current pregnancy other than "oh fuck:"
Yup, shed to the floor like a snake skin. What I want to be is this: an innocent, perky, fresh-faced, fresh-minded knocked-up gal whose eyes light up at Motherhood Maternity, who can in fact indulge the pesky cashier with personal information and due dates without becoming a hypersensitive bitch from hell, who can eagerly engage in e-mail conversations with other expecting parents about car seats and slings other baby-related crap. I was that preggo person once, way back when.
But now, the old sludge follows me around and I can't seem to shake it: a darkened arc of anxiety rising up sometimes, eclipsing the turquoise arc of happy hopefulness that comes when I feel little fetal feet fluttering against my insides. There IS that 50% risk thing for this boy fetus, too dreadful and incomprensible for my own mind to process, and best saved for another post when I'm really on a pain-high.
For now, I'm going to focus on being a normal, sober person with a naked, hopeful heart.
And cheeseburgers. I'm focusing on cheeseburgers.