Kevin said this once, or something like it: "Promise me that we'll keep having an adventurous life forever." Those were his first words when we decided with giddy excitement to stay together after coming home from Uzbekistan. Of course I promised him that. Keep that quote in mind, because it'll come up later.
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It's Superbowl time - and the postange-stamp sized living room of our 1939-built home is filled with loud, boistrously beer-drinking males. I can't say I mind having so many nice, cute, happily football-watching male specimens in close proximity. If they all had their shirts off, it would be even better. As for me, I've retreated into the quieter "office-soon-to-be-baby-room," where I just stumbled across this blog on basic wilderness survival skills. And I quote:
Imagine suddenly finding yourself stranded in the wilderness. Perhaps your plane has crashed, or you have become lost. Darkness is falling and you are on your own. Self extraction is out of the question. Your next course of action could mean the difference between a miserable life threatening experience and reasonably comfortable survival.
We assume that you are not grievously injured; that you can still function well enough to take care of yourself but need a survival guide outlining the essential steps you must take to survive in the wilderness.
Do the Most Important Survival Tasks First
Flailing around in the wilderness without a well thought out plan isn’t going to increase your chances for survival - but it could reduce them. Proper actions taken in proper sequence will enhance your ability to survive.
The first question you should ask yourself in this situation is “what are the most important survival tasks to be accomplished”?
Lots of seemingly reasonable, if not slightly simplistic, bits of insight here. Although, I must admit, as a mere Someone Who Could Potentially Get Lost In the Woods, I'm not sure how useful these tips really would be when faced with the a real challenge to survive. Perhaps I'd find this blurb more helpful if I were literally naked and trembling in a dark forest at this exact moment, rather than pre-reading it from the comfort of my own armchair.
So, to give this blurb more meaning, I tried to picture myself during the months after losing Zachary and the fetus before him, which is the closest wilderness-survival experience I remember actually ever having. With that in mind, I re-read this wilderness-survival intro more like a more focused version of Dead-Baby Mad Libs, like this:
Imagine suddenly finding yourself stranded in the wilderness (KNOCKED DOWN). Perhaps your plane has crashed (PREGNANCY ENDED BEFORE IT WAS SUPPOSED TO), or you have become lost (CAN'T SEEM TO GET KNOCKED UP IN THE FIRST PLACE). Darkness is falling and you are on your own (ALL YOUR FRIENDS ARE HAVING BABIES). Self extraction is out of the question (YOU AIN'T GETTIN' THAT BABY BACK, KIDDO). Your next course of action (BOOZE?) could mean the difference between a miserable life-threatening experience and reasonably comfortable survival.
We assume that you are not grievously injured (WELL, NOT PHYSICALLY, I GUESS...); that you can still function well enough to take care of yourself (DEPENDS ON HOW YOU DEFINE "FUNCTION") but need a survival guide outlining the essential steps you must take to survive in the wilderness (SURE! GIMME WHATCHA GOT).
Do the Most Important Survival Tasks First (SUPPRESSING BOOBY MILK WHILE BLOTTING BRUISED CROTCH WITH TUCKS MEDICATED PADS)
Flailing around in the wilderness (RUNNING INTO THE STREET SHRIEKING LIKE A CRAZY WOMAN FROM HELL) without a well thought out plan isn’t going to increase your chances for survival - but it could reduce them (YOU MEAN I MIGHT DIE IF I DON'T HAVE A PLAN FOR RECOVERY? THIS IS NOT GOOD). Proper actions taken in proper sequence will enhance your ability to survive. (FINE, BUT WHERE DO I START?)
The first question you should ask yourself in this situation is “what are the most important survival tasks to be accomplished”? (I KNOW! MAKE PLANS TO GO BACKPACKING IN A REMOTE CENTRAL AMERICAN JUNGLE, WEAR A LOIN CLOTH AND HAVE LOTS OF PRIMITIVE SEX!)
Here's how and why I found this blog: I was Googling "survival" in hopes, still - 2.5 years later - of making sense of my own psychological coping mechanisms in dealing with my KuKd past. I was curious to know, I guess, if wilderness survival skills are anything like stillbirth/miscarriage survival skills, if I could use one to help me understand the other.
Why do I give a crap about this now? It's over, done. I healed the way I healed, dealt the way I dealt, for better or for worse. But I was thinking (read: overthinking), again, about my friend's insightful message from my last post, and the kind of mother to new baby Theo that her earlier stillborn daughter, Annika, had caused her to become. Stillborn Annika made my friend into a better mother to later-brother Theo. That's the final message that I distilled from her words:
A better mother.
One who appreciates the preciousness of his life more than she would have if she'd not lost an earlier baby.
Honestly, I read this and thought it was poetic, brilliant, touching. But it was unsettling in some weird way, too - because I wasn't totally relating to it. So I wanted to know if my current...um...baby-related weirdness, if you could call it that, stems from some primitive coping mechanism of my own. Which brought me to my Google search for "survival."
You see, supposedly there is a baby who is set to arrive with kicking, screaming force in just six short weeks. He will suddenly fill our home and our lives with cuteness, loudness, and a poopy stench. I feel oddly as though I should be preemptively appreciating the preciousness of his life now, perhaps even more than I did Zachary's. I should have a nursery painted and furnished, clothes bought, car seat installed, breastfeeding classes completed, bottles and binkies and what-nots stashed away in anticipation of his thundrous arrival, pre-school picked out, elementary school lined up. I should be thinking of him, planning for him, and not for me. I should already be...before he even makes his grand appearance on planet earth...
a better mother.
But I've not done any of those things. In fact, an outsider stepping into my life right now would find no evidence of a baby on the way, save for a dog-eared ultrasound picture from four months ago, stuck to the fridge with a magnet that says, "Coffee first, and then your mundane bullshit!" (and the magnet is so big that it just about obscures the entire picture anyway, so you'd really have to be looking for it).
Here's what I HAVE given thought to - absolutely inordinate and obsessive amounts of thought:
EUROPE! AIRPLANES! COBBLED ROADS! CAFE AU LAIT IN LUXEMBOURG GARDENS! EATING CHICKEN FEET AT A CROWDED SHANGHAI MARKET! And once in a while, the fact that I'm thinking of those things instead of nursery paint colors makes feel like a bit of an oddball.
To start, right after my last "successful" ultrasound - the one where my doctor told me as seriously and earnestly as she could that "this is a normal pregnancy" - you know what I did? Not run off to Target to stock up on baby booty. Nope: I marched into the Chair of Arts and Humanities office at the college where I work, and told her to put my name in the hat for the next faculty exchange in China. That means: baby, husband and I would spend 12 weeks teaching at a Chinese college sometime over the next few years.
Then, I downloaded the latest Fulbright Exchange application, which could - maybe, possibly - land the three of us in another country - Nicaragua, I hope - for a year in 2012. And THEN, I began researching apartments to rent in Paris or Amsterdam this summer - THIS VERY SUMMER!- as part of my mom's 60th birthday - a family trip to Europe with baby.
Totally selfish, all of these. Oh, I say they're about baby, about giving him lots of "cross-cultural exposure" as a child. And I think they are. But who am I kidding? That's not the whole story. These ideas are actually about me and Kevin, about our dreams we've always had, things we want, things we've imagined ourselves doing with baby ever since we started trying for one. They're about sitting on a blanket with baby beside the Eiffle Tower, drinking wine and stealing kisses while baby is looking the other way.
They're things that sometimes cause others, I know, to look at me like I'm wacked: but airplanes have germs! And hospitals are medical wastelands over there! And your baby's whole sleeping/pooping/farting/puking routine will be irreparably screwed! Deep down, I know to some degree: they're right. But that doesn't stop me from believing that our kid will handle such obstacles like a real man, that some overseas-air will do him good, that he'll in fact benefit from these experiences in some crunchy cosmic way.
And it certainly doesn't stop me from obsessively planning and fantasizing and imagining like my brain has gone haywire.
Stop Googling airfares to Madrid. You need to install a car seat.
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Is this normal, this fixation on getting my ass overseas with baby and husband?
"Promise me that we'll keep having an adventurous life forever."
(echoing in my brain)
I distinctly remember leaning into Kevin one night at the tavern about six months after Zach's stillbirth, the neon jukebox lights flickering behind him, and telling him I'd never rest everything on having a baby again. It was the second time I'd banked on a baby future - mentally, emotionally, everything - and gotten burned.
I'd like to look back and think that this was a normal thing to think, say and feel - part of some primitive "wilderness survival mechanism" that might even earn honorable mention in the survival-skills blurb above. I'd like to believe that it's been my simple, weird way of handling trauma: of clinging to this notion of an "adventurous life" as though it is, in and of itself, a lifeline.
Something terrible could happen to this baby, even after he's born - and the thought of life going completely flat and dark without him is...well...unbearable. So I have to plan for a life that seems bright and awesome and exciting to me, with or without baby. And that means having cool trips planned, dammit.
So, back to Googling "survival." I'm hoping I'll find some evidence that all this frenzied trip-planning is, in fact, a valid survival tip - that just because I'm doing that at the moment instead of installing a car seat doesn't mean I'm not being the preemptive better mother that an earlier stillbirth is supposed to turn me into.
But damn. We really should be installing a car seat.