Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Made for You

Anybody watch "Private Practice"? Somebody must, because the show has been airing for several seasons. It is a television drama spun-off of "Grey's Anatomy," featuring doctor Addison Montgomery (ex-wife of Dr. McDreamy, busted for cheating on him with Dr. McSteamy) in a bizarre private practice made up of an obstetrician, fertility specialist, heart surgeon, neurosurgeon, pediatrician, and a couple of psychologists. It's like a one-stop shop private medical center. Addison is the middle-aged OB who desparately wants a baby, and after years of trying to get pregnant, and trying to find the right man, has finally adopted a newborn baby boy whose mother gave him up at birth. Amelia is the neurosurgeon and a recovering drug addict. She entered recovery when she woke one morning to discover her boyfriend dead of an overdose beside her in the bed. During the binge that killed her boyfriend, Amelia became pregnant, but couldn't bring herself to look at her baby on an ultrasound or hear his heartbeat until several months into her pregnancy. Which brings me to the most recent episode, where Addison performs an ultrasound on Amelia and they learn two things about Amelia's baby: He is a boy, and he has anencephaly.
Though I enjoy "Private Practice," it is not a show I can watch regularly, because it too often strikes too close to home. Desparation, dead boyfriends, crumbling marriages, graphic sexual assaults, intense therapy sessions, and now anencephalic babies all combine to create a series that feels much too much like my own life. But after happening upon last week's episode and subsequent preview for this week's ultrasound episode, I suspected Amelia's baby would have anencephaly and I wanted to how the show unfolded. The preview showed Addison and Amelia happily viewing the ultrasound, which appears normal until Addison scans towards the baby's head. The look on her face was reminiscent of the look of our ultrasound tech, the look I didn't pick up on but Ben did. I was curious how the show would handle the terminal defect. Would Amelia choose what most women choose in that situation and terminate her pregnancy? As it turned out, though the show is set in California and California law allows for termination of a pregnancy or early induction of labor in the case of a terminal diagnosis, Amelia continues her pregnancy because she is past the point where she can abort.
And Amelia is angry. She is angry that her child has no future; she is angry that he will die; she is angry that she behaved in a way that may have compromised his health; she is angry that this piece of her boyfriend, who she loved deeply, will not live on; she is angry at the people around her who have children of their own, even though their circumstances aren't what they would want them to be either. She is angry that she is a neurosurgeon, and yet her baby has "no brain." I recall feeling that same sense of irony, knowing that my mind is probably my greatest asset but my own child's brain was deffective.
I feel Amelia's anger, which manifests itself in Amelia in a cold indifference that I am experiencing myself these days. Amelia roared at Addison that she hates her and doesn't want to be around her because every time she is, she wants to rip her baby from her hip and claw Addison's eyes out, and I know that shameful feeling. The only way to manage it anymore is to just not care. I don't care about pregnancies and I don't care about babies, and I don't care who finally has a baby after years of trying and I don't care who has a baby after infant loss and I certainly don't care who has a perfectly healthy, perfectly planned baby in the confines of a perfectly happy marriage. I, a woman who adores babies, who has a hoarded collection of baby items and started naming her children when she was 13 years old, don't care about babies. I look at them with cold eyes now, because if I am not cold I will fall apart, break down and scream and cry at how sheerly unfair life is and I will not care at all that life has also not been fair to that mother holding that baby.
I know, I know, life's not fair. I've blogged those very words before and I know they are true. And inevitably I will get responses to this blog reminding me to keep in mind the many blessings I have been given -- something that I never forget. People will feed me platitudes about how my past doesn't define me, and the future is what is important, and that what doesn't kill me makes me stronger, and that Gabriel will always be in my heart and I will see him again someday. Sometimes, though, the unfairness just hurts. Sometimes it just gets to be too much. Sometimes I know it is better to have loved and lost, but it still sucks to have lost. Sometimes I am not just a rape survivor, sometimes I remember that for a devastating period, I was a victim. Sometimes I am not just a mommy, I am a mommy to a baby who is no longer here and it doesn't feel right that my heart should keep beating when his does not. More importantly some days I am not even sure HOW my heart keeps beating, or why. This morning I laid in bed for two hours after I woke up, listening to the silence of an empty home that a year ago was filled with a husband and a baby boy who I loved to feel move and kick and who I desparately wanted to keep.
Friends know I am a big fan of competition shows like American Idol and The Biggest Loser. Favorite contestants always have some sort of story that tugs at the viewers' heartstrings and makes us want to root for them. Sometimes I wonder if I were a contestant on some sort of competition show for, I don't know, bartending lawyers, what my story would be. I've lived an exciting life, filled with ups and downs. I think I have some great stories. They just all feel so meaningless now, because my best story, my most important story, is Gabriel.
Every time someone opens Gabriel's blog, the first song they will hear is Brandi Carlisle's "The Story." It has been an anthem for me since my first pregnancy. I could never say what I feel as perfectly as she says it for me: "These stories don't mean anything when you've got no one to tell them to. It's true; I was made for you."


  1. Of course you feel this way!

    It's wonderful that you can name and acknowledge those feelings (those you identify with in the Private Practice show and separate from them). It takes a lot of time and energy and work to heal and accept things. Hang in there!

  2. I am in the middle of that episode right now, and because I have no self-control, I Googled to find out the baby's diagnosis. I, too, had a baby with a lethal diagnosis--bilateral renal agenesis (no kidneys)--and I, too, chose to terminate the pregnancy. This occurred in 2007. Since then, I have had one live baby and I am pregnant with a second, but I will never forget the horror of that ultrasound.

    I chose to terminate because, quite simply, I couldn't live the way Amelia is living now--having to deal with excited strangers asking about my baby. It's a special kind of torture.

  3. Our baby boy was diagnosed with anencephaly when I was 3 months along and I carried him to term. That was 30 years ago. I legally could have aborted but chose not to. Prior to that pregnancy I was pro life, but after definitely pro choice. Every woman should have a right to choose especially in a situation like that. During those days the medical books called anencephalic babies "monsters." I was carrying a monster for many months and it was hell. We learned alot from that experience but I do get annoyed at people who dictate their beliefs who don't have a clue what it's like to carry a baby you know will die. Wish we could have donated his organs but they couldn't get their information together for us. I think Loma Linda Hospital in CA was the only place doing transplants from anencephalic babies at that time. This show brought back many memories for me. It took a long time to heal from that experience. Wish I could be of help to someone in a similar situation.

  4. I am a mother of an anencepalic baby. I totally understand your feelings and how horrible your pain is! We are the grey area, we don't have miscarriages, and it is more horrific than a still born baby. This show brought tears to my eyes and totally brought me emotions to the surface. My daughter Sophie Noel was born at 25 weeks in August of 2010, she was perfect and beautiful. I know that one day I am her mother, and that God loves me enough to trust me with her special spirit. After I had her we got pregnant again, this time with a little boy named Fox. He was totally healthy! But throughout the entire pregnancy I was waiting for something to go wrong. The moment I help him, I just kissed his head. That perfectly round beautiful head, but still it didn't fill the whole in my heart. I recently found out that I am pregnant for a third time. I am a NERVOUS reck, just waiting for the bad news. It is so hard when you hear woman say "oh I know how you feel, I miscarried at 8 weeks". It makes you wanna B slap a hoe. I DID NOT MISCARRY, I had a vaginal birth that resulted in a baby with anencephaly. Totally different. I am so grateful that private practice did the show the way they did. I think it was very true to the emotions felt by every mother carrying a child with anencephaly. We're the strong ones, don't forget that ever!!

  5. I`m a mother.

    I am reading your blog and not sure if I am suppoused to, I feel like going trough the private journal of a person who didn`t give me the right to it.

    Still, I do. After reading your entries, I held the lil medal in mi neck with the image of the Virgin MArìa de Guadalupe and I asked her to take care of us, women in general, women with such hard battles to fight, with so many stories, with so much pain and still, so strong.

    As Victoria Anne said; the strong ones.

    I`m a catholic as well, I cannot imagine your pain, but I pray for all of our pains.