It started not long after the miscarriage. Occassionally my mom would sit me down and say to me, "There's something I need to tell you" and I'd start thinking, "Oh God, she and Daddy are splitting up," or "One of them has cancer," or something to that effect. Then she would put me out of my misery and tell me the news: "So-and-so is going to have a baby." And a wretched feeling of relief, mixed with frustration, mixed with anger, mixed with guilt would flood me.
I could never really figure out if it was the news or the build-up that weighed on me.
When I learned - confirmed my belief, really - that I was pregnant with Gabriel there was a brief reprieve from that feeling and I could finally share in the joy with the friends and family around me having babies too. The joy was short-lived though, when the world came crumbling down around me with three words, "incompatible with life." All of those babies-on-the-way were no longer my child's built-in playmates, but now were reminders of all I was going to miss. With every tooth they cut or new word they learn I can't help but miss Gabriel.
In the recent months I have had to resign myself to the understanding that maybe I wasn't meant to have more children. I still hope that's not the case, but when Ben and I separated that dream at least had to be placed on the back-burner and when the separation became an actual split I took the dream off the table entirely, at least for now. It's one of those things that hurts too much to hope for.
But the tip-toeing continues. I know it's done out of kindness. A few months ago I noticed several missed phone calls from a friend who had never called before. When I didn't return the call I finally got a text message saying "I didn't want you to hear this from anyone but me; I'm pregnant, due in September." That mixed feeling came over me again, just like it did when my best friend from high school and I met for a lunch date back in March. "Can we have lunch next week? There's something I need to talk to you about." Assuming she had legal questions I agreed and told her there was something I had to tell her too. I went first. "Ben and I are separated. He's moving out." She looked shocked. She'd hoped that I wanted to tell her the same thing she wanted to tell me; she was pregnant, and hoping we would be sharing pregnancies. Two days ago I got a text message from her: "Your baby shower invitation is in the mail. If you feel like you can't go I understand, but just know you are wanted and welcome." My best friend, a bridesmaid in my wedding just as I was one in hers, was giving me a pass from her baby shower because she wasn't sure I could handle it.
The truth is, I'm not sure I can. I go back and forth on these things. I've been to a couple of baby showers since Gabriel passed and each one of them was difficult. Some days I am willing and happy to be around children. Some days I feel myself shaking at their presence. Little by little I've unloaded the disposable diaper stash I had started to accumulate before Gabriel's diagnosis. I wonder how much longer I should give myself before I start to give away the clothes and blankets and baby book and crib that I've collected. I know that there's one item, a little girl's onsie with a red cherry print, that I can never give away - it's my favorite, and it's also somehow more bearable to hang on to my dying hope that I'll have a child again someday when I imagine she is a she.
I recently shared with Natalie, my co-worker, that everyone lately seems concerned with my ability to handle change and/or adverse news. "I think that's insulting to you Dre, that after all you've been through people think you can't handle things that are so unimportant." On the one hand, I'm offended too. She's right, isn't she? I've weathered quite a storm. At the same time I do wonder if it will be a little thing to send me over the edge.
Last night someone asked if I would feel comfortable defending the man accused of the recent shooting in the Colorado movie theater. "Yes," I answered swiftly. "How?" he asked. "What's wrong with you, Blake? What do you think, the Fifth Amendment is just a cute little suggestion by our founding fathers? Is this America, or not? Ever heard of the U.S. Constitution?????" Someone later described me as "obviously confrontational," which surprised me. Criminal procedure and the protection of rights under criminal proceedings are things I'm passionate about, the very things that led me to law school. I'll happily argue them, in any situation. But I've become so DISpassionate lately, so focused on keeping myself together, that maybe people around me have been led to forget that I'm still very human, very sensitive, and full of feelings that I'm sometimes not sure what to do with.
I don't want people, especially friends and family, to tip-toe around me. I don't want them to feel they can't share their joy with me. It's true; every pregnancy announcement, every photo of every newborn, all of those things inevitably lead me to think about what I don't have, and may not have. I'm still pretty fortunate to have friends who care so much about how I will feel. It's not a fair thing to ask of my friends, though. Real friends celebrate with each other just like they grieve with each other.
I don't want to go to Babies R' Us and shop for a gift for Amanda's baby - Not because it's Amanda's baby, but because Babies R'Us is a special kind of torture for a woman after pregnancy and infant loss. But sending my mom to pick something out for me to take will be easy enough. I'm afraid of going to Amanda's baby shower - Also, not because it's Amanda, but because I worry about breaking down and crying when I see that look in people's eyes when I make my pitiful appearance. Of course, Amanda probably didn't want to go to her best friend's child's funeral and she did. And anyway, isn't this Amanda's moment? She and her husband have waited for and earned this baby and all of the happiness that comes with him or her.
Birth and death are a part of life. At times I've had to tip-toe around the subject of my own child's birth and death because he and I make people uncomfortable. It's an awful feeling, the feeling that I have to hold back my love and passion for my own child because other people can't handle it. I don't want to ever be the cause of someone else feeling that same way.