Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Shit Lottery

I have been thinking a lot about how some people just get to lead an easier life than others.

Some people are blissfully unaware of how painful life can be.

Some people float through their entire lives without ever feeling their heart shatter into a million little pieces.

For some people, death happens in the right order. They have losses, sure, but it might have been their grandpa when he was 85 years old.  For some people, deaths aren't tragedies.   

Some people make the decision that they are ready to have kids, and 9 or 10 months later, a baby is born.  To them, it's a simple process.

I realized soon after Lydie's death that it's not going to be an easy life.
My blissfulness has been shattered, and it will never, ever return.

I don't know why tragedy strikes the ones it does, while others get to skate through their entire lives unscathed. 

I don't know why, when I've never won any kind of drawing or lottery in my life, I won the stillbirth lottery.  I don't know why my daughter had to be the 1 in 160.

I ask "Why me?" a lot, but I know damn well that there will never be an answer. 

And I know I am not alone, that others face tragedy too. 

A couple at support group explained how their daughter died at 9 months old.  They had to make the gut-wrenching decision to stop treating her seizures and instead introduce hospice into their home.  How do you make that kind of decision?

Recently, I was reminded about a friend of a friend in her early 30's whose husband suddenly died recently.  They have a young son, and I bet they planned to have more children.   There's this saying, "When you lose your parent, you lose your past.  When you lose your spouse, you lose your present.  When you lose your child, you lose your future."  It encapsulates the heartbreak of child loss.  However, I think if you lose your husband when you are 33, you probably feel like you lost your future too. 

Another friend's daughter died at full-term.  After struggling with infertility for years, she finally (and thankfully) was able to bring home her second daughter.  They also had a botched adoption right before they were supposed to bring another baby home.  And now?  Her husband has cancer.  She joked that you can measure the quality of your life by how many support groups you belong to.  Dead baby support group?  Check.  For her, cancer support group?  Check.

It seems like when you've had enough shit happen to you, you should get a free pass.

Like my friend from our support group.  Her son Ian lived 15 hours after he was born premature.  And a week before Ian's first birthday, her second pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 10 weeks.   I cried for her when I heard the news.  She deserves so much better than that.  She deserves a free pass.  How can it be that after you held your own child as he died, your odds of miscarriage in a subsequent pregnancy are the same?  Why can't she get a free pass?

And when I heard her news, I cried for me too.  Because when we try for our third child, our odds of miscarriage are the same.
Not to mention, our odds of stillbirth?  They shoot up.  With Lydie, I had no risk-factors.  Now I have a huge risk-factor: previous stillbirth.

I recently read about a woman whose first child was stillborn and whose second child lived only a few hours.  Their deaths were unrelated.

That woman really deserved a free pass.

It's another reminder that tragedy doesn't discriminate.  It doesn't choose to skip you once you've already had your tragedy.

Which I think helps to explain the anxiety that has crept into my life since Lydia died.  The many people who have told me "this will be the worst thing that ever happens to you" cannot foresee my future.  I now know that I'm not immune to tragedy.  And when one of the people you love most has been snatched from you without warning, it's hard not to worry about what will happen next.

C.S. Lewis wrote, "No one ever told me grief feels so like fear."

As jealous as I am of the people who do not know what tragedy feels like, including all these mothers walking into daycare, holding their toddler's hand on their right side and carrying their infant carrier on their left side, I know that I am not alone in my suffering.  

I can't turn off the "Why me?"
I do know, however, that maybe I should ask instead, "Why not me?"
What made me believe that I was invincible to this?
What made me think I'd be one of the lucky ones?

* And as a side note, after I wrote this blogpost, I read this article about anxiety and PTSD after a stillbirth.  I nodded my head the entire time.  The author writes, "a common thread among moms within the stillbirth community is the persistent, debilitating anxiety that settles in after the loss.... the suddenness of our loss shook me to the core. How could this happen when I was doing everything right? I was doing everything I was told to do. I mean, I was even drinking herbal sludge every morning to give him the best start. How was this outcome even possible? And, since I now knew it was not just possible but my heartbreaking reality every morning, I wondered, what else will go wrong?"


  1. I still (4 years later) can't wrap my head around not getting a free pass after stillbirth. Living a good life, believing that good things happen to good people is shot to hell after stillbirth. I struggle with it daily. And it REALLY pisses me off that being a shitty person sometimes means only good things happen to them. WTF.

    I play the real lottery now. Every time I go to the gas station. I figure if I can "win" the shit lottery, I might as well try my chances at the real one.

    I have no answers, just nodding along with you. Xo

  2. Keleen, I think I should change the title of this post to "The Shit Lottery."


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