Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Why I Cannot Join a Mom's Group: or why my summer off is causing anxiety.

I'm really lucky  (edit due to being unable to ever describe myself that way again) grateful to have my summers off.   I don't work in June and July.  In my previous life, when I was teacher in Colorado, I filled my summers with other jobs, but fun ones.  Leading adventure trips to San Diego and Mexico, working soccer camps, getting paid to run a slip and slide with a good friend on a hot afternoon.  Except for that one summer in grad school where I busted my ass with two internships, two classes, and my grad assistantship, I have had some damn good summers (and even that one was full of weekend adventures with Justin).

Since I moved back to Ohio, I have spent my summers:
1. painting and completing other various home-improvement projects to our new house
2. getting married and honeymooning (Yes, 1 & 2 happened in that order.  And it worked out just fine, thank you.)
3. traveling to Europe with my mom then hoping to get pregnant
4. hanging with Ben
5. hanging with Ben and my Lydie belly

And this sixth summer?  It will be more hanging out with Ben.  Without Lydie.

Usually, this time of year, I'm on countdown.  4 weeks to go.  I start to daydream about our mornings at story hours and our afternoons at the pool.

Now?  I'm excited to spend time with my boy.  I'm ready to have a break from my commute and the million emails and the many meetings and the phone calls with parents and even the students, who are the best part of my job.

But I'm nervous about the library and the pool.

I'm anxious about being around other moms.  I don't fit in anymore, though they wouldn't know it by looking at me.   I know it.  I feel it.

It would actually be easier to wear a scarlet A.  Or at least have those business cards that Elizabeth McCracken refers to, stating "my baby died." 

I can't do the often-complaining mom talk these days, about how tough breastfeeding is or potty-training or just about everything else.  I can't help thinking:  You know what's worse than that?  Not doing it.  Because my kid died.  I certainly can't talk to a mom who's wrangling her toddler while breastfeeding her baby.  I can't do it.  I can barely look at that mom.  I dread them making the assumption that Benjamin's my only child.  I can't quite tell them that actually, we have two, and the other's on the mantle at home. (And we so wish she was here with us, and I could complain about her).

I know our lives look normal from the outside.  But the inside?  Not normal.  Don't know how to be.  Don't know how to be around moms who don't know the truth about us. 

Which made me so appreciate this poem.   Stephanie's situation is different.  She's had her rainbow baby when she wrote this poem, and still doesn't feel like she fits.  Which reminds me that I'll never fit again.  Which is why it's such a comfort to be with my baby loss friends, where we don't have to do so much explaining and we can openly talk about all our children.


Why I Cannot Join a Mom's Group - by Stephanie Paige Cole

Surrounded by women
With children in their laps
On their laps
Circling their legs

I belong and I don't

I meet the criteria to be in this club
With a little one balanced on my hip
Playing with my hair

It is typical mom conversation
What foods have you introduced?
Is he sleeping through the night?
Anyone thinking about having a second?

That's not what's on my mind
There's a little girl laughing in the corner
She would be just her age

Now I am choking on thoughts
That I cannot turn into words
I will not allow myself to cry here

But I miss her I miss her I miss her

Talk only about the live one
You will alienate yourself
You will be the-woman-with-the-dead-baby
You will not make new friends

I repeat it until I accept it
I shut off what is real
I chat about teething
I go home and cry

Yes, he's sleeping through the night
He likes pears and advocados
And we're starting to think about having another
But that would be our third

And you don't realize how good you have it
There are worse things than sleepless nights
With cranky infants

There are sleepless nights alone

3 comments:

  1. Wow I absolutely love that.

    And you are certainly right, we will never "fit" again. It's definitely sad, another 'secondary loss', our right to feel normal around the happy moms at the playground...something else I used to take for granted.

    But I also, SO appreciate the relationships I have formed with those who have suffered a loss like mine. I find these relationships real. And valid. And empowering. These women inspire me. You inspire me. And while I miss those carefree conversations, there are elements of myself...things I can hear myself saying and complaining about, that I do not miss.

    Of course I would go back to it in a second, to have my girl here with me...to be none the wiser. And I can't. And I'm sure bitter about it, but I also have this insight now. I feel like the relationships I have gained, and the few I have been able to salvage are stronger. They are real. And I don't think those conversations provided me as much as ours do :) I only wish I could live next to all of you, and that we could go to the pool together!

    Hugs, friend.
    xo, Nora

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  2. So the first time I ever really felt this was while in this mom's group that I met with for infant nutrition after I had Lena--Last May. I knew it would be hard for me to go--It was all first time moms, and it was a semi-small group of about 10-15 people. During the first class, there was talk about how we all felt now, that baby was out, etc. Physically, emotionally, etc. After that class, one of the girls invited everyone to go to the mall for lunch, and I wanted to go so badly and feel like I fit in.

    So I went. And that first lunch was fine, as we were all just kind of getting to know each other. But truthfully, I felt like such an outsider. And I couldn't even put my finger on why, but I knew it was because I hadn't shared with them that I'd had Luke. All of their truths were out there, but mine wasn't. Because I hadn't felt like I could bring it up at the right time that day...

    So the next meeting came, and we all went to lunch after, again. And suddenly there was talk about birth, etc. And what each of us had had. And that was when I couldn't hold it in anymore. I blurted out that Lena was my second baby. They were confused. And then I just dropped it all on them. And I told them everything. I know I horrified some of them, because they were crying. But I swear, it felt like SUCH a relief that they knew. That I could talk about both of them.

    I also have a hard time at playgrounds and things where it's more lax. There's not that potential for connection there that there is at other meetups. And I want so badly for others to know that Lena isn't our "only", but the chance to bring it up just isn't usually there, so I usually avoid crowded playgrounds or places like that. It's just easier.

    We're never going to be normal again. But when I can, I share. Because I need people to know whenever they can, what I've been through. What Lena means to me because of that. How much Luke STILL means to me.

    I'm with Nora--I wish we could all live together and have a big ol' baby loss club that ALL gets it. But I will say that that group of girls that I met with? They were great. They ALL tried to understand and offer me their support. I certainly got the comments of "I can't even imagine," etc., but the fact that they finally knew that I DIDN'T fit in, in that I had two children? It was ESSENTIAL relief for me. I have insight that none of them have, and I think after I talked about him, they realized that. I would trade it all to have Luke back with me too. But to know that I helped them put things more into perspective? I'm glad Luke gave me that gift.

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  3. I was really excited to have mom friends and do mom/baby classes and activities when I was pregnant with Bear. I still can't bring myself to do any mom groups with Bode. I feel like I don't belong, still. I have coworkers who really include Bear and so I can talk to them about mom stuff but new people are so hard. I dread the playground conversations and dropping the dead baby bomb and then feeling so awkward.

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