Monday, April 20, 2009

When Babies Attack

There is an interesting bunch of comments over at Niobe's regarding whether it is proper for a woman to bring live offspring to a walk of remembrance in honor of lost babies. The range of opinions is large, but can be very generally characterized as follows:

1) Babies? Oh, you mean those diaper-covered daggers with grenade handles. Remembrance marches should be adult-only events to protect the newly bereaved and anyone else who doesn't have a living child.

2) Babies do sort of suck. But ones born to parents who had a previous loss get grandfathered into my good graces. So ... bring your kid to the walk, if you really want to.

3) Babies represent hope. And kids who lost a sibling -- what are they, chopped liver? Let everyone whom the loss impacts walk together.

I am in the minority on this issue -- firmly ensconced in Group 3. I loooove babies. Babies were a much better soother for me than liquor or drugs or religion in my darkest days of loss. They were the best thing for me.

I should back up and say that in the first few weeks after my loss, seeing a baby was tantamount to a punch in the throat. I understand why some people recoil from kids in the wake of loss. I remember that stage well. But the lucky event that propelled me out of that place was the birth of my niece Scamp.

At first I couldn't believe how annoying, rude, and insulting the timing of that birth was. Scamp entered the world only six days after I said goodbye to my own daughter. I seethed at the unfairness of having to bind my stupid breasts to stop my milk while SIL geared up for a happy life at home with baby. I ground my teeth down to nubs listening to SIL complain about how hard it was to get up to feed the baby after a C section. I'd just gone through surgery and I was tired, too. But the reason I couldn't sleep was because of panic attacks due to complications from the loss. I yearned to tell SIL to suck it.

So when torrential rains flooded the roads between Oakland and Sonoma, I rejoiced at not having to go to the hospital to visit SIL and Scamp. Then once they went home, I perhaps exaggerated a wee bit about the whole family being deathly ill. "So sorry, we can't visit yet. Wouldn't want to give the new baby a cold, right?"

SIL, for her part, was lovely. She'd had a previous loss herself and understood. "Whenever you come is fine," she told me right after my termin.ation. "I realize it's hard. I won't be offended if you stay away for awhile."

All my instincts were screaming "Stay away forever!" But after about three weeks DH and I realized that like it or not, we had to go to Sonoma and see the baby. SIL and her family are the only relatives we have in the whole Pacific time zone. Staying away was weird.

Nobody asked if I wanted to hold the baby when we came. I couldn't decide if that was really kind or really mean. Finally, in an internal act of defiance, I thought, "Fuck it. Let's REALLY get this thing over with." I picked up Scamp and took a good look at her.

It was not what I expected. I didn't have the urge to drop her or start screaming at the loss of my own baby. In her nonchalant, unconscious way, she was utterly fascinating. Scamp settled into my arm and pursed her lips. They were the cutest little lips.

All I could think was, "Oh my God, she is adorable." And ... that was it. Nothing else. No spite or envy or bitterness. I was aware she wasn't my baby, but suddenly that didn't mean I had to dislike her out of loyalty to my own. In fact, I liked Scamp already. She and I were gong to get along -- I could tell it already. I patted her back gently and wished Scamp all the love and happiness on earth. Miraculously, I truly meant it.

It was the first moment since my loss where I didn't feel stunted and ruined by rage. It was also my very first moment of peace since I'd learned my baby might be sick. And all of those gifts came from a must-be-avoided-at-all costs baby. Go figure.

So that was when I decided that babies were no longer to be avoided. To this day I have a special bond with Scamp. She gave me so much, even though she is utterly unaware of all of it.


Which Box said...

I am like you - maybe I am too much of a compartmentalizer. When i was in the thick of it, I would just say mentally - what happened to me has nothing whatsoever to do with what happens to anyone else, and vice versa. Didn't always make it easier, but sweet baby love could help.

Wabi said...

Which, I also had a living kid when I suffered my loss, so I'm sure that was a contributing factor to my negative feelings about babies waning rather quickly. From a practical standpoint, I would have gone (even more) mental had I continued to feel like the sight of babies burned like acid. Because that first year of loss all of Big A's friends seemed to have mommies who were either gloriously, uneventfully pregnant, or sailing through the newborn stage with an infant continually attached to their boob. So it was impossible to avoid.

Misty said...

I wanted to stop by and thank you for your open and honest comment on my blog...

I also wanted to say, that I understand the choice you had to make with your own child. I get it. Should this ever happen to me again, I have to admit my choice might be different..... *sigh**

Thank you again for sharing... and being real. I truly appreciated what you shared with me today.

xo Misty

Wabi said...

Oh Misty, my heart goes out to you and little Isaac. I know you are hurting so badly right now. Thank you for taking my message in the spirit with which it was intended.

Mama to Monkeys said...

Wabi, you rock. That's all. :)