The Impossible Dreams of Miss Fix-it:
I've been busy out here in the real world trying to hack through yet another jungle of my 'issues' on the way to the next IVF, and if necessary, the next step.
If you know me in real life, or have read the first entries on this blog you'll know that my conception was covert (as in unplanned) and the discovery of my eventual entrance into this world collided with the death of my 14 year old brother. My mother was 41,and my father was 45. They had been married since their early 20's, and had three children over the span of 5 years. Their childbearing days were over, and they were both secretly hoping to be able to divorce the other when the youngest of their 3 children graduated from high school. Instead, he died at age 14 in a car accident. The day before the accident my mother had gone to the doctor for a pregnancy test, alarmed that her customary pregnancy response to coffee had been triggered. She'd told my father that Thursday, and they had yet to share it with anyone else. The next day my brothers (16 & 14 at the time) went out with friends, their car stalled on the railroad tracks and and was hit by a train. My younger brother died, and my older brother walked away with minor injuries. On February 13, 1970 a bomb went off in my family.
As you can imagine, this was not an easy gestation for me, nor an easy pregnancy for my mother. There weren't any physical complications, but she was in the most horrific grief imaginable, and I was inside of her. With all of her other pregnancies she had stopped smoking, but with me, she felt she couldn't. When I was born I was both perfectly healthy, and yet extremely sensitive and hard to soothe. I remember in my 20's when I realized that each year of my life, and most significantly the first 5 years of my life, were the first five years of their grief. I don't know how they did it. Yet I do. They pushed their grief as far down as possible; froze it in the deepest recesses of their souls and persevered. This has been a lesson that is hard to unlearn
From what I can gather, things weren't great before he died, and they just continued to get worse. I think his death, and my birth galvanized each of my parents in different directions. My father became a very dedicated parent, and my mother decided to make her separateness clear. In the midst of all of this my psyche was forming. I was forming fantasies to restore us to some mythical land of happiness--one I now realize never existed for them. I formed a twin-ship with my dead brother, both necrotic and life affirming. Someone like me, someone untouched by the grief of his own death, and my partner in 'restoring' our family to a place where adults love and respect each other, and children grow, and individuate, and maintain connection with loving parents. Yet damaging because I was tethered to him in a way that didn't allow me to integrate his death as a reality imporatn to, but seperate from me. Rather I built myself around his death. It was as if I was a living memorial to him. Strangely enough, we rarely spoke of him, we still rarely do.
Last week, in yet another iteration of trying to understand what it would mean to me to do egg donation, something separate from what it would me to my husband and me, I realized that I have a fantasy, a dream, that I would someday have a baby, and he would be the embodiment of my brother. I would have both fixed my paretns and siblings loss, and given birth to my salvation; a being who could complete the task I'd started but failed at and free me to live my own life. I felt surprised and shocked to realize this. I have gone through many phases of relating to him, most recently to feel angry that so much of my life has been usurped by fantasizing about him and by others frozen grief. I used to always imagine any boy child I had would have his name as a middle name, but not any longer.
One of the effects of our collective frozen grief is that we do not talk about him. Whenever anyone says his name, or tries to reminisce about him or their own childhoods, it is as if the room freezes, and whomever brought him up finishes up as quickly as possible so as to relieve the tension. Recently my sister (the oldest of all of us) has recently started talking about how painful it is to not be able to tell any sort of stories about ourselves for fear that one might include him. My brother recently made a friend who he felt a brotherly connection to and is more aware of how much he misses him, and how lonely he has been since his death. We have all talked about family therapy to give us a place to talk though these impasses, but I, and I am the one who would do this, hasn't pushed it.
The specter of egg donation made all of this much more intense. I understand that the desire to have a genetic child isn't unreasonable, but there was an edge to my desire that felt out of control, out of proportion.
Last week was my 38th birthday. I got a call from my brother and decided to tell him that I had this wacky idea, and uh, even though it was wacky, did he actually expect it of me? The answer was no. Of course not, but he did see how I could have arrived at that idea. That was a huge relief. Next was my mother. I told her about this odd fantasy that I had, and she was empathic that it was not my job to replace him with myself, or with my child. She said the best thing possible "People want to fix things, and this is not the kind of thing that can be fixed. Of course you had this idea, but it's not necessary." It was such a relief to hear that. Next was my father. In a recent post I referred to my fear that my father wouldn't fully embrace a child that was not genetically mine (based on some evidence from another situation, and his investment in his own genealogy). So I mustered up my courage and went over to talk to him. Luckily my mother was primed, and she helped. He was very clear that the most important thing is that I do what is right for me, and that he will support whatever decision I make. He did suggest I ask my cousin (from my mother's side, not his) to donate eggs to me--thus puncturing my fear that he felt his genetic material was important--but understood why that wouldn't work. Essentially, she is too old (one year younger than me), and both my husband and I feel that we want a non familial donor because while we want the child to be able to know the donor, and know about the donor, we don't want the donor at Christmas/Chanukah dinner.
The Language of Loss
Looking back it seems that breaking up some of the ice in my own family around grief, may have unfrozen some of my grief over Sparky. My birthday fell on Infant and Pregnancy Loss remembrance day. Luckily for me, I didn't know it until the following day. On Thursday I posted this comment on uppercase woman :
"I miss my little Sparky. He (I always think of Sparky as a he), would have been close to 25 weeks gestation now. I'd have looked all round and pregnant, and who knows what a else. He may be my only genetic child ever, and I have to remember that I am a mother, but my arms are empty, and that is damn hard."
I would have been 23 weeks pregnant on my birthday. I had a few dates marked out in my mind, and it seems my birthday was one of them. This is my third birthday with no pregnancy, and now with my very wanted and loved baby gone.
I wrote that comment and went on to have a really busy day--work and talking to my both my parents about my fears, and my odd fantasy. I felt so relieved Thursday night, as if I might finally sleep well for once. I didn't. I slept very fitfully. I woke up around 5 and my thought was "I want my baby. I want my little Sparky." Finally I got up and went into my bathroom and cried into my towel. I had a big day (job interview of sorts at 9:30), a lunch with a work colleague and a meeting I was really looking forward to. I pulled myself together and made it through the first thing and didn't really feel the sadness. At lunch my college was very insightful about where I was, and how hard things have been for me, but I managed to not cry, which I wanted to do very badly. Next was the meeting--one where I used the metaphor of a baby to explain something, and I managed again not to cry. But let me tell you, that was one weepy ride home. When I got home I realized I felt resentful because I felt I couldn't share my grief, that it would be too overwhelming to my husband. That is sort of true, but also sort of 'my stuff.' He does get overwhelmed my my obsessive negative worrying, but he is really able to grieve with me. I wonder if part of my obsessive worrying is a sort of diverted grief? Once he was done working, I decided to say something and it was a relief.
So I'm going to try to stop saying "the miscarriage" as if I lost a "the". I didn't . I lost my baby, our baby. And I know the pain will dull over time, and I will love another child, but I will always love you Sparky.