Saturday, February 25, 2006

What do you see?

Sometimes I wonder what people see when they look at me.

I assume, perhaps erroneously, that people who know about Thomas see my sorrow - look for it in my eyes, my face, my voice and my gestures. I assume this because every once in a while I catch someone hunting for it. Maybe they're hunting for the old me, I don't know, but I catch their curiosity and concern flashing across their faces as they sneak sideways glances at mine.

I guess I'd do the same thing. It's sort of like a train wreck - you don't want to see something that terrible, but you can't help but take a little peek because it so inconceivable that something so awful could happen right in front of you.

So anyway, I assume the first thing that people who know me see is the mother of a dead baby. I assume they see my sorrow first and me sometime after that. After all, it's not inconceivable to think that maybe I'm projecting the mourning mother image back at them, just as they're expecting me to. Because maybe that really is my image. Maybe the sorrow is so much a part of me that it unwittingly sighs from me like a slowly exhaled breath.

Or maybe it's all in my head and they're back to just seeing me like they did before Thomas came and went. I don't know. But I don't think so...

I don't want to be defined by the horrible loss we experienced, but how can I not? Who is ever going to forget what we went through? Who can ever look at My Beloved and I with the same eyes they used to before they watched us bury our son?

The only time I know I'm safe from inspection is when I'm somewhere where no one knows me. I'm anonymous in the grocery store, for example. I'm just a woman picking up bread and carrots - there's nothing to indicate that I'm grieving the loss of my boy. I don't cry in public. I don't walk around with a placard hanging from my neck. I don't wear a label.

You can't tell the depth of my sorrow when I'm standing behind you in the grocery store check-out.

But the funny thing is, that's often the time I wish someone would ask me about Thomas or acknowledge my loss. But of course, they never will because they have no idea. I'm anonymous when I don't want to be and I'm a fish in a fish bowl when I want to be anonymous.

The grieving process makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. It's as confusing as sitting through a French class unprepared - and a thousands times more frightening (and believe me, French class was pretty damn frightening for me).

I guess it boils down to the fact that I don't want to be special for this. Not this. I want to be special for having given birth to a beautiful boy, not for burying him 8 days later.

The thing is, I know that's asking the impossible. Thomas' life and death, as events, were virtually one in the same. It's hard for me to separate the two and I lived it in a way that no one else except My Beloved can even begin to fathom. How can I possibly expect anyone to think of Thomas' life without immediately thinking of his death when I can't do it myself? And how can I expect them not to think of Thomas' life and death when they look at me?

After all, when I look in the mirror it's usually all I see too.


kate said...

I think, looking back, that people see the sorrow much less than we think. Because, alot of the time, they are thinking of their own concerns first and foremost.

I have more to say on this but i have to run now....

Bronwyn said...

Unfortunately, I think what Kate said is true. Last year I had this very difficult conversation with my project supervisor about my loss, because it affected the way I was scheduling my time. He was very understanding at the time, but a few months later we all went out to lunch together and in an effort to be sociable, he asked me if I had any kids. So obviously, he didn't walk around looking at me like the tragic mother of a dead baby.

I'm sorry Thomas' legacy feels so negative right now. He did bring a lot of love into your life, though I know that that's of little succor when he's not physically with you to share it. (((Big hug)))

Sherry said...

Gosh, I have had all these same, mixed-up feelings! There are times now when I feel anxious when getting together with friends, who undoubtedly give me the "Aww, I'm sorry" looks. And the scrutiny - it makes me feel like a lab rat. But, even situations at the grocery get me anxious - waiting for someone to ask me if I've got kids. Sometimes I want someone to ask me that question just so I can acknowledge my little boy to a complete stranger!

And, yes, this is not the thing that we want to define us or set us apart. But, losing your baby IS a life-altering experience - how can it NOT change us and redefine us?