Monday, December 28, 2009

The truth

My Beloved and I were out for a very chilly walk this morning, and while navigating icy spots along the trail on which we were plodding, it dawned on me that we are very much alone. In circumstance, I mean.

Amongst our closest circle of friends and family, we are a complete oddity. Within that circle there have been probably 10 children born since Thomas died. And two more are expected in 2010. And outside that circle? Countless births. If you include Facebook friends and neighbours, the number probably rockets into the 20s or 30s, if not more. Easily.

And we're still just the two of us. Always walking along life's slippery paths alone, together.

The thought made me so sad, in a way I probably can't explain. Maybe it's the human need to be truly understood; to have someone say, "yeah, I get it", and know that they really do.

We are endlessly grateful and so incredibly fortunate to have such supportive friends and family who, despite not being in our shoes, regularly offer us limitless support, the warmest kind of comfort, and open-armed acceptance into their child-filled worlds.

But we are not of that world. And I'm always aware of that fact.

I'm aware of it when I don't know if a one-year old can have the chips a three-year old has just given her. I'm aware of it when I say "ass" in the presence of a child and have to clamp my hand over my mouth to keep something even worse from popping out. I'm aware of it when my arms tire after just a few minutes holding someone's baby. I'm aware of it when it takes a parent 15 minutes to explain all the rules to me before leaving me to care for their wee one. I'm aware of it when a crying child I'm aching to comfort reaches for its mother instead.

I'm just always aware that I'm different, floundering about in a sea of experts who do know how often babies need to eat and how much sleep they should be getting and how long nap time needs to be.

And I'm aware that this isn't normal. This is not what anyone expects of a woman, for God's sake. We are programmed to care for children. We are built for it, body and soul. It's just not considered "normal" to be without offspring in tow.

And we, the childless, know that. And so there we are; oddities sticking out like proverbial sore thumbs.

I suppose all this self-absorbed, self-pitying ruminating is part of yet another sort of grieving process.

We've lost all our babies and now we know there are no more children in our future. So the settling in process has begun.

I realize I sound markedly less Pollyanna-esque than I did in July. And I promise I was being honest then, abounding in optimism and fortitude and all that good stuff. But I suspect I was trying to convince myself that what I was saying really was true. Or maybe it even was, back then.

But now, five months later, I know a different truth.

This is hard.


I'll make it out alive. I'll figure this out like I've figured everything else out since life shat all over me and My Beloved.

But fuck me, it's hard.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

NOW I get it...

So here's what I've learned (and it's only taken me five Christmases to figure it out...): Christmas Eve is probably always going to suck. I will wake up with a heavy heart and won't be able to shake the melancholic mood until necessity forces me to put on a happy face at my in-laws' house later in the evening.

But eventually the Christmas spirit (or what now passes for it) will worm its way in, and as the evening progresses my smiles will become genuine and my laughter will feel as real as it sounds.

And wine will help smooth out the rough edges and blur the inevitable sad moments just enough to make it impossible for me to see them too clearly.

And it's okay. It's okay to turn inward and recognize my pain, then move it gently aside and enjoy whatever moments of joy might happen to come my way.

Sorrow needs to be acknowledged. Not indulged, necessarily, but certainly acknowledged. Because it's there. And it ain't going anywhere.

We, the bereaved, spend an inordinate amount of time trying not to be bereaved. And all it does is make us feel guilty and useless when we can't seem to shake the sorrow. Because sorrow cannot be shaken. Period. You can't outrun it, out think it, or out manoeuvre it.

Accepting that things cannot be what they were and allowing ourselves the luxury of feeling our real feelings without shame or guilt is the best gift we can give ourselves at Christmas - and the best hope we have of feeling something besides sorrow once it has been given its due.

I just hope I remember this lesson, which took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out, next year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Small talk

I spent a fair bit of time at a Christmas cocktail party on Saturday explaining to someone I don't know all that well why we're not pursuing adoption.

It was surreal. As other people's children milled about and groups of people chatted and laughed, I stood by the crab dip trying to make him understand.

Because he asked. And I'm sure when the answer he wasn't expecting met his ears he was instantly sorry that he did. I saw him recoil, just a tiny bit, as his eyes widened in horror.

Not, I don't think, because my answer was, "No, we're not adopting", but because he suddenly realized he'd put me in a position that would require me to justify a childless existence. Because most people don't live that way. Clearly. All you had to do was look around the room.

It's so unfathomable to people. They want us to have children. They want us to be parents to a living child, and they think that if the answer doesn't lie in my uterus, it must lie somewhere else. And I get that, I do, but unfortunately, it's just not that easy. Not for us, for reasons I'm sure we could never properly articulate to anyone's satisfaction if we tried.

Maybe we're wrong. Maybe we're absolutely totally wrong to have made this decision. And maybe we'll change our minds one fine day. But for right now, this is what is right for us, no matter what you think.

No matter what the man beside the crab dip thinks either.

Friday, December 18, 2009

'Tis the season

Nearly five months of silence.

So it's time for some rambling, I think. 'Tis the season, and all.

I realized, probably not for the first time, but for the first time this year, that the things I do at Christmas post-Thomas are things I do to cope with Christmas post-Thomas. The obsessive ornament buying, the totally over the top cookie baking for the annual family Christmas tea we started hosting the year Thomas died, the ornament making party, the explosion of garland, tinsel and lights all over the house.

It's all busy work. And a bit of a disguise.

Which makes me wonder what Christmas would look and feel like if I didn't try so hard to make it magical. If I didn't wear myself out quite so much. If I just took some time to sit and listen and let the season quietly work its way into my soul on its own terms.

I've been doing this - busting my proverbial (and literal) ass in an effort to prove to everyone that I am full of Christmas spirit and also just fine, thank you very much - since that horrible first Christmas without him.

And while I've been so busy trying to demonstrate my fortitude, I haven't really let anyone do anything for me. I haven't let anyone scoop me up, plunk me down and take care of me during this season when my heart feels both so full and so empty I can't fathom that it even knows how to beat anymore.

I haven't shown the people around me that I'm still vulnerable. That while I love Christmas, it also hurts. That maybe I need a little extra TLC these days, or at least a pass if they find me slightly out of sorts at some point during the back-to-back festivities (all of which I promise I really do enjoy in my own way).

I steal moments, finding empty corners of unused rooms in which to regroup. But I do it secretly. As if there's something wrong with needing a moment to breathe.

I've put an inordinate amount energy into avoiding the need for pity by proving my strength, and to my own detriment. Because now, now maybe I want people to take a moment and whisper that they remember. That they miss him too. That he is not forgotten and never, ever will be.

And now they probably won't. Because they think I don't need it.

Or worse, that I don't want it.

Because I've worked very hard to show that I don't.

Stupid, stupid me. Although, in my defense, who the hell is good at grieving? Especially this kind of grieving?

I think I've done well these past four years and nine months. As well as I knew how, anyway. But I've learned some lessons, and I'll be making an effort (because it's always about effort, isn't it?) to tone down the Christmas dog and pony show next year.

I think it's time.

Next year will be for me.