julia’s post at glow in the woods has really got me thinking. i was struck after mae’s death at the familiarity of the whole thing; i felt so flat, in so many ways, that i worried i was in denial or worse, that i was callous. i tried to cut myself some slack, remembering that it had only been two years since effie had died, and that i remembered all of that so very well, and this was in so many ways similar, that maybe i was developing some kind of (sick) skill at grieving my babies’ deaths. i also tried to remember that with bitsy running around (well, toddling as quickly as her chubby 13-month-legs could carry her) that i had a lot to distract me, and a lot that was beautiful and happy in my life, and maybe i was just in a different emotional space, having a different emotional response to a similar but different emotional experience.

but julia made me realize some things i hadn’t thought before.

for example, i have not yet had to return to the same hospital to deliver a live baby as i went to to deliver a dead baby. effie was delivered in a level iv hospital only because it was the nearest hospital whose emergency room we knew how to get to. bitsy was delivered in another state, with my own ob in attendance, in a quiet little hospital that delivers fewer than 400 babies per year. mae was delivered in yet another state, in a level ii hospital but not in a traditional l&d room, and i was sent for recovery to the “women’s floor” rather than the maternity floor. all of this change has meant, at the very least, that i haven’t been treated by the same nurses, in the same surroundings, by the same doctors, ever, for any of my deliveries. and i’m starting to think there is a sort of relief in that.

neither have i ever had remotely similar birthing experiences. with effie i was epidural-ed and pitocin-ed and fentanyl-ed out the eyeballs, and i wasn’t even aware that it was her when she came out of my body. with bitsy i went for a totally natural vaginal birth, only to find my brilliant plans waylaid when she refused to descend and i had a quick spinal and emergency c-section. mae was a fast vaginal delivery — there were only three hours between my calling the doctor to tell him i was having disorganized but identifiable contractions and her appearance. and, so far, boo is a scheduled c-section.  while these varying delivery modes have left me feeling a little cheated (not to mention anxious about how boo will actually be born), i have never actually gone through the same kind of delivery more than once. and perhaps there is a bit of peace in that.

and i’ve come out the other end of grief quite differently. with effie i felt lost and yet i craved anonymity; with mae i had more anonymity than was helpful, since i’d been in a new city, state and job for only 3 1/2 months. dozens of people openly mourned effie’s death with me. only a small handful bothered to grieve mae, or even to help me grieve her. but that sense of anonymity has, in some ways, served me well: it’s helped me reimagine who i want to be, who i might become.

maybe there is a kind of skill to grieving. i don’t want to be good at it, since that requires training, but i’ve certainly had plenty of that so it makes sense that it might get easier as i go. repetition can be a terrible thing — the deaths of many babies is truly awful. but…i wonder…is it so very awful to imagine that repetition might might have some positive sides? if mac and bitsy and boo and i all come out the other end happy, then isn’t that something? it’s not everything — it’s only everything minus a few very important somebodies — but still, it feels like something to me.

i hope i’m done repeating, at least this. but there is a kind of gentleness to thinking that the repetition gave me something in addition to — something other than — despair.

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