Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Adding injury to the insult of carrying or “miss”carrying death

I share so you will get a glimpse, you will hear a note, maybe you will understand a fraction of how cruel fetal demise, miscarriage and what follows it are, because carrying death is awful. I know my story is a little bit different. I didn’t carry this baby as long as some have. I didn’t have to scoop it’s remains out of a toilet, as some have. I didn’t have to give birth, knowing after all the work there would be no reward of cries, or breath in it’s lungs. I didn’t have to decide whether or not to terminate the terminal. Women have had to do some absolutely horrible things in the wake of their baby’s death. In many ways I am lucky in other ways though, my story is the same as the women who have bravely walked this road before me. It’s filled with a pain and vulnerability all of it’s own.

The chaplain of the Catholic hospital intruded on the morning that I was trying to face without grief. I had sat with death for a week and a day, and I just wanted it to be over and it would be, at least in part, the big part. It would conclude with a Dilation and Curettage, the same procedure used for abortion. My body held on to that lifeless baby for two weeks, thankfully I was only aware of the one. My body still nauseous and tender and tired, didn’t realize that the life it was making itself sick to support was gone. My brain did though, and it was freaked out. I spent the whole week trying not to think about it, but it would always creep in, and the tears were never far behind. I was carrying death. Once it was a sweet little life, so full or promise and redemption, but now that life was gone and it was sitting in my gut like a stone. Yesterday though, I didn’t want to dwell on it, I didn’t want to cry that morning. I didn’t want to get in touch with my emotions, a room full of people were about to get in touch with my private parts.  I just wanted to suffer through the indignities of the hospital,the indignities of this procedure and go home.

But there I was laying on the stretcher with only a paper gown, some socks and a hairnet talking about baby memorial services, and carving the baby’s name on a special tombstone. Once again in this process, I was nearly naked in front of strangers, discussing a baby that wasn’t mine. I just wanted to shout at the chaplain, “What name could I give him, I’m not his freaking mother!”. But I didn’t I was polite and courteous, and just tried to get the conversation over with as fast as possible. I was offered a small blanket, which I rejected. I didn’t want to talk about the baby. I didn’t want to think about the family whose job it was to name this baby, and whose grief I was carrying too. I didn’t want to explain why I was crazy enough to try and do this for a stranger, I didn’t want to deal with the assumptions, the presumption of judgement, the embarrassment. Maybe if he was mine, I would feel different, but I doubt it. In that moment, he was in my body and he was lifeless, and I didn’t need a tombstone or a memorial service to tell me he was significant or valued, or God’s child. I knew those things all too well, but I couldn’t talk about them in hospital socks and a paper gown. I needed to at least be wearing underwear to talk about them, to think about them. I needed to at least have him physically not with me anymore before I could process him being gone.

She kept talking of the necessity of sharing your feelings, and talking to someone, but again, in that moment, I was sharing more than I cared too. My height, my weight, my medical history, my vagina were all on display or would be shortly. In that moment I just needed to focus on getting through, because truth be told I was scared and miserable, and so very naked. I was scared of anesthesia, my hand hurt from the IV. I had to stumble through the hallway to get to the bathroom in that stupid paper gown while managing an IV. I was about to literally have my insides scooped out with the surgical equivalent of a spoon and a vacuum!!! I didn’t want to cry, I didn’t want to grieve in that moment I just wanted it to be over, and she was dragging it out. She offered to pray, but even that I couldn’t take. I did not know her, she didn’t know me, it felt intrusive. I know she was there to offer comfort, but she only brought grief and the ugly feelings of vulnerability that played a part in this whole surrogate process. It brought out the indignity of it all, it made me feel like I did “lose” the baby, like I did “miscarry” it, because this all seemed like a horrible punishment.

The chaplain had offered to come after the surgery, but that seemed worse, and I am so glad she didn’t. After I was wearing underwear, someone else put on me while I was asleep. After I found sensors on different parts of my body, that I didn’t place there. After people were talking more to my husband than to me, because presumably I wasn’t coherent enough to take it all in. The surgery was described to him, the instructions given to him. Yet again in this surrogacy process, I felt like my body was not my own, like someone else was in control, like other’s were discussing me as if I wasn’t even there. After I was tired, after I was empty, after I was supposed to move forward.

It’s hard to move forward, to grieve for a baby that wasn’t mine to name, or to bury. How could I hold onto a blanket for a baby that I would only have held briefly? It just seems wrong. Not only was I carrying death, I was carrying the weight of knowing another family is grieving, another family is carrying this as well, and that breaks me. I can only imagine how hard it is to grieve for your own child. For some I am sure the blanket is comforting but to me it just added to the shame I had already piled up on myself for putting everyone through this ordeal. Even if it was not my fault, it felt like it. I imagine there are similar feelings for anyone going through this, surrogate or not. How do you grieve for someone you hoped and dreamed about but never got to know?

Being wheeled out of the hospital with a new baby is such a great high worth of commercials and movie scenes,but being wheeled out with empty arms and a womb freshly scraped is it’s own cruel torture. I just wanted to get back to life as normal to move forward, but I am not allowed. I have to sit and rest. I can’t distract myself with work or routine, because even changing clothes causes pain and makes me break out in a sweat. I was warned that even if I start feeling okay in these immediate days following the surgery, the pain will rebound in bigger ways if I try to go about my normal day. I may not be carrying death anymore but my body still carries the lingering effects of having carried a life and then having that life removed. There is still so much left to feel, even if the process is over, and perhaps that is the worst part. It’s cruel how our bodies betray our wishes to put everything behind us and move forward. It adds injury to the insult of it all.

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