For those that really know me, they would say I’m fond of the occasional foul word. I know it makes me seem less intelligent. I certainly know it’s not lady-like (whatever that means these days). And I know I don’t want my children talking the same way. But still, I do it.
I do feel I can turn it on or off. I was in sales for a long time and I knew when and where to use certain language. And I also can say, with 100% confidence, there are times when only a foul word will do. And I can also say that I’ve learned that even common words can turn into ugly, dirty, hateful and despicable foul language.
And that’s why I’m declaring Grief a 4-letter word.
The Unlucky Club
I’ve never actually had to deal with much grief or heartache in my 39 years. I’ve lost grandparents and acquaintances, but still have all those very close to me; my husband, my parents, my siblings and my close friends. Outside of my grandma, I’d say my biggest loss was a cow (that my daughter is named after). So yes, pretty lucky.
But just a few days ago, my husband and I got inducted to a club that no one really knows about. No one really talks about and that no one seems to care about…unless you’re a part of the club.
A club unlike any other. A club no one wants to belong to.
We don’t get together and play rounds of golf (or drive beer carts, because I shouldn’t be allowed to play golf) in this club. No time to have once-a-month meetings and talk about our philanthropic activities for the upcoming year. No plaques are given out for the “Volunteer of the Year Award”. And certainly, no after-work happy hour social party to mingle and share business cards. But hey! There are also no yearly dues, unless you collect your countless tears and turn those in like tokens at your local Dave & Busters.
It’s a little-known club called Grief. And within that club are many one-off clubs. Our family now belongs to the “Had a Stillborn Club”.
The over-arching Grief Club has one common theme; that we’ve all loved something or someone that we lost.
You can imagine the types of sub-set clubs of course; Loss of Grandparents Club, Loss of Spouse Club, Loss of Teenager Club, I Hate Cancer Club, Miscarriage Club, the list goes on and on. Of course, I think the Loss of any Club that has someone younger than you in the title are the worst kind of clubs to belong to. It’s not the natural progression of life. Grandparents go first. Then parents. Of course, you can lose your parents too soon and you get special bonus tokens for that Grief club.
But losing a child, at any age, Is. The. Worst.
Jealousy, sadness, rage, heartbreak consumes us. We were promised a future. The hope of a future. The possibility of a future. That was stripped from us. Without permission. Without warning.
Grief is a funny thing. I’ve learned we have no control over it. I’d say that’s been the hardest thing for me to accept of all of this. I couldn’t control that our baby boy was sick. I couldn’t control that he wasn’t going to live a happy life. I couldn’t control that my baby met his maker before he met his mama. I can’t control the very hard tears that come from no where and make me want to throw up. I try to stay busy, but I get random thoughts of him kicking my belly (the kid was gonna be a soccer player, no doubt) or remember that mental picture of his frail little body in my husband’s gigantic hands and I’m punched in the stomach again by Ronda Rousy and the tears and cuss words come fast, from nowhere. And I feel my heart breaking…again.
Ever had a broken heart? It’s a real thing. Google it. Broken Heart Condition. I have it. I know exactly what it feels like. It’s heavy, and stressful and your body feels like it can’t take a step. Numbness overwhelms you and all I want to do is crawl in bed and hold and smell the blanket we wrapped him in and cry and cry and cry.
Congratulations! Oh, I’m Sorry
Know what’s not fun? Going to the hospital to have a baby and not coming home with one. You are treated very differently. Everyone is sorry. No one jokes. You fill out a million different forms that ask the same question a million different ways: Are you depressed? Are you sad? Do you have thoughts of hurting yourself? You meet with a Bereavement Counselor. They tell you your options.
You hope other expecting mothers/fathers don’t get on the elevator and ask you how your baby is. And I’m sorry to the friend of an expectant mother who said to me in the waiting area, “You don’t look very big for 9 months along, are they inducing you early?” She felt awful and I didn’t have the strength to comfort her embarrassment.
They put you in the delivery room farthest from everywhere else in hopes that you can’t hear the happy moms and that they can’t hear your cries. I pushed, no epidural. You work just as hard, but once he came out everyone and everything was quiet.
We didn’t know what to expect and many nightmares led up to this day, but you know what? He was perfect. And I had a very strange, very content sensation come over me. I didn’t cry. I instantly went into mom mood. I wanted to hold him and keep him warm. I was nervous to kiss him and smell him at first, but once I did, I couldn’t stop. Giving him all the kisses he wouldn’t get; from me, his dad, his grandmas and so on. Like it was my job to give him a lifetime of love in the few hours we would be with him. His smell; not something Glade Plug-Ins or Yankee Candle will come out with anytime soon, but a smell I hope I never forget. I’m mad we washed the special blanket we brought and wrapped him in. It had him and his smell on it. But I know it kept him as warm as it could. It kept him perfect in my mind. Perfect. He was perfect. Ears like his daddy. Ugly feet, like his mama. Perfect.
Physically, your milk still comes in. Bleeding. Swollen belly. Baby blues. But no baby. Seeing the “Expectant Mothers and Mothers of Newborns” parking spot at Walmart sucks. Getting a freaking Baby Gap catalog in the mail the same day we came home empty-handed from the hospital sucks. And since Mark Zuckerberg stalks us, he now posts ads in my feed of Amazon grief books and Target baby deals simultaneously, all day long.
My new club means I now only read articles about grief. Facebook used to be a place for me to catch up on Ag news, or ways to keep your pigs contained in a pasture or new ways to cook a hanger steak. But now, I belong to 30 different grief communities; some specific to stillborns, but most about the loss of a loved one. Meme after meme is about how you shouldn’t bottle up your grief. No one says, “Move on” or “Get over it”, because when you’re one of the unlucky ones in the new grief club you know you don’t just move on. You learn a new normal.
My favorite meme quote so far is:
“Grief. I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, in the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.”
Did you know there’s a Bereavement Mother’s Day? Always the first Sunday in May. I got to belong to that day as well this year. Did you find the perfect card for that day in the greeting card aisle at Walgreens? Probably not.
Bereavement Mother’s Day is a day created to honor the grieving mother. Some may honor this day AND get to celebrate Mother’s Day. Others feel awkward and sad celebrating Mother’s Day in the traditional sense, even though technically we are all mothers, with or without walking, breathing little humans to call our very own. I bet a million dollars you know a bereaving mother. Miscarriages are so very common and yet so never talked about. 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. Think of 4 women – do you know one of them that’s had a miscarriage?
And speaking of silent struggles. Because of all we’ve gone through, my husband and I have been enlightened forever. We NEVER know the hidden, internal struggles people are going through. For example, we got the news our baby was not just sick, but very sick, the same day I had to speak to the Kiwanis Club and ran my car out of gas. Think my mind was elsewhere? I assure you; it was.
Or how about the day before our boy was born…I was walking around a ball park watching my 4-year-old daughter hit a pitch off the pitcher (instead of the T!!!) while I had a lifeless baby inside of me. Morbid, right? Well it was. So don’t judge me if my eyes were puffy and my skin was pale and I couldn’t carry on a conversation. It’d been a rough day.
And your co-worker who didn’t wear makeup today may have been up all-night crying over her mom for various reasons. Or the Uber driver who seems “weird” may be on day 5 of sleeping on the couch after a huge fight he might not be able to reconcile with his wife. Or the kid ringing up your McDonalds order who can’t seem to get it right that might just be one F away from getting kicked off the team and he’s not sure how to tell his parents. We are all struggling. I, for one, will certainly try to remember that from now on.
I was scheduled to pick up the remains of our son last week. Of course, the 4-year-old decided to wake up at 2am that morning and hurl her brains out. I wanted desperately to get our son home with his family, so I made a pallet for her in the car and buckled her and her 14-month old brother up and ventured out into a 4-hour monsoon roadtrip.
I brought the newborns special blanket and special bear with us to wrap him in once we got him. Funny thing though – the 4-year-old was so miserable and a stomach virus shows no mercy and unfortunately she threw up all over her blankies, her Glow worm, the newborns blanket and his bear, Boris, and the entire back seat. Simultaneously, the 14-month old was screaming at that top of his lungs because he was over tired and over hungry and over being in a car seat. I pulled over in the parking lot of a gated factory, in an extremely sketchy part of town (and I lived in NYC!!), cleaning vomit off her hair, her seat and the special blanket. Oh and my boobs were enraged and my hip was enflamed from giving birth and being in a car all morning. I was broken. And I broke down. I couldn’t hold it together anymore.
We pick the baby up and get out of that town as fast as humanely possible and stop at a Chick-fil-A. My nerves are completely shot. But things finally calmed down. The 4-yr old was asleep, illegally, in the backseat. The 14-month old had his fill of Chick-fil-A nuggets and waffle fries, ketchup all over his face. And was beginning to rub his eyes with his rooster blanket. And as the rain beat against my windshield, with the interstate traffic crawling to almost a standstill to combat the heavy downpour and winds, a very eerie calm came over me in the storm. A déjà-vu calm I experienced when our son was born. A calm I haven’t felt in months, since we found out our boy was sick. I had all my babies with me. Whitman Shaw was in my lap, in his very chintzy urn, and the other two were sleeping peacefully. My heart was full. Not complete. But full. I was doing my job; keeping everyone as safe as I knew how.
In that moment, I thought to myself, “THIS is the dictionary definition of a mother.” It’s not pretty Mother’s Day flowers and brunches. It’s not perfect family portraits and clean houses. It’s vomit, and tears, and screaming, and soul-searching and Chick-fil-A waffle fries.
Grief. My new, least favorite four-letter word. I feel like I should start a movement. Instead of saying “Damn It” I’m going to say “Grief It”. Or FU!, now Grief You! What the Grief are you doing? Grief, Yeah.
I guess I want the word to roll off my tongue. To become common in my vernacular and yours. To not fear Grief. To be strong enough to say the word and to talk about the word that it becomes not so taboo for me and the world. For the word Grief to be as comfortable to me as any other four-letter word.
I’ve always thought of my blog posts as journal entries for my grandkids to read some day. Not necessarily for you, current reader, but for them. To know me, us and our life. And I want them to know this blip about their great, grandparents. What happened and how we made it through. For them to know we are vulnerable and tough at the same time.
I’m sorry if any of this makes you sad. And I don’t mean to force you to count your blessings. And I promise I wish this all didn’t happen around Mother’s Day. What a kick in the teeth. I just had to tell my story in my own way. I don’t want to talk about it in person. But writing about it sure has made me feel better. For this minute anyway. We all handle grief differently and this is what I’m choosing.
And I know that I/we will come out of this. That more than a second will eventually pass that I don’t yearn for him. But for now, I’ll just continue cussing as I do best. Grief, Grief, Grief, Grief, Grief, Grief….
RIP Whitman Shaw Patrick. Until I can hold your hand again and kiss your sweet face.