Tuesday, September 15, 2009


This weekend, listening to NPR, I learned that someone you feel ambivalent about makes your blood pressure rise more than someone you actively loathe.

I have struggled a great deal since Lucy died with friends and support. Some people I wanted to be there weren't and others I didn't were. It felt so strange to reject support when I felt so fucking lonely. Or to send emails to people I still wanted in my life when I didn't hear squat. So much thought went into emails and correspondence in the early months. I think Catherine nailed it in her blog post about trust. Trusting others with your baby, with your vulnerability, with your memory and with your grief is so overwhelming and scary. It needs to feel one hundred percent safe to talk and share and be. I heard someone say once, your story and your emotions are gifts. You need to choose people who are worthy of receiving them.

When I began writing this blog, it felt like something "devastating" happened to me everyday. My daughter's death put me on a precipice and after that, everything felt like a strong gust of wind that may push me into the abyss. A new way to miss my daughter. Shopping became a testament to my strength and will. Something occurred to me in public that floored me and brought those searing tears of shame. Someone else's child. Some else's pregnancy. Someone else's failed comfort. My vulnerability was so obvious.

It's not really like that anymore. People ask me frequently now how many children I have, when Beatrice is getting siblings--I just have my answers ready. I steel myself for the most invasive questions when I go out in public. I am not getting tougher. Just more accustomed to this life. Sometimes, though, when those tough new moments come, I find myself back in that emotional abyss of the early days. It is like the cellular memory of my grief is just below the surface ready to cramp my muscles and leave me incapacitated on the floor. My post yesterday was one of those posts that set my flux capacitor for January 2009. It felt so painful and hard to write, and I cried through it. It probably doesn't seem like it. It was kind of goofy after all. But it was hard to admit the amount of time and effort I spent thinking about my weight, the way my behavior verges on eating disorder thinking, and, honestly, to admit the abuse I reaped on myself in the last nine months. So much shame is tied into our grief. The shame before our losses becomes multiplied. Part of me is coming to a place of peace, forgiveness and compassion with myself. It is both healing and incredibly painful. My father used to say to me when I would talk about fretting all night about a bad grade, or a lost basketball game, "If someone said to me what I say to me, I would knock that asshole out."

After all this time, I am still not exactly sure how to manage my relationships, repair old ones or start new ones. I thought I would have some insight by this point. I'm not sure how to pick up the pieces of lost friendships, how to move on and forgive someone who didn't acknowledge my loss, how to distant myself...I'm not even exactly sure how to survive for the rest of my life without my baby. Sometimes the idea that my baby is gone still knocks the wind out of me. My energy these past months has been focused on that, surviving her death and how that affected every aspect of my life.

The part that felt most difficult about relationships was the sort of drama of the early months. Like constantly something felt crushing and overdone. And they were things like someone's words, or an email or...I wasn't like this before. I rejected the theatrics, you know. "Save the drama for your mama" felt like an apt kind of thesis sentence for my relationships. I would sort of cull the dramatic sorts out of my life, and let go of small offenses by those I cared about. And suddenly, after my daughter died, it seemed like I embodied the drama. I remembered petty little grievances for months, and could not forgive. Upset by the clumsy way people announce a new birth, or ask about our lives, or complain about their newborn's sleeping habits. Now, I've just become incredibly ambivalent about most of my relationships. It just doesn't matter to me. That feels cruel.

And it is not even like I hate these people, or am deeply hurt by them, now it is just this "whatever" attitude has settled into my feelings. Why are they still in my life? And yet culling them feels like so much more drama than I want to take on anymore. So much fucking work to tell someone if you can't be there in my worst moment, I don't really want you there in my best. It is not part of the new Angie that I like very much. I was many things, but ambivalent wasn't a word I ever would have used to describe myself before.

But what I was talking about yesterday, and maybe today, is getting to this point where I do like myself. I do want to accept this person I am now. Not the person who would have cooed with Lucy, but the one who mourns her. Not the thin person, but the person who works hard despite the reward. Maybe the ambivalence is there, because the one relationship I need to focus on right now is a forgiving, compassionate relationship with myself. And after that relationship begins healing, the way to deal with this ambivalence will be clear, or maybe the ambivalence will change into an emotion I can actually work with. I want to be positive and up and not so dramatic and sad, paranoid and angry. These last weeks, I have wanted to bathe myself in light, because everything has felt so damned dark. And I acknowledge that I played a significant role in the darkness. Instead of distance, I jumped right into the abyss, a comfortable place I have known very well these past months. And so I sit cross-legged and repeat in this crazy person sort of way. "Breathing the love in(inhale), breathing the darkness out (exhale)."

Even I sometimes think I sound insane, believe me.


On a separate note, East Coasters, travelers and friends, some spots for the Babylost Mama Retreat in November (November 20-22) have opened up. Are you interested in connecting in real life for a weekend of healing, relaxing, sharing and listening? Please email me at uberangie (at) gmail (dot) com for some more information.


  1. Yes. Angie. Everything you just said. Yes.

    A note from the hospital last night inviting us to a walk to remember has thrown both M and I back to December 2008. And it is a dark, dark place. Just when I think we are emerging, breathing in the love, breathing out the hate, something like this punches us in the face (mid-inhale).

    My goal, each day, is to live without my daughters. And I sense that would be easier if I could move myself to the place where you are working hard to get yourself to. I am so proud of you for that momentum.

  2. There is so much here, Angie. You know I struggle with body image/ eating issues/ general dislike for myself. It's hard work. I can't really say anything else.

    And I get what you're saying about ambivalence towards friends. I've let so many of my relationships drift, even the supportive ones. Constantly negotiating the space between ourselves and other people is a an arduous, lifeling endeavour.

    You don't seem crazy to me. You seem wonderful and thoughtful and I'm glad you're in my life. I wish I could come to the retreat so much.

    Love xx

  3. Wow, Angie. What an amazing post. I would love to quote so many things you said....

    "your story and your emotions are gifts. You need to choose people who are worthy of receiving them." I feel so strongly about this too. There are people I just can't bring myself to deal with anymore. People who were close, who should have been there for me in my darkest days (no matter how hard it is on them). I am not at a place to forgive those people. I find them selfish and cowardly... even now, when there is an opportunity to approach me, to acknowledge our pain and our son, Nicholas... they don't. I don't have time for that. There are so many other people in our life who have been strong, been positive and just plain been there for us. I will take them any day. The others aren't worth my time.

    I am happy to hear that you are searching for and working towards a more positive, more lively Angie. From what we know, you are a beautiful, loving mother and person. I look forward to hearing/watching you grow.


  4. I so get this Angie.

    And Maybe Babies (sorry I don't know your name) - we received a similar note/invitation. I hid it away because of the immediate, intense physical reaction it generated...I just saw it again this morning and still, it just sent me into a spin.

  5. Really beautiful post, Angie. I struggle with this, though I now feel comfortable having let some relationships go.

    Wish so much I could be out east with you all.


  6. That feeling of ambivalence is awful isn't it?

    Sometimes I feel I as though I would be perfectly happy to exist solely inside my house, with my husband and my daughter and my memories of her twin, and never let anyone else in.

    But I don't really. Not really. I know there is a way. If I can relocate that trust, that . . hmmm . . . whatever the opposite of ambivalence is. Caring perhaps? Kindness? I'm not too sure.

    I hope that you can be a bit more easy on yourself about the eating now. I know that it can be a knotty old problem but you deserve a break for a bit. Just eat what you fancy for a little while perhaps?

    And you aren't insane. I think I am doing the same breathing exercises, just less eloquently. Here's to a quick dunk in light for all of us. xo

    And I wish, wish, wish I could somehow afford the air fare to meet all you East Coast mamas.

  7. You do it every time, Angie. Hit the nail on the head yet again. I have been wanting to post on this exact topic of ambivalence and relationships for a while now, but have been too chickenshit because so many of my in real life friends read. Then I stop and think "but I don't care, maybe they need to hear the truth". But then I just can't be bothered all over again. Because I've never been clear on how I'd put it on to words anyway. But this - this is perfect. Maybe I'll have to direct a few of my friends here. I suspect when/if many read it though, they'd probably drift further out of my lives. And then I'm right back to not caring. It is sad and I don't necessarily like it, but it is what it is. They are sad they lost their old friend Sally. I am sad I lost my daughter. I win.

  8. angie,
    i'm sending you so much love. you are such an honest beautiful mama.

  9. i feel so much of what you write. i feel blessed to have so many people constantly checking in on me, but a lot of others I haven't heard from in months. I'm sure that i'll hear from them this week (or maybe not) b/c this week is going to be hard for us. excuse me- every freakin day this whole year has been hard, ugh. i accept all the love and light and thoughts and warmth, from everyone. but the ambivalence, yes, its there in full force.


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