Sunday, April 18, 2010

The invisible woman and her rock

I have thought a lot about all that I have read and experienced in the last year, learning about grief, about dying and death, about living. I have read about the journeys of hundreds of women living after the death of their child or children. Some people get angry. Some turn inward. Some turn towards God. Some turn away from God. I don't know which I am quite yet. All of it? At different times? I sort of seem like more of me. More obnoxious, introverted, selfish, self-absorbed, more compassionate, more kind, more patient in some aspects, and less in others. More annoying and less present. And less annoying and more present.

I have a newborn now. And that is all anyone sees, as though the last year and four months of submerging in grief were a tour in the Nam. I remember being a few months out from Lucy's death, and walking through the market--an invisible depressed person. Two months prior, all people saw was a beautiful 20 month old with crystal blue eyes, and a pregnant mama, and then, Lucy died, and we became mostly invisible. I was one of those quiet, fat, middle-aged women that no one noticed. I didn't smile. I didn't engage in eye contact. I didn't flirt. I didn't make chitchat. I was just another extra in the movie of life. Another grieving person with no scene to fit into.

Now, I am a new mother, and people offer unsolicited advice as though this is my first child. People approach me beaming, peeking in the car seat, "Let me just see the baby for a second." Pregnant women ask me for car seat recommendations, and about my sling, and his weight now and at birth, and make allusions to how much my hoohah must have hurt. And I search behind their warm, open faces for the women ignoring me, squeezing their husbands hands a little tighter, holding their breath until I pass. Those are my people, even if they want nothing to do with me. I just want to cry with them and stop talking about this nonsense. I want my arm to gesture over Thor and Beezus and say, "This is not my whole story." I have never wanted a "My baby died" t-shirt more than now.

Last year, I resented the invisible woman, and now I cling to her. "Remember her?" I think, "She was so honest." She was the embodiment of Grief. That woman looked like me, lived in my house, but I didn't see her as me back then. I could almost sit back and watch her--dark circles under her eyes, drooping, baggy clothing and unwashed hair, like the scene in Annie Hall where Annie gets up during sex to draw. It was like that, getting up out of my body and watching myself shuffle through the market shopping for spinach and bread. But now, I can see that she is just as much me as this new mother, perhaps more so. When I find myself now succumbing to people's expectations of a doting new mother, ignoring their little barbs about sleep and two babies, and how we now have the perfect family ("One boy. One girl."), I say a silent prayer:

We were perfect then too. Two girls is perfect too, even if one is dead, because it is our family.


A older woman approached me last week in the popsicle aisle of the market. "Oh, my goodness, he is new. How old is he?"
"Ten days." I said.
"Well, enjoy it. It does go fast."
"Yes, I know."
"Is he your first?"
"No, no, he is my third."
"Oh, well, I should have talked to you a while ago. I would have stopped you at two. Now, you and your husband are outnumbered and you can't win anything now. Why, I just told someone at my church, I'd like to stop everyone at two, because after that, it is just impossible. I have five and well, you have to stop at two..." Blah, blah, blah...And she kept talking like this as my heart became more and more wrenched in her words, albeit, her kind, ignorant words, and I spat out my vitriol and tried to stop her incessant chatter.
"Well, my second child died, so we will only have two at home, so we aren't quite outnumbered, but how we wish for our three to be with us." She apologized, and blessed me and God is blessing me, she told me, and then she proceeded to follow me for another few aisles, and tell me about newborns, and sleeping, even as I said, "Oh, I don't mind the not sleeping, or the crying, as long as he is here." And I grew weary and resentful of her inability to take a fucking hint. "Don't you get it, lady? My whole perception of life is on a different planet than yours." My story is not simple anymore. Chitchat feels so unkind now, even when I know it is well-intentioned, even though my story is happy too.


I never thought this space was Lucy's space.

This blog is my space. It is why I named it something not Lucy-centric. I don't pretend Lucy lives here. Lucy is dead. Tragically, heartbreakingly dead. It is a strong, black period on the end of every sentence I write. This is where I process that fact. I pissed in the corner a long time ago and wrote about gnomes with almost no thought to my dead daughter. But in the way that nothing is wholly your own when you are a mother--not your body, your time, your conversation, or your diet--this space is Lucy's space too, if she wants it, and Bea's and Thor's and my husband's, and even the fucking dog if he happens to carry a corned beef into the art room after rummaging in the garbage and make me spaz out like a banshee on crack cocaine, not that that happened yesterday when I cleaned out our fridge. It is that damned dog's space too, when he demands it. Not that he does much, but you know what I mean, nothing is mine, even if it has my stink all over it.

After babies are born, people wonder what their blog space offers them. To me, I still need this space. I still grieve. I admit that my grieving and my mothering Thor are completely separate affairs. But I understand the need to create something new and different after the loss of a child and the birth of a new one, but here, I don't see this space as only Lucy's space. I will keep writing about my life, the life after the death of my Lucy, after the birth of my Thor. I have to be true to my own experience of the universe--live daughter, dead daughter, live son. The Lucy hole is not filled and never will be filled. I will always mourn my second daughter, I suppose. Perhaps not sobbing, tearing at my hair and making clicking noises like the old burqa-ed ladies, but I still internally click. Constantly.

I do not see grief in the same way as I did a year ago, or six months ago. Grief is not my shroud. Grief is my lens. I see the world in terms of suffering, of struggles between life and death and coming to terms with our own mortality through the mortality of those we love. Or maybe not simply my lens, perhaps more like grief is me. It is not a separate entity that has entered my previous innocent Angie shell. I am not a medium for Grief.

I am not raw, but I am not healed. I have accepted that she isn't coming back, and that will always make me sad. I will always have a sadness, because I will never have a second living daughter. She is dead. There is the period again, right at the end of everything. In some ways, I will never be cool with death. I will never be comfortable with the dying aspect of life. It makes it all so absurd and surreal and fucking difficult. I hate to get all existential on your ass, but you know, all so Sisyphean. Rock up. Rock down. Repeat.


  1. Grief is my lens, too. This is perfect.
    I get what you mean about feeling invisible. I never felt more invisible in the months after I had Hope. There I was, just weeks before full up with life, then I just looked like a podgy late 20-something, sad and miserable. No one wants to stop and talk to that woman and ask "how long now!!??" or "do you know what you're having?!"
    I too see my blog as my space and not Hope's space (even though it is named in that way). I read a comment on a blog a few days back (that blogger is closing her blog post the birth of her live child) and one reader said it was the noble thing for her to to, as if she shouldn't talk about her live child on the blog about her dead child/ren because it may upset others who are not where she is. I didn't really agree with the commenter. I know where I, and you, have ended up may upset some, but I still need to write, and I don't see the point in starting a new space. If others don't like it or can't read, it is easy to switch off and walk away - I'm not offended in the slightest. I did it myself many, many times before I got pregnant with Angus.
    I wont be walking away from you though, Angie. I hope to follow your story about all of your beautiful children for many, many years to come.
    Love to you and sorry for the supergiantmegacomment!

  2. grief is still my shroud right now and i am that invisible woman. i am in my first year at the 'baby loss mothers blogging academy' you seniors give me so much insight as to where i may be headed. although i know all of our assignments are individually set , they are basically filled with the same questions and the same answers. it is important for us juniors to follow your journeys beyond your graduation from this school into 'the university of children after loss' it gives me something to strive for, it shows me though how difficult the path is . i am truly a diligent pupil and i thank you my mentors xxx anne

  3. I am so afraid that -- if this works out -- the people who want us to better, will now proclaim us as such, and the people who are longing to rid of this black spot they see hovering over us and their relationship with us will use this as their excuse to finally sweep Maddy under the rug. (If it doesn't work, i'm hoping they simply cut us loose as crazy lunatics who played roulette. I will take that as a silver lining.) Not only will my invisibility finally feel invisible, but I loathe the day my invisible daughter becomes invisible, too. If nothing else this pregnancy has finally freed my tongue to say "three" here, there, and everywhere and I hope that continues.

    I'll certainly come here to read about Lucy and the rest of her family just as much as you care to write about her and it and everything.

  4. I'm glad you aren't closing down. Posts like this make me catch my breath and then come back to read them again so I can fully absorb the beauty of your words.

  5. Thank you for staying. I, too, am the new girl in town. Reading stories of people who've lived through this horrible nightmare help me tremendously.

    It's sad and scary and vomitrocious to read stories shockingly similar to mine. But it's a comfort to see what paths people take, how life moves forward in spite of us all.

    I am learning to make this a part of my life, within my blog and without. No matter where my path goes, Calla will be here--same as my living son, my husband, and, yes, the dog, too.

    You wrote this so perfectly--thank you for sharing.

    Oh, and the lady in the grocery store--I'm sure she's aggravating people with that foot hanging out of her mouth all over town. Sometimes it would be easier to lose all composure and just scream "SHUT UP!!!" at the top of your lungs. Stupid manners.

  6. littleharves states it much better than I can, so I will just say, "ditto" to what she said. I'm glad you will continue sharing your life...all parts of it.

  7. I see you, Angie. And I see Lucy, too, even though she's not in the back of the car with Beezus and Thor where she should be when people stop by to poke their heads in and piss you off. The joy, the anger, the wonder and the sorrow of it all- all part of the gorgeousness and amazingness that is you, and I would never want to not know any part of that.

    Wish I could make the boulder lighter. But I will never pretend that it's not there. Love you.

  8. So true. We need to keep writing. At least I do. I don't write as often and the thoughts are sometimes harder to crystallize so a post that maybe would have come in a few minutes now takes me days and days to release. I have so many posts still in the editing phase....sighs.
    But, I think to just close up after the birth of a rainbow does sort of imply that having the baby after makes everything all better and that the grief just goes away. I think it is just another part of the journey and that sometimes, the grief gets even harder as you realize, finally, it really will be with you forFUCKINGever.

    I am glad you will keep writing. I love reading your words, hearing your thoughts. Yours is a voice worth listening to, absolutlely.

  9. Oh Angie... I LOVE this one! You have no idea how many times I've heard the "you have a boy & a girl, RICH MAN'S FAMILY... THE AMERICA'S DREAM" - They made me sick! I wanted to tell every one of them that I have 2 boys and a girl, one died and and I really doubt that's anyone's dream!

    Almost 6 years later, "I'm not raw nor healed"... I'll never be healed... I can have 19 more kids and they'll never replace Alex...

    I feel for you.

    Much Love,

  10. I'm glad you will continue to share. You write beautifully and this grief will never be gone, so this space is yours to use! :) People in real life like to think things are so perfect just from what they see, if they only knew... XO

  11. you always say things so well Angie.. we will always ache for our missing babies.

  12. Angie as usual your breathtaking post packs a punch. I have not lost a child.. I have not had a child... just dreams and a positive pregnancy test once upon a time.I read on though, because you, your words, they reach me and they make sense for me. I am in awe of your ability to fearlessly write every nuance of your experience.Your description of your blog as family space touched a chord for me. For the infertiles amongst us, chitter chatter is a veiled barb, like a snake waiting to strike and to expose the pain. I relate and I listen, to the emotions. Thank you.

  13. This is an amazing post, thank you for writing it. I am fairly early in my journey as well and I am so happy to be able to read blogs about people in different stages in their grief. Congrats on your little guy!

  14. Admittedly, I held my breath when I started reading this post. I was somehow afraid you might stop writing too. But as long as there's ladies in the supermarket, there will be stuff to write about... I'll always be here to read about you and your family of 5.

    I can't even begin to imagine how hard it must be to suddenly be seen "healed" (by the public) just because you have Thor by your side. That would piss me off to no end...

    All the best to you! xoxo

  15. PERFECT post. I hear you - and I'm glad you're not stopping. We need more posts about gnomes ... and about your three beautiful children too.

    "I am not raw but I am not healed" - that is exactly how I feel too.

    Thank you Angie.

  16. "Grief is my lens. I see the world in terms of suffering, of struggles between life and death and coming to terms with our own mortality through the mortality of those we love."

    I couldn't agree more. Love you Angie, just as you are.

  17. I understand that sudden shift to invisibility. I can remember being in support group, & saying that when I (finally) got pregnant, I felt like I was (finally) "one of the girls," a member of this exclusive society I had wanted to join for so long. My facilitator nodded sympathetically & said, "And then you got kicked out of the club." Bingo!!

    You write so beautifully, Angie. I am glad you are maintaining your blog. I started mine years after my loss & our decision to remain childless, but even now, I still feel like I have lots of things I need to get off my chest.

  18. I'm glad you're staying too b/c I just like your writing so damned much. xo

  19. I feel like my blog is my space too, not William's really. He is gone and I am still here struggling through it all.

    I just want to punch the woman in the grocery store, is that bad? Or just always shop for groceries online because I hate grocery stores and the incessant need people have to talk to me there.

    So glad you are sticking around in blogland.

  20. One of (the many) things I hate about babyloss is that it's all about me. It seems so counter to parenting for it to be that way but it's basically inevitable. Even though I haven't yet gotten pregnant again, people still expect me to have moved on and to be "better", over it. Ugh...

    I'm so glad you're still writing Angie. And I'm so glad that Thor is here too and part of your family. He got so lucky to get you guys as his family.

  21. I am so glad that you are continuing. I have wondered what your path would be- I cannot imagine mine without having your amazing words to read-thank you

  22. Thank you for staying. Everyone has to do what feels right for them, so I don't want anyone to feel bad, but I am feeling a little lost with the holes in my reader. When I came into this sad and tragic world only 3 short/long months ago, several of the people that helped me the most were already pregnant. A couple of them have since stopped blogging and I worry that I would be expected to do the same. I am also bereft of their wisdom and companionship.

    Like yours, my blog is not just for my dead son. It is for me to heal and that process will continue whether or not I get my second living child. I need the voices of those who have gone before, they help hold me together. So thank you.

  23. I followed a link and found you. You write so beautifully.

    My little boy was born on the 2nd April this year - and died on the 13th.

    Thank you for your words, they give me some hope. Enjoy your darling boy and your darling big girl and may you have some peace from the hurt.

  24. Such a beautiful, true post, Angie. I loved it.
    How perfect, grief is my lens too. Indeed I am neither here nor there, you've said everything perfectly for me, found words and expressions for me, drew the curtains back for me.
    Thank you, and I am sorry about the supermarket experience, I wish some people know when to shut up. xoxo

  25. dearest angie,
    sorry i've been out of touch. it's good to read your truth, to hear you and be with you on this journey.
    just sending you love.

  26. Invisible.....Invisible as a grieving mother and invisible as a mother of three. Losing Laura has not only negated all my experience of mothering and birthing her, but seems to have negated my experience as a mother of three living children too. It has all been swallowed up. Thank you for naming it so clearly.

  27. sheesh, that woman going on about "stop at two?" what the hell WAS that?! you tried to give her a free lesson on not being so clueless, and she still didnt learn. for crying outloud. literally.

    "And I search behind their warm, open faces for the women ignoring me, squeezing their husbands hands a little tighter, holding their breath until I pass. Those are my people, even if they want nothing to do with me. I just want to cry with them and stop talking about this nonsense. I want my arm to gesture over Thor and Beezus and say, "This is not my whole story." I have never wanted a "My baby died" t-shirt more than now. "

    ...quite possibly the most heartfelt paragraph I have ever read in my life... I will think of this ALL the time now... as I still walk around, grasping my husband's hand, childless.. for all the moms I "ignore" and walk quickly past, I will wonder if they lost a baby before the one in its stroller making my heart weep... or if it's only me.

    and in the future (pretty, pretty please), when I walk with my own baby, I will be looking for those heartbroken childless moms, trying to ignore me..

    those t-shirts only come in black, right?


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