One thing I didn't mention in my previous post about the shower (which has probably been on my mind as much as or more than the shower itself) is that the shower is being held at a Boston Pizza restaurant. As you can probably tell just from the name, a good 2/3 of the dishes on the menu come slathered in tomato sauce -- which, (sadly) of course, has been on my "do not eat" list for almost a year now. *sniffle*
I suppose I could have tried using that as an excuse to get out of going, but I bit the bullet & e-mailed dh's cousin (the grandmother to be), explaining the situation, saying I did not want to be a disruption or distraction at her daughter's shower, & could she enquire whether there were any tomato-free alternatives I could have? (I know they do offer some dishes with alfredo sauce, but wasn't sure what they had planned for the shower menu.) She was sympathetic & said she'd let the manager know. I feel better having gotten that out of the way, or at least having broached the subject, ahead of time, so it's not weighing on my mind as heavily when I actually get there. It's hard enough being at a baby shower without worrying about the food (which is normally one of the few consolations about going to these things, lol).
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Dh & I were at one of our favourite restaurants for dinner on Saturday night -- a chain outlet, geared to families (which most of the restaurants in our suburb tend to be) -- and even though (perhaps because??) it was early, before 6 p.m., the place was already packed, & full of young families with children, including lots of babies & toddlers. We were both cracking up at the antics of one particularly lively toddler and her baby sister. The fact that we could is, I think, a sign of how far we've come.
But there was a moment then, when we looked at each other & dh said quietly, "I'm sorry."
I said, "I'm sorry too. I thought that would be us."
We both smiled sadly & clasped hands across the table.
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Lately, I've been seeing a lot of daddies with small children, walking through the lobby or concourse of my office tower in the morning -- likely en route to the onsite daycare centre. Many of them, like my dh, have grey hair. One dad I've seen several mornings now has two adorable little girls who gleefully race up & down the wheelchair ramps & chatter excitedly as the ride the escalator.
This morning, I saw another grey-haired dad, with a little girl wearing lavender boots, get on the down escalator as I was coming up. She looked up at him trustingly & put her small, mitten-clad hand in his, chattering away as they rode down together.
Whereas my dominant emotion when seeing pregnant women or moms pushing strollers is often irritation (especially when too many of them seem to pass by me in one day), scenes like that just make me sad.
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There was an obituary in The Globe and Mail this morning (I later found a similar obituary on the New York Times website) for a 65-year-old woman named Judi Chamberlin, an advocate for mental health patients. I had never heard of her before, but what caught my attention was that, as a younger woman, she had spent several months in a mental hospital (five months in 1966, to be exact -- involuntarily committed, following several voluntary hospitalizations) -- after having a miscarriage.
“She didn’t get over that, as people kept telling her she would,” her companion Martin Federman was quoted as saying in the article.
That line has stuck with me all day. It reminded me of a previous post I wrote almost exactly two years ago, related to an article I saw about Ethel Smalls, a women who spent 40 years in a New York State mental institution. Her personal history included two miscarriages and the premature deaths of two infants. Years later, some beautiful handmade baby clothing was found in the suitcase she brought with her to the mental hospital.
As I did after reading Ethel's story, I keep thinking how easily this could have been me, had my loss happened some 30-40 years earlier. As callous as some people's attitudes toward pregnancy loss continue to be today, at least we have the Internet, and each other, to reassure us that our grief is real and (in most cases) normal, and should not be swept under the carpet. Imagine having a miscarriage in 1966, when all things pregnancy-related were kept far more hush-hush than they are today.
I kept thinking that there's a fine line between people assuring you that you WILL get over a miscarriage -- and the unspoken implication that you SHOULD get over it. And if you don't get over it -- at least, not within the time frames deemed to be acceptable (by whoever gets to decide these things)(??) -- well then, obviously, there must be something terribly wrong with you. Right?
I don't know the full story, of course. Perhaps there were underlying factors surrounding Chamberlin's commitment that weren't covered in that brief obituary.
But I wonder what a little more sympathy & encouragement to talk about her pregnancy loss experiences & express her feelings might have done for Judi Chamberlin. And how many other Judi Chamberlins there are out there.
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The regular "Modern Love" essay in yesterday's Sunday New York Times was a first-person account of the author's discovery that she is infertile and has Turner's syndrome at the same time that she's breaking up with her boyfriend. It's worth a read, but here's a relevant excerpt:
One day, walking with a friend who was undergoing in vitro fertilization, it seemed like baby bumps were everywhere, with every magazine on every stand showcasing fecund celebrities and happy families.
“When you’re infertile,” I said to her, “the whole world is pregnant.”
She laughed. We find comfort in our mutual misery.
Still, I can’t help but wonder about the lemonade that is supposed to result from these lemons, the great man who comes to love me despite my failed ovaries and whose love I accept and return despite my feelings of inadequacy. I trust that some day it will no longer hurt to see pregnant friends and new babies, and that I won’t feel like crying when people say, “You’ll see, when you’re pregnant.”
But for now, I miss the children I’ll never give birth to as intensely as I miss the characters in a book after the last page is turned. I love them dearly, and yet they never existed.