Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is there life beyond the Olympics?

I guess we'll soon find out, lol. But right now, it feels like all I do is go to work, come home, submerge myself in the Olympics until some ungodly hour of the night, get up & do it all over again.

Since the Olympics began, not quite two weeks ago, there has been precisely one night that I went to bed before 11:30. More often than not -- thanks to the translation from Pacific Time event schedules to Central Time TV viewing -- I'm watching TV till 12 or 12:30. And did I mention that I get up at 5 a.m. on weekday mornings in order to get to work on time in the city by 8??

There's no figure skating on tonight. There IS a crucial Canada-Russia hockey game (& if you thought Canada-USA was a rivalry, baby, you ain't seen nothing yet). But I'm planning on crawling into bed no later than 9 p.m. If that makes me unpatriotic, so be it. A girl needs her beauty sleep.

I was talking figure skating with one of my coworkers yesterday. I said, "I can't wait for the weekend so I can sleep in!" She (ignorant of my personal reproductive history) gave me a "look" & said wearily (only half-joking, I think...!), "I hate you. My daughter (17 months old) keeps the same schedule whether it's a weekday or weekend."

Part of me thought, "Ouch!"

Part of me thought, "If you only knew. I'll bet you would be mortified that you said that to me."

Part of me thought, "So, only parents have the right to complain about being tired??"

And part of me thought, "Tough! -- There have to be some benefits to childless living." (lol)

*** *** ***

By now, everyone knows about Joannie Rochette, Canadian women's figure skating champion, whose 55-year-old mother died of a heart attack only hours after arriving in Vancouver last weekend to watch her daughter compete. Her short program last night was both perfectly executed and heartwrenching to witness.

Beverly Smith of The Globe & Mail -- one of the best figure skating reporters out there -- wrote a beautiful tribute to Therese Rochette earlier this week. She reminded me of a story that I first heard a few years ago:

Her mother was never more a part of her skating when Rochette skated to L'Hymne d'Amour, music suggested to her by [choreographer David] Wilson for the season after the 2006 Olympic season. Rochette wasn't sure that the music was a good idea until she played it for her mother.

Rochette was driving in a car with her mother, and when she put the CD in the car's player, she was astonished to see her mother begin to cry after she heard the first few notes of music. "I was shocked,'' Rochette wrote in a journal back in 2006. "I couldn't understand what was going on.''

Therese wept because she'd listened to the music many times many years ago, after a fiancé died in a car accident two weeks before their wedding, when Therese was in her early twenties and the two had had a long courtship....

... "It was HER song,'' Rochette said. After that, Rochette had to skate to L'Hymne d'Amour. She even used it as her free skate music at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin.

(The article includes the poignant lyrics of the song.)

The article also includes a fact I had not known before: Joannie is "an only child." Well, not quite. It seems she had an older brother who died shortly after birth.

The journalist in me realizes this is a story that needs to be covered -- and, in making the decision to continue to compete, Joannie has invited a certain degree of scrutiny. I realize that people are curious and want to know what happens. They want to wish her well.

But there's a part of me, perhaps the bereaved part of myself that still downplays my own lingering feelings of grief and loss in front of others, that wishes the cameras would leave her alone, and cringes at times when it feels like the coverage is becoming excessive. (Facing others after my baby's stillbirth was so horribly hard. I can't imagine going out to compete/perform in an arena full of thousands of people, not to mention millions more watching on television.) (But then, I'm not an Olympic-calibre athlete who's been training my entire life for this moment...) There is a fine line being trod here, between covering a story and preying on grief to boost TV ratings and readership. (And maybe I'm a little guilty myself, by writing about it here in my blog.)

But at the same time, there was no denying the love and concern and respect shown by the audience last night -- the virtual arms reaching out to silently embrace the young girl at centre ice and buoy her up as she launched one perfectly executed jump after another. I doubt there was a dry eye in that arena. (There wasn't in my house.)

"She is Canada's daughter now," someone wrote in one of the newspapers, and if there were gold medals for courage, I think Joannie Rochette should have one.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Show & Tell: The angels wanna wear my red Olympic mittens...

In case you've been living under a rock the past few days, the Winter Olympics are now under way. In Vancouver, on the wet -- errr, west -- coast of my home & native land.

I marked the occasion of the opening ceremonies by donning my red Olympic mittens. I am not the only one. I am getting a huge kick out of watching the crowds at the outdoor events on TV, & seeing what looks like a sea of red mittens being waved in the air. I even saw one guy pointing to the white maple leaf after Maelle Ricker's awesome gold medal victory in the snowboard cross yesterday. For all that they have been so hard to find, I guess someone has been buying them -- last I heard, almost 3 million pairs have been sold.

I actually wrote about my red mittens and how I managed to scoop up a few precious pairs last week, but I couldn't resist putting up a picture of them for Show & Tell. : )

To see what others are showing & telling, head over to the Stirrup Queen's blog.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day/Chinese New Year/Family Day/Presidents' Day/Olympics long weekend!!


Some thoughts on each of these causes for celebration (mostly non-IF or loss related):

Valentine's Day: For all that many people tell dh & me we're one of the most lovey-dovey couples they know, we are not big on Valentine's Day. Slight correction (lol): dh is not big on Valentine's Day. He says it was made up by Hallmark to sell cards. I suppose there's some truth to that. He also argues that he tells me he loves me every day; why does he need an artificially created day to state the obvious?

OK. That said -- what girl is going to turn down cards, or gifts (including flowers, chocolate or jewelry -- although dh is not really a flowers/chocolate/jewelry-giving sort of guy) or the excuse for a nice dinner out. Sadly, for all his many virtues, dh has absolutely NO patience & HATES to wait in line at restaurants (and, when all is said & done, prefers to eat at home) -- so if we go out for dinner at all this weekend, it will probably be on Saturday night & not Valentine's Day itself. (And EARLY, to beat the crowds.)

But he's still, always, my Valentine. : )

Chinese New Year: Actually not a holiday with huge significance for me, but since it IS Chinese New Year, I thought I'd throw it in there, lol.

Family Day: Monday is Family Day in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. In Manitoba, it's Riel Day and in Prince Edward Island, they are celebrating their very first Islander Day. (I wrote about our very first Family Day two years ago here.)

There hasn't been much in the press so far this year, waxing poetic on the meaning of Family Day. Maybe there will be something on the actual day itself. Maybe it's because this is the third year now that we've got this day off, so the novelty has worn off. Also, I suspect it's being overshadowed by the other events of this weekend, and the Olympics in particular. Fine with me! : )

Presidents' Day: For years, I was jealous of Americans for having a holiday in February. Now that we (finally) have one to brighten the winter monotony, the next step will be to get a holiday in January to match Martin Luther King Day in the U.S. (lol).

Canadians generally don't have as keen a sense of their history as Americans do. We don't tend to make heroes out of our political leaders -- with the possible exception of Tommy Douglas, father of universal health care (& -- trivia for you here -- grandfather of Kiefer Sutherland), who was voted the greatest Canadian in a national TV contest a few years back. Several prominent historians & columnists have been advocating for some time now that we should remedy that by making Jan. 11th -- the birthday of our first and probably greatest prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald -- a national holiday. His 200th birthday is coming up in 2015; what better time to launch a new national holiday?? (There actually is a Sir John A. Macdonald Day, declared by an act of Parliament. It's just not a statutory holiday = day off.)

Of course, Jan. 11 is the day before my birthday too. ; ) Bring it on!

Olympics: I am soooo looking forward to the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver Games tonight. Any guesses as to who will be lighting the cauldron? The word this morning was that it's definitely not Wayne Gretzky. The head of VANOC said, tantalizingly, "You're not going to figure this out." But he has also said that, when that person(s) enters the stadium, he wants the universal Canadian reaction to be, "Of course!"


I know Betty Fox, mother of our national hero, Terry Fox, is a sentimental favourite. It would certainly add some great emotional punch to the ceremony if it she was the choice. Although the idea of having her do it alongside a hologram of her late son (one rumour I've read) sounds just a tad too showbiz/creepy for my liking.

As for tonight's entertainment, rumour has it that Bryan Adams, Sarah McLaughlin (sp?) & Nelly Furtado (all British Columbians) will be performing. I know this sounds cheesy, but I would love to see Vancouver's own Trooper -- whom I saw in concert several times during their heyday in the late 70s/early 80s (always a fun time) -- included in the lineup, singing their classic Canadian rock anthems"We're Here for a Good Time (Not a Long Time)" and "Raise a Little Hell." (Love the flashing sign in the second video. That's about as good as the special effects got back then, kids, lol.) I think both songs fit the occasion perfectly.

I was really disappointed to have missed the Olympic torch relay. (I don't even remember where I was for the relay for the 1988 Calgary Olympics, but suffice to say, I did not see the torch then either.) It came through my town on the morning of Dec. 17th, while dh & I were en route to work in the city. It landed at Toronto City Hall, just up the street from my office, that night -- when dh & I were at our final meeting as support group facilitators. It passed by Union Station very early the next morning -- even if we had taken the very first train into the city, we probably wouldn't have made it in time. And it passed through my parents' town on Jan. 7th, after we'd returned home from Christmas vacation.

Oh. Well.

My company sent around a memo yesterday, encouraging employees to wear something to reflect our Canadian/Olympic spirit & pride to work today -- so I wore my cozy red Canada Roots sweatshirt from the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Dh has one too, & we wore them while we watched the gold medal game against the U.S. that year. I am not a huge hockey fan -- but when you are Canadian, you can't help but have some knowledge & appreciation of it. It's embedded in our national culture & identity. I will never forget those final minutes of that game, when the audience spontaneously started singing "O Canada," the words echoing through the arena as the seconds ticked down -- I literally had the hair standing up on the back of my neck, & tears running down my face.

There is HUGE pressure on the hockey players to bring home the gold, while playing on home ice. HUGE. I've heard it said the Vancouver Games will be considered a failure if they don't. I'm not sure I'm prepared to go that far, but it would definitely cast a big pall over the closing ceremonies. If they win -- I think the country will go nuts. Seriously.

I also wore my red Olympic mittens today. (Photo here.) Apparently the mittens were intended for the torchbearers only, but so many people started asking about them that they have been selling them at the Bay & Zellers. They are $10 a pair, warm & cute as can be. Part of the proceeds go towards our athletes. I wanted to buy a pair for myself, and some for my sister, mom, & PND for Christmas stockings, but they were absolutely impossible to find. I heard of pairs selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay. I talked to a store clerk & she told me they stopped keeping waiting lists because the demand was just too great. "You have to be right there, when they come in," she said, "because they come in & they are GONE."

Well. A few weeks ago, on my lunch hour on a Monday afternoon, I just happened to be walking through the walkway from the Eaton Centre into the Bay, which exits right beside the store's Olympicwear section. And store clerks were opening up boxes of the coveted red mittens. There wasn't a huge crowd, but there were probably a dozen people hovering around and steadily snapping up pairs of mittens as fast as the clerks could unpack them. So I snapped up a few pairs myself, & stood in line for the cash register. I said to the guy at the counter, "You all must dread these days!" & he laughed & said, "We call them Happy Mitten Days."

And he's right. Wearing those cheerful, warm red mittens with the Olympic rings on the backs & white maple leafs on the palms makes me happy. I packed up the other pairs & sent them off earlier this week, with valentines, to Mom, Sis & PND.

Monday is also BIL & SIL's wedding anniversary, & my cousin's 50th birthday. Also one of dh's cousin's birthdays, & another cousin's twins' birthday. (Conceived via fertility treatments, although we're not supposed to know or say anything about that.)

Whatever you're celebrating this weekend, have a good one…!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What if?

One of the current affairs blogs that I read recently had a post about the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that got me thinking. Here's an excerpt:
Rich says that it's no big deal to live hiding one's sexual orientation. If you're straight, try it for one day. 
Try never mentioning your spouse, your family, your home, your girlfriend or boyfriend to anyone you know or work with - just for one day. Take that photo off your desk at work, change the pronoun you use for your spouse to the opposite gender, guard everything you might say or do so that no one could know you're straight, shut the door in your office if you have a personal conversation if it might come up. 
Try it. Now imagine doing it for a lifetime. It's crippling; it warps your mind; it destroys your self-esteem. These men and women are voluntarily risking their lives to defend us. And we are demanding they live lives like this in order to do so.
I haven't thought this all the way through yet (so bear with me...) but reading this, I kept wondering what would happen if we substituted "stillborn babies" or "infertility" for "sexual orientation." 

Of course, bereaved parents/infertile couples have not been persecuted in the way that gay people have been (and, sadly, often still are)(although I sure wouldn't want to be an infertile woman in some cultures, even today...). (And there are lots of gay people who are dealing with infertility& loss issues themselves.) The parallel being that infertility & pregnancy loss, like being gay, are (still, sadly) somewhat taboo subjects that carry stigmas in certain quarters. 

I got thinking about what would happen if we (those of us who are involuntarily childless/infertile/parents of dead or miscarried babies) asked clueless fertile parents -- the ones who talk about planning their pregnancies (and then actually have things go more or less according to plan) --- the ones who don't plan at all ("oops!") -- the ones who ask us "what are you waiting for?" -- but then breezily assure us that parenthood isn't all it's cracked up to be -- the ones who tell us we can "just adopt" or tell us to "get over it," etc. etc. -- to deny their parenthood -- even for just one day. 

Hiding or minimizing our identity as infertile or bereaved people is something that many of us, in this community, do every single day. Calliope recently asked her readers whether they talked with others openly about their infertility. A majority said they did -- but I know there are many of us who do not. Instead, we sneak into the office late on clinic days. Wear long sleeves to cover up the needle marks in the crooks of our elbows from daily blood draws. Remain silent when moms at showers swap labour & delivery stories. Even when we do feel comfortable speaking out, people often aren't too comfortable hearing what we have to say. (Who wants to hear MY (still)birth story? Anyone??) 

So -- for one day, these parents don't get to be a mom, or a dad. They are not allowed to openly be who they are, to acknowledge the most important people in their lives. They must suppress one of the most important (if not THE most important) pieces of their identity. No talking about their kids or their activities or the cute (or frustrating) things they say & do. Just pretend they don't exist. 

I suppose there are still some parents, particularly in traditional corporate settings, who do try not to talk too much about their kids (at least around the senior partners), in order to be seen as a "serious," company-focused employee. And that must be difficult. But people still know that they are parents. They are recognized for who they are. 

I know some parents like to complain that our society is not very supportive of children and families. (And to some extent that's true, e.g., when you think about public policy matters, such as adequate parental leave, flexible work options, and affordable, quality child care options.) 

But I don't think they realize just how pervasive all things pregnancy/baby/child/family-related are in our culture -- particularly these days, with "helicopter parenting" in vogue and baby bumps & pregnancy rumour headlines screaming out to us from every newsstand. It sure seems obvious to those of us on the outside, with our noses pressed against the glass. 

I don't think they realize what it's like to be in the minority, on the outside of things. To want something that the vast majority of the population simply takes for granted will be theirs, approximately when & how they want it (or maybe even before they're really ready for it). If they give any thought to it at all, they probably just shudder & thank their lucky stars that they are not in our shoes.

It would be an eye-opener if they actually deigned to try those shoes on for size. Just once. (I think. I hope...).

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Shower report

In a nutshell, I managed just fine. I think I was more worried about the food than anything else -- but the grandmother-to-be told me when I got there that I was to order whatever I wanted, even if it wasn't on the limited menu everyone else was ordering from. They did have a four-cheese baked fettucine on the menu that I thought would be OK, so I ordered that with a Caesar salad & garlic bread.

I think it was actually the salad dressing (from a bottle, I'm sure) that had me feeling a little funny/warm after I finished -- but I decided it was probably just anxiety kicking in. I sat there with my chin in my hand (in case it was red, so people hopefully would not notice) & vowed not to check myself in the mirror for at least a half hour (unless I was feeling REALLY bad). In the meantime, our tea/coffee arrived, & by the time I actually went to the washroom, about an hour after eating, I was feeling much better & when I looked in the mirror, there were no red blotches anywhere. Yay!! : )

When stepMIL & I arrived (dh drove us, picked up stepMIL along the way), dh's cousin's wife -- the one who was due in April but had a miscarriage before Christmas -- was sitting near the door with her daughter. She gave me a big hug, & said into my ear, "Thank you so much for that very nice note you sent." I gave her an extra hug & said, "How are you doing?" & she said, "I'm OK," & that was that -- but it felt good to be acknowledged like that -- a nice little bond between just the two of us. : )

We sat with them, at the other end of the room from where the guest of honour & all the gifts & cake were, etc. Hard to hear at times, above the noise -- but probably better that way from our perspective! lol ; ) There were 50-75 women there, & between all of us & all of the gifts, etc., we took up about 2/3 of the restaurant. Luckily it wasn't too busy! The usual silly games, etc. They sent around an "Advice" notebook & you were supposed to write down your advice in it for the new mom. I just passed it along without writing anything. :p

Got back home just before 6, had a little dinner & watched the Who (or what's left of it, lol) on the Super Bowl halftime show. I'm exhausted. :p Back to work tomorrow. But -- there's a long weekend to look forward to!! : )

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Jordan should be here"

A gorgeous post from a mother (and blogger) who is grieving the loss of her 19-year-old son, on the New York Times's Motherlode blog. Anyone who has lost a child at any age, including during pregnancy, will relate to passages like this one (from the introduction to the post):
In the many months since then, his mother has been struggling to regain her words. What to answer, for instance, when asked (always casually, by new acquaintances who don’t know they are in a minefield), “How many children do you have?”
and this one (about her younger son):

He sees the images of Haiti’s destruction and death and like his dad and I have a kinship with the grief we see on the faces of the survivors. A part of us reaches back to the first moment of knowing of the death of Jordan and we wail inside and shudder with the faces of the people of Haiti whose grief is so graphically displayed.

After losing a loved one, viewing others’ displays of grief is with a lens tinged with fraternity and sorrow. I recognize the sobs and the wails, because I’ve cried them. I see the women holding their heads in their hands in grief and pain and I know it is done to try and block out if even for a second the new reality and life they must face, because I’ve held and still hold my head the same way. Total destruction did not befall my family. Our house still stands, food, water, medicine, all the necessities are in ample supply. But like anyone who has lost a loved one, how that person died is secondary to the tragedy of loss. There is an ever present longing to have your loved one back.
No comments yet. I suspect -- I most certainly hope -- they will be more sympathetic than those on articles related to infertility & childlessness.

Go & read:

When a Child Dies

Feb. 8th: Here I go again...

(cue the soundtrack from Whitesnake*, lol)

I have been so focused on getting through the baby shower on Feb. 7th that I've kind of blocked out another big date that's coming up, the very next day. (Maybe it's just too damned hard to think about the two things, cruelly juxtaposed, at the same time.)

Every time I flip over the page of my "week at a glance" datebook & see Feb. 8th circled in red with "LMP date" written beside it, it's kind of like a mild shock to the system all over again. "Here we go again," I think, "another 'anniversary' cycle begins anew."

LMP, of course, stands for "the first day of your Last Menstrual Period," pre-pregnancy. It's the date I found myself quoting ad nauseum throughout my pregnancy in 1998, 12 years ago now. First day of the menstrual cycle, first day of the "anniversary" cycle of my pregnancy -- which continues through March 22nd (the day I took a hpt, never believing I would get anything but a negative, after 2 & 1/2 years ttc), on to August, when our daughter was stillborn, through October, when I returned to work (only to leave again three days later when my grandfather died) & wrapping up in November with my unfulfilled due date.

I suppose some people's solution would be to not circle these "anniversary" dates (& I hate how that word, "anniversary," gets used to describe any sort of yearly marker, happy or sad) & try to forget they exist. I'm getting better: for about the first 10 years after Katie's stillbirth, I had the 7th of each & every month circled in my datebook, with a little note saying, "6 years, 3 months," etc. I did stop doing that a few years back. Long before I did, though, the 7th had lost much of its power to hurt me, & I hardly gave it much thought anymore. Except August 7th every year, of course, which remains circled in red, sacred, and taken off work whenever possible.

I still think I would think about Feb. 8th, though, even if I didn't have the date marked on my calendar. There are some dates that are just burned in your memory (even though you may not have realized their significance at the time). Feb. 3rd, to take one recent example, rarely passes without me thinking about my childhood friend Shelly, whose birthday was that day -- even though we moved away when I was 8 & the last time I saw her was when we were both about 14.

Of course, 12 years later, life has most certainly gone on, & the pain is not anywhere near as raw as it was on that first "anniversary." 12 years certainly doesn't carry the emotional significance that one of those years divisible by 5 does -- or maybe certain other numbers. (I'm expecting next year, when Katie would have become -- big GULP! -- a TEENAGER!! -- to be a difficult one all round.) But it can still rise up & bite me when I least expect it.

Another year. Another "anniversary" cycle begins. Sigh.

*** *** ***

* I wrote that as a joke -- & then, of course, I had to Google the lyrics. And of course, they fit the situation amazingly well:

I don't know where I'm goin
but I sure know where I've been
hanging on the promises in songs of yesterday.
An' I've made up my mind, I ain't wasting no more time
but here I go again, here I go again.

Tho' I keep searching for an answer
I never seem to find what I'm looking for.
Oh Lord, I pray you give me strength to carry on
'cos I know what it means to walk along the lonely street of dreams.

Here I go again on my own
goin' down the only road I've ever known.
Like a drifter I was born to walk alone.
An' I've made up my mind,
I ain't wasting no more time.

Just another heart in need of rescue
waiting on love's sweet charity
an' I'm gonna hold on for the rest of my days
'cos I know what it means to walk along the lonely street of dreams.

Here I go again on my own
goin' down the only road I've ever known.
Like a hobo I was born to walk alone.
An' I've made up my mind,
I ain't wasting no more time...

but here I go again,
here I go again,
here I go again,
here I go, here I go again

Here's a link to the YouTube video, if you want a blast from the past. Nothing like '80s hair bands...!!

Past Feb. 8th posts:

February 8, 2009
February 8, 2008

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Thank you so much...

...whoever you are (both of you), for the lovely compliments on Secret Ode Day at Stirrup Queens yesterday. As I said in the comments, you definitely brightened up a dreary February day for me! : )

Monday, February 1, 2010

Odds & ends

So the baby shower for dh's cousin's daughter is this coming weekend (Super Bowl Sunday, no less). The gift has been bought from the Babies R Us registry (I think dh had a harder time being in there than I did), and I've made a (consolation?) appointment for a manicure, pedicure & eyebrow wax on Friday at lunchtime. (I may be infertile, but damnit, I'm gonna have great-looking nails to show off, lol.)

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).

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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.