Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Narrative


From an assignment for a class about the use of narrative. Not my best work, and I may have posted it before, but it's been on my mind. At the end are comments from my professor.

*****


“You’ll figure it out,” he says, as I gather my computer, my purse and a snack, on my way upstairs to complete this damned project. It has been through iteration after iteration. 

Word pictures. Poems.  Edited posts. Posts straight from the blog. 

But which posts?  What part of the narrative do I tell?

I sit cross-legged on the bed.  The dog is snoring nearby, curled up on the pale blue t-shirt I wore today. It was a long day today.  Both Cliff and I were at school the entire day.  She worries, the dog, I mean.  At least she looks like she worries, with those magic ears that can transform her face from curious beagle to Saddest Basset Hound Ever in the blink of an eye.  As Cliff says, “She has cares.”

I burn about 5 minutes describing the dog instead of pondering how to bring a sliver of this story to the page.  It’s not that it’s so original.  My story? I started the blog in a desperate attempt to find some support, some community.  Someone who might understand what it’s like.   In the two years I spent trying to get pregnant, I filled hours reading infertility blog after infertility blog.  I never commented, save once or twice. I considered, occasionally starting my own blog, but it didn’t seem that what I had to say was particularly compelling.  I found enough support in just knowing there were others out there. 

Almost a week after delivering the boys, I made my first foray back into the community: a trip to Starbucks where the staff offered condolences and a trip to school to meet with the Chair.  After being out for an hour, I came home exhausted.  I felt like I was moving through water, all my motions slowed, voices sounded warped and my vision, well, I just felt a huge invisible, yet physical barrier between me and everyone else.  I was weighed down at the bottom of a sea. I lived in a different world now. 

I came home and sat down on the beat-up loveseat in the living room. Well, I’ll give it a try, I guess.  I opened up the computer. I came up with a title and a chose a template.  Easy enough.  The profile was more of a challenge.  How does one begin a blog?  This is how I started mine:

The beginning of the end 
All I wanted for Christmas this year was to enjoy what seemed to be the cessation of my interminable morning sickness. A warm, quiet house on our last child-free Christmas, with day dreams of the happy chaos to come. That morning I woke up to a gush, knowing something was horribly wrong. It was the beginning of the end. My boys would not last; my husband and I -- our hearts broken -- would never be the same. 


I sent a note to a clearinghouse website for infertility and loss telling them about my blog.  And then I closed the computer up for 4 or 5 days.  When I opened it, I found 27 comments. 27. Condolences from strangers.  Some who had been through it, some who just wanted to say, “I’m so sorry for your loss.”  

Cliff came downstairs and found me crying.  “Look.” I turned the screen to him. “Wow. That’s good, isn’t it?”  I nodded, but couldn’t say anything.  Each comment brought more tears.  

It was like reading the sympathy cards we got in the mail.  I was so touched by each one: by both the thought and the reason for sending it.  Almost two and a half years later, I can still feel that tingle behind my eyes when I think of it. 

I posted once or twice more, then left it for almost a month.  After a particularly rough day out in the world, I just jotted down some thoughts, vented some frustration. I wrote as I would in a journal, or tried to, but my audience was always there, in the corner of my eye.  

I began to read others’ blogs more regularly.  I learned the etiquette.  I read some brilliant writing.  Different stories, each of them, but with the same sad ending.  

When I was writing, creative writing, in my twenties, somewhere I read or was told that “what is most personal is most universal.”  Those words echoed in my head, but did not ring entirely true.  I felt disconnected from everyone around me, as I tried to process the loss and the trauma.  But reading the words of other women, babylost women, as some call them, I heard my own fears, dreams, hurt articulated.  And I was reassured by those who had come before me.  Somehow, I was able to reach out to those who came after me.  I didn’t know much, but I could listen.  I could simply say, “I’m so sorry,” and know that I was helping if only for a moment. 

In the months following our loss, I posted and posted and posted again. Getting it out helped. Reaching out helped.  Before I knew it was part of a community. My entries became more like letters or emails to dear friends.  

In the two years and several months since I started my blog, I have written 434 posts.  Sometimes I just want to vent, sometimes just to document. It helps, sometimes, just to write something out; I don’t even need to post it. 

So what do I hand in for this freaking project?  The dog is still snoring, and it’s almost an hour later.  What story do I want to tell?  

I still don’t know.  “Life goes on.”  “It takes a long time.”  What about the reaction I got when I asked about potential participants for research on pregnancy loss and women’s professional lives?  Unanimous sentiment:  Please, tell this story.  Loss is not the end of us, but it is an important part of us.

Sometimes, I feel like my story began on December 25, 2007, when my water broke. Sometimes I feel like it began when we got pregnant.  Or when we started trying to get pregnant. Or when I delivered my twin boys at 20 weeks 5 days gestation.  My life has been materially changed by my pregnancy, the 10 days it took to let go of it, the delivery itself… I am materially changed.  I think my blog has served to document both the change in my life and the change in me. 

But I’m not done yet. Of course, no one is ever done, but what I’m trying to say is that I’m still trying to figure out who I am, and what my place in this new world will be. Two years in and my friends, those in the “club no one wants to be in” are still with me.

I’m going back and forth, still, on which posts – if any – to share. I considered some of the really tough ones from the delivery, the decision making, but instead, I think I’ll share some of the periphery of remembering on the anniversaries of the loss, and life after the first year.  Just some connections.

Saturday, January 3, 2009
I thought I could do it 
I just opened up my computer after spending $100 at the grocery store on mostly crap. Cookies, comfort food.

And yarzheit candles. I bought 4 of them. I'm not sure why I got 4. It's getting close to sunset; we'll light them soon.

I thought I could describe the 180-degree change in the demeanor of the OB resident when she realized what I was there for. And how she had to do yet another pelvic/cervical check (#12?) and ultrasound. The room was darkened for it; I couldn't look, finally, I just couldn't look at the ultrasound. C just held my hand and kept me looking at him.

I thought I could recount the different rooms I was in, all of which echoed with other women's healthy babies' heartbeats in neighboring rooms. How I heard and saw healthy woman laboring as I was wheeled in my bed down to my tiny laboring room.

I thought I could talk about the delay after day in getting the pitocin up to my room, so that (even though I was there at 6:30 am, I wasn't induced until about 2pm).

I thought I could describe how wonderfully easy it was to fall against the nurse, Nurse Bob, so I could get my epidural. And how the intern hit big nerves three times, enough for me to cry out, before his supervisor took over. And how the numbness never fully reached my right side. And how we were able make a lame joke, finally, about my having a lot of nerve.

I thought I could talk about how my family took turns sitting in my room because it was so small. There was nothing bigger available, as the department was under construction. Two at a time, plus C. My sister was a writer for sitcoms in a former life, thank god, so her innate sense of humor could make me laugh, even as I watched my stomach clench periodically. Her and the ativan.

I thought I could tell how awkward it was with my brother and BIL. And the low, florescent lighting cast a pall over everything. And how my father, through his smile to try to comfort me, looked so very sad and worried. How his big, rough hands held mine and patted them, gently.

I thought I could describe how inured I was to cervical checks, and how each one showed that I was not progressing and how it seemed my body didn't want to let go. How it wasn't until that evening that my protocol changed.

*****
There is much more from this day that I wanted to share. Perhaps I'll be able to tell more later. 

Posted by Sue at 4:30 PM  10 comments 


Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Evening Comes 
I don't really know how to end this. There is so much that follows that I've already written about. 

I need to take a breath or two, now. Thinking about what I (we) just wrote, what happened, and about you. I have felt so alone. Even with you here with me. Writing this made me realize just what we went through. It has made me realize that no one, except C and perhaps my sister and father, knew the whole story. The Whole story. I have censored and edited, and really, most of what happened does not fit into casual conversation. Into any conversation. And really, I don't know that it's a story I could tell anyone but you. Not like this.

So now I may take a moment to breathe, a day, or a few days. I'm struggling hard again. School begins next week and I still don't have a plan. But Stella begins school, too and I'm hoping that the routine of day to day will help me ease my way out of this pit again.

Thank you for reading, and for abiding with me. I felt every hand on mine, every arm around my shoulder. I'll leave you with this poem by Jane Kenyon, one of my favorite poets.

Let Evening Come

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through the chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in the long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to the air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come. 

Posted by Sue at 9:20 PM  17 comments 


Sunday, January 11, 2009
Loving 
One day I'll write a post about how twice a year she sends me care packages filled with Jewish and NY goodies I can't get here, goodies from Zabars, making sure to include lox spread for C. I'll write about how she sends me articles on topics I once mentioned I was interested in.

Someday I'll write a post about how she begins her notes to me "Suzi dear," and still remembers terrible jokes I made about cereal when I was 10 years old, still gives them a warm laugh. I'll write a post about how at every family gathering for a holiday meal, she will bring crunchy, raw, red peppers for me, because she knows I love them.

Today, I'll write just a few words about how, during our phone call today, after I thanked her for her recent care package, and she asked me about school, my dear Aunt L (Tia, as she prefers), asked how I was doing. I was sort of honest, that it's been hard, this time of year, but I'm getting through. And she told me she lit yahrtzeit candles for the boys.

And I amazed, and touched, that she was thinking not just of me, on those days, but of my sons. She was loving not just me and C on those days, but Jacob and Joshua, too. Perhaps, if she remembered the words, she was saying prayers in Hebrew as she touched the match to the wick of each candle.

And 2 hours after our conversation, I am crying as I think of it, and I think about my worry that my boys would be forgotten. Or, dismissed. And I picture her in her tiny NYC kitchen, looking at each flame, and remembering them. Loving them as she loves me. 

Posted by Sue at 6:50 PM  16 comments 


So, that’s a snippet of a few days in which I remembered a few days from the year before. Did I tell a story? Maybe.  Was it one I intended? I don’t know.  But it’s likely there’s more to come. 

*****
Sue, 
It is a story and a powerful one indeed. It should not be neat and linear as that strategy only obscures how messy loss, tragic loss really is and how it never really goes away…maybe it only ebbs and flows.  The narrative I hear here is the one about finding the courage, finding the energy to tell the story of healing or the story of struggling to heal or doing something before you yourself die from sadness and complicating what that might mean really. There is a very important book here and you should carry on. I wish you what was once wished upon me at a time of utter loss: I wish you peace beyond your own understanding. I know that peace seems, at this moment, so very incomprehensible but hopefully you will find it in your quest to remember Jacob and Joshua rather than forgetting what happened. 

3 comments:

Lollipop Goldstein said...

I echo that it's powerful writing. But I especially loved your professor's comment: "It should not be neat and linear as that strategy only obscures how messy loss, tragic loss really is and how it never really goes away…maybe it only ebbs and flows."

Love's mom FOREVER said...

I am lying here in bed at 12:02am reading this beautiful post. Tears run unchecked down my cheeks and land on my pillow and some pool on my neck. My tears are for you. They are for Joshua and Jacob They are for me and my sweet daughter whose memory is all I have. Xo

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