How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Part 2

(I’ve been trying to start this for the last half hour but my husband, who is listening to On the Media while doing the dishes, keeps lurching into the living room to loudly splutter his horror and opprobrium about the monstrous window-into-the-nation’s-rotting-soul that is Donald Trump. He’s been in Europe for 6 weeks and is just now catching up on how America is actually going to be over soon. Totally not relevant to the rest of the post but I thought you might enjoy a brief postcard snapshot from a Wednesday afternoon in the Schrodinger household. Wish you were here.)

It was a Saturday night when I came home from my sister’s house to the creepy frozen diorama of grief my own house had become. I sat on the couch wishing I could drink wine (they’d given me Metronidazole for the D&C and I’m pretty sure your stomach actually explodes if you drink alcohol for like 72 hours after taking it) and wondering what in the everloving shit to do with myself.

In the stillness, I could feel it bubbling up. The Bitterness. Cleaving me off from humanity like a butcher’s knife. I am alone. I am not like anyone else. Everyone else is normal and I’m not. Every woman of childbearing age in my life is a ticking time bomb that can go off any minute. All the pregnancy announcements I will have to endure after having a few blessed months of immunity from the splintering pain of seeing them in my Facebook feed. All the callous unthinking comments from people with children, all the blissful nursery-chimey diaper advertising, all the shows I will have to stop watching because the main character just got pregnant and I KNOW that they will not miscarry because they NEVER miscarry on TV. Because people having babies is what is normal. And I am not. 

And I didn’t want to feel it, didn’t want to grieve it, didn’t want to go back to that desolate toxic wasteland of hating the Normals and smothering in anger. I so very badly wanted to stay in my humanity. I felt myself gripping the sides of an emotional doorjamb, my fingers going numb from resisting the push. I don’t wanna go I don’t wanna go please don’t make me go…………..

Eventually I put myself to bed, because what the hell else are you going to do.

Down the street from my house there is a meditation community called Portland Insight. A friend had sent me a link to their website some years ago after some other miscarriage, and though I’d used the guided meditations as a resource for clients and listened to a few myself I’d never made it over there. I thought that I was really bad at meditating, so I preached its benefits while secretly being afraid to do it myself. Because quiet is scary. What might come up is scary. Being bored in your own head is scary. Right?

Quick backstory flashback:

In 2009, after a truly execrable patch of marital trauma and in a really generally broken and shitty place, I took a friend up on a recurring offer to go to church with her on a Sunday morning. I am an atheist, so that sounded weird. But she kept telling me that the music was amazing and that nobody would force me to believe anything or even ask about it, and that it was this incredible watershed emotional experience of human connection and celebration. And there is this very peculiar and magical flavor of despair and hopelessness that is so totally despairing and hopeless that it seems to transform into a kind of deadpan, invincible why-the-fuck-not-ism, a place so closed up and shut down that it somehow makes you open to whatever, and you wander into things you’d previously rejected out of hand. So I went with her that morning because I genuinely couldn’t think of anywhere else to put my body, and it opened up a loving and life-changing world that rebuilt and healed me in a way nothing else could have. I’m still an atheist, and it’s still not weird. You can read about it in the blog I kept over that period, if you’re into learning why that’s not weird.

On the Sunday morning after losing my final baby I awoke in that peculiar and magical why-the-fuck-not realm, and I couldn’t think of anywhere else to put my body, so I went to this meditation place. It was either that or start drinking at 9am. Always an option, but the Metronidazole thing made it a challenge.

I walked in weeping, hurting, twisted, sick, helpless, terrified of my own mind. I walked out weeping and hurting, still, but full of lightness and hope and a visceral understanding of how to grieve cleanly, with love and kindness.

I am new to this meditation thing, so my ability to explain to you what happened is limited. It was not metaphysical, it was not miraculous. It was very simply a shift in perception. Apparently anyone can do it. Here’s the real core of what did it for me:

The “sermon” at a meditation center is called a Dharma talk, and that morning the speaker told a Buddhist parable about two arrows. I am going to tell it badly but you can read more here. The basic idea is that when we are pierced by an arrow, it hurts. Because duh. That pain is inevitable. But then we get hit by another arrow that hurts twice as much. The second arrow is all the ways we try to avoid feeling the pain of the first arrow. We run from it, we try to control things around it, we pretend that controlling it will make it go away. We defend it with rage and hatred, we obsess about our obsession with not feeling it. We drink, we eat, we fuck, often in ways that make things a million times worse. We stay busy, we make noise in empty spaces to drown it out. The vast energies we expend trying not to feel the first arrow cause exponentially more pain than the injury itself. And if we can let all that shit go, the second arrow falls out and ceases to pain us. We are left with just our wound, which is inescapable and exquisite and beautifully human, just like us.

I can’t even tell you how many lights that switched on for me.

The same relief I felt in the ER ultrasound room came back to me, but this time full of a vibrant gratitude. I’m not even really sure gratitude for what, maybe just the fact that it was suddenly clear to me that I had a choice. I didn’t have a choice about the first arrow – that is a profound wound, a ragged trench that runs through the center of every cell in my body. It will never go away. The torn edges will heal and the empty space will fill in the way a gouge in the earth eventually fills in with windblown soil. But it will never go away. That part I don’t have a choice about. But the rest of it? The second arrow? That I can choose.

And if I can choose to cling to that second arrow, I can also choose to let it go.

Incidentally, please don’t send this to your friend who is still struggling with The Bitterness. Please don’t hope that she reads this and suddenly realizes that she doesn’t have to be an insufferable black blot on the social landscape. She is where she is, and she needs you to be ok with that. She can’t just Let It Go. She is doing the best she can. I did the best I could. The people who matter forgive me for my failures. The people who don’t are long gone.

You don’t get it until you get it. That Sunday morning, I finally got it.

This is what it looked like.

The children of the people who come to meditate on Sunday mornings get to go off to a different part of the facility and do, I don’t know, kid meditations or something. It’s like Sunday school with oms. When I first walked in and saw them all filing off to do their thing, the sight of children hurt me. The sight of children hurt me. I wondered if, amidst the bitterness and rage and resentment of not being able to have my own child, I would ever be able to fully love someone else’s if we adopted. I felt a gut-wrenching fear that I would live in acrid, loveless barrenness all the days of my life. All of that gripped me as I watched the kids go to the kid place.

After the Dharma talk all the children rushed back in and took their places in the circle. I watched them in their joy and their vital silliness and thought, “Crazy woman. How could you think you couldn’t love another’s child? They’re children. It’s what they’re here for.” 

It was the first time in 5 years I had seen children as something other than the representation of my failures, my losses, the ways in which I am alien and wrong. It was the first time in 5 years I had looked at a child and seen simply a child.

There’s more, but it’s evolving and coming to light day by day. And this is fucking long. And I have to go see clients. I’ll keep wrangling with this shit and keep talking about it as it grows.

Real quick, though? Thank you so much for the incredible welcome back to the blogosphere. I forgot how awesome this place can be.

Love you guys.

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15 thoughts on “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Part 2

  1. I’m so glad you are finding a new way to deal and heal. Thanks for sharing this. With every post you write I’m re-amazed by the beauty of your writing even when discussing the hardest moments of your life. Im glad you’re back.

    • Thank you so very much. Dealing and healing is what we’re all about these days. I like that, dealing and healing. It brings to mind some kind of Crazy Eddie TV Blowout Clearing House ad, except for grief recovery. “COME ON DOWN, WE’VE GOT SOME CRAAAAAAZZYYYY DEALING AND HEALING GOING ON HERE AT CRAAAAAZZZZYYYY EDDIE’S HOUSE OF TRAUMA!!!!!” (Ok, my imagination gets kind of weird sometimes.)

  2. Katy says:

    I relate to what you are saying. I like what you said about how your view of children shifted. I am starting to see that shift in babies and others sharing their pregnancy news with me. It’s so hard to deal with sometimes, but if I just see it for what it is, not a personal attack on myself, then I tend to take it a lot more gracefully. Of course, I’m not perfect about this, and when I’m having a particularly rainy day, that news doesn’t stand a chance against the bitterness (just an appropriate description. You are dead on about that).

    • Oh, be so so so patient with yourself. Some days are good and some days you literally hate pregnant women and infants, which is just a super flattering place to be. But on those days I beg you to be oh so exquisitely kind to yourself. There is nothing worse than feeling like shit and then criticizing yourself for feeling like shit. The Bitterness is a strong and worthy foe, and we don’t always win. Much love to you on all the days.

  3. Insomnia at 3 am and so happy to find a post from you to read…your voice and perspective so damn compelling and authentic. This post fills me with joy. Elated that you had this beautiful experience. You really opened yourself! Hard!!! God that is hard. And yet just sort of happens, seemingly magically, when the lows are so low you don’t know where else to put your body, as you so eloquently put it. I also love how you say please don’t send this to the friend who is trapped in Second Arrow Land. I love how you remember that trappedness and how it can make you feel even worse when someone outside jumps up and down and says hey look, you don’t have to be trapped! Except you do. Until you don’t. I don’t know of course exactly where your path will lead you but my gut just feels the way you’d be as a mother and I can’t help but see it, maybe through adoption, maybe through your uterus, a young one and you and your hard-won wisdom and capacity for down-to-earth, atheistic enlightenment. Love and healing to you—not that you need it from me, because you are finding it yourself after the worst first arrow that ever was.

    • Thank you for your loving words. I still have moments of being trapped in Second Arrow Land, but they are far fewer and farther between than ever before and I know how to get out of them now. We are going to start fostering again in January, and I’m very excited to approach parenting with far less bitterness and grief. Adoption is still on the table. As is just saying fuck everything and starting an otter farm in New Zealand. For instance.

  4. Julie says:

    Wow, you have such an amazing ability to express how this experience feels. I wish everyone in the world would read your blog so that they could either understand or feel understood. So much of what you say makes me want to shout, “Yes, exactly!” I’m so glad that you are finding some peace.

    • Thanks. I just got put on the Freshly Pressed thingy so all of a sudden there are like SHITLOADS of people reading this, which is totally not at all terrifying and daunting and pressuring (yes it is) so maybe you’ll get your wish. 😉 Thanks so much for reading and following and sending your good thoughts.

  5. Kelci says:

    I needed to hear so much of this. Thank you. Sharing, sharing, and sharing again. You, your writing, your struggle, your candor – all beautiful. Please keep going. xx

  6. Language101 says:

    I don’t think that I am eligible to say anything on the matter, so I will just say that I loved this post (and the first part too)

    • Thanks for stopping by. I don’t think too much about eligibility – at some point, pretty much everyone will have or know someone who has reproductive trauma, and everyone will have at least one feeling about it. As a therapist, I am pretty convinced that all feelings are valid and matter and stuff, so that kind of makes everyone eligible.

  7. […] The story of how I survived, and maybe not won but definitely waged a successful diplomatic campaign to end, the war, can be read here. […]

  8. whatwhileweslept says:

    Beautiful.

  9. lacyjarvis says:

    this is so beautiful. you’re story is beautiful and your telling of it is beautiful. i am so sorry for your losses, and yet hopeful about the direction your life may now take. you are an incredible writer though. please always keep writing.

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