Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Type-Casting

We were celebrating the beginning of our mutual vacation last night with a longer than normal marathon of "CSI: NY," which resembles "Bones" and "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" enough to be much less annoying than "CSI: Miami."  Anyhow, it seems we watched one episode too many, and we ended up going to bed depressed.

The episode in question featured a plot device I've seen before, the mentally unstable housewife who has failed to have children of her own and resorts to stealing them out of other pregnant women.

Why do I always have to be type-cast as the crazy person?  Is the public perception of women like me really becoming so suspicious?  We've all noticed the growing tendency of the populace at large to assume all veterans are ticking PTSD time-bombs.  Apparently aspiring mothers who are for whatever reason unable to produce like normal women are supposed to develop a dangerous and slightly psychotic obsession with getting a child, any child from anywhere.

Which isn't to say it hasn't happened, and just goes to show the depth of feeling and strength of the instincts involved.  I am all for bringing miscarriage back into the social consciousness, because no matter how early or how physically painless it might be, it still messes us up emotionally.  We might be less stereotypically crazy if we weren't so repressed.

I've mentioned it before, but secret first trimesters should not be socially mandatory.  Why did that become the norm?  Is it just to spare our friends and neighbors the awkwardness of hearing about miscarriage and not knowing what to say?  It might be awkward for them, but it's life-changing for me, so they can just deal with it.  Real friends will want to know what's going on in our lives regardless, good or bad.

Maybe we just need some kind of acknowledgement that there may be something other than a pastel-colored paradise on the other side of a positive pregnancy test.  Maybe it will be nothing but emergency rooms, IVs and blood tests.  Maybe it will be days on end of sitting as still as possible and praying there won't be any bleeding.  Maybe it will be chronic disappointment and a special colander under the bathroom sink.  Maybe you'll end up right back where you started with nothing to show for it but a ragged scar, hospital invoices and a bottle of oxycodone.  We aren't allowed to even mention it, because somehow it's considered bad taste.  But, seriously, every woman should consider the possibility and have a plan so she won't be broadsided the way we were the first time.

If we'd had a plan, maybe we would have been coherent enough to ask for Alexis' body rather than letting him/her be thrown out with the medical waste.  Maybe we would have known about conditional baptism in case of miscarriage.  Maybe we would not have felt so completely alone and defective.

This last time we were joking darkly that we'd only really start freaking out if the unthinkable happened and we actually ended up with an infant.  We were just starting to get hopeful when it all fell apart, and then we wondered why we had ever expected anything different.  I received my soulless paperwork diagnosing miscarriage in the mail the same day as the congratulatory pastel packet from Johns Hopkins covered pictures with happy pregnant women.  The former went into the medical file, the latter into the shredder.  For a brief shining moment, I was a member of the happily pregnant club, but once I inevitably miscarry I'm supposed to retire quietly to grieve in the privacy of my own home so as not to rain on anybody else's pregnancy parade.

That could just be my perception, but it's hard to shake.  Fortunately many of my friends, not all of whom have experienced miscarriage for themselves, manage to not be obnoxious to me while they are pregnant.  Better, they don't seem to mind me talking about it.  It needs to be talked about.

When I was sending our wedding invitations, I did not imagine that almost four years later we would still be living the extended honeymoon phase, pet-parents to a toy poodle.  This was not the plan.  If anything, I have learned to have alternative plans, or at least to expect the unexpected and plan for the unplanned.


Alexis Constans
25 June 2010
13 weeks

David Edward, Jr.
6-8 March 2011
24 weeks

Celestine Michel
13 August 2013
6 weeks


3 comments:

  1. I hate when some like that happens while watch shows. I always try to have a half hour comedy or something lined up to try to bring me mood back up. It doesn't always help, but never hurts.

    I agree that loss is something that doesn't get near enough attention even in today's "enlightened" age. Honestly I think 100+ years ago they had a better handle on the issue. I often think we should still do mourning the old fashioned way. Even at that, though, miscarriage wasn't included. We really do need to look at why it's still a social norm to keep pregnancy a secret until the second trimester. On the one hand some find s spread of comfort in the idea that if something happened, they wouldn't have to share their very personal loss and griefe with everyone they know. On the other hand, why is it that anyone would find that comforting? Does that fact that no one knew the a person existed make it hurt any less that they are now gone? I seriously doubt it. It's really tragic that mothers are expect to simply carry on as if nothing happen. They are expected to be disappointed, not in mourning. That's outrageous. If a four year old died, no one would dream of telling the mother, "that disappointing" or "at least they weren't in kindergarten yet" or any other such nonsense. And I'm sure each mother (and I hate when people don't acknowledge them as such) also feels totally alone because no one talks about it. I'm glad that you've been brave enough to be one of those mothers to break free of the mold and talk about these issues. You are one of the strongest women I know and I'm proud to be your friend.

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  2. Just for my two cents, it's not that women with fertility problems are all crazy, but it's one of those... it's understandable, almost sympathetic in ways that other motivations simply aren't, and that it's a dark reflection on motherhood is what makes it such a compelling trope. That's why it comes up as often as it does, because it's interesting.

    As for the rest of it, I think I'm with you on the "private trimester" thing. I'm the sort of guy who gets so excited that I want to tell everyone immediately, and it makes sense to me that if you do end up going through something as trying as a miscarriage, you'll want to have your friends and family there for support. I meant to comment to this effect on your last post, but I for one and happy and a bit, I don't know, honored that you share your pregnancies and miscarriages with us. That can be a really personal and difficult subject, and... you know, stuff.

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  3. Thanks. People used to have a better handle on death in general. Modernity is far too sanitized on that score.

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