I’m not going to lie, I don’t like kids much, my own are an exception and sometimes that’s even iffy. I babysat for one day when I was thirteen. It was the worst job I ever had and it only lasted for 9 hours. Worse even than the one day I worked at Motel 6 when I was fifteen as a maid and came home and described the kinds of things I saw in the trashed rooms and my mom wouldn’t let me go back. Worse even than the year I worked at Archie’s downtown and had to wear a really ugly uniform and always had the late shift which meant drunk people would spit on me and occasionally spray paint the word “high” on my car. I’ll never forget those losers for trying to give me a greeting with incorrect grammar. Unforgivable.
So I went into parenthood absolutely clueless as to how the whole thing worked. Never a diaper blowout. Never a fit in the supermarket. Never a late night vomitfest or a tantrum over a lost binky. Unless you count E, he does those things all the time. But he’s easier to handle than a toddler because I just stop talking and the behavior corrects itself. Apparently that doesn’t work with actual toddlers, they end up thinking you might be going deaf and just up the volume until you want to tear your ears off and beg for mercy.
But because we waited so long to have children, by the time we started trying, I was a little anxious to get the show on the road. I’d reached all the milestone I felt were necessary before committing to parenting, like going an entire year without a car accident, finally learning how to load silverware in the dishwasher correctly, consistently eating at least 2 meals a week with more than one food group, and no longer answering direct questions with X-Files dialog. But seriously guys, the truth is out there.
I was also a responsible homeowner, had no debt other than my mortgage, had 2 degrees under my belt and a nice lump of cash in my 401K account. Ahh, the early 2000’s, everything looked so optimistic. Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.
As an overachiever, conception happened immediately. Nailed it, literally. E was not super thrilled because he was still a little uncertain we (me) were ready for parenthood and now I had just taken the only fun part out of it after the first try. I don’t know what he was so riled up about, like he didn’t know that was going to happen when sitting on my nightstand I had 5 books on pre-pre-conception, 8 on conception, and 17 (that’s right, no joke) on pregnancy. I was an expert before we even started, which is how I like things to work. No surprises. Surprises really piss me off.
We waited awhile and then slowly began giving the happy news to family members. It was a very special time. One of the very few times in my life where I understood what it meant to be completely filled with joy. Not that I wasn’t happy when I got married, but that kind of joy was different, it was balanced by the sheer terror of making sure E didn’t find out I was batshit crazy. I’m still working on that.
A little past the two month mark, I bought a gender neutral stuffed animal. When I clicked “Approve Purchase” on the website, I knew immediately that I had made a mistake. Call it weird pregnancy hormones or whatever you want, but I wanted to take that purchase back and I couldn’t.
Two days later I was at urgent care looking up at the ultrasound technician as the fetal heart monitor projected the devastating news that the heartbeat wasn’t compatible with a viable pregnancy.
If you’re a guy, or a gal whose never had this kind of experience, I hope to God that you never have to go through it.
I was a failure. And not just a failure at something I had put my energy into achieving. I failed at something that is a basic component of human nature. I failed as a human. Making another human.
The worst part was the waiting. Here’s some really terrible awful news that will make you feel emotions. Now go home and lay on the couch by yourself and think about it until something happens. Think about how you’ve failed the human race. How you’ve failed your spouse. How there’s a tiny human that is slowly dying inside you and you can’t do anything about it. But go ahead and lay there and think about it until you want to die. That will help you get better. Oh, and here’s a pamphlet about grieving. I DIDN’T HAVE AN EFFING PREGNANCY BOOK ABOUT GRIEVING.
I’m an extremely private person, which obviously doesn’t jive with having a blog about every last nauseating detail about my life but just trust me on this. I hadn’t told anyone at work and I wasn’t about to. I had to call in sick. And I had to lie about why. I spent exactly one half a day on the couch before I decided that was enough. I got up the next morning and went to work. I cried all day long. Privately. And then my boss told me to pack my bags because we were leaving for a trade show in Las Vegas in two days. Just he and I.
I can say this because I’m an awkward person socially. My boss was worse. Separately we were tough to handle, together it was like being at a circus freak show. He was the best boss I’ve ever had. He was a fricking genius at business and projecting what would happen in the economy and taking enormous risks that most of the time paid off. I had a huge amount of respect and a little bit of healthy fear of him. But we didn’t have lengthy discussions about our personal lives. Ever. So I packed my bags and got on that plane. Miscarriage incomplete.
Once we were in Vegas, things didn’t get much better. I didn’t feel good (duh) and had to act professional and meet a lot of new people from our other offices and be social and nice and friendly. And every time we stepped out of the hotel, some jerk was trying to thrust sex flyers into our hands and offering to give my boss and “his lovely lady” free tickets to shows. I already wanted to die, and things were getting worse by the minute.
I tried to beg off at night so that I could go be miserable by myself in my room and get some rest. Whenever I looked in the mirror, I saw an ashen face and enormous dark circles under puffy eyes. My boss never mentioned it because that would be, uh, awkward. I assumed he assumed I was on drugs. It was easier than telling the truth.
The third night there, he insisted we see a show. He told me to pick and I said I didn’t care so we ended up with tickets to The Blue Man Group. I had no idea what it was, I just prayed there weren’t naked people. That also happened to be the day that was the worst as far as the whole ordeal went. I spent the whole day trying to keep it together. The best I can explain about my mental breakdown was that I saw myself splitting into two. But I was a spectator of the event and didn’t really care much if I did crack because a nervous breakdown would probably mean a large quantity of sleep inducing drugs that would stop the internal dialog in my head telling me I was worthless. Looking back, I think it’s pretty safe to say I was in the danger zone.
Anyway, the show was just another thing to get through. This was back when The Blue Men Group was a giant big deal. Unless you’ve seen the show, it’s hard to describe so I won’t. But that night, the humor was so silly and the skits so clearly about finding delight in the trivial things in life, and the music so loud and overwhelmingly energetic that I forgot for a few hours what was happening to me personally and got tricked into feeling happy again for a brief moment.
When the show was over we went and had a drink and my boss very gently asked me if I wanted to share what was happening. I didn’t cry. I calmly discussed my experience with a person who I didn’t really know very well at all. He listened. That’s all. He didn’t try to console me or tell me things would get better. He just asked me where I wanted to go from there and how I saw that happening, and it was so matter of fact and devoid of judgment or emotion that I felt sane again. It wasn’t that he didn’t care, (which it’s entirely possible that he absolutely didn’t), it was more that he was so neutral about it and I needed that. After that night, some internal rational switch flipped and I staggered back into the world wanting to be a part of it again.
Not that I didn’t talk to E. I did. A little. But it was hard. He’s an icon of strength. I felt unworthy of his sympathy – broken, weak and unfixable. I was upset that he had picked someone so defective when he so clearly deserved someone who could do this job well. The world NEEDED more people like him and now I was even going to screw that up.
Eventually I got better. Life went on. I got pregnant again and was given the most precious gift of a beautiful, brilliant, hilarious son. I won’t ever forget that another beautiful child was not born so that I could have him in my life and it makes me sad, but also grateful.
I took Wyatt to The Blue Man group recently when it came to town. Like when I went, he had no idea what it was all about. Some of the skits were similar. It was just as full of energy and silly fun as when I saw it the first time. I watched my gorgeous treasured child laugh with uninhibited glee more than I watched the actual show. And once again, I felt completely full of joy.