Earplugs for the Grieving

They should make earplugs for people who are grieving, so we don’t have to hear the stupid things that people say.  -Carole Geithner

There are things people say and there are things people do, and so many times it is unintentional or completely normal, yet sears me so much or leaves me thinking about it hours or days later, trying to erase the event from my memory.  On Facebook, I have to hide almost everyone who is currently pregnant, has a new baby, or has a baby that was born around the same time as either Nelle or Iris.  That’s a lot of people in my sphere.  There are even moments when I feel badly, because many of these people have been there for me in some shape or form, and I feel like I cannot be there for them in the same capacity – sharing in their joy.

For example, a friend of mine from college.  They named their first daughter the same name that we had considered as a girl name for Theo (and had abandoned by the time I was pregnant with Quentin).  That by itself did not bother me much.  But then very recently, photos of a new baby appeared, along with her name: Iris.  That was too much for me to handle, especially with the combination of the two names being one that we had considered, and one that we had given our daughter.  It has nothing to do with my friend; that is likely always the way I will react to her name.

Rainbow babies.  The term pops up everywhere, and I hate it.  A friend of mine posted this article and this article about rainbow babies and both resonated.  Not everyone gets a rainbow.  And a baby born after loss isn’t a rainbow, because my girls were not a storm.  They are a part of me.  But yet in the world of reading among babyloss (websites, forums, photos) there is an effervescent focus on “rainbow” – the baby that comes after a loss.  The ray of hope to yearn for, and somehow make things better.  Nope.  If I reach the end of this pregnancy and hold a baby in my arms, it is not a replacement or a “fix.”  It is a different love, like the love I have for each of my children.

Last week, in church, I dropped Quentin off in the playroom for younger kids.  The caregiver looked at me and said “Do you know what you’re having?”  I planted a thin smile on my face and replied “We do know, but we’re not telling.”  She broke into a sly grin and said “I have a guess!”  And proceeded to mouth the words to me “It’s a …… ”  I just shrugged my shoulders and did not reply (she was wrong, by the way).  As I walked away from the room, I was so infuriated with myself for not finishing my sentence: “We do know, but we are not telling, because we had two losses and we want the focus to be on a healthy baby.”  It would have avoided the situation altogether.

Then yesterday, I was checking out at Trader Joe’s and when the cashier asked me what I was up to for the afternoon (a common small-talk question there) I said that I was likely going to take my kids outside to play.  I should have known better, because she immediately asked “How many kids do you have?”  I took a breath and gave the response that had been discussed in my most recent SHARE meeting:  “I have two at home.”  Her face lit up with understanding: “Oh!  I see!  Two at home, and one on the way.”  I winced, but did not reply.  Then again, was so mad at myself a few minutes later, as I loaded my groceries into the car, wishing, wishing that I had said “Well, yes.  Two at home.  One on the way.  And we lost two.”

This morning.  Driving to Target, with Quentin in the car.  “Hello” by Adele came onto the playlist.  That song was released in October of 2015, about six weeks after we lost Nelle.  It made me cry then, and it made me cry.

Hello from the outside
At least I can say that I’ve tried
To tell you I’m sorry for breaking your heart

I wiped away tears, hoping that Quentin wouldn’t notice.  I did not want to have to explain to him why a song still made me cry, over a year and a half later.  He was thankfully oblivious.  As we arrived at Target and I composed myself, he was still unaware and only wanted to take my phone so that he could snap a photo of some purple flowers in the parking lot. I was grateful for his distraction. 

I wanted to just shut my ears to the pictures, the words, the phrases, the music.  Will it get easier with more time?  Maybe.  Maybe I will learn to respond the way I would like.  Maybe photos and lyrics will no longer be a trigger for me.  In between now and that unknown date in the future, I still am hit by what I hear and often it leaves me reeling.  Emotional hangover.