Great TV, Grief, and Sharing Our Stories

lily-of-the-valley-1411146_1280

I’m in love with This Is Us. In love.

At the end of each episode, I’m usually muttering ‘…such a stupid show’ through tears as I bemoan having to wait another week for more.

Months ago, my sister told me about a video she’d seen online about a family losing their pet. It brought us to the topic of how much people share online, and why. The conversation has stuck with me and often gives me pause as I write. Watching This Is Us has reminded me why it’s so wonderful that people share their stories; how important it is.

After watching an episode late the other night, I curled up in bed looking through my bedroom door. I looked past the silhouette of the bookshelves to the place my two children often stand to chat as they expertly delay their bedtime. I slowly brought my focus back into my bedroom, to a shelf that holds the memory of my child that was never given the opportunity to pester me with questions instead of going to bed. The baby I’ve never been able to snap at in nighttime frustration – sending her to bed to nestle under the covers beside her twin sister.

I’ve never stood outside my girls’ bedroom, telling them to stop playing and get to sleep, while I quietly revel in their sisterly goofing around.

I wish This Is Us had been on ten years ago. Watching one of the story lines unfold so beautifully – the complexity and interplay of joy and sorrow – has reminded me how I struggled bringing only one of our daughters home from the hospital. I held the social worker’s words of advice close and searched online to find more information about what my little girl, sleeping in her swing, would feel and go through as she neared adolescence. I sought online help to figure out what I could do to fill the void my daughter would feel having lost an immense piece of herself before she could even comprehend such a loss.

I found many touching stories online but little that was specific to the loss of a twin. Through the years, I’ve written a bit about my experience but it was cathartic writing, not anything I wanted to share. I was too close to it, and didn’t want my words to be a call for sympathy.

But, I’ve arrived at a place where I feel like I am closer to knowing the answer to why I write and, more importantly, why I would want to share. This Is Us has reminded me how alone I still feel sometimes — forever bound in that stinging ether between joy and sorrow.

Grief is a taboo subject. It is rife with cliches and a deep desire from onlookers for the griever’s raw emotion to be subdued or, at the very least,  packaged in a socially acceptable box wrapped with a colourful ribbon that screams, “I’ll be okay. Go about your business. I got this.”

Grief, though, is an asshole and isn’t going anywhere. Watching Rebecca and Jack’s story helped me remember the painful moments while feeling a little less alone.

Raising My Voice

woman-358779_1280

This past weekend was a tough one for me. I sat in front of the television watching the Women’s March on Washington with tears streaming.  My children sat with me, asking questions as they came up. Some questions were easier to answer than others.

Ten years ago, I carried two beautiful girls in my womb but knew I would only have the privilege of raising one. The baby that was going to die was the one that made herself known almost every second of every day; she kicked and shoved her twin constantly. Abigail moved as if trying to fit a lifetime of big sister pestering into just a few short months.

When our family doctor used the words “inconsistent with life” I just stared at him. I couldn’t think. My vision dimmed and all I could do was focus on trying to breathe — trying to stay upright.

I listened but had to rely on my husband for words and memory.

I thanked the doctor as we left the room, forcing a smile as if I was leaving with a prescription for the common cold. My strength held me up until we reached the office’s front doors and my husband reached for my hand. That small kindness weakened my resolve and my knees buckled.

Fortunately, my husband’s strong arms kept me standing as they have in so many moments since.

Weeks later, a new doctor from our high-risk pregnancy team carefully introduced me to another term I had to grapple with:  selective abortion.

The doctor explained that Abigail’s condition could prove problematic for her sister who, at that time, was being monitored for only minor anomalies. While more testing was done,  we had to start comparing the potential complications of carrying both babies to term with the potential complications of selectively aborting our dying child.

My hands rarely left my belly – I wanted the immeasurable power of a mother’s love to change what was happening inside my body. I wanted to wake up and feel the glorious terror I had felt immediately after finding out we were pregnant with twins. So desperately, I wanted to go back in time to the conversations I’d had with my husband about finances and how our son would handle two new baby sisters. I yearned for the relative simplicity of weeks gone by.

Selective abortion. The term smothered me — a blanket of what ifs and loss so heavy I couldn’t catch my breath.

Abortion is a contentious issue at the best of times, so we didn’t tell many what we were going through because we didn’t want personal views on the morality of abortion to weigh on what we ultimately had to decide was best for our family.

After more testing, the decision was taken out of our hands. The procedure was too dangerous to attempt because of how Abigail was presenting.

We had been forced to grapple with life and death, but, as painful as it was, the decision had been ours alone. Morally and legally, we could decide what was right for our family.

This past Saturday, my daughter asked me to change the channel from the news coverage of the march. I told her I wasn’t ready to turn it off, that it felt too important.

I said she could leave the room if she wanted, but she stayed. And, I cried.

I looked at my little girl and tried to put into words why I was so emotional. Each time I tried to speak a stifled sob would choke my words back. Even when my son held my hand for comfort and strength, I couldn’t describe what I was feeling.

When I look at my daughter I see the battles I didn’t think she’d have to wage.

I see her sitting in a room with a doctor telling her news that will shatter her, and I see that loss forever dimming her light.

I worry about her not having a choice in that moment. In any moment.

The thought of my daughter’s rights to her body being compromised cuts me deeper, more painfully, than the scalpel that brought my girls into this world.

I’ve seen many posts questioning the motives of the Women’s March on Washington – questioning the necessity of such resistance. In these pieces, too often the marcher’s stories are silenced and their courage negated as commenters label them whiny liberals, libtards, ugly bitches, or crybabies.

That’s why I’m raising my voice and telling my story.

I am inspired and motivated by everyone who attended the marches worldwide. There are so many layers and complexities to the issues people marched for on Saturday — this is only my story, but I am here and I am paying attention. I will continue to learn, read, and listen. I will do better and I will no longer be complacent.

Save

Crimped Hair, the Innocence of Childhood and Doing Better

soap-bubble-colorful-ball-soapy-water

I tried doing my hair with a bit of wave yesterday but I succeeded only in looking like a fashion confused woman with crimped hair walking through a portal directly from the 1980’s.

But when I looked in the mirror before bed, it hit me that the timing of my unfortunate crimp was perfect in that it reminded me of a seemingly simpler time. A time when I was still sheltered in the glorious, rainbow covered protective bubble of childhood.

A time when I was learning about the courageous battles for women’s rights and freedoms but I didn’t personally feel any of the oppression. As welcome in my dad’s workshop as I was my mom’s garden, I didn’t believe there was a thing I couldn’t do.  Mistakenly, I thought history had already decided I was worthy of the vote and sensible enough to have control over my person.

My awful hair took me back to a time when I thought humans could fix anything –  were capable of anything. As my terror of acid rain piqued, people came together to fix it. I clearly remember watching a newscast showing statues and buildings that were being corroded by acid rain.  I pictured acid burning holes through umbrellas as people ran to find shelter from the rain. Yet, people from every political stripe (at least as I saw it then) came together and solved the problem and it left me with a deep sense of hope and intense pride in the fact that we could do anything.

I miss those times and mourn that my children will never know such a carefree, rainbowed bubble.  Theirs is already covered in a haze of environmental pollution and boorish, racist sediment.

Now, it’s my job to continually remind them to be better.  To do better.

And I need to remind myself too.