Saturday, April 18, 2009

don't ask, do tell

I almost told the grocery-store checker yesterday.  And also my hairdresser.  Both of whom asked in that very perfunctory way, "how are you?" and I had to stop myself from saying, "I had a miscarriage."  Or, more accurately, "I am having a miscarriage.  Right now.  As we speak."  

This is not my style.  I am generally not a small-talk kind of person, particularly with store clerks and hairdressers and other casual presences in life.  When you go into a hair salon and you see five or six clients and they're all chatting away with the stylists and then you see one client who is sitting silently with a stylist who doesn't talk at all - that's me.  I used to wonder why I was always the only customer who seemed to get the quiet stylists, until I finally realized that it can't be coincidence: I like it that way.  And it's true.  I'm a private person.  I do a lot of talking in my job, and so when I can be quiet, I prefer it.  It could be read as unfriendly at times, I realize.  But it's mostly the introvert in me, who needs to get out every once in awhile.  Or stay in, as the case may be.

The point being, I would never reveal personal details to a grocery store clerk.  Or hairdresser.  Or guy at the video store.  It's just not my thing.  

Then I almost told a guy who was sitting behind us at the baseball game last night.  Who, I kid you not, talked to his friend the entire nine innings, in a voice which was hard to ignore.  I almost told him because, in inning six, he starting talking about how he and his wife had tried so hard to get pregnant, and how they had done IUI's ("the turkey baster thing," he called it, which is what we had called it too), and then she had gotten pregnant, and then there had been some complications in the pregnancy, but it all turned out okay, and then, he said, "you know, you wait for it for so long, and then all of a sudden, you're just another set of parents with a kid."

Maybe I should have been grateful for the happy ending of another person who struggled with infertility and now is on the other side.  Mostly, I wanted to tell him to shut the fuck up.  I imagined myself standing up during the seventh inning stretch and turning around and saying, "I'm sorry, but I cannot handle you talking about your wife's pregnancy anymore.  Because we have been trying for almost four years, and we did have to do "that in-vitro thing," which you so summarily dismissed in your earlier comments, and right now, I am having a miscarriage from that very thing.  So.  Could you please stop talking about it?  RIGHT NOW?  Also, could you pay attention to the game?  For thirty seconds?  Thanks."

I'm sure that would have made for a charming evening.

I've been puzzled at this piece of my reaction.  What happened to Introvert Girl, who prefers to keep things to herself?  What makes her want to say the word "miscarriage" out loud, practically to any stranger who walks by?  What is THAT about?

It's doubly odd because it's the opposite reaction I've had during our whole struggle with infertility.  I haven't told many people about that at all.  It took me damn near two years to acknowledge it to myself.  And while I've become slightly more open in the last six months, I still prefer not to talk about our infertility with others.  So why on earth do I want to shout MISCARRIAGE from the rooftops?

I think it's this.  For the first few days, I could not talk to anyone about it.  At all.  I could not talk on the phone, or in person, without bursting into tears, which is understandable, but also embarrassing and exhausting.  I emailed a few friends.  My husband called the few family members who had known about our positive test.  I only said the word out loud once or twice.

Then there was silence.  My friends emailed back initially, and some more than once.  But a few of my closest friends for many years (who do not read this blog) have done nothing else.  They have not emailed me.  They have not called.  And I am, truly, hurt.  They have said nothing.  I don't understand that.

My husband's family has not called us again.  I think they are trying to respect my inability to talk about it.  And I, in my selfishness, am simultaneously grateful and irritated.  How dare they do as I ask and not call?  Don't they care?  I know I said I couldn't talk about it.  Can't they read my confused little mind and know that a bit of acknowledgement would still be welcome?  

Grief really fucks you up.  I've always known that.  It's just very, very true.

I think I keep wanting to say this out loud - I think I am writing this entry - because I need to know that this was real, and it really happened, and it really matters.  I was pregnant.  I was.  And then I had a miscarriage.  I did.  I can still hardly believe the whole sequence myself.  And to look at me, you'd never know any of it had happened.  I feel like getting a t-shirt: "Please be careful with me.  I had a miscarriage."  Because, somehow, Introvert Girl wants some public recognition.  I want people to know that my heart still hurts, even if I don't cry all day anymore.  I want my friends to know how devastating this was.  

So I decided to inflict it on the internets.  On you, reader, whomever you are.  You're my substitute Grocery Store Clerk and Hairdresser and Irritiating Guy at the Baseball Game (though I'm sure you're not irritating).  Thanks for listening.  

I think I'll go outside and do some yardwork.  Though I might wait until Neighbor Guy is done mowing his lawn.  I've never actually met him.  And I'm pretty sure that, "Hi!  I'm your neighbor!  I had a miscarriage!" is not quite what he's expecting.


  1. We're hear to listen to you! I'm so sorry for what you're going through right now... Too bad you couldn't 'accidentally' spill your drink at the guy at the game. But we, in cyber-space, are here to listen...

  2. I'm so sorry for what you are going through. It was and is real, and I'm sorry your friends aren't reaching through in a more assertive way to connect with you. I'm here in tears reading your post, and wishing I could be there at the game to tell that guy to STFU and just give you a million hugs, and listen to you. This sentence, especially, sums up so many IF situations: "How dare they do as I ask?"

    There aren't any words I can offer, except to say that like the commentor above, we are here to listen and cry with you and cheer you on if you need it. Even if you tell us not to, we will.

  3. I will gladly be your grocery store clerk or your hair dresser - tell us all about it, in as much detail as you want. We'll listen and support you and understand because we've been there, too, and it hurts and sucks so bad but no one seems to care or understand. We understand. I am so, so sorry for you. I wish I could do more for you to make you feel better. Hugs - please know there are people who understand and shed tears for you even if you do not know us IRL. Hugs and more hugs.

  4. I too am glad to listen and understand. After my loss, I felt like Hester with her scarlet letter...except mine was written with invisible ink. It was a long time before I could be in public without wanting to shout "I'm suffering and how dare you all just go on with life like it's okay!" I found the mall to be the most trying place. It does get easier, but a loss changes you. Keep writing, we here in cbyerspace will be listening.

  5. Wow, I can totally relate. I had my second miscarriage a little over a month ago and hardly anyone seems to care anymore. I don't want to talk about it and yet I want so badly for someone to acknowledge the pain that doesn't go away quickly, even if we are in the midst of trying again (on our 5th injection cycle). I just never dreamed I would be here and yet, here I am. Anyway, there are many out there who can at least tell you that what you are feeling/thinking is SO normal.

  6. I blogged a few months ago about the time, right after my first miscarriage, that I totally freaked out an overly-chatty esthetician during a facial by mentioning my miscarriage in response to her non-stop questioning. (It's actually kind of fun to shock people with the word "miscarriage," by the way, in case you do feel like telling an unpleasant stranger).

    Contrast that with the best spa I've ever been to, where part of the pre-facial paperwork involved a questionnaire about your preferences: how firm do you like the massage, what is your pain tolerance, how much are you seeking to be pampered, and how much do you like to chat during the facial.

    If only every spa (and every other industry) asked that question ahead of time.

  7. Here to listen and listen and listen, for as long as you need... because I have had the same experience. People who you think will support you the most, forget, or offer you that initial support but think they've done their bit.

    The fact you are suffering is hard, and you want everyone to acknowledge it - that is normal!

  8. The internets are here for you. I'm so sorry you're not getting the support you need IRL -- that just sucks. It's so much to process/bear alone (either individually or as a couple).

    (And I am totally the same at the hairdresser -- it's my time to read celebrity gossip magazines, dammit!)