Wednesday, April 22, 2009

get lost

"When the safety net has split, when the resources are gone, when the way ahead is not clear, the sudden exposure can be both frightening and revealing. We spend so much of our time protecting ourselves from this exposure that a weird kind of relief can result when we fail. To lie flat on the ground with the breath knocked out of you is to find a solid resting place. This is as low as you can go. You told yourself you would die if it ever came to this, but here you are. You cannot help yourself and yet you live." (Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World)

I do not pretend that this miscarriage is the worst thing in the world that will ever happen to me. Maybe it is, which would be great, because I would certainly prefer not to sink any lower than this, ever. But human life being what it is, there is undoubtedly plenty of loss ahead.

And I do not pretend that this loss of ours is worse than any other loss. I mourn for a child who was not anywhere close to being born, and it helps me to understand a tiny, tiny portion of the grief parents must feel for a born child who dies, for a child who "should" have been born but died instead. There is no winner in an Olympics of pain. Every loss hurts.

I find myself consumed by the desire to get this over with, which struck me yesterday as a particularly crass response. I do not like this in-between place: not pregnant, and yet not un-pregnant, yet. This is "not a viable pregnancy," the doctor said yesterday, but what kind of not-viable pregnancy is this, exactly? How is it going to end? How long is it going to take? Nobody can answer this for me. I do not like it here. I want to be clearly something, whatever that is: clearly pregnant (not this time), clearly not pregnant. Pregnancy purgatory sucks.

I've been reading the book I quoted above off-and-on for about a month. Barbara Brown Taylor is one of my very favorite writers. I realized recently that she never had children, which she mentions every once in awhile in her books, though she never explains why. I would like to ask her about that someday. There is a knowledge of grief in her writing which makes me wonder if infertility is part of her story.

This particular book is about awareness of the world as a spiritual practice. For someone like me, who tends to like sitting in the office reading about God and the Bible and other people, the challenge to actually go outside and walk around and pay attention and experience my own body is a good one. Especially now, when most of my thoughts revolve in some way around the current state of my own body. People who know about this have asked me how I feel, and I've been trying to describe that, but I can't find the words for it. This is frustrating for me. I'm good with words. I pride myself at being able to describe human life well and honestly and thoughtfully. I try very hard, in sermons, to choose the right words, the ones which will bear the joy or the hope or the grief of the moment.

And right now, if someone asked me how I was doing, the only thing I can come up with is this: "I don't know."

When I was a kid, I fell off the swingset in our backyard (more than once) and I remember vividly the sensation of lying on the ground with the wind knocked out of me. It's scary, because even when you are old enough to have survived that once or twice and so you know, intellectually, that your breath will come back, the actual experience of being breathless is still terrifying. You have no control. You are suspended in time for a very brief second which feels like a year and a half, until you cough and choke and take the deepest breath you have ever known, and then you peel yourself up off the ground and start over again. Or go crying inside to find your mom.

"To lie flat on the ground with the wind knocked out of you is to find a solid resting place. This is as low as you can go. You told yourself you would die if it ever came to this, but here you are. You cannot help yourself and yet you live."

That's how I feel, I suppose. Wind knocked out of me. Lost. And even if I know that this is a temporary state, I am still trying in every way to catch my breath, because I hate lying here, staring up at the sky, wondering when life will go back to normal.

I am not sure that this current state of lost-ness could be a spiritual practice. About the most spiritual thing I can conjure up lately is a one-word prayer, "Help," which is often preceded or followed by the even-more spiritual prayer, "Screw you, God." (I actually do think that particular combination of prayers is a succinct summary of several of the psalms, but it still doesn't feel great.) The real truth is, of course, that whether or not this lost state could be a spiritual practice is not the point - I don't want to be here, that's the point. Screw spiritual practice. Just get me the hell out of here.

But. Apparently we're lost here for awhile. Might as well try to make some meaning out of it all.

If we ever have a child, I'm not sure we should get a swingset. Or maybe we should. Maybe I'll think about that for awhile.


  1. I've never really thought about the message of the psalms being so succinct, but the more I think about it....

    As for swingsets, it scares the heck out of me just remembering the crazy things I used to do on them as a kid!

  2. how right you are about the 'pain olympics' and how sad i am that you had to participate.

    you'll get your breath back... and one day be swinging high again.

  3. I agree with M. You'll get your breath back one day. Loss of a baby is profound and the grief is significant, regardless of where you were in your pregnancy. (hugs)

  4. What a beautiful post you've written. I can't imagine what you are going through right now, this in-between and unknown. I love the overall tone of the message, which is that you will be OK in the end. But it absolutely sucks getting there. I'm sorry.