I’m sitting at my mom’s “desk” (kitchen table), typing on her laptop. I’m exhausted: last night’s poetic elegance has all been washed away as a result of going to bed at midnight and waking up at… 5:11 a.m., eleven minutes after my shift started. (But here’s the incredible part: Doug and I clocked in just seventeen minutes after we woke up.) This is only the second time in almost four years that I’ve overslept my alarm on one of these pre-dawn shifts. Still, it’s not a good feeling.
Anyway, we’re here at my parents’ for an early dinner, then planning on going home and passing out at like seven, since we have to open again tomorrow, so I’m going to keep this quick.
When I walked into the house this afternoon, there on the center of the very table I’m now sitting at were not one, but four pictures of my cousin’s newborn baby. And let me clarify, in case I haven’t before, or in case it’s been a while: babies don’t affect me in that twitchy, PTSD way that ultrasound pictures and pregnant bellies do. My miscarriage was so early, and I knew about it’s inevitability so definitely (even during all those weeks of waiting while my HCG was doubling normally, even though the ultrasounds clearly showed nothing in my uterus), that I never got attached to the idea of a baby. It was a pregnancy I thought I had, and it was a pregnancy I wanted, and therefore, now, it’s pregnancy that makes me crazy, whereas babies seem just as cute and fragile and alien as they always have.
My cousin’s baby, in all of these photos, is red and squishy and sleeping. And part of me wants to pick up the photos to get a closer look, to see whether I can find my cousin (whom I haven’t actually seen, other than in photos, in almost 14 years) in his son’s nose, or mouth, or tightly closed eyes.
But I’m worried that, if I start picking up these photos, I might pick up the fifth photo, a wallet-sized portrait of my cousin and his wife, both holding her big, giant, pregnant belly. And if I pick up that photo, my instinct might be to “magic it away,” like I want to do with everything that makes me so uncomfortable, and so my impulse might be to tear it in half.
This is not something that’s easy to admit to. This is not something I’m proud of. This is the unfortunate and ugly truth.
I set out on this journey hoping to heal. Hoping that by the time I was finished with this nine-month project, I would no longer have these impulses, because I would no longer feel assaulted by images of, and stories about, and encounters with pregnant women.
Now, at the end of month eight, I’ve learned that this isn’t a realistic hope for me. For me, healing isn’t about eliminating the impulses – because I cannot “magic away” my experience or my feelings about it; for me, healing is about allowing myself to feel the impulses, and then controlling them. So tonight, the pictures stay on the table. And from where I’m sitting, I can lean forward and peer at them more closely, to see whether I can find my cousin in his son’s nose, or mouth, or tightly closed eyes.
My cousin’s joy, which he chose to share with my family, is not intended to cause me pain. My pain is my own. My pain is as valid as his joy, and as deserving of being shared. But I can’t hope to alleviate it at the expense of my cousin’s joy, or anyone else’s. The only way to alleviate my pain is to keep feeling it, and acknowledging it, and hating it, and moving forward anyway.