I’ve been noticing, these past few months, that I’ve started to really “own” a lot of parts of my life I used to think merited secretiveness. Like the two-year relationship I had with another girl’s boyfriend while I was in college. Or the slight overlap between the end of my first marriage and the start of my relationship with Doug. Or the fact that I’ve been married at all – when Doug and I moved to Seattle, I looked at the fresh start as an opportunity to write out that entire chapter of my life story.
It’s not that I’m suddenly proud of these things; it’s just that I’ve learned to feel less ashamed about them. They happened, and because they happened, I became the person I am today. Had things been different, I would be different; my life would be different. And my life is pretty great. So while I’m not bragging about my past indiscretions, lately I’m more comfortable being honest about them, both with myself and the people around me.
Which brings us to my miscarriage, something of which I have never been ashamed. I, for one, would be happy to talk about my pregnancy-and-miscarriage experience with anyone who asked, but there seems to be a certain taboo about the subject, and talking about it makes people uncomfortable. Which is funny, because people have no qualms talking about divorce, or politics, or war. I would think those things would be equally discomforting, if not more so, since there are actually people responsible for them. A miscarriage is more akin to a natural disaster than a man-made one. We should be banding together in the wake of a miscarriage, and sending aid and supplies to those affected, instead of just sweeping it under the rug.
But I digress.
I don’t talk about my miscarriage in public much, because I’ve been trained not to. But damn if there aren’t times when I want to shout it from the rooftops, so that the people around me will have a better understanding of yet another thing that has happened in my life and shaped the person I am today.
At work, I have about 15 superiors. Some of them know this part of my history, either because we’re friends on facebook and they’ve stumbled across one of my blog posts, or because I’ve told them, or because I’ve made brownies for them in the wake of their own lost pregnancies. Others of them do not know this part of my history, and that makes things kind of awkward.
For example, one of my supervisors used to live in Santa Barbara, and, before joining ranks with the grocery store, was a manager at a coffee shop where my friend Monica worked for a few years. Every so often, he’ll ask me how Monica’s doing, or he’ll ask about her daughter, and I’ll have to remind him that she and I don’t talk much anymore. It makes me feel shitty, to repeatedly have to tell this guy about the end result (lost friendship) without the explanation (Monica got pregnant right after I’d lost a pregnancy, and therefore our friendship spontaneously combusted). What must my supervisor think of me, that I can rave about how much I love Monica, tell him stories about when she and I lived together, and then wrap it up with, “Oh yeah, but now we don’t talk.”
And yet, there’s never been a good opportunity for me to approach him and explain everything – and if I did explain it all, say, one day when we happened to be eating lunch at the same time, it would seem so non-sequiter, and kind of depressing. So I just keep telling myself that if and when he gets transfered to another store, I’ll tell him what really happened between me and Monica before he leaves, just so I’m left feeling so dishonest and unsettled around him.
Then yesterday, I was standing in the backroom next to a white/clear plastic trashbag full of more white/clear plastic (for recycling), which we tie onto our baler at about waist height. I was wearing a light pink shirt. One of my supervisors came around the corner, and I guess the bag and my shirt were all blending together in just the right, optically illusive way, because he glanced up and said, “Whoa! For a second there, I thought you were pregnant!”
This man also knows nothing about this part of my history.
“No no,” I said, then probably said it a few more times. “No no no. That’s not happening for a while yet.”
“Yeah, Doug would probably flip out, huh?” he said, trying to make one of those typical guy-to-guy jokes.
“Doug would love it. It would be the best day of his life.”
“It would? You know that for real?”
“Yeah,” I said. “But there is a time, and a place, and a financial situation, and a relationship status for that…”
“I’m sorry,” my supervisor said. “I actually have no place asking you about any of this.”
So he walked away feeling uncomfortable, and I stood there wondering about the things left unsaid. This supervisor is really intelligent, and has a wife and two little kids of his own, so I’m sure he would have been compassionate to my situation if I’d decided to share it with him. But there’s a time and place for that kind of sharing, too – and the back room at work is not the place, and while-we’re-trying-to-get-shit-done is not the time. And, I wondered, if I had opened up to him about why it’s really weird to tell me a plastic bag was making me look pregnant, would it have left him more uncomfortable than my being cryptic about it?
For the rest of my shift, part of me wanted to approach him and appeal to his love of facts and statistics. “You’re a smart guy,” I imagined myself saying. “So you must know that a quarter to a third of all pregnancies, and up to 50% of first pregnancies, end in…”
I would make him say it, and then I would tell him, “And that’s why Doug and I have had all this time to think and plan out what the circumstances for my first successful pregnancy should be.” But again, I never got a good opportunity. And I wasn’t sure I had the statistic exactly right, anyway.
I don’t like not owning this in my everyday life, with my circle of acquaintances. But I’m not really sure where the line is, and I certainly don’t want to cross it. Because again, there’s a time and a place to get all in-your-face with people about pregnancy loss, and I feel like work ain’t it.
I wonder, though, if a little taboo-filled honesty would actually improve awkward situations like these two. And if so, I wonder whether I should speak up out of context one day, just to fill these guys in.