Friday, January 8, 2010

"You're numb right now"

Writing has been a huge release for me through this loss, but on the heels of last week's news, I have found myself struggling for words. This latest blow has left me back at square one in terms of exhaustion, and quite frankly, my creativity has been a bit tapped out.

In an effort to get some emotional release, and try to break this writer's block,  I went to Borders today to be in the presence of other writers (I had met a very interesting author who I knew would be there today) and write. There is something to be said about being in the presence of other creative folks, when trying to get your creative juices flowing.

While there, tapping away at my computer beside this female author, a man came over (another author) and began talking to us. This is a portion of our conversation.

Man: What are you writing about.
Me: I go back and forth between a few things. I have written a memoir about my daughter who died of Cancer, and also work on this silly little chick-lit book when I need a pick me up. I also write a blog about my grief.
Man: Your daughter died. I am so sorry. How old was she?
Me: 28 days. She was born with Leukemia.
Man: 28 days? Born with Leukemia... Oh, my. When did this happen?
Me: Yeah, the chances of it happening were one in fifty million. I'm just that lucky. We lost her October of '08.
Man: Was she your only child?
Me: Yes, and having her made it so I can't have any others.
Woman Author: She just found this out last week. Can you believe she can even talk about it?
Man: Oh, my.
Me: Yup.
Man: You're numb huh?
Me: Numb?
Man: Yeah numb. You're numb right now.
Me: Why do you say that?
Man: It's just, you're telling me something so horrific, but when you say it you are so matter of fact.
Me: Well then, yeah, I guess today you could call me numb.

This conversation really got me thinking.

Why is it that this loss has stripped me of that former sense of self preservation where I would only share good details about myself with those I encountered? Why can't I sensor what I say, even when I know I am sharing too much? It's as if it all flows, unchecked, from my heart to my lips. I can't stop it. Is it because it is all I can think about?

To this man in Borders - "My baby is dead. I am infertile." To the woman at the Post Office - "My baby is dead. I am infertile." To every person who stops to ask me for the time, or to comment on the day, or the weather, or the latest movie they saw, I turn to them lost, repeating the only truths that I know... "My baby is dead. I am infertile."

Sometimes the words come with tears, and I watch the discomfort wash over the face of whichever poor soul I am speaking to. Sometimes the words come with a resigned muffled laughter, a pathetic attempt at laughing at my misfortune or making light of my luck, and the shit-storm that has swirled unrelenting around my attempts at having a family. Sometimes, like today, the words present themselves as bulleted facts. Talking points delivered with little to no expression.

Some take this to mean I am doing well. "She can say this without crying. Look how strong she is." I know it is just the opposite. I know that regardless of the expression on my face, or the inflection in my voice, I am lost. My heart is broken.

Perhaps it is the shock, or the PTSD. Perhaps it is my mind's way of trying to process all that has happened. All that I have seen and done. All that we went through, or worse, all that Peyton went through. She was just a baby. A poor, defenseless, little baby. She endured things that no child should ever endure. Things that no mother should ever bear witness to.

Maybe if I say "My baby's dead, and having her left me infertile," enough, out loud, to everyone I meet, I will finally accept or make peace with the irony and pain impregnated in those words. Or maybe tomorrow I will wake up once again in this world of disbelief, without the luxury of feeling numb, and those words will bring with them the return of my tears.


  1. Kristin you probably are NUMB to some degree. How could you not be? You have suffered some very devastating blows in the last year and a bit. I can't see how it wouldn't affect how you write or deal with people. I remember talking to a social worker after my fifth miscarriage and her telling me that as I talked the effect was "flat". I had to separate the emotions from the facts when I related what I had been through to protect myself, to prevent myself from weeping uncontrollably everytime I told. I would imagine you're doing a bit of the same. Keep talking about it, keep writing about it all if you need to. I never get tired of hearing about beautiful Peyton and I CARE about the pain you are going through. I also KNOW you will beat this infertility stuff in some way, once you have come to terms with having to take the high road. And although you FEEL fragile, you ARE a survivor and are doing alot to help yourself and others dealing with babyloss. Sending you my love...

  2. I'm just so very sorry. I am sending you so much strength and love.

  3. I am sorry. I often feel like I am having an out of body experience when I am talking to others (especially doctors) about my experiences. I think it is the only way I can get through it and feel like I am being sensible and rationale and not simply emotional and I don't want doctors (and sometimes others) to think I can't think rationally about it (for some reason this seems to be important).

    I am so very sorry for all of your struggles. Has your doctor still not called you back? I would definitely call him/her out on that. Totally unacceptable and I am enraged for you.

  4. I think you're right - about both the numbness and in repeating the story over and over it becomes real on some level. That was something the author of that book about mourning that I read - what was it called? Aaaah. My brain. By a journalist in Toronto - the way we grieve. She explores her family's experience losing her daughter's soon-to-be-husband and then different approaches to grief through the ages and different cultures. Some themes come up and one is the repeating of the story.

    I'm so sorry for your shock and compounded grief. Hoping for you and here sending you love. xo

  5. I think you are totally right. The whole situation seems so unreal, even to you who is living it, that part of you needs to hear the words to make it real. I am so sorry for the numbness and the pain that is to come.

  6. I just want you to know that I'm thinking of you-and I get it. I so get what you are saying-our stories are quite different, but I can relate to so much of what you say.
    I wish I had the answers; I wish I could help in anyway . But all I can do is send my love and strength, like Sally, and let you know that I'm thinking of you.

  7. I feel similarly sometimes- speaking so matter of factly about the death of Noah... people think i'm 'so strong'.. but really.. it's how I live from day to day without being a complete mess.

    Thinking of you..
    Peyton is so beautiful


  8. I believe I understand that numbness. There will be days when I can talk about loss, freely. Strongly. Five years time will do that. And other times, well, it depends on what the conversation is about, what someone else is asking of me. What leads me to reveal private matters, you know?

    I actually don't find it fair that those who haven't experienced huge losses *expect* a certain reaction out of us. What do they want? A tear fest? Some kind of meltdown? Should we crumble on command?

    Do we not have a right to a numb day, even a good day?

    Sigh. We're not limited to one kind of reaction. Loss results in many ups and downs, good and bad days, weakness and strength, failures and triumphs... No two days are ever exactly the same.

  9. Oh Kristin, I wish I could hug you through the computer screen somehow.

    I also find it very difficult not to let the whole story come tumbling out of me every single time. Even when I know that it would not be an appropriate time. Like Jamie, I get that weird out of body experience when I start talking about it all.

    I'm just so sorry for everything that Peyton went through. I'm so sorry for everything that you and your husband have been through. It is all so horribly, horribly unfair. xo

  10. I cried really, really hard when I read this post of yours. It amazes me how I read your words but feel you are talking about me. That's how closely I can identify with your thoughts and feelings. I have a post on my blog almost a year after Jayden died where I talk about feeling like I am watching myself. I feel so disconnected from me sometimes. I often wonder if I will ever feel normal again? Or am I destined to feel hollow, numb and empty as I often do.

    I understand what you mean about over sharing. I've done the same thing, answered a simple how are you with way, way too much information. Do you ever find that you "set" a conversation up so that the subject comes up because you need to say it? I often wonder if I need to tell my story because I'm trying to make myself believe it really happened? Am I looking for someone who will snap me out of this nightmare? Trying to find someone who can help me make it all make sense?

    I dunno. But numb...yeah, that's the perfect word.

    Many hugs to you...and thank you for being able to write the way you do.

  11. I still find myself finding ways to tell everyone with ears about my loss. Babies and childbirth come up a lot when I discuss my future plans to be a nurse midwife so I find plenty of excuses to acknowledge the little life that lived so briefly inside me. I feel like talking about it freely really helped me get through some of the days when I felt like I was the only one who remembered why I was so sad. I also believe that you will find a way through this new hurdle. You may be numb, but you are also strong. Don't sell yourself short.

  12. This BLEW ME AWAY.

    OMG. Girl you know I read and respond to almost every one of your blog entries.

    Talking about your grief not only lifts you up because you are sharing it and others hear it and are GRATEFUL for the lives given them, but also MINDFUL of the Grace...

    You are a LIVING EXAMPLE of Grace. Grace of living as full a life as you can under horrific circumstances.

    Every single one of us who has has loss of children, parents, sibs, spouses... you name it. Those of us who have had our own bouts with horrific illness...

    I used to say that too... I thought talking about difficult things were too much for some people. Until I heard from many people as they watched my struggle, first with major illness and horrific recoveries from surgeries that decimated my body... then, with trying to become a mother...

    This is what I heard.

    I heard that, in hearing of my struggles, I was an example of the Grace of God. That, everyone suffers, some more than other (yes, the "why me" thing might come into play but really, don't let it seep in there)... WE are the living example to others in life's agonistic struggle.

    You are as much of an example of suffering and grace as Peyton is and was.

    Do not, never feel ashamed of opening up about your reality. You do not KNOW how you touch people's lives.

    When I read your work I admire your writing (as a fellow writer of course) but I also am taken back to my own suffering. And instead of being brought to my knees by the MEMORIES of what I went through... I am GRATEFUL for you helping me remember.

    Only then can I give gratitude to God for the blessings I have. I know right now, it is so incredibly hard for you. I have decades past my losses... of the twins and 5+ years post loss of the rest of my loved ones... but... still I grieve. Days crying in the shower... a few times.

    But you will move forward.

    Do not stop showing others what an example of Grace you truly are. Without this blog, you would not have touched so many people including myself. I wish P had not passed on, had not suffered, had not shredded your heart and life. I truly truly do. It is horrible and every woman's nightmare, the loss of a child.

    But I am grateful to be there for you, having paved the way. Do NOT be ashamed or embarrassed or stop talking.

    Those that stop listening, kick to the curb.

    There is NO TIMELINE for grief and how long it takes. It is a lifelong process. Not a year, not a month, not a day. Not an hour. You can't just "get over" a human life and their loss. Not one so beloved. Ever.

  13. I just don't know what to say. There are so many things I am thinking, but I don't have the words. You are numb (and allowed to be), you are grieving (and have right to be), you are sad/angry/frustrated (and have every right to be), you are surviving (even though you may not want to). You are doing everything right, for you and for the moment in your life. You may change from day to day, going from angry to happy numb to just dealing. I think in a way we'll do that for the rest of our life, though they say (whoever "they" are) that in time you'll spend more time being happy then any other emotion. I guess time will tell. Many *hugs*.

  14. Kristin,

    I am just balling my eyes out for you. Your story has touched me quite a bit. Even tho our stories are different I think about you & Peyton alot. I am so sorry you were handed an additional hand of pain.

    I sent a link to your blog to a friend of my friend whos 4 yr old daughter passed away from cancer a couple weeks ago. I believe she will find some healing in your words.

    I am so sorry.

  15. I never think of ita s numb, Kristin. It is just our new reality. We state it just like any other mother would answer questions about the newborn they cart around at the store. Our babies died. That is the facts, the reality. And when it is fresh, hard, and new it is the reality that is always forefront in our minds. I answer about my daughter, "she lived three days" just like I answer to my boys, "one is 3 and one is 1.5 years old. Yes, I know they are close." Unforetuntely, this is our world.

  16. I dont think people realize just how much PTSD surrounds infertility, loss, pregnancy after IF/loss, and NICU trauma can hold. I agree with Mary. It is our reality. Not numbess, not coldness, just the truth.

  17. Bless your heart. Tears for you...I just want to scream from the mountaintops about my life...and the horror...and then I read about others who feel the same, though individual, grief...and I know what you mean about the luxury of numbness.
    Thinking of you!!!!!!

  18. Wow. I am getting caught up - and I just don't have anything good to say - "I'm sorry" just isn't enough.

    Continue to write if it helps. Thinking of you.

  19. You are not numb. But, what I think you have developed instead is your script. I went to a group therapy class. It was there that they told me to set up a script to explain what happened so that we don't keep breaking down when we talk about our angels. I had already developed mine. "My son caught an unknown virus and passed away". It made it easier for me. I didn't have to give all the details which is what I really want to do but not everyone has to know every single detail. But, I still get to share that I do have a son.

    Praying for you as you go through this.

  20. i'm so sorry. and i hate saying this to even other babyloss moms, but i know how you're feeling. my baby died, and while i havent been given such terrible news as you, last week when i was told im not ovulating, i lost my mind. and yet, no one knows my heartbreak?? what?? they all think im "doing well" ?? but ive already been to 2 emergency rooms this year, and it's only been 10 days. my mother texted me and said "im so sorry. you've been saying it all along - 'i'm not ok' - and no one was listening. im so sorry, i love you, i need you." even my own mother.

    im so sorry. just so, so sorry.

  21. I am sorry for all you have been through. I wish I could give you a big giant hug right now! It is so hard to comprehend reality sometimes. I am amazed by your strength, you truly inspire me. I think of you often and I wish there was something I could say that would truly make you feel better. I pray everyday that you will find peace and happiness soon.

  22. After a year in which I had three babies die, I praised God for the numbness. The shock that allowed me time to prepare myself to grieve. Grieve for the rest of my life.
    I'm not saying there isn't grief right now, it's just (at least for me) the numbness helped.

    I hope it is helping you too. I remember you in my prayers and think of your little girl often.


  23. Isn't it the world views strength in what they see. Or rather...what they THINK they see. They see that you aren't pushing up you are strong. They see that my heart is pumping with I am strong. They see you you are strong. They see me walking my I am strong.

    What about the 3 am shaking in silence so that husbands can sleep...what about the lump that is constantly there even when we make ourselves talk to others. What about the fact that parts of us that once sang out loud are dead. What about the parts that are screaming in silence because we were told "it's been long enough". What about the parts that have aged simply because no one can cry THAT much without stripping years off their life force?

    Here you are.'ve been through hell and are standing to tell the tale. Here you shock over a story that makes everyone around you gasp. A horrible story that is crushing and hauntingly beautiful in its purity, and just because you still stand...because your beating heart still pumps in your are strong. ARE. You ARE!!!!

    That numbness is there. and you are still strong. You are also completely devastated. Pile upon pile of crap on a woman who has such a beautiful sensitive's enough to make anyone fall to their knees just HEARING it.

    I'm so glad you are writing...I know for myself that it has saved my life. Writing out the pain. Crying while I write. Telling people what happened to all the women I love so much who have been here in this hell. Who will ALWAYS know this hell no matter how strong they seem to anyone who can't imagine taking another breath if it were THEM. But who WOULD continue breathing if it WERE them simply because life MAKES them.

    I love you for being. I love you for sharing Peyton with us all.

    Thank you. Not for being strong...but simply for BEING. Thank you.

  24. OAM....I read and re-read this post, and though I have many emotions, I just don't have as evocative words as others here....

    I am not sure whether the feeling that you have is numbness or the cold white linoleum of is not neutral it is cold. It glares, and snarls....and repeats itself over and over and over....

    Many hugs.

  25. Maybe it's numbness and maybe it isn't. Maybe that's just how life is after losing your child and then learning that you can't have any more. I think it's just another stage on this roller coaster life.