Friday, December 31, 2010

A Terrible Truth

It is a terrible truth that human beings have the capacity to experience the sort of intense and debilitating grief that clouds the soul and shrivels the heart and--without finding that grief lifted or removed or in any measurable way more bearable--may simultaneously find themselves laughing out loud at that old Saturday Night Live skit about Schweddy Balls.

"How is it possible?" I asked David that night.  "How is it possible that our baby is dead and Schweddy Balls are still funny?"

David didn't know.  "But I like when you laugh at stupid stuff," he said.

I used to laugh at stupid stuff all the time.

The very first thing that made me laugh after we got home from the hospital was a dog fart.  It was surprising and audible and Cooper's face after he did was so shocked and funny.  I couldn't help but laugh.  And then I cried and cried and cried.

Eventually, I suppose, we will master this balancing act.  I'm getting practice already.  I know what it feels like to be conflicted.  To be thrilled and happy for a dear friend who had a sweet baby boy on Christmas Day while knowing that it will be a long time before I will ever be able to see that baby without crying.  Not because I'm angry or jealous (I don't want her baby, I want my baby, and none of that is her fault), but because we had January due dates a week apart and one warm evening in late June we each surprised the other with our pregnancy announcements at a little Italian restaurant where we met for dinner and we were so happy that night and we laughed and compared our practically non-existent baby bumps and our little peanut ultrasounds.  And now she has a baby and my baby is dead and no matter how happy I am for her or how much I want to be a good friend to her, how could her baby not remind me of everything I've lost? 

Eventually we will master the art of missing Eliza and still finding moments of laughter, but right now it still feels shocking.

It felt like a sacrilege, honestly, to miss my baby girl so desperately and yet to sit on my sofa and suddenly find myself giggling at an old Saturday Night Live skit.  It made me feel guilty and strange and also like, seriously, the first thing that makes me laugh is this kind of embarrassingly juvenile humor?  I mean, couldn't I at least have laughed at witty black humor or clever word play or the kind of joke that references an obscure literary theorist?  Something more dignified?  I mean I am a bereaved parent.  Surely my taste in jokes would have matured through my grief.

It is a terrible truth in this world that beautiful babies will die and stupid shit will still, somehow, be funny.

I submit as evidence the following:


  1. It is strange how this mixture of emotions is possible, but you're right somehow you learn to balance it.
    I also have a co-worker who was due a week after me and it is very difficult seeing her because I'm always reminded of how much we've lost. She came back from her maternity leave this week and it was really difficult for me to see her, I had happily forgotten about her until that moment.
    Thinking of you & sending love!

  2. It's true you know. It's not that I'm jealous of other women and their living babies, it's because I'm filled with anger that my babies are dead. That's what people don't get. I don't want other people's babies, I want MINE. That doesn't change.

  3. I. Love. You.

    I'll try to practice up on my "van down by the river" for the next time I see you.


  4. it is funny how i just wrote a post where i mention the strange dichotomy we bereaved parents find ourselves in. i guess shweddy balls will always be funny, no matter how hard life gets, and i for one, could not be more pleased about that. some days the only relief we get in this house is a chuckle at a silly show, even though the pain is ever present, you learn to live both happy and sad at the same time. because the alternative is not an option.
    love and peace to you and in the new year.

  5. Shortly after Katie was stillborn, I picked up "Bridget Jones's Diary." It made me laugh, & it was just the tonic I needed. I am forever grateful to Helen Fielding.

  6. I've spoken at length with my husband, my therapist, and a friend whose son died just days shy of his first birthday about this very thing - how these two dual realities can coexist and yet are so contradictory - that I can laugh as my heart is so devastatingly broken...and that both the laughing and the sobbing feel equally real and equally valid (when I'm not second guessing the laughter or feeling guilty about it, that is.)

    The other night I spent a good forty minutes or so online on damnyouautocorrect or whatever that website is and laughed so loud and hard my husband thought I was crying.

    We have found good comfort in The Hangover, Old School, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and I Love You Man...Clearly nothing too highbrow, but the laughter is a nice change of pace from the sobs.

  7. Oh my goodness I can't belive you brought Schweddy Balls up!

    December of 2009 was our first Christmas without Carter and I remember sitting there watching the SNL Christmas special laughing my rear off when Schweddy Balls came on. That laughter is something I will remember for the rest of my life! And as stupid as it sounds, I will always think of Carter when I see it too!

  8. I'm lost in your blog archives and this post is on the Eve of Jack's birth when I was in the throws of labour. Fucking five years.