Monday, March 7, 2011


I was thinking (somewhat angrily) the other day about how I was totally duped into believing that Eliza was a sure thing.  And everyone I know--my doctor, my friends, my mom, my husband, the grocery store checkout guy, the girl working at Baby Gap--everyone was complicit in helping me to believe this lie.

I believed that because I was "healthy and low risk" at my doctor's office that I would have a healthy baby.  I believed that since my doctor deemed her "perfect" at each visit that she would be born that way--perfect and alive.  I believed that since all of my friends had healthy babies that I would too.  I believed that since my friends and family were throwing parties and buying presents for her, that there was no doubt I was bringing her home.  I believed the "Congratulations!" that people offered me with a smile once I started waddling around looking like I had a watermelon stuffed under my shirt.  Why would they congratulate me if there was a danger that my baby might die?

Sure, I had the nagging fears that I think almost everybody has during pregnancy, but I trusted the books I read and the statistics I looked up and the gleeful pink and yellow presents that already filled her room.  Nobody said to me, "Well, do keep in mind that you could be the 1 in 160 women whose baby dies before it's born, sometimes for totally mysterious and unknown reasons."

Why did we ALL assume my baby would be fine?  How could there have been no warning?  How could everyone just tacitly promise me that it would be OK?

Oh, I know.  Why wouldn't we assume it would be fine?  I still believed in statistics and my own good luck back then anyway.  (One time I won a Cole Haan bag in a raffle at a Cole Haan store.  It occurs to me that I might have used up all my good luck in that moment.  It's a nice bag, but I'm sure I don't need to point out what I'd rather be carrying.)

And I know, too, that a warning wouldn't have done a bit of good unless it could have saved her.  Being aware that I was racing headlong toward unavoidable disaster--I wouldn't have wanted that at all. 

I just feel so foolish looking back.

* * *
I think about how I used to react to a friend's (or acquaintance's) pregnancy announcement, "OMG!  [squee!] I am so excited for you!  CongratuLATIONS!"  Followed by a million questions--boy or girl, names, nursery themes, birth plan, breastfeeding plan, career plan, daycare plan.  After all, it was never too early to have everything figured out.

Now what would I say?  Perhaps something along the lines of, "That sounds promising.  I hope your baby doesn't die.  It's likely that it won't, but you never really know."

OK.  Inappropriate.  Maybe I can manage a sincere, "Oh, that's great!  Well, good luck with that."

* * *
In Ceil's amazing video, she talks about trust.

Whom do you trust when you no longer believe that God actively intervenes in our lives--at least, not in a miraculous heart-starting, time-turning sort of way?

What do you trust when you can't believe in statistics, having fallen on the slender side of them yourself?  Or when your doctor tells you that there's not a medical explanation?

Where do you place your trust when your otherwise normal and healthy body failed to keep your baby alive?

What happens when God and science and nature all disappoint you simultaneously?  What is left to believe in?

A God who allows horrible and unfair things to happen.  Everyday.  All over the world.

A statistical probability that says lightning probably won't strike twice, but there's no ruling it out entirely--even the slimmest ".05%" looks quite different when it has a human face on it.

A biological process that you can't control, no matter how many books you read or how many websites you google.

The thing is, these things were ALL true before.  I mean, God wasn't stepping in to stop genocide in Darfur.  The slender side of statistical realities were dropkicking innocent people everyday, handing out dead babies and cancer diagnoses with random senselessness.  Biological processes (pregnancy, illness, injury) have been studied but not totally mastered.

I knew all of this before Eliza.  It's just that I used to be one of the lucky ones.
* * *

The real marvel of the human mind is our ability to keep functioning even when everything falls apart. 

There's something in our DNA that convinces us our chances of winning the lottery are worth that dollar (or ten).  That we're more likely to experience a one in a million good thing than a one in two hundred bad thing.  We are relentlessly, ridiculously optimistic.

We turn toward life, my therapist says.

I keep thinking that tomorrow will be better than today.  Things will get easier.  Eventually I'll feel happy again.

I remind myself that I have much for which to be grateful--people have been so kind, Eliza has been memorialized beautiful through good deeds and generous donations, I'm lucky to have David.

And I know all these things are true.

It's just...well.  There were a lot of things I believed were true before.

And I don't want to get duped again.


  1. i understand that feeling. i feel duped myself. everytime everyone looked at Julius and said "he's so healthy." yea, i believed it myself. and though he was healthy, being healthy does not mean that you won't just stop breathing one day while you are napping. being healthy does not mean that you are exempt from leaving this earth and leaving behind 2 broken, broken-hearted parents. i had no clue. and now i'm trying to answer those questions...who do i turn to? what do i believe in? :'(

  2. I don't want to be duped again either. I don't think either of us will be though. We now know that there is no "all clear." Birth and life are miracles, and they are fragile, and things don't always work out how we expect them too.

    I suppose what we need to try and believe in is that we can go on and find happiness no matter what. That life is precious and we need to enjoy and cherish every minute of it. Because things can change in an instant and life doesn't have a rewind button.

  3. I wrote about this, too.

    The words, "I'm expecting" mean just that. You EXPECT what may not come true-- like in our cases.

    The only thing that is clear to me in all of this (despite the ridiculous amount of love and pain I feel for my son) is that nothing is "all clear" in life.

  4. My husbands Grandfather used to say "you don't have your baby, until you have your baby" A simplified way of saying, util you are holding a healthy baby in your arms, anything might happen. I never gave it much thought, he came from a time when pregnancy was SO much riskier... I always knew that there were risks and that complications could occur... but never in a million years thought that it would be me that wouldn't 'have my baby' I long for the blissful ignorance of thinking that pregancy = baby.

  5. This is something I totally struggle with these days. Now that I'm 29 weeks I'm almost sort of hoping something happens soon to make us deliver because I just want this baby born alive more than anything even if it is early. I know the odds of having something *different* go wrong are miniscule but ugh. I alternate between moments of "we're having a baby" to "we'll see how it works out this time". And sometimes I wonder if we are kidding ourselves, setting up a baby room and buying things when we KNOW what can happen. (I kind of think it's almost my way of defying anything to happen, since we didn't have much or much done yet with Olivia. I know that's not how it works and it doesn't matter if the nursery is done or not.) Anyway, I can relate.

    And you never look at statistics the same way again, either.

  6. I just started reading a new book called "Willful Blindness" by Margaret Heffernan. Subtitle: "Why we ignore the obvious at our peril." It talks about Enron, abusive Catholic priests, etc. but also why spouses turn a blind eye to infidelity, etc. I doubt there is anything in there specifically about why people choose to ignore the silently grieving parents in their midst, but I'm sure there is some applicable wisdom in there somewhere... & if there is, I plan to blog about it! ; )

  7. I know for myself, I felt the same way, like how could I be so stupid and naive? I still cringe when I think of all the things I did and said. Now, we know too much.

    Hang in there as best you can and be gentle with yourself. Sending you much love.

  8. A friend was trying to comfort herself by pointing out to me how rare and unlikely my daughter's cord accident was. I pointed out that 100% of my children have been born with fatal injuries. That doesn't seem so rare to me right now.

  9. Brooke, you are getting into my head, I swear. I think about this a lot. Elizabeth McCracken wrote, "I just thought he was a sure thing."
    Yeah. And so did everyone else. I never for one moment (well, after about the 20 week mark) doubted that Lydie would be here with us right now. I asked my doctor why she couldn't warn me that this happens, that this was a possibility. And she said, "we can't make every woman who is having a completely healthy pregnancy with no risks all anxious."