Monday, June 27, 2011

The Facebook

One of the very first things I did when I got home from the hospital after Eliza was to deactivate my account.

The last profile picture I had posted was one of me standing at our front door.  It must have been just before Thanksgiving.  We were getting ready to go shopping and at seven and a half months pregnant, I felt enormous.  And emotional.  My feet had gotten to the point that shoes that fit me at the start of the day were too tight by the end of the day, so I'd bought two pairs of ballet flats a half size up to get me through December and the start of January.  I remember that I was having a bad hair day.  I pulled it back in a ponytail and then I just started crying because my face looked so fat and I couldn't bend over normally to pick up the hairbrush I had dropped and the semester was still going on and I was tired and I just wanted school to be over so I could lounge around my house and wash all of the baby's stuff and organize the nursery.

But if I'm being honest, mostly I was crying because my face looked so fat.

David gave me a big hug (although I think I caught him rolling his eyes).  And he said, "Think of it this way--you could be not pregnant."

That shut me up.  Yes, of course.  This was the baby we wanted so much, the girl we already loved.  What if I wasn't pregnant at all?  What if we weren't able to have a baby?  What if something had happened to her?  Was I really sniveling because we're getting ready to go to Target and I have a double chin?

I put my hands on my belly and felt her squirm around in there, and I said a little prayer of thanks that she was safe in my belly, and I told David to take my picture, double chin and all.

The bundle the stork is carrying says "January."  Eliza's due date was January 15th.
I had announced my pregnancy on fb but kept the pregnancy chatter to a minimum because I was trying to be cool or something and even in my excitement, I knew that not everyone was fascinated by my gestation.  This was one of few pictures I posted during my pregnancy, and the only deliberately posed "belly-pic."  People commented right away:  "You look so cute!!!"  I remember smiling at that because obviously I was not feeling cute at the time, but I ended up feeling so happy that day, shopping with David and planning for the baby.

I couldn't bear for fb to become a forum for condolences.  I had cringed in distaste when a high school teacher had passed away and someone had created a page for him called "R.I.P. Mr. [Name Withheld]."  It was done with the best of intentions, I believe, but it felt inappropriate to me.  FB is the land of jokes and funny stories and "TGIF!!!"  I refused to let people post condolences about my daughter on facebook.

But I also couldn't bear it if they didn't.

I couldn't log on and look at 200-ish people who were supposed to be my "friends" and watch their lives continue, hilarious, mundane, or delightful, while my world came crashing down around me.  I returned home from the hospital empty and numb and in shock, but I knew even then that I had to get out of what a friend of mine has called "happy happy land."  Because if I had to read about how much one person is "lovin' life!" or is "so blessed!" I would scream.  FB was fun and light-hearted and silly.  And those were things I thought I would never be again.

Plus, if I am being really honest here, I sometimes used fb for a kind of bitchy reason.  Like to compare my life to other people's and feel happy and smug about my own choices.  (Am I the only person who used fb for that reason?  Seriously?).  Of course, now, suddenly, I had nothing to be smug about.  I was the most pathetic person I knew, and I couldn't handle all of the pity I imagined was being directed my way.

Facebook wanted to know why I was leaving.  There's a list of reasons you can choose from.  I selected "Other."  But if you select "Other," then they make you explain:  I am suffering debilitating grief following the death of my baby and seeing other people be happy is simply beyond my capacity for survival at this time.

I didn't write that.  I went back and clicked "Privacy Concerns" instead.

* * *
A couple of weeks ago, I decided maybe I was ready to give it another go.  I wanted to keep in touch with some good friends who are moving for new jobs.  And I've met a lot of bereaved parents online whom I know are on facebook.  And I missed some friends from high school that I kept up with only through fb.  I thought I could go back on, purge my friend list (removing everyone who had a small child, posted pictures of small children, liked small children, did not send me a sympathy card/email/text, or simply was not interesting enough for me still to want to voyeuristically spy on), and add some new friends.  But many of my real-life good friends fit at least the first two or three of those categories.  And then there was extended family...  and some sort of random connections...  Should I just hide people instead?  Purging friends was stressing me out.

As I scrolled through posts, it turned out that I hadn't really been missing all that much.  Anything that was important had been communicated to me in some other way and although I'm sure there were some interesting articles linked that I will never read, it seemed a small price to pay for not having to read the gleeful announcements of people who are expecting babies with the kind of certainty that I had when that last picture was taken.

And then I saw that on December 3rd, a friend of mine had posted on my wall.  She was a friend from grad school who has since moved far away, but (through fb) we kept in touch.  She had a baby girl in October, so we'd talked pregnancy/birth plan stuff.  "Next month!" she wrote, "When's the due date?"

I deleted that post.  I couldn't look at that message I never saw and never answered, the day before Eliza's heart stopped beating, the day before she was born, five weeks and four days before her due date.

In short, my heart is still too broken for facebook.  I managed to post something stupid on my brother's page and he posted something stupid back.  A few people posted on my wall that they were glad to see me back, which was nice.  But I just can't do it.

I deactivated my account again this morning.  Because it's too hard, because I'm still too sad and mean, because the people who care about me will find another way to reach out to me, and I'll do the same.  I don't need facebook to keep in touch with my good friends, and I'm too raw and sad and broken to be able to keep in touch with my second degree friends and friendly acquaintances.

* * *
One of the hardest parts about losing Eliza has been returning to our regular lives.  As we were before.  No nursery, no baby, no nap schedule, no changes.  It's still just us and our dogs.  Doing what we want, when we want.  The problem is there is so little I want to do without Eliza.  What does it mean if my baby died and nothing changed?

I think maybe I need to stay off fb because I need something in my life to be demonstrably different.  FB was perhaps only significant in regard to the amount of time I spent on it (doing nothing productive can take a long time!), but it was certainly significant in that way.  I checked it at least once a day, every day.  Probably more like 3 or 4 times a day once I got it on my phone.  Posting, commenting, liking, connecting.  Effortless and easy.  I was part of that network, and I'm just not anymore.

At this point, of course, things are easier than they were.  Life is not simply an exercise in surviving the darkest misery I could imagine.  I now have good days, great moments.  I'm doing pretty well most of the time.  But I am not "better."  This will never be fixed.  Time will make it easier, the future may bring more happiness our way, but you don't rally from the death of a baby.  You're changed forever, in good ways and sad ways.

I need to mark a measurable difference in my life, something that was there before and is there no longer (besides, you know, my optimism and abdominal muscles).  Giving up FB is not really a huge sacrifice now (although it felt that way one year when I gave it up for Lent) but it is a kind of symbolic thing for me, I guess.

Although the old me is still persisting in ways that are both a surprise and relief, I am not exactly the same person I was when I posted that pregnancy picture on facebook, when I shook a Tennessee pom-pom at my best friend's wedding, when I held David's hand and grinned in front of Stonehenge.

I no longer dwell in the world where babies are sure things and life works out the way you planned and how far you ran today merits reporting.  It was nice while it lasted, but I just don't live in Facebookland anymore.

Now I'm figuring out how to live in this world, in this life, how to honor Eliza's life, and come to terms with her death, without being entirely defined by it.  It's a struggle here, exiled from Facebookland, but I'm grateful for the company.


  1. Hey at least you gave it a try. Don't do anything before you're ready.

    I never left FB and actually found it a huge solace after my son died. I live so far from home and the notes of condolence were exactly what I needed at the time. But it's not for everyone and I can understand why you don't want to be there right now.

    Oh, and I used to be a pretty smug FB user too. These days I'm much more humble.

  2. o girl. honestly you aren't missing anything at all. i was just having a convo with another BLM yesterday about how i really want to delete mine. however, i do have a few groups (my SIDS group i started, and a local BLM group, plus FoL) that i am active on. i hardly post on my wall these days unless it is something about my baby boy. and i've hidden almost everyone's posts b/c of exactly what you said - it's too hard to watch everyone's lives go on like normal. it's just too hard. every once in a while i purge "friends." i'm at a point where i feel like most people are just trying to be nosey. they just want to see how the "depressing" girl deals with things. and i'm just done with it. ((hugs)) btw that pic of you and Eliza is beyond precious! <3

  3. I am starting to go on my facebook more and more lately but not like I used to. I hated it after Liam died and not that I was looking for sympathy but I posted a few things on facebook about Liam and what happened and that shut people up real fast on asking how my pregnancy was going.
    It is pretty sickening though when everytime I open facebook there is another person who is announcing there pregnant, complaining about there pregnancy, or just had there baby. GRRR!
    Not a fan of reading any of that so I'd day you are not missing much closing your account.

  4. I am very grateful that Facebook was not around when Katie was stillborn. I only joined about a year ago, and I still find myself wincing over all those sappy copy-&-paste status updates along the lines of "I love being a MOM!"

    My online life to date has been very compartmentalized, mostly focused on loss, infertility & scrapbooking -- & it feels a little weird to have people from all those worlds lumped in together with "real life" friends from high school & university, my relatives, dh's relatives, etc. etc.

  5. I was THAT girl on FB that gushed as well as complained about everything pregnancy and Sloane. I even had a f'ing "help me name the baby" type of post that went on for a while. Wish I could smack the old happy me. Since I'd been SO overly open, I also announced Hayes' death on FB. The condolences were comforting for some time until I realized everyone else was over it--time to get back to posting about randomness. Suddenly, I realized how alone I was and I vamped from happy happy land. Tried 3 times to return. Can't do it. Won't ever be that girl again. I sometimes think I miss it, but I really just miss my life being that happy and perfect. F. Great post

  6. Oy, facebook is such a mixed bag.I never left it but probably should have.Good for you for making the try, but it's okay if you never facebook again,I post pictures there because it's easy, but that's about it. It's hard for me to post about Olivia there because I imagine everyone thinking "sheesh, she's not over that yet?" And if I'm not posting about Olivia, I'm not going to post about I don't really post at all because the other stuff is pretty trivial.

  7. I'm the odd one out here. Loving FB, but for different reasons than I used to love it. It used to be a mindless pleasure. After my son died, when a family member asked if we wanted to post something on FB announcing it, I was immediately disgusted by the idea. I had my sister go into mine and my husband's accounts and make them so NOBODY could post ANYTHING on our walls. So that was really nice for a bit. Then I realized that posting about our loss on FB would be the most practical way to "get it out there" - sad but true. Whatever made things easier at that point was great with me, and if I could post something on FB and avoid a few extra phone calls whereby I had to explain my son didn't make it, then fine. I found the comments comforting, surprisingly.

    For months I stayed away, only logging in to look back at the comments.
    Like you, the mindless chatter I saw made me want to vomit. It made me depressed to think I would never be happy again to post light-hearted stupid stuff.
    Slowly but surely I have returned, and I just "hide" anyone who pisses me off. I also have a folder devoted to my son and it includes photos of gifts given to me to honor his memory. Basically, I fight back against the superficiality by posting to spread awarness and letting others know that they have moved on but I will always have a son, even if he was stillborn. I'm sure people hide me for this, and I couldn't care less - the people who remove me or hide me are the people I don't want to talk to anyway.
    I also use FB to honor my other friends' babies gone too soon. If it weren't for FB I would never have known that a girl I used to work with lost her baby fullterm to placental abruption. We are now good friends and attend support groups together, not to mention we have a forum going on FB for infant and pregnancy loss which for me has been very healing to be involved in.
    Sorry for the long-ass novel of a post and for ending the sentence before this one with a preposition (some English teacher I am!).

  8. I looked for you once. Because I feel like my FB account needs to reflect my real life and that is to have way more blm friends than normal ones. It almost works, but I too rarely log on unless I am feeling particularly masochistic at the moment. I used to use it as a way of sharing my feelings when I felt people had forgotten, but then my posts would go without so much as a like or a comment and at that point I realized I was over it. I started my blog and never looked back. I now use it for the sole purpose of connecting with support groups and other loss moms. Occasionally when something is really good ie an article about losing a child or what not to say to someone, I will post it. And what do you know? They still go unnoticed by all the normal people. There are only so many slaps in the face that I can take.

  9. @ Missy - I know it must feel like that (like a slap in the face, I mean) but I think that people just don't know how to respond to grief in that kind of forum. I know that *I* wouldn't have been able to comment on a sad post by someone. I wouldn't have known what to say and I would have felt totally self-conscious about responding. To me, a post with any kind of depth or real feeling just felt awkward or out of place, like facebook wasn't the appropriate forum for grief or self-reflection. It was intended to talk about being hungover or what kind of cereal you were eating or let everybody name your baby (Molly!) or ask who had a copy of Buffy Season 2 you could borrow (FB saved my life that day). You know, scintillating conversation. Of course everyone has a right to use facebook as they wish, but before Eliza, I was always really uncomfortable by comments that moved beyond the kind of "cocktail party chatter" that seemed to make up the world of FB. And since I have completely lost the capacity for cocktail party chatter at this point, there seemed no point in trying to participate. I can't follow the rules of being witty yet inane, so I quit. Now I just blog. Inanely. And then I comment on my own blog, having no idea whether anyone will even see this.

  10. I love that photo and that shirt- too cute.

    I posted the announcement of my pregnancy when I was 29 weeks pregnant, ultrasound photo et all. I wanted to wait until I was "safe" <- ha. That's me laughing at stupid Laura.

    I argued with my family against posting of his birth until I could do it myself. I did it when he was 2 days old (which seemed like an eternity), and then photos of him on say 4.

    When he was gone, I posted about that too, and locked my facebook page from comments. People could still send me messages (and many did), but they had to try a lot more than just pressing send.

    To this day I have not unlocked my page. I've thought about it a million times, but can't bring myself to do it. What if I get a ton of lame-o comments, or even worse, what if there are none at all?

    It doesn't seem like a land where I "belong". I agree with what Tiffany wrote above, about people wanting to see what's going on with the sad girl, you know?


  11. Me and the face had a big break-up when Cullen died. I changed so much as a person and I know that the day will likely never come for me to go back on there. I keep my page active only for those who may need to connect in the BLM world.. and if they do contact me I reply by email, never on the face. My friends all know of my aversion to the face thanks to my post awhile back in which I basically gave the face the finger.
    I have to say that in the months since September 2010 it has felt immensely good not to partake in what I see as a world that is eclipsed from reality. For me the face was never about real-life, but more so it was what people wanted others to think about the life they wish they lived (yes I was 'friends' with some pretty shallow people back then).
    All of the people for whom I care most know how to find me.. and I went so far as to put a little memo on the face that simply reads:
    "A mommy of four- three who hold my hand and one who holds my heart.
    I do not come on facebook much at all, but I keep my page open for getting in touch. The best way to reach me is by email... many thanks"
    It was a good break-up. ;o)

  12. PS.. like you Brooke blogging has become my life! I replaced one time eater with another.. and I can say that this world, the one in where life is truly 'real' I could not be more appreciative of the people who surround me.

  13. Really truly could have written this myself. I think deleting my account was the FIRST thing I did. We both deleted our accounts when we came home from hospital after finding out there was no heartbeat, me still carrying her dead body in mine. (I delivered her the next morning). A few knew I'd been in labour, most knew I was overdue (because lets face it, I had been complaining about it) so like you I just couldn't bear to face any of it. I didn't want a single condolence message to come through on my page.
    I stayed off for 18 months. I tried like you did to get back on a couple of times, but always fell on my ass. I got pregnant again and there was no way I could be back on then. It was only once Angus was a few months old that I felt like I was strong enough. Half of my friend list got the chop. I didn't care if I upset or offended people - the likely reason they got the chop was because they'd upset or offended me and I added a great many loss mamas I met along the way. Most days I still want to put my fist through my laptop, but it is somewhat bearable being back in that happy happy land again.
    Don't rush yourself. Or don't come back at all. Totally up to you. But if you do, feel free to look me up.

  14. When my baby boy was 3 days old, and we knew he was going to die, I posted photos of him on FB through my phone. Right after the photos I posted a comment that read something along the lines that we are so happy to welcome our baby to this world, but that he will not make it. And of course that comment didn't get posted. My stupid phone posted the photos, but not the comment. And my brother said to me, minutes after he died that I shouldn't have posted the pictures. I said that it was OK, not realising that the comment never made it through. And then the congratulations started pouring in. People I had not seen in years congratulated me. That went on for a day or two. Who can keep track when you lose your baby...Finally I said enough. I had to write a post where I explained my baby had died.
    And you know... It was so good to be in hat world where you are congratulated.But it was all fake. I was not worthy of praise.
    Finally I said the truth. And some replied with nice private messages. Others didn't write anything at all.
    The Facebook is just a shallow place where people share mundane things. It is not important to me at all. I've thought so many times that I should just delete it. It's so trivial. But I haven't yet. Because...Well...It is not important. I don't post there anymore. Sometimes I'll write on someone's wall. But mostly I steer clear. Unless I want to torture myself with other people's baby photos.
    But mostly, I just don't care about it enough to delete it.

  15. FB is a weird world, where grief and sadness don't really fit somehow - unless your dog dies - people show you empathy then but your baby - not so much. It's hard to also watch everyone's lives return to normal so quickly when you are gutted.

    Time has helped. I now have a FB account and the silliness doesn't bother me so much anymore. But new pregnancy announcements at 4 weeks still make me cringe. Also, some former friends updates who I haven't culled, nor confronted over their lack of acknowledgement of Sam's death still make me angry. I should really just de-friend them.

  16. I want to add to my comment (as if it wasn't long enough already) that I don't ONLY see FB as a place to connect with other BLMs, although that is my main thing with it (I have met some of my now BEST friends through FB, and I have no shame in that). I have also been using it to sort of assert that I do have an identity outside of my loss. That it isn't ALL of me. That I can have okay days where I want to upload a photo of that amazing filet mignon with gorgonzola cheese that I ate at the winery the other night. That I have many sides to my identity and can enjoy impromptu lunch dates made via FB when I'm feeling spontaneous or need to get out of the house. I've had many non-loss people say that I've inspired them somehow, and some of my non-loss friends and I have become closer due to their response to my son's remembrance folder. I appreciate these things now more than ever after reading all of your comments and am sorry I am the odd one out with feeling it is a place where I've received additional unexpected support.

  17. I let everyone know I was expecting by posting my baby shower pics at 7 months. Within a few days my baby was born and then in next few days, he had died. When I came back I saw many congratulatory messages following my baby shower pix.

    I disabled the account such that nobody could post on my wall.

    I cannot go back to FB and see all the other new babies there, so am keeping away from it. Don't know if I will ever go back there again.

  18. I love everything about this post. thanks for your words.