Monthly Archives: February 2020

Failure

I went to the State Fair for the first time in summer of 2009. The day was the kind of warm where your clothing stuck to your skin wherever the two met, made enjoyable only by the sights and sounds of every possible food you could imagine being deep fried. An energy drink had been my only real sustenance of the day, and normally that would have been fine, but on this particular day I passed out in the goat barn. It caused quite the spectacle. Bell ambulance showed up in a golf car and took my vitals, gave me and Capri Sun, and told me to take it easy the rest of the day. We went to one of the dining tents after and I devoured a grilled cheese, perplexed as to why I was suddenly so hungry. Writing it off as a side effect of my caffeine addiction, I never even told the husband.

But a little whisper told me that passing out could mean something else. So a couple weeks later I went to Walmart and bought a two pack of pregnancy tests. Both were positive. I put them back in their wrappers and buried them in the Litter Genie under all the gross cat poop and went to go buy more tests. Two more boxes, to be precise. And I took test after test after test because I simply couldn’t believe I was actually pregnant. As I waited for them to reveal what I already knew, I wondered how to tell him. the husband. What to say.

I went down the hall from the bathroom to his office with a test in my pocket. Coming up behind him, I put my hands over his eyes. “Hi.”

“Hey.” He spun his chair around to face me. “What’s up?”

I took the test out of my pocket and passed it to him. He looked from me to the stick and back again before passing it back. “No.”

I shook my head and leaned against the doorframe, slapping the test against my palms uncertainly as I pondered how to respond. “Yes,” was what I finally settled on.

“I don’t…” The husband’s gaze went almost longingly to his computer before looking at me again. “Our marriage isn’t that great, and I don’t really think this will fix that.”

“You don’t want this.” It wasn’t a question.

“Do you?

I was scared to let him know how much I did, scared to tell him it was baby, not a thing. I knew then that while I might be ready for a child, we weren’t ready. He would never be ready.

The first person I told, after the husband, was the person I’d gone to State Fair with. I called her from the line at the post office while I waited to send off a payment for a speeding ticket. She laughed and said she already had a good idea; we referenced the fair incident. By week thirteen, it seemed fairly safe to tell other people too.  I kept working, adjusted to life as an expectant mother, and moved forward with life. It was conveniently the week I was scheduled for my “getting to know you” interview with the church choir. I used that interview to my advantage and told everyone; I was finally starting to get excited.

The husband just…didn’t seem as into the idea as I was. When I started looking through registries on various sites, figuring out all the different baby things we would need, he never helped. I registered for the things I thought we had the best chance of receiving, in a wide enough price range for our friends and family to pick and choose. I created a bookmarks folder on my laptop labelled “BABY STUFF!!!” and dumped all the awesome baby items I spotted into it. But every time I tried to show the husband, he didn’t look. There was always something else to take his attention, something with work or with a band or really, anything else. Everything out there in the universe took precedence over our family. Over me.

By the time I got home most nights, I was too tired after an entire day of work to do anything else. There was an expected chores list as prescribed by the husband: dishes, cooking, cleaning, vacuuming, anything pet related, and anything else he didn’t want to do. Things that didn’t get done: dishes, cleaning, and vacuuming. The cats were my first children, so I took care of them. I cooked because was hungry, but I frequently complained in my head–not out loud, I didn’t dare–that he should cook for me once in a while. When the chores didn’t get done, the husband would make feel so inadequate I’d cry.

I once chucked a pillow at him and called him an asshole. I was, after all, growing a tiny human inside my body. We fought all the time. He’d accuse me of failing at housework; I’d remind him of my 45 to 50 hour work weeks and my need to sit down.

“Do you want to quit your job then? Is that what you’re saying?” He leaned on our breakfast bar and stared me down.

“I didn’t say that. I just said that I’m tired and need a little rest…”

“I do everything around here,” he insisted, “I pay the bills.”

That was literally all he did. He didn’t have a real job. was the breadwinner. I also held our medical insurance policy. He was wrong, and he didn’t understand me at all.

I had one job. To grow that baby, to take care of it. And whenever the husband and I would fight, I’d stress that. So when the baby died, I dreaded making that phone call almost more than I grieved what I had lost. I didn’t want to tell him I had failed.

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Knowing

Your last meal was cream cheese stuffed jalapeño poppers. The disgusting greasy ones from Pizza Hut. We had a Pizza Hut problem, you and I. I ate them sitting at my desk in the office at Factory Card and Party Outlet, an old chain soon to be purchased by Party City, in my spinning black desk chair in front of the computer. It was my lunch break, sure, but there was never really break there. Not at that store. Not under that budget. I was always moving, working, managing something.

It was to be my last day. Two weeks before, my boss had informed me I was one month shy of qualifying for the Family Medical Leave Act. I was pregnant and obviously would be taking time off when you came. But because I hadn’t been with the company a year, they would not hold my job open for me if I was out longer than four weeks, and with three weeks to go until my due date, my doctor was pulling me from my labor intensive merchandising work. With nothing to lose, I put my feet up on the desk and consumed every last one of the poppers. With apple juice. You liked apple juice. It always made you move. You didn’t move that day. And I didn’t think it was weird, in the moment, I just thought you were getting bigger and had less space in my belly to swim around.

Looking back now, I realize my mistake. I wish I’d said something then, made calls, done something over waiting for my OB appointment three hours later. If I’d said something then, would that moment where your heartbeat never appeared in the monitor have happened? Would my heart have broken right along with yours, never to be repaired?Would I have had to call the husband and tell him you were gone, that we didn’t know why? I’ll never know. I’ll never know what happened to you. I’ve never learned to be okay with that.

Four weeks later, I went back to work. I didn’t want to. I wanted to curl up on the couch in blankets and picture you in my arm, the heft of your four pounds, the silk of your wispy blonde hair, the not quite stiffness of your fingers when I wrapped them around my thumb. But I went back to work because I needed that job, that insurance, that purpose, in a world that existed without you. And someone came in and asked how you were and I lost it. Locked myself in the bathroom and cried on a floor multiple customers had urinated over in a little ball because I didn’t know how to tell the world that you were dead. I didn’t know how to tell myself you were dead. Ten years later, I still don’t always know. And I wish I could pretend that you were still here, but we’re past that now, you and I.

One minute I was pregnant, the next I wasn’t. One minute you were here, the next you weren’t. And no one ever knew you but me.

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Your Body

Your body is a temple.

It’s one of the first tenets of eating disorder treatment. Your body is a god damn motherfucking temple. You need to treat it well; you need to feed it so it can function to its fullest potential. You need to take care of it. Your body does not take care of you. Why would you take care of your body? You betrayed your body.

Your body betrayed you.

There’s no connection, between you and your body. Why would there be? It does not belong to you. It never did. It was never yours. It is a thing that gets you from point a to point b and back again, a thing that allows you to work, to exist. But it’s not yours. Your body is everywhere and anywhere and some days you hate it so much that you can’t sit with it, you can’t be comfortable in it. You run and you run, day in, day out, but you cannot shed it. You cannot have a new body. You can’t have a body that belongs to you. This body is not yours. It is not yours.

Whose is it, exactly? 

Your body belongs to the men who took you. You could never control that, them, it. You could never control anything. They still have your body. You’re a ghost; you’re a shell; you exist; you do not really exist. You are a soul without a home.

Your body is a placeholder.

You can’t get out of yourself. You can’t move. You are stuck here. Your body is not yours; it’s disgusting, the idea of so many others inside it. You were weak; your body was is weak. You are your body; you aren’t your body. You cannot make it yours when what was yours is forever altered. Destroyed. Dirty. You are dirty. And you can’t run away because you’re trapped inside this body that is not yours, that will never be yours. You scrub and you can’t get it off. You’re doing okay, but then you’re not. You will always go back. You cannot get rid of it, this body, this disgusting body. 

Your body will never be clean.

You close your body off to a world that doesn’t want it. You shut it down, slowly, line by line, item by item, piece by piece. You can’t swallow; you can’t breathe. You can’t take care of a temple that belongs to someone else. You could burn this all down and not look back. Your body is a map that you can’t change, with too many stories to tell. Stories of other people. Stories that hurt, that fester, that creep up on you when you don’t expect it. Your heart is vacant. You cannot rebuild it. You can give it to other people, but not yourself. 

All your body tried to do was exist.

Your body is you. You are your body; you’re not your body because it will never be yours. You don’t want to be your body, not this body, not this. You stomp it down and you play at existence, and when you’re hurting you push it away and you wish that it would implode. You cannot pretend it doesn’t hurt anymore. You cannot meet everybody’s expectations. You cannot be the person that they want you to be, that they need you to be, when your body is not yours, not really, not ever. 

Your body is ravaged.

You can label, body part by body part, the places that were touched, changed. Destroyed. You can give some a name, others you can’t. You can list all of the ways your body failed you because it’s easier than talking about how you failed your body. It wasn’t you that let this happen. It was your body. You need something to hate. It can’t be you. It has to be the body. It has to be. This hurts too much to think about. You want to hold on, to be better, to not have this body, not this one, give you something different, something else, anything else. You want to be better. You want to understand, but you don’t know how. You want to grab the life ring, but you don’t know how. You can’t control your body anymore than you can control what happened to it, because you don’t know how. You don’t know the why of everything, the reason, and you need that. You need that to understand your body. You want to understand your body, but you also don’t. 

Your body is a horror show on display for everyone to see.

You want someone to tell you that it’s okay. That it wasn’t your fault. To keep telling you, reminding you, every day, because you forget, a lot, because you have to live in this body that carries the weight of every single one of those faults. You are constantly reminded of everything you your body did. You need all of this to go away. Your honesty is all you have. The devastation that you will never fit the normal bounds of living or have a body not exploited, a body not stained with the traces of every hand that ever touched it that wasn’t yours. You do not stain your own body. No, no. You do not touch it. You. Do. Not. Touch. It. If you leave it, maybe, the stain will fade. 

No more dirt. No more map. No more stains.

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The Problem with After

What they don’t tell you about after is how hard it will be to wade through, to go on as if nothing has happened to you. They don’t tell you how the strangest, most random, things will remind you–riding the subway across from a woman with a baby in a sling; waiting in line for tacos while the couple in front of you coos at the stroller in between them; the onslaught of babies on social media that fill you with both love and jealousy; another birthday in another year where none of your life is the adult life you thought it would be. 

What they did tell you after: you can have another baby, for sure. When you’re ready. But they don’t tell you that your marriage will die (as well it should have) and there won’t be anyone else banging down the door to start that family, no one that wants to do that with you. (Not that he ever wanted to. Or ever loved you.) Not you. They won’t tell you that you’ll start to think there’s something wrong with you because it’s been ten years and you never did have that rainbow baby.

You’re going to be 36 this year. 36 years old and single, with no feasible way anytime soon to have a family. You’re lucky to pay your rent. You want to go on vacation but you can’t afford it. Your therapist tells you there are other ways to have a baby but you know you can’t afford those either, and you aren’t at a place in life where you responsibly should try. And you don’t want a relationship. They don’t tell you that either. You don’t want a relationship after your gigantic shit show of a marriage exploded in your face because you’re pretty sure you’ll never trust anyone that way again. And you don’t see the point. Beyond having that kid, is there even a point?

They don’t tell you that you’ll start to forget him. What he looked like, smelled like, felt like. You don’t remember how big he was. You do remember that he was warm. You look at pictures, at this baby with his little hat in black and white, and you try to remember if he had hair, if you even saw him without that hat, but you can’t. You remember the nurse telling you they took him to a fridge, not in the morgue with the other dead, a regular fridge, because he was too small. They don’t tell you you’ll think about that randomly whenever you open your own fridge. You’ll wonder if he was cold. If he knew what was happening as he died. Because he was old enough to live outside you. You wonder why he didn’t do that.

They don’t tell you that you will like your life, being free to make decisions for just yourself and go to movies and shows and out to eat and have a job that takes you all over the city. They don’t tell you that you sometimes won’t mind the fact that you don’t have to think about anybody but yourself. They don’t tell you that you’ll feel bad about that.

But you do want a kid. Every February that you’re a little bit older, you want that a little bit more. They tell you that feeling will fade. They are wrong.

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