Snarling noises off

I am, sorry, but I am, in a fucking foul mood at the moment. I need not to be, as it is H’s birthday on Monday, and his parents are coming to stay for a couple of days, and I took time off work to (don’t tell H) (H, don’t read this bit) go shopping for him, which was niiiiiiice, and I’ve been to a couple of quite seriously good concerts and a dinner out, in the company of lovely people, and you’d’ve thought I’d be quite chirpy now.

I even got a really good mark for my Creative Writing assignment, which startled me (I thought it was pants), and which made H point and laugh, because, really, he always cheerleads me on, telling me I’m marvellous, and I always spend the entire essay/dissertation/story/poem/shopping list vapouring about my extreme rubbishness, and tah-dah! It was fine (again) and I was being silly (again) and H gets to point and laugh and so he should. Not that it’s a habit I can shake (You do know, don’t you, that you’re not really enjoying my blog at all, and it bores and irritates you in equal measure? That you’re not laughing at any of the jokes, in fact, you hadn’t realised there were jokes, and any minute now the clouds of delusion will lift and you will all realise this and briskly delete me from your feeds, turning to each other in embarrassment and saying you can’t believe I conned you all into sticking around for so long. Right? Anyone?).

Back on Planet Bitter McTwisted, Infertility Edition, I was jolted into rather an overshare at work on Thursday. Up until that point, all my colleagues were being rather sweet and discreet about my massive three-week absence. Probably gossiping like meerkats in my absence, but still, splendid lack of awkwardness. Until Thursday. Tech Guy (who is a sweetheart, really) came wandering in, and did the whole ‘hey, May, lovely to have you back! How are you! Better? Excellent!’ thing, which was gratefully received. Alas, on receiving this unwitting encouragement, he launched into a really quite intense ‘So! What happened to you then? We were all quite worried! Three weeks is a long time off sick, you know,’ (yes, I do know, thank you). ‘Was it swine flu? No? Normal flu? Not flu at all? It sounds serious! Tell me about it!’ (I wish I was shitting you, but I’m not) ‘Ohh, an accident, you say? What sort of accident? Did you have to go to hospital? Oh, you did? Why? Blood loss? You lost a lot of blood, you say? Ohh, dear. How did you…’ And at this point, thank arsing fuck, someone else popped their head round the door and said something had gone horribly wrong with the printer, and Tech Guy assured me he’d catch up with me later before sprinting off (shit).

My colleague S, who sits at the next desk, had been getting an unavoidable earful of this, and could see that I was flustered. She asked if I was OK. I nodded. She (quietly, not at the top of her healthy young lungs, colleagues take note), then told me she hadn’t asked me many questions because she didn’t think it was really her business, but she did want me to know that she did care and had been worried too. Never be kind to a flustered person. I sort of blurt-whispered ‘It’s just that, you know, I had a miscarriage, and it’s not that I mind people knowing, but I find it really hard to talk about it, especially in front of the whole office.’ And S said instantly that she was so, so sorry. And, did I have to go to hospital like I said. I said yes, that bit was perfectly true, as was the blood loss bit, and she looked quite miserable for me. And she asked how H was doing, which in my book earns her a Small Gold Star Certificate for Having Empathy And Intelligence.

Anyway. After a few minutes, people started coming back into the office, so we both coughed and stared casually out of the window or back at our computer screens and probably looked exactly like teenagers caught passing notes in assembly.

It’s true, though. I don’t mind people knowing one little bit. I just don’t want to be the one doing the telling. I most certainly don’t want to be the one answering questions or explaining next steps or trying to enlighten the unenlightened as to karyotyping or factor V Leiden, and also why, under the circumstances, it’s quite important that I absolutely don’t relax and go on vayyyycayyyyytion. Relaxing and vacationing might just work (hey, they sort of did in Switzerland, as I conceived about a week after we got back) and that’d be a great blog fodder anecdote. Hello! I nearly bled to death in a bus station in the Algarve! Also, I don’t speak Spanish!

My, I’m all unicorn ballet and rainbows today.

Anyway, part of the glumness is because on Sunday H and his dad are going out to do Manly Father-Son Bonding and I will be doing Girly Night In with my MiL. Now, she tried quite desperately to talk to me ‘about it all’ when I lost Pikaia, and I equally as desperately DID NOT WANT and became very good at changing the subject and/or if necessary volunteering to do the washing up. It was easy, because the rest of the family were milling about on most visits and MiL was clearly not prepared to broach things in front of *gasp* men. Not even my FiL or my husband. (I, personally, find protecting the Squeamish Sex from the realities of the massive and sometimes horrible sacrifices women make to keep the human race going, offensive both to their intelligence and our experience, but still…). A whole evening in, just the two of us, and a fresh new disaster to discuss? Oy vey.

I absolutely know in my heart her motives are the best and most pure. She is sad and sorry and wants to sympathise. She had a miscarriage herself, between H and his brother. It’s not like she’s going to say or think anything too clueless and irritate me that way. And this is her family, continuance of. And she has wanted to be a grandmother since H and I moved in together last century, and she has had the decency to more or less shut up about it. On points, she wins a total victory over my own female relations, who never shut up about anything at all ever.

But. But but but. You knew there was at least one but, didn’t you? The but is, as I said, that I just do not want to talk about it with people who need things explaining to them. And the other but is, MiL is a sort of emotional sponge. We all know people like this, don’t we? Unlike emotional vampires, who suck you dry, or emotional shit-stirrers, who like creating high drama for their own warped amusement, emotional sponges can’t hear a tale of woe without it becoming their tale of woe. They feel everything so intensely, they can’t separate out their own distress from the distress of the person concerned. MiL is prone to anxiety and sadness anyway, and is always taking the weight of the world on her shoulders, even about situations which she can’t possibly have any real responsibility for or interest in. My case is definitely meaningful for her and close to her heart. I feel awful because I know she already feels awful. I feel awful because she gets upset about the very idea of hospital visits and tests (I can’t cope with that. As far as I’m concerned, the up-coming visits and tests and hopefully answers are the only thing keeping me from booking a hysterectomy). I feel awful because it awakes bad memories for her. I feel awful because I’m part of a series of shitty things that have happened to H’s side of the family these past few years, and I feel I am adding to her burdens (regardless of whether it’s sensible of her to take on these emotional burdens or not, she does, and I’m hardly going to be able to magically change that for her with three well-chosen pieces of assvice).

And I feel awful because she has tried to say ‘I know how you feel’. And I can’t really sit there and say: ‘no, you don’t. You had a kid. You had one miscarriage. You had another kid. As for the grandkids thing, H has a brother, I’m not your only freakin’ chance. What you felt/ feel is in no way ‘less’ or ‘better’ than how I feel, but it is different. Because you never, not for a minute in your entire life, had to sit and face the possibility of never becoming a mother. And I have been doing that for the past four years. You probably had a far more realistic view of parenthood and what, exactly, you had lost when you miscarried H’s little sibling. You knew that loss, that grief, in a way I never could. I wouldn’t dream of telling a woman who had living children but lost the next pregnancy that I knew how she felt. I don’t. My beautifully idealised picture of my children is just that, an idealised picture. The weight that reality, practical understanding, can give to grief, I don’t feel. But similarly, a woman with at least one living child before her first loss cannot feel the bitter hopelessness of nothing but losses. She may understand, or empathise, but she cannot feel it.’

But I can’t say that. It’s not kind. And my MiL deserves kindness as much as I do.

Here’s to courage, and a stiff upper lip, and to iron bands around the heart. One day I’ll be able to take them off and go into hysterics. But, please, not this weekend.

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12 responses to “Snarling noises off

  • QoB

    What an emotional minefield to be contemplating. I generally run from emotional conversations like a rat from a sinking ship.

    It is your choice, of course, but maybe it’s worth reminding yourself that her emotions are her responsibility. What happened – is happening – to you is not your fault, and you can’t take on the responsibility of how she feels about it too. If you end up having an in-depth conversation about it with her, you are entitled to say “I want to have the tests done, I want answers, I don’t feel it’s exactly the same situation as yours was, but thank you for caring so much about us”.

    Or get H to run defence beforehand:)

    Best of luck.

  • twangy

    I am really sorry for this extra social/family stress you are under. I do indeed know a few of those sponges. You can even end up comforting them, while they drain you (further) which is always fun.
    Bleah.

    And I’m with H, you are a compelling, hilarious, lucid writer and your blog should be recommended reading for anyone who works in the field. In fact, everyone should read it, they’d be the better for it.

  • Betty M

    I’m a coward and would be suggesting a trip to the movies and pizza to avoid the whole potentially grisly thing or at least leave THE conversation to the minimum duration possible. Sorry for the addition of further layers of stress both at work and with the i-ls

  • a

    As I am uncomfortable talking about emotional issues with anyone, I understand your reluctance to spend some time with your MIL. The only thing I can suggest is being straightforward about not being willing to discuss anything emotional at this point in time. Tell her you’re tired of being sad and you’d just like to not think of it for a while – then see if she wants to watch a movie or play some cards or something.

    Sorry about the awkwardness at work, but your colleague does seem to deserve the empathy award!

  • Womb for improvement

    I wish I could insert some sage advice here that would tell you exactly how to deal with work colleagues and mother in laws. But I’ve got nothing. I can however assure you that you write brilliantly, even when in the foulest of moods.

  • Solnushka

    *Joins H in pointing and laughing* I think anything you write would be the very last thing I’d delete, burn or otherwise remove from any of my written medium collections.

    Hugs for the endurance trial. All the endurance trials.

  • thalia

    that’s the thing. No one can ever know how you feel, no matter how similar the experiences there is always some difference, some change to how they experience it compared to you. But it’s a natural human instinct to empathise, to reach out and offer an emotion, to see if it fits. Very very hard to get it right and so easy to get it wrong.

  • katie

    “I don’t mind people knowing one little bit. I just don’t want to be the one doing the telling.”

    And that is exactly how I feel. And I also don’t want to have to feel like I need to sugar the pill in case someone else finds it hard to cope with MY dreadful circumstances.

  • Secret D

    Sounds like good reason to be in a foul mood.

  • jodie38

    You’re completely entitled to your foul mood. You’ve earned it. It’s hard to share what you’ve been through. Doesn’t matter how well-meaning the people are, it’s extremely difficult. I remember when people were nice to me it made me feel even worse. The grief is just a bottomless pit for a while. Talking about it brings it all right back up again, and you’re not ready for all that yet. In my opinion, your MIL’s mental well-being is hers to maintain, not yours. You need to look after yourself first, nothing to feel guilty about. I remember my father once telling me that you can’t expect more out of people than they can give. But even if they can’t escape their wiring, it doesn’t mean they don’t care. You just can’t count on them to be very helpful in certain circumstances. And you learn who to trust with your pain and who not to go near. Sounds like you have a lovely office mate there, btw…

    And I love reading your blog! No matter what anyone else says (even you)… 🙂

    Hang in there, Miss May.

  • Mary

    May you are very wise and articulate. I read and re-read and sense hope in your words. You and H will be brilliant parents. I loved the quoted bit near the end. You are a hell of a writer and just damn smart. I always stop whatever I’m doing to read your posts. Best to you. xx

  • B.Mare

    I’m sorry you are having a crappy time but is it terribly selfish of me that I am enjoying reading what you have to say about it all? The writing, it is sooo good. And “unicorn ballet”. Bwhahahahah.

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