I kind of hate having to rise above

I told a friend about the new pregnancy today. I didn’t mean to, didn’t plan it, but she was asking about my counseling and if it’s helping with anxiety and it just came out. Because now, I’m coping with the loss of Charlie while simultaneously coping with the fear of losing the new baby, so therapy is two-fold now. And she went the so-sure-about-it positivity route, repeatedly, so I had to politely tell her repeatedly that nothing was certain. Then she said she almost wished I’d had more time before getting pregnant again so I didn’t have the stress. Which means I had to point out that no matter when I got pregnant again, I would have been anxious and scared, there was no getting around that.

And then she said that she was glad I had told her but that I probably shouldn’t tell anyone else for awhile; and then reiterated that I had a long time to go before I should tell other people. Which further irritated me. Because as you all (maybe) know, I think people should share the news whenever they want to because it’s their news. Once again, here was another person who I knew didn’t mean any harm. But I still wrapped up our lunch pretty quickly after that because I just couldn’t stay there and continue to circle around and around that conversation again.

It really sucked, for a lot of reasons. But especially because I’ve never felt awkward around her, and this time I did.

A letter

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During my planning period today, while I and the other teachers in my grade level were attempting to set the class lists for next year, a disturbance occurred and one of the teachers rushed out. As we came to know, the curriculum coordinator in our building got the news that her sister, who has been fighting cancer, was being moved to hospice. The teacher who rushed out is good friends with her, and of course went to support her in the immediate aftermath of this news. As far as I know, she left immediately to go see her sister (who lives many states away).

Hospice. Which means that her sister’s fight is over. There is nothing more that can be done, other than to try to make her comfortable. And the family will have to somehow fathom a way to say goodbye with whatever time she has left.

In all honesty, the curriculum coordinator and I aren’t close. We work together when need be but we’re strangers, for the most part. When the baby died, she was one of those beauty-pageant-smile-but-pretend-it-didn’t-happen people who made me want to scream. But she is a fellow human being, and I feel such grief for her, although I know that I can’t truly understand her pain. I have never lost a sibling.

She didn’t reach out to me when the baby died, but I found this afternoon that I wanted to reach out to her. I wanted to write a short letter, but, in writing it, I wanted to avoid the pat, meant-to-be-comforting-but-not-at-all cliches. I know I can’t make it better, and I don’t want to make her pain any worse, but I do want to her know that she matters, and that her sister’s life matters; that those truths are acknowledged. Below is what I came up with:

Dear [You],

I cannot even begin to understand the depth of pain and sorrow you are experiencing, and I know that there is nothing I can say or do to lessen it for you. But I am thinking of you, and your sister, and your family; and I care.

Sincerely, [Me]

I’ll put it in her school mailbox tomorrow, for her to find whenever she returns. I hope it’s okay.

This is how a heart breaks

When you drop a glass or a plate to the ground, it makes a loud crashing sound. When a window shatters, a table leg breaks, or when a picture falls off the wall, it makes a noise. But as for your heart, when that breaks, it’s completely silent. You would think, as it’s so important, it would make the loudest noise in the whole world, or even have some sort of ceremonious sound like the gong of a cymbal or the ringing of a bell. But it’s silent, and you almost wish there was a noise to distract you from the pain. — Cecelia Ahern

When I was younger and heard of or thought about heartbreak, I always assumed it was tied to love. Which it is. But at the time, I thought it was only akin to romantic love. And sure, you get a hefty dose of heartbreak over that, I’ve had my share. But it isn’t the ONLY thing that breaks a heart.

Your heart can break when your alcoholic mother says amazingly hurtful things to you when she’s drunk that she will never remember the next day; but you will.

When your rather stoic father doesn’t show up to something that seems small to him, but was important to you at the time.

When you discover that a friend you’ve had for years is not actually your friend anymore.

When you have to call Child Protective Services at least once a year because one (or more) of your students is being abused.

When you discover just how flawed your beloved grandparents are.

When whatever you were hoping for with all your heart feels like it gets snatched away.

When you realize that your unborn child has died.

When my husband and I later talked about that night in the ultrasound room, when we got the shock of our lives when we saw our dead baby on the ultrasound screen and it was confirmed that there was no heartbeat, he said he slowly realized what had happened, and then he heard my heart break. Doesn’t that seem funny? Because of course when our hearts [metaphorically] break, it is absolutely silent. But in some instances, that silence is the absolute loudest sound in the world.

Carolina on my mind, Pt. 2

I believe that if you love someone (no matter what kind of love), you should let them know. It really is such a lovely thing to hear, and to say. Even if both of you already know it. However, in the case of this friendship, the first time we ever told each other that was at my wedding, which happened about seven years after she and I met. Her family was getting ready to leave the reception, so I hugged them all, told them again how much it meant that they had come, and I told her that I loved her. She responded in a very matter-of-fact tone, “I love you more”. Her succinct tone was very her, but also told me she was trying to keep her feelings in check.

When I got pregnant, and she was the first friend I told, she was over the moon. I had been her daughter’s unofficial Yankee aunt for years, and it both slightly surprised and touched me that she was so clearly smitten with the idea of being the Southern aunt to my child. Not long after I told her, she texted me and asked, “Well, what are we gonna name this kid?” And then promptly commandeered naming rights, deciding on Charlie since it could work for a boy or a girl, and further decided that settled that. Also, very her. I laughed at it, but loved the further indication of how much this kid already meant to her. From then on, when she texted me about the baby, she called it Charlie.

The day I found out the baby had died, she’d been texting fairly regularly throughout. I had been spotting, but had been told that that was completely normal; but naturally I still worried (and as it turned out, for good reason). She was worried too, and knew I had a doctor’s appointment that night. When we got home from that devastating appointment, she was the first one I called, and she knew as soon as she heard my breathing hitch what had happened. She is very grounded in her faith, but she did not tell me it was God’s plan; she said, “Oh honey, I know. You cry. I wish I could be there with you right now.” She offered to come up, asked how long it would take for her to get there if she left right then. I knew if I said yes she would have dropped everything and come. But I just needed my husband right then, so instead she sent me bunches of messages throughout the following days, checking in, checking up, telling me I didn’t have to respond to her but she was sending them anyway, reminding me she loved me. Then she sent packages. One showing the connection between our two states, to remind me of her, she said. One a pendant that read, “I carry you in my heart”. That, she said, is to remember Charlie.

In many of the miscarriage xeroxes they gave us at the hospital before the D&C, there was the idea that naming the baby could help you cope. I wasn’t big on the idea at all. I couldn’t really wrap my head around it. We hadn’t even know if it was a boy or a girl yet. And even though we’d tossed some names around, we hadn’t settled on any. What did they mean we should name it?!

But when she sent me that pendant, and told me it was for Charlie, I had this moment of clarity. Though at the time it had been a joke, she had provided the name we had no idea we would need. Our lost baby, who never really got a shot at life, at least had a name. Somehow, that helped me a bit. I felt overwhelming gratitude to her for ensuring this, for recognizing my baby in this way. In my fog of despair, I still felt thankful for her presence in my life.

Carolina on my mind, Pt. 1

GCNCYears ago, in my early-to-mid-20s, I lived down South (in North Carolina, to be more exact). Though a born and bred “Yankee”, I wanted to stretch my wings after college, be somewhere I could build my own life, so when my brother came home after his summer job one day and mentioned he’d heard NC was hiring teachers “like flies”, I figured it couldn’t hurt to apply! So I did, and I ended up there for awhile. It didn’t take me too long to assimilate, by November my family was making fun of my new accent and by the time I’d been there a year my fellow teachers had all but forgotten I wasn’t from there to begin with (I know, because they told me). My first year there I had an adjoining classroom with another teacher in my grade level, who would become my best friend — I just didn’t know it yet.

It maybe took us a bit to figure each other out, but not too long. Soon enough we just understood the nature of the other person, appreciated it, called it out, and could read each other without a word. I honestly feel like we were (are) kindred. Do you watch Grey’s Anatomy? Familiar with the line between Meredith and Christina about being the other’ s “person”? She became my person.

When hurricane season came and I was asking how to batten down my little rental, she and her husband essentially told me I was just moving in with them for the next few days instead. I was there the day her daughter was born, and was the first person outside of her family that she left her baby girl with when she and her husband had to go do something (can’t remember what anymore). We kept each other sane, and leaned on each other without ever getting emotional about it. We didn’t need to, because we understood. She (and her own little family) became my family.

When I left the South to come back North, it was a decision made rather quickly, and I had a very small window within which to pack up all my things, say my goodbyes, and make it back up before the school year started for my new teaching position. I was able to say goodbye to most of my friends there, but though she promised she would, she never said goodbye. I never saw her between making the decision to go, and actually pulling away in the U-Haul. She played it off lightly, something she tends to do when it carries weight she doesn’t want to tackle, but I knew her. So I knew it wasn’t just bad timing. She just couldn’t bring herself to do it. Goodbye was too hard for her, so she skipped it.

We kept it touch, but not regularly. We didn’t plan it, we just reached out to each other when we needed or wanted to, and distance and time didn’t matter. When I met my now-husband, I knew I wanted — needed — him to meet her. So we went down to visit for a long weekend and stayed with them (and she was ridiculously, sweetly pleased that I wanted to bring a boy “home” to see them). Since then, we’ve made a point to see each other at least once a year, and every time we do it’s like I never left. She was in my wedding, so was her daughter. She was the first friend I told when I found out I was pregnant.