Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jealousy

I have to start this post with a foreword (I guess this comes with the territory of writing a blog that people actually read). When my mama- and daddy-friends read this, I just want you to know that I love you, I love being with you, I love your children, and nothing that you have ever done has caused me any pain, so please, please, please don’t feel bad when you read this. Please. The pain is just there, whether we like it or not, and this is where I process it. It just is what it is, no matter what we do or say about it.

Here’s the thing. I knew from early on that being around my friends’ kids who are near Hudson’s age would be hard. At the hospital on the day Hudson died, I remember saying to Ed that I did not know how we could possibly go on seeing our dear friends and watching their children grow up when Hudson never would. Watching their kids graduate to toddler beds, potty train, learn to talk in sentences, learn to ride bikes, learn to swim, play at the beach, pick berries, have fun with their friends. I knew all of these things would be hard—every moment would be loaded with thoughts of what Hudson would be like doing those things. This is why my love affair with Facebook has become a love-hate relationship.

But I also knew that at some point, I would have to deal with it. We are just at that age where the vast majority of our friends have children, and the vast majority of their children were born within a year or so of Hudson. At the very beginning, I tried it on for size, snuggling with all the babies at the memorial services and at our house when their parents visited. I think I thought I was OK, but I know that part of me was just trying. Really hard. Then, about three weeks after Hudson died, we all went out to celebrate our dear friend Renee’s birthday at our local joint where we usually did our moms’ happy hour. Everyone came—moms, dads, and babies. I was OK at the beginning, but as the evening wore on, I began to feel like I was floating outside myself—I could hear myself talking and interacting, but I was totally detached from the scene. By the time the evening was over, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to be around those kiddos for a long time. I was broken.

But I had anticipated that.  What I never anticipated, or even considered (again, how these things elude me until they happen is just beyond me) is the incredible envy I would feel of my closest friends. Today, I had lunch at a dear friend’s house. This friend is a mommy-champ, truly one of my mom heroes—her daughter was born six months before Hudson, so our pregnancies overlapped for a few fun months, and I often looked to her for advice about how to handle everything from sleep to feeding solid foods. We’ve had lunch at her house on many, many occasions in the past, both before and after Hudson died. Since Hudson died, my friend has tried hard to make sure her sweet daughter is down for her nap by the time I get there. But her little one is recently potty-trained and has been fighting her nap, so when I arrived today, my friend was still working to get her off the potty and into bed, and later, when she woke up early and still tired, my friend did all the right things, soothing and comforting a still slightly grumpy little girl.

Watching them together, I certainly felt, as I always do, sorrow for all the things that Hudson will never get to do. But for the first time, I recognized the terrible jealousy I feel of my friends themselves when watching them parent their kids or hearing about their interactions with their kids. I miss mothering Hudson almost as much as I miss Hudson herself. As I just wrote recently, being unable to mother her has stripped me of the most central part of myself. As it turns out, seeing and hearing about my friends in action with their kids is as hard or harder than seeing the kids themselves. And frankly, it just sucks to feel jealous of your best friends, especially when you love them so much and when they are working so hard to love and support you, and doing a damn fine job of it, too. 

The layers of loss just keep appearing. And I have to just keep peeling them back and exposing the raw skin underneath. It hurts. Bad.

14 comments:

  1. Mandy,
    The more you write, and the more I read, the more in awe I become. You have taken so much of what is often hidden and put it out here, where we can all embrace it, feel the rawness of it, and get to our own moments of "you know, that's really how I feel too."

    As one of those daddy friends, I do have one request - stop apologizing for what you feel. Stop worrying that we'll take it in the "wrong" way. Stop holding yourself to a standard that few of us will ever reach. Just, please, be. We'll handle the rest.

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  2. It is so funny to me that we live in a world where feminism has meant to be almost equal with men, forsaking many of the treasures of what it means to be woman. Mothering is one of those things. It is wonderful and a wonderful thing.

    When I was confirmed at 16, I took the name "Ann" as the patron saint of mothers. I knew it was something I wanted to do and become so deeply. It took me more than 10 years to become one, but in the meantime, I mothered. I worked at a preschool, volunteered overseas in an orphanage, worked with youth in so many ways, wanting to mother them in my own little way while I waited for my own chance to mother "from scratch".

    on another note, its ok to be jealous of your friends. I'm sure you did it before with work issues, washing machines, baby gear, who got back into shape faster, ect. or maybe you compared yourself and you came out ahead. its something we all do - even though we try not to. We all do a damn fine job with what we have, its all we can do. You do too.
    You are doing a damn fine job now, even though it sucks, keep peeling away.

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  3. I so hear your feelings,Mandy, and you are so smart and brave to be in touch with them and able to express them so well. I'm so sorry you are going through this. It must be so hard on a minute by minute basis. Not fair.

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  4. You are so brave to say this (and say it so gracefully.) I can't imagine how much it hurts-- but it is OK to hurt and be jealous. You wouldn't be human if you didn't feel those things-- and nobody would expect you to feel any differntly. I know it's not just the weight of a baby in your arms-- it's all those little needs and wants of a baby that are the hardest not to be able to fulfill. Get mad, throw something, but talk about it so that it doesn't eat you up inside.

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  5. Since I was very young I wanted to be a mommy. I grew up, got my degree, found my perfect husband and felt I was going to have my fairy tale. After 3 years of trying, multiple rounds of fertility drugs, and many procedures, I was told that I was infertile in some many different ways that I was never going to be able to get pregnant. I could adopt, but I wasn't going to be able to be a mommy "from scratch" as your other friend put it (I like that by the way. Well put). While I had never lost a child in the same devastating way you have, in my own way, I mourned all of the children I wanted to have grow in my belly that never would be. I worked in a job surrounded by children, not all of whom were loved and cared for the way I would have. My friends and family were all getting pregnant and having babies with apparent ease. And I was jealous, too. But it was never an "I wish they didn't have that" kind of jealousy. It was just an ache in my heart of wanting it too. And I promise you that all of the friends and family that matter understand what kind of jealousy you are experiencing right now and if they were honest they would admit they would feel the exact same way in your shoes.
    I eventually got my miracle babies. 2 beautiful children to prove that I am not quite as infertile as everyone thought. And I do plan to adopt. I know you will never have the miracle of getting Hudson back, but I look forward to continuing to read you blog and I will wait patiently until you can announce your own miracle. A day with less pain and heart ache. A moment with less sorrow. And, in time, a little brother or sister for Hudson.

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  6. Mandy, you're allowed. Simple as that. But we look forward to a time when it's not this way.

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  7. I couldn't say it any better than others already have. Thinking of you.

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  8. Kate Ackley ZellerJuly 30, 2010 at 10:31 AM

    Mandy, I am hopeful because you can articulate all of these tough, tough emotions. I admit that I sometimes feel guilty posting anything on Facebook about my daughter — worrying that you might see it and feel sad. But I also want to cherish and live in the moment (and share those moments with friends and family who live out of town) in large part because that is my lesson from Hudson.

    I think all of your fellow mommy- and daddy-friends miss talking parenting stuff with you. I know I looked up to you and always felt, as someone else said at Hudson’s memorial service, that you did all the things every mom would like to do if we had the time and the energy. You are, especially now, a true mom hero. I’m sorry that your relationships with your friends have changed; it is just one small piece of the enormous tragedy of Hudson’s death. But we are here for you if/when you need us (at the very least as witnesses). I hope that some day the jealousy and the pain — all of the pain — will feel less intense.

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  9. Mandy, I followed Melissa's link to your blog. You and Ed have been on my heart and in my prayers from the day we learned of Hudson's illness through Adam & Melissa. When I read (through tears) some of your blog last night and then again this morning, I was reminded of something I read by Frederick Buechner a few years ago on "The Stewardship of Pain." (You can read it at http://www.csec.org/csec/sermon/buechner_3416.htm if you're interested.) Through this blog you are being a good steward of your pain. I hope that other parents who have suffered the tragedy of losing a child and then beginning their lives over again will find your blog. I often look for the written words of others to express my feelings for so often my feelings seem impossible to articulate. I imagine a grieving mother or father reading your words and thinking "that's it - that's what I'm feeling. I'm not alone." This is grace. This is even more than "One Good Thing".

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  10. Of course you feel that way. Of course you do. It doesn't sound awful at all. These are your feelings, your grief. I can only imagine the range of things you're going through. You wrote so eloquently the other day about your lost identity as a mother. I know this is cold comfort, but you are making so many of us savor our motherhood and mothering and motherness so much more. You are still a mother. It is part of you. More mothering will come. I don't know how, but it will. Your motherness so far is inspiration to us all.

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  11. Mandy, as others have responded, I would like to echo that you are most certainly allowed to have those feelings. Your loss is real and so terribly heart-wrenching. My heart goes out to you and I read your blog and cry and pray for you and Ed. I just can't imagine your loss.
    And in a way, I know how you feel. I had a miscarriage about 2 weeks ago. I was 10 weeks along. The baby had no heartbeat. Of course Greg and I have both been grieving, but I thought I was handling it okay until I had to go to a follow-up appointment for my DNC. The procedure was done through a health partner for my primary doctors - two wonderful, compassionate, sensitive women. I had to go to a woman's health clinic for the follow-up. They made me sit in a waiting room teeming with pregnant women and newborns. I lost my sh**. And I remember feeling incredibly jealous of all of these women who were allowed to carry a pregnancy and here mine was not allowed. Some of these people were obese. Some were like, 16 and texting and chewing gum. I know I shouldn't judge. But it felt so unfair.
    I guess we just have to allow ourselves to feel these things. Or maybe just be gentle with that inner voice that screams, "why do they deserve it and I don't?" I'm trying to work on not judging myself when I have these thoughts - but I sometimes don't feel very successful at it.
    When I saw you walking up to Bele Chere the other day, I wanted to stop you and give you a big hug. But it was hard and you had gone before I made up my mind to do so. I'm sorry I didn't get to see you. I know we have lost touch through the years, but I do want you to know that I think and pray and feel for you often. And your blog has been really helping me deal with my own grief. You are an amazing person with good things in store for you. I'm glad you have such a strong support network.
    I realize this was probably not the right forum to share this info with you, but the mood struck and, well, I guess it just felt right.
    I am so sorry for your loss. Peace and may you find comfort - Abbey Foster

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  12. Your feelings of jealousy are so completely justified and, if it makes any sense, they help to validate the feelings of survivors' guilt that so many of us feel. As you process a loss that is so f-ing unfair (pardon), you can't be expected (by yourself or by others) to glide past the feelings of jealousy. Not a day passes when I don't wonder, quite simply, why oh why Emma is still here when Hudson is not. It is so desperately unfair.
    Your friends will continue to be here as you work through these layers of loss and I appreciate so much the thoughtful and brave and raw words you put in this space each day. Thank you for letting us support you and for trusting us with your grief.
    I sincerely hope you find some measure of peace with your dear friend this weekend.

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  13. I don't know why I always seem to comment on the writing style rather than the content, but I find it so intriguing. I went back and read "The Tarheel Turtle" and through many of the posts, I did not hear the same voice as I hear in "One Good Thing." But as I was reading "Hudson's Birth Story" I felt this amazing shift in the very last sentence and I thought, "There, there is Mandy." Like in that moment you became a mother and your voice was transformed, permanently.

    And I find it comforting that this "One Good Thing" voice appears there, near end of "The Tarheel Turtle." That your voice now is born not out of grief, but out of motherhood itself.

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  14. Thank you, Mandy, for this post. As one of those Mommy friends, I do really appreciate you addressing these feelings. There are times I just want to pop in on you or hang out, but I try to put myself in your shoes and wonder what perception you would have. So this is helpful for me to know where you're at and what you're feeling! I understand and respect where you're coming from, and as always, am in awe at your ability to process each layer as you put it, and really put these feelings and emotions into (beautifully written!) words. You continue to amaze me. As for my role here as a mommy friend, I will continue to be here for you for whenever you feel hanging out, even if it's 20 years down the line, or never. As others have said before, there is no need to apologize and we love and support you all the same. I think many of us share in this sentiment; but polarizing your "jealousy" is my "guilt" for having such moments with my daughter when you are unable to with Hudson. I continue to share and enjoy my daughter publicly because the One Good Thing that has touched me personally is appreciating every moment I have with my daughter. But there is also that part of me that wants to tiptoe around being insensitive with your feelings. Like you, I think, I am torn between how I want to feel and how I do feel. We love you all the same, and just wish beyond wishes that she were still here with us, your healthy, happy, perfect little girl. XOXO

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