Hot freakin’ damn! It is my first Stirrup Queens book club. Many, many thanks to Mel at Stirrup Queens & Sperm Palace Jesters for organizing the book club.
The book for this tour was Love and Other Impossible Pursuits by Ayelet Waldeman. I was so happy to read something other than an infertility or miscarriage self help book, that I read Love in less than two days. Below are my answers to some of the thoughtful questions the blogsphere posted about the book.
First a message from our main sponsor:
Hop along to another stop on this blog tour by visiting the main list at http://stirrup-queens.blogspot.com/. You can also sign up for the next book on this online book club: Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston (with author participation!).
And now back to another episode of Ms. Planner tries to find ways to talk about herself:
Question #1. Throughout the book my feelings towards Emilia were conflicted. If you felt that way too, why did you also feel that way?
When I first began reading Love and Other Impossible Pursuits I felt so sorry for Emilia. No one understood her; for me, even her husband didn’t support her when her stepson, William, babbled about putting the baby’s belongings on eBay. I had so much sympathy for her that I wanted to spend the afternoon holed up in her apartment with her, bemoaning how no one understood what a loss like this does to a woman.
By the Walk to Remember, my response to Emilia had changed. It seemed like her sadness had turned to rage. And she did not know how to handle it, so she lashed out at everyone else whether they deserved it or not. If you think about it, Carolyn (the ex wife) had every reason to despise Emila for the situation that she had a large role in creating. And I especially thought the way Emilia treated her mother – the one person who it seemed was always on her side – was most rude. Emilia thought her suffering gave her carte blanche to be a complete bitch.
Toward the end of the book, I was back on Emilia’s side. I think she was very fearful that being a caring stepmother to William was her "consolation prize" if she couldn’t have Isabel. And she didn’t want something to replace her being a mother to Isabel. In the end, facing this fear allowed her to focus on being what others in her life – mainly her husband and her stepson – needed her to be: an engaged stepmother. I think that new focus helped her disengage from her own grief.
Her transformation made me reflect on my own myopic grief over my recurrent miscarriages. Here's the part where I get to talk about myself. I had let myself wallow in my sadness so much that I began to act like a spoiled child. I cried if others (namely my husband) didn’t understand me. I felt the world "owed" me something. I didn’t like what I was becoming.
Strange, but being a third-party objective observer of Emilia’s fictional character ultimately helped me reflect more closely on my own behavior.
Question #4: Emilia often describes the intense physical and emotional connection between she and Jack. She often refers to him as her bashert. But after the loss of Isabel, and Emilia's spiral into solitary despair, that connection is damaged. This alteration is noted by Emilia when Jack declines her first offer of physical intimacy since their daughter's death. She becomes "terrified that I have become like Carolyn, cold to sex, unmoved by my husband, uninterested in the passion that once meant everything to me." What sort of relationship do you have with your significant other? Do you feel he/she is your bashert? What effect has IF/loss had on your emotional and/or physical relationship?
My husband’s blog nickname is Cowboy. We’ve been together for almost eight years. Married for almost three. I knew he was going to be the man I would spend the rest of my life with from the moment I met him, which was in a strip bar. See this post for the real story.
I call him Cowboy (and have long before I started to blog) because he truly is the essence of a cowboy. If we lived in an earlier time, I have no doubt that he would have been a real life cowboy out on the lonely range with a horse, a dog, a few changes of clothes and a good book. As such, he has a steeled composure that rarely lets you see how deep he can hurt. And this was hard for me to understand after my miscarriages. He never grieved openly so I thought he didn’t care. Of course he cared that his wife was hurting, but I thought he didn’t care that we lost our "children." And I held that against him for a long time, which didn’t cultivate a healing atmosphere in our marriage.
We started going to couples therapy after the second miscarriage. Actually, it was originally supposed to be therapy for me and he was going along to be supportive. In the end, we both were talking. And, more importantly, listening. Having that safe, neutral ground to talk through the pain, fear and hurt helped us find our deep connection again. Seeing a shrink together remains the best money we’ve spent during our TTC journey.
Physically I had a difficult time after both miscarriages. I am one of those lucky gals who has never had trouble with the ‘Big O’ in a physical relationship. After my first miscarriage, I suddenly found myself not being able to, well, you know. It was disconcerting for both of us. Me, I seriously thought my bajingo was broken in some way. And I think Cowboy took it a little personally. Like he wasn’t performing up to par. After a session of discussing this issue with the aforementioned therapist, I realized that I was approaching intimacy with an I-just-need-to-get-pregnant-again-right-away-and-this-will-be-fixed mentality, which was hindering my ability to, well, you know. Additionally, this approach put way to much pressure on Cowboy and he would withdraw from any intimacy. It was a vicious cycle of very little and not-so-fulfilling sex. I am so thankful we’ve gotten past that. By the way, discussing your inability to orgasm with a therapist in front of your husband makes the embarrassment of getting dildo-cammed on CD3 look like a cakewalk.
Question #8: For those of us who have suffered loss, the Walk to Remember maybe raises some feelings and issues. Emilia meets another woman who lost a child after birth. "It's a terrible way to lose them. However it happens is bad, but SIDS is the worst. I mean, of course I'd think that, but I know I'm right." Emilia feels out of place amongst the women mourning early losses "I realize, with a vertigo that almost knocks me off my feet, that this woman has named her miscarriages...I know it is unfair to feel disgust...I have no right to condemn her just because she has given her miscarriages middle names." Is there a hierarchy of loss? Do we share more than divides us? Can we get support and solace from others regardless of their exact experience... or do we seek out those whose experience most closely parallels our own?
I hated it I read Emilia’s thoughts on this subject. I physically felt myself get warm with rage. And then I was embarassed because I gave a first name to my first miscarriage. For a long time, I considered a loss a loss. It didn’t matter if the baby was 8 weeks in utero or a few days old. And then I started reading Niobe's Dead Baby Jokes blog. And my perception began to change.
I also recently attended an exhibit called BodyWorld’s that solidified my new way of thinking about miscarriage versus stillbirth versus infant death. It features a gallery of human fetuses from 5 weeks to 40 weeks. The exhibit is as tasteful and scientific as such a thing can be. Imagine a semi-circle of glass displays, serenely and elegantly lit. Focusing on each embryo, fetus and baby as if it were the most precious gem. And it really, really hit me that my losses, which were in the first few glass displays, were truly so much less in the scope than those in the last few display casements. It really put it in perspective for me.
So while there is a hierarchy, what we share, however, is the loss of the promise of a future with our child(ren). I will never get to hear my 8 week old in utero "child" laugh in some future day the same way that Emilia will never hear 2-day-old Isabel laugh. The same way that someone who hasn’t achieved pregnancy yet hasn’t had the chance to feel the light that fills you when you see the first positive pregnancy test. I believe strongly we can find common ground in those kinds of losses.
As my blog muse, Watson, once commented: "…either way, the journey is NO fun." Amen to that, sister.