I am so honored to be welcoming Erica from I Lost a World as a guest writer today. Erica's son Teddy was diagnosed with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia in utero. He was born August 15, 2008, and gone the next day. Erica has shared her beautiful writing and perspective at Glow before, and we are so glad she is back. --Angie
I hate it, I really do.
Something bad happens, something that would rock another person to their foundations, and my response, so often now, is the trite-sounding, “Well, at least no one is dead.” What a cliché.
And I mean it. I really do look at the world this way, and I think that the common perception is that this is a gift, to have your life events bar set so low, to be able to find comfort in a baseline of the people you love being alive. People, the people I think about as regular people, watch sad movies in order to glimpse this perspective for a few minutes, a couple of hours. They talk about remembering and recognizing their priorities.
I am jealous because I used to do that, too. Before I met this tiny little person, so alive and vital and perfect except for a small hole in his diaphragm that meant his lungs couldn’t develop. Before we tried everything we could think of to save him and before we saw that it hadn’t been enough. Before I held him in my arms and watched him try and fail to breathe.
And now, for the rest of my life, I have been cursed with this perspective.
photo by kalyan02.
My favorite Terry Pratchett quote, from his book The Truth, is this:
“There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who, when presented with a glass that is exactly half-full, say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half-empty. The world BELONGS, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: EXCUSE ME? THIS is my glass? I don't THINK so. MY glass was full! AND it was a bigger glass!”
I often wish I were better at living that way, at demanding more from others and from myself, at being the fearlessly squeaky wheel. Sometimes I fantasize about being braver and insisting on getting my share. But one of the things that can happen when your baby dies – your baby, that entire world’s worth of love and possibility – is that you go quiet. You try to fly under the radar of luck or fate or God or the devil or the Universe. You hold what you love extra tightly and wish you could borrow Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak as you worry about the next disaster, that other shoe, the next “character building” experience, that next test of faith or fortitude. I find it hard to squeak, even when I should.
A curse, I tell you.
And yet, not entirely. I wouldn’t have given up any of my time with Teddy, not even if it meant I could get rid of this perspective. Ever since Teddy’s death, I’ve been longing for my old stories – stories of home and safety and knowing my place in the world. I enjoyed living those stories, and my new stories are still uncomfortable and frightening. But I know that when I am afraid to look through the lenses of my new perspective, my stories are stale and trite and unsatisfying. Which is worse, somehow, than uncomfortable or frightening.
My perspective has changed and this has changed me. I see death around corners and feel ghosts in summer breezes and when bad things happen, I say, “At least we’re alive,” and mean it even though I will never be able to say “things work out for the best” again. I can say “I’ll miss you forever, Teddy,” instead, and “I’ll want you back forever,” too. I can craft different stories from that place – a bleak place but an honest and sometimes strangely beautiful one.
How have your perspective and stories changed? Do you think that your life is different because you are afraid to draw attention to yourself by demanding more? Do you see your changed perspective as a gift or a curse, or both? How so?