Wednesday, August 6, 2008

comfortably numb

I try not to be a materialistic person. I have no interest in name brands (and would frankly feel like a sucker if I spent hundreds on a purse, just because the label was shiny). Our house is modest and in no one's taste but my own. I drive a 7 year old VW Beetle which I love and will only trade in when necessity dictates - hopefully for my all-time dream car: a VW Passat Wagon. Anyone who sees my clothing must know I don't place a lot of emphasis on appearance. And yet, when I need comforting, I am so drawn to *things*.

I think it might be hereditary. My mom has a shirt she's always called her Wallowing Shirt. It's a (now) paper-thin XXL grey shirt emblazoned with the phrase "Shafton High School Wrestling Team". Whenever she's in need of some serious self-pity she puts on the shirt, climbs into the closet and wallows. She whines and "why me"s for as long as necessary, then crawls out of the closet, folds up the shirt and goes about her business. That shirt was there for her when my dad was blatantly cheating and through her subsequent divorce. She wore it when her second husband convinced her to move 1200 miles from her teenage children and again when that marriage dissolved. She's offered me the shirt on occasion and I've considered taking it, but I seem perfectly capable of wallowing in my own wardrobe.

I don't have an official shirt, but I do wrap myself in my baby blanket ("blankie"), which was sewn for me while I was still in utero. My husband always found this habit odd (even though blankie has slept with us every single night we've been together) until one day when he was doing some wallowing of his own. Curled up on the couch, feeling bitter about the unfairness of it all, I pulled blankie around him, shoved Puffy (my Puffalump - also around since my very early years) in his arms and let him be. Somehow he then understood why sometimes you need a tangible manifestation of grief and self-pity.

When the going gets really tough I pull out the big guns. I drag my king-sized quilt off my bed and huddle under it in front of the TV. It's clearly too enormous to fit comfortably on my sofa, but I can wrap and wrap myself in it. A thinly veiled metaphor for armor worn to shield myself from the world, no doubt. But it gets the job done.

I don't have a problem with finding comfort in these items. They bring me peace and calm, whether I'm needing it desperately at the moment or not. But I've added to my arsenal in recent years, and my new shields are a bit more disturbing.

I was under a general anesthesia when I had the D&C that pulled my twins from me. It was my first hospital visit, my first anesthetic procedure. I knew I would be stripped and put in a hospital gown, but I never imagined that I would trade in even my socks, exchanged for bright teal hospital issue slipper-socks. I wore these cheap acrylic socks through the pre-anesthesia interview, through the blood drawing and the IV* placement. And while the rest of my body was exposed during the procedure, my feet were shielded. Those socks forming a cushion between my limp feet and the cold stirrups.

I wore them home that day, not having the energy or will to switch footwear afterwards. (And I kind of felt like I should get something out of the deal, although admittedly I made a lousy trade in swapping socks for babies.) I wore them that entire day while curled in my quilt cocoon and gratefully numbed with vicodin and valium. The next morning, while still coming to terms with the fact that my babies weren't with me, I reached for my cheap acrylic hospital socks. Maybe for warmth, but more likely for the connection they seemingly held with my twins. I'd taken off my clothing for that procedure; my earrings, my wedding and engagement rings. The only thing that was with me in my final moments with my twins was those socks.

Yesterday, when feeling cozy and quiet as Edouard passed overhead, I donned those same socks. Not because I needed comforting, but because they have become a symbol of calm in my world. And surprisingly I find that the things I listened to/watched in the days and weeks following that loss also bring a sense of calm. The Jeffrey season of Project Runway, which was on constant repeat in the hours after the procedure. "Over My Head" and "How to Save a Life" by The Fray - a band which I ordinarily would've shrugged off - now find themselves on repeat when I need to ground myself and my emotions. Grey's Anatomy, a show which I'd never seen before my miscarriage but watched from start to finish instead of working shortly after, has retained some of it's intended levity. But if I'm feeling lonely and calm it's a go-to show. And bread pudding - the physical (and only) manifestation of my mom's sympathy for me - will never be "just dessert" to me. I still eat it with reckless abandon (when not on the cursed PCOS diet - argh!) but never without recalling those days when it was all I ate.

I understand the concept of grasping for things, finding solace in stuff. I've always fallen prey. But I can't help but wonder how healthy it is to find peace and comfort in that which surrounded me in my most uncomfortable times...

(*When I went to type "IV", my fingers instinctively stuck an F at the end. What does that say about me?)


Busted said...

I don't think there's anything unhealthy about your comfort items. Yes, they hearken back to your most uncomfortable times, but they also provided comfort at a time when it was most needed, so undoubtedly your primary associations with them are comfort.

Incidentally, I do the same thing - I now prefer the couch/living room to our room since that's where I wallowed after losing the Doodles, watch HGTV, Friends and Sex and the City for mindless calm, as I did then. I think it's normal.

Busted said...

P.S. - Trotsky is still my favorite too! DH thinks I'm nuts but it's true. There's something about his heft that is so comforting and pleasing.

Emily said...

This post makes me sad for some reason...sad for all of us and what we have been through, what we have lost, what we are up against...

I sleep with my baby blanket every night too!:)

Amy C said...

Thansk for your comment on my 'Hello' helps to hear from others.

I love what you wrote in your post. It's so real and we can all relate. MY comfort for the past 6 years of infertility has been food (hence the 40 pound weight gain since I got married) and the one and only show that will make me feel good no matter what...Roseanne, on Nic at Night. I do not have a blanket or piece of clothing...maybe I should trade in brownies and cupcakes for my childhood Grover sitting up in my closet! Well, keep on doing WHATEVER makes you feel better.

lifeslurper said...

There's nothing wrong with comfort. Problem is, my comfort of choice is quickly becoming food....mostly chocolate and ice cream. With each IF failure it gets worse. However, it never brings me quite the comfort I expect or probably need. Despite all I have read of the importance of diet in fertility my dependence on this 'comfort' remains unaltered.

seriously? said...

I think it is totally normal. After I had my loss I went to my parents house (my childhood home) to wallow on the couch in some jammies I leave there with my head on my mom's lap and my Puffy (she's a white cow). I also have the first bedspread from my parents bed (1971 baby) and use that as my security blanket, it became that after my surgery when I was 15. Totally normal. Somehow these items always remind me of comfort I found with my mom. BTW, I was in and out of the hospital so much as a child I had an entire collection of those socks in a drawer. Fun stuff!

g said...

i think that we all have something that comforts us.. its def a coping mechanism.. Mine is my kitties and puppy dog.. while i ws going through my m/c my puppy and kitties new that something was wrong.. they stuck by me and snuggled trying to make me feel better and it helped alil. i def have a fav blanket that i just curl up in that comforts me as well. I think its pretty normal for us to have these things to grasp onto we just go through so much.. (((BIG HUGS)))

Dana said...

who doesn't have a "blankie" or two? find comfort/solace in any way you can....well, other than booze. although, that's sometimes helpful.

Lawfrog said...

It's completely normal to find comfort in items and it's especially normal to find comfort in items that were with you through your most difficult moments. Those items are a link to something that was loved, in your case, your precious babies. It makes sense that you would find comfort in them.

I have a "comfort shirt." It's a sweatshirt that I got when I was a freshman in college in 1994. My dad sent it to me. I wore it through my college years. I wore it when my ex-husband and I decided to divorce, I wore it when I had a bad break-up or just when I needed to feel some warmth and love around me.

If there's anything wrong with seeking comfort in objects, then we all need to be carted to the loony bin:)

Amy C said...

Thanks for the comments regarding my cousin and her husband. It's so awful, I feel so badly for her and her sons and Bob's parents! Get this, the guy that hit them said he thought he hit a log!!!

Kelly said...

There's not a single thing wrong with taking comfort in these familiar things as far as I'm concerned. And honestly, reading what you wrote about showing your husband the power of blankie and "Puffy" when he was in a particularly low spot brought tears to my eyes. This whole entry was simply beautiful.

Shelby said...

This post actually made me tear up because your words perfectly echo what I thought to be a strange token unique to me. Like you, the only memento of my baby (lost at 10 1/2 weeks in June) seems to be those damn hospital socks as well, which were so strangely comforting and warm in that cold hospital room as I waited for my D&C (also the first time I had ever been in the hospital). I wore them for the next few days as I recovered and they're now curled up in the back of my sock drawer. I suspect I'll never part with them.

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