Friday, October 3, 2008

battle scars

"All the change anyone ever needs is a good haircut." - a wise ex-boyfriend

Three weeks after I lost my twins (two years ago this month) I decided I needed a change and since I was barely able to drag myself off the couch, a haircut was as far as I could go. I had to ask around for recommendations as I hadn't been anywhere more exotic than SuperCuts in years. But before I knew it I was sat in a chair, looking at my still-tear-stained face in the mirror in front of me as a heavily tattooed man ran his fingers through my long, shapeless hair.

"Do whatever you want. I don't care. I just need a change." I don't think he or the colorist were expecting such a blank slate. They looked, they fluffed, they remarked that my "virgin" undyed hair could be donated to Locks of Love and eventually they settled on a short, asymmetrical bob with caramel highlights.

The colorist, not surprisingly was hugely pregnant. Even after telling her I'd just had a miscarriage she proceeded to talk for our hour about the shock of finding herself pregnant, the pains of carrying such a load, the difficulties of securing maternity insurance once you're already in a maternal mode. She didn't seem to understand that the discussion might not be comfortable for me, but then I didn't give her any such indications. I considered it a test - a dry-run for my re-entry to the real (and often knocked up) world. I passed the exam, but wondered if I was better for it.

When the color was done and I was sat again before Branden, my uber masculine punk-rock stylist, I reiterated that I was his to do whatever. "A change. I just need a change. A really big change." Curious, as anyone would be, he asked what precipitated the cut, to which I simply responded "I was pregnant with twins but now I'm not." I expected to hear platitudes or maybe a simple sorry, any one of the cliches I'd already learned to dread. Or perhaps this macho man would simply grunt and turn away. But he didn't. All he said was "that makes me really sad". And I could tell it did. Of all the responses I received to my devastating news, that one remains firmly ingrained in my mind as one of the kindest, most honest and simple. My loyalty to Branden hasn't waivered since.

When I went for a cut the month before last it was clear that Branden wasn't himself. He confessed that the night before was one of the worst of his life, but didn't initially elaborate. But as my style came together he came clean: the night before his wife confessed infidelity. He couldn't get past it. He was getting a divorce. I was shocked and so so sad - he was such a good man and so clearly devoted to his wife and his role as husband. I tried to support him, to offer him the comfort he'd offered me, but I don't know how I did. I thought of him a lot in the next few weeks, wondering why such decent people sometimes face such indecent situations.

This week I went to see Branden again for a much needed cut and color. It was obvious that we needed to address how things were going for him, so after the initial niceties he opened up. He'd found himself an apartment and a roommate. She'd kept the dogs but he visited them once in awhile. He realized that they'd been growing apart but had just been too hopeful and in love to acknowledge it. It was hard but he was doing ok. And then he said "can you imagine your life without your husband?" I couldn't stop (or rather, I didn't stop) and blurted out "sometimes I try to!" in a snarky tone. It's the kind of thing people say, isn't it? Making light of a situation that is nothing but heavy. In the next hour I made several more similar comments, mindless chatter about the joys of single life. He didn't react, stayed upbeat, but when I left that afternoon I felt terrible. I'd just done to this man what so many had done to me. I'd taken his loss and simplified it, even glamorized it, when I knew how painful it must be.

I'm ashamed of myself, of my reaction to one of the few who reacted kindly to me after my loss. I want to apologize but don't want to dramatize. But mostly I know I need to realize that infertiles aren't the only ones in pain. Miscarriage survivors aren't the only one who deal with insensitive comments by plastering a smile on their face while their heart melts beneath their chest. We're all fighting our internal battles and they're all hard. And if I expect compassion while I'm in my own trenches I must project the same sensitivity when being trusted to tend to others' war wounds.

I've been scarred and beaten so many times by so many thoughtless people. I cannot be one of them. Not again.


In much MUCH happier news, tomorrow morning I will pop a valium and at 7:30am have my feet in the stirrups as our embryos are sent home. They've been doing so well outside my body, I can only hope that my unreliable incubator finally steps up to the task and finishes what the petri dish started. We'll transfer 2 (assuming things go as predicted) big, beautiful blasts and hope against hope that some of the remainders will be headed to the icebox. As of today we've still got 10 of our 11 embies growing - 5 at morula stage, 2 12-cells, and one each at 10, 9 and 8 cells. They've worked so hard already, growing, dividing, growing and I'm proud of them. Now it's my turn to give them a hand. I just hope my ol' ute is up to the task.


Jennifer said...

Amber- I found your blog through Kym's blog. Your post today was so deep. Recently suffering a miscarriage, you really put things into perspective. Best of luck with your transfer tomorrow. :)

Tab said...

Thank you for the reminder that we(the "infertiles") aren't the only ones in the world that suffer. There are others out there that experience pain on a daily basis too, and we need to extend our hands to help them just as we expect them to help us. I need to do that more.

womb for improvement said...

I'm guilty of flippant remarks and cheap laughs too. But good on you for recognising that you could have been more sensitive. (I find it pretty hard to 'fess up when I've been wrong).

Good luck with the transfer all sounds pretty positive.

Xbox4NappyRash said...

I stick me foot in it every single day, I say something and instantly realise how that could be so wrong.

All this despite my 'supposed' heightened sensitivity.

Best of luck with the transfer!

Anonymous said...

It's so hard to know what to say in those situations, I'm sorry you feel you didn't say the right things. But good on you for recognising it and 'owning' it. You will be a better person for it :)

And everything sounds wonderful for the transfer! Keeping everything crossed for you!!



kirke said...

A beautifully written post. I try to remember when people say inane things to me during my IF journey that I probably wouldn't be much better. They mean well. Your friend got it exactly right with a that makes me sad.

Good luch with your transfer!

Echloe said...

It is hard to realize that other people out there suffer too. And it is hard to find words for something you can't relate to. I 'll try to remember this when someone says something insensitive to me about IF.

Anyway I hope that your embies snuggle in for a good long stay.