A Bang and a Whimper

The threshold to my forty-(garble) birthday began with both a bang and whimper. I decided that since I’ve been putting a lot of things on hold in my life over the baby/non-baby issue, it was time to do something that I’ve never done before. I asked to go to a firing range. 

Not Bad for Newbie

Let me say upfront, I am not a gun person. I never had any exposure to them. Our household growing up was gun free – unless you count a nail gun a firearm. This was completely new to me, but the men in Hub’s family are all very responsible gun owners. Hubs is a former Marine, FIL is an army man and grew up hunting in rural Michigan, and my BIL is deputy and a hunter. I was in extremely good hands.

 Although I tried to act confident as Hubs, FIL, BIL, Skid and I walked into the doors of the range, I felt my body jolt when I heard a shot fired for the first time. “Uh-oh,” I thought, “This might be more difficult than I imagined.” It didn’t help that the rest of the family – my mom, dad, MIL, and BIL’s pregnant wife – were watching at the window. The pressure was on.

 It was decided beforehand that I would work with my FIL.  He impressed me with his methodical and patient teaching style. Everything was structured and unrushed. I don’t think I could have had a better teacher if John Wayne himself had been my instructor. As the lesson progressed, he had me feeling more and more comfortable.

 I guess you could say that this little experiment was a good way to channel the anger I’ve been feeling lately, but this wasn’t a place for anger. Guns should not be fired in anger, of this I’m sure. Instead, I think this was an exercise in being in the present moment.  In order to fire the gun accurately and safely, I had to be alert and focused. There was no room for the daily chatter that occupies my mind. I didn’t have the luxury to put attention on my sadness. 

This exercise also required me to overcome any fear and intimidation I may have had about handling a firearm. As my FIL told me, “You have to take command of the gun. You need to control it.”  To do that required confidence, purposeful movement, and  a clear mind.

I hadn’t counted on these little side benefits, but I did revel in them. I felt like this was one of the best things I could have done for myself. I felt better than I had in awhile… then the whimper came. 

When we all had stepped outside of the range and were getting ready to leave, my BIL handed me a birthday card then turned to hubs and handed him a small stack of thin, shiny, 4×6 white papers. My heart froze. Even though BIL had handed them to Hubs upside-down I knew in an instant they were ultrasounds. I fought the urge to run. As Hubs took them into his hand, I turned my body away slightly to avoid catching any further sight of them.

Hubs handled the small talk, but when BIL turned and asked me if I wanted to see them, I had a decision to make.  I could face that fear down and look at them, or I could avoid, avoid, avoid!  The fear won out, and I shook my head to say no. Very quickly, Hubs walked his brother away to talk about other things. Then my mom swooped in with a question designed to get me away from the rest of the family and asked if I was okay once we were in private. (I wasn’t, but I was grateful to have my own personal tag team looking after me.)

I love my BIL dearly and I’m happy for him, but this was hard to take because I had been looking at an ultrasound the day before. One dated 4/20/10. It showed Baby M, our perfect little peanut. It was something that had given Hubs and I great comfort. We’d lost Baby A one year before, and the memory of that loss hovered over the new pregnancy. We were determined to be optimistic, but were forever cautious. That ultrasound gave us reassurance. We had just four more weeks to go until we reached the viable mark, but things were looking good. Then, on April 26th, just two days after my birthday, I began to bleed. A visit to the OB/GYN the next day confirmed Baby M’s heart had stopped beating and I was miscarrying.

It goes without saying that losing two pregnancies in the same month of your birth forever intertwines what should be a day of celebration with memories of heartbreak and pain.  I don’t expect everyone to remember the where’s and when’s of our losses, so I can’t fault BIL for the bad timing.  I can blame the bad timing for my reaction. At least, that’s the story I’ll tell myself.

The truth is I’m not sure if I would have reacted any differently at any other time. I do know that these situations and my reactions to them result in me being very hard on myself. I know that it is okay to protect myself, but I also feel like an awful and immature person afterwards.  I know BIL understands, but at the same time I feel like I should be bigger than this. I wonder if there will be a time that I won’t feel pain and freeze in the face of someone else’s joy.

The fundamental problem is that there is no happy medium to my behavior. I feel if I open my heart, I’ll leak all over the floor. But if I protect myself, it closes me off and makes me appear cold. I haven’t quite learned to command and control my emotional response in a loving way, but I’m open to suggestions if anyone has them.

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