September 15, 2011

Hi, My Name Is Josh and I Have A Dead Baby Too

This is why I loved the support groups so much, if people thought you were dying, they gave you their full attention. If this might be the last time they saw you, they really saw you.  Everything else about their checkbook balance and radio songs and messy hair went out the window. You had their full attention. People listened instead of just waiting for their turn to speak. And when they spoke, they weren’t telling you a story.  When the two of you talked, you were building something, and afterward you were both different than before.

    - Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, page 107

We go to a support group. It’s on the second Wednesday of every month and the group is held in this little blank room in the middle of some kind of Jewish center in the middle of West LA.

On these Wednesdays, we get in our car and start and stop and turn and start and stop and use my blinkers and somehow, some sixty minutes later, we’re on the other side of the city. I couldn’t tell you a solitary thing about the drive, as my mind is transfixed on what is about to commence. What will it be like today? Will there be anyone new? What part of our story should we talk about?

Upon arrival, I’m faced with a security guard who mans the entrance to the parking lot. He sits in his booth looking purposeful, wearing a gun and motioning people through after a brief interchange. I never know quite what to say about why we are there.

Hello sir. We’re here because our baby recently died and my wife and I don’t know how to handle it and we found this support group and thought it might be helpful because we are in so much pain. Could you let us through?

I mumble something about a support group and then it’s a blur again and suddenly I’m sitting in a chair with a sticky name tag attached to my chest, feeling what can only can be described as anxious exhilaration. My heart pounds within my chest, I twitch this way and that, trying to get my nerves together. Tears have already begun lining up near the back of my eyes, waiting in unison to fall freely if the need should arise. We’re ready when you are, they murmur. 

I watch as people come in slowly, like a whisper, and gingerly find seats. Some of the faces are familiar. And some are heartbreakingly new, like last night when two more couples came for the first time, their desperate stares a reminder that babies are still dying.

I’m never sure what to say, so I find myself lost in thought, staring downwards, my arms folded together. And then, as our caring and insightful facilitators open the group, the exhilaration begins to sneak into my anxious heart. I feel like smiling, like laughing, like breathing a huge sigh of relief.

Because these are my people.

They are young and old, african american and caucasian and hispanic and asian, married and single, years removed from their loss and months removed from their loss. Their broken bodies and broken hearts enter the room from around the city, from incomplete families and empty cribs, from lives that they didn’t imagine. And while I can hardly remember their names and I know next to nothing about their backgrounds, or where they work or where they live or what kind of people they are, I do know one thing:  Their babies died too.

We share our stories of loss, down the line we go. Genetic disorder. No known cause. Cord accident. Medical malpractice. Placenta abruption. Heart defect. Around the circle we go, trading tissues and tears, our stories uniquely different but with the same tragic ending.

And then we cry some more, and laugh a lot, as we trade updates on our present grief, as we share our sadness and hope.

This stranger said this. This family member said that.
I lost this friendship. I found this friendship.
I’m infertile. I’m pregnant again.
I don’t think I can make it. I think it’s getting better.
My hair is falling out, this new life is so hard, I miss my baby so much.
Us too, us too, us too.

And then our time is up.

See you next month, we say to each other afterward, a little different than before.


michelle said...

It sounds to me like it should, my first time at our local grief support meeting was unfortunately nothing like that.

The Goods Design said...

Beautifully written.

Amanda said...

Josh, thank you for continuing to share your journey. Very moving...

Unknown said...

Wow. I love you guys. So grateful to know you.

Hope's Mama said...

We went to our first and only support group meeting at seven weeks out. It was exactly as you described. Eerily so. I'm not entirely sure why we never went back, but I guess I found so much support *here* that I didn't bother with the fact to face stuff. Reading this, I think maybe I should have. I think going back after all this time could possibly be a good thing now. To maybe offer some glimmer of SOMETHING to the newbies out there.
I know one thing though - it has been almost three years exactly since we went to that meeting and while I don't really remember the names or the faces of the people there on that night, I do remember the names of many of the babies and their stories. They've stayed with me, all this time.

Abby said...

Very well said, as always, Josh. Thank you.

Renel said...

Oh No...Oh Yes...I don't know. My first support group meeting is in a couple of weeks. I am simultaneously anticipatory and apprehensive. Do we care about others stories or just that we are not alone?

Anonymous said...

I can not imagine your life. I think about your family everyday. My heart aches for you and I am so thankful you share so much of your journey. Your story has given me a stronger, better life purpose and perspective. Thank You.

Fireflyforever said...

Our support group is still very important to us, although we're not there every month now.

My DH is now a trained befriender and I will do the training in November. We wanted to give something back, because you're right - they are my people and their laughter and their tears are my laughter and my tears.

Jeanette said...

We've always been too afraid to go to a group, and now I think it's too late.
I have made attempts to meet with local babyloss parents, but I think I scared them both away. I'm not sure why.
Your group sounds like it should, maybe we should've tried harder to go to one.

Dana said...

Wow, you explained it so well. I feel an immediate connection with people when I know their baby has died. We might have nothing else in common at all, but I feel a connection to them that I don't feel with people I have known for years.

B. Wilson @ Windy {City} Wilsons said...

Wow. Such a clear picture of reality. A reminder that babies are still dying. It's heartbreaking but also so important for us all to find one another and collect our community; the pieces of our lives broken, the tears strewn, the unused baby paraphernalia.

It's wrong on so many levels but at least we're talking. Thanks for sharing your experience. As always, it's a welcome invitation from BLM world to have a father sharing his heart.

Anonymous said...

I wish we had one.. the only one I could find was faith based and right now that just isn't for me.

Becky said...

I love my support group. It is just so nice ot be around people that I can relate to. Different stories but same ending.

brianna said...

Leif and I would like to go back at some point but right now with Clio and no one to watch her at night we can't. Maybe in the not too distant future...

I was just talking to my therapist about the whole support group thing. We started seeing her partially because I knew we needed to talk to someone about what we were going through but we were reluctant to go to a group meeting for some reason. She (our therapist) kept telling us that she thought it would be good for us to meet people (not just online) who shared similar experiences by going to a group meeting. But almost all the ones we knew about were faith based and that was not for us.

Well, finally we went and then started spending time with you and Kari. I've since stopped going to therapy as often as I used to. What I am trying to say is that I think we all just need safe places and safe people with whom to talk about our babies and our grief. It is a gift to find those safe places and those safe people.

loribeth said...

I'm behind on my blog reading (again) but just read Brooke's post about her group experience, read your comment & came over here next. :) As I wrote to her, my dh & I went for a year & then facilitated for 10 before stepping down in December 2009. You capture the experience very well here. It's a real gift to be able to connect with other people in this way. I hope you continue to find it helpful.

Sherry said...

It takes so much courage to walk into a support group because it doesn't always make you feel better afterwards. But at the same token, it was my safe haven where I could freely talk about my pain and my loss knowing every single person in the room exactly knew what I was talking about. I looked forward to our monthly meeting that first year of my loss, even when I was going to therapy every week because as unfortunate as it was to belong to this group, I was grateful to have found one...
I'm so sorry for your loss...I hope your group can help you. This post was so accurately and beautifully written.

Nika M. said...

I went to a group gathering for Mother's Day, and it was so nice being around people that understood. But it's a three hour drive to where they have their meetings, and I can't do that during the week. There's nothing in my area. Maybe I should start one.

Groves said...

Yours sounds like what support groups should be - and often are not. Everything seems to hinge on the people leading; they set the tone and it's up or down from there.

I wish for a place like this around here.

Fight Club is a great movie...

Margot, you've got the kind of family who changes the world just by being who they are. You're like that, too. I only wish you were doing it here, instead of somewhere else. You are very definitely missed. Even strangers miss you.

Cathy in Missouri

Caroline said...

thank you for sharing your heart. your words are always so moving. I'm glad I found your blog.

Anonymous said...

I was very moved this morning as I read your blog and all the responses. Each one unique, yet different, and all sharing that one most precious part of their life that still lives within their hearts.

Thank you, Cathy in Missouri, for your last paragraph about Margot. I, too, am a stranger but still miss Margot.

Micki in Kansas

Kate said...

Thanks for this Josh. You've got me thinking.
I've kind of stopped seeing my psychologist. Just felt it wasn't going anywhere.
I've wondered about group support. SIDS and kids run monthly ones. My fear is that I'll be so absorbed in my own 'stuff' that I won't have anything left to give others...emotionally and I'd like to be able to do that. I guess that's what the facilitator is there for though hey?
I might just seek out the next meeting. Thanks for this thought provoking post.

Molly said...

I find that I relate to people more on these blogs than in my group, I guess because I can pick and choose the blogs I like. Regardless, it's nice to be face-to-face with other people who understand the pain, even if it's just for an hour.

I think of you guys often.

Post a Comment