I decided to ignore social media today because I wasn’t in the mood to be inundated with Johnson and Johnson video odes to Olympic moms, profile photos switched to moms with pink filters, or adverts for last minute flower deliveries.
I went for a run, took my truck to a Geico claims adjustment center here in town. They processed close to 100 claims today as a result of the wicked hail storms we had earlier this week. Super impressed with the efficiency. Even tweeted praise at ’em. Less than 30 minutes and I was on my way with an estimate and a check for repairs minus my $500 deposit. Anyhow.
As I was driving out of the bay, one of the guys leans in towards the open passenger window, waives and says “Happy Mothers Day!” Heh. I gave a two fingered, sideways gesture (think “deuces, dude”) and drove away. Didn’t phase me, just stuck me as odd. There’s nothing in my truck that indicates I’m a mom. I mean, maybe the Flash’s lightning bolt on the rearview mirror, but that’s it. Thanks, Levi Campbell, I still have it, dude. And my truck still goes super fast.
Carried on with my day, headed to Target. Chuckled at the throng of people in front of the greeting cards section, took note of all the pink. Not all moms like pink, people. Just saying. Remembered abruptly the card I bought to send to Grandma is still on my table. Damnit. Carried on. Grabbed the few things on my list -it’s so hard to go to Target and just get what I need. This video sums it up.
Nowadays, though, between #TBI and an actual budget? I don’t go into Target without a list.
I was listening to the final chapters of Prisoner of Azkaban while I shopped (Audible.com; another great reason to have a list) and I removed my headphones when I got to the cashier. He looked at my phone and said, “I’ve seen all those movies.”
Yeah. I’m listening to them now to kind of keep up with my godsons.
Demurred when offered a Red card application, paid for my three items (secretly patting myself on the back for only buying the three things on my list), thanked him, declined an emailed receipt and, as I was settling my earbuds back in place the 20-something cashier said, “Happy Mother’s Day.”
I stopped and looked at him sideways. “You too, dude.” Earbuds halfway back to my ears and he says, clearly taken aback, “I’m not a mother.” I gave what might be described as a sanctimonious nod and said, “Nor am I, dude.” And left. Did corporate say extend that greeting to everyone with a uterus?
Next stop was Habitat for Humanity Restore. I needed a rake and a few pavers to make a path to the faucet under my back window. No pavers, scored a rake for $4 and a small bag of washers, nuts and bolts for $.50 (one can never have too many miscellaneous washers, nuts and bolts, IMHO) and headed to the register. If you’ve never been to a Habitat for Humanity Restore, check it out. It’s like Goodwill meets Home Depot. Everything from, well, nuts and bolts to kitchen appliances, furniture… and the proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity. I always check there before I head to Home Depot for anything but plants and seeds. *This definitive is allowed because it’s accurate.* Always.
Stoked about the rake, I joked with the cashier about coming in and finding exactly what I was looking for. His name was Desmen, he looked about 20 and he was obviously a special needs adult. Something else I love about HHR; they employ all kinds of superstars and it makes me happy to see people gainfully employed, enjoying their work. Agreed to round my total up to $5 (donation) and said goodbye. I was almost out the door when Desmen’s effervescent voice trilled, “Oh, Happy Mothers Day to you! Come back soon!” after me. I paused, smiled and said simply, “Thanks, buddy. See ya soon.”
Tossed my rake in the back of my truck, sat for a minute and pondered his comment. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a great day. All of my best girl friends are mothers. And they’re great mothers. Some of the women I respect the most on the face of the planet are mothers. I think a day celebrating them is wonderful. I think there should be a day each WEEK to celebrate them. But stop telling ME HAPPY …
Next stop was Home Depot. Grabbed three pavers, a few more pouches of seeds (that’s a whole separate post) and headed to the register. Talked about the weather, the seed choices, why only three pavers, flashed my ID for that sweet 10% discount, declined an emailed receipt and dont’cha know?
She said, “Have a Happy Mother’s Day,” as I was walking away from the counter. I said nothing.
Sitting in my truck wondering if I’m the only woman in America put out by this greeting, and my phone bleated. A friend of mine is working overseas and we send each inane messages throughout the day (in our respective timezones.) We chatted for a minute and I typed “So, tomorrow is Mothers Day” just in case Hallmark and Facebook and Jet Blue (you should watch this video) and everyone he spoke to today in his part of the world, hadn’t reminded him.
“Yeah,” he said. “I sent Godiva. It might be late.”
And then I wrote:
His response was so classically HIM yet caught me so off guard I sat in my truck and belly laughed. In the time it took me to finish laughing and start typing he sent the next line, about loss.
I slowly responded, choosing my words so I wasn’t a total downer and typed, “Funny as hell and yet, yeah, dude. Loss. I was 26 weeks when my eighth (and last) pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. Technically, Timmy would be 11 this summer. Not 12. Get it straight.”
We chatted a bit more, there was more dark humor and tacky jokes and somewhere in there he said, “Careful with the Timmy joke, then. You may get the “you’re still a mother, no matter how long your child lived inside or outside the womb–even if your motherhood doesn’t look like what Hallmark is selling.” I responded with “I call billshit.” [sic] Not sure what autocorrect thinks billshit means, but that’s what I hit send on. We chatted a bit more and he said goodnight.
Here’s the thing. Everyone handles their losses differently. I don’t sit up at night and wonder what my child(ren) would look like now. I don’t feel like I’m a mother. I don’t always get sad when I see babies. I don’t skip events because of children. I adore my friend’s children. They bring me great joy. I stay in touch and visit as often as possible. I send interesting postcards. Listen to that sweet voice… #maybeiamdoingthewholefeelingsthingwrong
My last pregnancy (2004) was obvious (openly talked about amongst my circle of friends and the wives of my senior leaders and the women in the club I belonged to and almost celebrated in our little community on a Marine Corps base tucked away in the desert)… and the loss wasn’t obvious. At first. And then it was. And it was talked about in hushed tones, behind hands held up ostensibly to block voices but didn’t shield the sadness in peoples eyes, didn’t mask their discomfort with my loss. After surgery, I went back to work. Because there was a war going on, after all. And I had a job to do. It was awkward to walk into staff meetings, and be summoned to the command deck and then see “the look.” I can still recall having conversations that ended up with me consoling someone else about my miscarriage. About having my dead child surgically removed from my body. It struck me as odd, but there you have it. They were all kind and well intended conversations, I know.
The thing I remember most is how many of my friends (and people I knew but might not’ve considered friends because of the rank and file of Marine Corps life but since we were all talking about my pregnancy it seemed natural we’d all talk about my miscarriage) shared their own stories of loss.
Numerous miscarriages, some in first, second and even third trimester. A Marine I respected pulled me aside to tell me to stop consoling other people about my loss. (Aye aye, sir?) Said he was heartbroken for me; told me of his wife’s miscarriages. I still remember the words of friends imploring me to understand the miscarriage wasn’t something I’d caused. This was different though. My first two miscarriages were so early in the first trimester it hadn’t really settled in that I was even pregnant yet. In fact, for the second one, I found out I was pregnant because I was miscarrying. Still remember the on call doctor at Kirtland Air Force Base Emergency room telling me to “just go home and bleed; it might take a day or two to pass. Expect some clumps.” Right then. Cheeri-oh, Captain. The next few were second trimester, and then another first trimester, then a second. And then ? A third trimester loss.
Doctors all said if it were a viable pregnancy, it’d have survived. I believed them. Ladies at church said God opens and closes the womb. I believed them. My two closest friends at the time said, “It happens and it’s not your fault.” They both had healthy children I adored and, besides being sweet friends, they were also commanding officer’s wives. In the end, I believed them most of all. (I just giggled as I typed that. I admire you both, KT and CT, and believe your counsel helped me process that loss. Thank you for sharing yours with me.)
Point is? I’m not alone in this club. Friends have had miscarriages since then. We all handle loss differently. I get that.
The guilt was heaviest for the last one. I knew it was a boy. We’d announced it. I was excited, out of the woods. And then, when it was all said and done a year later and I faced the enormity of how terrible my marriage was after I’d gotten divorced, I was relieved. It’s hard to admit that, but there it is.
When I moved to NC last Fall I unpacked a few rubbermaid bins full of baby clothes. I sat on the floor, surrounded by small, adorable fashions and came to the realization it’s time to let them go. “You’re 40, dude. Stop hauling baby clothes around. It’s not going to happen. Even if the Gyn just suggested you consider ‘renting out your womb soon if you plan on using it.'” (that was a funny conversation, both in my head and the one a month earlier with the Gyn.) I hadn’t realized I even still had all those clothes. I left the bins in the corner for a few weeks and then donated most of them them to a local ministry.
Last month, sorting through medical records for something I needed to submit to the VA I flipped through dozens and dozens of pages outlining four of my failed miscarriages.
I sent a few texts to my girlfriends and then reshelved it. Literally and figuratively.
Tonight, after my conversation with J, realizing I was able to laugh about it (even if that sounds macabre) I came home and pulled the last small box of clothes down from the attic. I didn’t open it. I quietly put it in my truck, drove back to the local thrift store and donated it. Because I’m not a mother.
If you’re questioning whether or not I have a soul, yeah. I cried while I drove over to donate it. But confronting it today? Might be exactly why the whole damn town wished me Happy Mothers Day today. As a prompt to let that go.
And so. If you’re thinking “But Jennie, you have a mom; why not celebrate her today instead of commiserating on not being a mom yourself? It’s not always about you.” (I just laughed again) Yeah, dude. If that thought crossed your mind? You’re new here. Also? Today it was about me.
I don’t celebrate my mom on Mothers Day. That’s a whole separate blog and, some would say, a whole separate issue. In time, y’all. In time.
I do appreciate the women in my life who’ve stood in the gap, though. I blogged about them once.
If you lost a pregnancy (ies) and you’re reading this? I’m sorry.
If you are a mom and you’re reading this? It’s your day. Happy Mothers Day. <3
Capris, not jorts. It rained today; garden galoshes were necessary. Tea, not coffee. Glowing insects.