My Reasons Why

Six months have passed since I miscarried. I was only 7 or 8 weeks along, but there was life in me. Life was growing in my womb, and then it wasn’t. And I never told people. I don’t tell people. Both past tense and present tense: Nobody knew/knows.

Mom told me there was nothing to be ashamed of. Z told me I’d done nothing wrong. Doctors told me it was common, and “better luck next time.” But nobody told me that my heart would break every time I saw another couple’s pregnancy announcement, or that my pulse would actually stop — just for a moment or two — every time a student asked, “Do you want kids? When are you going to have kids?”

I never told my story. But I need to. I finally need to. These are my reasons for hiding, for omitting, for mourning, for running, for fleecing, for pretending.

  1. My body failed me. It failed me hard. I’ve run thousands of miles, dozens of races, 5 national championships, and 3 half marathons; I’ve walked a half mile on a broken ankle; I’ve endured a faulty gall bladder for months, only to have it removed days before regional track (at which I competed, naturally, and qualified for state); I pulled most of my own baby teeth, for God’s sake. When it came time for my body to do the one natural thing that God intended for it to do since day one, my body denied me. It teased me, it promised me, and then my body extinguished that flame of joy, of hope, with one single, unwavering blow. And then, as though literally taking the life from me wasn’t enough, my body added insult to injury with a massive kidney stone. My body failed me.
  2. I was relieved. Amidst the gamut of other emotions I experienced in the weeks following my miscarriage, I actually felt relief. I actually thought to myself, Thank you, God, for not letting me be further along. Thank you for taking this life early, instead of later. Immediately following relief: self-affirmation of my status as a callous dolt.
  3. Everybody and their mother suddenly became pregnant. Within weeks of my miscarriage, four other friends announced pregnancies; one in particular announced prior to the ten week mark. I couldn’t help feeling bitter, gut-twisting envy with each ultrasound photo and ecstatic social media post. Especially irksome was the couple who announced before ten weeks. I know, I know — they weren’t intentionally torturing me; how could they know my sorrow? But our pregnancies were at the same stage. Why me, instead of her? I wanted to reach through my phone to slap the couple; to tell them not to share yet, so much remained to be seen. But I bit my tongue.
  4. Teenagers were pregnant, everywhere. I don’t feel this is the time or place to comment on our wavering morals as a nation, or our failure to guide children responsibly; so I’ll just make a brief note: As a 25-year-old, I couldn’t imagine a bigger slap in the face than watching teenagers — no, children — waddle around with swollen bellies while my womb remained so tragically vacant. I wanted that baby so damned bad, I was married, my husband and I were in a great place financially and maritally; half of these kids didn’t even want a child, and certainly had no business attempting to raise one. The irony, the juxtaposition of these situations, was just too stark.
  5. I didn’t want to be awkward. People don’t know how to respond to miscarriages. As we grow increasingly dependent upon technology, we barely know how to share actual emotion; but empathy in the face of sorrow is an especially tough topic to tackle. I didn’t want people to struggle to find words, or look at me with pity while they stroked their perfectly fertilized wombs, or tell me how common early miscarriages are. I wanted real sorrow, and I knew nobody could feel that but me.

Z never had the opportunity to truly latch onto the reality of a baby; for some reason, I waited to tell him. I wanted to wait until more was definite. I’d taken 5 positive home tests, but the doctors never gave me a blood test. I’d been to my OBGYN once, bought a pregnancy journal, ordered the perfect onesie to reveal my news to Z, scheduled my first ultrasound.

My miscarriage came three days before that ultrasound. The onesie I’d ordered arrived three days after my miscarriage. Five days after my miscarriage, a student at school said I’d been sick and gone, probably because I was pregnant. Seven days after, I had a kidney stone removed. Nine days later, I burned my pregnancy journal.

And in the meantime, I didn’t tell people, because shame is a hard thing to share.

A.S.A. Harrison – The Silent Wife (Spoilers)

Since reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl nearly a year ago, I, like many others, have been desperately searching for an equally thrilling read. I’ve Googled lists of recommended reads and scanned Pinterest post after Pinterest post, seeking the holy grail of psychological thriller/mystery literature; and friends, I’ve only found disappointment.

A.S.A. Harrison’s novel The Silent Wife, published in June 2013, seems to have gained popularity following the publication of Flynn’s Gone Girl as readers like myself search for what I have dubbed “GG 2.0”. Harrison’s novel fits neatly into the subgenre of writing titled “Domestic Noir” that has grown in popularity as housewives everywhere (apparently?) began fantasizing about killing their husbands. (Note: When I read that last sentence, I feel wholeheartedly ashamed to admit I find the genre absolutely delightful. Disclaimer: I have no reveries of slaughtering my husband.)

Harrison’s tale is that of a suburban psychiatrist housewife, whose cheating husband, we are told at the beginning of the tale, will die before the book is over. Readers are also made privy to a somewhat anti-climactic detail, within the first two pages of the story: the wife — our title wife, that is — will become a killer.

Yes. Page two of the book. Harrison drops that bomb on page two of her novel; and the pages that follow are only read, it later seems, in a furious dash to determine whether or not the story will have an actual climax. Spoiler: That was it.

Jodi, the star of the novel, is a spoiled, anal-retentive housewife of the “Irritatingly On-Top-Of-It-All and Despicably Trim to Boot” variety. She runs a clinic from the comfort of her lavish condo, seemingly on a whim, a few hours daily. Her exchanges with Todd, her spouse, are mundane and forced; which, I will admit, is one portion of the novel I found believable. The couple has never been formally married, which later plays a key role in Jodi’s fate; and Todd has engaged in numerous and regular affairs with other women. His most recent tryst — with the twenty-something daughter of his childhood best friend — has resulted in pregnancy and disillusioned love.

Readers are informed that Todd feels remorse for his promiscuity; however, Harrison crafts Todd with undertones of a perfectly stupid, lumbering, sex-monger. His character is so unbelievably superficial and idiotic that by the end of the book, I found myself rooting for his death so that both he and I would be put out of our misery.

Perhaps the most bothersome feature of the read is the narrator. The novel is written from the third-person omniscient perspective, allowing the reader to access the emotions and thoughts of both of our major characters. Thus, the reader encounters phrases like, “At forty-five, Jodi still sees herself as a young woman,” and “Having shown Miss Piggy out, she proceeds to the lower level of the condominium, where she lifts weights and cycles 10K.” Had the story had a brilliant climax, had the characters been more — believable? relatable? ingenious? — Harrison could have gotten away with the play-by-play, simple-present tense perspective. Unfortunately, the story lacks the thrill readers seek, and the verb tense becomes an annoyance — quickly.

On top of this sundae of disappointments is the lack of truly thought-provoking themes/central questions. In failing to create believable characters with depth, Harrison fails to create any scenarios or questions that invoke “What if?” contemplation. Sure, one could argue that the tale itself — a straying husband, a pregnant lover, a wife nearing psychotic break — poses dozens of valid questions. Unfortunately, Harrison’s lackluster narrative never captured my attention on those points. Rather, I spent my time scoffing at the characters’ reactions and cringing at the narrator’s irksome voice.

The book has enough appeal to pick up for an afternoon at Starbucks, where your attention can no doubt be supplemented via the sport of people watching; but if you’re looking for another Flynn, keep steppin’.

Homecoming, 5.0

I’m going to walk out on a metaphorical limb and make the assumption that any individual who has returned to the strange, wicked world of high school as a teacher has experienced feelings of deja vu and vertigo, of sorts. At times, I find myself in extreme flashback situations–moments that I cannot stop or control no matter how much I’d like to do so.

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Exhibit A: Homecoming week. This past week at school was a smorgasbord of quirky dress-up days, haywire attention spans, king and queen kiss speculations (because homecoming royalty has to kiss, duh), awkward tittering about who has just asked whom to the dance, and as a cherry on top: class and organization float decorating on Friday. As a class sponsor, I had the opportunity to supervise my group of rambunctious teens as they bickered their way through the decoration process. (Cue the personal high school flashback, now.)

Float decoration was a direct reflection of my own high school experiences with homecoming and other events that required class cooperation or participation: some kids worked diligently; some kids napped in corners; some kids disappeared to God knows where; and some kids sat around brooding, irritated that their plan wouldn’t be utilized. The end result of these experiences is always the same: When the project is finished, the collective unit gathers round to scrutinize, and those who have contributed nil start the barrage of negative criticism.

“This sucks. It looks terrible.”

“That line is crooked.”

“Who drew this? It’s awful!”

And so on, and so forth. Meanwhile, the handful of individuals who did contribute to the item in question begin to feel indignant, and backlash ensues. Typically, the terms lazyworthless, and jerk can be distinguished from the hasty emotional rebuttals of those injured few.

As a high school student, I was always part of the offended group; I worked tirelessly to ensure our class would “win” whatever competition my school had in place, and quickly became frustrated with classmates who only had negative comments to make. As a teacher, I now possess the “power” to shape this experience into a learning opportunity.

Here’s the lesson, kids: Life is like a homecoming float. You can either dive in headfirst, armed with glue and glitter and visions of Miley Cyrus on her wrecking ball; or you can sit on your haunches, suspicious or apathetic with no intentions other than being that wrecking ball, ready to take someone out with your negative words and “cool” attitude. The choice is entirely up to you.

However, be aware: The “you” that you choose to be in high school is not all that different from the “you” that you will be as an adult. Choose wisely, young grasshoppers. Choose wisely.