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The Stillbirth Fear Factor

Posted Jan 21 2010 4:17pm
Greetings, KuKd/TTC Colleagues and Inquisitive Guests!

How much fear can the brain really hold? I mean, doesn't it seem like there must be a limit? Aren't humans optimistic by nature? Don't we have to be? If our brains didn't have a natural saturation point for fear, wouldn't our heads fill up with it and explode? Surely that's exactly what would happen.

It would be so cliche of me, so much like a worn-out doormat, for me to talk about post-knocked-down anxieties. Who needs to hear what everyone already can imagine? I mean, yeah. Obviously, obviously, if something bad happens to you repeatedly, you're going to be afraid it will happen again. I don't know if it's true, but I imagine tsunami survivors being afraid of living near the shore, burn victims afraid of fire, cancer survivors afraid of...I don't know...plastics and pesticides and lumpy things beneath their skin.

Which means the fact that I had an "afraid day" today - or, not a whole afraid day, but a day peppered with "afraid moments" - doesn't seem all that newsworthy. That would be like announcing that it rained on a winter day in Seattle. If I tell anyone at all that I'm experiencing a twinge of anxiety, it's like: "well of COURSE you are!" Nobody is surprised by this inevitible fact.

But I don't take post-KuKd anxiety so lightly, like it's this fluffy little "given" in life that of course will occur. I don't like fear at all, don't like to revel in it or talk about it. I worry sometimes that this dismissive attitude toward fear - the fact that I would rather talk about chocolate chip cookie bars and banoffee pies on my blog than spout off about my fears - might come across as flippant and annoying to the KuKd'ers who read this blog, that somehow I'm disrespecting Mother Nature by not showing enough public fear. Not that I know jack about religion, but I get the sense that you're supposed to act afraid around God, that fear is a sign of respect and submission.

My problem with expressing fear is twofold.

First, there's the huge force of optimism that makes up my core being and constantly pushes outward. Look, I'm a basically happy-ass person, and still am. Maybe if I were still the brooding fake-goth chick I was in high school, I'd be able to accept my fear a bit better, and not shove it down like nasty bile. But the truth is, I come from a family of optimists. We laugh things off, shrug things off, make light of situations. Maybe it's an Irish thing; who knows. Really, our whole society is one of optimism, when you think about it, and perhaps that's where I got this trait. And truthfully, although this persistent American optimism annoyed the shit out of me when I lost the babies, I feel ultimately more relieved than not by this pervasive candy-like spirit of joy in our culture and in our family.

Second, there's the fact that post-KuKd fear - specifically this late-term-in-pregancy fear that comes after stillbirth - is one of the worst and most intense feelings of terror that it basically isn't something I can allow to stick around for long. It's more than most people can handle or really understand, unless you've been through something horrendous. It goes back to that fear-saturation point in the brain: this sort of fear is so damned potent, that it fills up my brain instantly to where my head can't hold any more, and I have no choice but to brush it immediately off like a monster's green hand resting on my shoulder. No time to wallow in this fear, or talk about it, or pull it apart and analyze it. Just shove it off and say good riddance.

Today it happened a few times, these afraid moments, which I can only describe like a loud, dark freight train roaring in my ears, coming at me with bright and disorienting lights. Literally, that's basically what happens. I'm sitting there innocently peeing, or typing an e-mail message, and I get the sense that something's wrong. That a heart attack happened inside, that Monday's ultrasound is going to reveal something awful, that people in white lab coats will file into the room and look at me with grave expressions, glancing at their clipboards and explaining in dry medical terminology why everything's fucked.

God, I never used to be able to imagine such a thing happening, but now I can with great ease. It really wouldn't be all that odd for it to happen, given my luck in the baby-making department. But what's the use of imagining such things, dwelling on that fear, revelling in the seering roar and white lights of that freight-train-like fear, talking about it here?

Nothin.' So I suppress it down and keep going in my optimistic way, going through life, letting the genetic/inherent/cultural happiness take over. It isn't hard, because - like I said - I'm basically a happy person.

Today was just an inordinately, weird-ish, freight-train like day. Must have been the Honey Nut Cheerios for breakfast - that's the only variable I can think of that was a bit different from the past few weeks.

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