Tuesday, November 18, 2008
(Image from marcoa84's wonderful flickr file.)
In fantasy and science fiction, one of the classic back drops is of parallel universes colliding. Parallel universes, for those of you not familiar with the genre, are created when there's a crisis in the life of a person or planet. The different possible outcomes create different universes. Well, I collided with my own parallel universe recently. I spent last weekend with my mother, helping her sort through things in her storeroom so she could downsize (thank you Bush et al. for demolishing her investment account). As we were working, she casually said what a shame it was about the drinking water in south east Virginia having been tainted when I lived there and causing all those miscarriages. I was absolutely stunned. It turns out that the water in the area where I lived when I had my multiple miscarriages had extremely high levels trihalomethanes, a byproduct of over chlorination. They have been found to cause "fetal deaths [and] spontaneous abortions --pregnancies that terminate spontaneously before the end of the 20th week of gestation." The article I found added dryly, but not incorrectly that "In addition, of course, many of these 30,000 fetal deaths precipitated a personal crisis for the parents." I'll say. (For more on that see my earlier posting Selina says. But a quick list of the effects of miscarriage on me, at least, would include inexpressible grief, depression, anxiety during all further pregnancies, sense of inadequacy as a woman.)
So there, in that storeroom, fittingly filled with junk from my past, I had a vision of the woman I would have been had I not lived in that place, drunk that water (the pregnancy books tell you not to drink juice because you'll gain too much weight, but do drink LOTS of water ladies!), and had those miscarriages. Who would she have been, that woman that I'm not? She would have had babies easily, as I expected to, as you're supposed to. She would have felt that her body worked rather than feeling, yet again, like a failure. She would have been a good mother, as I am, but she would have been less afraid to let her children roam free because she wouldn't have had that tiny hidden part that was always afraid they'd be taken from her. She would have been more complacent than I am, but she would have been nice, someone I would have liked but always felt a little separate from.
Of course, each significant event in our lives builds the base that supports and shapes everything that follows it. So the person I am now is unimaginable without the many things, good and bad, that followed from those miscarriages - the adoption of my twins, the diagnosis of my daughter's autism, the nervous breakdown that followed that, the birth of my youngest. It would be a betrayal of myself and everything that I've learned, of the children that I have and love so very much, to wish my life were different. And I don't. I like who I am now. I'm a complex, compassionate person, and a good friend who is not afraid of anyone's pain or grief. But I can't help thinking about that woman that I didn't get to be, and wondering what those babies I didn't get to have would have been like as they grew. Without ever having known them, I miss them and, like a phantom limb that aches untouchably, that life I never had.