On sharing

The other night I was watching Saving Babies on telly. A show I haven't been able to watch before because eventhough it's advertised each story will have a happy ending, the stories themselves have me weeping in my seat. The sight of very tiny babies will do that to me now I'm a mother. Anyway, I'm watching and tearing up and then there's one story which didn't have a happy ending. The mother had made the decision to cut off the blood flow to one of her twins (who was not thriving) to save the other twin. She gave birth to the live baby and then to the much smaller baby that had died months ago. Considering that it was on channel ten, this part of her story was actually handled with a lot of dignity and was very, very moving. But the bit that touched me in an unexpected way was the scene where she discussed with the doctor whether or not to go ahead with the filming. The mother clearly wanted to tell her story and she wanted to help others who might be feeling very alone in a similar situation.

And I do remember a certain aloneness, a feeling that I had already told my sad story to anyone who could listen, yet needing to tell it again and again. That people wouldn't know who I was if I didn't. And I think that for many of us, telling the story is a major part of the healing journey. When you tell a story, those parts that cause the most pain and sorrow become translated into a narrative which I think becomes a handle with which to carry the story around.  Difficult stories probably need to be told many times over before they become a part of us that is bearable to carry. There are other stories that are just so profound they also need to be told a fair few times, like for example birth stories. I've noticed that since becoming a mother, this is often a bonding point with other mothers (do you sense I might be looking forward to writing Grace's here on the interweb? ooh yes. Friday). Indeed, our mothers goup did not even begin to gel until we'd told our birth stories and and a fair bit of our reproductive histories.

Not that everyone tells their stories the same way. I probably fall well and truly into the spill your guts style of blogging. I've always been like this, but it's a trait I've learnt to curb in my daily (as in offline) life as I've got older. This tendency to tell all has probably also been muted by having a partner who knows it all anyway. So when I started blogging, I thought it would be a refined sort of craft blog. Perhaps I even had a fantasy of my life being like that and maybe I still do (laughs), but you know, you go with what you've got. Which definitely has it's good points. And I do love to read blogs where the writers are way more circumspect about their affairs and reveal their stories in more subtle ways; creating a garden, making art, with music, through the very actions of daily life. Just because the expression is different, doesn't mean it isn't there.

So back to sharing on the internet. When I was in the darkest months after the birth and death of our son, I read every single piece of writing I could find that was even close to what we had been through. My hunger to hear the stories of others was insatiable. I didn't know about blogs then, which is a pity, because I think it would have helped. This is one of the reasons I don't make my blog unsearchable, even though after reading some of the search strings, I'm very tempted. Because every now and then I read a search query and I know there's a woman (or man) out there desperate for a story, wanting to know that they are not alone. And now, a few years on, when I read the difficult stories from other bloggers, I am always deeply touched. Saddened too, because although I may feel some bond of shared experience, obviously I would never wish this sadness on another. But it's also a great honour to be part of their healing journey. Even if sometimes I don't feel I can comment because I don't know them or because I've clammed up with my own feelings. So thank you to everyone who's read my story, thank you to everyone who's shared their story and thank you for the lovely comments. The internet can be a beautiful place. 



Sian said...

Hi Janet,
This is really eloquent and beautiful. Iam trying to get up the courage to create a 'handle' for some of my stories but I am scared..thanks for being out there.

daisies said...

i am so glad that you found me and my story so that i could find you and your story ... i think that you are so right, there is something in the telling that makes it bearable, that gives it and you freedom to feel, to release, to love and to cry and to laugh just a little bit more ... and to make it a part of you because it is ~ losing a child is something that lives with us forever i think and somehow one learns to live with that ...
i love the way you write, full of honest emotion and care. a person's words say a lot about them i think and they are so incredibly powerful in their ability to forge connections ... and so today, i send you a hug, a thought and lots of care ... xox

Leah said...

You're absolutely right about needing to share. I googled obsessively as soon as I had the slightest hint about a problem with my unborn babe. And when the news was confirmed, even more so, this time for personal stories rather than the medical sources I had been looking in. It's not a comfort, but it is sharing. Some day I'll be able to share my story in detail, rather than hints and end results.

VictoriaE said...

Gosh, literally reading with tears in my eyes, all so true.

completely cactus said...

i read your story the first time i found your blog and was so moved i kept coming to find you. I had an amniocentesis with my first baby and though it was a happy result i don't think i slept during the two weeks wait contemplating the kind of decisions you had to make.
I love your analogy about carrying stories around - we need them with us but not locked up inside.
And i still can't stop myself from telling the stories of my girls' births to anyone who'll listen.

sooz said...

Oh and PS - fantastic colour on the Boston Ivy!

sooz said...

Oh hear hear.
I'm a spilling the guts type too, for all the reasons you cite but also because (and I'm sure I read this somewhere else so forgive me if I am plagarising someone out there) because it is when others bear witness to our lives that we can begin to see what our lives are.
Telling our stories is also a way of coming to know them again, from a different perspective. In Freudian terms it is the way we make the unconscious conscious, the act of naming makes them known to us.
Fear lives in the dark.

Girl on The Avenue said...

Hooray for spilling guts. I only read about your birthing experiences these past few days and keep returning. So moving, sad, intriguing. You're a very brave and sensitive and expressive soul, and my fingers are crossed for you.
I never had experiences like yours, but other things make me count each day with my little one as a blessing. Loving my child is bittersweet: equal parts joy and fear.

holli said...

I believe in writing as therapy. I try to share as much of my pain as I can to not only help myself, but others. There are a few things going on in my life right now that I struggle with sharing, because I know they could help others - but the line on how much to share is so fine.
Writing from the heart is a gift you give the world. Thank you for sharing part of yourself.
I'm actually passing the time, trying to busy myself right now before my mom goes into surgery... so I enjoyed reading something real. And I'm so sorry for your loss.

h&b said...

After being burned before, I try to be a little less out-there.. but alas, I couldn't be anonymous if I tried.
I really love the share, and it saddens me that past 'burns' have clamped me more than my natural state...
But yeah.
And the MG warts & glory - will I ever tire of hearing war stories of labour ? I found that sharing and listening and recoiling in horror, sometimes al at once, in a rush ... were fantastic for all of us. Some have gone back for seconds, and we love those stories too ;)