Saturday, December 17, 2011

There Are Never Enough Photos, or Why People Need to STFU About the Duggars

It feels weird to be writing in defense of a family with whom I am so at odds. At first, the Duggars were simply some anomaly to me. My ambivalence about them hardly elicited a raised eyebrow. And then my own baby died, and this enormous, continuously-reproducing family was the symbol of everything the Universe was denying me. I couldn't think about them without ire. How DARE they keep having kids? They seemed to spite me; I took every morning show announcement straight to my heart and, frankly, hated everything they represented.

And this kind of flew in the face of my pro-choice beliefs. If I was truly pro-choice, as I have lived my entire life, then who was I to judge how another woman handles her reproductive life? I had no leg to stand on, no matter how much they irritated me. I was simply feeling they were stealing all the good reproductive mojo and hoarding it for their clan. Also, the name Jim Bob really stuck in my craw.

So when they announced that she was pregnant with her TWENTIETH baby, my heart shrank another few sizes and I sent out the ugliness. I didn't wish them harm or ill will, but I felt once again like they, along with the American media, were throwing their good fortune smack in my face. Also, through my own journey, I've made friend whose babies died earlier than the Duggar's last baby, who was born premature, but miraculously lived. And has health issues now, and likely will for the rest of her life. I was angry for my friends, too.

But then their baby died. And all bets were off. Because, you see, most of you know this, but I have a dead baby too. Instantly my heart went to them, no matter the chasm separating our lives, our beliefs. They do have 19 other children, she was possibly putting her life, her baby's life at risk. But it was her choice, her life--and that baby was so loved and wanted already. It doesn't matter that it was her twentieth baby---would it have been different if it was her first? My heart says no.

I admit to being somewhat ignorant about the entire story--mostly because I've backed down from my irrational anger enough to not really care. Also, popular culture and reality, ahem, "stars" don't take up a whole lot of my brainspace. But having just read that she was in the last week of her second trimester when their daughter Jubilee died, that means she was roughly 24 weeks pregnant, right? That means she had to go through labor. That means she had to deliver her dead baby girl. No one waved a  magic wand and POOF! the baby magically appeared, or was simply gone. That kind of warped thinking went through my brain when I learned my baby had died--I had no idea that I'd have to go through all the pains of labor just to say goodbye to my daughter.

And the notion that this family is somehow warped to have taken pictures of their dead baby? Well guess what. I have many, many pictures of my dead baby. Thank. FUCKING. God. Because that, my friends, is ALL I have to remember her beautiful face. And that is all they will have, too. Did people say all those horrible things about me when my baby died? "Oh how GROSS to have pictures?" "Who wants pictures of a DEAD BABY?"

I'll tell you who wants them: NO ONE. What I really wanted was my living child, but all I have is a box full of things that have little connection to her, fading memories and my pictures. And that's all they'll have, too.

So before you judge this family for taking pictures of their dead baby, and sharing them with the people who would have been in this child's life, tell me this: What, exactly, did YOU do when your baby died? Oh wait, you don't HAVE a dead baby?

Lucky. Fucking. You.

**I realize I'm being passive-aggressive by posting this on my babyloss blog, as the majority of you, if not all of you, get it. But maybe someone will share this, or read it and think, "Oh. I get it now."**

Friday, December 16, 2011


I remember clearly when I realized I was not even close to being a strong mathematician. I was a strong student School came pretty easily for me for awhile, and I did fairly well on tests. So well, in fact, that I was accepted into our fair city's premier magnet school in fifth grade. I had never gotten below a B, ever, on anything. So when I got to sixth grade and found a big, red C on the top of one of my math papers, I felt that leaden stone in my stomach that I'd come to know intimately throughout the rest of my mathematical career. Math tutors, extra help, studying, homework . . .  none of it turned on that lightbulb in that particular part of my brain. I always felt a year or two behind when it came to math. I got to seventh grade math and, whoa man, I took about 89 sick days that year just to avoid protractors and, wait, compasses? Are those even math tools? Bottom line: it wasn't working for me.

Math, in general, is an academic discipline that eludes me. I have a pretty strong grasp on the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division; percentages and fractions and basic algebra are cemented somehow in my brain, though if asked to metacognitively explain a solution, I'd be hard pressed. There are mathematical concepts that seem absolutely ridiculous to me: why the hell are there IMAGINARY numbers? Math, for me, may as well have been Mandarin or Cyrillic: a language that was so outside my understanding, with characters that made zero sense to my brain.

Proving the stereotype once again, folks.

Eventually when I reached high school (and miraculously was still attending my academically outstanding school) I had a math teacher who, with great patience, helped me not only pass his class but get a super high grade on the Regents exam. And I was lucky enough to have this teacher for three straight years. Every September I'd look at my new schedule and see "B. Soffin" next to the math course and do a little skippity-do with glee. I knew it would be a long, challenging year, but I'd pass that exam and not be spending my summer at the local public high school retaking math until I turned 75. Somehow Mr. Soffin had the magic mojo; when I sat for those exams in June I always, miraculously, did really well.

I don't know that I actually learned math, per se, or if I just learned how to take the exam and figure out the answers. We did, for the last month of two of school, use review books and take practice exams exclusively. Whatever. I'm not in high school anymore, am I? And Mr. Soffin helped build my shattered math confidence back up. 

What I always really liked in math was something I felt was more appropriate for a philosophy course. I liked it because there were no numbers to confuse. The logic tables, I think they're called, were fascinating. 

If A and B, then C.

I find myself using this logic often, even if I can't remember the tables' exact symbols and meanings.

If She had lived, He would not be here.

She is dead, therefore She is not here.

If She is dead, was She ever really alive?

OK, that last one shows my weak understanding of how the logic works. 

I stumble on that last one. Since she's dead, and I never knew her, was she ever really here? This time of year I can't help but remember those last weeks with her. We were hurtling head-first towards a brick wall and didn't even know it. And still we never even got to know her. Who do I remember? Who do I miss?

Math brain, dead baby brain. It's all so confusing, still.