Sunday, December 13, 2009

Channeling Jackie

I was struggling at work the other day, and I started to think about Jackie Kennedy and her losses. I knew her last loss was a premature baby, and I started wondering how premature he was. I googled, and came up with this interesting piece. (I'm also wondering how far along she was with her stillborn daughter if anyone knows) It might sound strange, but often when I am having a hard time, I think of other people, who have hurt like this, and go on thriving, not just surviving. Of course, who really knows what private demons Jackie faced, but it helps me to reminded that you can go on, and maybe not be so bitter that it oozes out of you, repelling everyone you know.

The article says her baby Patrick was 5 weeks early. In this day and age, it doesn't seem like much does it? He was 4 lbs. 10 oz. when he was born, just about a pound or so more than M weighed. What was Jackie thinking when she realized she was going into labor? Did she have some small sliver of hope or did she already feel resigned to the possibility of tragedy given her other losses? I have to admit, I felt resigned to it, when I started to strongly suspect that this baby wasn't well. Of course, somewhere in the far, far back of my heart, I wanted to be wrong and have hope, but.....I already knew the truth. Babies do die, that fact doesn't shock me the way it did with M.

Did I ever tell the details of finding out with this last baby? I was scheduled for a special ultrasound. I just could not shake the feeling of dread a few days before my appointment. As soon as we got into the room, I mentioned my feeling. The u/s tech didn't exactly pooh-pooh me, but she said it was normal, given my experience. She turned on the machine and started to measure his head. I said, Can we please just check his heart? But I'm not sure why I asked, he already seemed to be too quiet. I KNEW. I knew before the u/s tech did, because I KNOW these things happen, and that a mother's dreadful feelings are not always just a product of fear, but a product of knowledge that can't be taught, but only learned through broken hearts and tears. So she moved the wand a bit, and I honestly think she thought she was going to be able to laugh teasingly at my feelings and reassure me. But the picture on the screen quickly shoved that giggle back down her throat. I KNEW. I didn't really need her to show me, except to verify what I felt so strongly.

Is that what happened to Jackie? When she felt those first stirrings of labor did she panic, or just prepare herself for more heartbreak? When her baby was born alive, was hope born again for Jackie as well? Did she start to think maybe there was a chance this baby was coming home?

And later, how did Jackie cope with all those other Kennedy babies? Not to mention whomever else she was around that was still having babies. We have friends who are planning to start trying next year. I have no idea how I will get through that. About 9 or 10 years ago, I had 2 friends who were die hard childless by choice women. What I wouldn't give for some friends like that now. Did Jackie ever wonder about the family she should have had? Did she ever feel bitter about the toll physically of multiple pregnancies but not as many children to show for them? My body certainly looks like I should have more children in my home. And it isn't just weight gain, its something else altogether. My hair isn't as shiny, my teeth not as white, I look tired enough for 4 pregnancies and 3 children in 4 years, but when you step into my home, only A's presence greets you. Though I am sure no one ever thinks this much about me, sometimes I wonder if people don't get my rundown looks, my tiredness, you know, considering I only have one child.

It might sound silly to some, but thinking of her, I did get through my work day okay, and I went home with positive thoughts of my future with only A, and the pure enjoyment I get when I am with her. I am a roller coaster ride of varying emotions, but I am working very hard at making a happy life with what I have got.


Tash said...

I thought about this too a few years ago when I wrote the Dead Kids of Presidents post. There are a number of biographies on Jackie (I just checked) and I'm happy to go through and vet and see which sounds the most accurate/well written if you'd like -- because now I'm curious too.

I'm also looking at my body completely fall apart here in pgy#3 (well, pgy#3 beyond 8 weeks; #5 if we're really counting) and wondering how women ever had 10 kids. But I guess when a number of them die, or you expect them to, and there's no birth control, you just . . . you just do. And you're right, it's not just the weight gain: I've aged 10 years easily in the past 3. There are lines and gray hairs and I don't pay attention so much to my appearance anymore. That would be the case if I were 30 lbs lighter, I'm sure.

I hate those premonitions in 20/20 hindsight. Makes me want to step in front of the train for you. Hang in there -- I know your real life may not be horribly representative, but you have a lot of company in the computer.

Beruriah said...

Tash is right. I've had only 2 pregnancies that went beyond the point of miscarriage, but I too feel like I look like I have a far more hectic life than I do. Would that I did. Would that you did too. Living with our feet in two mothering worlds is hard. I was very "put together" before and often I figure, why bother? when it comes to makeup and hair, and I don't think it's because of Baby Man. Jackie obviously didn't go that route, but she couldn't not with her public life. I think that would have been hell.

Take care, much love to you.

loribeth said...

I wrote about this awhile ago too.

I knew about Patrick (the baby born prematurely while they were in the White House) but didn't know about the stillborn girl until reading a book about her years later. I believe she was about 7 months along at that point, & although the baby was not officially named, I have read that Jackie wanted to call her "Arabella." She also had an earlier miscarriage. I too wonder how she was able to handle it, especially with her sister-in-law Ethel popping out 11 (!!) kids, one after another.

Michele said...

I often think of Jackie as well. I think her stillborn was close to full term. My grandmother often says how, back in the 60s, babies born prior to 34w commonly died. They just couldnt do much for them. It's amazing to think of how far we've come. That babies 22 weeks survive (yes, few, but still some). And yet, it still isnt enough. Until we can save EVERY baby, it never will be.

CLC said...

I have been reading a bio on JFK and it mentions the stillborn baby in one sentence. And the only reason it was mentioned is that JFK was abroad and didn't want to come home but his brother told him that he risked divorce if he did not.

You hit the nail on the head about wanting to be happy for A. I often have to remind myself that it's a choice we make every day- to be happy or to wallow. It's a hard choice to make on some days, but happy is preferable to wallowing, imho. I hope it gets easier for you in time to choose to be happy every day. But certainly let yourself wallow when you need to!