Man, losing your children and much of your hope for ever having children really does some fucked-up things to your sense of humor.
It's a time-honored thing, developing a sense of black humor to cope with especially difficult jobs or horrible experiences. Cops, firefighters, E.R. doctors, soldiers, all tell jokes or make comments that would make "civilians" blanch. Even before we lost the boys, S and I had started to develop a sort of rueful gallows humor to cope with our infertility. If you don't laugh, you cry. Or scream. And if you start crying or screaming, you might never stop. So you find ways to laugh about it, no matter how horrifying it might look from the outside. And that last part, I think, has become more important as the grieving process has gone on.
We were out to dinner with my parents one night, and S made a crack like "when we have kids - like that's ever going to happen", which for us is just standard language, followed by mock-hearty laughter. My parents were horrified - quietly, we're WASPs - and it was one of the moments where we remembered that large chunks of the world don't see things the way we do. That we were talking to civilians. If you've been there, then you know. If you haven't, you'll never understand.
"…but over time, it came to mean the laughter that overcomes all fear…"
That, I think, is something that keeps me going. I hate that I'm a member of this club, but I'm learning how to own it. Our infertility isn't going to go away. Even if we do hit that slim chance of having our own biological children, that doesn't negate years of trying or the loss of the boys. This is part of who I am now. And every day, everywhere I look, I am reminded of what that means - what I do not get to experience, a whole world of which I do not get to be a part. I can't shut it out. I'm always not a father. So what can I do? I can laugh in the face of death, laugh in the face of despair, throw up a middle finger to all of the grief and pain and misunderstanding and incomprehension and cluelessness and judgment and platitudes and ignorant and insensitive assumptions. I can laugh at things that civilians would find abhorrent, knowing that I have faced horrible things and survived.
Sometimes I take a perverse delight in the discomfort of others. At my angriest, I want to throw what I've been through in other peoples' faces, make them acknowledge the death of my sons, make them acknowledge that this is a world in which these things occur, no matter how much we might like to pretend otherwise. I don't want them to be able to ignore it, I want it to get under their skin, I want it to haunt them. Because it'll still just be a fraction of what it is to live with it. But I'm not, you know, an asshole. So I smile and keep quiet and answer questions politely and honestly.
"…when you're laughing, you're not afraid, are you?"
But if they ever knew the things I've said, the jokes at which I've laughed…
S and I driving out to get some lunch and run some errands, pass a minivan with all of the little family stickers on the back window - mom, dad, kids, all the little crayon stick figures lined up in a row. I can't remember who started it, but paraphrased from memory…
"I hate those."
"Yeah, they're like marks on a scoreboard."
"We should get some."
"Mom, dad, dog, two cats…"
"…two little boys with haloes…"
"Nah, they should have Xs for eyes and their tongues sticking out."
"Even better, let's just get a bunch of stickers with little baby figures crossed out, one for each failed cycle, and plaster them on the side of the car like the kill marks on a fighter plane."
"Boom! There goes another one."
Or all of the baby-related merchandising…
"Let's make up a line of bumperstickers and t-shirts."
"Baby No Longer On Board"
"A t-shirt with the arrow pointing down…"
"…and it says 'BARREN'."
"Yeah, or 'BABY', but it's crossed out."
"My child would be an honor student, but he didn't make it to term."
"I would be proud of my Eagle Scout, but he died in the womb."
"Ask me about my nonexistent grandchildren."
"I'm spending my children's inheritance, because they aren't alive to enjoy it."
"I spent my children's inheritance trying to get them conceived."
I won't even get into the awful shit I say to the television.
I can't imagine the shocked, hurt looks, the deep offense, the "that's sick!" Or maybe I can and I just don't care.
But it keeps me sane. It is the laughter that overcomes all fear.
*(italicized quote from musician Jaz Coleman, on his band's name)