Chin Up, oil on gesso board, $75 click to purchase
If You’re #blessed, What Am I? Grief in the Age of Social Media
I started my pelican paintings when my world started to crumble around me. I’d had an ectopic pregnancy that I discovered in a scary emergency room experience. No heartbeat. Fallopian tube. A doctor who couldn’t understand my outraged crying– wailing. My second pregnancy was twins, and it felt an overwhelming answer to my heartfelt begging. I miscarried both babies. It’s not good, my doctor kept saying during the ultrasound. But at least she spoke. I remember the agony of the emergency room ultrasound. Silence. Too scared to ask for the information I knew the tech would decline to give me.
My third pregnancy was perfect. The overwhelming nausea was a welcome guest that I missed desperately if ever it left. I needed it to assure me all was well.
It was around this time that I started watching the pelicans that soared above Bayou St. John in New Orleans. My apartment overlooked the water, and I took to porch sitting. Bird watching.
I followed the bayou down Wisner St. on my way to work, and I’d see the pelicans diving for food. And for whatever reason, perhaps because my Catholic heritage has instilled in me an image of Holy Spirit as a bird, the pelicans became for me a sign of hope, comfort, and assurance. The baby growing inside me would be okay. This time, the baby would live.
But even as I watched pelicans, imagined them a God-given sign of his spirit upon my life, I could not watch my facebook newsfeed. Too many babies being born and pregnancies being announced with a confidence that seemed arrogant. And even though I was pregnant, the pain I’d felt at every #blessed posting prior was still ever present.
If a healthy pregnancy that leads to childbirth is a blessing, had I been cursed? Was the hand of God, his elusive holy spirit, descending upon my high school friends, coworkers, and cousins and eluding me?
What does it mean to be blessed?
I hope you haven’t been reading this expecting an answer. Because I don’t have one. My brother gave me a movie once called Everything is Spiritual and in a lecture hall with a dry erase board, a man explained that the workings of the universe are so far beyond our understanding that “both, and” is often a more truthful interpretation of the nature of things than “either, or”. Could I be both blessed and cursed? Could someone else’s pregnancy both be a blessing to them and my lost babies not a curse to me?
It’s confusing at best. I have a son now, and he is a blessing beyond belief, confusing and uncertain as “blessing” is to me. I post pictures of him sometimes, not too often. But even when I do, there is still a little reservation. Knowing there is someone, somewhere who sees his face and not the torment I experienced prior to his arrival.
I’m learning how to let go of my grief, not let it infringe on me and (God forbid) my social media presence. But I do think its important to not only count, but to consider our “blessings”.
After I wrote this, I read this great blog post about the idea of being “blessed”. It’s not about having children, but about material wealth; it’s thought-provoking and worth the read.