“I was writing the other day and felt completely blocked. I couldn’t place my finger on why, but was all too familiar with the feeling bubbling up inside. My breathing was shallow, I felt restless, anxious and the more I waited, the worse it got…as far as I’ve come, I still feel.” ~ Ellen DuBois in I Never Held You
Me as an instructor, my teaching is as much about body language as spoken language. I glance around the room reading faces, arms, hands and trying to determine their meanings. For her today she was disconnected and withdrawn more so than usual. She had missed the previous three classes. She missed several assignments with no explanation why. She quietly made her way to my podium and whispered, “Can I talk to you after class.” I smiled and said, “Sure”. She wore her heart on her sleeve and I could just feel its weight carrying her down.
I could tell she needed something from me. It was just that feeling you get in your gut when you are in the presence of someone that needs you. I watched in class as she sat and tears slowly streamed down her face. She tried to be engaged in the peer reviews they were tasked with but in the brief moments that no one was looking she would wipe a tear away…and another. I just watched.
Finally class came to a close and she leaned against the wall waiting for every last trace of her peers to leave. Finally we stood in an empty room and I played the game I always play as an instructor. Be there, listen but try and be professional. She walked up and said, “I am gonna be honest with you, I had a miscarriage this summer and I am having trouble even functioning.” I swallowed hard. I pretended cool and collected. I nodded and said the obligatory, “I am so sorry.”
She went on to tell me the inner most workings of her lack of motivation in my class the last week and how her counselor is trying to help her. I have a pretty good BS meter. I can see my student’s BS a mile away. Then she said, “It is just so hard, no one understands and everyone wants me to move on. No one gets it.” I believe she thought I didn’t get it. That my approach would be what she was getting in her real life and maybe that is what she got from me.
But it is a weird place to go because I do understand. I am eight years post miscarriage and I still feel the pain at times like it was yesterday. I had two options, sympathize and share my own understanding. Or smile and say, “Okay, how do we get you caught up? How can I help you academically?” I took the 2n approach and maybe it was wrong of me or maybe it was right. I couldn’t do the girlfriend thing with her right there right then. I wanted to hug her tight, tell her this club sucks but it does get better. But I could not take myself there.
On the inside I was screaming, “Trust me, I understand!” Just a month ago my miscarriage anniversary passed yet again and no one celebrated a birthday, or even had a second thought of my precious baby. It isn’t their fault; life just goes on. That is what happens. But when I woke up on that day I wore a heavy heart on my sleeve too. I walked around wiping a tear here and there when no one was watching.
I wanted to tell her eventually it does get easier and you stop being so angry at everyone else for forgetting. I wanted to say no one wants to talk about a baby’s death because it is a baby’s death. That doesn’t mean that baby did not exist. I wanted to tell her it is hard because when we lose those we love we get funerals. When you have a miscarriage no one celebrates that life. I wanted to tell her a loss like this scars you for life and be gentle to yourself. I wanted to tell her it wasn’t her fault. I wanted to tell her it will always hurt. You do learn to live but it will always hurt.
So today’s post is more about what I should have/could have said but didn’t. Maybe in another time and place it would have worked but in this moment, on this day I couldn’t go there with my student. However, it didn’t make me hurt for her any less.