Avoiding New Material
In late August 2015, I stopped reading new books. I couldn’t do anything, really. I had learned that my baby, at 20 weeks of pregnancy, was measuring way too small. After initially feeling confused and a bit scared in the doctor’s office, waiting for test results and the next appointment were unbearable. My mind volleyed back and forth between “everything will be fine” and “my pregnancy is over.” Mostly, I felt the latter. I knew in my gut, though the doctor was careful in her explanation, that the severity of the growth restriction meant no positive outcome for my pregnancy.
From that point, I couldn’t handle anything unexpected. I stopped reading anything new or exciting. I read some books around Grief, or the “self-help” category, and a few biographies that I researched in advance. I listened to old favorites on Audible, comfortable that I knew what was coming. I also couldn’t watch any new shows on tv, unless it was in the “completely carefree sitcom” category. I was afraid of a plot or storyline that would trigger the worst part of my fears and memories. Or even the idea of happy characters, snuggling a newborn baby would make me feel writhing resentment, even under the umbrella of fiction.
Finally, after Autumn was born, I picked up a new tv show, Grey’s Anatomy. Plenty of seasons on Netflix to watch while the fatigue of a newborn rendered me incapable of doing anything else while on leave. And beyond that, I have still managed to watch one episode a day or so. I knew almost nothing about the show, over a decade since it started. Lots of drama, including some miscarriages, patients with complicated pregnancies, or babies born with serious medical needs.
However it was last night that I reached an episode that threw me: a car crash involving a pregnant woman. My heart skipped beats. I couldn’t sit for 45 minutes, wondering about the fate of the baby and had to fast forward to the end. This is why – I reminded myself – this is why I have been unable to take on anything new in over two years. I can’t handle surprises. Maybe the time will come when I am desensitized to images and stories about women and babies. Maybe one day I can pick up a good work of fiction and not fear the ending.
Yet I have found myself missing that part of my life. There is something magical about a story that changes you. As a collector, I keep buying books that intrigue me, and keep adding to my shelf. I have probably started reading more than 20 books since my losses, if not more, but find I cannot will myself into continuing.
Watching that episode last night threw me for a loop, because I had spent the past week or so trying to prepare myself to ease back into reading more. Watching a scene that unnerved me so much almost undermined my plans to accept “new stories” into my life. But I kept going. Chose a book that I hoped would steer clear from subject matter that upsets me (Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, just released recently). I soaked in my bath and read the first five chapters. And committed to reading more tomorrow.