We just returned from four days in Hilton Head, South Carolina (Westin Resort) – probably our last opportunity to travel any significant distance for a while because I’m (justifiably) paranoid. Mark’s parents joined us for the trip. And, to be fair, we also invited my parents, but they declined our invitation because they’d “rather stay home with their dogs.” And I’m not sure what this says about my parents or about us. (Though, in full disclosure, unfortunately, one of their dogs is dying, which royally sucks and renders their decision more reasonable.)
But anyway, I had big dreams for this trip involving relaxation and use of spa services and yoga classes on the beach at sunrise or next to the koi fish ponds that apparently do exist on American resorts and blogging and reading by the ocean and restful sleeps and delectable food and riveting conversations and finding some sense of inner peace and renewed strength and eternal gratitude as I reflectively watched the waves roll in. And I wanted to write Matthew’s name in the sand and take a picture for Instagram… And I imagined writing it in impeccable calligraphy with Mark and I (dressed to perfection) standing beside it, and it’d be the most beautiful picture complete with a purple, pink, and orange-painted sunset in the background as well as a brilliant double rainbow (some kind of sign from Matthew), and I’d post it to social media and everyone would be so enamored.
But although we had a good time, things (shockingly) didn’t go totally as planned. And “good time” can be interpreted widely in a post-child-loss world, complete with a high-anxiety rainbow pregnancy. So instead our vacation went more like this…
We flew into Atlanta late Thursday night, which apparently is ~four hours from Hilton Head, which I didn’t know we’d have this big drive ahead of us because, since Matthew died, I’m not really an active participant in my own life, rather I’m more passive in that I just sort of let shit happen to me, hence my surprise at this situation. But kudos to Mark for planning everything – even considering the less-than-desirable drive, he did a wonderful job.
Upon arriving in Atlanta, we discovered that one of our bags didn’t make it – Mark’s bag of clothes, most of which were new. This was puzzling because we’d taken a direct flight, but we figured they’d accidentally failed to unload his bag from the plane, which was continuing to Orlando. So we went to the Southwest help desk, and tired as we were, nobody was that upset about it. Probably because we know there are worse things in life – like your child dying, for example. And also, because Southwest told Mark he could spend $50 per day on new things until he and his bag were reunited. And though some would view this as an inconvenience, Mark considers opportunities like this a gift.
So we rented a car (which looked suspiciously like a minivan) and headed to our hotel in Atlanta, which took an insanely long time considering we had to drive around the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which is the size of Rhode Island. Almost. And we eventually checked into our hotel, and then went to bed at ~2:00am… We left the next day ~10:30am to officially start our vacation.
Our drive ended up being like six hours. Because we stopped for lunch at the world’s best BBQ joint, Papa Bucks in Metter, Georgia, and also because Mark stopped at TJ Maxx to replace the wardrobe he’d lost. But instead of $50, he spent over $200, confident Southwest would reimburse him in full because he’s a loyal customer and frequent flyer. (Mark eventually got his bag back on Saturday, returned some of his clothes to TJ Maxx, and received about $125 in reimbursement.)
We arrived at the resort pretty close to dinner time on Friday night, and then we stayed through Monday brunch before we headed back to the airport to arrive in time for our 8:00pm flight. Here are some other thoughts/highlights from the trip…
The food was indeed delectable. I think I gained five pounds. Even the Philly Cheesesteak from Charley’s Subs in the airport that I ate before heading back to St. Louis on Monday night was amazing. Though my favorite was the resort breakfast/brunch buffet.
There were so many weddings on the Friday night and Saturday we were there. (Maybe five weddings on Saturday ?) Since Matthew died I find weddings aren’t my favorite events… Like I see them and think, “I wonder what tragedies lie ahead for this poor, unassuming couple? Will they lose a child?” Or I assume that no tragedies lie ahead for them, and I’m pissed off and jealous over their clean-slate. Plus, the exuberance displayed by those celebrating weddings doesn’t necessarily jive with how I’m feeling inside, so I just resent it… I think Mark shares similar feelings, though he doesn’t always voice them, but he did point to one couple and note, “They look older…” And I agreed, and we both nodded, almost approvingly, as if we could each be more happy for this couple because we could imagine (rightly or wrongly) that they’d been through more shit over the years (i.e. failed relationships, etc.) so were hence more deserving of their happy day.
There were so many other pregnant women around this resort – it made me wonder whether it’s the babymoon capital of the world. And it also annoyed me. Because I’d like to be pregnant by myself or only with other baby loss moms. And all I could think was, “I wonder if all of these babies will survive?” Or in Effie Trinket’s voice, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” And also, anytime I came within close proximity of one of them I thought, “Please just don’t talk to me.” (Good thing thought bubbles aren’t real.)
I took advantage of the spa services. But, as mentioned, Mark’s the planner, so he booked them for me – a much-needed pedicure and a prenatal massage. Mark also booked his mom a massage because it was her birthday on Saturday… So before our Sunday massages, we were sitting at a restaurant waiting for our nachos when Mark realized we only had 30 minutes before our massages, and I freaked out because I wanted these nachos, so Mark called the spa to see if we could move our appointments back, and I heard him say, “I need to move the couples massage I booked.” And I was like, “OMG couples massage?!?!?!” Because no matter how much one loves her mother in law (which I do love mine), it seems less than ideal to get a romantic massage while not fully clothed, gazing into your mother in law’s eyes. So Mark changed it to two separate massages (just at the same time) which was appreciated. And my level of appreciation grew when Mark’s mom and I were sitting in the “women’s lounge” in our white robes, and she leaned over and whispered to me, “Did you go full nude?” (No.) Because “full nude” isn’t something you ever want to hear from your mother in law (or from anyone really).
We wrote Matthew’s name in the sand. Though the experience wasn’t all that I’d envisioned… There was no calligraphy, no majestic sunset, and no double rainbow. Just fifty shades of grey and brown. And a couple with their bulldog walking within inches of Matthew’s name – so close I almost shouted, “Don’t you dare let your dog shit on my dead child’s name or I’ll rearrange all of your faces!” And they kind of gave us a weird look like, “Who’s Matthew?” while I gave them the evil eye.
We also took a group photo on the beach, though not next to Matthew’s name, because Mark didn’t have a tripod, so we had to move down the beach across from the lifeguard stand and Mark had to spend 20 minutes positioning the camera because the asshole sitting three feet away didn’t offer to help us. And it was kind of creepy, because we had to stand off to the side, because a psychopath had drawn some lines in the sand connecting some “dots,” which looked like a constellation, like the Big Dipper or something, except the “stars” were actually dead jellyfish, which I’ve yet to decide how I feel about this, but it seemed wrong to have the dead jellyfish constellation in our family photo.
We had a lot of serious conversations about life and loss… I so much appreciate Mark’s parents’ ability to not shy away from these difficult subjects when so many do. We try not to discuss heavy things all of the time, but it’s difficult not to (at least a little) when we’re still very much in the thick of our grief.
We had some lighter times too though. Mark and his mom’s geography skills are equally concerning, which we were making fun of (laughing with them not at them, of course), so one night we decided to play a geography game on the iPad, which turned into a trivia game with strangers on the internet, most of whom looked like tenth graders (from their profile pictures) or like they could be on a registry of some kind, and because there were four of us, we were undefeated and increased our self-esteem just a little by beating these individuals with names such as “doggie12” or “boomalicious.”
I didn’t find much inner peace or renewed strength or eternal gratitude. I didn’t blog. And I only read 30 pages of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by The Bloggess Jenny Lawson, which I love all of the sick-and-twisted taxidermy-related stories so far. And I only exercised once. I found the vacation emotionally difficult. Matthew should have been there with us – this realization hit me at the most random times, and I’d generally do the ugly cry when it did. I texted several baby loss mom friends, “Will vacations ever be fun again?” Even though it was fun, it wasn’t fun in the same way our vacations used to be… (Not that I expected it to be…)
At 25 weeks pregnant I’m starting to feel Jay move more, though it’s difficult with an anterior placenta. On the way back to the airport I started to freak out thinking Jay must be gone (for no good reason other than I hadn’t felt much movement during a time when I can’t really feel much movement). So, as we pulled into the rental car return spot, we asked the Alamo representatives to please step aside… And we retrieved the Doppler. And we found Jay’s heartbeat much to our relief. But this was the first time I’ve felt compelled to use the Doppler in public. The insanity’s beginning (or continuing).
But, all in all, it was a good vacation – the best it could be under the circumstances and definitely a welcome distraction, with great company for whom we’re very thankful, as they certainly didn’t have to jump on our roller coaster for a few days. Though we’re so grateful they did.
I have almost exactly three months left in this pregnancy (assuming all goes well), and I wish I could move to some less populated island (with great medical care) until the time comes… Instead, I think I’m going to make a construction paper chain (like school age children do so they can tear off one ring each day until Christmas) to countdown the days…