So, when I found out there was a new movie on Lifetime, Return to Zero, about a couple who suffers a stillbirth, and everything that transpires afterwards... it didn't take much leg pulling to get me to find said movie, schedule the next DVR taping, and then watch it the next evening.
I may or may not be a Lifetime junkie in recovery. And this weekend I may or may not have relapsed.
Anyway, the movie was extremely well-scripted, methinks. Minnie Driver was powerfully convincing as the main character, the husband was "meh," but part of that may have been the acting, and part may have been that I just generally disliked his character, and the supporting cast was not too shabby for Lifetime. (Except I was more than a little distracted during the pinnacle delivery scene when Geoffrey the butler from Fresh Prince stepped in as the baby-catcher. Kept waiting for him to make a snarky, underhanded jab at Uncle Phil.)
I had heard that the producer of the movie (or maybe the director?) had gone through a similar experience, and really aimed to make the movie real-to-life, and for the most part, I believe they succeeded in doing so. In the weeks and months (heck, even SECONDS) following the stillbirth of their son, the couple must endure the extreme awkwardness and unsolicited comments and advice from healthcare professionals, friends, neighbors, family members, and perfect strangers alike. The movie shows how the loss affected the couple, their relationship with each other and with others, as well as how it affected them individually.
But perhaps the most important scene of the movie, for me, was a short little scene between Minnie Driver's character and her mother, sitting on the couch together towards the end of the movie. The mother is portrayed from the very beginning as a not-quite-alcoholic drunk, always with drink in hand, and always saying the inappropriate things, on the surface level. What I loved about this character, though, was that it wasn't just a surface level character. When the couple separates, for example, the mother refuses to say what it is her daughter wants/needs her to say, and instead urges her to see things from his perspective. Wine glass in-hand, yes, it shows a clear lack of empathy for her daughter in "always taking his side," but underneath that rough exterior, she makes an excellent point that unfortunately is not helpful to her daughter at the time. Likewise, at the Memorial Service in the beginning of the movie, the mother speaks to all who are gathered, saying that "everything happens for a reason," and that she knows the baby is up in heaven, and will send down a bunch of healthy, happy babies for his mommy and daddy. Again, surface level, makes you want to rewind time and stick a sock in her mouth (with a straw for her booze, of course.)
But during this small little scene towards the end of the movie, nothing is really different. The mother still has her glass of alcohol, the daughter still expects little in terms of the type of support she desperately needs - when she tells her mother she is pregnant, again. Preempting the inappropriateness, the daughter begs her mother not to say anything. Almost as if the drunker she is, the deafer she gets, the mother immediately responds, "Everything happens for a reason." And just when you want to throw a shoe at her silly, drunken face, she continues, "You're proof of that." Huh? The intrigued Minnie Driver character (and yes, I know the character's name is Maggie, but I much prefer to refer to her as Minnie Driver character) asks what she could mean by that statement. And the mother responds,
"I had a miscarriage, once. And then I got pregnant with you."
Still burdened heavily by her excruciating stillborn delivery at 38 weeks, the Minnie Driver character quickly retorts, "But a miscarriage is NOT the same as a stillborn, mom."
And without warning, the audience and Minnie Driver character alike are blown away at the pearls of wisdom that follow from Drunky McGee:
"It's still a loss! It's the loss of the dream of what could have been."
Whhhaaaaaaa?? Where'd that come from?! You mean, Drunky may actually have some life experience that is applicable to our situation? And... maybe all these other "inappropriate" comments, now taken in the context of someone who has been there, known that same type of pain and loss, were possibly "appropriate" comments??
"I'm so sorry you lost your baby," Minnie Driver character (it never gets old) says to her mother.
"You're the first person who has ever said that to me." Now appearing to be Sober and Wise McGee responds.
And in those short 2 minutes and 30 seconds, I got what I needed from the entire film. Of course, I needed to see everything up to that point for the scene to make any sense and for the film to have any meaning. But, meaning it suddenly had.
How often do we, as women struggling to conceive, adopt, carry a pregnancy to term, take the comments from "outsiders" as not only inappropriate, but dismiss them as not-applicable because those people cannot possibly understand what we're going through? I confess, I've done it a lot, and not just with infertility. But perhaps *we* are the insensitive ones when we react in a knee-jerk, dismissive way of these comments and commentators, not truly looking at the person who is speaking, the pain that they may be carrying inside of them. One thing I do know for sure is that no human being is without suffering of some kind. Even if their suffering is of a completely different nature, it forms and shapes their way of approaching other people's pain, particularly those that are the closest to them, and those that are enemies.
It is true that well-intentioned but unsolicited advice is 99.98% of the time NOT what an infertile woman needs in her time of despair and suffering, just as it is true that the comments/cliches we've all heard before, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," "Everything happens for a reason," "At least you know you can get pregnant," "At least you've never had a miscarriage," "Be grateful for the husband/child/ren you do have," do nothing but irritate us in our hour of need and cause an immediate sense of guilt in us for what we assume is an implied lack of faith and hope in a brighter tomorrow. And, don't get me wrong, I am not saying we should simply accept these comments and advice with a grain of salt and go about our day. Helping to raise an awareness for infertility and educating those who truly do not know what they are saying or how hurtful it can be is paramount to improving our human interactions and communications.
But, I am advocating that we, too, should do our part in educating ourselves.
Understand that not *all* commentators know little to nothing about our brand of suffering. Understand that many times, their comments are meant to help us, but mostly, they may be meant as a way of speaking aloud what they need to tell themselves, and what they may struggle to believe. Understand that there are things that we, too, know little to nothing about, and those things may be the very things that those around us are carrying on their shoulders and in their hearts. And most importantly, understand that fears of judgement only hinder our relationships with those around us - by opening up more and sharing our experiences with others, we all become much more human to each other, we can relate more to each other, we see Christ in each other. We need to work on dispelling these fears, by being the first ones to talk openly about our experiences, inspiring others to do the same.
And, just as I imagine the Mother-Daughter relationship in the movie improved once all of the prior exchanges were put in proper context, so, too, might our relationships with others.