Sometimes work is a welcome distraction

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I am four months pregnant. But the baby is dead, inside me, and must be removed. I am devastated. I always knew this could happen, in the back of my mind. But you are never prepared for something like this to happen.

When I first heard the news, I did nothing. Cancelled every plan I had. Sat in chairs staring at walls, laid in bed hoping for sleep, and cried. And then came the day of the week when I had to either write my column or skip a week. Skipping a week, I thought, would probably be okay. But then I thought. Well, I'm not doing anything. I *could * write a column.

In the face of tragedy work is a weird thing. On the one hand, it becomes unimportant. I think back to the day before the day I knew. My sister-in-law called me and said, “How are you feeling?” I said, “Really rushed. I have two deadlines, and I don't have time to talk.” She said, “No, about the baby.” That day, work was so important.

On the day I found out the baby was dead I had scheduled three interviews. It was a tight schedule but I felt the interviews absolutely had to get done that day. But at the doctor’s office, when I was crying so loudly that I was taken to a room farthest away from the waiting area so as not to scare already jittery expectant mothers, I didn't care if the interviews got done. I know it is a cliche that a job isn’t life or death, but you see that truth very clearly when there is death.

Co-workers who, in the face of death, treat work as more important than death seem crazy. I know because of a boss whose mom died three hours before what was, admittedly, the most important speech of his career. He felt obliged to tell his direct reports the news so they would know why he was crying in his office. Word spread fast. Condolences poured in from co-workers throughout the company. Then he gave the speech. And no one could listen. We all thought, “Why doesn’t he go home? Why isn’t he upset? Why is he standing in front of us now?”

Co-workers who treat less serious events as if they were a death, seem equally crazy. They appear melodramatic and unreliable. For example, when a colleague’s boyfriend of one year walked out on her, she missed a week of work. That’s too much. I’m not sure where the line is for what’s too much, but a week is too much for that.

So where is the line for a dead baby that I never saw, but has been a part of me and is still inside? For two days I did nothing. But today I feel like work might be the best thing for me. For most of us, work isn’t just about getting a paycheck; it’s a way to connect with the world. I don’t want to be alone today, so I’m working.

And although I postponed my interviews, I won’t miss any deadlines. Not because I think the baby’s death is unimportant. In fact, in light of this event, I am sure people would be very sympathetic about my missing deadlines. But I won’t miss any because in the midst of personal tragedy, work is a way for me to maintain structure in my life and find not-so-tragic things to think about.

28 replies
  1. briana
    briana says:

    I find it incredibly sad and a somewhat pathetic commentary on our society that you have gotten so many responses on your newer miscarriage post, and your abortion post, and virtually nothing on this one. I saw your interview on and I think you are an amazing woman. I am glad I found you today. Thank you for being real, open, and honest, and for being willing to talk about things that make others uncomfortable. Keep up the good work!

  2. peg
    peg says:

    A little background info on me: I’ve never had an abortion, nor would I ever get one. I have never had a miscarriage, nor would I ever be happy to have one. On my 21st birthday, I stayed home with my boyfriend and ate ice cream because I was eight months pregnant with an unplanned (and yet wonderfully loved) baby boy.

    That said, I agree with Briana. Tragedy in this world is ignored because it embarrases people, and that is one of the saddest aspects of human nature. I may not agree with every decision you’ve ever made, but they are your decisions to make, and for people to critisize you for that is just wrong. Besides that, I think that everyone should learn to listen to other peoples point of view, whether they end up agreeing with it or not. Thats the whole point of free speech. Thank you for not being afraid.

  3. Linda
    Linda says:

    Now…what was different about this child that you actively mourned the baby’s (Why a “baby”? Why not a “fetus”?) death, and two other times you went out and had your babies killed? What was so much better about this baby, and what was so terrible about the other babies that you were able to pay to have them killed?

    • briana
      briana says:

      Wow, I wish I possessed the ability to have such superior knowledge of other peoples’ lives that I would be able to understand every tenet, every emotion, every little thing Penelope was dealing with at the time of each of her pregnancies. Because really, only someone with that kind of knowledge would possibly be in a position to judge her.

      And please tell me exactly what purpose it serves to try to belittle Penelope in this manner? The past has passed — you’re not serving any purpose but trying to torment someone.

  4. Linda
    Linda says:

    Good. I hope she feels tormented. She’s paid a hired hand to kill not one but two of her children. I couldn’t sleep at night if I had done the same.

    • briana
      briana says:

      You are such a bitch. What makes you so much better than everyone else? I thought your god was the one who judged people — I didn’t realize you were so perfect that you could criticize others. I thought you were supposed to work on getting the plank out of your own eye before pointing out the splinter in someone else’s.

  5. Linda
    Linda says:

    First of all, I’m an atheist. Secondly, I have never paid a doctor to cut up and suck out any of my children while they happened to reside in my womb. I’m not that much better than most people, but I’ve never killed anyone or had anyone killed, nor have I had sex with people just so they could help out my career, so I’m at the very least better than this self-admitted murderous whore.

    • briana
      briana says:

      Wow, I feel sorry for you. To be so full of hatred and to let yourself get so worked up over someone else’s life and choices… that’s just sad. I wish you had more going for you that you could focus on yourself instead of spending your time trolling the internet for people to insult and belittle. Get a hobby. Get a life! If everyone in this country had the time and energy you’re spending on this witch hunt, and devoted it to helping others instead of being bitter and vicious… well, I can only imagine how much better shape our country would be in!

    • Monjaloca
      Monjaloca says:

      Dear Linda,

      Your incessant self-congratulation is annoying and unflattering. It’s also really boring–especially since you obviously have no idea what you’re talking about.


      • Linda
        Linda says:

        Please expand on your criticism. As it stands, you’re just flinging baseless insults. I’m writing my comments based on what I’ve read of this woman’s posts.

        Boring? Maybe, but I guess living one’s life by doing the right thing although it might be more difficult is rather dull as opposed to someone who will do anything at all-including murder and prostitution-to get ahead. Personally, I’d rather be boring.

        No wonder this woman seems to be a sucker for relationships in which she is seen as disposable; she obviously has no esteem for herself. But I probably wouldn’t either, if I were her.

  6. Linda
    Linda says:

    Oh, but I am somewhat of a bitch. That I’ll fully admit to myself, and it doesn’t bother me in the least. Thanks for noticing.

  7. Linda
    Linda says:

    Well, I just think of how much better shape our country would be in if people who kill their kids or have someone else do it for them would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and we stopped wasting taxpayer money on prosecuting people who just smoked pot every now and again.

    It’s not so much that I’m worked up over this woman’s life and choices, it’s that her choices have killed two other humans and it was all perfectly legal and shouldn’t have been. Someone should really think about THEM for a second. That’s the problem.

  8. Cora
    Cora says:


    I must say that when I saw you on Rick Sanchez and read your tweet, I was outraged. It came across to me as if you had absolutely no value for human life whatsoever. Reading your blogs, though, I see that that’s not the case. I’m not going to say that I agree with all the choices you have made. I think that, as adults, we should be able to agree to disagree without anyone being labeled as ignorant or bigoted or sexist or whatever other terms tend to be thrown around. Whether I agree with your choices or not, however, I see that you ARE human and you DO feel, and I appreciate your openness in sharing what have been incredibly traumatic, life-altering events for you. I’m glad that this miscarriage wasn’t the last word for you, and that you were blessed with two little ones later. I truly wish you the best, and I hope that your honesty makes a difference in the lives of other women who have gone or will go through similar things.

  9. Wendi
    Wendi says:

    Your post is precious. Not in a cutesy “ooh so prey-scious” way but in a sweet, beautiful and treasured way. We all react to death in different ways; and also according to who it is that died. I have only had six people die that I was related to – both grandmothers and grandfathers, a great aunt and great-grandmother. I handled each death differently. Some hit me more than others. My paternal grandmother was very sick. My maternal grandmother was not, her death was a shock. And again, grandparents; not my husband or even my own parents.

    Not having children or even being pregnant, I cannot imagine how you are feeling; nor could I even assume to suggest how you should have coped with the news of your child. How you cope is between you and your family. We are not here to judge.

  10. Christie
    Christie says:

    Okay. i know I’m late to the ballgame. I am in shock over the horrible, cruel, judgemental things people have said. I’m 38 with a 20 years old and a 3 year old. I’ve never had an abortion but have had a welcome miscarriage while at work. None of us truly know what Penelope was going through during each of her pregnancies, nor do we know the true reasons behind her choices or feelings. I AM glad she chose to discuss them in an open forum while knowing she would be subject to abuse. It takes either a strong or a completely befuddled person to do this. Obviously she is strong and intelligent.
    I appreciate the fact that she talks openly about situations that most of us hide. Few people knew I was having a miscarriage at work (while working in a hospital as a nurse taking care of critically ill people). Even fewer knew that I was happy about it. It was haarder to fake the expected sadness than it was to miscarry. I would not trade my children for anything but to have had that child with such a miserable abusive man would have been a fate worse than death. Without a child together he stalked me for 4 more years after the relationship was over. a kid together??? Bury me now.
    Penelope, I thank you for letting the world know what you were going through. People may not understand your methods or tone but really, who cares? besides, how can you get across emotion in a tweet or a few words. I just want to thank you and give you kudos.

  11. Jenny
    Jenny says:

    I so wish that I had read this post when it was written and I was 28 years old and about to get married and before years of infertility, miscarriages and pain. After having a missed miscarriage like this, I knew one thing was for certain, I could never have an abortion. I probably would be extremely inconvenienced by a pregnancy now with two kids, but I couldn’t have an abortion. I am not judging Penelope though. I am just speaking for myself. After wanting a life so badly and losing it, I cannot imagine it. But more importantly, I look back on what I thought about children before I had them. I look back on life without these wonderful human beings, and I don’t trust myself to decide who lives and who dies. I couldn’t decide that. That child that I didn’t want to give birth could have looked more like me than my husband, liked to dance or sing more than my son, or draw more than my daughter. She/he could be the one that saves my life when I fall into a pool when I am 80. I don’t know, but after hating God for infertility and miscarriages, I know that I don’t want to be Him and make those kinds of decisions. This is not a judgement against her decision – just where I am now. I spent my 20s as a very angry, pro-choice feminist law student and attorney fighting for my right to an abortion and absolutely ignorant of my biological clock. I want women to have the right to choose, but unfortunately the knowledge of the extreme kind of pain that can result from that choice may only be experienced many years after the choice has been made. It takes knowledge of oneself and alot of educating oneself to make such a decision.

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