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Not quite ten years later

May 15, 2018

I’ve stopped talking to you every day, Teddy. Sometimes that feels like healing and sometime it feels like failure. There just aren’t that many ways for me to mother you besides remembering you and talking to you. But I keep saying the same old things: I miss you. I love you. I wish you were here.

Maybe I need to tell you new things. Your sister is eight now, and a firecracker. She is taking gymnastics, and negotiating elementary-school friendships and recess drama. Your dad bought her a Black Panther graphic novel that she took to school, but when she offered to loan it to a friend she was asked to take it home. I can kind of see why a second grade teacher might not want it circulating in her classroom, but I am strangely proud that your sister is sharing books she likes and thinks are cool with her friends.

Your sister has, every day, been making sure to tell me every day that the one thing she really wants is a sibling (last night she informed me that when she grows up she is going to take her college savings and buy a sibling). It isn’t going to happen, which I try to tell her as gently but firmly as possible. I am not at peace with this, but I am trying to be. I need to find my peace so that I can help her find hers.

I made up a ghost story for Dot about a little girl (Rose) whose parents died and who lives in a house with two ghost children, Tinny and Bean, who help take care of her. I may try to write it down and work it into something besides a long bedtime story.

Your dad is moving departments, and the transition is kind of sad and stressful for him, but he will get to teach fewer and smaller classes, which will let him spend more time with his students and still (this is the hope) make it home for dinner at least four nights a week.

I know that if I had been able to keep you here with us, we probably wouldn’t have had Dot, not the exact Dot who is the eight, and the funniest, most stubborn, most thoughtful eight year old I know. I think though, that there must be a universe, even if it’s the one I make up in my head, where we get to have both of you, where you get to have each other and drive each other crazy and hatch plots to catch the Easter Bunny, and gang up on your dad during tickle wars. That’s what I want, that impossible thing, that world where you would almost be ten.

But I’m here, in the realm of the possible, and I’m doing okay, really. Mostly. I’m binge watching Grey’s Anatomy, though I skip most of the parts with children in peril. And we’ve started watching an episode of The Flash (or Series of Unfortunate Events, or Lost in Space) together in the evenings. Your sister talks through most of Lost in Space, but the other two shows hold her attention pretty well.

I planted petunias and geraniums in front of the duplex this year. Very traditional and very girly (lots of pink and purple). There are a few sweet pea seedlings there, too, for which I have high hopes, and a clematis. I find it satisfying watching the clematis climb its trellis, the way the tendrils seek out and latch on to their supports. I need some yellow, though. I’m thinking snapdragons.

And? Oh, yes. I miss you. I love you. I wish you were here.

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Old dog, meet new trick

February 3, 2017

Miscarriage is not for wimps.

I thought that I was a wimp, but then I taught four 75-minute classes yesterday, came home, cooked dinner, played with Dot, & only cried for about 5 minutes in the bathroom. This morning, I led a work meeting and cancelled my ultrasound appointment.

I’m sure that women have been doing this since the dawn of time, but it’s new to me.

I would have rather learned that I could do something else, like tie a maraschino cherry stem into a knot with my tongue, or sing contralto, something that would have been impressive and fun and wouldn’t have involved character building.

 

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Pregnant, but only sort of

January 17, 2017

During the last week of December, I discovered that I was pregnant. At age 42. Without any planning or trying or intention, except perhaps the longing for another child that I’ve only semi-successfully, despite much effort, squelched over the last two years. Bea has been talking all this past year about how much she wants a little brother or sister, and while I was pretty sure that ship had sailed, finding out that – maybe – it hadn’t was scary and thrilling and exciting and daunting and amazing.

We can’t afford it, but that didn’t seem to be enough of a reason not to move forward. We’re stretched thin in terms of energy and time, but those didn’t seem like reasons not to move forward, either.

I went for an early ultrasound, and while there is definitely something there – gestational sac, yolk sac – there didn’t seem to be an actual embryo. Which could just mean that my dates are off, but the ultrasound from yesterday doesn’t show much more. I had HCG levels checked and they’re going up, but not doubling. In fact, everything seems to be progressing at about half the usual pace.

And so while my body thinks it’s pregnant, it’s probably not a viable pregnancy, but I won’t know for certain for about two weeks. I’m hoping, more than I thought I would, but even hoping feels like hard and mostly futile work.

It’s not the same as losing Teddy, not so deep or dark or harrowing, but I’m just so sad. Sad, sad, sad. And the sadness bubbles up when I try to talk about it, which means I start crying, which means I can’t really talk about it. And work is crazy and Bea is almost seven years old and the semester just started up and  it feels as though I have no time or freedom to be sad.

But I can be sad here, so here I am. I am howling a little, and snarling. I am stopping the pretense that I’m on top of things, if only for a few minutes. I am admitting that I wanted this baby and that I don’t want to let go.

 

 

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My inner bitch is a She-Hulk

February 17, 2016

A dear family member had a baby on Valentine’s day. All went mostly well, but the baby had to spend some time in the NICU. They are hopeful she can come home today, which is very good news.

So, this morning, on Fac.ebook (of course on Fac.ebook; it’s the epicenter of the online emotional ambush), I found some adorable photos of my new cousin, along with the information that she’s a fighter.

Do you know what’s coming?

It’s an odd trigger, and not one I would have predicted, but I am clearly triggered. My inner bitch won’t shut up. I clicked on “like” and promised myself not to type anything.

If I had typed something it probably would have been one of the following options:

So glad your baby is a fighter and not one of the inferior, non-fighter kind of babies that give up and die.

I guess my baby lacked your baby’s fighting spirit. That, and developed lungs.

Babies don’t live or die based on personality traits, but I’m glad yours is a fighter. I hope she fights you into the ground when she’s a teenager.

Fuck you.

I’d like to think that maybe grief has brought the compassionate parts of my nature to the foreground, but that’s not really a silver lining I can claim. Grief seems to just be the gamma rays that have added bulk and fury to my inner bitch. I wonder if I used to be a nicer person, or if I was always this critical and furious but was just to cowed to let it out. I wonder if I should want, more than I do, to be nice again. It’s been over seven years, and I’m still a bitch. On the inside, where no one can see it, but where its most important.

I wonder what nice means.

Maybe I don’t want to be nice. I spent a lot of time trying to be nice and it’s rather comforting to just let myself be furious and mean for a while.

I know the new mom didn’t mean anything awful when she typed those words, that she’s just infatuated with her beautiful baby girl and is pleased with her progress, and that she’s had a very real scare. It would be kind of crazy to expect her to be thinking of me or of any parent of a baby who has died in this moment. I know this. But I kind of want to say all of those snarky, awful things to her anyway. It’s partly rage and partly jealousy, and partly frustration, and I’ll try to recognize it for what it is and move on. I’m not that close to this part of the family anyway, but I like them and wish them well.

I won’t even say this, not to her, but I need to write it out, here, where I’m relatively anonymous:

All babies are fighters. Some have harder fights than others. I’m glad yours is okay. I wish mine were here.

 

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Seven

August 21, 2015

You would have turned seven this past Saturday, Teddy. I’ve been thinking a lot about what seven would have looked like. You would have been getting ready to walk Dot to kindergarten, all big brother protectiveness and silliness and exasperation. You would have been getting ready for second grade.

I don’t know if that’s how it would have been, of course. I don’t know if you would have been wild and energetic, or gentle, or both. I don’t know what your smile would have looked like, what your sense of humor would have been, what color your hair would be at this point, or whether or what your favorite books would be. I’ll never get to know, but I keep dreaming and imagining and almost, almost seeing you out of the corner of my eye.

August has been rough this year. It’s always rough, but your father had a big work project due and spent most of the weekend in the office. I ate a lot of gelato and your little sis watched too much television because I had to hide in the bedroom and cry at various intervals throughout the day. We’re doing okay, but I keep waiting for it not to hurt so much and it always does, and it’s kind of relief when it hurts, you know.

I wish I could know you at seven. I love you even though you’re not here.

Happy birthday.

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Melting down

August 10, 2015

Tomorrow, it is supposed to be 100 degrees where I live (Fahrenheit, not Celsius, that is). But I am already melting.

Today I woke up early and got ready to walk in to work. I love my walking mornings. I love working up a sweat and changing clothes and putting on makeup after I get in. I love starting the workday early so it feels like I can get everything on my list done. I love the slightly twisted and admittedly self-righteous thrill of being the first one in the office, the one who opens the doors and turns on the lights. I was ready for a morning like that.

But Dot woke up before I left. And she didn’t want me to leave. Suddenly, even though we’d talked yesterday about her daddy bringing her to school this morning and event though she’d been looking forward to that, she wanted me to bring her to school. And N. wanted to sleep some more.

All right, I said. I’ll take you in.

Then, of course, she didn’t want to get dressed. And then she didn’t want to go to school at all, and then when we were finally happily in the car she started crying about how she didn’t want to grow up (a sentiment with which I totally sympathize) and in an effort to be silly and help cheer her up I started listing off things she could do when she was grown up that she couldn’t do now – eat whatever she wanted for dinner, make art projects with knives and scissors, stay up as late as she wanted, dye her hair purple…

Well, it turns out, my five-year-old has a friend who dyed her hair pink. When she was four. And now Dot is telling me she wants to dye her hair, too, and I’m telling her she can’t until she’s an adult, and she is calling me “Mean Mommy,” and I say the true and terrible thing I should not say: “I wish I hadn’t waited to take you to school.” Now we’re both crying and she tells me that I’ve broken her heart into pieces, and I can’t call the words back, though I want to. I feel like the worst parent ever, like I don’t deserve parenthood at all, and I’m also terrified, like it could be taken away at any moment because I’m so bad at it.

I apologize, and we head into school, and all of a sudden she’s the happiest child on the planet, hugging her friends, chirping “hi!” at her teacher. And the teacher looks at her and says, “Do you have your swimsuit on, Dot?” and I realize in the silence that follows that I’ve misread the calendar and that they’re going swimming today instead of tomorrow, and that I’ve left her suit and towel at home. I run home to get it. N is still sleeping and I contemplate hating him for a moment, but I know all the reasons he’s so tired, and if I could I’d be curled up right with him, so I blow him a kiss and sneak out, run the swim gear to Dot’s school, run to park, run to my office, breathe.

It’s funny and I’m still laughing about it, but it hurts, too. It hurts.

And now people who should have been helping me with the scary web migration project that I ended up doing on my own, like that martyr of self-martyrdom, the Little Red Hen, are asking for changes to the final site that I can’t make, or for changes that they could bloody well make themselves if they’d been paying attention because I gave them administrative access when I thought they were interesting in actually helping with the project. This is not unusual, and usually I smile, laugh, fix things, and coax people along into learning new things, but today it’s all I can do to make fixes and type brief, neutral replies. I want more than anything to curl up and hide from everyone for a while, to just hide and not pretend to be loving or good or competent or to have my shit together because right now my shit is not together.

I keep crying.

I keep missing him.

Memories everywhere, and I love them because they’re all I have of him to love, memories and the world’s most ridiculously tiny urn in my dresser drawer, but they leave me so damned raw, nerve endings exposed, eyes red and giving me away.

Dot’s daycare is closed for the latter half of this week; Teddy’s birthday and death day span the weekend. I am facing five days at home with Dot, five days to bite my tongue and pray that I don’t let me rawness show too much as I try to entertain and play and be a good mommy. A good enough mommy, at least.

I hate you, August.

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The end of the family bed

March 9, 2015

The night after Dot was born, I was holding her, half asleep, and looked down at her face to see her little mouth gaping open, full of blood. It was part dream, part hallucination, and when I jerked fully awake, I could see she was fine. Perfectly fine. No blood, no calamity, just steady breathing and the little open mouth of a newborn baby sleeping on her mama’s chest. Those first few months, I was overwhelmed by love and happiness. I also saw death behind every corner, lurking at the bottom of staircases, in cars, on the other side of the door. What made this worse was that I knew, as most parents who’ve lost children know, how little I could control. I anxiously read parenting books and breathed a sigh of relief every time we passed another month where SIDS tends to be more likely.

It is perhaps fitting, perhaps some sort of lesson the universe is trying to teach me, that Dot was precociously mobile, active, and seems to be completely without fear. From the moment she could roll over, she began exploring the world and I began trying to restrain my protective instincts so that I didn’t instill my own fears into her wee little self. She hit the playgrounds at a run as soon as she was one. She went down the frighteningly tall metal slide at our favorite park before she was two, and wanted to do it again and again. Inside, she climbed the shelves, the table, the counters, the cat tree, and it felt like life was a continuous discussion about “safe choices” for approximately two years.

But there was always bedtime, at the end of each day, when my adventurer would transform into a snuggling and clinging sleepy girl. We’d read stories and then she would fall asleep in the middle of our family bed. We hadn’t intended to have a family bed. Before Dot was born, I thought that people who did that were at best indulgent and at worst, misguided. But both N and I found we needed to be able to reach out and feel her breathing throughout the night, and keeping her in the bed with us felt right.

As anyone who frowns on co-sleeping would probably tell you, this set up a long-term pattern of sleep behavior. Other parents put their kids to bed and then stayed up to talk, catch up, watch a bit of television, finish the dishes. We pretty much all went to bed at once. N and I missed the intimacy of our own bed (not just the sex, but the spooning and snuggling) and being able to have adult bedtimes. Last week, I mentioned that Dot would probably sleep in her own bed if we had the sort of dog that would sleep with her, and I could actually hear N thinking that maybe we should get a dog even though we are no where near ready for dog ownership.

But it is sweet, too, so sweet. I think many people don’t understand that, how lovely it can be to wake up with a small body half-way sprawled over your own, or to hear a sleepy “mama” or “dada” right before she snuggles into you, pulling your arm around her. Hearing her whisper stories at night as she drifts off, listening to her dreams in the morning. Perhaps it is indulgent, but I think we were indulging ourselves more than anyone, and I think we’d earned the right to do that.

Last night, Dot fell asleep in her own bed and slept there all night. It was her idea. She chose a stack of picture books and decided to read them by herself. Then we dimmed the lights and she and I played our “describing game,” where we take turns describing people, things, and animals and then guessing what they are. Then I gave her a hug and kiss and went to sit in the bedroom we used to share, listening anxiously to make sure she was okay. She tossed and turned for a few minutes and mentioned that it was hard, going to sleep. I told her that it had only been a few minutes and that she didn’t need to rush. And then silence descended and when I peeked in she was asleep.

N came home late, curled around me in the bed and whispered, “Wow! Wow.”

This morning she woke at six, and ran into our bed, burrowing right into the middle and telling us how awake she was. I don’t know if this is going to be a pattern yet, but it feels like it’s time, like she’s ready. We’re pouring on the praise. I’m happy and also a bit melancholy – she moves fast, so nighttime is sometimes the only time I get to cuddle with her, to pretend that I’m keeping her warm and safe, to hold on to the part of her that will always be my baby. I’m bad at letting go of things, but I’m putting that longing away, in the back of my mind, so that I can leave more space for the part of me that is just so amazed at how she’s growing up.

Also, wow. Wow.