Archive for February, 2009

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Half sick of shadows (with apologies to Tennyson)

February 27, 2009

My connection to the alternate world, that place where I have a healthy happy boy and life is full of the busy chaos of watching him grow, is fading.  I don’t know when I stopped being haunted every minute of every day by what I knew was lost forever.  I’m not sure when I stopped staring obsessively into the window of what might have been/should have been.  There was no real moment that marked the change, no telling sign.  I struggle less now to accept the fact that the life I thought was mine is gone, that the life I’m living is real.

Getting to a point where I can be happy with the life I’m living…well, I don’t know if that’s in my immediate future, or in my future at all.  And that’s okay, for now.

“I am half sick of shadows,” said
The Lady of Shalott.

I, too, am half sick of shadows, my soul worn thin in places from pining after what I’ve lost.  But being half sick is actually an improvement.  I doubt the Lady of Shalott felt that way, but let’s face it, once you savor the rhythm and rhyme of Tennyson’s poem and let yourself revel in the melodramatic romance of the whole thing, if you pull back and look at her, even sympathetically, she was a bit of a ninny.  Not being a character in romantic poetry myself (a good thing; I don’t have the figure for it), I can report that, after being surfeited on shadows and dreams, after being fully sick with relentless longing, being half sick, just half sick, isn’t so bad.

I still look at what might have been, still daydream that in some alternate reality I am suffering the stresses that come with being a working mom, that I am learning about developmental markers and solid foods and fretting over immunizations, that my holidays are boisterous and joyous affairs rather than quiet, subdued ones.  I don’t think I’ll ever stop looking through that window, not entirely, though I could be wrong.

I still miss Teddy every day and with all my heart, but there are moments and even days now where I’m not reaching out for the impossible with the same desperation I used to be able to muster.

Is this what it feels like, the beginning of letting go?

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What are you doing for you?

February 25, 2009

This is one of the questions my doctor asked me at my appointment last week: “What are you doing for you?”

Besides writing here, which some days feels as necessary as breathing, I have returned to my yoga class.  It meets Tuesdays and Thursdays, so two days a week I bend and stretch and work to make peace with my physical self.  My post-pregnancy physical self with its floppy belly and remaining pregnancy weight, its lost flexibility.  Yoga is helping me know myself again and to reclaim myself, to be able to say, Yes, this is me.  This is how I am right now and this is what I can do.  In a few months I will be more flexible; I will be able to touch the floor without bending my knees and I will be able to hold in down dog without straining.  In a little while I will have rediscovered my sense of balance.

I’m proud of myself for going to class, for only missing one session since I started.  I cry during final relaxation at almost every class – silently, but the walls holding my tears back relax as well, and the tears just come.  I’ve stopped trying to avoid the memories of attending this class while pregnant, of feeling Teddy move within me, of finding what seemed to be his favorite poses, of putting my hand on my belly at the end of each class, my eyes closed, sending Teddy as many thoughts of love as I could.  I’m glad we had that time together, he and I.

There are two pregnant women in my class.  Their presence doesn’t disturb me as much as I feared, though I usually avoid looking at them, which isn’t very hard as we are all working on our own poses, focusing on our own breathing and positions.  Yesterday, though, as we were winding down, the instructor talked next to the very pregnant woman practicing next to me about the relaxation pose that I, too, had loved when pregnant.  “This is probably becoming your favorite pose,” she said to this other woman, and I could feel the gasps rising in my chest, my eyes filling with tears.

But I’ll be back tomorrow.

What are you doing for you?  How hard is it to do?

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Me and my boy

February 23, 2009

meandteddy1

I’ve been conflicted for a while about sharing pictures of Teddy.  For the last several days, however, I’ve been wanting to put this out there.  This is us, me and my boy.  I’m afraid he may have ended up with my father’s ears, but he looked quite a lot like me otherwise.  He didn’t get a bath until after he died (they didn’t want to stimulate him too much early on), so his hair looks curly when in fact it wasn’t.  And he has a bruise on his head from those few pushes I got in before the c-section, and a few red marks on his face and chest from where various monitoring and ventilation things were stuck to him in the NICU.  He’s still the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

We knew we had to let him go when this picture was taken, knew we just had a few hours to spend with him.  They set aside a small room off the main NICU floor for us and moved Teddy to a portable ventilator so that we could hold him and talk to him for a while before taking him to the garden to remove the ventilator tube and say goodbye.  N’s sister took this photo in that room.  The darkness around the edges is because the shutter on our camera didn’t open completely, an unintended visual effect.

I  didn’t know my face could look like that until I saw this photo.  It’s familiar to me now, that expression.  I’m guessing it’s familiar to several of you, too.  I wish it weren’t.

I wonder if I am posting a picture here, finally, because my nephew is due in a few weeks and I’m already worrying that family will sort of forget all about Teddy in light of a new (and hopefully, hopefully) healthy baby boy.  It’s still very hard to think that so much of the world goes on so easily and well without my little guy in it.  But maybe I’ve just come to a place where I want to and can share a bit more of him.

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The happy version

February 20, 2009

My last post had me thinking in terms of O’Henry’s Gift of the Magi, and when someone called my attention to the following video, it made me smile.  I no longer count on the universe giving me what I need, but sometimes it happens anyway, and this is a good reminder to me that so often love is like this – we try, cross wires, fail, try again until we get it right or realize that getting it right was never the point.   Plus, it’s a pretty adorable song and video.

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Together, alone

February 20, 2009

My doctor is also my husband’s doctor.  This is one of the things I like about seeing a family practitioner; because she knows both of us she has a more comprehensive idea of how each of us is doing.  She would have been Teddy’s pediatrician, too, doctor for my whole little family.  She’s suggested that we go to a couple of counseling sessions together, that this might be an especially good idea as we get ready to try for another baby.  We’ve talked about it, a little, and earlier this week decided to talk about it more seriously.

Last evening, N told me he’d set up a couple of counseling sessions, not for us, but for him.  I should just be glad that he’s willing to explore the idea of getting help, that he’s brave enough to try this, that he’s looking for a chance to open up to someone.

But he’s looking for a way to open up to someone who isn’t me, to talk about Teddy with someone who isn’t me.  I was shocked by how much this stung.  He doesn’t talk to me much about his feelings or memories of Teddy, about how he’s handling the loss, about how it hits him on a daily basis.  We’re very close, and he’s been so good for such a long time at being there for me, but in this one emotional area I feel shut out, like a stranger knocking on his door begging for scraps.  No, worse, like a stranger afraid to knock on his door.  I know he worries about making me sadder, making me cry.  I can see him avoiding calling up the sadness within himself – he didn’t read the bulk of the sympathy cards or the book that the Ronald McDonald house staff sent us last month, and I don’t think he looks at Teddy’s pictures.

I know some of this is what he’s had to do to survive.  Just a couple days after we returned from the hospital, he had to start a new job teaching two classes of roughly 80 students each.  He didn’t get the time to stay home and let grief wash over him that I did.  And he had to keep himself pulled together at work.  So we didn’t mourn differently just because we are different people, but also because his schedule and responsibilities were harsher to him than mine were to me.  But I wonder if he’s ever fully faced up to the grief, if he’s afraid to open the floodgates now because of what’s been building up.  We’ve talked about this a little, but I still don’t know.

When I cry, he seems to take it as a sign that he’s done something wrong, that he’s caused me pain.  I don’t think he knows that, so often now, I feel better after crying.   I don’t cry in front of him much anymore.  I do it when he’s napping, when I’m at work and can lock myself in my office, during final relaxation at yoga, when I’m in the car.  It’s a sad thing to learn, that you will inevitably hurt the person you love most, who loves you most, that you can’t shield him from your own damned pain.  I’ve learned this, but I keep trying not to hurt him any more than he’s been hurt already.

We bear so much of each other’s grief, and I love him so much, and often I fear that if I let him see the depth of my grief, that this, on top of his own grieving, would be too much.  Maybe he hides his emotions from me for the same reasons.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the case, if we were in some sort of bleak version of an O’Henry story, but I wish I knew, wish he could talk to me about it.  I’m watching the topography of our relationship change, and I don’t know where all of the mountains and valleys are shifting, or where new sources of seismic activity may show up, or where we come together and where we are alone, and this scares me sometimes.

Writing here, that’s my therapy for me.  I don’t think he has anything like this – I know he journals, but I don’t know what he writes, or how often.  I hope he goes to the sessions and I hope they help, that he’s able to open up and do whatever he has to do to get through this.  Maybe it will help him talk to me after a while.

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Six Months

February 17, 2009

Yesterday marked six months since we said goodbye to Teddy in that courtyard garden in Portland.  What does it mean, this six month mark, this half a year without my little boy?  The grief isn’t as raw as it used to be, but it’s still there, pulsing and throbbing beneath the surface of everything I do.  I draw it up here, let it overflow into words and tears, let it out and let it speak.  Maybe as months continue to go by I’ll look back and see how my grief is changing, or how I am.

Yesterday, in the doctor’s office for my annual exam:
Doctor: “Do you still cry a lot?”
Me: “Well, what’s a lot?”
Doctor: “Every day?”
Me: “Yes, usually.”

She’s a bit worried about me; I can tell.  I think that if I asked for anti-depressants I’d have no trouble getting them.  But I don’t think I’m doing so badly, really.  My child is dead.  This is supposed to hurt and linger, isn’t it?  And the doctor’s office brings the tears near the surface every time, so she only gets to see me in a state of heightened emotions, and with yesterday being a month marker, this was especially the case.  But maybe at six months I should be more pulled together, less tearful, more energetic?  I don’t think so.  It feels like I’m feeling what I need to feel, doing what I need to do.

I just handed in my annual review, due yesterday at work.  It’s shorter than it usually is, and I only gave it a cursory spell check.  Usually I put a great deal of care into my review, but this was as much as I could do this year without breaking down.   2008 is my year of Teddy, and I resented having to review the year before I was ready, even while focusing on the work parts.  Added to which, my work calendar is my main calendar – every doctor’s appointment, every haircut is on that calendar, and as I poured over it, reminding myself that I really did start and finish some projects last year, I kept running into those dates – my first prenatal appointment, our first ultrasound.  Our second, slightly worrisome ultrasound, our trips to the specialist, the day they told us they thought it all looked okay, the day they told us something was really, truly wrong, the meeting I missed because I had to go on bedrest.

I want to delete it all and I want to remember it forever.  I want to hold it close and let it go at the same time.  What is that?  Why is that?

Half a year without you, Kiddo.  I don’t know how that happened.

I wanted to love our little guy here, in the world, to see him grow up.  I don’t get to have that, so I need to love him as best I can as things are now.  I’m not good at it yet.   My life goes on, and parts of it are bleak and parts of it are beautiful, but there’s a Teddy-shaped hole in everything.  I don’t want it to go away, but I want, some day, to live with it more graciously.

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Honest Scraps

February 16, 2009

Many thanks to Sally, Hope’s mama, for tagging me for the Honest Scraps award.  It’s still a matter of some amazement to me that people come here to read what I write, that this blog has value to people besides me.  I’m truly touched by that.  As I’m late in accepting and posting, and as I’m shy about tagging people, anyone who reads this blog who hasn’t already received it may consider themselves tagged.

The rules of the award: 1) Choose a minimum of seven blogs that you find brilliant in content or design. 2) Show the seven winners names and links on your blog, and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with “Honest Scrap”. Well, there’s no prize, but they can keep the nifty icon. 3) List at least 10 honest things about yourself.

I’m giving two extra honest things, to make up for my tardiness in posting:

  1. I feel compelled to color my hair now and then even though I like my hair’s natural color better than any of the colors I’ve tried.
  2. I grew up in a small town in Montana where hunting was common; I know how to shoot a rifle.
  3. Because so many of my coworkers are on Face.book, I sometimes manipulate my status posts to make myself look more productive than I actually am.
  4. I love being married, but every once in a while I want to rearrange all the things that N has arranged since we moved in together.
  5. Much as I love my job, some days I wish certain co-workers would be abducted and probed by aliens.
  6. I still can’t talk much about Teddy without crying, which makes me sad because he was such a beautiful little guy and I’d like to share his memories with friends and family more than I do.
  7. When I was little, my best friend used to not want people at school to know we were friends because I was a geek.  Not surprisingly, this didn’t do wonders for my self esteem.  I’m still surprised when people like me.
  8. I still haven’t completely forgiven my dad for the time when he asked Mom to tell me that if I lost a little weight I’d have more dates.  High school was bad enough already.
  9. There are people around me who know about Teddy and have never mentioned him, offered condolences, or let on that anything even happened. I’ve lost a lot of respect for them.
  10. I write fairy-tale-like stories in my (not so copious) free time, and started a fantasy novel back in November.  My favorite part of the novel (so far)? The talking weasel.
  11. I will eat just about anything on a dare or to be polite.
  12. There are moments when I see with great certainty that I’m going to be okay, and that things are going to get better. This makes me feel guilty as hell.