Archive for April, 2009


Kaitlyn update

April 30, 2009

Baby Kaitlyn made it through a very long (and hopefully very successful) surgery to repair her heart. She has a long road ahead, but for now her family and friends is grateful for her good doctors and for all the love surrounding them.

Thank you for keeping this baby girl in your hearts.


My own earth-cave

April 29, 2009

Back in graduate school, when I thought I would like to get my doctorate in English Lit. and go on to teach Medieval literature and drama, I took a class in Anglo Saxon literature.  Somehow, learning pieces of this long-dead language taught me quite a lot about myself.  One of our first assignments was to take the Anglo Saxon runes for the letters of our names and write our own rune poems.  Mine ended up being about love of home.

The final paper  I wrote for the class applied Freud’s paper on mourning and melancholia, and Julia Kristeva’s book, Black Sun to The Wife’s Lament, an Anglo Saxon elegy poem, told in the voice of a woman separated from her love, exiled and living in an eorðscræfe, usually translated “earth cave” or “grave.”  There has been a lot of scholarly debate and speculation over what the wife’s eorðscræfe might really have been – was it a cave, a barrow, a dwelling made of sod? – but for me, what resonates is that it was a place close to, and probably inside of, the earth.  Reminiscent of the grave, but also close to the primal nurturing force that is the earth.

I don’t remember the conclusions I came to in that paper, but I remember being happy with it, thinking that the ideas in it were worthwhile and well-supported.  I remember being fascinated by Freud’s delineation of mourning, a healthy process, and melancholia, not nearly so healthy and not so easily recognized as a process.  You get stuck in melancholia, you lose yourself as well as your lost loved one.  I remember thinking of the earth-cave, this eorðscræfe, as a fitting place for one in the throws of mourning or melancholia.  So close to the grave herself, and also close to the growing and changing earth, she could disolve into hopelessness or she could heal.  Her words could release despair and help her hold on to herself, or not.

Now, knowing more about mourning that I ever thought I would when I wrote that paper, I think that mourning and melancholia aren’t purely separate things.  I’ve lost parts of myself, parts that I wouldn’t have willingly given up, parts that were good.  Trust, faith, innocence.  I may get some of this back, or not.  And I wonder if the kind of melancholia that Freud describes is more likely to occur when the loss is unnatural, violent, or unexpected.  I mourn my grandmother, who died in December, but, months later, her death doesn’t make me want to tear my hair out and scream.

There are days when I so long for my own earth-cave, a place to hide, to sorrow without being inhibited by worry and love for those around me.  To plant my mourning self, like a seed, and see what grows.  Part of what comes with playing at normalcy, at work or elsewhere, is that I have to keep doing so many other things besides grieving.  Life goes on, and sometimes the fast pace of it keeps mourning at bay.

I worry about budget cuts at my workplace, and this takes up emotional space and strength.  I worry about moving house, about my professional writing (or lack thereof), and about tenure.  I worry about baby Kaitlyn, who is having her heart surgery today, and I worry that my worry and sadness make N sad.  The fact that I can think and worry and work at these things means, I think, that I’m healing.  It also means that I don’t get, well, quality time with my grief.

Maybe I only had earth-cave days in early grief.  Maybe those early days, those days of gasping for air, of crying as snot leaked from my nose, tears gushed from my eyes, and milk leaked from my breasts, the days when I was frantic, broken, lost to my grief – maybe those were my eorðscræfe days.  Maybe those were the days I buried myself in the earth and now, whether I like it or not, I’m growing.



April 27, 2009


Because Niobe, who has a real knack for finding fun and brilliant bits of the web, had this very good idea, here is a portrait of me, as Mondrian would have painted me, according to this charming little web toy.

It seems more balanced than I feel right now, but I’m enjoying the colors.



April 26, 2009

Somewhere in the middle of the United States is a beautiful and beloved baby girl named Kaitlyn.  She was born with a heart defect, and while they were hoping to wait until she was bigger to correct it with surgery, she’s been having a hard time and they need to do the surgery on Wednesday.

The family has rallied, and Kaitlyn, her parents, and her brother are surrounded with love, but her parents are understandably crazy with worry.

I’m hoping so hard that her parents don’t have to join our club, that her brother gets to keep his baby sister.  I no longer know if I believe in prayer – it’s something I really struggle with these days, but I believe in love and hope, and if you have prayers or good thoughts, or any love or hope to offer up for Kaitlyn, please  do so.



Stomach burbles

April 24, 2009

Today my stomach is burbling away like mad, which is puzzling.  I can’t blame any unusual meal choices or new activities.  I wonder if the doctor who performed my c-section was one of those horrible prankster types, who thought it would be funny to rearrange my innards so that they could achieve this effect:

This sort of thing never happened to me before I was pregnant.  Teddy was worth every bit of change, every ounce of flab and every hormone coursing through my body, but I can’t help but wish that some of the after effects of pregnancy were easier to live with, especially considering what I have to live without.

If I were in control of the universe, childbirth would come with much better after effects in general: increased flexibility, immediate conformity to ideal weight, the ability to be clearheaded and energetic on almost no sleep, the ability to sleep whenever one wanted or needed to, clear skin, shiny hair, increased agility, and the ability to down innumerable pints of Ben and Jerry’s (or Haagen Daas, if you prefer) without any negative side effects whatsoever.

If I ever run for Supreme Ruler of the World, this will be my first stump speech.


Wish list

April 20, 2009

A couple days after Teddy died, my mother said to me, sadly and wistfully, “If wishes were horses…” and I answered, “I’d at least have a fine herd of horses.”  This was a bit of a play on a family joke – I started petitioning my parents for a horse (yes, I was one of those girls) when I was about 4 years old, and had my hopes raised and dashed over this a few times (some day I’ll tell you about the sad horse-less Christmas morning when I was eleven).

Yesterday evening, N asked me if I was okay.  The truth is that I wasn’t; it was another blue day, a day full of quiet desperation, of being unsettled, of missing Teddy so much that I could almost hear the ghost of the laughter he would have laughed at eight months old.  I still get this feeling, some days, that my baby is somewhere but that I can’t find him, and the combination of grief and frantic-ness is hard to deal with.

So I told N it was nothing new, but that it had been a hard day.  And I told him I was stressed out about house/apartment/duplex hunting, which is also true.  He is starting to realize that not having a stable home base is harder on me than it is on him, though he probably doesn’t yet realize the extent to which I long for our own place, a place I can paint and landscape and love and bully into being home.  It’s probably good that he doesn’t realize this as we’re no where near achieving it and I don’t want him to feel guilty or less-than because of me.  You know the story of the fisherman and his wife?  I never want to be that wife.

Still, I have all of these wishes.  Some are impossible and beyond achieving – I wish Teddy were here with me, for example.  Some, however, may turn into reality if not into horses, and as I work and save to pay my bills so that someday I can afford something resembling a down payment, I encourage myself by pulling up my list of wishes for a home.

I wish I had –

  • A watertight roof
  • A sunny kitchen with enough counter space to accommodate kneading bread
  • A family room with a fireplace
  • A garden with a space to plant Teddy’s tree
  • A fenced yard so that I can rescue a greyhound
  • Enough space so that N could have an office, I could have an office/studio nook, and any possible future child could have his/her own room
  • A garage
  • A deck or patio, partly in sun and partly in shade
  • Pleasant, non-industrial views
  • Space for a vegetable patch
  • Built-in book shelves
  • Wood or stone floors
  • A screened in porch or sun room for the cats’ basking pleasure
  • A cold room for storing vegetables and canned goods (in my dream house I know how to can things – don’t laugh, it could happen)
  • At least one secret cubby or passage or room
  • Lots of eco- and environmentally-friendly features
  • A really big water heater
  • A claw foot bathtub (I realize there’s a bit of irony in wishing for this and the water heater just after wishing for environmentally-friendly features, but I don’t take long baths every day or even every week, so I’m giving myself a pass)
  • Close proximity to a park or forest
  • Birch trees near the front door
  • Enough quiet to hear the frogs singing in the evenings

Do you have possible wishes that run alongside your impossible wishes?  Do they offer you any comfort or distraction?


The other eight months

April 16, 2009

Gal, of Growing Inside, has a beautiful post up at glow in the woods.  In that post, she writes, “I have felt pangs – my eyes have moistened – thinking about how incompatible with life Tikva’s beautiful body was.”

That’s one of the most difficult things for me to accept, that he was here, so beautiful and so nearly perfect, that so small a thing as a hole in a diaphragm could mean that all that beauty and perfection couldn’t equal life.  “His brain was perfect,” I want to yell, “And his face, fingers, toes and ears were all perfect!  He had round cheeks and baby-fuzz hair, he had a good and brave heart.  He knew his father’s voice as soon as he heard it!”  I want these things weighed and measured, taken into account, because aren’t all of these things more important than diaphragms and lungs?   Shouldn’t all of these things matter more?

Eight months ago today, I first held Teddy in my arms, stared so hard at his serious, sweet and stubborn face, trying to memorize it.  I counted his eyelashes and marveled at his barely-existent eyebrows, and prayed for a miracle I knew I wouldn’t get and wished that time would stop for us (or at least slow down, just a little).  Eight months ago today we said goodbye in spite of the fact that none of us wanted to.

I’ve gone through the monthly swelling of grief often enough now to know that it will ease after today; it will wane and fade, and though the grief will still be with me I’ll feel less like howling than I do now.  Today, though, I am overflowing with anger and sorrow and Grief Girl is at her most powerful.  Today I want to turn my back on the world and ignore all the good in it.  Eight months later, and I am still back where I was when I first lost him, broken and wailing:  I want him back, I want him back.  He was beautiful and ours, N & I loved him more than anything, and this stupid birth defect with no known cause, this birth defect that seems like nothing more than a fluke, took him away from us.

I recognize that I still want to hurt someone for what happened.  I know this wouldn’t help, wouldn’t bring my boy back, and I know it’s not good that so often the person I want to hurt is me.  I work on not hurting myself or N.  I work on recognizing my anger and trying to let go of it (Hello, Anger. How are you this fine morning? Care to go for a long walk off a short pier?).  But it’s companionable, my anger.  It’s hard to shoo away and it wants revenge on a cosmic scale.  If I could walk up to God and kick him (in this scenario, God is a him, okay?) where it hurts, I would do so.  With gusto and a steel-toed boot.

Yesterday, Mom told me about how Dad cried when he opened up the envelope I sent with our tax information, how his shoulders hunched over with sobs when he sealed up the envelope with our return in it and walked it to the mail box.  I’m sad and angry about that, too.  So much pain, not only mine, has come from this loss.  We will always be missing our oldest child, and Mom and Dad will always be missing their first grandchild.  I keep hoping that eventually, the missing and the grief will weigh less heavily on us, that while they’ll still be a part of daily life, they’ll become easier to live with.  It could happen – eight months is such a short time, compared to the rest of our lives.