Archive for August, 2009

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Stroller season

August 31, 2009

Campus is full of people again, and the strollers are back.  Babies where I’d never noticed them before, until last year.  Babies in sun hats, outside on the mall, babies in slings and backpacks, inside the libraries, the food court, the administration buildings.

It hurts less than last year, but still, some days, ouch.

My SIL posts pictures of our adorable nephew, getting hugged by his older cousin, my adorable niece.  They make me smile, these photos, but – oh! – they make me want.  I should have photos like this of Teddy.  He should know his cousins.

N’s sister is due in September, and two coworkers are due in the early spring, around the same time I’ll be due.  I’m surrounded by babies, in strollers and in-utero.

I’m handling it well, but only because I’m hoping to join them.  Otherwise I’d be an envious wreck, or more of one, anyway.  As it is, having recently told people at work about this pregnancy, I’m back in all the right clubs.  It’s safe to talk to me about babies again, and people are enjoying being happy for me.  But I still miss him.  And I’m not sure I belong in the right clubs, with my sad post-pregnancy belly being pushed out by my new pregnancy belly, with my precarious balance, my scars, and my tendency to say “hopefully” every time I talk about my life now.

I don’t begrudge people for wanting to see me happy; I want to be happy for me, too.  But the relief in their happiness for me – I don’t know how to take that.  It’s too much of a burden to be other people’s story of a happy ending when happiness is so uncertain.

If I’m out next year, in the beautiful autumn stroller season, with a living baby in a stroller (hopefully, hopefully), I’ll be delighted and grateful and humbled by my good fortune, but I’m still likely to say ouch. Even if my life is all smooth sailing from here on out (and what are the chances, really?) I don’t get to be only happy, not only happy ever again.

Ah, well.  Who does?  All of the fairy tales I love leave things unsaid about happy endings.  What about all the healing and forgiving and grieving and growing that still has to be done once you escape abuse and neglect, reclaim your lost child, your lost limbs, your lost love?  Happy endings aren’t only happy, either.

This is what I tell myself, anyway.

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Nesting

August 25, 2009

This past weekend we travelled to Montana, picked up our beloved felines (who were none too happy to be picked up and let us know about it, thank you very much), and took them home.  Expecting to come home to our slightly unfinished house, we were happily surprised to find that our landlord had finished the downstairs basement, replaces our most tattered screens, and hung a couple of curtains.

It feels a little more like home every day.

We discuss how to arrange the furniture, and I organize the kitchen.  There’s storage in the basement, or will be once we move the furniture out of it and unpack the boxes down there that need unpacking.  I am guessing that by the end of this week we’ll be able to use the bedroom closet.  Tomorrow, for the first time, I’ll hook the hose up to the sprinkler and water the front lawn, and I’m itching to start hanging things up on the walls.

The box of Teddy’s things is still taped up.  I’m torn between wanting to unpack it and take his blanket out, bury my nose in it, and inhale the faint baby smell, and keeping it taped up safe and tight until there’s less chaos and shuffling going on.

The bedroom across from ours has blue trim around the doors and windows.  We’re tentatively planning on using it for the new baby, but I keep calling it Teddy’s room in my head, even though he’ll never get to use it.  It feels like it really is his room, as though there’s a small Cubs hat hanging from the doorknob and little boy giggles fill the space and pour out into the hall in that precious and enviable parallel universe where he is whole, and happy, and working his way toward toddlerhood.

I wonder if maybe there’s a small portal to that universe in this new house – not big enough to walk through, but just big enough that we can catch flashes of color and hear the echoes through it.  Do I want to hear those echoes?  Can I hold onto them or let them go at will?  I think so, I don’t know.

The results of the first trimester screening test finally came back and were as comforting as that sort of thing can be.  But Teddy’s results from this particular test were very good, too, which I can’t help but remember.  It keeps me from relaxing into thoughts of “Maybe this time everything will be all right,” but the possibility of everything being all right seems a bit more solid with every passing week, which is hopeful and sweet if not relaxing.

I want conflicting things.  I want Teddy here, safe and happy and giggling.  I want to know what his voice sounds like, to have him settled in that blue and white room with his little boy things; I want to get up in the middle of the night to bring him sips of water or sing him back to sleep.  And I want this new baby, too.  This new baby who wouldn’t exist if Teddy were still with us.

It’s a strange place to be.  I want, very much, to hear real giggles come pealing out of that room across the hall some day, but I know they won’t cover up the sounds of the laughter that should have been.

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Returning

August 19, 2009

Thanks so much for remembering Teddy with me, for all of your kind thoughts and wishes.  I was in a dark place last week, and feel like I’m only just returning, but your words helped and comforted, and I’m so grateful for all of you.

We’re still recovering from our two weeks of being between homes, from the exhaustion of moving, from the surprise that summer is so nearly over.  We’re waiting on screening test results for new baby (I’ve started calling new baby Radish, but I’m not sure it’ll stick), and the results are late, so we worry.  We miss our cats.  We miss having all our things where we want them, where we can find them.  We wish that the room that is to be N’s office were ready for him to move into, and that our dryer worked.  It’s an inconvenient time to be sad, to be swept under by memory and fruitless desire.

(I did try to explain to the universe, several times this past week, that having a dead baby is really inconvenient what with the overwhelming grief and malaise, the temper tantrums and teary outbursts, the heightened sensitivity to just about everything, and the general aches and pains of  heavy-heartedness, and if she could please give Teddy back, it would make things much easier, but she refused.  The bitch.)

We worked through the weekend, me finishing a short writing piece for a library journal, N putting together syllabi for his fall semester classes, and in between both of us unpacked boxes at our new place.

Saturday we took some time to remember Teddy on his first birthday, how excited and hopeful we were when he was born, how beautiful he was, how much we miss him.  I lit Teddy’s candle and we huddled together in its small circle of light, in the small patch of order we’d created from the chaos of boxes and furniture that filled our living room.

Sunday, the anniversary of Teddy’s death, we just worked through the day.  We grabbed burgers for dinner, we were sad, we didn’t talk about Teddy much.  This, I think, came back to bite me on Monday.  Monday when it seemed like nothing was right, nothing would work out, like I’d never stop feeling sad, like I was dragging my grief around like Jacob Marley’s chains.  Monday evening we felt sad together.  We ate soup, which I sometimes think is the food of The Sad, and salad, which was good for us and not entirely un-comforting (it had bacon).  We cried, held each other, and eventually talked some more.

I keep telling myself, this is my life now, but I still don’t always believe me.

We keep creating small pieces of order as we unpack, which makes it easier to accept and deal with all the work and clutter that surrounds us, that still needs to be dealt with.  Our new place looks and feels a little more like home every day.  I wonder if we aren’t doing something similar with our grieving, creating more and more places where we can live with the grief, where we can bear it.  More treacherous than unpacking, of course.  The chaos and clutter of grief can swell at any moment and swallow one or both of us up, throw us down, have its way with us.  Even a year later.

But if we have to live in grief, we may as well make ourselves as at home in it as possible.   And one good thing about my grief being a little older is that I think there are more spaces in it where I can breathe, think, and dwell without (usually) being completely overwhelmed.

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The evening before

August 14, 2009

I was doing so well today, staying busy at work, getting things done, working hard to be upbeat about our move into the new place (which is almost ready for us, almost).  But the sun is setting and I feel like the business and optimism that have been holding me up are crumbling away now.

Tomorrow is Teddy’s birthday, his first.

This isn’t a profound or thoughtful post.  This is a howl: he should be here.

Right now I feel tired.  I feel broken and afraid.  I want him back.  And tomorrow may be better or worse in bits, and the day after may be as well, but for now I think I just need to sit here and cry, to miss him and let myself miss him, to howl.

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Heartbreak averted

August 13, 2009

This baby I’m carrying doesn’t like being tracked by doppler.

After spending half an hour in the waiting room before my appointment (extra fun when you can feel anxiety building with every passing minute), I sat through the routine questions and chart updates.  Then my doctor pulled out the gel (N and I keep joking that we should have purchased stock in gel.  It seems like I’ve been through enough of it in the past two years to single-handedly support the industry that makes it) and started hunting for baby’s heartbeat with the doppler.  My heartbeat was very loud, but baby’s couldn’t be found.

And after several minutes, still couldn’t be found.  Again.  And while the doctor was reassuring and seemed to think that everything would be fine, it felt like she wasn’t quite so reassuring as she’d been when this happened at our last prenatal appointment.  She stepped out to warm up the ultrasound machine, while N and I stewed and sweated in the exam room.

It felt like hours before we were able to move down to the ultrasound room, though it was probably only minutes.  Then, after what felt like a another small eternity, the inside of my uterus showed up on the screen with a still, tiny figure floating in the middle of it.  I couldn’t see the heartbeat or any movement; I was certain we were doomed.  And, just then, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, kick! We watched him/her wiggle enthusiastically for several minutes, obviously and emphatically alive.  My doctor speculated that this child of mine may have been moving around too much for the doppler to pick up the heartbeat. I’m so relieved I can barely function.

As we walked into the parking lot I looked down at my belly and said, “Kid,” in the sternest tone I could muster, and N put his hand on my belly and said (to my belly), “We’re so glad you’re okay.”  Then, to me: “No scolding the baby just yet.”

He’s right, of course, but even if things go really, really well, I think I’ll have a head full of white hair before this child even hits the teenage years.

I should be so lucky.

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Home?

August 12, 2009

We are trying to move into our new place.  Which is, in spite of our talks with our new landlord, still not really ready to house human beings.  This is frustrating, and I am frustrated.

N, however, is really angry.  In this case, I’d like to shield our landlord from it, at least a little, so that we don’t end up homeless at the beginning of the fall semester in a college town.  There are better times, truly, to go apartment hunting.

Plus, I really love our new place, even though it’s currently dirty, the refrigerator and stove are temporarily in the living room, the downstairs carpet needs cleaning, the ceiling vent in the bathroom is a gaping hole, there’s painting and cleaning paraphernalia everywhere, and there are nuts, bolts, and screws covering the kitchen counters.  It still has wood floors, a basement, a big yard, and three bedrooms – all things we really, really like.  When we’re not tearing our hair out.

Some things I can do.  I can clean (but only in well-ventilated spaces, my doctor’s office told me after I called today to double-check), and/or hire cleaners.  I can try to talk with the landlord about what we need done in the next few days so that we can move in.  What I can’t seem to do is deal with N’s anger.

I feel like I’m lacking in some sort of essential human skill, like I’m completely uneducated and clueless in this regard.  My default is to go quiet and wait for it to blow over (worked when I was small and Mom or Dad was angry), but this is failing both of us.  He feels isolated and I feel useless.  And why am I so scared of anger?  I know he will never hurt me, so it’s not that, but there’s something in me that really dreads and fears angry words, angry thoughts, angry actions.

Feeding this anger, is, of course, this particular month and the upcoming dates that mark a year of loss.  I know this, and he knows this.  But his anger likes a direct target (like a landlord), unlike mine which goes howling after God, the universe, whatever it is that allows babies to die and ordinary people to be wiped out by mudslides and tsunamis.  I don’t know how to react to his anger; I don’t want to nurture it, but I want to acknowledge it, let him express it, to listen and not leave him out in the cold.

How does one do that?

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Rift in the universe

August 10, 2009

I just heard that a friend’s baby (her first) died.  My heart is still lying on the floor and I hate this month with a white-hot hate.

It’s so damnably common, isn’t it?  It just keeps happening to people, and those of us who are already battle-scarred and weary from our own losses are forced to sit by helplessly while others join us.

And it doesn’t feel common; it feels cosmically, horribly wrong.

A very good friend sent me Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet books just after Teddy died, and I am still grateful for the comfort they brought me.  A Wind in the Door was the first book of L’Engle’s I ever read, and I loved it with all of my young, trying-to-figure-things-out heart.  It’s full of the importance of names, the importance of love, the importance of hope, but it’s a frightening book in many ways.  Evil is personified in Echthroi, who anhilate bits of the universe – stars, mitochondria, people – by Xing them, un-naming them.

It felt like something was deeply wrong with the universe, when Teddy died.  And even though I can look at it in a thousand different ways now, in the very beginning the only thing that made sense to me was that some giant, nihilistic evil had played a role in my child’s death.  Maybe I needed him to matter that much; or maybe I was being narcissistic in my grief, or maybe my vision was just so filled by his loss that his death couldn’t have felt like anything but a cosmic wrong.  In any case, re-reading A Wind in the Door gave me a framework for loss that has stayed with me.

There’s point in the book where the protagonist sees an Ecthros for the first time, ripping a hole in a galaxy.  And right now I feel like I’ve just seen a hole, another one, torn out of the galaxy.

And right now there is another mother keening in grief and shock and pain.  She’s an online friend, someone I met long before I came to write about my grief in this space, and she lives far away.  And all I can do for the moment is send her love.  I do it eagerly, but it’s so damned little.  Even if I could do her grocery shopping, make sure she has boxes and boxes of soft tissues, take out her garbage and sit and listen, it would still be too little.

Damn it.