Archive for October, 2009


Friday song

October 29, 2009

I’m pulling them out now, the songs I listened to with Teddy.  Sometimes this is very sweet, and sometimes it’s salt in the wound.  But I’d forgotten how much I love Dar Williams and how much I love this song.  On hard days, the first verses resonate most strongly, but I’m starting to think that I might realize the last verse someday, too:

‘Cause when you live in a world
Well it gets in to who you thought you’d be
And now I laugh at how the world changed me
I think life chose me after all


New Monday

October 26, 2009

I’m not a fan of Mondays. They’re such back-to-work, no-more-sleeping-in-for-you killjoys, usually.

I’ve also suspected for some time that if I were to approach them with a different attitude, they might be more inclined to be kind.

And after a good weekend, where I made progress with unpacking, took in a load of recycling, went for a lovely walk in the arboretum, finished some yard work, stocked up on birdseed, planned out our dinner menus for the week, went grocery shopping (got a great 2-for-1 deal on pumpkins!), AND made an incredibly satisfying meal out of baked potatoes, cheese, turkey bacon and green salad, I thought it might be time to try a proactively positive Monday.

(My years of work have taught me a healthy dislike of the word ‘proactive’ but I couldn’t come up with a better one.)

So, in spite of a very restless night, I took time this morning to fill the crock pot up with pork roast, stew vegetables, and sauce made from cranberries and other flavorings.  I am feeling very virtuous and domestic, in spite of the fact that I really should have seared the pork first, but boiled meat is eaten by people every day, right?  Right?

In any case, having dinner simmering away now means that I have time to plant some snowdrop bulbs when I get home.  It’s really too late for autumn planting, but now that the sudden cold snap has passed the weather is more mellow, and I’m hoping wildly that if I get them in before the next cold snap a few of them will still come up in the spring.  I’m trying for some anemones, too.  Again, it’s a long shot, but I love the vivid colors of them, and couldn’t stop myself from putting the bulbs in my cart at the hardware store.  Also, I should have time to plot out how I want to carve my jack o’lantern this year.  I have no memories of Hallowe’en from last year, and wouldn’t have taken any comfort from cutting up a pumpkin then, but this year, it feels right.

And, I’m finally going to order some prints of my photographs of Teddy.  It’s time.  I want him to have an album, something tangible that we (and hopefully someday his sister) can look at.

Now, Monday, I’ve done my part.  Please don’t smite me.  At least not too hard.



October 22, 2009

This baby kicks and wiggles.  It’s marvelously comforting; it makes me feel lucky and happy.  It also reminds me so much of the way her brother kicked – low in my belly, gentle nudges growing more emphatic as the weeks go on.  I wish I’d memorized the way Teddy kicked so that I could know, clearly and precisely, how the kicks are different, how they’re the same.  I wish I’d memorized every moment I had with him.

I keep reliving the days when Teddy was inside me through these days with Dot.  Is that fair?  She’s the one who is kicking me now, this separate and unique individual.  Doubtless she kicks and wiggles to her own rhythms, but she reminds me of her brother, the brother she’ll never know.  Or maybe she already knows him better than I do.

My brother is just a bit over a year younger than I am.  Mom laughs and points out that this is how she learned that nursing mothers really can conceive, despite myths to the contrary.  We tumbled through toddlerhood together, sporting for many years near-identical haircuts, sharing toys and time and attention.

I worry about how I’ll parent Dot, if I get to parent her.  The usual and expected worries – what do I do when she gets sick or sad, how do I teach her to be confident and (within the bounds of reason) safe?  What if I feed her wrong things, lose my temper, dress her funny?  I worry a wee bit obsessively over whether or not she’s really okay, will be okay, will survive.  And, when I get past that particular terror, I worry about how to tell her about her brother, her older brother who should have been her playmate and conspirator.

My brother joined the BB Gun team when he was, I think, eight or nine years old.  They went on bus trips and shot at targets, and when he came home he would tell me all of the dirty jokes he’d heard on the bus, and then he’d tell me (if he knew) why they were funny.  We sat up past our bedtimes laughing, thrilled by the certaintly that we were breaching some carefully guarded bastion of adult knowledge.  Who will tell Dot about off-color jokes and explain the punch lines to her until she giggles?

I worry about the unfairness of it, tying her to a brother spirit, bringing her into a family with so many memories of and so much longing for someone who isn’t here.  She is and will be her own person, but she’s also, through no fault of her own, a mirror who (through no fault of my own) will show me glimpses of what could have been.  Will her first steps, first words, her naptimes and school pictures all be haunted?  And, if they are, what can I do to make it a friendly haunting?  If Teddy is sometimes her shadow, is this a blessing or a burden, or both?

If Teddy were here, doing one-year-old boy things, I wouldn’t worry about this.  I’d smile at Dot’s kicking and tell Teddy, “You kicked like this, too,” and think little more of it.  Of course if Teddy were here, Dot wouldn’t be.  I have yet to really wrap my brain around that thought; indeed, I don’t think my brain will stretch so far.

We built a treehouse, my brother and I, in an old willow tree that stood by the reservoir at the farm where we spent large chunks of our summers.  We spent hours there, shaded and partially hidden from the rest of the world by hundreds of narrow willow leaves.  We told each other stories and secrets, watched ducks on the reservoir, made plans for a raft that we never got around to building (to Mom’s great relief).

I don’t expect you to take your brother’s place, Dot, or to mend the Teddy-shaped hole in me.  I promise that I will love whoever you are for your individual self.  And I promise I will do my best to keep my sadness from making you sad or worried, and that I’ll also do my best to let you miss your brother (or not) in your own way.  I apologize (because the universe won’t) that he isn’t here for you to play with, laugh with, whisper with.

Teddy, I’m sorry that you can’t be here to meet your little sister, to tease her and conspire with her and romp through childhood together.  I promise to keep loving you, to not forget you or hide you away.

I hope somehow you two know each other.


October 16

October 16, 2009
More roses for Teddy

More roses for Teddy

Another month gone by.  I still miss you, darling boy.


Pick a door

October 15, 2009

One of the strangest things that happened while I was hospitalized after Teddy’s death was a visit from the obstetrician who performed my c-section.  On the one hand, it was nice (I would say compassionate, but I didn’t pick up on a lot of compassion from him, which may be unfair. Not everyone has a good bedside manner and my state of mind wasn’t precisely sunny) of him to visit.  On the other hand, upon finding out that we’d made the decision to let Teddy go rather than to put him on ECMO, he said this:  “If we’d have know that, we probably wouldn’t have done the c-section.”

You know that tiger that lives inside you?  The snarling, growling, hungry beast who wants to rend anyone limb from limb when they imply that your child’s life wasn’t worthy, wasn’t important?  If I hadn’t been exhausted, on painkillers, and recovering from abdominal surgery, that tiger (barely awake) may have done serious harm to this doctor.  Here he sat, at my bedside, implying that since my son died anyway, the c-section that was performed because he was showing signs of distress from labor was to be regretted.  I had no response for him, then, but I couldn’t wait until he got the hell out of my hospital room.

What I wished, later, that I could have told him was this: It was important to me, so desperately important, that I did everything I could to give my son a good chance.  No one knows how a baby with CDH will do once she or he is born until she or he is born.  That c-section is one of the things that lets me sleep at night, that lets me say we tried everything and (mostly) believe it.  It was the right thing to do.

I tell myself this, too, because I am now at the point where I can actually think about giving birth to Dot.  I don’t count on it.  I’m too afraid and she’s still so tiny and vulnerable that attempting to plan for her birth seems overly eager, to say the least.  But I do think about it, partly because my doctor has already started talking about options.

Sally, of Tuesday’s Hope, wrote a good and thought-provoking post on birth options, The Means to an End.  Reading her post and thinking of our different situations started my brain churning in interesting ways.  On the one hand, the main and most important goal of any birth is a living, healthy baby and a living, healthy mother.  But there’s more to it than that, even when the more isn’t nearly as important as the main goal.

Because of my c-section with Teddy I have two options, a door on the left and one on the right.  On the left,  a repeat c-section, on the right, a VBAC (sounds like an American football position, doesn’t it? Quarterback, halfback, fullback, VBAC?).  They are perfectly good options, and one seems as likely as the other to get me to my goal of a safe and healthy Dot.  But I find myself wishing for the option that no longer exists, for a plain old vaginal birth without the added (super fun!) risk of uterine rupture.  The words “uterine rupture” make me want to curl up, put my fingers in my ears, and sing “la la la la la la la” until reality goes away, even though the risks are small.  And I think I finally know what that blasted OB meant, over a year ago in that hospital room.  I think what he really meant was that he was sorry I’d be facing decisions like this some day, that my options would be limited.  I still would have preferred a very simple, “I’m so sorry about your son,” but I can almost forgive him, now.  Now, that I’m looking at my choices and worrying about them and sighing over the one that isn’t there any more.

My doctor is leaning towards a c-section, thoughtfully, and at least partly because she’s concerned for my state of mind.  After my first long, anxiety-ridden labor that ended as it did, well, I’m concerned for my state of mind, too.  And recovering from a c-section is absolute cake compared to all of the other recovering I had to do in the months after Teddy died.  It’s not that bad, or that scary.  I could do it.  But I have the option of a VBAC, too (amazing considering the size of my local hospital) and I wonder if it might be healing, somehow, to go through labor and delivery, one where there’s no induction or induction meds, where I might not spike a fever, where there might not be meconium in the amniotic fluid, where my baby wouldn’t be already compromised by a condition I have no control over.  I know there are no guarantees, but I have to be honest about the fact that part of me really wants a second chance to do this.  To do this right.

That’s the problem, of course.  There’s no wrong way for me to give birth to this baby so long as it results in both of us coming through in good health.  I know this.  I’m not even certain as to why I think a VBAC might be healing – am I out for catharsis? redemption? a second chance?  Am I looking for these things in the wrong places?

I don’t know what I will do.  If I can, I’ll pick a door and be glad for the luxury of choice.  In the meantime, I’m thinking away like mad and hoping the information I need finds me.  I’m grateful to Sally, who wrote the post that caused these thoughts to surface, and to Kate, who just recently wrote out many truths I needed to hear, and to others who keep discussions about this going.



October 12, 2009

The cold hit my neck of the woods so quickly that many of the autumn leaves froze, green.  And so they will fall, crunchy and green, their autumn glories given up until some other year.  The autumn coloring that we do have seems dull and dusty, inhibited by the sudden cold snap.

If I could I’d ask the winter chill if it was supposed to be here last autumn, if there was some mix up in the weather delivery.  After all, I was so damned sad last autumn and the season persisted in being cruelly gorgeous with sunset-colored leaves and mild but crisp autumn days.  This year the trees seem sad.  Maybe the trees and I should have been this sad together?

We walked, through crunchy green leaves, down to the hardware store yesterday to get a new drain for the sink.  On the way back the wind blew in our faces until my nose dripped and N’s ears ached with cold.

If Teddy were here, he’d need a good winter coat, and mittens, and hats.  But we’d run through the sad, faded, fallen leaves and laugh at the crunches his small feet made.  We’d be thinking of happy mundane things like Halloween costumes and whether or not we’d let him have any candy, about play dates and trips to the park and whether or not we’d get photos taken for Christmas cards.

I’m not as sad as I was last year, but there are days like today where I just miss and miss and miss him until the trees start to look sympathetic and my brain just wants to give up.

I miss you, baby boy.  I love you.  I don’t know where you are, but I hope you know that.



October 8, 2009

I’ve never had this before.  At this point in my pregnancy with Teddy, I was already worrying, fearful, looking up words like congenital diaphragmatic hernia and ECMO in medical databases and on the web.  I was hoping these words had nothing to do with me, but I was still afraid of them.  Yesterday I had the strange feeling that something was missing from my pregnancy with Dot, and I realized that this time we may not have to drive to the perinatologist’s office even once, never mind once or twice a week (knock on wood).  And I realized that part of what’s missing is the fear, the particular brand of fear that hits when you hear “we think something may be wrong with your baby.”

I still have plenty of other fears.  Fear seems to be the price that babylost moms pay when entering into new pregnancies, and I don’t get any sort of special pass.  If special passes were handed out at all (and it’s appallingly apparent that they aren’t) there are more deserving candidates, anyway.  I fear for Dot.  I worry about what I can feel and what I can’t, when she moves and when she doesn’t, about all the things I can’t control.

These fears are constantly in the background, but they often bubble up to the surface, too, like swamp gas, bursting with nasty splorts and splats and releasing noxious fumes into the atmosphere of my attempted peace.  Your baby may die wafts through my waking thoughts, my dreaming nights.

And still, the fear I taste now is a different flavor than the fear I felt before, strange because your baby may die is the root of my fears now, just as it was then.  But what I fear now – all the possibilities of things going wrong – maddening as it is, is different than they think something is wrong with my baby, and from something is wrong with my baby and he may die because of it. There are days when I really prefer the fears I have now over the ones I had before, when I’m relieved to be dealing with these new fears instead.

Then again, there are days where I just want to scream because I’m so used to being afraid for my children, more used to it than anyone should be.  I know I don’t get a free pass, but I really, really want one.  I peek in at a pregnancy chat board (I know, I should know better) and read posts with titles like “My biggest fear may come true – my doctor thinks I need a C-Section,” and “My biggest fear – pooping during labor” and I cackle like the embittered old hag I am and think bitter thoughts like, “If you only knew, you foolish little idiot.”  And then I shake myself off and hope they never know, not really, and I think wistfully of the first 20 weeks of my pregnancy with Teddy when I was a foolish young idiot myself.

I hug my fears to myself and wait for Dot to kick again, and hope like mad that this time is different, new.