Archive for November, 2009



November 24, 2009

Two weekends ago we drove over the mountains to Seattle, where N coached our Ethics Bowl team through their regional match and where I ran around the city with a good friend, thinking that there was something nice about being sheltered by skyscrapers again.  The mountain passes between us and the city were slick and snowy, and we passed many fellow travelers who had met with accidents along the way.  The ethics bowl team members are five college students, bright and earnest and funny.  Someday they will rule the world but right now they seem so new to being adults – full to bursting of promise and potential, but also vulnerable.  I’ve never been so aware of the weighty responsibility of driving other people’s children before.  We drove very slowly and carefully, and the relief when we made it through the snow and slush was palpable.  And maybe we made it safely through because we were careful, or maybe we were just lucky, or maybe it was both.

We’re so damned fragile, we human beings.

My Seattle friend has had a nearly unbelievable run of bad luck over the past two years: separation, divorce proceedings, discovery that her ex was having an affair before the separation, death of her very beloved dog, cancer scare, more ugly divorce proceedings, and, just when things were starting to look up, a really bad bicycle accident that left her with stitches and memory loss and broken bones and teeth.  It’s starting to look like the run of bad luck may be over (knock on wood, knock on wood), but I’m still appalled that she had to go through so much all at once.  It feels terribly random and unfair; she deserved none of this.   It makes me understand how we come to believe in curses and hexes and the anger of gods.  And it makes me feel lucky, which is almost funny since I still morph into Grief Girl on occasion, but I am also loved, employed, and lucky enough to be walking around with a belly full of baby.

Last week I found out that I don’t have gestational diabetes.  I’m a perfect candidate for it – my grandmother has adult onset diabetes, my weight is well above what it should be, and N and I have both been hitting the after-dinner ice cream pretty hard.  But GD is a fickle, unpredictable thing and can affect people who are health-conscious and who have perfect BMIs while leaving people like me alone.  I have better health than I deserve, too.

I bounce between fear and happiness these days, trying not to dwell too much on consciously being happy.  I still worry about tempting fate, even though fate is perfectly capable of coming down on me like a hammer no matter what I do.   The fear is as real as the happiness, though perversely easier to acknowledge.  It swells and ebbs in ways that remind my of my early grief, of the moments where I couldn’t move or talk for being so overwhelmed and of the strange moments where my brain would clear enough to finish projects, make dinner, pay bills, and breathe before I was pulled under again.  I’ve never slept so poorly in my life, never been so much at the mercy of irrational superstitions, never had to work so hard to talk myself down from panics.

Memories keep rushing back, too.  Dot’s kicks reminds me of Teddy’s kicks, her heartbeat seems to sound different on the doppler (I couldn’t tell you why, but I can’t stop comparing it to my memory of Teddy’s heartbeat).  My body is shifting and changing to accommodate her in ways that are startlingly familiar.  These memories are visceral, felt and tasted and smelled, and they’ve released more tears than I’ve cried in a while.  I remember what it was like to be pregnant with Teddy in technicolor and surround sound even though this time is different, and I still miss him, am reminded that I’ll always miss him.  This is not his time, and yet part of it is.  It’s sweet and sad and sometimes knocks the breath right out of me.  I hope Dot doesn’t mind sharing.  If she does, some day, I hope I can make it up to her.

But here’s the thing.  The grief doesn’t go away, but even with the onslaught of fear and memory, I can’t deny that this pregnancy is helping me to heal.  It allows me a different perspective on my loss, new things to hope for, something I can hang on to.  I’m so tired of letting things go and of trying to let things go.  It’s a blessed relief to hang on to something and know that it’s okay.  I’m so damned lucky, and completely undeserving.


Burbling up

November 13, 2009

I was doing dishes yesterday evening and found myself singing again.

It’s kind of a big deal.

Singing used to be part of my daily life; I grew up going to church every Sunday, and singing hymns was my favorite part, perhaps because it was a relief from all of the being quiet and listening.  My Mom and her brother  both have wonderful voices, as did my Mom’s dad.  Grandpa’s voice was a rich, deep tenor, the kind of voice made to sing Christmas carols à la Bing Crosby.  My Dad has a better voice than he’d ever admit to, sings in the church choir with Mom, and tends to hum when working on projects around the house.  I took voice lessons in high school, sang in the choir in college, and even though I let the singing go in graduate school, I still sang around the house, especially when there was water involved.

Water used to make me sing.  I’d sing in the shower, I’d sing doing dishes, I’d sing watering plants and, yes, I’d even sing in the rain.

I sang to Teddy when he was in my belly, singing along to favorite songs I wanted him to know – folk songs, Beatles songs, pop songs.  I sang lullabies.  I’d stand in the shower rubbing my giant belly and hope with all my heart that he’d be okay, that he’d grow up to know about silly songs and sweet songs, that he’d find music that would speak to him even if it was music that he’d play too loud, that would drive me crazy.  I let hot water and music and hope pour over my belly.  It was, perhaps, a kind of prayer.

I sang to him in the NICU, when we knew we’d lose him, sang with a cracked voice one lullaby about how his daddy would buy him a mocking bird.

After that, I didn’t sing.

Not in the shower, not in the car.  Once in a while, last winter, I’d try to sing along to a favorite carol but it was always forced, and I gave up.  I was so grateful to that winter for the deep snows and the quiet, and maybe quiet is what I needed.  Maybe my voice or whatever it is that makes me want to sing in the shower needed to winterize before it could appear again, like the bulbs I planted in my flower bed this fall.

In any case, yesterday I found myself singing while I did the dishes.  My voice is creaky from lack of use, and more pitchy than it used to be.  Some notes are out of reach for now and will be for a while.  But a bit of me that was lost, that bit of me that wants to sing while doing the dishes, is coming back.

Fancy that.



Tempting fate

November 12, 2009

Monday I arrived home from work to two packages, a box containing a couple of CDs that I ordered in a fit of indulgence and The Baby Name Wizard book, which I ordered in a fit of optimistic concern.  Dot will need a name to take with her into the world (hopefully), and I try to be careful that years of studying literature from days gone long by don’t affect my preferences in ways that could be, well, traumatic.  A boy named Sue can grow up to be tough as nails, but what would happen to a girl named Hrotsvit?  Or Dorigen?  Or Hippolyta?

In the other box, the surprise box, was the first installment of hand-me-downs from Dot’s cousin.  Little sleepers in little girl colors.  I remember oohing and ahhing over the first tiny baby things we received for Teddy, but I’d somehow forgotten how small these clothes are.  Amazingly, adorably, frighteningly small.  I remembered how small my son was when I first saw him, how his small weight was the most precious, important thing in the world for those few hours when I was able to hold him, and I cried a little and then smiled at the precious, frightening baby clothes, and put them back in their box.

I spent the evening cooking dinner and looking through baby names.  N and I discussed some of the names on our not-so-short short list, almost the way that any happy and expectant parents might do.  It was cozy and sweet and I should have known I’d make myself pay for it later.

This pregnancy is more full of twinges and pangs than my last.  Partly because, from what I understand, second pregnancies tend to be this way, and partly because this pregnancy is so close to my last one, time-wise.  The discomfort isn’t huge, and wouldn’t phase me at all if every little twinge weren’t so immediately connected to worry.  So, Monday night I had an ache in my belly (which was most likely gas) and Dot seemed more quiet than usual and I convinced myself that because I’d touched baby clothes and looked at baby names I had doomed this pregnancy.

I lay awake for most of the night, N sleeping peacefully next to me, waiting for Dot to move so I could know she was still alive.  It was a quiet night for her, so I drank a big glass of cold water (not the best decision for a woman who desperately needed sleep, now that I think of it) and then she had hiccups for what seemed ages, and I worried some more about everything that might be wrong with her.

And she is fine and I am (mostly) fine, though sobered by how easily I can be thrown into a panic.  February can’t come fast enough.

Where does it come from, this human tendency to blame ourselves for tempting fate?  The idea that by indulging in some baby name fun after handling baby clothes I’d triggered disaster doesn’t make logical sense.  It’s completely invalid, scientifically, and strikes me as the kind of thinking an intelligent and reasonable person could avoid easily,  yet I fall into it, time and again.





November 4, 2009

I remember writing, after we found out that Teddy had CDH, that it was hard to give up having a “normal” pregnancy, and even though I used quote marks around that normal, a friend commented that there was no such thing as normal, making me cranky. I meant “normal” as in not high risk, not full of fear, not involving multiple trips out of town to see specialists.   I meant “normal” as in the kind of experiences most moms get to have, the kind of pregnancies that include such frivolous and happy things as baby showers and that end with healthy babies who get to go home. That was what I thought normal was.

After Teddy, however, there is no normal for me, not as I imagined it, anyway.  Perhaps the fear and worry are my normals now.  Even though it looks like I’m having a medically normal pregnancy, and even though I am happy and relieved and hopeful, even though I’m still giddy with relief, I know that Dot isn’t a sure thing, either.  She may not be born safe and whole and healthy.  I have another appointment tomorrow, and my anxiety levels have been rising as it draws closer.    Instead of worrying that I may have gestational diabetes and that I’ll have to give up ice cream, I worry that my belly will measure bigger than it should and we’ll have to schedule an ultrasound that will reveal more amniotic fluid than is expected and that we’ll have to go back to the perinatologist we saw with Teddy and that he’ll tell us, again, that there’s a problem.

Ice cream? Not a big deal.

Be safe, Dot.  Be healthy. Be whole.

I’ve longed for normal, I’ve ached for it.  But I’ve come to a place where I need to try to stop thinking about it.  Hankering after normalcy is just a way to make myself jealous and resentful, and right now I need to focus on how things are and how I want them to be.  So we’ve missed our stop at Normal Town, that’s okay.  It seemed like a lovely destination, but I don’t think I’d be comfortable there, not now.  I’m much better off being out in the wilds of Beyond Normal, where the vistas are wild and stark and beautiful and where the scary things are acknowledged.  Deep and wild missing of my boy? Check. Overwhelming gratitude? Check.  Raging hopes? Check. Heart pounding terror? Check.  Glimpse of something like home off in the distance? Yes, I hope so.