Archive for December, 2009

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Not just a river in Egypt

December 30, 2009

We had an extra growth ultrasound on the 23. Our doctor was planning on giving us one anyway, for reassurance purposes, but I’m measuring ahead enough so that it was actually a pretty good idea.

The ultrasound was mostly fine. Dot is big for her age, and looks good (as good as any baby can look on an ultrasound machine, anyway).  We have a couple of profile shots of her, now, and I think she may have N’s nose.  But there’s a little extra fluid.

Extra amniotic fluid.  Polyhydramnios.  Hydramnios.  In the large majority of the cases where this shows up, there is no attributable cause, no problem, no Big Bad lurking in the wings.  In some cases, it’s due to high blood sugar levels, and while I don’t have GD, we’ve been monitoring my blood sugars and they have been a little high.  It’s very unlikely that this is caused by a condition or birth defect.  Very unlikely.  It could be nothing.

But polyhydramnios is also one of the symptoms of CDH.  It’s the thing that, when I was pregnant with Teddy, showed up on my second ultrasound with the specialist that made him say, “I really don’t think anything is wrong, but we’ll check in another couple of weeks to make sure.”  And in another couple of weeks, the wrongness was all too apparent.

I try not to be sad that, while I’m hoping so very much that Dot arrives safe and healthy, I can’t count on it.  I should be used to this by now, and I almost am.  I don’t know if that’s really depressing, or if it’s just a healthy state of mind considering the circumstances.

And, of course, it could mean nothing, or nothing bad.

So, except when I’m caught late at night with too many thoughts running through my brain, my answer to dealing with this piece of information is, mostly, to deny it.  I pretend it doesn’t exist.  I pretend it doesn’t matter.  And while this isn’t entirely intentional (there is part of my mind that simply cannot think about this too much right now), it works surprisingly well – we had a really lovely holiday and I’m still able to function at work.  I can enjoy the falling snow and get a kick from playing with the wonderfully distracting new phone that N gave me for Christmas.  I try not to be haunted by the fact that things can always get worse.

And tonight there will be hot chocolate (spicy and delicious) and a walk in the snow and perhaps an episode of Buffy, and life will go on.

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Powdered sugar

December 22, 2009

Snow has fallen lightly, in spite of the weather experts’ best guesses, covering my local landscape with a dusting of white that reminds me of nothing so much as powdered sugar over beignets (though the snow may not be quite that thick).

I really wanted this snow.  I am currently being good-naturedly blamed for it by some of me friends and coworkers who aren’t as fond of the winter as I am.  If I could control the weather, I tell them, I’d be making a lot more money.

Where does it come from, the idea that simple human desire can cause things to happen, even things like snow?  Why is it so hard to let go of that idea even when faced with incontrovertible proof that my desires really don’t sway the spheres in any meaningful way?  Mind over matter – sometimes it seems to work and sometimes matter takes one look at mind and says, “Nice try, Buddy, but it’s not gonna happen.”

There are times when I need to remind myself, I don’t control the weather, I couldn’t control Teddy’s life and death, I can’t control others’ actions, I can’t bring dark and terrible things upon myself just because of a moment of happiness.  I’m not that important in the grand scheme of things, and frankly, this is something of a blessing.

December is a good time to make peace with the many things I can’t control, but it’s difficult to let go of the desire to shape the world to my will, even if it’s impossible.  Dot is 32 weeks and all (so far, so far) seems to be just fine.  But there’s not much I can do to make sure she’s okay besides take care of myself and avoid caffeine and potentially dangerous foods.  It just doesn’t feel like enough.

But snow, even a light powdering of it, is a wish granted.  I didn’t cause it, but I’ll take it and enjoy it.  And if there’s a fairy godmother responsible, well then, thank you, Fairy Godmother.  And would it be bad form for me to ask you about your whereabouts in 2008?

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How it is now

December 15, 2009

Sunday was a good day, a full day.

I slept in and enjoyed the lovely indulgence of not leaving the warm bed until it was light out.  I admired the light blanket of freshly fallen snow outside and turned the Christmas tree lights on.  I pulled on N’s fleece-lined bathrobe and puttered into the kitchen to bake peanut butter cookies with chocolate kisses on top, made myself a cup of tea, and then re-read some of a really marvelous historical fantasy about Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare that makes me smile.

I took a long shower and found myself singing “The Little Drummer Boy” as hot water poured down over my head, and then, suddenly, as I reached the second verse, I found myself sobbing and gasping for breath between sobs, my hands splayed flat and desperate against the shower wall as this huge wave of missing slammed into me.  It felt like an ambush but it also felt (in the imortal words of Salt-N-Pepa) very necessary.  I just let myself feel loss, feel pain, feel anger, feel longing, feel the hole in my life that will never be filled.  The noise of the bathroom fan and the running water covered the sounds of my crying, and the privacy was freeing.  The water ran (bless the large hot water heater, I say) until I’d cried myself out, until I was spent and shaky and clean.

I toweled off and carried on with the day.  I shoveled snow, watched television, listened to Christmas music.

This is how it is now.  My days are mostly normal and I am mostly happy and grateful, but Teddy was here and I still miss him sorely, miss him daily.

Jeanette Winterson, in her novel Written on the Body, writes, “The particularness of someone who mattered enough to grieve over is not made anodyne by death. This hole in my heart is in the shape of you and no-one else can fit it. Why would I want them to?”

This is how it is now.

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Tannenbaum

December 7, 2009

I have this crazy love of Christmas trees.  I love the evergreen smell, untangling lights, pulling ornaments from their wrappings and remembering who made them or gave them to me.  It may be that I’ve never gotten over the wonder of bringing a tree indoors that I felt when I was small, or that the sights and smells of the tree bring back a rush of warm and fuzzy family memories that I know are one of my greatest treasures, but I get a wee bit high from it all, truth be told.

Dad and I used to drive up to the mountains and bring our tree home.  It was fun (and relatively rare) father-daughter time.  One year we brought back five trees (we were hunting them for a couple of neighbors as well), but we hiked quite far back and up to get them, and ended up rolling the trees down steep mountain slopes and then finding places where we could slide down on our butts after them.  It was crazy and cold and some of the best fun I’ve ever had in the snow.

My junior year in college was spent in England, and while staying with a friend’s family in Leeds for Christmas, I was relieved and happy that they hadn’t decorated their tree yet, that I could help.  My friend and his mother watched my enjoyment with some bemusement.  I think to them it was something of a chore, usually, but here was this crazy American who not only couldn’t pronounce her t’s but who couldn’t stop smiling at this tree in its bucket of sand and insisted on decorating to holiday music.  The tree was not the most notable part of that holiday, but it was a good part, a part that helped me feel at home in a strange place.

Then there was the time I helped a dear friend put a tree up in her apartment.  We wanted to give the trunk a fresh cut so it would stay green longer, but by the time we purchased the tree the hardware stores were all closed, and there were no saws or axes to be found.  So we sawed away at that tree with a bread knife (well, it was serrated, at least).  By the time we’d managed to whack a chunck of the tree off, that tree had been named motherf***r and we had laughed ourselves silly.

Last year we put the tree up as an act of defiance, as a way to stave off some of the darkness, as a distraction and an attempt to find solace.  I played holiday music, but had to keep changing it whenever the songs started making me cry. Some day soon we all will be together, if the Fates allow is hard to listen to once you’ve realized that the Fates won’t, in fact, allow.  It was not without some happiness, that Christmas, but the happiness felt stretched thin and sometimes forced.  The best thing about Christmas last year, now that I look back on it, may have been that it wasn’t as bad as we’d feared.

N’s Christmas memories are not my warm Christmas memories, and it means a lot to me that he encourages and even soaks up some of my enthusiasm for the holidays, perhaps especially now that my enthusiasm is tentative and not always apparent.  When he proposed that this past Saturday would be tree day, I had the pleasant shock of realizing I was happy (with something resembling my old Christmas tree-induced happinesses) at the idea of putting up a tree again.  We spent parts of Thursday and Friday digging through our boxes of still-packed CDs, trying to find the holiday music (it was in the bottom of the very last box, of course), and then toured our town’s tree lots Saturday afternoon, finally selecting a lot and then a tree.

Our tree comes from Oregon, about 30 miles out of Portland, we were told.  About 30 miles from where Teddy was born.  It smells like we’ve brought a fir forest into the house, and drinks a lot of water (a good sign in a tree).  I strung it with lights and ornaments, and this year I let myself cry along to the Christmas music.  While hanging up pipe-cleaner candy canes I sobbed along to James Taylor and then I sang along to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” While hanging up ornaments made by my grandmother, I missed my boy like crazy and wished with all my heart that he was here to receive ornaments from his family, that he could be here for this – for the tree, for the lights, for the love that is still and always his.  And while sweeping up needles, I caught my breath and tried to take it all in, that this is my crazy, bittersweet, hopeful life, that every tree from now on will be at least a little bit about Teddy and how I miss him, and that this is okay.

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Thanksgiving

December 1, 2009

My Thanksgiving was, all in all, pretty wonderful.  Mom and Dad drove over from Montana, bringing a giant turkey and pie, and we fed Thanksgiving dinner to two grad students who were dealing with their first big holiday away from family (they brought pie, too).  The house looked good, or good enough, anyway, and I enjoyed soaking up a little coddling from my parents for a while.  I’m lucky in my family.

I have much to be thankful for, and if I’m a little fuzzy on who or what I should direct all this thanks to, well, that’s okay.  It doesn’t stop thankfulness from welling up.

And, as I’ve come to expect from holidays now, there were tears mixed in with the laughter.  Mom and Dad asked if they could see the urn that holds Teddy’s ashes.  I was a little surprised that they hadn’t seen it before, but we didn’t have a memorial service, which is, I guess, where casket and urn viewings tend to happen.  Also, asking people (even close family) if they’d like to see my son’s urn doesn’t come naturally to me, so I’m not sure where the surprise came from.  I brought it out of my dresser drawer, where it’s been tucked away since our move, and carried it into to the living room, and…

It’s so small, this urn.  I can cup it in the palm of my not-so-very-large hand.  It’s a “keepsake” urn, really, meant to hold a small portion of ashes after the rest have been buried or scattered, but it’s big enough to contain the entire physical remains of our five-pound, ten-ounce baby boy.  I know, have known, have wondered and marveled and grieved over the size of it for over a year now, but it’s different, showing it to someone else.  Showing my parents this tiny container and watching them be hit by its size, by how little we have left of him.

Showing it to them, I wanted to say, I know.  It’s really tiny. And what I wanted to yell was, He should be 15 months old now and taking up his own seat at the table.  He should be demanding space and attention and this is what he has, instead.  And it’s so wrong I can’t stand it.

Except, I can stand it.  Somehow, I’m standing.  I’ll never be thankful for the size of that urn or for the fact of that urn, but I’m thankful to have known Teddy.  And the turkey was delicious if not quite as good as the turkey soup that Mom and I made the day after Thanksgiving, and there was pie for breakfast.