Archive for January, 2011


Little gifts

January 31, 2011


This is a photograph of Watson, our car, in the springtime, and this is how I park it. When N parks it, however, he backs in. He backs in so that I don’t have to back out onto the street.

There are times when I find myself scrambling to get dinner ready while holding the baby in one arm and trying to keep her happy by popping peas in her mouth as I stir and slice and set the table, and it’s craziness, craziness all around, and I think somewhat jealously of N sitting at his office computer and wonder when he started to take me so for granted.

And this is usually the time he appears, amuses the baby, pours me a beverage, and manages to right the world.

He slips dark chocolate into my pocket, leaves cookies on my desk, calls me Beautiful.

We do take each other for granted, more often than we should. It’s one of the hard things about being together for years, and also one of the ramifications of parenthood. It’s hard to snatch moments just for us, even though we want them. Even though we know we’re worth it.

And perhaps because our time together is so often full of Dot, full of trying to get things done, full of hurry and scurry, that these little things – backing the car in for me, dancing with Dot so that I can have a few moments to read a chapter in a novel, slipping a chocolate into my jacket pocket – mean so very much.

Because sometimes I wonder when he started taking me for granted, and sometimes I wonder what he sees in me, that he never stopped courting me.


The unforgiveables

January 18, 2011

It’s been over two years.

I’ve changed a lot since those first days when I was one raw and howling ache, desperately repeating “I want you back.”  And while I will always want you back, my Huckleberry, my Teddy, I seem to be bearing your absence with more equanimity these days.  Well, mostly.  I think I have something resembling perspective.  It’s a young perspective  – assuming I don’t die early (a big assumption, I know), I have years and years and years to live without my firstborn – but it’s still perspective.

Sometimes the blogosphere really does seem to be speaking in the most unexpected harmonies.  Tash is posting at Glow in the Woods about correspondence, about writing to address the kinds of hurts inflicted on the grieving by friends, family, coworkers, medical professionals, etc.  Angie, at Still Life with Circles has a really lovely post about learning to see herself as a child while she parents her daughter and about working to forgive herself and her body.  And Mel, at Stirrup Queens has a fascinating and wonderful thread of comments going about childhood exclusions with her Exclusion Project. As I read and posted comments in these places, I realized my perspective has changed in some ways, and not in others, and I also realized that I’m not as good at forgiveness as I’d like to think.

Forgiveness is a tricky concept.  I remember seeing it as a topic on Oprah (who still talks about it a lot), remember it emerging into popular discussion as more of a secular than a religious concept.  Forgiving is supposed to be good for us.  In a recent conversation with my mom, she said that forgiveness is a gift and a release to the person who does the forgiving, even if the person being forgiven isn’t involved in the forgiveness process.  This seems to be the popular take on forgiveness.  We do it because it’s a release.  Because it keeps our souls from getting bogged down in resentment.  Because it’s good for us.

But I was raised (and Sunday-schooled, and confirmed) in a church that made it very clear that God forgave us out of love and that this was a great benefit to us.  It definitely wasn’t something God was doing because it was good for God, and it clearly involved repentance on the part of the forgivees.  So the idea of forgiving people because it’s good for me seems a bit watery and de-fanged, somehow, even though it’s attractive.  I feel like there should be more to it than that.  Maybe I’m so bad at forgiving because I feel there should be more to it than that.  Maybe forgiveness, human forgiveness, is really an entirely different creature from religious forgiveness, and my problem is that I’ve been trying to use God for a role model.

In this case, I think God is a bad role model.  If I wait around for the people who’ve hurt me to repent, I will end up holding too many grudges to count.  And I want to get better at forgiveness.  I want this especially because it’s so much easier now to give it away cheaply, to the people I don’t care about that much, and this seems very wrong to me.

It’s the people I love that I haven’t forgiven.  Somehow I find it easier to forgive people I barely know – the doctors who said unfortunate things, that damned hospitalist who didn’t read my chart, the poor receptionist who greeted me on the way out of my postpartum appointment with “Haven’t you had that baby yet?” (Yeah, she’s never going to ask another woman that question again, not after I burst into tears like that.)

But it’s the people I love, who are dear to me, whom I admire and trust and respect, who’ve managed to make it onto my list of unforgiveables.

My best friend from high school (and before, and after), who ditched me as I waited to walk with her to the first day of classes our senior year.  She took a ride with the reigning social elite, leaving me to stare at her driving by my house and knowing I’d be walking alone.  I can see where it would have been really hard to turn that ride down.  Plus, we were high-schoolers and high-schoolers have been known to do stupid shit like that.  But I keep thinking I’ve forgiven her and then I realize I haven’t.  This is probably a big part of why I made out with her ex-boyfriend in college, and, more sadly, probably part of why we aren’t as close as I’d like now.

I may never forgive my dad for telling me (through my mother) that I’d probably have more boyfriends if I lost weight.  I look back at my high school photos and see a girl who definitely wasn’t skinny but who wasn’t fat either, and I wish I could have been happy with what I had, which was good.  I want to yell, “I was fine! I was perfectly fine!” because I really was fine (except for the fluffy, spiral-permed hair, and even that wasn’t too awful).  I will probably never tell Dad what that one comment did to my self-esteem, because I don’t want to hurt him with it.  I know he said it out of concern and love for me, misguided as it was.  And even so, after years of love and support from him, I may never be able to put that memory away.

I am still working on forgiving my mother, who is one of my favorite people and with whom I’m very close, for saying “How will you afford it?” just after we found out about Teddy’s diaphragmatic hernia diagnosis.  I’m close to forgiveness.  I know she was in shock, too.  I know she’s the kind of person who feels more comfortable saying something than sitting in stunned silence.  And I know she still misses Teddy, along with me.  But I’m not there yet.  And I don’t know why, out of all the ridiculous things I’ve heard and experienced, that this small slip can still rankle.

Then there’s that “friend” who wrote to me about the people she knows who lost their first son and who recognized that it was part of God’s plan. (Nudge, nudge, Erica. Why can’t you be good like those people? Why can’t you just believe that God has a beautiful plan that involves the death of your son and look forward to seeing heaven already?) Her I may never forgive, but I feel less bad about that, maybe because she’s so certain and safe in her own little world, so very far from mine, that not forgiving her won’t affect our relationship at all.

I want to get better at forgiveness because I dream of some day forgiving myself, too.  Forgiving myself for not forgiving easily, for not seeing and knowing clearly that I was fine in high school, for not being able to tell the people I love when they hurt me, for not being able to tell the people I don’t especially love to go to hell.  I want to be able to forgive myself for not always living up to my potential, for hiding in fear instead of taking action, for all the times when I gave up on myself. And yes, I still want to forgive myself for letting my baby die, for not being able to save him. Because as little sense as it makes medically, that one still tops my list of unforgiveables.

How do you think of forgiveness? And what are your unforgiveables?




How we wake up

January 17, 2011

How we wake up

We pull Dot into bed with us, so this is what I see most mornings before I slip out of bed and into the bathroom to wash my face and try to feel awake. N snuggles with Dot, keeping her safe and warm, as I throw things in bags and attempt to convince myself that it will only take one more sip of coffee to wake up.

Taking this photo helped me realize how much I love these mornings, rushed and crazy as they can be.  I love the mornings when I hear the soft, mingled snores of daddy and baby sleeping, and I love the mornings when I hear snatches of conversation – N’s voice deep with residual sleep, and Dot’s happy burble. And this morning, as all was quiet, I took a few seconds to remember how lucky I am, to have this man in my bed.


The small moment that spins the world around

January 10, 2011

Today while I was visiting daycare for Dot’s lunch I noticed my child standing on all fours, with her head down on the mat and her bottom up in the air, looking through her legs.  It was pretty cute, and the first time I’d seen her spend so much time upside down.  I said something about it to her teacher, who told me she’s heard that this pose means the baby is looking for a sibling.

“So maybe she’s looking for her sibling,” she said.

“Maybe she is,” I agreed.

I’m so sorry he’s not here, sweetie.  I keep looking for him, too.


Sleep-deprived query

January 7, 2011

I’ve just spent way too much time online confirming what I already know. No matter what anyone tells you, there’s no magical and quick way to get your baby to go to sleep easily and when you want her to.

Dot is currently in transition – new room at daycare, new baby friends, new teachers. Also we’re coming out of our relaxed holiday break schedule into a time when it’s actually important I show up to work on time. These changes may account for a lot. I’m trying to be patient.

But after three nights of having my nipples gnawed on* for actual hours by my wee little darling, I feel compelled to ask –

Do I give up on nursing her down after, say, one hour of trying and failing, and just let her run around until she wants to sleep? Or is consistency important enough that I should lie back, think of England (okay, I’m not British, but you know) and let her go at it until she conks out?

My brain says, “Consistency is good.”

My boobs just say, “Ow. Ow. Make it stop.”

Also, if you could please lie to me and tell me that none of this means I’ll never have sex again, I would appreciate it.

And yes, it is a bit strange that I can’t swear convincingly but am somehow perfectly able to discuss my nipples in public.


*She’s not actually biting, but she does have four new teeth and while I thought my nipples were Teflon-coated at this point in my life it turns out that, after 45 minutes of consistent nursing per side, they’re not.


Paperwork, dammit

January 5, 2011

Dot is switching classrooms at her “school,” and what this means, because she’s a February baby, is that her two teachers and most of the babies from her old classroom are moving to a new room, without her.  In her old classroom, she was a month or two (or three) behind the other mobile babies, and older than the little ones who weren’t moving around yet.  Not surprisingly, she gravitated toward the older kids, wanted to sit at the table with them, toddle around like them, play near them.  She knew her group, and was comfortable in it, and we were comfortable, too.

But some regulatory reason (I really need to find out what, exactly, this is) dictated that all the little ones who turned one before January move up, and now we’re in the transitional space of watching our daughter get used to new teachers, new babies (this has been the hardest part for her, from what I’ve seen – she gravitated toward her old group but the new babies seem to make her want to stay on the outskirts), and a new space.  It’s only been a few days, and we want to give the situation a fair trial.  She’s an amazingly adaptable, sunny-natured kid and I wouldn’t be surprised if we were having a tougher time with the change than she is.

I filled out new paperwork for the new teachers, a new “Tell us about your child!” form that asks about favorite activities and foods, pets, songs, important family members, siblings.


“List your child’s siblings and their ages.”

(I wish I were better at swearing.  I’ve wished this before.  It’s hard for me to do it convincingly, but to humor me, please imagine a heartfelt and convincing, fuck, issuing from my mouth as I stared at this sheet of paper.  I didn’t really say it, but I feel better about it if I pretend that I did. )

And quickly, as if that will stop me from feeling it fully, I write down, “one brother, Teddy, deceased, but he would have been two.”  Two and a half, really, but I don’t think that level of detail is important on a form like this.

And today I will find a quiet minute or two to talk to the new teacher, explain what’s on the form.  It doesn’t affect Dot directly or change any of her care, not right now, but it’s a big part of our family dynamic and probably good for her teachers to know.

I could have left it blank, of course.  No fuss, no muss, no awkward questions or explanations.  But I can’t not write your name, right now, Teddy.  As it turns out, that’s something I just can’t do.

Have you heard about the scientific study that shows swearing (real swearing) increases pain tolerance?  Subjects who put their hands in ice water were able to keep their hands in the water longer if they said an actual swear word than if they repeated a non-swear word.  I love this experiment, not just because it’s kind of amusing, but because when you hear about it one of your first reactions is probably going to be “of course.”

Since I suspect I have years of ambush-y paperwork ahead of me,  perhaps my New Year’s resolution will be to practice invective until I’m fully proficient in the art of swearing.


Thank you, 2010

January 1, 2011

Thank you, 2010.  You weren’t easy, but you were kind to me.

I did not enjoy the panic or the bedrest, and the cumulative loss of sleep is, if I even try to do the math, staggering.  And my grandmother may have been ready, but that doesn’t mean we were ready to lose her.  And you left my brother and his wife longing for a bfp and anxious that they won’t ever get one, which was pretty brutal of you.  And the anxiety about whether or not N and I would keep our jobs?  That was fun.  Thanks.

But  you were the year of Dot, of our healthy, emphatically here Dot, who decided yesterday that walking would be easier if she could just pick up a little more momentum and is now bouncing from wall to wall and off the furniture like a small, wobbly, pinball.  We love her so much, our pinball.  For every giggle, every cry, every midnight dance of her first 11 months – thank you, 2010.  Thank you.

It seems a year of almost incomprehensible riches, looking back on it.  So many moments with my daughter.  I wish 2008 had been this full of Teddy, that I’d been able to get to know him, to hear his cry, his laugh, to look into his eyes and see that he knew me.  I spent many days of 2010 longing for that alternate universe where I was the frazzled mother of two.  I am grateful for what I have, grateful for you, 2010, but for the record, I still want them both.  I always will.

Now, 2011.  2010 was a good year for me, for my little family, but it was a terrifying, heart-breaking year for so many other families.  Not everyone who suffered loss in the past few years was granted the healing boost of a Dot.  And other moms and dads are living through their own versions of what 2008 was like for us.  These people need a break, a little rest and healing and a lot of good news.  You have your work cut out for you, so hop to it.