Monday, March 29, 2010


Before Lucy died, Sam and I always used the morning after his twenty-four hour shifts to go out to breakfast. Our local diner is a place of happy Jersey vibes. It is filled with old people, and frequently, the mayor. Our favorite waitress mispronounces Beatrice's name, and squeaks like Fran Drescher. She calls us "honey" and brings us free bananas. Sam and I always order our respective eggs mush, and a shared fruit bowl. We like fresh fruit.

One morning, we got our delicious bowl of fruit. Grapefruit, banana, grapes, pineapple, and then there was this weird white fruit. I put it in my mouth. Crunch. Like little bubbles of yummy. It was a bit citrus-y. But sweet. Bit tart. Hmmmm, interesting. I picked up another one. "Wow, this fruit is so weird. It has the strangest texture, but it is really good. What is this?"
"Uh, Ang?"
"That's an apple."

I have defenses. In a bike accident in 1999, I knocked out my front teeth. Due to a fear of their structural weakness, I don't eat apples unless I cut them up and I am lazy. Also, the grapefruit/pineapple acid taste permeated everything in the bowl. But still, I grew up in apple orchard country. There were apple trees in my backyard. I have apples in my bones. I have the cellular memory of apples in my taste buds. Yet, in this common diner in New Jersey, I was convinced that I was being served some exotic, foreign fruit for $1.99.

Right now, that is how I feel. I have a living child. I have a dead child. I have gone through childbirth twice. I have even been induced before. I have attended my sister's three births. I have many friends with children. And I have no idea what I need to do for this baby. Every night Sam and I sit down together and make lists of things. What we need to do for the baby. What we need to do around the house. What the day of birth is going to be like. What are we naming the baby. And we always conclude the same way. Ah, well, we'll figure it out.

My sister asked me today if I had receiving blankets.
"What are those?"
"You have them."
"I do?"
"Those thin blankets that you swaddle babies in, remember? Swaddlers."
"You have blankets, right?"
"I think so. I have quilts that you made me. Does that count?"
"No. They need to be thin."
"Do I have to take them to the hospital?"
"Then I will worry about it later."

And thus is every conversation I seem engaged in this week. I have some diapers, and a few onesies. My one boob seems to be still in working order. I can't really see anything beyond that. Where is the baby sleeping? Don't know. Where is he getting changed? Uh... Do have bottles? Binkies? Socks? Hats? Seems rather extraneous right now. What are we naming him? Let's see him first, 'kay?

And yet, YET, this weekend we threw an early birthday party for Beezus' third birthday. There was an ugly ass unicorn pinata. Dora plates. A dozen and a half balloons. As I scrambled in the morning trying to prepare everything, I kept finding my husband with his foot elevated, and the Military Channel blaring. He would accomplish one task and sit. Then I would give him another task. Then, bam, there is a documentary on the B-51 again, drowning out NPR.

"Come on, dude. I need help."
"It's fine, Ang, geesh. It always comes together. It always turns out great when you host people."
"Of course it does. Because I make lists, and plan every single fucking detail, dude. It doesn't just happen. It doesn't just 'come together.' There aren't gnomes making the food. I do it. Every detail I do. That is why it is great. Come on, dude. I am massively pregnant. I need your help today." STOMP STOMP STOMP. Muttering "men" under my breath, and sons of...and other unmentionables. And as I continued preparing for the pinksplosion, I started thinking about what I snapped at my husband. Life doesn't just plan itself. What if I am putting up my feet in front of the proverbial Military Channel when I should be making lists to prepare for this kid? What if lists would help me remember what it is like with a newborn?

I have no idea what to expect now. The lists we make seem useless, because we qualify them with statements like, "But we don't want to spend money on that just yet..." or "But he might not even come home, so seems kind of pointless to pull it out now." Like preparing for a party the day before. You can't exactly put all the chips in a bowl and wait. You have to do it the hour before people arrive. I am going into the hospital Wednesday night, and hope to have the baby Thursday. I think the baby will come out my vagina. That is something I remember. That shit hurts. I also might be bitchy at some point. No list can take that away. Other than that, I am following my husband's lead. Feet elevated. Military Channel. America's Next Top Model drowning out common sense. Large glass of ice water. Maybe Thor himself is the one making lists in there. I do remember that the little being coming out is definitely the boss.

That I remember.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sound of horses

Some people asked in the comments of the last post if the Reason List made me feel better. And I have to say, "Yeah, kind of." I always find comfort in exposing my festering, moist bullshit to the hot dry air of reason, then let it dry up, blow away, and fertilize another, more productive, line of thinking. I think the trick of making a list like this isn't to sit down and come up with a long list of silly things, but simply to call your thoughts out when they come up. Kind of like in meditation when you start making a grocery list, you simply say, "Thinking" and get back to the exercise of meditating. When you are contemplating whether or not to have a second cup of coffee and your brain thinks, "But coffee might have killed Lucy." Eh, right there, then, write down: "Second cup of coffee." That is sort of what happened with this list. If I was making a list for entertainment purposes, I would have definitely added laundry and, perhaps, cooking. And then forced Sam to read it. But it wouldn't have been true, and then I think the exercise would have just been nonsense.

I had this list going in my BlackBerry Notes, which, by the way, if I die, I fear will be posted in some Smoking Gun Archive of BatShit Crazy People, because I have lists for What to Order at Sushi, Things I Want to Accomplish Before Thor is Born Alive or Dead, My Empress of the World list, and lists of blood pressure readings for three months plus a sundry of shopping lists and random snippets of poems I have been working on for years. I simply added to this list whenever something came up. I didn't read through the entire list. Just opened it. Added a new line. Closed it. I also had a parallel list in my saved drafts on Blogger. So, it just grew, organically. Somedays I added a couple of things at a time, but mostly, I would look at it every few days and think, "Is that it?"

It will never be it. There will be a point, I'm sure, where I will begin retroactively blaming things. Like somehow juxtaposing my raw diet onto Lucy, and thinking that eating a raw diet, which I never did during my pregnancy with Lucy, somehow killed her. Or, you know, when I live the future, will somehow look back and do that Oprah thing she does. Does that drive anyone else crazy? Her mantra is "Everything happens for a reason." I think we make meaning out of our shitty experiences. We transform our traumas into something we can use, but the traumas don't exist for our future enlightenment. That I think is the worst thing about the richest lady on Earth, she is constantly spreading this idea around of how these experiences make us stronger, richer, more compassionate people, and that if they didn't happen, our lives would be sorry and shallow. And you know, I would exchange all the wisdom and compassion gained this last year for my daughter. In a heartbeat.

Back to the list: I didn't really realize that my list included sleeping on my back, sleeping on my right side, sleeping ostensibly on my belly/side/boob, sleeping on the couch and not sleeping (insomnia) until I posted it. It felt good to go back and read that I have thought at some point or another that pretty much every sleeping position killed Lucy. I am human after all. I must either sleep or not sleep. But it really speaks volumes about how fucked up this after-world is, where sleep is literally the enemy of your child's in utero well-being. Of course, there are some on that list that aren't going away by writing them down. Weight gain, for one, because shame is a horrible, nagging frenemy that pisses on the enjoyment of every damn Trader Joe's chocolate-covered raisin I consume and yet, who I cling to like some co-dependent doormat. I am working on my damn issues.

We search for reasons. The entire Enlightenment period made us search, heroically, for Reason, and for reasons. White-coated people for over a year have been trying to convince me that Lucy was perfectly healthy, but dead. They sit there and tilt their head at me sympathetically and say, "Don't feel guilty. There is no reason." Being an asshole would have been more of a comfort to me, I think, because I can change that. Sure, it would have hurt if the post-autopsy report would have read, "We couldn't find anything medically wrong with your daughter, but we hear from outside sources that you were arrogant about your ability to birth babies, including using your grandmother's twelve children as an example. We believe this is why your daughter died." I can be nicer. I can be less arrogant. But I can't change random chaos. I can't control the winds that destroy the roof of my house, so I blame my roof. It is fallible. I am fallible. I fail every day. Maybe it really was angering a goddess--just tell me what to sacrifice, what obscure leaves to burn, what prayers to say, and I will do it, but leaving me without a reason scares the hell out of me. It feels so helpless.

I am now staring down the days until Thor arrives, no longer clicking off weeks. I have not had any emergency runs to the PETU for monitoring, or in between appointment heartbeat checks, or swabs of my vagina to check for leaking fluid. I have been calmer than I ever imagined on the day to day struggle to get through the end game of this pregnancy. But today, at my last NST, I realized this is it. This is where I was last year at 38 weeks, preparing to birth Lucy, thinking nothing could go wrong. And I felt my heart speed up. This week, I will be surprised if I don't end up in the hospital, or at the OB, before my scheduled induction. I can see the finish, and I know what happens when someone rolls a thousand marbles onto the last fifteen feet and you never quite get there upright. Now every stretch of pavement feels unsteady. Last night, I had an emergency orange juice/kick count session just in time for Project Runway, just to make sure, you know, after he had been kicking me all day, that he still could dance on command. He can.

Today, as I sat there, hooked up to the monitor, listening to Thor's heartbeat, watching him kick the belts, and I mused, "I love that sound. I can't get enough of it."
And the tech said, "You can record it on your BlackBerry."
"Yeah, someone did that yesterday. I'll turn it up."
She walked out of my curtained area, and I held up my BlackBerry, and pushed the red button.

His heart beat today.

I will probably never listen to it again. Every time I hear that sound, I find both extraordinary comfort and excruciating pain. Comfort in knowing he is alive right now, and pain at remembering the desperation of searching for Lucy's heartbeat in a cold PETU room. But still, there is his heartbeat from 8:21 am, Friday, March 26th. I have a record of it beating now--the sound of a thousand horses galloping towards next week.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


In the last five seasons without my daughter, I have blamed myself in a thousand different ways for her death. The autopsy never revealed a medical reason, and so I have been left to my own devices. Some days, it drives me absolutely insane. I have questioned just about every aspect of my life, my routine, my habits, and my disregard for the edicts and rules of What to Expect. No reason has been too silly or ridiculous for me to consider or blame myself. This is part of my experience with grief: a constant questioning of why my daughter died, near pathological examination of what I did to kill her, and the feeling that I have absolutely no control over keeping this baby in my belly alive.

A few months ago, I began writing the reasons down, when they crossed my mind, and adding them to this post. Seeing them written out like this gives them less power. I wanted to reveal to myself how silly some of these reasons are to myself. I want to let some of them go and put others in perspective. I rationally know a glass of wine didn't kill Lucy, but the passing thought has completely kept me from enjoying a glass during this pregnancy. Emailing with my dear friend Danielle, she said something so profound to me about guilt, "I think sometimes the only form of control we can exercise over all the horrible stuff that happens is to blame ourselves." Maybe this is the control freak's manifesto or the litany of self-loathing. If you can believe, there are one or two too personal and horrible to write on the list, but this is mostly the list. So without further ado...

In lieu of a real scientific reason for Lucy's death, here are a list of things I have come up with in exchange:

sleeping on my back
compressed cord from turning Lucy from breach position to head down with yoga
gaining weight
stress from losing a very close friendship
false labor
a broken collarbone
eating lunch meat once
going into labor then stopping
not riding my bike as much as did my first pregnancy
winter solstice 
living in a house with undetected bad mojo (I still live in this house.)
undiagnosed high blood pressure
acting indignant at the possibility of induction
sleeping on my right side
hot baths
the size and shape of my uterus
having everything I ever wanted
too many status updates about my pregnancy
eating sushi
talking about how strong and healthy I feel
thinking this could never happen to me (and maybe saying that out loud?)
not being able to carry a child past 37 weeks
sleeping on a wedge pillow where my belly sometimes touched the mattress
drug experimentation in the 1990s
having and enjoying sex (with my husband) during my pregnancy
a car accident two months before she died
faster than human gestational period unique only to me
too much cheese
hot showers
eating too much ice
a broken collarbone that made me sit on my ass for three weeks
genetic cause that is undetected by any test 
being fat
an angry goddess who I insulted with my hubris
wine on my anniversary
not being prepared for a second baby
too much computer time
being happily divorced
sleeping on the couch
lack of imagination
contentedness with my life
being as asshole

Monday, March 22, 2010

Big sister

Beatrice has decided that, suddenly, "I am a BIG SISTER now!" She never really said that with Lucy, or put two and two together that with Lucy's birth and death, she became a big sister. And to be fair, how would she? She never met Lucy and she was under 20 months during Lucy's pregnancy. Oh, she liked hearing the books about having a new baby, but didn't really connect the dots that Mama's squirmy belly meant she was a big sister. Now, she is incredibly happy about this fact. She often says that she is going to invite all the big sisters over for a parade around the house. Or her birthday party will be just big sisters all named Beatrice that all look exactly like her.

Being a big sister has meant some awesome changes in our house. For one, she randomly, and thankfully, abandoned her binkies one day, declaring them not appropriate for a big sister. She began picking her daily insane outfits, laying them carefully out on the floor of her room, replete with socks in each pant leg, and a little itty bitty purse placed where her hand will go, and dressing herself.  She now carries her dishes from the table to the sink. I am a fan of big sisters. They really are quite helpful around the house.

But the big sister conversation comes with expected pitfalls and hurdles. For one, what the hell do you say to your little girl about a hopeful new baby and a dead one? When Beatrice says we are a family now with the new baby, it breaks my heart. And her sudden insistence that Thor makes her a big sister makes me feel protective of Lucy. Lucy made her a big sister. Lucy is her little sister. So, when I draw our family, I always include Lucy. Beatrice uses things around the house that I bought for Lucy--a butterfly towel, a chewy gnome--renamed Lucy's towel and Lucy's gnome. There, of course, is Lucy's candle. So, Lucy is present in our home, and it fills my heart with joy to hear Beatrice say, "Draw our whole family--with Lucy and the new baby and Jack too."

But when she declared yesterday as she held onto my belly that there were two babies in there: Thor and Lucy, coupled with her awareness of  boy/girl twins, I knew we had to have a real conversation and set the record straight. I explained about Lucy again:

"Lucy isn't in Mama's belly. Lucy was born already. Do you remember celebrating her birthday?"
"Lucy is your sister, but she isn't ever going to live with us."
"Why, Mama?"
"Because Lucy died."
"Was Lucy sick, Mama?"
"We think so, but we don't really know, baby."
"I was sick."
"But you weren't sick in the same way that Lucy was sick, love."
"Where is Lucy now?"
"Lucy is dead, baby. She isn't anywhere, but our hearts."
"In our hearts?"
"Yes, because we love her and remember her. That is how people stay with us. Grandpa Harry is in our hearts, and Lucy is in our hearts."
"But our new baby is in your belly?"
"Yes, baby."
"Is the new baby sick?"
"No, love."
"Is the new baby going to die, Mama?"
"I hope not, love."

"Lucy died?"
"Yes, Lucy died, but you are still her big sister. You will always be her sister."
"I am a big sister now."

And so it has gone all week. The refrain behind everything having to do with being a big sister, and having a new baby and "Lucy died." And she ran out of the tub, wrapped in her new monster towel telling Sam that Lucy died. I watched him tear up, and look at me.

"Yes, Lucy died. That is why Mommy and Daddy cry a lot, Beatrice, because we miss her."
"Yeah. She was sick and she died."

I am afraid of talking about all this mortality with my almost three-year old. I don't want her to be afraid of dying or of my death, or of Thor's death, except that she already lost her sister. And she will have to reconcile that. Perhaps she will play "What if" with Lucy's life far more than me. It is not in my nature to imagine her different ages, but children, teenagers, young adults...they are different. I was different then. I said things like, "That could have been me" when things happened over my shadow.

Beatrice and I were playing doctor with her stuffed elephant and she said in a very serious tone, "Is he dead, doctor?" And I tried not to flinch, but I instinctively cringe when any toddler says the words "die" or "death" around me. I am just a person. I too am afraid of my own mortality some days. And I am afraid of the mortality of those I love every day.  I cannot always comfort myself in the darkest hours of the night. When asked the questions of why, where, how and what of death, I can only shake my head and say, "I don't know, love," which is not comforting to me in the slightest. I just cannot lie to her, even as I know that I disappoint her with my fallibility. I am afraid. I am afraid of the death of my husband, and my daughter, and my son, and my sister, and my nieces and nephews, and my parents and my in-laws. I am afraid.

I talk of bravery often. Beatrice is brave when she goes to sleep in the dark alone, or visits the doctor for a shot. Bravery, we always say, is not the absence of fear, but being afraid of something and still doing it. That is true bravery. Sometimes this parenting thing is all about bravery. And this pregnancy after loss is about bravery too. And this living thing...sometimes it takes all the bravery in the world to admit that death makes life a terrifying experience.

I examined the broken pachyderm paw. "No, it is just a boo-boo. Your baby elephant is going to be juuuuuust fine."

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Week of False Labor

Many decades ago, someone gave me a cool astrology book called the Secret Language of Relationships. It basically divides the entire year up into weeks of personality types, and then shows the best relationships for each week. Relationships like love, marriage (not the same thing apparently, people), family, work/business...Each week of the year has a title. My birthday week is called the Week of Determination. And I share my week with Richard Nixon, David Bowie, Simone De Beauvoir, Elvis and Sir Isaac Newton. I wish I were clever enough to figure out one title for the last week. Perhaps the Week of Genital Achings. Not exactly screaming "Read Me."

It isn't that I don't appreciate the general pain of laboring after nine months of pregnancy. It is simply that I would rather it happen when I am actually in labor and not for three weeks building up to labor. Tuesday night, I had regular steady hard contractions every seven minutes for four hours. Ironically, my brother-in-law and family were visiting the next morning and I really should have been utilizing that time cleaning. Rather, I spent it huffing and puffing and drinking gallons of water and laying on my left side, then the right side, and going to the bathroom to check that I still have a mucus plug. Packing labor bags for middle of the night runs to the hospital. Watching Beatrice cavort at unmentionable hours because Sam thought that we shouldn't put her to bed until we knew it was labor.

"Honey, she is running around in circles declaring that the Little Mermaid is a Mermaid! And a Princess! And a Mermaid! I think she has hit the stage we call, 'the Ten O'Clock Crazies.' You just need to put her to bed now." 

I called the OBs, gave them a heads up with the seven or more contractions in an hour thing, and the doctor on-call advised me to take a benadryl and try to sleep. Funnily, that is exactly the advice my mother would have given me if I were stupid enough to call her. At this point, they don't stop labor, and so I have to treat it like real labor. Every four minutes and in pain. Somehow, I fell asleep, and it was morning, and the contractions lessened in intensity. The shame of having dust bunny herds stampeding the upstairs hallway defeated the fear of labor. While dusting, I figured out that I wasn't having this baby. Well, not yet. But it did remind me that the baby needed to come out. Eventually. And that it is going to fucking hurt. Eventually.

Family came and the kids were obsessed with feeling Thor move, which, not for nothing, was nice (I am a sucker for older kids who love babies) and terrifying. See, I have spent most of the daytime the last month and a half chasing an almost three year old, and cleaning up after the husband, and generally being so friggin' busy that I don't much do random, hysteric kick counts during the day. He kicks, and I declare, "OOOT!" and am happily contented with the occasional surprise kick while loading the dishwasher. I don't have a ten year old and eight year old asking me if the baby is moving every five minutes, and when he is not, trying to swallow my insane, internal freak out. My kick counting is done at the same time every night, and naptime, and I know I can get him to move. See, I minimize internal freakouts that way. He expects prodding. I expect kicking. It works for us.

Still, the visit was nice. Seeing my husband around his family brings me some peace. He misses them so terribly. Ironically, he who complains about living in New Jersey and in the suburbs actually talks about this place like he likes it. I overhear him bragging about Bea and I. It is sweet and lovely.

I was awoken Thursday night to another round of painful consistent contractions coming every four to five minutes in the middle of the night. Oh, I'm not smart enough to recognize a pattern like this. I was convinced that this. was. it. But having an appointment at 8am made me try to stick it out until appointment time. I woke late, ran to the train, got into the NST seat, and they, you know, stopped. Ah, well. Apparently this happens a lot with your third child. It is still 35+ weeks, but dealing with weeks of contractions will probably get old. Eventually. For now, though, I am contented with imagining myself going into labor on my own accord. On the day before being induced.

Thor's last growth scan was yesterday and he is measuring seven pounds, five ounces. Larger than Beatrice was at 37 weeks and her birth. He is on the same trajectory as he was at 31 weeks, which made me want to kiss my MFM with tongue. He is consistently practice breathing and there is no indication that he is doing anything but growing beautifully in there. All of his measurements are a good three weeks ahead. Whew. Somehow this brings me comfort, though, I am not above freaking out every day for the next week and five days, but there is talking down comfort there. Baby Thor's tentative induction date is April 1st, depending on my cervical cooperation. It is getting to be less than two weeks now, and I can't completely comprehend that. I still have a three year old birthday party to throw, a man to get out of a cast boot, a lot more dusting and random closets to organize and a bunch on contractions to calm. But still, I am feeling a bit optimistic. The weather is helping. I might have a baby. Eventually.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

My lizard brain

I'm actually finding it a bit mind-boggling that it has been a week since I last updated my blog, but then again, I haven't actually been on the computer properly for most of the week. The strangest part of this time with Sam home has been not finding a minute of time for myself. Usually my de-stress alone Angie-time is lounging with coffee/tea, writing and commenting at the computer. Sam usually accuses me of having hypergraphia, because we will be having a conversation about, say, dinner, and I will run off, because I had something I had a brilliant turn of phrase stuck in my head and it became two pages. But right now, I have a ton of work to do on still life 365, a load of emails to respond to, and yet my energy for writing has been almost nil. I haven't much done anything creative. I have read other blogs where people say that they have a lot to say, but can't say it during this time of wait. I don't. I have nothing to say. I just don't feel like I have much to offer right now in the way of insight. No higher thought. No revelation. My lizard brain has taken over. I am not capable of higher anything other than: "Eat Bug," "Lounge on Sunny Rock." "Drink Water."

I am wracking my brain right now, trying to figure out what the heck I have been doing. I guess existing. Eating ice. Playing with Beatrice. Trying to make sure my house doesn't resemble third world squalor.  Sam returned to work this week for exactly three hours, twenty minutes, before HR got involved and sent him home again. Apparently, the boot he must wear for recovery is not allowed in the operating room, which means that he is not allowed to return to work for the next few weeks. So, at least, probably until Thor is born, Sam will be home. He is now more mobile, and able to help. I told him that I am ordering a case of bon-bons and sparkly water and ordering the entire collection of some HBO show. And he is working off the last month. Still, despite the fact that I want him to maximize his time with Thor, I am also grateful to have time with him home where we connect, enjoy each other's company and get mentally prepared for this baby. Also, having him be able to watch Beatrice during my many appointments makes life that much easier. In general, I am grateful for this newfound time, plus, it helps that because his hospital won't let him back, he can now claim disability and use his vacation time for Thor.

Part of my lack of existence in my parallel, but equal, on-line world is that since last Saturday, I contracted some sort of bronchitis-y thing from Beezus. Because of my gigantic belly and nighttime already being a chore, I didn't actually sleep most nights this week for more than two hour stretches. I had asthma as a child, and when I become sick, it goes to my lungs fairly quickly and harshly. So while I did not sleep, I did, however, catch up on every shitty show that television has to offer. Lack of sleep does a number of your emotional state, which can only be described in the best of moments as tender. The past two nights, though, I have slept. All night (besides pee breaks).  And that makes the world not so intimidating.

I am on the mend, most certainly. Coughing frequently and emphatically has helped me work on those kegels. After three children in three years, I have to prepare physically and mentally for the large lung cough, let me tell you. I am unapologetic in my discussion of bladder control where my stance is such: kegel exercises are bullshit. I have done them all my pregnancies religiously. I have worked on my pelvic floor. I have isolated muscles during birth. And still, I cannot watch Raising Arizona without Depends.

Two weeks. Five days. Thor will arrive. I admit that while that sounds like no time at all when someone else relates that time frame to me, e.g., "I am going to Jamaica in two and a half weeks", when I see it written out I can only it as 27, 360 minutes, or maybe more like 1,641,600,000,000,000 nanoseconds. That a lot of nanoseconds for something to go wrong.

But the frequent doctor's appointments are doing their job of calming me. Truly. I feel energized and giddy when I leave those appointments where they tell me he looks great, and I am doing great, and to keep it up. Yesterday, I had my fluids checked. The awesome radiology tech took some 4-D pictures of Thor. The child is genuinely chubby. Funnily, he actually was smiling in there. Smiling. What if my freaking out and crazy over-reactive brain is still creating a happy child? As I walked to the train yesterday, I thought maybe. Maybe I am still capable of not fucking this child up with my constant freaking out. Maybe he will play basketball in our backyard. Maybe he will be a stinky teenager, and a handsome kind man. Maybe he will find my blog some day and say, "Mom, this is embarrassing."

Next Friday is another growth scan, which I am anxiously awaiting. I have a theory that something happened between week 31-35 that restricted Lucy's growth. At my 31 week check-up, she was measuring three weeks ahead and at 35 weeks, she was two weeks behind. I always wondered what happened there, so hopefully, Thor is still big and things are consistent. We will discuss the actual date of Thor's birth, which I am hoping will be April 2nd. I can't say that I believe this child will be living with us in April. I am still confused about the logistics of all of this--going from week 35 to born--but one way or another, I will kiss that nose, and hold on to that chubby baby thigh, and enjoy whatever time I have with my son. Hopefully, it will be until I am old and more lizard-y and wearing Depends, for real.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

This time.

Let me tell you a story which I think is emblematic of this pregnancy after unexplained loss journey. Friday, I had one of two Non-Stress Tests (NST) I get a week. And so I toddle downtown for the first appointment of the day. On my way, I drink my mega smoothie of frozen berries, yogurt, almond butter and banana, then shoot an orange juice. This kid is moving whether he likes it or not. I am an anal first appointment of the day type of gal. I am impatient and uncomfortable in a room of expectant mothers, so I try to minimize it with first appointments. I am the first one there, and ride up the elevator with my MFM. We talk weather. I figure I more than likely will not talk to him today, if all goes well.

I sit in the NST chair as their belt me up for the heart rate monitor and the contraction monitor, and I get my little witchy book all witchified. The boy moves off monitor a few times, which restarts the twenty minute straight clock. But all looks good. The kid's heartrate is good. The movements are on target. The Nurse Practitioner comes in and I ask her if they are checking amniotic fluid levels today. She says no. Everything is great. (I only asked because at some point I was told that they would check amniotic fluid levels once a week via u/s.)

I'm getting ready to go, and unexpectedly, the MFM comes in and says, "Let's check her amniotic fluid today. We are having a slow day and it's good to start that now."

So, back out to the waiting room I go. Hey, really, I don't mind extra checking of anything. So, I text Sam, let him know that I am just waiting for an u/s. I work on the Times Crossword. (That app rocks my blackberry, dudes.) And get called back into the Cranky Tech Room. That is what I call her, because I have dubbed her She Who Cannot Be Bothered. Anyway, whatever. They are just checking amniotic levels. So, I lie back, bear the belly, lube up...there is the amniotic fluid. There is the spine. I see no heart.

She measures, without speaking, and takes some stills. She tries to get Thor's profile, but then tells me that he is facing down. "'Scuse me? He's looking down the hatch?" I think. I don't get it. Whatever, she gives me a useless picture of the back of Thor's head for some reason. But it is starting to bother me. All this non-talk about everything else, so I ask. I just put myself out there.

"You see a heartbeat, right?"
"You were JUST hooked up to a heart rate monitor for forty minutes. You heard it. We don't check the heart when it was just beating for forty minutes."
"Yes, but my second daughter was stillborn at 38 weeks for no reason. And it has been twenty minutes. I know I sound crazy, but it didn't take her days to die. It only took the heart to stop one time."
"I know, honey. I understand. Yes. The heart is beating." Sigh. Leave the room. Send in the MFM to deal with the crazy lady.

I didn't cry. I didn't feel remorse for being crazy. I just felt an immense relief. Today, I had a full-on freak out during naptime because I couldn't rouse Thor, you know, until after a large glass of orange juice, a Cadbury Creme Egg and a spoonful of whipped topping. And when he kicked, it still wasn't convincing. I still thought that he lacked the oomph of the day before. He always makes his kick counts, but I wonder if he really means it.

I have three weeks left before Thor comes out, and I'm thinking that this is just the beginning of the hardest time of this pregnancy. The time when every minute feels like the minute of his death. We think we have a name. Or I overheard my husband tell his sister that we decided on a name, which was surprising to me, because it seems like we have been avoiding that conversation since Sam has been on drugs. I am beyond looking at a name book. I am treading water, convinced the kid will not end up here, and this is my last shot, because it will be my last pregnancy. No matter what.

Wednesday, Beatrice and I took Sam to the orthopedic surgeon to get one of the pins removed from his surgery. Usually they send you back into the OR to do these sort of things, but my husband thought he could handle it. And Bea and I were sitting in the room watching the doctor wiggle the pin around, and Bea stage-whispers, "Daddy is being very brave."
"Yes, Daddy is being very brave," I say as I see the color drain from my husband, sweat collect on his upper lip, and his eyes roll back in his head. Passed right out, as the doctor finished pulling the five inch pin from his baby toe.

But he is hobbling now. I mean, it is a sort of walk. He carried a dish into the kitchen today, and I almost wept. The hardest part of this time is the relentlessness of it. Every. Little. Thing. Suddenly falls under my job description. I have never been one to toil about such things. I am a person who sees something that needs to be done and does it. Usually without guff. I don't keep score. Usually. But now I have found myself growing bitter. Ruing that this time, when terror should be enough. It is trumped by no rest, no respite, no milking of the gigantic is simply business as usual. If I have a Ben and Jerry's craving at 2 am, I am going to the market. Nothing special about this pregnancy and this pregnant woman. I am still expected to carry the heavy things, and shovel the walk, and clean up the puke. To bend over and pick up all the scattered pieces of whatever the dog dragged in.

Some days, I feel the worst for Jack. I am constantly sniping at that dog. Maybe because he doesn't cry when I exasperatedly scream, "Et tu, Jack the dog?" when he begs to go out right after I set up a sparkly water with lemon and a strategically placed ottoman and the crossword; whereas Sam gets his feelings hurt, and Bea cries. Jack is always in my shizzle now, wanting to go out, wanting a nuzzle, and barking at an invisible intruder. I feel spent. "I have no emotional energy for you, Scavenger. Get out of my kitchen," I say when I am fixing dinner. I growl at him when he follows me into the bathroom, because I have a train of toddler and dog behind me into every room, even the most private of times. Of course, he gets fed, and walked and all the stuff you do for a dog, but I roll my eyes a lot, and sigh, and screech, and yell at him for his bored instincts of chewing tissues from the bathroom garbage.

I am bored with my own bitching.

Bored with my bitching. And terrified of my reality. I feel like I have been pregnant for years. Actually, I got pregnant with Lucy on April 10, 2008. I was still breastfeeding Beatrice. I carried her for nine and half months. Then she died. For six months after, I felt like a vessel of grief and sadness, still carrying something large with a strong heartbeat, within me. Then, another baby joined Grief in there. And he is growing big and strong, and I can't for the life of me see him in our lives. No matter how optimistic and wide-eyed I try to be, I still cannot see him. I lack that particular ability. But pregnancy after loss has to have some iota of hope...we must have imagined that we could make a baby that lives or perhaps we would have never even tried again. I just can't remember being that optimistic right now.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

If I had a rap name, it would be Sir Rant-A-Lot

I always thought stories with adversity ended with redemption and growth. Enlightenment and kindness. Until my daughter died. I stare off into my future, I just see bitterness and anger. The losses. The piles of fucking losses. I blame my love of the sports movie for that bullshit belief.

I am so sad today. These weeks of overwhelming housework, mostly single parenting, running around despite my extreme pregnant-ness, must have caught up with me. And how it has caught up with me is that I lie in a hot bath crying about the fact that last year the first person who called after Lucy died called me when I was in a hot sitz bath recovering from birth with cabbages over each breast. I cried then because I couldn't process that my daughter died, and I cried because I was also thankful that this person was listening to me, that this person loved me, and cried over Lucy's death, and that this person was my friend.

I haven't seen her since last June, or even heard a peep in months. I have learned to live with this grief. I have learned to live without my daughter. But without friends? I am still getting used to that. People constantly throw these platitiudes--you need to forgive. You need to let go. "They don't understand daughter death," people rationalize. "They don't know what to say." Perhaps one day, many months from now, I will wake up and realize I have forgiven people who walked away, but I cannot pretend that there isn't another hole in my heart where my friends once lived. A hole that collects dust, and scraps, and burnt out shells of compassion bubbles I had deep within my soul.

I have immensely appreciated my on-line community of grieving women, and my other friends who keep up with me via this blog, who still send me emails and cards, wishing they were closer. That means so much to me. Truly. But I miss the human interaction. My sister is always here. I should preface the post with that. She is always here to watch Beatrice, or help me go shopping, even if I don't take her up on it, or as we did this weekend, go to the hair salon for a good scalping. But it is different to miss friendships outside of the realm of family. People choose you for their friends. And that feels awesome to connect, until they don't. And then you feel more lost than when you didn't have them at all. Unfortunately, KellyAnn is stuck with me. As she often says, "I am the scratchy undersweater in an otherwise cute twinset." Except, you know, I am the scratchy one, and she is the awesome cardigan. Now, more than ever.

A lot of people sent a condolence card, or email, after Lucy died and then never wrote again. One woman recently emailed me: "Oh, you are pregnant, so am I! We should totally get together." Yeah, totally. I totally want to reconnect with someone who chose to ignore the death of my child completely and the subsequent grieving/mourning/cavorting with the abyss for a year. I somehow doubt pregnant lady who cannot handle stillbirth really wants to enter the kind of realm pregnant-after-loss women inhabit. The we-won't-discuss-breastfeeding-sleeping arrangements-birthing options-car seats-pregnancy symptoms world where we only use qualifiers like if, perhaps, maybe, we'll see and completely avoid speaking of due dates, or any planning that takes into consideration that an actual baby might live in our house.

I had other friends who called often in the beginning, who cried with me, who I didn't think would disappear, who told me they wanted to see the good, bad and ugly of my grief, who were amazing and left me in awe...who I haven't heard from in months. Who may have made me a dinner or two when Sam had surgery, if they even knew Sam had surgery and that I was 33.5 weeks pregnant. Who ended up going away for a reason that is unknown to me. I miss some of those people. Actually, I miss all of them right now. A lot. And I guess it is those people that are making me cry today.

I started out early today to hit the market, mail out a jizo commission. Beatrice woke on and off all night with a croup-like cough. She mysteriously says her cheeks hurt when she coughs. My beautiful daughter is a poet, like when she had the stomach flu and claimed that she couldn't yawn. Now that she is slowly losing her voice and barking like a seal, she is claiming her cheeks are sore. And when she says those things, I sit silently for a moment holding her, imagining the Mystery Diagnosis title--The Girl Who Couldn't Yawn.

The air was warm today, and I had a sweatshirt on (ONLY A SWEATSHIRT) and I grabbed a decaf non-fat cappuccino, because that is how I roll on early Spring mornings. And I felt light. The snow is ugly, but melting. There are green sprouts in my beds. And by the orange juice section of the market, my shoulders felt sore and weak, and I felt limp. I almost did that old lady thing where I lean wholly over the shopping cart, ass blocking the aisle. But I haven't quite given up yet. I haven't give up yet.

I guess that is when it sunk in. Have I? Have I given up yet? This is not what I imagined last year when I thought about a year later. I imagined I would have this shit figured out. I thought people would venture out again, become brave and be here, now that my grief isn't acute, and my mourning isn't so wet and sloppy. And I thought, perhaps, that I wouldn't be so disappointed in them because of their weakness. That perhaps I would come to understand why they couldn't be my friend.

I actually miss my friends. I miss a sense of community. I miss a sense of having people who want to laugh with me, who don't think of me as the burden of grief. I know this sounds strange, but there is something to be said for the people who didn't say anything to me after Lucy died. At least I knew where they stood. At least their actions said, "I'm not going to be here through this shitstorm. You are on your own, kid." And I knew that when I was 33 weeks pregnant, and freaking out, and needing someone to have coffee with me that they were not going to call me, and conversely, I was not going to call them. But this empty barren place of solitude, summoning all my strength, it is exhausting.

I grew up in a place where people brought you a fucking casserole. Now, my neighbors see me pulling a ripping garbage bag out my front door, and give me the nod. And I nod back, "Hey, dude. Nothing happening here. Just a gigantically pregnant woman dripping rotting liquid across the driveway. Don't offer to help or anything, big strong dude."

I'll be honest. I don't want a bunch of pity. No comments saying "I'm sorry." Or how lucky you were to have good friends. Give me the best convoluted cuss you got, or a really good joke. I am massively pregnant so incontinent jokes crack me up, also smart religious jokes do too. So, lay it on me. Give me the best joke you got. Oh, and Here we go AJen won the needle-felted thing from a few posts ago. So, dear lovely Jen, let me know what you want and if it shall be a pin or a magnet. (Smooches to you.)