Sunday, July 25, 2010

Untethered . . .

. . . is how I feel; I'm starting to come undone. There are many disconnected thoughts running through my brain and underlying my every emotion. Last week I had a nasty paper cut under my fingernail--glaaaaahhh--and it was, while not the most excruciating pain I've ever experienced, irritating and constant. And every so often I'd find myself extra crabby, and realize that little cut was exacerbating every negative emotion. So here are my paper cuts:

For one: last night, C and I were out at a wine tasting/fund raiser for the science museum. Wine tasting = not super fun for pregnant ladies, but we did get to hang out on the roof overlooking the city. Pretty awesome. Anyway, I had to get in a giganticly long line for a simple can of soda and, of course, the couple ahead of us asked the standard, "Is this your first?" Blah blah blah, this line of benign questioning led to them telling me that, on number three, we're now "outnumbered."

Excuse me while I vomit on your shoe, won't you?

Of course, I nodded and said, "Ha. Ha." Because, of course, three always means three LIVING, right? I guess out there in the normal reality, it does. But in here? It could mean anything. But it certainly doesn't mean outnumbered. If only.

For another: I absolutely am turning into some version of a crazy cat lady. Well, minus the zillion cats. I utter wildly inappropriate responses to people, have no idea how to interact with a group of non-strangers. This weekend I had the distinct pleasure of seeing some VERY old friends-as in, middle-through-high school friends. People I've not seen in over 15 years. It was really refreshing to remember those old times. But there also was a reunion involved on Saturday night--a party for everyone who graduated from our school during the 1990's. Tempting, but really I couldn't go. Even if I could have gone, I couldn't do it. I couldn't face telling my story over and over, being clearly pregnant for the third time and only one living kid to show for it. Trying to keep my shit together and repeating my lame attempts at making others feel OK with asking time and time again. I was exhausted just thinking about it.

And that makes me sad. I got to see a bunch of my old classmates earlier in the day, and really would have loved to spend time with them that night. But I couldn't. Who knows what would have come out of my mouth?

And this: I am fat. I know, I know--I'm pregnant, it's the least of my worries, get over it, blah blah blah. But it still hurts. It's hard getting up off the couch. It hurts to run. The mere thought of working out is exhausting. Have I mentioned it's about as hot as the solar surface around here? I started out nearly 15 pounds behind the fatty 8 ball, and, well, plain and simple: it sucks.

This certainly is not at the top of the "Shitty Things About My Baby Dying" list, but it's sure on there. This was supposed to be my summer: I was supposed to be thin again, supposed to get fast again, supposed to be nursing and trying to find time to eat and back into my old wardrobe. Now I have flabby arms and huge legs and strapless-dress-upper-chest fat pockets. Gorgeous. It's stupid, I know, but it's still depressing. Call me vain--I don't care. I'm being honest.

So, there's more shit, but these are the things that pick at my brain the most. I'm overwhelmed. I feel, not MISunderstood, but, well, UN-understood. The levels of crazy are none that I've ever lived through. I just feel so broken and disassembled. I don't know how to fix these pieces to put it back together.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Psychological Warfare

So . . . here we are at 21 weeks. Somedays I can't quite wrap my head around how I exactly ended up HERE in my life--six and a half months away from my baby girl dying, four and a half months pregnant . . . again. What? How?

I sometimes feel guilty, as though I have stumbled upon an abundance of procreative luck. Three babies! And, as it turns out, I'm so far an easy conceiver. And then I remember: one baby girl dead. Yes, we conceived her easily. Yes, my pregnancy was smooth sailing with her. But she died. And part of me died right along with her.

And now the third--again, he landed and implanted and started to grow so quickly, without my knowing. That, indeed, is something for which to be grateful. And, all wishes granted, all hopes realized, he'll be here in the blink of the universe's eye. I hope, I need. But it's the meantime that's truly the mean time.

I went in for a fetal echocardiogram today. Due to a variety of family history issues, I've had them with each pregnancy. The last one was a month before Calla died. It was shortly after Thanksgiving, and the pediatric cardiologist joked that he'd barely beaten me at the Turkey Trot only a few weeks before. Ha ha ha, yes.

Leading up to my appointment today, I could feel the tension build in my body, piling on itself over and over again. I got a fitful night's sleep, waking nearly each hour trying to feel this little guy move. And then the theme song to a certain mouse's clubhouse got stuck in my head--terrible. And throughout the morning I became more and more convinced that this little dude wasn't any longer alive. I would feel movement, and then imagine it was a muscle spasm, or gas, or simply a wish.

And it's about a billion degrees and the thunderstorm this morning steamed everything ever-so-unpleasantly. I was a wreck. By the time I got to my appointment I was a complete basket case. I was shaking and nervous and on the edge of vomit. The waiting room slowly filled with newborns and their mothers, and pregnant ladies like me. When it was finally my turn to go back for the echo, I has held together with emotional dental floss.

And everything's fine. Whoosh whoosh whoosh, thump thump thump, four-chambered wonderfulness right there on the screen. I had to explain to both the sono tech and the doctor my recent history, and they were beyond kind to me.

Grim is the only way to describe how I feel going into these things anymore. I grit my teeth, hold my breath, and hope against hope. So far, things have been good. But things were good every time before, until one night they were not. And THAT'S the image thats stuck in my head, refusing to budge no matter how many good things I see and hear. It's my own personal PTSD, and here I am, willingly doing it all again.

If you've not been through anything so traumatic happen to you as, say, having a human being who was part of your heart die inside you, or even squeezing said dead human out of your ladybits, you might want to say to me, "Oh Mary Beth, suck it up! You're being over dramatic! Everything's going to be FINE! It can't happen twice--it just CAN'T!"

Oh, really. Oh. Really.

One last bit of melancholy. One of my favorite brain-free activities is watching those shows where people buy their first homes, or look at three different houses and choose the one best for them. And I'd estimate at least half of these people--couples, usually--buy their homes with the intention of having one of the bedrooms be the "baby's" room.

And this irritates me.

It shouldn't, I know. I suppose that's the natural order of things, yes? Love, marriage, baby carriage and all that. But what about when it's not? Oh, I've said it a million times before, and I'll say it until I die: to be blissfully naive again.

I guess because I came to this baby-longing later in life: I was never a picture-my-wedding-and-future-husband-and-children kind of girl. It wasn't until after my 30th birthday that I even thought I'd want children, ever. So I have a difficult time imagining how it is to be half of a young couple, planning which room will be Susie's and which will be Billy's.

Maybe that right there is the root of it all.

It's everywhere, huh?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Don't Judge Me! Oh, You're Just Doing your Job . . . ? Carry On.

I took E to his pediatrician appointment today. His last one was a few days post-apocalypse, and C took care of that one. Nothing drastic, nothing urgent today, but I cant help feeling judged every time I go in there.

And no, I don't think it's the doctor--I think it's the crazy in my head interpreting everything the worst possible way. For example, when the nurse told me to take off E's clothes, she said, "Get him down to his . . . Pull Up?" Uh, no. That would be his diaper. I HAVEN'T GOT HIM TOILET TRAINED YET!!! (Ed: I HATE the word "potty." Makes me gag.)

And, from the doctor: "How much milk does he drink?" Me: "Um, none. He won't drink it, and never has since I weaned him at a year. But! I give him yogurt and cheese everyday!" Doctor: "Well, he needs at least 2 containers of yogurt a day, and calcium-fortified OJ, and and and . . ." And yes, I suck. I get it. OH MY GOD OUR PASTA IS WHITE HE'S GOING TO BE OBESE AND IT'S ALL MY FAULT!!!

See? Lunacy. I was also handed two helpful sheets of paper: one listing how to care for and what to expect from a 2 year old, the other on how to NOT RAISE A SPOILED CHILD. But! I was assured she did NOT think my child is spoiled, she was just sayin', I guess.

I take these things too personally. E is a happy, active, energetic, inquisitive, hungry, tall, funny, (dare I say) smart little dude. I think he's quite awesome in every way possible. He does not exist solely on bologna and cookies and chicken nuggets (although, given a choice, he might). The doctor was really nice to him, and to me, and he DID NOT CRY ONCE, not even after a shot. Hah.

I just have this wackadoo filter in my brain that makes even the most innocuous suggestion sound like a criticism. It's the pediatrician's JOB to tell me what foods are best for a growing little boy. It's her SWORN DUTY to help with developmental milestones like toilet training. I hear everything as, "You're doing it wrong. You are wrong. Too bad you're not good enough at this."

My brain can be a tricky trap to navigate.

Last night C and I were invited out on a boat cruise of the Niagara River. I knew the couple who invited us, had met another couple there before, and was introduced to the fourth couple as they arrived. It was a gorgeous night to be out on a boat. I was only a little envious of those Coronas everyone was enjoying.

Anyway it turned out the final couple were the parents of one of my brother's closest friends. This is the nature of Buffalo: everyone here either knows, knows of, or is related/somehow connected to everyone else. It gets a tad claustrophobic at times. But anyway, this woman came over to me and asked if this was my 2nd pregnancy. No, I replied, my third. Now, the other woman I'd met a month or two after E was born, and she immediately looked puzzled. I could imagine her calculating the math on an invisible chalkboard over her head. And so I told them about Calla.

"How awful. I'm so sorry," they said. And this was my reply: "Thanks. It was the most awful thing that's happened to me, to us. But, it's our life, it's part of our life and here we are. When I found out I was pregnant again only 2 months later, I was shocked and, well, shocked, but here we are." And that's my truth. Calla is part of our lives, and will always be. She was our second, our only daughter, and this one's number three, our second son. No matter what, come what may, que sera sera.

So I started thinking about how this conversation's going to go for the rest of my life. Calla is my treasure, my secret, my heart's precious jewel. I can share her if I choose. Someday I'll meet someone who only knows me as the mother of two boys (universe willing fingers crossed hold my breath counting chickens?). Years from now new acquaintances won't know I was pregnant three times in three years. And I will tell them, or I won't. Will they be worthy of knowing my story, of hearing about my treasure? Maybe. If they're lucky.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Excuse My Unpleasantness

This past weekend was a fun one. I headed out to Long Island for a family wedding all by my lonesome. It was the first time I'd travelled without E and C since well before E was born, and of course my mind was racing with all the impending disasters waiting to strike: plane crash, car crash, drowning, choking, terrorists.

The only one I could reasonably cross off my list was the last one--there's usually little chance of terrorist activity on a 45 minute flight from Buffalo to JFK. I hoped.

Anyway, my craziness in check, I made it through the weekend in one piece--and even managed to have some fun. The highlights, aside from my cousin and his new bride's infectious joy, were the mini-lambchops, delay-free travel, family time and my very own king-sized bed, from which I could rise at any hour I chose. Heaven.

E and C had a good time without me, too. I was gone from early Saturday morning to late Sunday night, but by mid-afternoon on Sunday I was ready to be home. It was hot as a fresh biscuit out on Long Island, and all the walking around in the heat made me just a teense crabby. So, I spent a little while by myself lying in bed with the AC cranked.

But I would be lying if I said it was just the heat making me crabby. You see I'm at this weird point in the pregnancy where I can feel the little guy moving with some frequency, but not enough to feel him all the time. So I'm like a pressure cooker during those points between nudges. "Didifeelhimishemovingishethereishealive?" runs a constant loop in my brain, its intensity and speed increasing until the next little thump or twinge. "Wasthathimwasitgasisheokwasthathim?"

It gets a little loud in my brain. And were I afforded every luxury in life, I could simply sit down with a hershey kiss and await confirmation. But that's rarely an option. So I get to a point in the day where conversational skills escape me, I can't concentrate on anything and I turn into somewhat of a t.roll. Until I have affirmation that he's in there, moving.

Sunday afternoon I'd reached my threshold, and a weekend of indulgent eating and not having a lot of time to pay attention to the inner workings caught up with me. I should also mention this little guy seems to have a "do not disturb" window in the late afternoon. Which nicely coincided with the height of my worry.

I arrived at the train station early, plopped down in a seat and turned on the iPod. I tried not to cry. I was tired and hot and bloated and sure that he was dead. As the train rolled on and took me to the airport, I felt him. Here and there. And I exhaled.

This is really, really hard. It was easier when it was earlier. I could check in with my queasies as a sign of everything being OK. But now . . . there's a lot of downtime. And it's rough when my obsessive, worrisome brain takes control. I turn inward, I shut out the external noise, I listen and feel desperately for a sign. It makes me an excellent companion, let me tell you. I get grumpy and short and lose all concentration.

With the exception of E, no one is spared my wrath. Until I can be sure.

Don't even get me started about seeing other pregnant ladies or infant girls when I am this tr.oll.

Friday, July 9, 2010

In Which A Rollercoaster Is Just No Fun

The anomaly scan went great. We were the first appointment of the day and somehow I was early. The first patient in the office--this absolutely NEVER happens, let alone me being a whole 10 minutes early. But today we were there as the office was just getting rolling. Our tech was so friendly and lovely and had clearly reviewed my chart thoroughly. As she was getting started gave me a little rub on my back and said, "I can tell you're tense, let's get this started."

And everything, from brain to bladder, arms to legs, nostrils to toes, is there. And perfect. And working. Exhale. I actually started crying tears of relief, felt like a huge nerd, and could feel myself losing 100 pounds of tension.

That was the good news. And so far, really, there's no bad news. Everything looks, sounds, feels perfect. Well, everything except that damn cyst, who just keeps growing and growing on pace with this little boy. But we'll worry about that later--priorities.

Except there's one more teensy little thing I failed to mention in my post yesterday. Today is six months. Six months ago I delivered our baby girl, not breathing, heart not beating, silent. The absolutely most devastating day of my life. The worst day of my life. Six months ago today. And here we are today, half a year away, happy and relieved, celebrating the little boy living inside me.

What an effed up rollercoaster this is. Six months ago I, well, I don't know. All I could feel was sadness and pain and anger and confusion and fear. And they're all still there. But now mixed in is hope, and, well, a bit of joy. But man. Just half a year ago . . . in the midst of a freezing winter, and here we are in the midst of a blazing summer. Up and down. Hot and cold. Devastated and hopeful. How, again, is this my life?

I remember shortly after Calla died, reading millions of blog posts. One I came across was a woman who was writing about her baby who died six months earlier. And I thought, "Six months? However has she lasted so long?" I couldn't imagine going on for six more minutes. And yet here I am, and now she's approaching the one year mark. And still I think, "One year? How will I manage for a year?"

This little boy is here inside me, happily kicking away, mugging for the sonogram, trying to suck his thumb, stretching his already long limbs. Holy shit you have no idea how desperately I need him to make it.

Well actually, many of you, sadly, do know.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

File Under 'Crazy'

Summer has officially arrived here on the East Coast. The Fourth of July has come and gone, and the temperatures have skyrocketed into the bazillions of degrees. My thighs are none too happy about this, and my feet are pissed off, too. I am loath to admit this isn't really pregnancy-related, just my body's reaction to living in an oven. I swore I wouldn't complain about the sunshine and heat this summer, way back when we were freezing in the deepest, darkest pits of despair-laden winter.

But shit, man. It's hot. And I am crabby.

I can't place all the blame on the heat, though. I've got a lot going on and I'm trying to keep it together. A dear cousin is getting married out of town this weekend. I'm travelling alone for the first time since E was born--hell, since way before he was born--but that means packing and planning and making sure things go well here while I'm away. And not stressing out about, oh, I don't know, a million possible catastrophes I'd rather not say aloud that could happen.

And then there's the sonogram I have scheduled for tomorrow. It's the big, mid-way, genetic-anomaly one. The one parents are usually excited for, the "Hey-it's-a-boy-or-girl" one. Yeah. That one. Well, we already know he's a boy, so there's that. But this time I feel like all bets are off. The last 2 times we went through this, my only major concern was that the tech didn't tell us the gender. "We don't want to know!" C and I would happily shout, and "tell us when to look away!"

Oh, the bliss of naivete.

This time, I am stressed. There are, I guess, only two options: the baby is OK, or the baby is NOT OK. And then, if the baby is OK, it's: the baby will live, or the baby will die. What more is there? I don't think I want to know. But just thinking about the WHAT IF THE BABY IS NOT OK makes me want to throw up, throw things, lay down and die.

But of course, I don't have that option. I have a life to live. I have a son to care for, a husband to care for. I don't have the luxury of sitting around obsessing--which is a good thing, I guess. But the stress of the worry manifests itself everywhere else. I am one hot mess.

And also this: while yes, I can feel this little guy moving, I can't feel him all the time. I can't feel him, for example, while I'm walking, if he's indeed up at all. So there comes a point in every day where the kernel of panic pops into a full-blown terror. I need to eat something, sit down, and wait for him to move. But, most often again, I cant. There's dishes to wash or dinner to make or a 2 year old to chase or placate with stickers or find something for on TV. So while I'm trying to navigate my life, my head is spinning and my brain is frying and I'm trying to hold it all together.

I need to get through tomorrow intact. And I need it to be way less hot. I am growling.


And then there's this in crazy: every time I see a FB update that "Blahbiddyblah is pregnant!" or "Susie Soandso is going to be a big sister!" or some other such excitement, I feel dread. Not for them, but for me. As though the good baby-making mojo out there somehow counteracts things going well for us. As though there's a finite number of babies waiting to be born alive, and each new one on the scene lessens the chances of ours making it.

That. Is. Nuts.

I realize this, rationally. But. But.

Clearly, I am losing my mind.

It's too hot to think anymore.

Friday, July 2, 2010

I Feel It All

A friend died this week. I won't go on and pretend she was close to me--but she was a lovely, kind person, and I knew her and her husband through several areas of my life. Her son was a few years behind me in school--though, judging by what I knew of him, lightyears ahead of me in intelligence.

Fucking cancer. Fuck.

I saw her a few weeks ago, sitting in her car in the parking lot of our Co-op grocery store. I chatted briefly with her husband inside. I'd see them around town, or at church here and there, and I knew of her illness for awhile. I never had the courage to come right out and ask how she was feeling, but I always made it a point to tell her she looked great and I meant it.

One afternoon in the spring I passed them as they enjoyed a sunny day on the patio of my favorite coffee house. We exchanged hellos and a little talk, and they said how sorry they were for our loss, for Calla. I thanked them in my weird, stumbling way and moved on.

I guess I don't have much of a point to this tale, except that I feel so sad for them. It's as though I can only connect to others through grief anymore, and that sucks. Yep, I'm genuinely happy when things go well or perfectly or even as planned for everyone else. But that happiness is, and always will be tinged with hints of sadness. For us.

But the sadness of others, I feel it. The despair, the sorrow, the unfairness of it all. I get it. Yes, we all grieve differently, and for different things, and I won't pretend that my grief for a dead baby is the same as someone mourning his wife or his mother. But I do get it.

And the crazy thing about it is, I almost feel like it's a gift. I want to wrap my heart and arms around anyone who's feeling this pain, this sadness, help soak it up and live it with them. I couldn't have done that before Calla died. I didn't get it then.

This is, by no means, a wonderful thing. But it is a thing. It just is what it is. I am so saddened for these kind people, for her friends and family, her sons and husband. I'm sad I won't see her smile at the Co-op, on the street, at church. I won't hear her sing again. But I am most sad for her family who has to keep on living every day without her.

Love to you, L., and P. and your sons. Love and peace to you.