Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Things That Go Bump in My Head

I am afraid of October.

Not always, not every year. Just this year.

I am not afraid of witches.
I am not afraid of haunted houses.
I am not afraid of the dark.
I am not afraid of spiders (although I don't really prefer them, either).
I am not afraid of ghosts.

I am, this year, afraid of Halloween. Because Halloween is only days, less than a week before the doctors talk about amnio.centesis, of induction.

I am afraid he won't make it until then.
I am afraid of 35 weeks and 3 days.
I am afraid of 35 weeks and 4 days.
I am afraid of living the rest of my life like this.
I am afraid of living the rest of my life without my baby.
I am afraid of living the rest of my life without two babies.

A life ruled by fear is shit, let me tell you. Despite all the other good things that happen, that I have, the pervasive, underlying fear is like an anchor, drowning me.

My quiet joy it sitting alone, feeling this baby move. I could do it for days, weeks without end. As long as it doesn't end.

I am afraid of feeling that feeling again; the quiet stillness inside my body.
I am afraid he'll stop kicking.

I'm afraid of saying anything out loud.
I'm afraid my worst fears will come true.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Head, Meet Wall

This is why I dread social situations, where the crowd is out of my control.

I love our church. We are members of the Unitarian Universalist church in our city, and I absolutely feel welcome and loved there. For a long time I was a member of the choir, until my life took a turn for the insane.  But we still attend, sporadically, and we're trying to teach E how to sit quietly . . . which, as you can imagine, is a challenge. Anyway.

C and I were married in that church. E was dedicated there, and we had Calla's memorial service there. Our pastor is about the kindest person on earth, and was there in the hospital to name, dedicate and bless Calla before we had to say goodbye.

But still, you never know who's going to say what to completely shit on your cereal. As we waited for the service to begin today, an old friend came up to me to say hello. She was surprised by my giant belly, and I said, "Yeah, uh, about six more weeks of holding my breath."

To which she replied, "Well, everything happens for a reason. You're young enough to have all the children you want."

I'd rather she'd smiled and punched me as hard as she could in the face.

I just would like to know how to take these things politely--I mean, REALLY?! What kind of person do I need to be to hear that my child, my daughter, died for "a reason," and that I'm still "young enough" to--what? make my child come back from the dead? I WANTED my daughter--so I guess being young won't solve that one. There is no good "reason"why she died--it's not the same as, oh, not getting a job I wanted, or not winning a prize, or anything else I may have wanted but didn't get. I DO NOT HAVE THE EMOTIONAL WHEREWITHAL to go through another pregnancy--I barely have my shit together going through this one--so being young really, I guess, is a slap in the face.

Ooh, ooh, think of all the babies I COULD have, if only it wasn't such a goddamn MINDFUCK to gestate!!!


So I'm left to sit and be mad and cry silently. AND SHE WAS TRYING TO BE NICE.


Oh, and tra la la la la, this baby I'm carrying does not erase my dead daughter. So get that shit right out of your head, folks. (No, not you. I know you get it. The rest of everyone else. Them.)

Thanks for listening, I feel much a little bit better. I'm only a little bit not even mad at this person, it just caught me off guard, at the wrong place at the wrong time.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Picture This

Photo: K. Schneider, 2008

This was me. This was me over 2 years ago, pregnant and anxiously awaiting E's arrival. That pregnancy I did a ton of yoga, read all the books, got prenatal pictures taken, never really thought anything terrible would ever happen to us.  I have plenty of pictures of my expanding belly, like this one:

As my due date approached, came, and went, I got bigger, more anxious, and more ready for E to be born.

Then, almost a year later, I became pregnant with Calla.  And as that pregnancy continued, we never really took any pictures of my belly. I don't know,  it kind of slipped away from us. As I got bigger the weather got colder, and well, I just don't know why we didn't take any pics. Until the night before she died. We had our prenatal photos done as almost an afterthought, a quickly scheduled session. The next day we found out Calla was dead.

I feel like a heel.

Did I subconsciously know something was wrong? Why didn't I celebrate that pregnancy as I did the first? Who knows. All I really have as proof that Calla was here are random photos with me in the background, side shots, belly as an afterthought. I can chalk it up to being exhausted, to chasing a toddler around and not remembering to capture the little moments. But I was a real pain during that pregnancy, and what I remember most is not happy anticipation, but irritation. I was uncomfortable, my clothes were ill-fitting, I was tired, I was grumpy, I was nauseated, I was unsure how I was going to manage two under two.

And then it all ended, out of the blue.

And we still haven't ordered any of the prenatal pics from that night. Right now it's the only message in my inbox--I keep things pretty tight in there. Dated January 21, 2010, a link to the photos. Only a handful of times have I looked at the link, through the photos. We are going to order some, I swear. It's just, well, it's just hard. The last time I remember smiling without a backdrop of sadness.

This time, I've not really taken any pictures yet, either. I don't want to jinx anything. We're NOT doing the photo session/studio picture thing. I just can't bring myself to do it again. A friend may take some shots of me, and of us, and I guess it should happen soon. It makes me nervous.

This past summer, this hot, ridiculously humid, miserable summer, I actually put on my bathing suit and WENT SWIMMING. It's gotta be pretty darn hot for me to actually go in a pool, but I did it. Two piecer and all. And I never once got a picture of me in that swimsuit. Huh. It would have been the easiest way, I guess. But once again, it got away from us.

Here's the closest thing I have:

And speaking of pictures, here's another confession: I still haven't done anything to bring the pictures of Calla home. They're on my hard drive, uploaded to a web album somewhere. I keep meaning to make them into a book. And I will. I really should, before this new baby arrives (however he makes his way into the world, Universe willing fingers crossed). Only a select few have seen the pics, and it's really difficult to look at them. I couldn't even force myself to smile in any of them. The look on everyone's faces is sheer misery, sadness, despair. 

Here's one:

A thousand words? Try a billion tears.

Monday, September 20, 2010

To Not Cry

I have to relearn how not to cry. Growing up I was a sensitive child, and seemingly cried at the drop of a hat. Once, a family member commented on my Easter dress, which was sleeveless, that he thought my shoulders looked nice. I cried for at least an hour because I was embarrassed. Another time, I was desperately trying to fit in during a game of basketball with my dad, uncle, cousins and brother when the ball clunked me, HARD, right on top of my head. I tried in vain not to cry, to no avail.

I was always easily embarrassed, saddened, frustrated, anxious; all of which led me to tears. This didn't make me the most popular girl in town, and, quite frankly, I hated trying to conceal my tears. I was embarrassed to be embarrassed, saddened by my sadness. It made me anxious to care so much, and to be unable to control my emotions. Let's face it: it's uncomfortable when someone's crying, for seemingly no reason, in front of us. I hated making anyone uncomfortable.

So I worked on it. Gradually I became better at steeling myself, trying not to care when people made fun of me or teased me, when boys didn't like me back, when someone shared sad news. I could feel the emotions enough, I just refused to let anyone know it. (Well, unless there was a wee bit of booze involved--then all bets were off) Sure, I'd sniffle a little at a wedding, tear up at a sad movie, but I could quickly recover and regain composure. It was nothing like O.prah calls, "The Ugly Cry."

Anyway, when Calla died, I felt an immediate shift. I clearly remember freely and loudly wailing. "Wailing" is really the only word to describe it. The sounds I made equally matched my emotions, for the first time in a long, long time. And the tears and sobs just kept on, seemingly unending. In front of everyone, in front of no one I'd cry and cry, not caring what anyone thought or who I made uncomfortable.

And now, it still won't stop. I realized this while sitting in a darkened auditorium, watching a dance recital. Of all things, a children's dance recital brought me to tears within the first few numbers. It could be I was sad knowing I'll never have a little girl in a frilly tutu up on stage, but I don't think that was the whole of it. It was the music, the beautiful movements of the dancers. The beauty. I chalked it up to hormones.

But it kept, and keeps, happening. A sniffle at the end of a sad movie leaves me in body-wracking sobs. The excitement on my son's face, my excitement for him, at a live performance of his favorite television show gives me the weepies. A beautiful harmony from the choir turns the waterworks on. And then I can't stop. Even laughing uncontrollably until I cry leaves me sobbing.

And it makes me feel foolish. Things that once made me happy, though moving, now thoroughly move me to tears. When I least want them to appear. It's as though Calla's death was the key that unlocked the floodgates, and now the lock is broken. Everything comes back to that night, those wails; it's all connected. I can't separate emotion from emotion. Happy, sad, fraught, anxious--all manifest the same.

I discovered this B.on I.ver song this past spring. A perfect example of auto-tune/vocoder being used for good rather than evil. Sometimes listening to music as loud as I can stand it brings me back to those days when I could steel myself. I remember this tactic from long ago, and sometimes it helps. Sometimes it makes me cry harder. But for some reason I connect to this song, its simplicity, the harmonies.

I'm up in the woods
I'm down on my mind
I'm building a still
to slow down time

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wherever My Rational Brain Went, I Hope She's Having Fun

All I have to say is this: after a laugh-filled night of fold'ems and P.roject R.unway, I came home and flopped into bed. Despite waking at 2:30 for a pacifier request, and being horribly thirsty all the live-long night, I did manage to squeak out a few hours of sleep.

After C took E downstairs, I had the most dream-filled sleep of the night--somewhere between 6 and 7 AM. This stretch involved short films featuring friends from college (the likes of whom I haven't seen for at least 10, 12 years) and their fictional families. Also, I dreamt I was in a race, a sort of physical fitness test that's administered to pregnant ladies around this time. Again, hmmmm. But the best part, and of this I was completely convinced upon waking, I was pregnant not with a human child, but a tiger cub.

I remember thinking, "Oh shit! I can't have a tiger! What the hell is wrong with my genetics that this happened?!" And I asked the nurse, "Well, is it hard to nurse a baby tiger?" And then I was sad because I knew I wouldn't be able to nurse this baby tiger, and this baby tiger would have to go live in the wild, away from us somewhere and I still would be lonely.

I had an ultrasound that looked like I was peering through a porthole, only to see a life-sized, adult tiger peeking back at me.

Of course we want the best outcome, and I'll love this child no matter what. But I hope he doesn't have striped fur and giant teeth.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Random Mish Mash of Anxiety

So, I went to the doctor today. Everything looks great, Petit Trois is growing and his heart is beating and his lungs are starting to work and, well, a normal person would leave there thinking, "Whoopdie doo." Me, I still stress. I met with a NP I swore I'd never meet with again, as she made me cry the last time I saw her. Over 2 years ago. I didn't have the energy today to complain.

She redeemed herself enough, and was kind enough, and the visit was fine. But then I found out E, who'd had a runny nose since Sunday, has a case of the squirts. TMI, I know. But then my brain is all, "Oh no, he has a virus. I'm going to contract the virus. This baby is going to get it and DIE!" And ergo, I've been washing my hands, using hand sanitizer and stressing ever since.

Please, someone tell me with some certainty that just because my 2 year old has the squirts doesn't mean my yet-to-be-born-alive baby is going to die.

Love: being pregnant with PT and feeling his moves. Hate: Constant anxiety.

I wrote awhile ago about the haterade I drink in honor of my neighbor. And it hasn't really gotten better, but they're moving. So that's good. But it makes me sad to dislike someone so much. Let me rephrase: it bothers me little to dislike this man, but his wife and 4 kids . . . it makes me sad that things are so screwed up. The wife, shortly after Calla died, called a brief cease-fire and brought over flowers, and little gifts for E, and came to my door looking so sad. She gave her condolences, said she was sorry. I hugged her. She signed her name only on the card, and I addressed the thank you note to only her. Somehow that made me feel a bit better, and a bit more sad.

I know I could be a better person, overlook things, get over it. But I'm small and shallow sometimes, and I don't like to be pushed around. So there's that.

Someone asked me the other day "how far along are you?" I really, really wanted to say, "About a year and a half."

We're down to about 7.5 weeks. "Pleaseohpleaseohplease" is the prayer I send out to the Universe every. single. effing. day.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Life, Always Life

Can I just say how tired I am of life just knocking me on my ass all the time? Things are fine, then things really suck . . . just like everyone else, I know. Somedays everything feels like a fight, and I can't seem to find my boxing gloves.

Just like everyone else.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

The past few nights have been rough. My old nemesis Insomnia has found me again, and seems to be sticking around. Ironically the shift in weather has made sleeping conditions ideal: windows open, breeze blowing in, covers tucked under my chin. And yet sleep eludes me.

Each night I wake up at least once for an hour-long stretch. I try not to toss and turn, as my husband is not the greatest sleeper and I'd hate to wake him up, too. It starts out usually at 2am or 4am with an innocent waddle to, uh, powder my nose. I get back into bed and wait for Petit Trois to kick or roll or wiggle or poke a little bit. Until he does my anxiety slowly creeps until it's at a fever pitch. And luckily, he's obliged every night. But then some song gets played over and over in my head, or I start thinking about the upcoming day's agenda, or I start to worry or I remember my baby died . . . and I can't turn off my brain.

And suddenly it's 6 am, or, in the case of the past few days, between 4:30 and 5:30 am and E is waking up. Fortunately for me, C gets E up in the morning and hangs with him until about 7, when it's my turn to get up and take over. But in the wee hours of the morning I start to stress about how quickly 7am is approaching.

The past few nights I've actually had dreams about this new little guy. In the first one I had just delivered him, and no one would tell me if he was alive; they handed him to me and I vividly remember nursing him. I assumed he was alive; I picked him up to look at him and he was pointy and tiny. He didn't look anything like E or anyone else in our family. And suddenly he had black eyebrows and blond hair, a mouth full of teeth and was talking to me. While it freaked me out, I remember thinking, "well, he's alive."

Last night's was more gentle. It was a quick glimpse, but I got to see Petit Trois. I was still pregnant, and I had to hold my laptop and click on the Safari icon to see his face reflected in the monitor. He was smiling, and had blonde hair, and was real. I looked at him several times before I woke up.

I don't remember having baby dreams about E or Calla. I do however, remember a dream shortly after Calla died. I dreamt I was still pregnant, but knew the baby was dead. I dreamt of that heavy, silent, still feeling I had in my belly the day we went to the hospital. It was a pretty terrible dream.

Here's hoping I can somehow achieve a full night's sleep sometime again in my life. Half-decaf coffee works for now to help fill in the gaps.


The other night I went for a walk with a good friend. It would be a bit hyperbolic to say that the tremendous thunderstorm we found ourselves caught in is my life in metaphor, but it sure felt that way. This friend is no stranger to grief and has recently been through her own personal hell. As we started our walk we passed a woman running. My friend said, conspiratorially and with a laugh, "You know, since this all happened to me, I really hate people."

This is a friend who is just about the most kind and charitable person I know. She's funny and nice and wouldn't hurt a fly. It was funny, because I know what she meant. Random people can inspire feelings of pure rage in me, just for existing, just for breathing air in my general vicinity. There are some days, when I'm tired or undernourished or over-caffienated where I can barely stand to go outside: EVERYONE drives me to the brink of despair.

The pain, anxiety, fear and grief overfilling my heart makes it a herculean effort to simply be kind, be human, or be, well, a functioning member of society. I am not articulate enough to crystalize exactly how this feels, except that it's debilitating. And not who I really am. I used to pride myself on being able to have fun in a paper bag, or talk to anyone about anything. Where did those traits disappear to? Somedays the thought of human interaction makes me want to dive under the bed and hide.

I read articles like this one and think, "Oh fuck off." Believe me when I tell you I know how challenging colic can be. But really? I'll take colic over a dead baby any day. Your baby will get over colic. He won't come back from the dead. I am not trying to get into a pissing contest of who's got it worse, but my perspective has seriously shifted. Who knows? Maybe, should this little one happen to make it out alive, he'll be colicky and fussy as any baby on the planet has ever been. And I'm sure I'll be tired and grumpy and irritated. But at least he'll be alive.

I find myself getting irrationally angry over the stupidest things. Proj.ect Runw.ay antics send me into hysterics. Traffic snafus, dealings with bureaucratic nonsense from insurance companies and the city put me into a tizzy. Don't even get me started on these assclowns. I'm not judging, but I am hating.

This rage, though, really extends only to strangers. I have developed a new, fierce love for my son and husband I never knew I could have. My patience with people I know has gotten deeper, and my gratefulness for my friends helps buoy me in the raging waters of fear and grief. Even now, as my 2 year old is fighting a nap he desperately needs (after 3 mornings in a row of pre-5:30 am wakeups), I miss his presence in the room with me. (Although, I desperately need that nap, too, and every sound from the monitor makes me want to bang my head against the wall.)

8 months today. 8 months ago I was living a hell I'd wish on no one. I was 8 months pregnant, giving birth to my dead daughter. So today marks the break-even point. The point at which her life's duration and her time gone are equal. Now what? I remember when E turned 9 months old, thinking from that point forward I'd be a mother for longer than I was pregnant. A new chapter. But what of it now? I will forever be a mother grieving, with nothing but an urn and some pictures and some hats and things to show for it. I have a tremendously wonderful friend who remembers; who, every month on the 9th, sends me a little hello as a reminder. For which I am so grateful, because she is the only one. I don't expect everyone to notice, to think about it, to keep picking the scab off the wound. But at the same time I'm afraid no one will ever remember, no one will ever ask, and no one will think I remember, either.

It really sucks having a dead baby. It's scary and lonely and sad and just plain fucked up. And yet it is real, and forever, and now my life.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I am not a "mommy-blogger"

Let me clarify: I have encountered many, many blogs written by mothers that are absolutely phenomenal. One look at my profile will give you a glimpse of who I mean. But I don't think of these people as "mommy-bloggers."

The further down the internet's rabbit hole I go, the more I encounter other people's blogs and, consequently, their philosophies on raising children. Seems everyone's got an opinion about everything, from breast-feeding to birthing to starting solid food to sleeping to clothing to . . . well, you get it. And man, can those opinions get ugly when someone doesn't agree with them.

I used to be in the Judge Judy camp, a little bit. ESPECIALLY before having my son. There were the things I assumed I'd still do all the time: go out to dinner, travel, shop leisurely, meet friends for coffee. The things I swore I'd NEVER do: allow my child to watch television, eat chicken nuggets or hot dogs, talk about poop with other adults. Things I was unsure but still somewhat convinced about: nursing, vaccines, sleeping, babysitters. And good luck to the person who tried talking me out of my beliefs. HA! I'd show them who knew a thing or two about a thing or two.

Har har har. Then I had E, and my sage's hat blew right off in the wind. But that is a fundamental truth to being a parent, I think: knowing when to stand firm, and knowing when to bend. What matters, what, in the grand scheme of this life, really doesn't.

But I've encountered many judgey blogs out there, written by mothers and fathers alike. People who have such strong opinions about how babies are birthed, fed, held--you name it. Women seem to be the worst offenders, lashing out at other women who don't jibe with their parenting advice. It's infuriating to read, let alone realize these people walk down my same streets, shop at my same farmers' market, breathe my same air.

Some of these women really need to get a grip. I don't understand why people get so threatened when someone else raises his or her children differently. Who cares if my kid watches 5 hours of Nick Jr. a day and you don't even own a TV? Why do you care if I wear my kid or push him in a stroller? What difference does it make in your life if my kid sleeps in my bed at night or in his own? I don't understand how people have enough time or energy to care about these things--FOR OTHER PEOPLE.

It's infuriating to me for several reasons. First, I don't see the impact it actually has on anyone else's life how I choose to mother my child. I am not encouraging him to mutilate small animals, push other children down or be nasty. He is happy, kind and is learning boundaries. Guess what? He watches television! A lot! Second, these Judgey Judgertons assume no one knows as much as they know, that no one has ever researched what they're preaching and came to the conclusion that it's not the right philosophy for their family. Why is it so freaking hard to live and let live?

And I guess the most important reason it bothers me is that the implication is that these people have never had to deal with anything so fucking terrible as losing a child, and they have the luxury of sitting back and casting judgment. We are all--every single one of us--doing our best to keep it together, to keep our children happy, and healthy, and--fuck--ALIVE.

That's not to say there aren't shitty parents out there, or people who are just plain incompetent or mean or clearly unfit to raise a Chia Pet. People I'm sure that have been pointed out to us as such: "It's so unfair that THEY get to have children and YOU have THIS happen to you . . ." as though anyone is more deserving of utter emotional devastation than anyone else.

I guess this is all to say that hot dogs and television and bedtimes and diapers shouldn't be battle lines. They're simply choices, ones we are free to make and whose consequences we must deal with accordingly. As families.

How 'bout instead of judging each other, we see each other for who we are: human beings, trying our damndest to figure it all out. Let's help each other--really help, not aim for superiority--instead of making each other feel like shit about our choices. Let's realize we all have different methods, but our end goal is the same.

Me, I'm not reading the "mommy-blogs" anymore. They make me sad.