Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: Taking Stock--Now With a Bonus PS!

Holy cats. The phrase "what a year" does no justice to this abomination. But that's not entirely true, is it? Never black or white--always just gray, gray, gray.

One year ago tonight, C and I spent a quiet night in watching "Up," hanging on the couch; I'm not sure if we actually saw midnight, but Calla was alive and, um, well? in my belly. I can't say with confidence, though, that she was well, because she died not a week later.  And thus began the worst year of my life.

And while it did end well, and we ARE on a new path, things were really, really rough throughout the past 12 months. Learning to live without my baby was the worst lesson to learn. My entire life was so completely altered, in every possible way.  Finding out I was pregnant just two months after Calla died was thrilling and excruciating, and the next eight months or so were nothing short of psychological warfare. It was a constant struggle to stay focused, positive, hopeful, all while deeply and desperately grieving my daughter.

It wasn't just me, either. I sat helplessly by as so many of my friends and family members struggled with life-altering happenings, too. Two friends hospitalized for mental health, one family member hospitalized with a life-threatening medical emergency, one family member battling a mothereffer of a disease, one friend losing her job, one friend serving a man with a protective order, the death of a father, a breakup, C's mysterious health issues cropping up again and again. I'm sure I'm missing more significant things, but I'm on a bit of grief overload . . .  Peel back the onion skin a little further, and there's three more dead babies, a preemie whose life was in the balance for months,  . . . and the whole time, I was a basket case.

That's not to say 2010 didn't bring some wonderful things, too. Baby O tops my list, but there was also a family wedding, a family engagement, friends and family members with new babies, friends with new pregnancies, a new adopted daughter, a new job for a friend, a new family puppy (not ours), and hope for the future. (Oh, and toilet training. That one's a mixed bag.)

But by far the most positive thing to come of 2010, besides, of course, Baby O's safe and most welcome arrival, is the realization that I have some wicked awesome friends. This year has brought me a new crop of posse-love, whose friendship I can't imagine my life without. People who have held me up without asking a thing in return; dragged me through this year whether I was able to stand or not. Friends I've made through this here blogosphere, if you will. Complete strangers who tell me things I need to hear to keep going, who listen without judgement and understand. No longer strangers, this world has gotten just the littlest bit smaller, in the very best way. How I wish it didn't take my daughter, and their own children dying for us to be in each others' lives. But here we are.  Old friends cropping up when I never thought we'd meet again, coming into my life at the very right time to hold my hand. And of course my closest friends, rallying together to help me find some semblance of the old me. My best friend, holding my hand every single day of this effing year.

So where does that leave us? Like anywhere else. Not totally wonderful, not completely horrible. Just here. I am so very sad, so very happy, so very grateful. Wishing all of you a peaceful and healthy 2011, and maybe, just maybe, a happy New Year.

ETA: Oh jeez. I wanted to write something about how I started this year feeling like Baby New Year, and now feel as old and grizzled as the old year's Old Man is always depicted next to that rosy-cheeked new one. Also, I wanted to include the earthquake in Haiti (which happened just a day or two after Calla died), the oil spill in the Gulf, the tears of hope I shed when the last Chilean miner was aboveground . . . but it came out all wrong.  So those things too.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


They've come and gone, the eight million days of Christmas. There's still New Year's Eve to wrap things up, to be certain. We've got good plans this year.  It's all so familiar, yet all so surreal.

I keep thinking, "Last year . . ." all while living this year. And this year's holiday season has been a good one. But there's still last year's memories to contend with.

The gifts have been opened, played with, stashed in their new places. Photos taken on our crappy camera--I curse that damn thing every time I try to take a picture. I have approximately one good photo out of 300--but the pictures have been uploaded and ordered anyway.  Cookies have been baked, eaten, also cursed for being so delicious and handy. The haze of the days is slowly washing off.

And yet. As one year approaches, I still find it hard to believe. Did that really happen? Do I have a daughter who died? Yes, dear. Yes I do.

We keep going. We laugh. We smile. We show up. We bake cookies. We wrap gifts. And sometimes amidst those happy things we cry. That's what we do. That's how it works.

My brain is still in newborn-cum-holidays fog. I've been composing some brilliant posts during O's middle-of-the-night feedings. Unfortunately by morning, they're lost. But I'm assuming one day I'll be able to string something of consequence together.

Until then, I'm counting down the days to bid 2010 a kick-in-the-ass-out-the-door adieu.  This motherfucker was a shit-ass year. Mostly. With lots of good stuff sprinkled around the edges.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Just Say It

I've been thinking quite a bit lately about how it feels to have the words "my baby is dead" come out of my mouth. I mean, who ever thinks about how to say that?

How on earth can I put into words how it feels when your child, your baby, someone you've spent months loving, growing, caring about, suddenly dies inside your body? And then comes out of your body silently? How can I describe feeling like running into highway traffic would certainly be less painful and less traumatic than waking up every day without your baby? That banging your head against the wall, repeatedly and forcefully, is the only way to silence the roar?

Dramatic. That, up there, is dramatic. But not overly so, as describing the pain, anxiety, trauma, sadness and grief cannot be overstated. Words alone, though, don't do the pain justice. For someone who's--luckily--never experienced such pain can't possibly understand fully (again, luckily) just by reading these words.

So do I say it matter-of-factly? Simply, "My baby is dead. She died inside me, and then she was born." That's a freezing bucket of water in your face, yes? But it still doesn't convey, precisely, how awful and empty it feels.

Or do I stay silent? Let the bags under my eyes, the gray in my hair, the not-quite-a-smile tell the story for me? Ach. I have no idea.

It doesn't get better. At least, almost a year out, it isn't better. It is, however, different. It is just as horrible, lonely, shocking, and sad as it was on that day. It is not all-consuming. I think that's the only difference right now. It's not immediate. But it's still there, just as fierce when it comes to the surface.

There are so many babies missing. No, not missing. Missing implies there's hope they might be found. They're missed, certainly. But they're not coming back. So many families without their babies. This time of year is especially difficult--so many anniversaries, birthdays, holidays within the next few months.

But then again that's not the entire story, because all year long there's the same days. On and on and on.

None of this is easy, or simple. No matter how you say it.

I miss my daughter. That's it, plain and simple.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

This Time, No

So, currently this is my favorite song.

"My head told my heart, 'Let love grow,'
but my heart told my head, 'This time, no.'"

I don't know. Right now I'm saying let love grow, but I SO get "this time, no."

Monday, December 6, 2010

To the Nines

I have mentioned this before, I know. But it's really starting to sink in now. Calla was born on the 9th of January. O was born on the 9th of November. Of the same year. Making them 10 months apart. Irish twins, if you will.

I knew this going into the induction. Shit, I knew it going into this pregnancy. When I found out I was pregnant with O, I counted ahead to 37 weeks, and made the connection. At that point I just hoped he'd make it, dates be damned.

And then when given the option to be induced early, again I threw all sentiment to the wind and said, "Just get him out alive, as soon as possible, please and thank you."

So here we are, coming up on the 9th again. Sometimes I think of my life in terms of that Gwyneth Paltrow movie "Sliding Doors." Remember it? It's kind of like those old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, except it shows the characters on two distinctly different paths. Scenarios A and B.

Scenario A: This Christmas, on the 9th, we're celebrating Calla's 11 month birthday. I follow her around as she tries relentlessly to stuff the ornaments into her mouth. And I don't have my sweet little newborn.

Scenario B: This Christmas, on the 9th, we're celebrating O's one month birthday. I am sleep deprived but happy, and dress him in all the tiny "Baby's First Christmas" and reindeer gear. And I sorrowfully remember the beginning of 2010, and miss my little girl terribly.

I know. I will slowly drive myself mad weighing these two scenarios, imagining the what-ifs. "Choose Your Own Edgar Allen Poe Short Story." The truth is neither one is completely happy, nor completely sad. If Choice A, then no Choice B. If Choice B, live forever remembering Choice A. As if either one was a choice, but you know what I mean.

So on and on, moving ahead, the 9th of each month will be a seesaw. Which, I suppose, is a fitting representation of how things really are. Happy and sad together.

But. Still. Really. How?

 Gods how I love this new little dude. He is just the sweetest, for reals. Homeboy sleeps in my arms, sleeps on my chest (sleeps in the crib? Eh, we're working on that one.)--and it is so delicious. But oh, the price I've paid to get him here.

He is here. I am lucky. I am in love. I am grateful. But I can still be sad, too--and dammit, I sure as hell am.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I am not complaining. But I am really tired.

This kind of tired I can do. I remember waking all night, nursing all night, changing diapers all night. And then doing it all day, too. I remember this, I can do this. In many ways, this kind of tired is so very much easier than the tired I was after Calla died. That tired never quite seems to go away.

I am lucky, though. This little guy sleeps more than I thought he would. Unfortunately I cannot sleep while he does, due to caffeine or a toddler or a racing mind. But I can rest and unplug my brain.

I am not complaining. I will take this tired a million times over the kind of full-on weariness I discovered in January.  The exhaustion after losing our little girl is unending, and when I stop to put my brain to it, it threatens to overwhelm me. As it is I feel like I am holding on to everything with the fumblingest of a grasp; the balance we have can slip at any minute.

I am not complaining. My husband will laugh, but I almost relish gross diaper changes, spit-up on my shoulder (who am I kidding--projected spit-up down my neck like sour perfume is more like it), the middle-of-the-night grunting of a boy trying to kick free of his swaddle. I am not irritated, or annoyed, or even wishing for more sleep. It means he's here, and real, and breathing, and mine to keep. I will take this tired. I will cherish this tired.

I do not want to be tired from grief any more, although that's not going anywhere anytime soon. That is a bone-deep tired, adding weight to every step, every heartbeat. That is a tired I am still learning how to do. I don't know that I'll ever get used to it.

It is a tired that doesn't pass; when there's no baby to learn to sleep through the night, there is no reprieve, no waking in the morning thinking, "I can't believe how rested I am!" It is a restlessness, a searching, a puzzle with no answer.

I am still not complaining.