Sunday, December 25, 2011

Week Twenty-Nine

no matter what winter holiday you celebrate, this is the time of year that the entire world goes into Retrospective Mode. everyone comes out with the year's best and worst lists, year-in-review specials, etc. it's an interesting paradox -- December is an insanely busy time for most people and yet because it comes at year's end, and is often spent with loved ones, it definitely lends itself to introspection and reminiscing.
for those of you who have experienced any struggles or challenges on your journey to build a family, the holidays can be especially difficult. all that thinking about the year(s) gone by and what they did or didn't hold can be overwhelming. when the demands of the holidays spread you thin, it is easier to feel the full brunt of unmet expectations, unexpressed grief and disappointment, unsaid words of fear or anger. it's also easier to feel shame about these "negative" emotions when all the world seems decked out in lights and merriment and parties and fa-la-la-la-la-ing. when the most positive feeling you can muster is "i hope the coming New Year will at least be better than this year was," you don't feel so inclined to have what is popularly referred to as "the holiday spirit." and yet...the New Year does inevitably come, and with it a new set of hopes and dreams.
it seems almost impossible that this year contained both the loss of another child, and the beginning of another one. it seems more impossible that the coming year holds for us the promise of actually meeting that child, with all its attendant complex, marvelous, life-upending consequences. and it is honestly astounding that i do honestly say this : that i would not trade all those previous tear-stained holidays for this hope-filled, happier one -- mainly because the latter would not exist without the former. it is good to sit beside my glowing Christmas tree and reflect with gratefulness on both all that i still mourn for, and all that i am rejoicing in.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Week Twenty-Seven

for as long as i can remember, Georg Friedrich Händel's oratorio Messiah has been part of my audio landscape, especially during the winter holidays. although it was played occasionally throughout the year, Thanksgiving was the traditional First Playing of Messiah, which quickly became An Anticipated Event; it was then on semi-constant rotation through the New Year. my parents had a gorgeous box set on vinyl; as a small person i would watch my father carefully stack the shiny black discs on the record player, set the arm...and then the needle would drop. that marvelous hssssssshpop (those of you who are old (or young) enough to know what well-loved vinyl sounds like know what i mean) would begin, and then the first delicious notes of the Overture would crackle out of the speakers. i would curl up in a patch of sunlight on the living room carpet (i grew up in the tropics; it was always sunny year-round) with the big black bound box with a picture on the front of an intricately carved bas-relief ivory cross depicting Jesus' life. i would read along with the libretto, or study the dramatic faces of the ivory figures, and let the music soak into my bones along with the tropical sunlight. it should be no surprise then, that when i knew Tummymuffin IV was old enough to be able to hear well, the first music i played for him was the Messiah, through an old pair of headphones i'd cut apart to lay flat on my belly.
a few days ago, i was generously invited to attend a live performance of the full oratorio. as the first notes soared out of the orchestra, the fancy Southern California concert hall balcony disappeared and i was transported back to a sunny patch of worn carpet in Okinawa. the music and sunlight stored deep in my body met the lush notes floating up to me and became an embrace. and in that crossing of time and space, there was a moment of understanding and peace with my body: you may take joy in her again. you may trust her again. you MUST trust her again.
there has been so much broken trust with my body in the losing of three children and the struggle to become pregnant, and there has been so much work in trying to rebuild it. several weeks ago Thomas and i went to a wedding, and i wore a dress that was stretchy enough to accommodate The Belly and still be comfortable. i was astonished to find how strong and beautiful i felt in that dress, which also happened to show every new glorious curve and hide nothing. there was a bit of a learning curve in dancing with my husband at the reception; i was initially clumsy and off-balance, but we adjusted, and it was lovely to spin around the dance floor in his arms and feel glamorous in my total unwieldiness. i realized that night that Tummymuffin IV has no problem trusting this body -- his mummytiffin -- and i also realized how far i'd come in the rebuilding work if i could feel this way again.
back in the concert hall, as the Chorus "For unto us a Child is born" was sung, Tummymuffin IV started to dance. by the time we'd reached the Aria "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion," TM4 was in full happy-kicky mode; even after intermission he kept bouncing around, seemingly as contentedly happy as me. and when the final glorious notes of the multilayered Amens of the Chorus "Worthy is the Lamb" faded, i'm not certain who was the listener anymore -- the innocent, bespectacled girl curled up in the island sun in front of the record player, or the woman in the balcony with the secret smile, hands pressed against her dancing belly.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Week Twenty-Six

the latest edition of "Tummymuffin TV" -- the monthly ultrasound a few days ago -- showed a squirmy, active, growth-right-on-track little boy with fat baby cheeks. of course this is exactly what we were supposed to see -- so why was there such a breathless feeling of surprise?
a very dear longtime friend recently was telling me about how his daughter, who is almost two years old now, was doing fine -- and he had the same tone of pleased surprise. you see, she was born right around this same time, at about 26 weeks. i think he put it well: "So much can go wrong," he said, "that when it goes right it feels like a miracle."
i wrote about this some time ago after losing Tummymuffin II and staring down the long dark tunnel of infertility, not yet being pregnant with Tummymuffin III. i talked about feeling that in a parallel world, normal people just get pregnant and have babies and are happy. but that "in my version of normal, it is a struggle to get pregnant and then maybe you're actually not going to have any babies...and if you actually do get pregnant...and actually do deliver a real live healthy child then it will be A TOTAL EXTRAORDINARY JAW-DROPPING MIRACLE for heaven's sake."
the truth is that after any pregnancy struggle and loss, there is a new normal. and that new normal isn't bad or wrong -- it's just different, and it's very personally yours. while the following fact may be disturbing to some, i actually find it comforting and invigorating to know that i literally can no longer miscarry this child. if TM4 were to be lost now, he would be considered a stillbirth -- meaning he would get a death certificate (and in this state, a special birth certificate if requested). there are no such certificates for miscarriages, and while my first three children will always be quite real to me, their "legitimacy" as such will always be potentially questioned by others. this is simply the way of it; i cannot hope to convince others that a few weeks of gestation make a difference to the recognized personhood of a baby. when people see my swelling belly and ask me if this is our first, i say no, but he will hopefully be our firstborn. i believe it's an important distinction, and just as my choosing to talk about the first three Tummymuffins openly is almost always met with positive response, so is this. when i said this to one of the pool ladies who asked the other day -- she grabbed my hands and said to me in her broken English, "Oh you are so happy! Because baby is so blessing! After you sad! He is so blessing!"
ah yes, i said. yes, he is so blessing.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Week Twenty-Four

we're just skipping straight to week twenty-four here, as i've been down for the count with a nasty seasonal cold. of course, being pregs, i can't take any of the "good drugs" so i'm making do with hot lemon juice & honey, steaming my head, gargling with salt water, and quietly whining to myself. i can't really whine to the husbanator, as he's also been laid low by this virus. it's good parenting practice, i'm telling myself, taking care of a sick and crabby human whilst also being sick and crabby. anyways, i need to make another pot of chicken soup soon.
i do, however, want to acknowledge that yes. yes. we are very, very thankful this Thanksgiving. and not just for our Tummymuffin IV. you see, it was around this time of year that the Cascade of Loss began some time ago, turning Thanksgiving into It's The Most Awful Time of The Year. i lost my grandmother, a close friend, and Tummymuffins I & II during these days, so i can't really get through the end of November without thinking of all the loss -- especially our two first babies -- but at the same time, ah! i am so filled with gratefulness for them too. i am thankful that my life was so blessed to be so full of love, and at the same time i grieve the empty spaces that are left behind.
some nights ago, after one of my now-regular middle-of-the-night bathroom trips, i settled back into bed in my now-usual position: on my side, hand resting on my rounded middle. it took me a little while to drop back off to sleep, and as i lay there in the quiet darkness, i thought about how not so long ago, as Thanksgiving approached, i'd be lying awake in the dark for a competely different reason, a hand on an empty belly, trying to cry as silently as possible. that grief is still there, but muted -- and as i felt around its edges, Thomas rolled over and flung an arm over me, just as he used to when he'd somehow magically sense my soundless tears. and i realised that the peaceful happiness coursing through me as my hand and his hand rested on our growing child, the three of us for now safe and warm together, is shaped and sharpened by this past pain, and made stronger. it's as if all the salt of all those tears now flavours this miraculous joy that i often despaired of ever experiencing, and makes it savoury and full.
so yes, this Thanksgiving, i am indeed grateful -- for both all that i have been given, and all that has been taken away.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week Twenty-Two

first of all, a huge thanks to those of you who have been e-mailing and commenting with practical suggestions to my baby gear overload confusion. it is HIGHLY appreciated. keep 'em coming. i'd always rather go on personal tried-and-tested recommendations than some website that probably got a kickback to recommend an overpriced product.
i literally have actual muffins baking in my actual oven right now -- some diabetic-friendly oatmeal applesauce creations that already smell delicious. i'm feeling the Tummy variety of Muffin in my personal body oven somersaulting around so i think he's excited about them too. is this nesting? probably, since i'm going to overhaul the bottom kitchen cabinets later today. woo, exciting!
but this is what i've wanted, and told myself i've wanted for awhile now. after almost a decade and a half of a very rewarding career, i've "retired" from it and made successful transitions in another professional direction. i'm relieved and thankful that changeover happened before Tummymuffin IV came along, but now that he definitely seems to be sticking around, i've been very aware of how the rhythm of my life has changed. i checked out a book from the library about making the shift from full-time professional to full-time parent. i'm being added by friends with small kids to online groups with names like "Booby Brigade" and "Raising Baby L.A." on one hand, it feels utterly disconcerting, but on the other, i've already had three tries wrapping my little brain around potential parenthood. i don't need to wonder if this is really what i want. i know -- we know -- this is what we want.
however, i am still somewhat perturbed that with today's deal-of-the-day bulletin (by the way, if you like Groupon-style deals, i highly recommend signing up with aggregator of all such things at DealRadar.com), i totally bypassed checking out the "French lingerie" offer and went straight for the "baby accessories" offer instead. *sigh.*

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Week Twenty-One

it dawned on me the other day that i was actually devoting more Worry Brain Cells to things like:
-how to deal with a baby registry when you just want people to give you their kids' used stuff and not buy anything
-learning you get massive cankles after a walking epidural (my neighbour just had her first baby and is being very honest)
-if i get a footstool for the new easy chair will that work for nursing?
-where will we put my desk if we get a crib?
-you mean we have to find the best crib/carseat/stroller/nursing pillow/changing pad/cloth diapers or not/MY BRAIN IS EXPLODING
-argh, i need to get new bras...again.
-what do i want for a baby shower? how would i know? this is like my wedding: i didn't start thinking about it until it was actually needing to happen.
- oh dear, i need to record the husbanator talking to the baby in German and play it through headphones against my belly every morning. this should have happened yesterday!!
-will i really be able to eat rice again once Tummymuffin IV is here?

okay, sure. maybe these are typical concerns for a woman who's passed the halfway mark in her gestation. but this all feels kind of surreal to me, because it means that somehow i'm not spending as many Worry Brain Cells on:
-is Tummymuffin IV still alive?
-will i see a heartbeat again at the next ultrasound?
-did i somehow just do something obscure that will massively compromise TM4's health/life?
-can i really possibly still be pregnant with a live baby?
-will i ever stop feeling that jolt of fear when i think about loving this baby?

the transition from these deep-seated fears to more mundane, chittering worries is almost amusing to me as keep-you-up-at-night anxieties are stealthily replaced by crap about things called Boppy or Graco. i'm not so naive as to think that those fears, so familiar to any woman who's carried and lost a child, will ever be gone or replaced. but it makes me realise that an emotional place i formerly saw as unimaginable is happening to me now.
meanwhile, any suggestions about essential baby gear is appreciated. and any explanations as to why someone would pay $1200 for a stroller. (!?!?!?!)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Week Twenty

well, here we are...halfway through the proper baking time for a nicely-done Tummymuffin. the oven, that is, the Mummytiffin, is expanding at exponential rates, and now strangers are making direct comments about pregnancy, so clearly i don't just look suspiciously plumpy anymore.
my mother just got here for a visit and already in the first half-day she's done all the dishes, bleached my sink and dish drainer, and taken down the bathroom trash. this is of course after i'd cleaned the house for her arrival. i won't lie; it's nice having the Mommy House & Cooking Fairy around, but it's nicer to have her company in happier times. the last time she was here on her own with me was to care for me as i went through having to chemically induce my second miscarriage.
it strikes me now how so many of the events of my last few years are woven around my fertility (or lack thereof) as a time marker. no matter how hard you may try to not let family-making become all-consuming, the times of conception and loss become ingrained in your memory; you need no calendar to know your ovulation cycle; various holidays become signposted with whether or not you were pregnant with which child or miscarried around then or whatever. i can't go back and change the past; nor can i control the future. the present is what i have, and the memories i have right now simply are what they are.
just as i believe that hope & anxiety must naturally co-exist, i am learning that joy & grief do as well. my joy does not diminish the grief of what has gone before, just as grief does not taint the joy in any way. if this is the current yin and yang of my emotional landscape, i have to be willing to walk through it with my eyes wide open, taking in all the scenery, not just selected details. i can acknowledge that before every ultrasound i am convinced that we'll find a still little body with no heartbeat, and not flinch from this terrifying feeling; i can simply accept that it's there are move forward. in the same way, after every ultrasound in which we've watched Tummymuffin IV flip and punch and cavort and show off, i can open myself up to the flood of gratefulness and excitement and accept its blessing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Week Nineteen

my last grandparent died this week.
almost 94 years ago, in December of 1917, the mother of my father, Anna Elizabeth Hutchinson, was born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and from the very beginning, she had an independent mind and a fierce spirit. growing up essentially as an only child -- her older sister left for college and her older brother died when she was quite young -- she had both the freedom of a small-town childhood and the benefit of a good education and parents that encouraged her to learn all she could. when she went to Antioch College in Ohio, she decided to change her name to Anne, as she "never felt like an Anna; it was just too harsh." Antioch was a good fit for her; even then it was known for its anti-racism, pro-activism, and progressive thought. it was also there that she met Martin John Gieschen, who became her husband of more than 50 years. as those years unspooled, they learned how to run a farm, an independent movie house and grocery store, and finally my grandfather's art career. my aunt and father were born, there was a move to New York, and through it all my inimitable grandmother always stayed busy learning new skills, working outside the home, and later, when they were retired, exploring the great American outdoors with a small trailer and their trusty "Monster," a Chevy Suburban. she also happened to survive polio, two kinds of cancer, an aneurysm, and a massive heart attack. i said she had a fierce spirit, didn't i?
that spirit both inspired me and motivated me; she always encouraged my various shenanigans as a child as long as they showed imagination and creativity. she was a relentless cheerleader; during the time i was struggling to establish a freelance career in television production she would call me and encourage me to stick with my "adventurous life" and not settle for something that would "curb my freedom." she was a fan of my world travels, my choice of a husband, my shared love of cats, and my cleaning/organizational skills (she liked having me clean her desk when i'd visit) -- and she always let me know it. "you're fantastic, kiddo!" she'd write to me or exclaim on the phone, and it would make me feel like a gajillion dollars.
about 9 days before she would peacefully slump over at the dinner table and quietly leave this life, i happened to catch her at a lucid time on the phone. she was excited to know that Tummymuffin IV would be another great-grandson. "oh boy, your father is in trouble!" she hooted, "he won't know what to do with him, since he has only daughters!" she told me she was happy that it was looking like we would finally have a child; as a pregnancy loss survivor herself, she'd been supportive through the last several years of good news/bad news about her Great-Grandtummymuffins.
i'm deeply grateful that i was able to have a relationship with both my grandmothers; each of them strong women who lived long lives with energy, fullness, and a powerful love for their families. my mother shows no sign of deviating from this pattern; i have no reason to doubt my inheritance of female courage and spirit. with this full turn of the wheel of generations for me, i think about how high this sets the bar for me in my heritage. i promise you, TM4, i'll do my best. as another amazing female family member wrote to me: "you are lucky to have had loving grandparents, and that you had such quality time with them in life. life will renew soon, and your new son will look at you and you'll recognize something of Anne at that moment. that's some of the miracle." i believe her.

i love you, Grandma. enjoy meeting your Great-Grandtummymuffins Isabela, Tim, and Talitha. i'm sure you'll know who they are.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

national pregnancy & infant loss remembrance day

today is October 15th: National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.
each year, somewhere around one million pregnancies in America alone end all too soon: in miscarriage, stillbirth or the death of a newborn child.


October was designated, over 20 years ago, as National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. this day, the middle of the month, was finally designated 3 years ago as a remembrance day to bring comfort, healing and unity to parents (and their family & friends) who have suffered a pregnancy or infant loss. many observe it by lighting a candle from 7:00-8:00pm during their local time, knowing that many around the world are doing so and feeling less alone in their grief.

the point of October 15th is that it allows parents to openly remember their loss, and to have their loss recognised, without any shame or apology. too often, they aren't even comfortable identifying themselves as "parents" if they have no living children. however, they have experienced the love and hope for a child just the same, even if it was for too short a time, and the lives of those children are just as significant and meaningful than if they had been born.

pregnancy loss is so often kept as a tragic secret, because society is not only uncomfortable with grief, but also confused as to how to reach out and offer support. many are hesitant to acknowledge the loss because they're afraid they might cause more pain by doing so. on the contrary, a parent who's lost a child probably thinks of them often, and any remembrance of that child is appreciated and treasured, especially because they only live on in memory. when you are courageous enough to come alongside someone who is grieving and put your arm around them -- literally or figuratively -- you are giving them invaluable gifts: knowledge that they're not doing this alone, empathy in their pain, and hope for the future.

so today, if you or someone you love has experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, or newborn death, please don't be afraid to remember and recognize the loss, and offer comfort and unity to those whose hearts need healing.
thanks.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Week Eighteen

one hears a lot about "Mommy Milestones" when reading parenting or pregnancy material, and many of them have to do with the obvious: hearing/seeing a heartbeat, feeling your baby kick, finding out the gender, etc. while these are all indeed momentous, i think mine are quieter but no less significant:
* finding myself saying "when the baby is born" more often than "if the baby is born"
* being complimented on the cuteness of my "maternity top" by a female stranger
* noticing the way my husband's hand now almost automatically goes to rub my swelling belly when we're sitting on the couch or lying in bed together
* just having the aforementioned no-longer-hideable swelling belly
* having another pregnant woman ask me for advice
* finding that sleepless nights because of a baby are now more about hormones/bulky body/extra blood volume/etc. than about grief or fear

i've written before, especially using my lake metaphor, about how pregnancy after loss is a very different experience, and the farther we progress, the more certain i am of this. i am more comfortable with the co-existence of hope and anxiety as they stay more in balance, for which i am alternately astounded and relieved. there were many times i did not believe that a healthy pregnancy/live birth was possible for me, let alone a healthy pregnancy in which i was not paralyzed constantly by terror, or worse, fatalism.
to discover the depth of healing and growth that has happened -- and is still happening -- is a mommy milestone in and of itself.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Week Seventeen

*and now, for an entirely lighthearted post...*

there was a lot of waving, wiggling, and somersaulting during the last ultrasound. and we're happy to tell you it's highly likely that...

Tummymuffin IV is a boy!

in other amusing news, a friend of mine who resides in Edinburgh, Scotland, suggested that carrying the Tummymuffin makes me... the Mummytiffin*!
I LOVE THIS NAME. it makes me giggle uncontrollably, especially when i say it in my decently fake English accent.

*a tiffin is basically the Southeast Asian version of the Japanese bento box, with which i grew up, and have great affection for. i have great affection for tiffins too, because i love clever and pretty containers. (i even have an international tiny box collection from all my travels.)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Week Sixteen

Tummymuffin IV is definitely getting harder to hide; i'm going to have to get a two-piece bathing suit soon as my usual swimsuit that i use for lap swimming is starting to, uh, stretch in all the wrong places. luckily i usually am at the pool when it's empty except for a couple of older ladies who have already started to give me baby advice. the best bit so far: "don't listen to what anyone else says (glaring at other chatty older lady), it's YOUR BABY!" and then she proceeds to tell me all about how not to breastfeed. i heart the pool ladies. usually.

so, a few words about where the blog may be going. one of the unexpected things about this space -- besides the fact that what was going to be a Q&A about pregnancy turned into a wrenchingly honest journey through the hard terrain of three losses and infertility -- is that it's apparently becoming a resource of the sort that i tried so hard to find when i first miscarried. there are literally hundreds of blogs out there about pregnancy loss and infertility, and it can be daunting to sort through them. i've started posting links to sites i've found helpful, and i'd appreciate any comments from those of you who might have suggestions of your own. while i will continue to update you weekly on TM4's progress, you might also see a post here and there relating to the ongoing emotional/spiritual/life processes of coping with loss as well as comprehending a so-far healthy pregnancy after loss. i know that for some women facing a fresh loss, hearing about a successful pregnancy can be hard, but my hope is that as i work through this, my story might help others the same way that the stories of other strangers helped me. one of my biggest fears after even the first miscarriage was feeling it would be impossible to have a happy, emotionally well-balanced pregnancy anymore, and reading about how other women fought their way to healing and well-being gave me hope.

it's hope i continue to hold on to. i have more days now where i think: i am pregs, therefore i will have a baby rather than: i am pregs, but maybe not much/any longer. i've come to accept that maybe i will never shake that second thought completely; it's a natural part of my cumulative experience, but i do notice hope and anxiety are twin feelings for any parent at any stage of their kid's development. i'm learning to let both of them coexist peacefully; when i do, the hope usually floats to the top eventually.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Week Fifteen

so we still haven't figured out how or when to do a big general announcement to the wider public; instead we're still slowly but surely telling people as it's natural -- especially when seeing them personally, so there's no awkward wondering about my Expando-Self. at this point, we're thinking we can wait until we find out what Tummymuffin IV's gender is, and then have even more complete news to share. hey, it's a convenient excuse.
this week we celebrated our wedding anniversary, and it felt quite different from the other ones. two anniversaries ago, we found out i was pregnant with Tummymuffin II on the night before our anniversary, for which we had planned a sushi dinner and go-karting. ah well. last year, i had just undergone a whole round of tests for why i wasn't getting pregnant again at all, and we tried to ignore that elephant in the room and simply celebrate us. so it was rather shiny and new to talk about how if all keeps going well, this is our last anniversary without needing a babysitter. i admit, over dinner we were That Couple, you know, the giggly hand-holding-across-the-table gooey-gazing-at-each-other people. which made me giggle more because i kept thinking, yeah, and i'm obviously preggers and i bet some people with kids are thinking: Well, You Newlyweds, That's All Gonna End REAL Soon.
now, i know you parents out there are not gonna lie; it's a lot more difficult to swoon around your spouse when you're sleep-deprived and poopy-diapered-out, but i know you're also not gonna lie and tell me romance dies with childbirth if people are willing to Make An Effort. i guess all i'm saying is, we've become much more aware of our "limited" just-us-two time, and we're trying to take none of it for granted. i would honestly trade all the extra mornings of sleeping in that we've had the last few years for the other Tummymuffins to have survived, but now with the everyday reality of Tummymuffin IV's continued presence, we're reminding each other that things like "quiet Sunday afternoons" are a huge luxury.
although we suspect that "fun family Sunday afternoons" are also a huge luxury. we're psyching ourselves up for that trade.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Week Fourteen

no really, this is seriously officially the second trimester.
***pause for me to stuff brains back in from head exploding***
yeah, i'm still trying to believe it. of course the fact that i need to wear either very elasticishly-waisted garments or a maternity band at all times is an ever-present reminder. not to mention that 4x/day blood-drawing thing for the gestational diabetes. i have to say, that has turned out to be a good thing: firstly, it forced me to eat throughout the seasick months, and secondly, i'm sure it's made me eat about nineteen gabillion times more healthily than i would if left to my own devices. seriously, if i didn't have to worry about my blood sugars, i'd probably be baking scones every morning and drinking boba taro slushies all the time and hovering around Yogurtland constantly and going to sushi every week (oh hush, an entire nation called Japan has survived eating sushi while pregnant. look, i didn't say downing a bottle of wine every week, but that's a nation called France, or Italy...). i'm sure my body and Tummymuffin IV will thank me later for my enforced self-control.
we still haven't widely "announced" our news yet, but i'm taking baby steps (no pun intended. well, maybe not.). a few days ago i was onsite at work, and all my favorite coworkers were in one room...i took a deep breath and said heysincewe'reallhereishouldtellyouwe'reexpecting. hilariously, two of them immediately high-fived and claimed to have suspected for several weeks. seeing that one of them is 8 months pregnant and the other one just came back from maternity leave, okay, yes, maybe they did understand what was going on that day i was desperate to get to the fridge to eat my baggie of cheese and hardboiled egg. but still, i was actually surprised at how nice it felt to have all these people be happy.
plus, it's getting much harder to hide. i've gone from "did she have too much to eat at lunch?" to "hmm, she seems to have gotten plumpy over summer" to "is she shoplifting a large summer fruit under her shirt?". and apparently i've started giveaway (i'm told) mommyish gestures: either unconsciously rubbing my expanding belly or draping my arm over the top of it. this is what sold us down the pregnancy river tonight at a backyard party that Thomas' grad school class was having to kick off the new term. the sharp-eyed observer asked, i confirmed that yes, we are, and WOO! all of a sudden we were surrounded with excited, exclaiming people -- cups appeared and wine was poured (and yes, the Italian did tell me i should drink it -- oh hush again! i didn't!) and toasting happened, over and over, and there was a lot of hugging and Thomas was laughing and laughing.
thinking back, i did feel awkward in that moment; i felt like all that congratulations wasn't deserved yet: let's see if (s)he makes it first! is still a primary thought i often have despite my best efforts. but now, here, at the end of the day, i realise that this was the first time we've experienced what it's like to tell
Publish Post
non-family/close friends and enjoy the reaction. i'm soaking in the blooming warmth in my heart, and i'm understanding what a good and wonderful thing it is to share joy like that.
maybe i can get used to this...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Week Thirteen

it's been a big week for us and our Tummymuffins.
saying goodbye to Tummymuffin III seems to have made more room for us to get used to the fact that Tummymuffin IV is still with us, and boy is (s)he is looking more like a little human every day. (s)he performed splendidly for the ultrasound probe, flipping and flexing and prompting my OB/GYN to declare "this is really such a cute baby!" (and she claims she doesn't just say that about every fetus.) i think TM4 was just showing off for daddy, whose last view, around week 8, was of a teeny froglike creature with stubby proto-arms....and now, here was this giant (in relation to the size of my uterus) very baby-esque person waving around fingers and toes! yes, he was suitably impressed with his child.
and with that, we're officially into the second trimester. what what?! i'm still trying to wrap my head around that. the seasickness has not magically disappeared, but it's getting much better. the idea that we still have a real live baby that is, so far, showing very normal and healthy development feels so exotic and new and shiny that i'm still wearing loose clothes and saying nothing to the general non-blog-reading public. i simply don't even know quite how to say it to myself yet. it doesn't seem very festive to announce: Hey Everyone, We Might Have A Baby If It Continues To Survive! and yet -- this is how i still feel. i know this is another obstacle in crossing the Lake of Post-Pregnancy-Loss Fire, and you know what? i'm totally up for the challenge of navigating it. i just need to strategize...meaning: have another therapy appointment.
meanwhile, General Non-Blog-Reading Public Who Will Not See This Post Anyway: please stand by.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

goodbye, little Three

since we don't know for certain when each of our lost Tummymuffins left us -- and quite frankly, we'd prefer to remember them for life rather than death -- we've chosen to memorialize their due dates rather than when we found out they were gone. having a ritual letting go -- naming them and saying goodbye -- has been enormously helpful to us in healing. for me, i've felt that i can "leave" my child and not keep dragging them around with me in an unhealthy way, still knowing that of course they'll always be with me, both physically and emotionally; even as life moves on, their tiny lives are part of mine forever.
and so our first one was left in one of the oldest churches in Rome, under a lovely mosaic. our second was left in a tiny ancient roadside chapel in Thomas' German hometown. as the date for our third approached, i wondered what to do or where to go, as we were here at home in Los Angeles. i only knew it should somehow be like the the other two: somewhere quiet and beautiful; a place that love and supplication have dwelt together with a holy Presence for a long time. i emailed a dear friend who's been part of this journey from the beginning to ask about a chapel i'd heard of; she said it wasn't a good place for that sort of thing, but suggested that i look into another place that was special to her; the oldest Protestant church in L.A. in continuous service. i'd never heard of it before, so i called to simply see if they open the sanctuary during the week for people who want a quiet place of prayer & reflection.
what transpired was nothing short of a miracle of compassion and grace.
the senior minister's assistant, instead of saying "no" (which was the technically correct answer; a school is also on the church grounds so they cannot leave it open to the public), offered to personally let us into the sanctuary whenever we wanted to come, even giving me her personal cell phone number to make sure she didn't miss us. it seemed quite random, but that sort of generosity of spirit isn't something you say no to. as we drove to an address in the middle of the bustling, breakneck city of concrete and glass, i wondered how any place here could possibly be, well, special.
when the GPS signaled us to to turn, it was obvious where we were going. rising out of the bland sidewalks and chunky office buildings was a gorgeous gothic-revival cathedral building, all vaults and towers and graceful arches. the minister's assistant, who met us at the side entrance, quietly let us in the side door. when we walked into the sanctuary, i knew we'd been sent to the right place. colored light spilled onto the stone floor from the numerous stained-glass windows, and a hushed peace seemed to be soaked into the walls. massive trumpet-like pipes (of what i was to later learn is the largest church pipe organ in the world) flanked both ends of the room. the warm, well-worn carved oak interior felt enveloping, in a comforting way -- it was indeed clear that the Holy had dwelt here for some time.
the minister's assistant had thoughtfully arranged to have the pastor on duty available in case we wanted someone to speak with us -- were we interested? now, usually i would have reflexively said oh so politely: no, thank you, no need to bother, we'll be fine: but suddenly i realised -- these losses have changed all of that. could we have borne them without the support, love, prayers, encouragement, shared sorrow, and cheers of others? would we truly have "been just fine" without accepting that encouragement from even the most unlikely of places, without reaching out and asking for help, without turning to every source we knew for wisdom and comfort? NO. absolutely NO. and so of course i caught the polite response in my throat, swallowed, and said YES.
we were sitting in silence, simply absorbing the beauty of the place and the gravity of why we were there when the pastor on duty, a smiling woman about our age, appeared, hands outstretched to us. she welcomed us and asked for a bit of our story; as we explained as best we could why we were there, a genuine empathy sagged her body as she listened. she asked if she could pray for us, and gathered our hands together. then she looked at me -- would i mind if she laid a hand on my belly, over the growing Tummymuffin IV as we prayed? she explained that when she was carrying her children, she found it comforting to have people bless her babies with a hand on her belly, but knew not all pregnant women like being touched. of course, i said, i want him or her to be part of this.
and so we stood there in the middle of this lovely sanctuary in the improbable middle of one of the busiest neighbourhoods in sprawling Los Angeles, three strangers bound together by compassion and need, as she spoke honest and authentic words of blessing and mourning, conversing with God as a True Presence, the One whose love was there, surrounding us when we needed it the most.

after she left us, we sat on the cool flagstones of the steps to the altar, looking at the massive rose window. i laid my head on Thomas' knee and cried for awhile, but it wasn't the kind of desolate, hollowed-out weeping that i've known all too well. instead, it felt like the release that it was, the familiar internal ritual of giving a name and saying goodbye to a child that i will never hold, and letting her go. goodbye my little Three*, i thought, thank you for letting me know you while i could.
and then the music started.
with timing that was both fantastically dramatic and delightfully comedic, the massive organ began thundering out a triumphant voluntary, the sort of music that plays in movies when the heavens open and the good prevails. somehow the tears kept falling but now we were laughing instead of crying. wow, she gets her own farewell soundtrack! i said. unbeknownst to us, we had somehow managed to come right before the organist usually begins his regular practice.
so we stayed for a bit, sitting there with our backs to the organist, just listening to the music surround us in all its layers and complexity. if you've ever be lucky enough to hear an accomplished pipe organist play music specifically written for such a magnificent behemoth of an instrument, you'll know it's like hearing a choir -- so many voices, tones, rhythms, musical lines all at once. the melodies and harmonies poured from the pipes, like sparkling rain into an already-rushing river. it felt healing to just soak in it.
driving home, Thomas looked at me. do you feel any different? he asked. i think so, yes, i replied. do you feel pregnant now? he asked. i laughed, but then saw he was serious. and i thought about it, looked inside, and yes -- there was a new feeling, a new lightness and a new acceptance of the fullness of my womb.
and so i am learning: perhaps the most important part of letting go is making ready to receive.

our deepest gratitude to Heather and Shanna of First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, who extended such compassion and love to two grieving people, and truly exemplify what it means to be a part of the family of God.

*a week ago, slowly waking from a lucid dream, i saw in my mind a name i didn't recognize, but that still seemed oddly familiar. i couldn't shake it, so i asked the Googles and Wikipedia, which told me that it meant, depending on the language, either "The Third" or "Little Girl." and so i thought: well, i guess that's you, TM3. as for the familiarity? it's one of the few places in the stories of Jesus where the original language was preserved, and so we know when He gently and compassionately saved a family's daughter from death, this is how he addressed her. so now, my third little leap of the gazelle, my little girl, i will always remember you as Talitha.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Week Twelve

well, here we are, almost at the end of that first trimester thingy. some of you have asked if i've gone public with this pregnancy and the answer is no. i think the mark to pass for me, at least, will be this next checkup during Week Thirteen -- Trimester One will be completely over, we'll see the So Tummymuffin Can Dance show on the ultrasound, and maybe then i'll stop wearing loose clothes and show the bump and answer questions.
or maybe not. i don't know; living with the reality of this pregnancy as a "secret" has meant also living with this pregnancy as a quasi-reality. and doing all those things hopeful excited expectant women do doesn't feel yet like my territory. i just need to get there and then i guess i'll know.
i recently wrote to a friend that it is a daily tightrope walk between fear and hope...but so much of life is, i suppose. it can be exhausting way beyond the physical tiredness that i've gotten so used to now. watching my body change as it currently is in the mirror is alternately thrilling -- for all there is to hope for and love and anticipate -- and terrifying -- for all there is to lose, especially because i know that particular route too well. each day there's more to lose. and each day there's so much more to gain.
part of me hopes that passing that first trimester mark with everyone getting a clean bill o' health will perhaps let me feel free to shift this blog back into what it was meant to be three long years ago; a place for the more experienced moms to answer my newbie questions, a happy spot of updates for Tummymuffin's fans, a way of tracking the weeks in a meaningful manner.
in a strange twist, this next checkup will be on the day that Tummymuffin III would have been born. i always wondered what it would be like for me to mark the passing of a child while carrying its sibling; with Isabela and Tim this did not happen. but with the to-be-named TM3 -- it seems almost more difficult to be saying our official goodbyes to her with a full womb rather than an empty one.
i did, in an act of faith today, have husbinator take a photo of me, hand on belly, standing by the dragon in the delightful installation piece by Ai Weiwei currently on display at LACMA, since TM4 will be a water dragon if he/she arrives as scheduled. he said it's just the first of many pregnancy photos we'll take.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Week Eleven

i just want to be happy that i get to finally post an entry with that heading.
*yay*
so i went in for what i thought would just be some screening blood work and got a Bonus Tummymuffin Show -- a fairly comprehensive ultrasound in which i discovered:
-TM4 seems to be constantly moving.
-her/his fingers are super cute.
-apparently when a tiny person smushes his/her face up against the sonogram wand thingy, he/she looks exactly like a tiny luchador.
-it seems that TM4 is already exhibiting genetic traits such as the infamous "Hutchinson Chin" (see this link for a telling photo of direct ancestor).
-perhaps later on i will be bored watching my child's antics, but right now, it's RIVETING.

this week feels like a small island of respite in the lake of blood and fire, for which i'm grateful. i need the naptime...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Week Ten

i'm going to do for you exactly what my delightful ob/gyn does for me: tell you immediately before any details that
IT'S ALL GOOD! or in her words, "WE ARE A+ PERFECT."
okay, now i'll let you all start breathing again. (i can also hear your cheers, which kind of makes me want to cry, and not just because of hormone mood swings.)
given how every appointment, except the very first innocent one almost 3 years ago, is an exercise in Will I See My Tummymuffin or Will I See Doom?, i appreciate her approach. she wastes no time -- pops in the ultrasound wand and immediately declares that all is well, and only after that proceeds to tell me what the smudge means, find the heartbeat, measure the baby, etc.
it was an effort this time, knowing that this was The Week of Doom, to not expect the worst. all of your encouragements and faith-that-i-can't-feel-myself helped me to stay in Possibility Cautious Optimism Mode. which was new. however, i can't lie; when i saw a very large, baby-looking image on that monitor, i had a split second thought: but this can't be my baby. my babies disappear around now. and then i heard my doctor saying: "you've never seen one this big yet, have you?" and reality came back and the overwhelming thought then became: this is happening. this is really happening now. this is what's true.
honestly, before seeing those kicking legs and wiggling arms i could get about as far as thinking about how awesome it would be to write a Week Ten post that was all good news. and now? i can get as far as thinking for more than a few seconds how awesome it would be to actually have a healthy, full-term child without my brain exploding. this is a huge improvement.
the way i see it, perhaps for the people who are blessed with easy conception, pregnancy, and birth, the process of having a baby is like crossing a calm lake on a comfortable ferry: you decide you want to take the trip, so you get on the boat whenever you want to, sail placidly across, and get off on the other side. for me -- and probably for others who struggle with infertility and pregnancy loss -- it's more like commandeering a tiny rowboat in open warfare to cross a wildly heaving lake of blood and fire. sometimes you never even get past finding a damn boat; other times you make it a few meters in when your oars get shot out or the boat capsizes or gets blown up. or maybe you get halfway across when you find out your boat has a slow leak or you almost dock and the land cannons get you.
some of you may be nodding; some of you may be vaguely horrified by my violent imagery, but this is the best way i have of explaining to myself (or others) why i don't know if i can ever fully act like i'm on the comfy ferry. i've wondered many times if or when i'll shift over into believing full-time that i will meet this child, and that he or she will be healthy and well. i know that this is somewhat useless speculation; what matters is my choicefulness on a daily basis in how i'm going to live.
so today i actually went down to the garage and pulled out all the maternity stuff...again. i hauled out all the books that i'd hidden carefully behind the travel guides, and even considered starting the pregnancy journal again, now that i'm into the blank pages of Week 10 and beyond. i even loaded up two pregnancy podcasts and added a pregnancy tracker widget to my iGoogle page.
all that deliberate hopefulness was a bit exhausting, but it felt good. really good.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Week Nine

currently, a very typical conversation:
Person Who Loves Me And Cares About Me: How are you feeling?
Me, Feeling Perpetually Like The Pukey Exhaustion Truck Hit Me: Absolutely terrible.
Loving, Caring Person: THAT'S WONDERFUL!

this gestational diabetes is a blessing in the disguise of No More White Rice, i tell you, because it forces me to eat every two to three hours whether i want to or not. despite rationally knowing the barfy feeling will recede if i just put food in my mouth, it is very hard to otherwise motivate oneself to prepare food when one feels like one has been riding on a tiny boat in very rough seas. speaking of which, my daily blood sugar numbers are apparently pleasing to the Dietician/Nurse Powers That Be, so all is well so far in that arena.
i tried to skip naptime one day and paid dearly for it that evening. after dragging around the house and then flolloping on the couch making small moaning noises, the husbanator appeared with a big giant "10" written on the iPad and said i was totally winning for Utter Patheticness. i laughed so hard i fell off the couch and decided to just go to bed.
besides, naptimes are the one time during the day that i practice loving Tummymuffin IV. not that i don't at other times, but it's way too emotionally fraught to sustain excitement, affection, or even hopefulness without it straying too close to the jagged boundaries of fear and anxiety. but when i'm drifting into that relaxed alpha state, hands cupped over my expanding pelvis, i can let go and love this small person growing inside of me. it helps that i have an image; my thoughtful ob/gyn mailed me the last ultrasound printouts (the printer was broken at the time) and sure enough, there IS a waving arm, absolutely clear. and little froglike proto-legs. it was kind of a game changer to see TM4 so...real baby-like. the joy and pleasure at seeing those images bloomed inside automatically, without any strings attached, and it was relief to know i can still feel that way about a pregnancy, even if just for a few moments.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Week Eight

yeah, you read that right. it's week 8. no one is more surprised than me.
just like with Tummymuffin III, no sooner had i put up that last post, having started the preliminaries for consulting with reproductive endocrinologists and considering our ART options, than i discovered i wasn't having a late period. no one is more surprised than me; i've never gotten pregnant this fast before, and while we had left the door open for it to occur, i truly truly deep down inside did not believe it could happen again without some sort of assistance.
well. huh. how about that.
i've struggled with what to write here, how to write it, and even if to write it at all. i don't want to post sad news here in two weeks after giving you faithful Team Hope people a reason to rejoice. but i also don't want to post any news here, sad or otherwise, in a way that would cut out the most important component of all my pregnancy experiences -- you. a very wise woman pointed out to me that people have indeed felt our loss in the past, and that may keep me feeling hesitant, but they've felt it because they want this for us so much. another very wise woman -- not knowing i had just found out i was expecting again -- wrote some things that encouraged me to keep being transparent with the WHOLE process; not just the "good parts." so. Team Hope. thanks for signing on for another ride.
i'll start with the physical facts. Tummymuffin IV is kicking my butt. i am crazy tired and queasy all the time. i have constant humiliating gas, i've started to smell funny, and none of my pants really fit any more. in other words: All Is Well. the Week Six appointment featured Instant Giant Heartbeat on Ultrasound Screen. this week's appointment featured a waving arm (says my ob/gyn, who can see these things) and a bopping head. in short, TM4 is "perfectly A+ normal." on a side note, this is definitely my husband's child, because TM4 is hanging out in my womb, sucking down all the sugar (s)he can: i already have gestational diabetes. i'm deeply grateful for the coaching from my dear friend who has Type I diabetes; it would've been all too overwhelming otherwise. today when i busted out the finger-poking bits and the glucometer it felt quite normal. and yes, overall, my numbers are fine. at this point, after all we've been through, i'm more than willing to eat on a schedule and give up watermelon and draw blood 4x/day in exchange for more Happy Ultrasound Views.
emotionally -- well hello! welcome to my wild ride, full of hairpin curves and sheer cliff dropoffs! please fasten your seatbelts and for heaven's sake, keep your dang hands inside! yeah, come to the think of it, maybe this is why i feel nauseous most of the time. i wish i could tell you how overjoyed we are and how hopeful, but this would be pointless. all y'all -- as they say in some regions -- know that this is not the case. of course we're happy. of course we're grateful. by the same token, of course we're terrified. of course we're being cautiously optimistic. it's been wonderful for the husbanator to finally -- FINALLY! -- see one of his children's heart beat, and not once, but now twice (various reasons prevented this in all previous pregnancies). but i see his face when he looks at me and i know that even as he wraps his head around what that pulsing smudge on the screen means, he's still mostly concerned about me. and not just because i'm burping like a teenage boy with no control.
i have been very consciously trying to live in the present. what i mean is that it's far too easy to think about all the things that could go wrong today, tomorrow, next week, before Week Ten, before Week Twelve. then it's not a stretch to think about all the potential other pitfalls ahead that could still end this child's life before i ever meet him or her, or simply go wrong at any point. quite frankly, i have neither the energy nor the interest in that vortex of poison. what i am trying to concentrate on is: what do i want to give this baby today? what do i want to know/feel/do/learn/understand today? this moment? how can i simply live right now in the possibility of having a healthy child -- not in the past's crushing disappointments nor in the future's heavy burden of hopeful expectation? i have often thought about how radically different it would be to shift completely and think/feel/live in the assumption that this will be a healthy, normal baby that will actually be carried to term and born and carried and smelled and kissed and shared. i can glimpse what that is like for a split second before reality takes over. every day i practice extending that split second, and it's helping.
meanwhile, as before, i am letting you be the ones who can experience pure excitement and hope and joy for me. you've shared your hope for our family dreams with me no matter if i've been currently pregnant or not. right now, this is enough for me. no. it's more. and as always, i am deeply grateful.

Friday, July 1, 2011

some days

sorry for the silence. i think it’s just that every time i have a post germinating in my head, i just want to take a nap instead.
i’ve mostly been using the last month to let the sweater dry out and not feel so smothered by it, while taming the snake and calming it down. even though i try to think about each pregnancy and each death as a separate, discrete event, the cumulative effect of having three children lost was a weight too heavy to function under. i felt i was someone staggering around the side of the road after a bad wreck, someone who had the same name as me but otherwise not really so recognizable. it wasn’t just “keeping a good face on,” i wasn't going numb, and i didn’t drop out of life. no...i just felt like i was living on the bare surface of me, and that anything else required too much energy. i absolutely didn’t feel like myself; this bruised and smudged-up woman with my name.
therapy and time has been good. the God of love and mercy that i believe in has been good too. the blessing and prayers and encouragement of so many friends & family has been very, very good. but while i might be healing well, the reality of a childless present and future still remains, and i haven’t a clue as to what that’s going to mean, and it is hard to trust oneself from day-to-day.
see, some days it feels like a non-issue: so what if we’re child free and might stay that way? big deal! and some days it feels like the defining issue of my entire existence: who are we supposed to be if we cannot continue our family, if we never are able to grow through this profound human experience called mother & father? however, there are very few days that i do not think about my missing children: how old they would be now, what it might feel like to smell their faces, what they would look like in my own mother’s or husband’s arms.
i find that despite everyone’s best intentions, there is a widening gulf between me and those with children. some of my peers at this point are trying to survive their kid’s puberty while i’m still wondering if i’ll ever get to try breastfeeding. i know this gulf sometimes exists between single and married people, but this one is harder to navigate, i think, because having kids so much more affects every facet of your waking (and not-much-sleeping) life. i don’t want my friends to feel like they have to edit their kids out of answers to “what’s been happening?” and yet their lives at times take on this almost storybook-like patina to me: Once Upon A Time, in the Land of Juice Box Joy and Minivan Acceptance… i don't want us to struggle to remain relevant in one another's lives, and so far so good. but it all comes back to the same feeling: these normal life things happen to other people. they do not happen to me.
today i ordered my medical records, and holy crap it sucked to read the litany of sorrow printed out: “no longer pregnant.” “recurrent spontaneous abortion.” (but i still smiled to see my OB’s now-famous-in-my-head comment: “it is a fine uterus.”) i did this because it’s the first step towards going to consult a reproductive endocrinologist now. yes, i can hear some of you shrieking OH EM GEE YOU SHOULD HAVE DONE THAT 2 YEARS AGO and yes, there are others of you shrieking DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT THAT ROUTE and honestly, my dear Team Hope supporters – i don’t have an effing guess as to how it’s going to go, what’s going to be recommended, what might be necessary. but what i do know is that i at least want to try to get some more answers – yes, this might pose some bigger questions, but let’s face it, i already have plenty of questions.
and they aren’t the ones you might think. i mean, the adoption/assisted reproductive technology (ART)/childfree question has been on the table even before Tummymuffin III’s short life. no, the questions i’m wrestling with are more slippery: why are we parents with no living children? what is truly important here? are we selfish for wanting to have kids? what makes a parent? can we experience the full extent of our lives & our gifts to give without having small ones? will not having kids plant seeds of bitterness that will break soil and poison us years later? or will the journey of having kids do the same thing? why does God give AND take away? and am i willing to receive AND let go?

Friday, June 17, 2011

violin

"I am so glad and grateful, I am; but sometimes the orchestra plays something in swelling chords of luck and joy, and all I can hear is that one violin sawing out a thin melody of grief."

-C. Newman

Monday, April 25, 2011

grounding

right now, where you are sitting: take a moment. feel your feet on the ground. feel your hands on the keyboard, or on your lap. feel your behind in the seat, and your back supported by the chair you're probably sitting in. breathe. feel the space your breath is creating around you. just be aware of where you are in time & space... what you're doing right now is called grounding, and i've been doing a lot of these last few weeks.
we've made an agreement, my wise husband and I, that we would make no decisions about family-building until we both had healed ourselves a little more, through time and love and therapy. we have a regular counselor we've seen since before we were married, and his knowledge of us as individuals and as a couple over a long span of years has built trust and depth that we are grateful for. we are also seeing another counselor who developed a somatically-based model of trauma therapy that she now uses for the benefit of those with PTSD and large-scale disaster survivors, but whose early work was with those who experienced any sort of pre- or neo-natal death.
we've learned a lot in these few weeks, and i've made myself do a lot of "homework." anyone who has been to any amount of counseling will tell you that you can have productive sessions, but if you don't work on your stuff over the time in between, you won't get very far.
the grounding is how i've been starting my "work" times -- whether it be meditation & prayer, journalling, reading related material, etc. it brings me to the present, and anchors me to myself. keeping this awareness of the physicality, and the physical location of my emotions, has been a powerful tool for getting to know the snake and the shadows, and for starting to understand things that have been hidden inside of me. i'm feeling more like "myself" than i have over the last few months, which is both exhausting and liberating.
there's still quite a ways to go, and meanwhile the circumstances of my life aren't exactly the most stable, as i find that this is a season of saying goodbye to parts of my old life & career, and welcoming new opportunities and directions. but i think i found a flashlight and the shadows aren't as menacing.
for those of you who have been sending your love in various ways: cards, e-mails, gifts, declarations of friendship & self-sacrifice: i thank you. you remind me not only that i am not alone, but that i too need to keep reaching out to those who struggle with grief and loss over time, not just when it happens.

Monday, April 11, 2011

hiss

you'd think that going through this three times, one would have a certain amount of heads-up as to what to expect. i thought i did. i mean look at my post from when i found out that Tummymuffin III was gone. it was comforting then to think i had "better tools" or that i knew what was coming, even if i was "not dismissing the possibility this could be different." well, you know what? f**k that.
i think that what i thought was: "hey, you already know how to mourn your dead babies! you're already good at that!" so here's the curve ball...so far it's not about that this time. dear God, it feels like it would be so easy if i were simply grieving the loss of another child. i can't even see that child right now, she's so buried under all this anger and confusion and dull, depressing greyness. it's like being buried myself.
i'm feeling bitter that i even had to have a conversation with my husband that involved nasty little acronyms like "ART" and "IVF" and phrases like "willing to lose another one" and "open to other possibilities." i don't know who i am or who i'm supposed to be right now. it feels like i'm simply marking time, waiting for..something. a decision? a revelation?
no. i think right now, in this moment, it's about honesty. i'm losing my sense of being a woman, of being female. yeah, it's that basic. when i poke the snake of anger, what it hisses is that it's not f***ing fair, normal women get pregnant and have live healthy babies as easily as it was for me to just type that phrase. don't argue with me, it hisses, you see this with your own eyes and it's lived out in front of you more often than the sh*t card you obviously drew.
it hisses that without being a mother, without that sort of fruitfulness, i will not develop fully into being a woman, and i will forfeit an enormous portion of life experience that i was told i should absolutely expect and hope to have.
it hisses that i will be alone, alone until my final exit. i will say goodbye to my husband, who was never a father, and to whom i never gave a child, and endure how many years of alone before finally leaving. will you rage, asks the snake, bitter and unwilling to let go? or will you just be so exhausted from loneliness that you simply fade? and then that will be all, no more of your line. so sorry, mom and dad. so sorry, future of my name.
it hisses that trust is slippery. it makes me doubt -- do i trust myself & do i really truly want a family? why do i want children anyway? can i trust the God who made my body which is clearly not working very well? can i trust a society that once again puts me on the outside of normal because it's not going as it "was supposed to?"
and here's the strange part. i think the snake isn't something to be killed, or be frightened of, or to scare away. no. i need to pick it up, wrap it around my wrist, and carry it with me. i need to warm it, count its scales, feel its flickering tongue on me without flinching. yes, much of what it hisses is ugly and painful, and has no truth in it -- but ignoring it, or silencing it is not going to make it stop. i'm suspecting that the snake, while disguised as anger, is perhaps really fear -- and shoving fear back into the shadows just makes it more powerful. and i also suspect that i have something to learn out of all that hissing.
i'm fumbling around in the dark, but i know a flashlight is there, somewhere.

*for those of you who may be offended by profanity: i'm very sorry for offending you. i cannot, however, apologise for being honest. i don't swear lightly.

Friday, April 8, 2011

move back and forth into the change

i'm wondering:
what does it mean to be a bell? and can i turn myself to wine?
meanwhile, i'm breathing as deeply as possible.

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

~Ranier Maria Rilke

Monday, March 7, 2011

sweaters & snakes

i didn't want to post here at first it was because my rage and grief were so raw and fresh i didn't want to give semi-permanent voice to anything that was coming from that initial tidal wave of emotion. then it simply became the imposition of time & circumstance, where just sitting down to begin typing is impossible. but i'm still finding that it's difficult to speak freely about what's really happening, to be honest about the current process. so at least i can keep myself honest here.
medically and physically, this was a much less painful and traumatic process than with the last baby. (i think at some point i need to write a post about what to expect with "finishing" a miscarriage with misoprostol vs. an MVA, as the resources i found online were the biggest helps in knowing how to deal with the procedures. someone remind me.*) i literally went back to work the next day with my doctor's okay, and while it seems a little crazy that i sandwiched in a "removal of the remainder of the products of conception" between days of working on a tv show, i think it was the best thing i could have done. it lent a sense of normalcy to a totally not-normal time, and forced me to look life in the face and say: i'm coming along; you can't leave me behind. however, the challenge now is to not leave what's happened behind as life continues at a breakneck pace.
see, i'm in the middle of a career transition, which basically means working two jobs at the same time. my parents have come out for a previously-scheduled visit, and my parents-in-law from Germany are also in town. my husband is working full-time while also carrying a full-time graduate student load. and in the midst of all these demands and responsibilities, i feel like my deep sadness is like a heavy wet sweater, dripping and clammy and dragging me down. i refuse to be subsumed by it; i think my inner exhaustion is not only from its weight, but also from my stubborn struggle to not be swallowed in its smelly, scratchy folds.
there's a new emotion this time that i think was somewhat absent from the last two losses. this time i'm angry. yeah, angry. at this point my rage has no object -- i'm not angry at or with anyone or anything -- i'm just seriously f***ing angry. not having had a lot of life experience with this, i feel like it's an exotic, possibly dangerous snake that less emotional me looks at and then pokes with a stick, just to see what it'll do. i don't like how it pulls my filters away and makes me feel like all the irritation and frustration and fury are right there, on the surface. i do like that it makes me feel like i'm still here, and most definitely not numb.
i'm still trying to figure out how to ask the hard questions, and more importantly, figure out which ones need an answer. i'm also still trying to reconcile my rational self (this is real trauma, don't be apologetic for your devastation) with my less-rational self (get over it, this happens to a lot of women, it could be so much worse).
the odd thing about working through lifeshaking grief is that it is bizarrely isolating. despite being surrounded by a strong, loving community -- that's you guys -- and a wonderful family and husband; despite knowing that there are so many other families that carry the same scars and the same sort of loss -- i still find myself feeling alone. alone with my horrible tragic secret; locked in some macabre repeating drama, some sick and twisted play that has the same dreadful ending...and i'm left on stage with absolutely no direction.
i could care less what my lines are supposed to be.

*i have written those posts now. you can find the one about misoprostol here, and the one about an MVA here.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Week Ten (or This is Always Where it Ends)

i won't mince words.
sometime in the last week, the flicker of light that was our baby's heartbeat went dim, and my body took her back. all that's left is the empty yolk sac and an alien-looking giant bubble that's making my pants still not fit.
i'm terribly sorry, Team Hope, because i know this news will devastate you too. how i have clung to your words of encouragement and found peace in your cheers and prayers. i will still be finding these things in the coming days. it is good to know that Tummymuffin III was so loved during her too-short tiny life.
so much of pain is fear, and i think i have a lot less fear for what's to come. i've been through it twice already, and even though i am not dismissing the possibility that this time could be different in whatever ways, i at least know what the physical and emotional pain is going to be like. more importantly, i can feel more confident that having gotten through two rounds of this kind of loss already, this one still won't break my marriage, break my faith, or break me. more importantly, i think i am fundamentally changed; more willing to ask for help and lean on the support and compassion of others. i know i won't run away from this. it just feels like i have better tools to help me keep moving through the days and weeks and months to come. life is going to continue with or without me. i'd prefer it to be with me.
in a few days, i will need to have a procedure done to remove what is left*; this time there will be less physical impact, i'm told. since there is no question that Tummymuffin III is completely gone, we'd prefer to not wait so we can have some emotional closure. i'm not sure when i'll post again, but i will try to stay open & honest here, and keep Team Hope in the loop.
thanks for your continued cheering. we need it right now.

*the procedure is called an MVA; i've written about it here as a resource for other women looking for information on what to expect.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Week Nine (or I'm Not Counting)

ten is supposed to be the perfect number; the symbol of totality and completion. it's anything but that for me; ten is the number of weeks both my previous children lived before they were reclaimed by my body forever. so understandably, i'm getting slightly nervous.
okay, okay, that's an understatement. i'm exercising extreme self-control and relying heavily on your prayers and encouragement to keep from freaking out. i'll be sliding into week ten sometime soon, but seriously, i haven't been counting because i've learned by wretched experience that Anxious Anticipation of Horrible Milestone is far, far worse than Actual Living Through Horrible Milestone. friends of mine who have also struggled with infertility and baby loss confirm this -- for example, the days leading up to Mothers' Day are always more emotionally knotted than the day itself.
so my next appointment with my OB is in a few days -- i'm back in early since Tummymuffin III measured so small last time. i've been treating the approaching date with a wee bit of melodrama, feeling like it's going to be the Date We Discover the Fate of Our Doomed Child. will his or her heart still be beating? will she or he have grown enough to be viable? or will TEN once again be a marker of doom? doooooooom! (when i say melodrama, i'm not kidding.)
now, i've been working on a job that has me outside, in the mountains (note to the worried: i'm NOT carrying anything heavy; i sit down for most of the day). today three young deer appeared nearby. they looked at me, i looked at them, and they unhurriedly bounded away. and suddenly i felt like my heart was springing with them; suddenly i was filled with a pure and simple thought: in a few days i will get to see our baby! i'm going to see you again, my tiny heart! and all anxiety about the appointment was gone. shocked (and being me), i probed at this new feeling. it was real. and all i can say was it felt clean. clean like the way the first rain is scented; clean like a white sheet hanging in the spring sunlight; clean like the innocence i had with my first, untainted-by-fear pregnancy. and i thought of Isaiah 35, which says that the lame will leap like a deer and the mute will shout for joy.
my heart is still lame and mute much of the time; i cannot easily gloss over its woundings, nor will i pretend that all is shiny happy when it is not. but i do know that the One to Whom you are all praying on our behalf is called Jehovah-Rapha, the Healer. i did not expect such an astonishing, clarifying moment of redemption such as i received today, but i accept the love in which it was given, no matter what happens next.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Week Eight (or Maybe Week Six)

i ended the last blog post with this sentence:
"i am, however, open to the possibilities of tomorrow."
i can almost hear God giggling right now, because according to the crazy magical math of calculating these things, "tomorrow" is most likely when the baby i'm now carrying was conceived. (cue the divine BWAH-HAH-HAH!!!)
so yes, here i am at possibly eight weeks. i have spent most of them fluctuating between terror, numbness, actual joy, and cautious optimism (and not just as a throwaway media phrase). i didn't stop believing i was "just late again" until i was actually sitting in the lab with a phlebotomist sucking six gazillion vials of blood out of my arm. it took me another week to stop feeling falsely "meh" about it out of sheer emotional self-preservation. there are mornings when i wake up absolutely convinced that this poor child is already dead and i feel completely stranded in my own life. there are mornings when i wake up and i feel the aching weight of my growing breasts and embrace hope. i don't know what kind of morning it will be until i open my eyes. so i just roll with it, and try to pray, and mainly rely on sanity of the prayers of my faithful friends and family who have committed to being confident in faith for me. because remember how in that last post i also said "but i admit, here and now, although it is like another tiny death, that i do not still believe."? yeah, i'm still struggling to believe. and i know this is the reality of pregnancy after loss and infertility.
my first ultrasound was a few days ago, and it was a completely bizarre mixture of the first two pregnancies. my doctor found a tiny heartbeat right away, a flutter of light in a dark smudge on the screen. "look, here's the heartbeat!" she said, and it was like with Isabela, whose heartbeat was so crazyamazing in that moment...and then two weeks later, she was utterly vanished. my doctor's next words -- "but the pregnancy is small for how far you're supposed to be along" was like with Tim, whose heartbeat i never saw, and who, two weeks later, stopped growing entirely.
currently, there is no cause for concern, i am told; i'm simply coming back in two weeks to see if my now 8-week fetus is bigger than its current 6-week size. everything else looks fine, and i'm told this is pretty common, as those measurements can be arbitrary. but it's way too close to my last pregnancy's experience for me to be completely blithe about it.
posting here with the news is just one more way i am choosing to find the ray of sunshine that is hopefulness, and curl up in it like a wee kitten, soaking up as much as possible. i so badly want to talk about this pregnancy with excitement and joy, but i know that's unrealistic. if anything, i think i'm still astounded that i'm even pregnant again. as physically uncomfortable as it's getting, at least i know what to expect and i can be actually thankful about the middle-of-the-night potty trips or insane gas that makes my jeans not fit. yes, i know there's even more exciting Fun Body Weirdness to come! woo! and here's the thing: when informed about the nausea and backaches and unwanted body hair...and i know these are the mild ones...i only can think: i hope i make it that far this time. i hope my baby makes it that far this time.
i hope. i hope. i hope.