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 T's 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 T 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
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.