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.