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.