Monday, October 15, 2012

Tummymuffin Remembrance Day

today is October 15th: National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  please go to my previous post about it here for more information on what it is, how it came about, and what you can do to recognize it.  many hearts need healing, and this day can help them find some comfort.

around here, we're calling it Tummymuffin Remembrance Day.  when L was born, the husbanator and i had extensive conversations about how we want to remember his siblings and what we were going to tell him about them.  (right now it is sort of a lovely nebulous story that will most likely take the form of a bedtime-serial-make-it-up-as-you-go about three small guardians he has that check in with him from time to time; one hangs out in Rome and loves gelato, one likes to swing from the trees outside of an old Roman garrison town in Germany, and one inhabits the pipes of big organs.  or something like that.)  in any case, we do know that we're not keeping them a secret, and we want it to feel normal to mention them, without awkwardness.  trying to recognise all three "would-be" days seperately is honestly unrealistic, so it just makes sense to join the thousands of other parents today in remembering the dreams and futures we have lost in our never-met babies.  we might make it a beach day and release some flowers on the waves and then tell L about them while he splashes around.  we will certainly be lighting some candles for a few friends who are mourning the losses of their would-be children, standing with them in their sadness and helping to carry a small piece of it so it doesn't become unbearably heavy.
i've been asked more than once -- and i used to wonder about this too -- if having a living child has helped me "get over" the three before, or if our pure joy in him cancels out the grief.  the simple answer is NO.  i don't think you can ever get over the loss of anyone that you love; you don't even get through it.  you will always miss him or her; (s)he will always be a part of your life.  you simply learn to live with and move with the loss; the ache of the gaping void will indeed lessen, but the hole itself will remain. and that is okay.  as i have written before here, the emotional duality of joy and grief living side-by-side doesn't need to be a struggle; accepting that they are not mutually exclusive can open up the cramped spaces of one's emotional landscape and breathe fresh vitality and peace into the heart.

so. for all of you who have lost a child in any way (oh, and there are heartbreakingly so many ways, but the words for them are too ugly to say in a wish for healing), may you find solace in the simple act of saying: "I Recognise You -- this tiny person that i cannot hold, this wee life that i can no longer invest in.  I Love You."  and may you find peace in knowing your words are echoed and chorused by many others.  you are not alone.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

tether

i was paging through my journal the other night and came across this, written about 2 weeks after Tummymuffin IV was born:

"it's 4am and my son is hungry.  and because i've been lucky enough to be able to breastfeed him, i'm the only one who can do anything about it.  sitting in the semi-darkness, his little belly pressed against my chest, i am acutely aware of his warmth, his aliveness, his need for me.  i realise that i am just as tethered to him as i was when he was within me.  just as my whole body was needed to support his little life during pregnancy, it is still utterly necessary for his survival.  this responsibility alone staggers me."

i'm still staggered now, many weeks later, and this doesn't even touch on the awesome responsibility to nurture him emotionally/spiritually/mentally.  just pondering this physical tie is a mind-bender.  my days are now lived in several-hour intervals -- how long the tiny one can go between feedings or naps.  every dawn, when i stagger over to his bassinet, no matter how exhausted or rested i feel, there is that moment when he sees me leaning over him and his sweet face blooms into smiles, and my heart feels more full than my breasts that he's so hungry for.  and then there is that moment, always towards the end of the day, when he is starving, and i mean OMG CRISIS STARVING for the nth time and i think But I Just Fed You! and i secretly envy my seemingly carefree husband, who can leave the house as long as he wants to, without any physical tether pulling him back.  although apparently he secretly envies me sometimes because our son will always need me but not him in a very physical and pressing way, multiple times a day, for months to come.  so there's that.
i'm starting to finally accept that Tummymuffin IV is really the Muffin Who's Here, and here to stay.  i haven't been as paranoid/clingy/neurotic/fill-in-here-freaky-mom-adjective--of-choice as i expected i could be because of my uncertain reproductive past.  however, i have found that it is impossible for me to take anything for granted, and even at my most exhausted or frustrated i am still stubbornly, hunbly grateful.  will the sheen of thankfulness wear off as the small one finds ways to drive me batty insane?  or will i be dealing with some teenager shenanigans and still thinking Wow Thank God For This Experience; At Least it Means He's Still With Me.?
i don't know.  all i do know is that my baby is going to be hungry again in about 20 minutes (yes, even though i "just" fed him!) and that no matter what the physical tethers that bind us now may be, what matters is that he and i establish and strengthen our emotional/spiritual/mental bonds as well.
something to bend my mind around while nursing, perhaps...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

secret mothers, invisible children

tomorrow is Mother's Day.
for some women, it's a day of rejoicing and making memories, especially if you do the whole breakfast-in-bed thing.  if you attend church, most likely you'll be asked to stand up and people will clap for you and you might also get a flower.  if you go out to lunch with your kids, you'll be wished a Happy Mother's Day by total strangers.  and although they may tell you throughout the year, you will especially, on this day, treasure hearing those tiny voices yell I LOVE YOU MOMMY!
but for other women, it's a day of emotional dread and deep sorrow.  no small feet will patter to your door to bring you toast and tea in bed.  you may skip church because it's just too painful for you to stay seated when the moms are asked to stand up.  if you go to lunch, strangers will not even look at you.  and you can only wonder what the tiny voice that would have told you "i love you mommy" would have sounded like.
for women struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss, to say Mother's Day is difficult is an understatement indeed.  no one can see the children you never bore, and your motherhood is a bittersweet secret that you hold in your scarred heart. 
someone asked me a few days ago if i was excited to celebrate "my first Mother's Day."  honestly?  i have mixed feelings.  you see, this is actually my fourth Mother's Day, and it is only by some undeserved miracle that i am able to celebrate this one with a living child.  and rather than forgetting the three Tummymuffins that preceded him, the sheer vitality and exuberant life of my baby makes his siblings climb out of the shadow realms of concept and into the reminders of their former reality.  i stroke his silky small head and wonder about the color of their hair.  i hear his little coos and i think about what their voices would have sounded like.  and when L looks into my eyes and wraps his adorable smile around my heart, i imagine what the shape of their mouths would have been had they ever smiled up at me.  the joy coexists with the sorrow; one does not take from the other.
this Mother's Day i would ask: please be sensitive and compassionate to the secret mothers.  if you know a woman who is dealing with infertility or pregnancy loss, acknowledge the children you don't see.  she won't have forgotten them; showing that you haven't either is truly a great gift of love.
and to those of you who called me a mother over these last few years even as i was struggling with the immense promise and despair in that title, i am immensely grateful.  thank you.

Monday, April 23, 2012

wisdom of investment

i've thought long and hard these last few weeks about what to do here at tummymuffin.net.  i know some of you who come here do so because you have been following this journey for a long time.  i know some of you who come here do so because you were sent to hear an honest voice talking about the thorny, twisting road of infertility and pregnancy loss.  and i think that even though i'm now experiencing the fulfilled hope of a longtime dream, the story is far from over.  i'm realizing that just as pregnancy after loss is very different, so is motherhood after loss: truly, i have paid for it in the "coin of pain."  i would not have chosen this way, yet i am grateful for the multilayered depths of patient love the waiting has given to me i would not otherwise have.
as i write this, i'm looking at my new son's tiny napping face as he decides whether to keep dreaming his baby dreams or to open his clear blue eyes and experience more of this brand-new world. i know i cannot keep dreaming my old dreams; i need to trust that my experience of this terrifying and exhilarating new world can still be honest and hope-giving for you, wherever you are on your journey.

INVESTMENT
by Carol Lynn Pearson

How enviously 
I watched 
The rose bush 
Bear her bud --
Such an easy,
Lovely birth.
And 
At that moment 
I wished 
The sweet myth were true --
That I could 

Pluck you,
My child
From some 
green vine.

But now 

As you breathe,
Through flesh 
That was mine
(Gently in the
Small circle
Of my arms),
I see
The wisdom
Of investment.

The easy gift 

Is easy to forget.
But what is bought
With coin of pain
Is dearly kept.

thanks to my beloved sister for sharing this poem with me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tummymuffin IV has arrived!

at some point, when i've gotten a better grasp of how to manage life in between breastfeeding every two hours, i will post more, and perhaps wrap up this chapter of the blog. but i am deeply, truly, to-my-core humbly joyful in telling you that L safely entered the world on his due date (!) -- 12th March 2012, at 22:12, weighing in at 8 lbs. 4.6 ozs (3759 grams) and measuring 20.5 inches (52 cm). words cannot express how incredibly grateful i am to all of you for coming along on this journey, which has simply now started down another road. you are our village of hope and love, and we could not do this without you.
thank you thank you thank you.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Week Thirty-Nine

so i had a checkup this morning -- and to stave off your inevitable questions i will say up front: all is well and proceeding with textbook normality, and it looks like the little guy might actually decide to arrive around his actual due date. no dilation yet but he's engaged and effacement has started. so yay and stuff.
it was an early-morning appointment -- usually i have the nurse schedule me in as close to 7am as possible so that the clinic is quiet and my fabulous OB isn't too stressed out yet. since she is indeed awesome, and thus takes the time she needs with her patients, this means that later in the day she's inevitably somewhat tired.
the nurse hooked me up to the blood-pressure monitor, strapped the cuff on, and left to attend to something else. since i was right outside the door of the examination room my doctor was in, i could hear everything she was saying, even though it was closed. naturally, i wasn't really paying attention until i heard her say "look, don't be discouraged just because of your age. i can give you the infertility facility's number if you want to find out if they can see you."
suddenly, with those words, i was plunged into an emotional cauldron of a time machine. i remembered the sadness i felt even having to dial that number. my heart clenched recalling the drowning feeling i had when i was told i couldn't even get a consultation simply because of the type of insurance plan i have.
i didn't hear what the patient said, but i heard my doctor again. "yes, eggs do have an 'expiration date,' but really, you've got a lot of good years left, and i think your factors are very treatable. i think we should do some initial tests so we know what we've got to work with. now where are you in your menstrual cycle right now?"
at that moment, Tummymuffin IV put his little foot into my rib cage and wiggled his tiny bottom. and still alone in the nurse's station, my arm strapped into the beeping monitor, i began to cry. i cried for the nameless, faceless woman behind that door because i know her fear and frustration as month after month after month of still getting your period turns into precious time sliding away, irretrievably gone, taking your hope of a child along with it. i cried because i thought about that exhilarating fiery hope of each pregnancy i experienced that each resulting loss turned into bitter ashes. and i cried most because now, in an exquisite miracle, the woman with the secret smile and enormous belly that i used to look at and wonder it it would or could ever be me...IS ME. the tears sliding down my face were that mysterious mixture i've learned so well to accept now: that alchemy of coexistent grief and joy; a careful minuet of pain and gratefulness.
TM4 booted me again in the side, bringing me back to the present. i tore off the cuff and lunged for some ludicrously small squares of tissue and was just finishing blowing my nose when the nurse showed up again. "oh!" she said kindly, "babies make your nose so runny!" i just nodded. indeed they do. indeed.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Week Thirty-Seven

as of this week, i now officially have a full-term pregnancy.
this is kind of crazy for me to wrap my head around -- not the fact i am full-term with a kicking baby boy, but it astonishes me that i can post that sentence here... and it's true. looking back, i can honestly say there was a part of me that never thought i'd be able to write that. and now that i have, it feels almost like someone else's reality. because i truly believe this is a gift of grace, pretty much a miracle that i did nothing to deserve, there is a sense of wonder about it all. when i go for walks waddles around the neighbourhood, i'm suffused by a sense of awed gratefulness that This Is Happening, This is Really Happening.
i know my somatic therapist would tell me to be present in the moment and feel in my body the gratefulness and the marvel. it feels like a soft enveloping cocoon, this thankfulness for you -- my community of hope, and for my amazing husband, and for this body that is growing a tiny human. and of course, for said tiny human who is my son.
i'm not sure what to do after Week Forty (if we make it that far before Tummymuffin IV makes his world debut); if this blog will continue as a chronicle of TM4 or if i'll move that elsewhere. i also have no idea if our journey of family-making will continue, and if so, exactly how. but i'll let you know.
well, me and my magnificent enormous belly are now going for a grateful waddle. thank you for your continued prayers, love, good thoughts, and support.
it's the home stretch & i can hear you cheering.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Week Thirty-Four

the office is now the bedroom, the bedroom is now the office, there's a changing table, a bassinet, and a glider rocker hanging out in the living room while we get things back in place, there's an infant carseat installed in the back of my little Honda now, and...
HOLY CRAP PEOPLE THERE IS A BABY CARSEAT IN MY CAR!!!! !!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!
*excuse me*
okay, we now return to this post with vain promises to no longer abuse caps or exclamation marks.
apologies to you loyal Team Hope readers who have been wondering where i've been; i swear i had a Week Thirty-Three post started, but got massively waylaid by having to put together some kind of registry even though the whole Stuff Accumulation thing is very overwhelming and i'm fine with your hand-me-downs, seriously, and...yes, okay, i need to allow people to bless us with necessary things. it's just that as my new dad friend pointed out: this is where it gets Real. when you're looking at a tiny bassinet in the middle of the room, you have to decide if you're going to believe it'll soon have your son sleeping in it, or allow your monkey brain to skitter around with various doomsday scenarios that keep said tiny bassinet empty. and i've found that decision is less a leap of faith than it is a gradual sidling up to and gently flopping into faith.
i think last week was the first time i started being able to imagine and dream about what it might be like to actually meet our little Tummymuffin IV. apparently i'm still worried i might produce a blonde baby, since the only detail that was clear was my imagined thatch of Very Dark Hair on his wee head. my mother-in-law, who is here from Germany, told me recently that she now "enjoys to see my eyes because they show i really believe i will get a baby."
i wondered, in post after post here, how i would interact with a viable pregnancy likely to come to term. i'm finding out now in real time; i appreciate every day with my enormous belly and the way he makes her dance with all his squirming and kicking. all the uncomfortables of pregnancy seem like an eminently fair trade for a healthy baby. my marvelous OB/GYN is even visibly pleased we've gotten this far; she was so happy telling me we've now passed the last big developmental milestone, and that husbanator and i should go celebrate. which we will, but first i need to help him finish spackling all the holes in the ex-office-now-bedroom-for-three. gotta get used to that number. three.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Week Thirty-One

dear past me,
look, i know right now you're feeling all body-conscious and weird and ungainly but i promise you'll get over it. yeah, all those girls with curves make you feel like an unsexy boy and if one more person tells you how "cute" you are you will cry inside silently. yes, it sucks.
it's hard for you to understand this, mainly because your age starts with the number 1, but you're going to have a rollercoaster relationship with your body your whole life. you're a woman, and that is reality for a woman who accepts her female-ness and the pressures of her psyche, society, and her pituitary gland. here's what i know: you will come to actually like your body. you will one day enjoy wearing dresses. you will -- miracle of miracles -- even love your...shall we say...compact bosoms. i know you think this is crazy, but people will think you're "athletic" and at one point you will even teach a kickboxing class. and as for your perceived clumsiness, you're going to meet your husband in an advanced swing dance class. YES, A HUSBAND. seriously. and he's unbelievably sexy, and smart too.
here's the deal though. that rollercoaster? yeah, it's there. you're going to live in a city that is in love with physical youth and beauty, and is one of the most vain places on earth. you'll have to really wrap your head around this whole femininity thing or you'll fall for the lies. and it's going to get seriously difficult when you lose three children in a row and don't know why. hey, you'll survive it, but it'll take a lot of work and prayer and support from others. when you do end up sustaining a pregnancy, every day will be a new adventure in trust with your body as things get more joyously uncomfortable, and you feel life kicking in your belly and flowing in your veins. (you will, by the way, wish for your compact bosoms back.) and it's a good thing you're so stubborn, because there's the challenge of labour & delivery & breastfeeding, you know.
what? you think that's crazy talk? well, wrap your brain around this: when you're on your "babymoon" in Kaua'i with that aforementioned hot husband of yours, you will walk around in a bikini with that magnificent 7+ months pregnant belly and feel the sexiest you have ever felt in your life.
oh, and by the way, you might want to buy stock in something called "Google." yeah, that sounds as wacky as the whole bikini thing but just trust me on this.
love,
future me